Superhero stories aren’t just black and white

Somewhere, in and amongst the controversial topic of race, the stories became lost, or themselves hidden by the arguments, which is sad. Perhaps more sad is that the real stories — those about people from racial minorities dealing with everyday racism — became overshadowed.

Michelle Rodriguez weighed in on the subject of race with regards to superheroes, and in doing so contributed to an on-going discussion about race in fiction.

If you’re not familiar, then Idris Elba as a possible future James Bond, the hispanic Spider-Man, and the female Thor are prime examples of race — and also gender — becoming lost in a furore that needn’t be such.

As a disclaimer, I am not of a racial minority; being of Anglo-Saxon stock kind of greases the wheels of life for me, which I take great care to be aware of, to avoid that sense of entitlement, privilege, and of victimhood from creeping in, which is so prevalent in parts of Northern Europe.

No, we Caucasians are not under threat from a tidal wave of immigrants. If anything, we’re a danger to ourselves.

A few years ago, I would have known little of the on-going superhero-of-colour debate (I’m not much into DC or Marvel comics), but I did understand — or at least, was aware — that there weren’t many minority superheroes, and that even fewer of them were British.

So I wrote A Darkening of Fortune, a near-future sci-fi crime thriller, to address both of these issues. But more important was the need to address some of the aspects of what it means to be British and Asian — or at least as to the best of my own abilities, observations, and vicarious experiences.

Let’s imagine for a moment A Darkening or Fortune becomes a huge success and I receive an offer of a cinematic adaptation. If during those discussions the movie studio was to propose changing Yusef “Joe” Iqbal to a white Caucasian, there the discussion would come to a grinding halt. End of story.

You are here!

Just in case you’ve found yourself on my website for no obvious or apparent reason, it’s likely that you’re the victim of a scam which is targeting me along with several other websites. In the meantime, take a moment for calm reflection and consider more pleasant things. Enjoy the rest of your day!

No, not like the Marvel Universe

Just after writing Earth Day, I had an idea (more of an epiphany, really), which — on reflection — should have given me more pause for thought, but didn’t.

I made the decision to create my own universe, or more specifically, a continuum.

“What, like the Marvel Universe?” Christy suggested.

Not quite, no. But then again, yes. I don’t pay too much attention — if any at all — to what other people are doing, as I have my own ideas.

In my universe, every novella and novel is part of a constellation of stories, each connecting with another in some way, be it a character, a technology, an event, a business, a location, or an idea.

“They won’t really care.” Christy reasoned. “The readers, I mean.”

She had a point.

“I write for myself.” I said.

Yes, I am a selfish author.

It’s the creation of these nebulous connections, and the challenge of ensuring every story is a part of the same continuum that motivates me as much as anything.

However, it does impose certain rules; certain ideas I have are out of bounds, since they do not fit within the scope of the continuum.

You’d think that there’d be plenty of room in an entire universe. No, certain genres just don’t fit.

I have made a commitment, which I intend remaining true to, come what may.

Is it okay to be a selfish writer?

Someone asked whether it was the allure of wealth or fame that compelled their fellow writers. Of course, I had my own thoughts on this.

If you look at it from an external perspective — through the lens of the imaginary reader, often not anything like the real reader — it quickly becomes a series of no-win scenarios that would make even the head of John Nash spin.

So you’re writing for yourself? How vein. Are you writing to entertain? How presumptuous. What, you write to be famous? You are such an egotist. Or, are you writing in the hope that you become wealthy? How selfish.

Personally, I don’t concern myself with what people think in so far as what my reasons for writing might be. In truth, I write for all of the aforementioned reasons. But if, as a writer, you are bothered what other people think, be humble and write for respect, though I suspect that might limit your imagination.

You can’t please everyone, but it’s often easier to please yourself.

So you’re an author. And?

Just in case anyone was wondering why their talents aren’t attracting the successes they imagined. It’s a topic I’ve often considered myself, and I had a theory, which in the last few years I’ve managed to validate.

In essence, success — be it financial, commercial, or fame, or a rich mixture of the three combined — relies on three things:

  1. an array of influential family, friends, and colleagues;
  2. extreme good fortune, or at least the ability to act upon fortuitousness moments, and;
  3. talent.

No, talent alone really isn’t going to cut it, I’m afraid. How do I know this? I’m a business owner of some thirteen years, and I have a propensity to observe. What successes I’ve had are wrought from many years of hard work, mostly not in the glare but the shadow of friends and fortune.

And if I were to have presented the aforementioned three ingredients proportionally, the third would be visualised as some tiny speck, while first and second would have planetary proportions.

Ah, the one-hit-wonder

Consider the endless succession of one-hit-wonders in art, literature, and business. Clearly they had little talent, or they would have enjoyed more than one hit, surely? But since they’re no longer around, we can assume — with some degree of latitude —that they didn’t have the necessary talent to ride the initial wave and keep their success going.

The amount of times I’ve read some autobiographical comment by some previously lionised entrepreneur, singer, writer — whatever or whoever — discussing their ascension to success, only for them to just drop in the fact that some relative or friend or colleague happened to mention what they were doing to someone of an unparalleled and unrivalled connection to the very thing that would thrust them forward like a rocket sled.

Know thyself!

Most of the time, these people don’t even realise the deeply serendipitous nature of their success, or how that without both friends and / or chance, they would be toiling away to this day, just like the rest of us.

Talent take-away

So what can we learn from this?

  1. Firstly, don’t allow the reality of your predicament to undermine your faith.
  2. Surround yourself with influential people and be useful to them in some way without being sycophant.
  3. Adopt a mercenary attitude towards chance and be both predatory and opportunistic.

Anything else and you really are leaving your fortunes (such that they are) to chance.