Ron’s Story Demographics

I admit I’m stymied about how to respond to the recent discussion about gender and race in science fiction. I get it all and I agree with the general focus, though I tend to think of things as always in transition and get a bit angsty at folks with the most one-toned responses. They are complex issues.

Just because I was interested, I went back to the twelve stories that I’ve published (or will be publishing) this year and looked at the main characters I’ve written about. I think that’s really all we should do as writers, really–just be sensitive to what we’re actually doing. I mean, it’s fine to write characters however they need to be, and however you want them to be. You’re the writer after all. You should always be free to write what you want, and if you want to write nothing but straight females from Albuquerque, then by all means more power to you. But I think it’s probably a good practice to see if there is anything that you’re falling back on sub-consciously, and I think it’s not only fair but vitally important to spend time thinking about the way you’re treating your characters. They deserve a life, after all. They do not want to be caricatures.

I was pleased (if that’s the right word), to see that of the twelve stories, only three were completely dominated by a single “classical” Caucasian-American male point of view, though a fourth may count since I wrote a Brit in “Operation Hercules.” (FWIW, writing a different culture, IMHO, is the issue, really, not just writing a different skin color–writing a culture is work and art, writing a skin color is politics…so in my book, writing a Brit counts as stretching my cultural muscles).

That said, though my work does slant Caucasian and male (which should not be surprising, since that’s what I am), I have written (if I’m doing my quick count right) written from the points of view of six characters of some color, three females, and one full-tilt alien. I’ve written from the points of view of two young kids, a couple college-aged kids, and people across the spectrum of middle-ages. I’ve written mostly about characters whose sexual preference is not commented upon, so are generally assumed (I assume) to be straight, though I do have a gay orientation in “Following Jules.”


Here’s a quick run-down:

“Operation Hercules” – British officer (Caucasian, but a Brit)

“Out of the Fire” – A male kid, unraced, but probably interpreted as Caucasian. He is a boy, though. (Okay, I hear you honey, juvenile is not a stretch for me),

“After” – Ungendered, unraced, so probably read as white male due to my authorship. I note the illustration was done as a person of color, though, so I’ll take it.

“Speeding” (with John Bodin) – Two male leads, one of far-eastern descent, and the other unraced and most likely to be read as Caucasian.

“The Legend of Parker Clark and Lois Jane” – Caucasian male.

“The Teammates” – Though I admit there is little to note it, I always wrote the character as black (I would say African American, but the story is set at a time there may well be no America, so that racial nomenclature may not apply).

“Following Jules” – College aged, gay female, most likely Caucasian.

“Schrödinger’s Soldier” – No description, but I see him as Caucasian.

“Bugs” – Probably my most middle-class, white male character in the bunch

“The Flying Contraption” (To Be Published) – Young female, Caucasian

“Primes” (to be published) – Multiple PVO, Caucasian male, African American male, Caucasian male, and Latina female.

“Survivors” (to be published) – Alien point of view

I’m not sure what to make of it all, but it was interesting to take a look at, and it gives me some perspective of what I’ve been doing. So, it seemed worth the 15 minutes or so it took to put this post together.

Take that all for what it’s worth.

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