Weekly Update – February 4, 2020

There’s a little repetition this week because I stupidly forgot to update the date in the headline of last week’s post, so people might have thought it was a repeat. My bad.

So, to begin, the print edition of Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury is now available! The book had a phenomenal release, making it to #1 on Amazon’s best-seller list for new releases in the teen superhero fiction category and #4 on the overall best-seller list for that category.

Now, I’m going to reiterate a little rant I went on last week regarding representation in my work. I hope you read it through, because it’s a subject that means a lot to me.

A reader review of Hell Hath No Fury griped that the inclusion in the novel — there are several LGBTQ characters — was there for the sake of it and did nothing to move the story along. There was also a crack about the series clearly displaying a “Massachusetts mindset,” which I assume is a dig at my East Coast liberal values.

(I don’t deny these values, BTW, and they inform my work, and shall continue to do so. If that’s a problem, you can stop reading my stuff any time.)

For the most part, the review doesn’t bother me. Bad reviews are inevitable, and you have to shrug them off to keep writing. And that the reader was griping about inclusion tells me this is a person whose opinion has no value for me.

But I really hate this whole school of thought that straight white cis characters, particularly male characters, don’t have to justify their existence in a story. Default characters simply *are* and don’t need to move the story with their defaultness.

Think about that for a minute. How many default characters, particularly straight white men, affected the plot by their race, gender, or sexuality? Luke Skywalker would have been the exact same character if he’d been dark-skinned (which, let’s be honest, would have made sense for a guy who grew up on a desert planet). Ash Williams would have been just as delightfully obnoxious as a gay man. He just would have delivered the “Gimme some sugar, baby” line to Ted Raimi instead of Embeth Davidtz. And their stories could have been told without any changes.

But people of color? Queer characters? Very frequently female characters? They apparently need a REASON to be there, otherwise their existence in the story is pointless. It’s “forced diversity.” It’s inclusion for the sake of it and therefore has no value or merit.

Surprise surprise, this opinion is typically aired by a default human (straight, white, cis, usually male).

I know this next comment might be a little incendiary, but I’m going to say it: demanding that non-default characters justify their existence in fiction is subtle bigotry.

Really, it is. It’s someone objecting to another person existing in a public space because of their gender, sexuality, skin color, etc. It’s someone asserting that a non-default person needs to pass some ill-defined and arbitrary litmus test to justify their presence.

To be clear, you’re not necessarily a full-blown racist/sexist/homophobe/transphobe for pushing back against “inclusion for the sake of it,” but you absolutely are engaging in racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic behavior.

Yeah, no, sorry, you are.

Stories are for everyone. EVERYONE. And sometimes that means creating characters who appear to non-default readers, because they like to see themselves in stories, too. It can’t always be about you.

Besides, women have been able to enjoy stories with predominantly male casts, people of color have been able to enjoy stories with predominantly white casts, and queer people have been able to enjoy stories with predominantly straight casts for generations — often because they didn’t have a wealth of alternatives, but the point stands.

You, default human, should be able to enjoy stories with diverse casts. It’s not that hard.

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Issue Ten: Unintended Consequences: First draft well underway, tentatively set for a winter/spring 2021 release.

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: This collection of books one through three — Secret Origins, Black Magic Women, and Pasts Imperfect — with new cover art by Tricia Lupien, is set for a mid-2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Blades of Glory: Audiobook reading copy is prepped and ready to go. Set for spring/summer 2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Ready for editing. Tentatively set for an early 2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Book five is in the plotting stages. Tentatively scheduled for a late 2020 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Boskone 2020 – February 14 – 16, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. No panels this year, but I’ll be in the dealers room again.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

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