28 June 2012

What Is Normal?

I confess. I'm a very white girl. I'm what people would tag as "the norm."

And yet I write about characters of various races, sexual preferences who grew up in places that I can only imagine.

Why do my books have these characters?

The basic answer is that my stories would be pretty boring if everyone were like me and had my background.

But the second is the stronger reason.  Just because I'm a straight white girl, it doesn't follow that the rest of the world is like me. I hear people complain about LGBT characters in stories being "shoved in" or "pushed in for diversity" or even "unrealistic."

We live in a diverse world. LGBT are part of society, they always have been.

What could be more unrealistic than excluding people on the basis of sexual preference?

It's time we as a society stopped thinking of straight white male (or female) as the default.

When I create a world, I ask myself about all the kinds of people who will be in it. This was especially true of my alternate history Seneca series, which is set in a world where the Roman Empire survived to colonize New England in circa 900 A.D. and the Roman colonists co-exist uneasily with immigrant Vikings and the Native American tribes of that time period. There are three stories, Freya's Gift, an erotic novella, Dinah of Seneca, and Eagle of Seneca.

Partially, I choose the Romans because they were fun and I was inspired by Arthurian stories to create a world when the old ways (the Romans) are falling apart to yield to new native cultures in Britain, cultures that are also then threatened by invaders from overseas.

But, more, because the Romans in my world became such a diverse set of people that it naturally led to diversity in race and in sexual orientation. And the North American Native American tribes, as far as can be determined from the little the European settlers left for us to study, had very different attitudes about sexuality and the difference between men and women than we do in modern times.

Take a character, Tabor, that keeps coming back to me from the Seneca series, so much so that he's going to be featured in an upcoming comic story I'm writing. Tabor is the Roman General charged with keeping order on the frontier. He's in exile, saddled with an incompetent ally, and trying to protect the person he loves from getting caught in the middle of a war. That this person is a man is just part of who Tabor is. He's one of those intense characters who showed up fully formed and, probably because I haven't written his story save in bits and pieces, won't leave my brain. But he's there and he's such a strong presence in both the Seneca books that it was difficult to keep him from stealing the spotlight from my leads.

In my second full-length Seneca book, I wanted to give the point of view of the Native American tribes, since the first story is only seen through the experiences of the Romans and the Vikings. In Eagle of Seneca, I had the opportunity to include a character who's the shaman of the clan living on ancient Manhattan. Her name is Deep Water and she's revered as being in perfect balance between her feminine and masculine sides. She identifies as a woman but has the physical equipment of a man. And if research is to be believed, she is as realistic as the heroine of the story, a young Lenape woman who is due to inherit the leadership of her tribe or the hero, a Roman engineer.

So my question to those who ask why these types of characters are in my stories or why a Native American is a lead character or why there's a gay Roman General or why a trans character, I tell them "why shouldn't there be?"

The movies and television and books out there that don't include diversity?

Ask them why not.

Post a Comment