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Cleaning Out the Fridge

If you follow this blog then you know a few things about me.  I’m a writer; I’m a little bit nuts; and I’m a geek.  These days I don’t know how large of a geek that would be, due to all the brolash that has come up in the last few years about who is “fake” (usually women) and who isn’t (usually the bros makin’ up the rules).  Needless to say my creed is good, and while I might not be able to tell someone exact issue and page for whatever comic one might use as a litmus test for pureness, I know I could come back with my own set of questions that would put them right down on their ass.

As such, many of my friends are geeks in various areas, and many of them were watching closely when the cast pictures for the new Star Wars film was released.  And the thing that a majority of them noticed right away:  one new female actor, one male actor who is black, and a whole lotta white light sabers flashin’ around.  Oh, and Andy Serkis to likely motion capture an alien meant to represent whatever racial stereotype the movie is inadvertently mocking, cause yeah, gotta go there.

At this point it’s difficult to say that if you’re doing any sort of story within a “universe”–which, admittedly, is a pretty big place–it’s not going to be easy to explain away why one doesn’t have more women in their stories, or don’t have more people of color wandering about.  Particularly in geek entertainment, where even in the middle of the second decade of the 21st Century, a large number of stories have women for one of various reasons:  to act as the romantic interests for the male characters, to come off as a bit of fan service for the bros, or to get Fridged and lead one of the male characters into their huge moment of angst.  Naturally, the first two reasons are not mutually exclusive from the last, which allows one to hit the trifecta if you’re really wanting to go in that direction.

I was telling a friend the other day that I had someone looking over my current work in progress, and they had a couple of comments.  The first was, “You have a lot of women.”  And the second was, “And a lot of the characters aren’t Caucasian.”  I asked them if that was a good or bad thing, and the response was, “Well, there are a lot of women in the story . . .”  And that’s true:  it’s pointed out that, in The Foundation, it’s a Lady’s World, with the women outnumbering the men about three-to-one.  At the school the ratios are even higher:  in the student body the girls outnumber the boys about four-to-one (something that Kerry points out to another student), and as far as staff and instructors go . . . never mind:  The Queens Conquer–and have.

As they say, lets look at the cards–literally:

You can't tell who's going to lay into you in class without a score card.

You can’t tell who’s going to lay into you in class without a cheat sheet.

These are just my instructors–the situation is different with the staff.  Three out of four positions are held by women, and the director of security is half-Egyptian.  And all of the support staff are female–you don’t see them, but I do.

But running across my instructors, we have five men in that group.  Fitzsimon Spratt is a black man from Jamaica and Shuthelah Kady is from Turkey.  Holoč Semplen is the lone white male coven leader from the Czech Republic.  And Mathias and Adric are white guys from Canada and England, there for comic relief–just kidding.

Going across Deanna is Iraqi; Harpreet Bashagwani is Indian; Ramona Chai is Chinese.  I haven’t yet worked out Wednesdays full history, but it’s pretty much a given she’s a white girl from New Mexico.  Jessica is black; Helena is half-white, half-Māori.  Maddy, Vicky, and Erywin are white; Polly Grünbach is half-white, half-Moroccan, Inyx Armanjani is from Azerbaijan, and Tristyn Julin is a black woman from South Africa.

Of the five coven leaders four are women; two are white, one is Iraqi, one is black.  One is an Atheist, one is Muslim, two are Wiccans.  One is divorced, one is widowed.  One has never been married, and one is a lesbian in a relationship with another instructor that’s lasted thirty years.  Out of my instructors and staff five are gay/lesbian (sorry:  no bi or trans–yet), and all of them are in relationships–two of the couples are right there in the school, though you haven’t seen the second one yet.

I decided when I started this that if I’m going to represent the world, I had to represent.  I had to bring in people from everywhere, and try and make things as representative as possible.  In time these names will change, new people will arrive–maybe the school will even get more guys.  But I will try and keep a world view; I’ll try and keep things representative.

‘Cause, this being the 21st Century an all, you gotta know there’s a whole universe out there in which to play.  And it’s a very diverse place.

23 thoughts on “Cleaning Out the Fridge

  1. Yes there is a wide world out there with all types of normal and crazy people. It makes life much more interesting. I’d like to read your work once it is all done. Usually a book only features a verry small world. Sometimes you are left asking so what happens in the rest of the world. But I guess it is difficult to bring it all together.

    • There is a great world out there, and trying to bring in everyone is something that makes the world even more alive. That’s what I try, and that’s what I hope I’m doing.

  2. Just a small note on the bi thing- are you sure none of your gay characters are being “erasured”? I know that’s not a real word, but I’m not quite well enough to be completely coherent :/

    • Two of my LGBT characters are very much out in the open–they were, in fact, the first to be out and open in the school in the early 1980′s–and their relationship is common knowledge around the school. The other three are known to everyone, but the extent of their relationships aren’t as long as the first couple, so it’s not thought of that much.

