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Inclusion & Creating Culture

There were two great "aha" moments in my life that I think truly pushed me to be a better writer and story teller. One of these was when I was watching an interview with the actor Robert Beltran in the, I believe, first season of Star Trek: Voyager. He was saying how when you were watching or reading science fiction, you did not see very many of "his" people. It honestly took me a moment to think about that. One my favorite characters in literature, Juan "Johnny" Rico is not white. Vasquez from Aliens is not white. What was Robert Beltran talking about?

Well Vasquez is not the main character in Aleins (though she is memorable) and I do not think most people really consider Rico's skin color or cultural heritage, do they? I ealized Mr. Beltran was right: you did not see many of his people in science fiction and certainly not in fantasy. There are a few notable exceptions and when we talk SF/F we are mostly talking the American produced art. Writers in other countries certainly have more diversity within their characters or at least I assume so. Still, there is no reason to stay stuck in our old ways other than lazyness.

Once I realized this issue though, it took me a long time to figure out how to be more inclusive; believe it or not its not easy. Well, its not easy for me. It is not that I do not think in terms of various colors and cultures, its that I always feel inadequate to describe the cultural forces that bind a character and make him or her believable. In that way fantasy is a bit easier as I can establish whatever cultural ties to whatever skin color, height, weight, or gender expression I want. I am not bound by history or my own desire to create believable and three dimensional characters as I would be in a more traditional love and rockets science fiction story. I can make the characters in a fantasy story into any three dimensions I want and at the same time create positive characterizations (not necessarily as good guys) for characters who don't look like me, love like me, or have my genitals.

But you still have to write a good story. If you want people to be exposed to diversity you need to make it something people are going to read. Making your characters and world believable, even if the only bit of your world people see is one city in one length of desert. A culture can define a character but it normally does not always define a character. Even so, the culture has to be interesting and believably seemless.

For Wicked Boys I am drawing a great deal from elements of early Mesopotamian cultures, their Arabian successors, and elements of what I like to call Gamer Perceptions of, in this case, dealing with necromancers and demons. For one thing I am not aware of how many people might have actual experience with necromancers and demons. Certainly we have our own legends of such but for a sword and sorcery style work, it helps to establish some interesting out of place and non historical cultural elements. What better place to find those than in those misinterprtation of cultural aforded by gamers and their influences?

I will go more intot he specific cultures at a later time, but suffice to say I hope I am making an interesting cultural framework. One that people will enjoy spending some time in.


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