I saw this article today:
Hey, Sci-Fi And Comics Fans: It’s Time To Embrace The Dark Side
And it made me think about my own experiences and stories. As I talked about in a previous post, I’m all for diverse fiction (in both the creators and the characters). I read because I want to experience (and thus learn about) things that I might not experience in my real life. Those may be good things, those may be bad things. Does race matter? Sometimes–I need to hear about slavery from a slave’s perspective, for example. But other times, the objectives in question are universal, such as falling in love, being afraid, and finding one’s true path.
Now, I’m sure my privilege is exposed pretty blatantly in the paragraph above. I haven’t experienced slavery firsthand, or been denied rights because of my race. (I have encountered blatant sexism, though). I haven’t had people want to kill be because of my sexuality.
But, after reading the article I opened this post with, and after reading about diversity in publishing, it occurred to me to take a look at my own writing and see what the diversity was like.
I wrote the first, very rough draft of “Between Darkness and Light” over 10 years ago. It sat unattended while I bought a fixer-upper and started a family. Now the house is almost totally fixed, and the kids are old enough to allow me a little time to myself (by which I mean I can get up at 4:30 am and they’re not up yet). Therefore I’ve gotten back to it.
And this is what I found when I looked at my story through the diversity lens: It does ok.
I have two POV characters. One is a very strong, very nontraditional female character. She’s white, and comes from some privilege. The other is an Asian-equivalent man, who is also a very nontraditional male character.
The supporting characters are two white men (the brother and friend of the female POV character, so they’re all from the same place) and another female character, who I’ve always thought of as African-Mexican. (There’s also another female main supporting character I have planned for the third book of the series – she’s bisexual, Indian equivalent.)
As for the world they live in, it’s pretty diverse. There are parts of the continent that are less diverse, but by and large the communities are pretty racially diverse, since the most powerful, longest-reigning empire was just after light magicians, no matter what race they were. That encouraged a lot of racial mixing. The other continent (which you see in book three) is also diverse, but with no white people. Runs the gamut of what’s traditionally thought of the browns/yellows/reds, though.
As for gender diversity, only the gods are really out of the norm. They don’t really have gender, although one or two of them sort of identifies with a gender so that they don’t hurt the puny mortals’ brains too much.
The two women are good friends, and talk to each other about things besides men. They don’t fit into traditional female roles. So I feel pretty good about my book from a feminism standpoint.
The aspect I’m most lacking is sexual diversity. I have the one bi character, but even she is interested in one of the other male characters, not the female characters, so I’ve chosen to focus on the heterosexual part of her sexuality. That’s not to say non-straight sexualities are condemned in the world of my story. They’re just not there in the characters I’ve chosen. Still, that does indicate a lack of diversity that wasn’t intentional. (Possibly because I’m heterosexual? I’m not sure.)
Overall, I feel like my story doesn’t do too badly on the diversity scale. Are there novels out there far more diverse than mine? Absolutely. Are there novels out there less diverse than mine? Definitely. So I’m going to feel okay about the diversity in this book, and try to do better next time.
Thought more about this later in the day, and I realized I left out an entire group of people. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know if there’s a preferable term, so I’m just going to say folks with disabilities, whether that be someone who’s paraplegic or dyslexic.
I don’t have this in my book, really. One of the main supporting characters has one eye, but I’m not sure that counts. And something happens to the main female character in the third book that makes her “differently abled,” but again…not a lot of diversity in that regard.
But that doesn’t mean that I can’t look into those things in the future. Adding something like that can happen to any race, any gender, any sexuality. Could be pretty interesting to explore.