I want to write a little bit more about representation.
In my last entry on representation, I indicated that I thought I didn’t do a very good job with regards to representation of race. All of the main characters, as they are described in the book, are white. It takes until the fourth book in the series for someone to be specifically identified as non-white. While I had no intention of writing about race in the Dragon Kaseraak Series, the lack of identifiable non-white characters is something I regret.
One can contrast this with gender. Here, if anything, the Dragon Kaseraak Series plays against the typical fantasy in that most of the characters are women. Unlike race, I did intend to write about gender issues—gender comes into play in many ways throughout the stories. I feel that I did well with regard to representation of women.
This brings me to a third classification of representation: sexuality. Here I had a problem that was a little different from race. I did not set out to write about issues of sexuality—it was not a topic I felt appropriate for me to write about in a book I was writing for nine and ten year olds. This is not to say that no one can or should write such a book—I believe that’s about the right age for parents to start thinking about it. I just didn’t want to write about it.
Yet sexuality is introduced in small ways in the stories. I will try to avoid spoilers here, but if you’ve read the books, you know that sexuality is introduced in some ways. It permeates Sycosina’s character. Starting toward the end of Runaway Necromancer, I think it’s pretty clear that it becomes an important issue for Jana.
The approach I took with regard to most things in the Dragon Kaseraak Series is that things that are not relevant to the plot are not mentioned. In this my writing style differs from a lot of fantasy works, in that there is no grand world building written in the books. Jana does not tell Jamie about the political structure of the Kingdom of Westvalia because neither of them cares. We don’t find out about the Vaspen until The Taconite Problem because only then do they become relevant to the plot. In the same way, I didn’t write about the sexuality of the characters except to the minor extent that it was necessary.
Which in some ways is a shame, because as I imagine the characters, there’s over-representation. Jana is bisexual. Tybilt is bisexual. Anna is homosexual. Sycosina is…well, I’m not exactly sure how one would classify her, but given her pathological nature, “heterosexual” isn’t it. Jamie hasn’t yet discovered herself.
I’m not sure any of this matters, though, because the extent of discrete sexuality in the series is limited to not much more than a couple kisses.
A while back, Blizzard caused a bit of a stir by announcing that Tracer, arguably the most identifiable character from its Overwatch game, was homosexual. To me, this announcement seemed rather hollow. Yes, it’s nice to get a nod for the purposes of representation, but unless Tracer’s homosexuality had some effect on the game itself (my understanding is that it does not), the notion is easily forgotten. Similarly, in the Dragon Kaseraak Series, does it matter that I, as the writer, think Jana is bisexual if there’s no actual scene in which she has sex with a woman? Or, for that matter, if there’s no actual scene in which she has sex with a man?
I’m not sure. Perhaps I should have specifically mentioned something about the characters’ sexualities in the series. Perhaps I did so unintentionally! It just struck me that without some payoff or consequence, such things would be empty tokens. I’m not sure, though.