I read a lot of posts complaining about lack of diversity in fantasy. Today I opened my Tumblr feed and see that this here has generated quite a discussion. My friend from China (the nitpicky one. Remember her from my several rage fits about her picking on Luckas?) has once pointed out that everyone in Valcrest is just so very… WHITE. I’ve since discussed this with her, but I’ve also been meaning to address this here. Not just about the RP, by my work in general and my thoughts and feelings on the matter of diversity in fantasy.
If I wanted to avoid this subject I could say that character diversity in this case is not entirely my responsibility since the Shadows series is a roleplay and as such I don’t get full say on what every character is like, but you know… We’ve always been a small group and A LOT of the characters still in there were my creation. So if I said that I’d be almost, almost, trying to lie my way out of a touchy subject.
First of all… Does Valcrest lack diversity? Yes it does… To an extent.
Valcrest is a small country that has been isolated from the rest of the continent due to its internal conflicts for centuries and centuries. The lack of diversity is due to the fact that they just don’t mix. I mean… We have not, yet, established much about the rest of the continent, but in my mind I think that while say, black people, are not very predominant in Valcrest that would not be the case in the rest of the continent. The only black character we have amongst the main cast at the moment, Ezekiel, is actually a part of The Order and they are for the most part based outside of Valcrest, in Terra. In fact, Zeke came from Terra with Sam and her father so it’s plausible that he was born there.
What do I think of all this? Nothing.
I really don’t think about these things when creating my characters because I don’t think in real world standards when creating characters for my fictional universes that are vastly different from the real world. Huh. Go figure. You want to know what’s a minority in Valcrest? Redheads. Red hair is a rare trait in Valcrest; not to say in the entire continent. So by Valcrest standards we can say that minorities are very well represented in the RP. We have, currently, 4 characters with red hair being played. And one more being kept in the background due to her player leaving a while back.
No, I’m not trying to mock this issue. I’m just trying to explain how character creation works for me. For instance; Crys is blind. Other than the fact I need to keep that under consideration when writing her, I don’t think of her as the blind character. I don’t think of her as a disabled character. Her issues growing up, feeling different or inadequate and whatnot, stemmed more from the fact that she’s an empath than from being blind. She never thought of herself as disabled and she was never treated as disabled in the story. At most some people were surprised to realize that the leader of the assassin clan couldn’t see a damn thing, but that was it. The fact she’s a redhead has been brought up more, because in Valcrest that’s a far more noteworthy trait. It’s a weird little place, what can I say?
In SOP we had Phelix and Krander. They were knights from opposing sides of the war. They were also secret lovers. I use the term secret here loosely because I think that pretty much all of the main cast caught on to them at some point before we were halfway into the story. Alas, the greatest drama in that whole situation for the most part wasn’t that these were two men, but that they were bound by duty to, you know, kill each other dead. I don’t think it would be much of a big deal otherwise. I don’t see Valcrest as being a place that would consider such thing an abomination, even less a sin. I mean, if you look at the Myths you’ll see that the main problem the Gods had was that they were not committing enough incest, soooo… yeeeaaah… Who the hell are they to judge two dudes for being in love, right? When the player responsible for Krander and Phelix left the game we established that they grew tired of their situation and left Valcrest together because, you know, they deserved it and I don’t like killing off other people’s characters if I can help it. So they got their happy ending too, which just makes me happy because they were awesome guys. Especially Krander. We still remember him fondly as the most unbelivably random character in this RP series. He made one war prisoner drink his piss in one memorable scene. And in one other scene he killed a bear… and then immediately cried about it. You never knew what that guy was going to do and it was AWESOME.
But I digress…
At the moment I have Nicky, who is one of my main NPCs. He’s one of Crys’ trusty assassins. And Nicky is very openly bi. Which again is not considered a big deal at all. I think the only one bothered so far is Luckas, but that’s mostly because Nick actually is not at all discreet in pointing out to Lukey that he’s just adorable. He’s understandably annoyed by that. He doesn’t actually dislike Nick though, if anything they are quite friendly.
There’s also Alistair who… May or may not be gay. I’ll probably never tell. Not only because it’s fun to watch my friends trying to figure it out, but also because he’s just a very private person. So unless I actually were to create a love interest for him there’s no plausible way to bring that up. Sorry, fan club. 😛
My main characters though? All white and all straight, quite a few of them blue eyed in fact… Not what you’d call diverse, I suppose?
I don’t think I’ll ever be that writer known for diversity. I write the characters as they present themselves to me, and I wouldn’t change them out of fear of being called out on why they’re not diverse or ‘out of norm’. Although, and I’d like to stress this fact as much as possible, I don’t see any of my characters as ‘the norm’. Jake is an insomniac with a hero complex and a very violent streak, Ali is a pyrophobic, Luckas… Oh boy, where do I begin? Dastan has this weird form of split personality disorder not to mention he’s quite the drunky…
I could go on, but the point is… I can’t stop anyone from looking at my writing and my characters and seeing it as lacking diversity, but what I hope for is that they’ll be seen for the complex, insane, and absolutely lovely messed up people that they are instead.