      • I meant erasure in terms of being bi vs. gay or straight. It’s not always easy to see bi when you’re with just one person. My girlfriend and I seem gay, cause we’ve been together for 10+ years. There’s no way to tell from that evidence alone that we’re actually bi.

        I’ve ha coffee and cold meds now. Much more coherent (I hope).

        • Ah. One of the characters who now identifies as a lesbian used to say she was bi, but as she grew older she developed more closeness with her current partner. And she’s told people that, so one could look at it as she was searching for her sexual identity. Her partner, on the other hand, almost always hung around with other girls, and has slept with men, but she doesn’t see herself as bi in the current work in progress.

          As for the other three characters–the older lesbian couple have never been with men, though they have them as friends, and the gay character came out at an early age, so no ambiguity there.

          There are LGBT students in the school, and there are group sessions for them. A few are bi, and at the moment there are no trans characters. If this story ever gets beyond the first novel, that will change.

          • I know of one who has been asexual for a while, but that’s changing. None that are poly, and if there were it likely wouldn’t be something that would come out in the story proper, but might be mentioned as an aside. One of the things about the school is that sexual and gender identity are handled as everyday things–a far cry from what happened to the first student who came out publicly in the very early 1980′s and got her ass beat as a result. The school administration accepts all of this as normal, and won’t tolerate any backlash against students for these things.

            Not to mention that there are things in place that make bullying a student for any reason a risky proposition–depending upon the student getting bullied . . .

          • Cool. :) At the risk of seeming to belittle such a heavy topic, I find sexual identities neat. I struggled for so long to get a handle on mine, I just think it’s really cool to see it become a point of consideration in character background.

            I guess what I’m saying is “Good Job for making Real people!” :)

          • I’ve struggled for a long time with my gender identity, and found that writing about characters who have these same feelings and confusions at some point in their lives helps round them out as real characters, and helps you understand your own feelings. It doesn’t become the focal every thing I’ve written, but coming to grips with any sort of identity. Being with another person, particularly at a young age, is scary. Part of the first novel deals just with that–though the outcome is kind of different.

  3. I applaud your take on this. I know that the world is a very diverse one, and that there are soooo many cultures and/or sexualities (Is that even a word? Probably not.) out there, but most of them aren’t touched upon in modern books/TV shows, and when they are they are cut-old molds, I know, reading your character list above, I had to google a couple to see what ethnicity/race you were talking about.

    Cultures have never been my strong point. It’s one thing, as a writer, I feel I need to do more research into so that I can include a more diverse set of cultures into my own worlds. I realize the world is not made up of only Caucasians, but because that is the predominant race I hang out with, most of my characters have ended up being so.

    One of my favorite characters, who I have yet to include in a story, is actually an African American whose parents were originally from Africa. I would love to research more into the different cultures that exist in Africa because the last thing I want is to make her a trope character, which is what I feel a lot of people who include characters of other ethnicities end up doing – however unintentionally.

    • My two main characters are Caucasian, but they’ll become friends mostly with the instructors around them, who are from all different backgrounds, and there are other students they’ll be exposed to as well who are from all over the world. One character I forgot is Ms. Rutherford, who is a young (mid-twenties) black woman from England, who becomes Kerry’s “case worker,” and she turns into a supporter and friend of his over the next few years. In a way she almost becomes a mother figure to him, because she hates to see him suffer and wants only to help.

      I look at my characters this way: they have their own lives that were shaped by their backgrounds and upbringings, but at some point, when you discover you can do magic and you have these incredible powers, all of that past seems to fade away, and you want to do what you can to help those who need it. They become more than tropes: they become shaped by their experiences.

    • We know what Mel Brooks had to say about that. :)

      There was also a line in “V for Vendetta” where the Chief Inspector’s loyalty is questioned simply because his mother was Irish. I’ve seen that in a couple of British movies, and it sorta goes back to something one of the main characters in my story says about his ethnicity: “I’m half Irish and half Welsh; if I had any Scottish blood, everyone in England could hate me.” I do like that he is Irish-American and Welsh living as an ex-pat and has a tons of issues to work with, and now has a Bulgarian girlfriend (yes, she is) whom he sees as much better and stronger than him. She, on the other hand–we’ll get to her. :)

        • I used to know a woman from Liverpool who one night decided to give me an uncensored account of what she and a lot of her friends though of their mates from the rest of the UK. I knew there was some dislike between the countries, but she really went nuts. I’ve also run into a couple of women from Scotland who weren’t shy about telling me what *they* thought about the English and Irish, either–though they always seemed to forget about Wales.

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