This article isn’t meant to bash anyone’s skin color. Really, it’s just an answer to a problem I’ve had since the early 2000s.
As a teen, I started reading adult fiction, works by Stephen King, Annette Curtis Klause, Douglas Adams, Patricia Briggs, and the author that changed my life was Gini Koch.
Gini Koch had a way about creating stories and building worlds that seemed plausible, if not almost way more fun than the world I lived in as a lower middle-class teen working two jobs, while attending an accelerated college program.
Since I loved her work so much, I attempted to write my own science fiction short stories. All of the stories, however seemed off. Of course, at seventeen, my first attempt at creating a novel fell short. I analysed my work throughout the months, and later came to the conclusion as to why my work seemed so flat; all my characters were eurocentric or Caucasian.
In other words, I only knew how to describe my characters as peach-toned skin, dark blue eyes, and luxurious blonde hair that flared out in the wind. I realized that my lead characters, their friends, even the villains were white. Now, I realized I took “writing what you know” too far as a teen.
When I attempted to make my characters black, it felt cartoonish almost like I was attempting to paint the faces of my peach-colored characters chocolate.
Then, I had another issue, the cultural vibes of my People of Color (POC) characters. I made them have lives that mirrored a lot of my friends, who were mostly white (and super awesome).
As I started to read my work, and rewrite my first novel almost 10 times at this point. I entered my final year of college and took World Literature Honors. Immediately, the short stories we read and analyzed weren’t just about white people, but there were Native Americans, Asians, I absolutely adored the Hindu mythology about Siva, and then I was introduced to Octavia Butler.
It took me eighteen-years-of reading to learn that Octavia Butler, a black woman, wrote science fiction. We read one of the short stories from her Bloodchild and Other Stories anthology and I was obsessed. I re-read the short story even after the class discussion on the topic.
First, I was shocked that there were actually black women who wrote science fiction (there are more), because in my limited literary education only middle-aged men who had drinking problems ever wrote novels. Second, her characters felt relatable even if their problems were out of this world.
From that day to this, I worked feverishly to create a main character that wasn’t just a black woman with black people problems. She would be a real person, real problems, and not just a skin color in the pages of my book.
My main character in Syphons, is a young woman, striving in the world to better her future, when she rediscovers her heritage as an alien-hybrid. She falls in love with a 500-year-old alien hybrid who doesn’t remind her every second of their relationship “if she’s down with the swirl”.
Solstice, my leading lady, grows to love her man to death, and she’s surrounded by colorful characters who are Latin, Indian, and more. My novel makes you feel like you’re represented, even if your race or color isn’t mentioned.
And, as I write more novels and expand on the world of Syphons, I hope to include more underrepresented ethnicities, not just for the sake of turning my story into a melting pot, but to remind readers that the pages of a book are more than just black and white.