This bit of introspection was prompted by the American Gods TV series, then in the early stages of development (now in the casting stage, if you haven’t been keeping tabs on it). Neil Gaiman took a firm stand on the principle that the producers should honor the novel’s racial diversity, and that got me to thinking about how my cast of characters stacked up in terms of diversity.
I repeated the exercise last year to see if I’d stayed the course, if not improved upon matters. I’m doing it again this year for the same reason. I’m honestly not looking for any pats on the back for being mindful of presenting a variety of genders (and gender identities), races, sexual orientations, etc., but I do want to keep myself honest, and putting all this down in writing helps me better assess the state of things.
What I do find gratifying is how my readers accept cast diversity without question or, better yet, without resistance. Only once has someone chided me for being “too P.C.”, specifically because I made it clear some of my main characters were from the LGBTQ community — and at least that individual didn’t go the extra mile and accuse me of “pandering” to non-straight white male audiences, so I’ll file that one in the “There’s Still Hope” folder.
So here’s the main cast line-up as it stands as of the latest book (Issue Five: Team-Ups), so be warned there might be mild spoilers if you haven’t read too far into the series.
- Carrie Hauser/Lightstorm: straight white female
- Matt Steiger/Captain Trenchcoat: straight white male
- Sara Danvers/Psyche: lesbian white female
- Stuart Lumley: male, one-quarter African-American
- Missy Hamill/Kunoichi: half-Japanese female
- Edison Bose/Concorde: straight male
- Bart Connors/Mindforce: gay white male
- Natalie Guerrero/Nina Nitro: straight Hispanic female
- Astrid Enigma/Dr. Enigma: bisexual white female
- Dr. Gwendolyn Quentin/Doc Quantum: straight white female
- Joe Quentin/Rockjaw Quantum: straight white male
- Megan Quentin/Megawatt Quantum: lesbian white female
- Kilroy Quentin/Kilowatt Quantum: straight white male
- Farley Quentin/Final Boss: white male (sexuality TBD because he’s only six)
- Tisha Greene/TranzSister: African-American transgender female (heterosexual by virtue of her current gender)
So really, nothing has changed here since last year. However, with Team-Ups I had the opportunity to flesh out the supporting cast a bit. I introduced Bo, Tynan, and Ashlyn, members of Kingsport High’s LGBTQ student group (they are, respectively, a bisexual white male, a bisexual African-American female, and a lesbian of unspecified ethnicity); Peggy, a potential love interest who has a mild physical disability; Zina, a Korean girl with an eye for Matt; and made Gordon, Stuart’s brother, a more prominent supporting cast member.
What still challenges and intimidates me is in how I present all these characters. I want their differences to mean something and not be throwaway elements of their characters, yet I often read how important it is for characters of color, LGTBQ characters, the disabled, etc., to simply be there. They don’t always need to have a flashing neon sign pointing out how they vary from a cis straight white “norm,” they just have to exist within the story, because visibility matters and readers will pick up on this.
Hopefully readers have noticed, and not just because I’m pointing it out now. If it takes posts like these to get readers to notice, I’d say I’m doing something wrong as a storyteller.