Diversity in the Nerd Mythos

Everyone and their mother has an opinion on the recently-announced casting of Star Wars Episode VII.  We nerds are masters of over-analysis, aren’t we!

Naturally I have an opinion, as well…many opinions, many hopes and fears for the next step in my favorite fandom.  I couldn’t help but comment yesterday…only one new female main role has been cast (with another supporting role potentially on the way).  Annalee Newitz of io9 has offered her opinion on this here.

We all know that scifi and fantasy tend to over-represent white men as characters.  The Hobbit had to *make up a new character* to get some estrogen on-screen, for heaven’s sake.  So as I pondered this issue today, I asked myself: What am I doing to address this problem?

I thought about my own writing and the statements I make with my own (unpublished) words.  After all, I am a woman and I typically write female main characters.  I have 4 fantasy novels floating around in my head at the moment:

    1. Male and female duo of main characters, with another female narrator; Native American influences–not bad so far
    2. Male and female duo of main characters, but set in an alternate Roman Empire, so pretty Caucasian
    3. Female main character, race unspecified, but the setting is medieval Europe-style war, so not much room for other female characters–definitely needs some work in the diversity area
    4. And here’s the kicker: X-men-style cast of young magic-users, consisting of 3 males, 1 female, plus the main character (also male) and their teacher (also male).  And while I hadn’t thought about race, they must all be the same, and one has red hair and another has white hair.  Sooooo they probably are not black, Asian etc.

Oh my.  In my own stories, from my own feminist brain, I have a cast a group of white superhumans with a 5:1 m:f ratio.  And to think, just last night I was laughing at how the new Justice League has added Cyborg just to get some real-world diversity.

This is a problem.  We writers of the next generation of nerds need to lead by example, and I am not pulling my weight.

I ran through my cast to see which characters had potential for some changes.  I had made 3 purposefully male to begin with.  The other two?  But but but…that would change the group dynamic!  Teenage hormones are so messy and complicated to write.

I can’t believe I’m still fighting myself on this.  I’m proving myself a hypocrite and a lazy writer to boot.

In the end, I’ve at least decided to genderswap the white-haired character, Starbuck-style.  So this character is now a girl…she can keep the short, white hairstyle.  She can keep the rough-and-tumble with her brothers.  Maybe she’ll have a romantic interest, and maybe she won’t.  This character had literally no reason to be male, except as a default.

And I refuse to let my default be exclusionary.  The more people that can also find themselves in the things I love, the better.

This is clearly going to be an on-going process in my writing.  But I know that in the end, my stories will be the better for it.


One thought on “Diversity in the Nerd Mythos

  1. starwarsanon May 1, 2014 / 11:06 am

    Great post. I’m glad the cast kind of forced you to rethink things. Kind of like when I responded to your comment on my blog – I’m surprised that I didn’t notice there was only one other female until you pointed it out. But it’s so heavily skewed in favor of men that it’s a little ridiculous.

    My hope is that 1) Abrams doesn’t do any stupid bikini shots and 2) we still have VIII and IX to bring in a more well rounded racial and sex cast.


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