I don’t know how many regular readers of this LJ are following the current online discussions about racism in scifi and fantasy. (If you aren’t, magicnoire has a very good summary here.) I’ve been reading this with great interest, and sometimes sadness, at the recognition of how badly scifi and fantasy writers have often let down nonwhite readers, and how much pain this has caused, and how resistant some other people are to having this conversation.
What’s worst, for me, is my own recognition of how freakin’ white the EVERNIGHT series is. I think of myself as an anti-racist person, as somebody who is fairly aware and who tries to do the right thing, but the first time I sat down to write an original YA fantasy, the characters who poured out were mostly white. (There’s Patrice, Dana and Raquel — and more peripheral characters such as Mr. Yee and Eduardo — but as much as I love them all, none of them is truly at the center of the action. I hope to God they aren’t “sidekicks,” but I have to admit they’re closer to that than to being main characters.)
I did this without meaning to. I did it without racist intent. And in a more perfect world that had ample, realistic portrayals of people from all different races and backgrounds in its fiction, one book like this might therefore not matter. But when there’s a larger pattern being created — a pattern that pretends people of color never have their own adventures (within fiction), or that they aren’t out there reading and watching (beyond fiction) — each tile becomes part of the pattern. And I hate that my first series fits into it so well.
All I can do is promise that no other series I write will ever be a part of that pattern.
Writing more characters from different backgrounds than my own* will be a challenge, and no doubt I will find new ways to go wrong in future. But I’d rather go wrong while trying than by not trying. Meaning no harm isn’t enough; we have to work to do better.
*besides being vampires, obviously