Episode 180 – Diversifying Our Characters

This week the Robots sit down to discuss writing characters beyond who we are. A story is only as interesting as the characters that populate it, and the more diverse they are, hopefully the more entertaining the tale that’s told. We hope you enjoy it.

This week’s promo – Paul Cooley’s GARAAGA’S CHILDREN

Share

4 Responses to “Episode 180 – Diversifying Our Characters”

  1. Mike says:

    I loved the show and have a few comments for Eli

    1 I would suggest The Forever War by Joe Haldeman for a good Military Sci-Fi. It’s a quick read. It was published in 1975, but still holds up very well and it has some interesting LGBT themes in its world building.

    2 I wanted to address what you said about diversity in Sci-fi authorship.

    The Core fan base of the written sci-fi genre is dominated by White Males. That’s just simply how the stats skew. Certain core fandoms(be it sports teams, rap music, romance novels or cooking shows) skew towards certain demographics. Sci-fi authors come predominately from their fandom, thus from a statistical point of view, white males will also dominate the slush piles.

    In my reading, sci-fi has always been one of the first to tackle social issues. Going back to the book suggestion, Joe Haldeman was touching on the issues of woman in combat and gays in the military in the Forever War back during the Vietnam era. Gays in the military didn’t even come close to a real national debate until Clinton in the 90s. Woman in frontline combat units still hasn’t become a real debate and the Navy has just started looking at allowing woman on subs. So while the ranks Sci-fi authors may be dominated by a very specific demographic, in the past the genre gate keepers have been more open and aware than most other forms of entertainment when it comes to addressing social issues.

    Diversity and acceptance of minority groups by the majority happens only when the minority in question makes a push for acceptance. Just as much as it is incumbent upon a member of a majority demographic to re-examine and evaluate any biases they might have against a specific minority group, it is the responsibility of the minority group to maintain constant contact with the majority to force the majority to re-examine and eliminate their biases.

    This means, if you don’t submit your work to a market because you are scared of rejection solely because you happen to belong to one or more minority demographics then you are not doing your part. The minority responsibility in initiating social change is the hardest. It sucks, but it is the way the world works. If one demographic of authors is allowed to dominate the slush piles and is allows to dominate the convention circuit then they will dominate the by lines. A minority can’t cry prejudice if they don’t create the opportunity for prejudice to happen.

    I find this a very timely topic because I just went through this debate internally with a story that I just wrote. It is on track to be submitted to Writers of the Future. Anyone who has done any research into contest writing knows you should research the judges. I’m a new writer looking to break in and one of the best things I’ve written so far happened to have a married gay couple in it. It’s a finished draft that is marinating, waiting for revision and submission in a future quarter. It occurred to me last week that Orson Scott Card is one of the judges and he is very forthright on his opinion about gay marriage. I wondered “Do I adjust the gender of one the characters because of this”. It won’t affect the story one bit, but do I do it because it just might hit OSC’s desk and that fact *might* affect my chances?

    This episode pretty much ended my internal debate for me. I’m not going to assume that OSC’s political stance is going to affect my chances. I, as a straight white man, was irked when Eli said she was reluctant to submit to some markets because she assumed she wouldn’t get a fair shot. I was angry because of the assumption of prejudice. While there is bias against certain minority groups by majority groups, you cannot assume any one individual carries those biases. And while you run the risk of rejection based on bigotry, you must present the opportunity for bigotry to occur. If you don’t then there is no opportunity for either a member of the majority to accept a member of the minority as an equal or for someone else to see the bigotry to occur and call the bigot out.

    Anyways. Great Show guys.

  2. Mike says:

    Just as a side note, in all fairness to WotF. If you look at the winners of both contests (writers & illustrators) you get a pretty diverse selection of people. I credit both the efforts of the people running the contest as well as blind nature of the judging for this.

    So before anyone accuses me of taking shots at WotF, if you look at who they have published they help lead the way at diversifying author by lines in sci-fi.

  3. Eliyanna Kaiser says:

    Sorry if I irked you. This topic always irks!

    On WoTF: Huh. I submitted there recently, and did not take the time to notice that Orson Scott Card was a judge. How odd for me! In terms of that contest, while the content of your story may raise an eyebrow if you hit the wrong judge’s desk, at least your name won’t since it’s a blind submission process.

  4. Thanks for sharing good information dude.

Leave a Reply