The February Writer’s Challenge is on, and so far it’s doing well. I went above and beyond for the first day, and hope to equal that with today’s run. This post is about answering some questions about why I’m writing this piece. Here’s some interesting questions I’ve received about this project.
It’s about superheroes, why try to add in a mirror of real life?
When we write we often use real life as an inspiration. So the characters and events I’ve created are based on things in real life.
So, you’re being an SJW by having two black characters?
No, not really. In every city in North America, there’s a huge amount of diversity. It would be extremely foolish to think that a large urban center would have only white people. Even in Saskatchewan, there’s a large amount of diversity. Since moving to Humboldt, I’ve noticed a great number of people from different ethnic backgrounds who live here. Sure, this place started as a very white European population, but as years went by, people from different backgrounds moved here. And many hold down jobs we’d consider higher professional, like doctors and lawyers. It isn’t uncommon for someone of African or Western Asian ancestry to have a job in a small Saskatchewan town as a doctor. That’s why the two main characters of Ravenport are both black, both female.
Yeah, but why do you have to make things gay?
If you mean “make things gay” by having a gay (or in this case, lesbian) character, again, sexual orientation is a fact. There are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and so on people who live in this world and hold down jobs. So yes, I made Chelsea Morgan, a.k.a. the Bowhuntress (pictured above) as a lesbian woman. If you pay attention to the media and what politicians are doing throughout the United States (or trying to do with very oppressive voter ID laws, abortion bans and the like) then you could almost say Chelsea is triple cursed. She’s a young, black woman, who is a lesbian. Right now being black, being a woman and being gay are huge things that extreme right wing politicians hate.
So, it’s a SJW thing?
No, as I said before, it isn’t about social justice. It’s about representation. African American representation in media is sorely lacking. So is LGBTQ representation. So is First Nation representation. And on, and on, and on. Most of the comic books, television shows, video games, movies and books have white people as either the protagonist, or play the white knight who helps the poor brown people. Ravenport is about people first and foremost, superheroes secondly, but it ultimately is about the lives, careers, friends and family of Yolanda Morgan and Chelsea Morgan. Both of whom happen to be black women.
Yeah, but you’re a white dude. Why can you think you can write something like this?
First, I’m pretty positive I’m not an expert on what it’s like to be a black woman. But, I do have a creative imagination, and I do this thing called research. Talk to people (like, surprisingly, black women), learn their stories, and above all, listen to them. Each person has a different experience, each person has a unique way of looking at things, and we (meaning the rest of us) have to shut up and listen sometimes.
There’s another reason why I’ve decided to make this. Yes, I’m a white dude. You can put a picture of me beside freshly fallen snow and you won’t be able to tell the difference. I come from a place of privilege. And in this case, I’m going to use my privilege to try and increase representation. This is where privilege can be used positively. But you still have to be careful, take care in the writing, and be true to the characters. Don’t slap stereotypes into place just because it seems cool.
Yeah, but both your characters are geniuses. Isn’t that really kind of like a Mary Sue? Aren’t black people not known for being like that?
First, I think you’ve got the wrong description of what a Mary Sue is. Second, remember what I said about stereotypes? If you pay attention to news feeds (and I mean all news feeds) you’ll find a great number of women of colour are doing incredible things academically. So it’s not so far off the track that two women graduated high school at 15 or 16, went onto college and university and obtained Masters Degrees in their fields by 21 and 22. That stuff happens, and is happening right now.
It’s still not very realistic to have a single mother get a Masters while taking care of a child.
Let me answer that question with a question; you’re questioning the realism of whether or not Yolanda Morgan can be a single mother, do extremely well in college, get a good job with a police department, but you’re okay with the fact she’s a voodoo priestess and can cast magic spells? That part you’re okay with? And, the fact she dresses up in a patriotic uniform, and hunts down criminals late at night. Magic, and superhero ability, totally okay. Single mother genius, totally unrealistic. Is that it?
Why not place the story in a real city like New York or Boston?
I thought about that for a time, and while I think it would be cool for someone who may be reading this who might live in Bangor or Portland, Maine to go “hey, I know that place” this also produces a problem. I don’t know that place. It’s easier to make up a city, therefore you have control of the city planning, so to speak. And I know it’s easy now to use Google maps to look up a place like Chicago or Boston for street names and addresses, but you don’t get the vibe or the feel of the place. Taking you’re own experiences, you can insert a feel to an area of a made up city. Which is what I did with Ravenport. There’s areas that feel like Saskatoon, some that feel like Winnipeg, others that feel like Vancouver (all places I have been to, visited, or lived in).
In the end, I want Ravenport to ultimately be a good story. That’s what it’s all about. I believe in the characters fully, I like them a great deal, and I want to see how much trouble I can put them in.