In the midst of colossal, historic events I’ve retreated, not from the news, but to a place where I could learn and reflect (and also continue lockdown). My reflections first focused on myself, but later on my writing. Was I helping? Hurting? Doing enough? What I’ve found in the vault that is myself is both positive and negative.
That’s encouraging, not because there are negatives, but because I’m learning enough to recognize them. Voices can be audible or internal. It’s tragic if either is silent. A part of the vulnerable population for several reasons, I’ve been in lockdown, but my poetry hasn’t been silent. Even so, I recognized that it was time to add more depth to that voice.
No greater, more monumental events could be occurring than those surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. A reflection of its impact are the ripples spreading outward to every corner of our society. Though always sympathetic, it wasn’t enough. I possess a keen interest in history, so I started there to expand my knowledge. Simultaneously, I read a current bestseller on racism and have more in the queue.
Self-examination resulted in a hard slap. It was deserved. Thus far, a single book of non-fiction has altered me to the point I discern signs of racism regularly each day. I might as well have gained a missing sense. Great headway? Not even close. Not yet.
So, what about my writing? Mixed, outside of my poetry.
In my fiction, I don’t condone racism—ever. Unfortunately, in my efforts to condemn it I’ve committed a different crime. Silence. Racism thrives on silence. Okay, it’s more complicated than that so I’ll explain a bit more.
When I began writing with Riparia’s Carrdia stories, my crusade was to make Ontyre a colorblind world. On the surface that might seem okay. There are large numbers of people of color in the books with critical roles. For instance, Riparia’s love interest (he’s the main character in the prequel). Too, in a case of tackling aa problem from a different perspective, I addressed racism as an issue between humans and other races, like the ora’ean. In fact, Riparia is someone who harbors unfair prejudice against the ora’ean.
In retrospect, it isn’t enough. I still believe examining racism between actually different races is sound, but my failure has been not celebrating diversity sufficiently. The fact that Riparia’s attraction never includes the whole of a man is a problem. Avoidance is silence. In the instant I realized the issue I was ashamed.
On a side note, it’s years ago that I abolished the lazy, harmful practice of equating black/dark with evil (yet I still see it in novels). Since, I’ve made mention, for instance, that the worst evils relish going about in the light. Too, my first female black protagonist (outside of short stories) will be Amatha in Essence Stone. She’s also a beautiful mix of Ontyre races. Essence Stone is a novel that’s been plagued by plot issues, but I’m close.
Now I turn to a different civil rights issue, one highlighted in the surprise Supreme Court decision that, in brief, unequivocally included LGBTIQ citizens as those protected under the Civil Rights Act.
This one hits close to home. I’m a member of that alphabet family.
LGBTIQ includes a large and diverse community and that means I’m always trying to expand my understanding of those who different than me. Gee, if I use a loose definition—that’s everyone.
Examining LGBTIQ in my writing isn’t hard since it has increasingly become the focus.
Riparia is a straight, white woman in a country where being different is as illegal as the magic she possesses. Part of her journey, her character arc, is learning about those different than herself.
Also taking place in Carrdia, Torment Surfacing, was my first novel that examined LGBTIQ issues directly while factoring in the Carrdia perspective. The novel includes several gay characters and one transperson. In fact, to say more is to give away the story.
More significant is Pannulus. My worldbuilding for Pannulus was designed to address the lives and trials of those who are LGBTIQ. There, anyone different than the accepted “norm” are called variants. Meanwhile, variants refer to the rest of the population as linears.
In Protecting the Pneuma Key, Zephtasha is an unfairly disgraced witch who’s a gender spirited variant (transwoman), a fact revealed in the press. The resulting hatred becomes another scar on her soul. In an effort to drive out her impurity, she was force-fed potions in her teens until she bled internally. After the trial, recovering her life begins because a lesbian art gallery owner, Haughly, takes her under her wing.
Although being a variant isn’t illegal in Pannulus, it’s dangerous. Because of the magic vortex centered in the country the birthrate is severely depressed. That has inflicted societal pressure on everyone to do their part to help maintain the population. That’s given rise to sham marriages where variants do their part and then divorce.
Messed up? You bet, but not half as much as cultists who seek out the gender spirited to use as sacrifices (the plot in Stealing Light).
Really, though, is that any different than the large numbers of transwomen murdered each year in this country, especially transwomen of color? Is it any different than blacks who die with a knee on their neck, their bodies bullet ridden, or their deaths unexplained after they were held in a cell?