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.

A question of faith (or, a questioning of faith)

I often jot down ideas a pieces of dialogue that come to mind, and one such example from September 2013 came to mind in light of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, where the offices of a satirical magazine were shot to pieces and 12 innocent people murdered by thin-skinned religious terrorists:

I have to question the faith of anyone whose beliefs are so easily shaken by mere words.

Or in this case, pictures.

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.

A fascination with everything

“What Fascinates You?” A simple enough question I found in a forum on Goodreads. But context is everything, isn’t it? In the context of being a writer, what fascinates me is no different to what fascinates me as a human.

“Almost everything has the capacity to fascinate me .. even politics. I’m a writer of hard science fiction, so I need to know as much about science and technology as possible, and they are my two most beloved topics, above all else.

However, the heart of any topic — that intangible thing that makes it fascinating — is the human story; the motivations, the trials, the tribulations, the expectations, the adversities, and perhaps defeat and death.”