[Original Post: June 19, 2012]
When I started reading Fantasy, I started with Tamora Pierce, Madeline L’Engle, Mercedes Lackey and Jane Yolen. I didn’t think of the characters of those books as any different from me, except that they were in way more fantastic situations. But as I grew into an adult, I started to notice that there was a pointed different between me and the characters I was reading about.
Almost none of them looked like me.
I wasn’t sure if that mattered until slowly I realized I’d like to see more diversity (and admittedly, more of me) in what I was reading. So, I wrote it. And sought it out in new authors. A very wonderful list of authors can be found here. It’s so comprehensive, I’ve barely scratched the surface.
But the point is that all of this thinking has been circling around in my head for years, and I’m sure I’m not the only reader who likes a little diversity in her literature. So, when author Cecy Robson got into contact with me and we started to discuss the lack of minority/mixed race in Fantasy, I knew it was something I wanted to further explore. And what better way to find out what other people think than by asking them?
So, I asked a few authors if they’d be willing to share their thoughts and they said yes! Which is how the “Minority Report” was born.
June 19, 2012: this week features Cecy Robson.
Cecy (pronounced Sessy) Robson is a full-time writer, wife, and mother living in the Great Northwest. She attributes her passion for story-telling back to the rough New Jersey neighborhood she was raised in. As a child, she was rarely allowed to leave the safety of her house and passed her time fantasizing about flying, fairies, and things that go bump in the night. Her dad unwittingly encouraged Cecy’s creativity by kissing her goodnight wearing vampire fangs. Gifted and cursed with an overactive imagination, she began writing her first Urban Fantasy Romance series, Weird Girls, in May 2009. WEIRD GIRLS, the novella, debuts Dec. 4, 2012 followed by SEALED WITH A CURSE, Book 1 of the Weird Girls Series on December 31, 2012 with Penguin’s SIGNET ECLIPSE.
Cecy’s Contact Info.:
Thanks to Cecy for being willing to take time out of her schedule to do this!
1. How do you feel about the presence of minority or mixed race authors and characters present in fiction, specifically speculative fiction and all its varied genres?
The more I read, the more I notice that there are few mixed race or minority characters as protagonists in Urban Fantasy and PRN, which is my favorite genre to read. I’m not quite sure why that is, but one’s upbringing may play a part—at least it did for me. When I was about four years old, Mr. Harte, a gentleman of Irish descent, and very close friend of the family, introduced me to several books on Irish Fae. So my interest in fantasy began at a very young age. The boy who lived next door to me collected Marvel and DC comics and we’d often read them on his front porch for hours. Most of the kids in our minority-filled neighborhood demonstrated very little interest in reading for pleasure, preferring to ride their bikes, play ball, etc. My parents rarely allowed me outside since the city I lived in wasn’t safe. Reading became my escape from the boredom and violence around me, and also what I did for fun.
2. Why do you think the presence of such authors and characters is at the point that it is? Meaning, are there certain attitudes, stereotypes or expectations that accompany such authors and characters, or maybe that don’t accompany them that make the prevalence what it is today?
I don’t believe it’s intentional. The MC in the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is half Native American, as is her MC, Charles, in her Alpha Omega Series. I’m not sure what Ms. Briggs’ exact cultural background is, but in providing her characters with that particular heritage, she was able incorporate Native American folklore and magic into her storylines. A super cool and unique twist as far as I’m concerned. For the most part, though, I believe people write what they know and are familiar with. My Latina heritage influences my characters, as do the Central American fables my father would tell me as a child.
3. Do you feel like something should be done about the popularity/frequency of minority/mixed race characters or do you think how it exists now is an accurate depiction of the audience of such fiction?
I think in order for there to be me more minority / mixed race characters, there needs to be more minority / mixed race authors. Authors come from readers. I’m not sure how popular UF, Sci / fi, etc. is among minorities in general. If you asked me what genre is most read among Latinos, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. The majority of Latinos I know work several jobs and don’t have the time or desire to read in their downtime.
4. How do you decide what race your characters will be? Does it just come to you or do you purposefully choose certain races?
Like I mentioned above, I think most people write what they know and are familiar with. I’m familiar with the Latin culture, the language, and beliefs. My over-active imagination takes it from there. The WEIRD GIRLS in my series obtained their powers as a result of a backfired curse placed upon their Latina mother for marrying outside her race. I came up with the concept based on a personal experience. When I was about fifteen, my parents and I were visiting a relative in California. Before I could step foot into her trailer, my father clasped my arm and said, “Try not to piss her off. She’s witch, and she doesn’t like you. I don’t want her putting a curse on you.” He walked in ahead of me. It took me a few minutes to join him. I proceeded to spend the next two hours refusing to speak, eat, or drink anything in said supposed witch’s home. The incident terrified me at the time. Now it just makes for a good story and is the event that sparked origin of my “Weird Girls’” powers.
5. What effect do you think reading books with primarily white heroines and heroes in them has on minority/mixed race readers, if any?
I hope if anything it would encourage the reader to write his or her ideal hero.
6. If you could make one statement about the frequency/popularity of minority/mixed race characters in speculative fiction, what would it be?
I think it would be fun to see more culturally diverse heroes and read how their backgrounds affect their decisions and play a part in the storylines.
7. If you could ask successful editors one thing about their acquisition of books and if race plays into it at all, how would you ask it? Or rather, what would that question be?
I have recently become acquainted with a couple of successful editors in UF and PNR. I wouldn’t ask them if race plays a part in their acquisitions, mostly because in my conversations with them, I think they would be thrilled to have more diversity. They are actively searching through their agent submissions for something new, exciting, and different. And if they’re searching for it, it’s because readers are too.
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I couldn’t agree more. I think readers are searching for diversity, because they’re frankly, tired of seeing the same old thing. Not in race, necessarily, since that’s just what’s on the surface, but in cultural differences, which just happens to often accompany race.
Thanks again to Cecy! I really appreciate you being willing to share so much. And I can’t wait to read your Weird Girls work. Next time Tuesday “Minority Report” will feature writer Lane Heymont, and following that Cecy’s agent sister Jasmine Walker!