Looking for Ourselves

Recently, Jim Hines invited a bunch of people to talk about representation in fiction in a series of guest posts on his blog.

Basically, almost every essay that resulted could be boiled down to one plea. Please include me in your fiction, in a positive light. Readers (and writers) just wanted to see themselves, or shared wonderful stories about what it meant to discover people like themselves in books. What amazed me about the essays was the sheer number of selves I was encountering for the first time.

There were quite a few gender identities, along with some really good thoughts about female representation, people of colour and the way we tend to (wrongly) view some books as boy books and other books as girl books.

I think it’s a collection of essays that every writer should take a look at because it might wake you up–as it did me–to the fact that there are so many, many things in our world that never make unto the pages of our fiction because published writers (especially in spec fic) are often from a small group of countries and share a very similar demographic make-up.

The essays made me remember one of the reasons I loved Stephen King’s The Stand so much was he included a character with a trait I had only encountered once before in Ed McBain’s fiction. The character was deaf. It made me think in my little teenaged brain, ‘Why aren’t there more deaf characters in books? For that matter, why aren’t there more handicapped characters in books?’

I hope these essays make you think too. About the choices we make in the stories we tell, and how it can really change someone’s life to see more inclusiveness. To see themselves in a positive light.

As a mixed-race black West Indian woman, I would have loved to see myself in spec fic when I was growing up. I am now ever so grateful that Nalo Hopkinson has done that for the generations born after mine. And one of my biggest hopes as a writer is that my writing will do its part in reflecting not only the diversity of the society I grew up in, but the diversity which I think the world has come to acknowledge over the last few decades.

So  head on over to Jim’s blog. I think you’ll be educated and inspired at the same time. Be sure to let me know what you thought of it all in the comments section when you get back.

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