Be sure to name your male protagonist something positively exotic but Christian. Adam Pilar, Matthew Aguinaldo, Johnny Rico, etc. When it comes time to describe the body, make it sound just brown enough to be open to interpretation; however, leave enough hints that when he stands upon the remnants of a battlefield — or slaying the enemy with a gigantic cybernetic broadsword — his dark, wavy hair, blows iridescently in the wind. When the option for film rights are bought (five to fifteen years from now — give or take), they’ll recast the hottest white dude at the moment and send him to Hollywood Tans every morning.
Make the character male because, no matter what you do, the lead actor in the film adaptation will be male, short, and positively delectable. Doesn’t matter if the protagonist is actually a she or gender neutral or transgender. Your hero is not their Hero. Your hero isn’t marketable. Your hero can’t fit into a Happy Meal or be the YouTube trailer ad to a celebrity chef Guy Fieri clip. Don’t argue.
Remember to make the alien (the OTHER) strange as hell. I’m talking too many arms with a slightly racist trope in their backstory. I’m talking amorphous or bright rainbow bodies with claws for hands, two heads, and ‘noble savage’ behaviors. Make their language complicated (but don’t actually write it.) Your Filipino in name only protagonist will be astonished by the ‘tribe’ and their deus ex machina potential. He will want to talk/annihilate/fuck them. If you’re running short on deadline for the script, rally your (TRAGIC HUMAN COLONY HERE) to war. Insert an allegory to manifest destiny, a term which means to justify colonialism because YOLO.
Heed the advice you received in your Intro to Creative Writing class: show, don’t tell. List each of the other space marines by rank or comical feature. Warriors from different black and brown countries like Iran, Nepal, or Detroit. They crack jokes, befriend your lead, and die terrible deaths with one paragraph epitaphs to give the reviewers something to quote later about the metaphor of war with the exploration of space and Other. This is bound to get you a comparison review such as Mailer meets Heinlein. It doesn’t matter, none of the stressors of combat will make it to the screen. Just the lasers, flame shooting bugs, spaceships driving in a column, and your restructured protagonist who is now blonde, straight, male, and oh so beautiful. Also the screams. The screams will make it in too.
During the third or fourth revision of the manuscript — working it alongside your beta readers and your literary agent Jack (a well-meaning man from Massachusetts who represents speculative fiction authors and celebrity chef Guy Fieri) — you’ll want to write a long essay like a treatise on the nature of post-9/11 narratives or postcolonialism. Your brown body protagonist is fighting the war to end all wars throughout the galaxy. After he has lost most of his enlisted comrades — with the exception of the buxom space pilot in a Custer’s Last Stand scene — our hero will look at the dead and the wounded and say something poetic like: “We all bleed the same; alien or human, we die the same way too,” OR “The only way to end war is to end humanity; the future of the colonies will be bound in blood.” Following either one-liner will be, hopefully, a two to a four-book deal. Maybe an HBO series?
But no, your agent will say. Get rid of all the ‘social justice warrior diatribe’; keep the one-liners. The treatise on war, the confusing tie-in with race relations and postcolonial commentary push down an agenda that doesn’t flow with the rest of the narrative. Keep the plot simple. You’re writing science fiction, not War and Peace.
Get that film contract and cash your million dollar check. Accept interview requests at SF/F conventions where you’ll rub shoulders with authors in the big leagues. The kind of authors who have so many Hugo awards they could juggle them blindfolded. Enjoy it, writing is hard work. You deserve this. When you’re asked to speak on a panel about diversity, seize the opportunity. You’ll be the only person of color there, the authority of all things colored. Listen to the moderator; thank him when he compliments your work. Laugh when the famous author sitting next to you makes a joke you don’t get.
When the time comes for questions from the audience and someone steps up to ask you, and only you, on how you were able to write an SF novel in a ‘post-racial’ world, don’t cringe. The last thing you want is to end up at the bottom of the Amazon Best Seller list. Don’t talk about the history of colonization that crept up from the Catholic invasion by Spanish friars. Avoid bringing up that America liberated the Philippines and went right around and said, “psyche! I’m just playing little brown brother.” Do not go over the bombings in Manila by the Japanese Imperial forces, and how the Filipino P.O.W was treated less than the U.S. soldier.
So when he continues to ask you about your work, how you were able to accurately portray someone of your own race while not jarring the reader and make it simple to those outside of Philipinoness (it’s supposed to begin with an F, but he doesn’t know that), just breathe. Avoid tearing up your three-book contract from one of the big five publishers on stage and scream that your novel is a piece of crap — transformed into a hollow shell.
No, shut up. Smile, nod and thank the man for coming out. This was your work, and you choose for it to look this way. This is the life you deserve.