ON HUMAN BEINGS
A bit about me: I'm basically your run-of-the-mill, garden-variety, bog-standard white guy. I like hard rock, cold beer, and movies in which stuff blows up. I am, for good or ill,
vanilla cis-het poster boy. America
I used to think I had a bit of mystique about me, buried way back in my genetic lineup, since we had a bunch of stories in my family about a couple of 100% Cherokee women who'd married a couple of my great-grandfathers. There was even a bit of anecdotal evidence that we'd descended from one particular group composed of equal parts white people, Native people, and freed slaves.
Disappointingly—crushingly so, for some of my immediate family—a couple of reputable genetics testing kits indicated that my family is half British and half German, and if any Native or African blood flows through my veins, it's in too minuscule a measure to show up on the test.
In short, as far as current consumer-level science can determine, I'm solidly part of the majority that's run things on this continent for the last few centuries.
I never really wanted to be part of the bog-standard majority, though. Forget Luke Skywalker—I wanted to be the eight-foot-tall Wookiee. Playing Street Fighter II? Forget Ryu or Ken. I always played as Blanka or Dhalsim. The most fascinating characters in Original Flavor and Extra Crispy _Star Trek?_ Spock and Data, by far. Sure, Kirk and Picard and Riker were cool and all, but they were no Vulcans.
Yet it seemed as though, everywhere I looked, growing up, the protagonists of just about every work of fiction around me were *just like me*. Straight, white, and male. It grew even more pronounced once I started working in the video game industry, where it's so unusual for a protagonist to be anything other than straight, white, and male that it's often considered newsworthy when it happens.
And the whole time, a thought kept popping up in my head: "How BORING."
I have heard some creators of color say that they started writing because they never saw themselves in fiction. I guess I had begun to see too much of myself in fiction.
I will freely admit that I have, in the past, written plenty of straight, white male protagonists (many of them licensed characters—Batman, Dr. Strange, most of the cast of G.I. Joe, etc.). The main character of my original comic book series, BLOODHOUND, looks like the professional wrestler Triple H. (Though, in my defense, that's largely because my then-wife was a huge Triple H fan.) But I know that shouldn't be the *default.* Which is why, when I got a chance to re-create the DC superhero Firestorm, I deliberately steered the new character away from the straight-white-male mold.
One of the best stories I ever heard came from Whoopi Goldberg, who said that seeing Nichelle Nichols on screen as Lieutenant Uhura made her believe that she could be an actress, too. Well, I'm looking around, and the world I'm seeing is not just straight, white, and male, and I have no interest in depicting the world in a way I know to be false. That's one of the biggest reasons why the protagonist of the GRAY WIDOW books, Janey Sinclair, is a woman of color.
Now, don't get me wrong. I know better than to think I could write "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." I'm not about to try to tell a story presenting the definitive experience of being a person of color, or a woman, or a member of the LGBTQIA community.
But if I'm telling a story like GRAY WIDOW'S WAR, in which a group of humans have been experimented on by extraterrestrials, and end up becoming superhuman military archetypes intended for use as raw material in an interplanetary war... a story in which the characters have to learn to trust each other, and eventually love each other, even as they're fighting horrifying bloodthirsty shapeshifters and heavily armored aliens... Well, why shouldn't the protagonist be a young multi-ethnic woman? Why shouldn't her love interest be a first-generation Indian-American? Why shouldn't they have a close friend who's Muslim, and fight alongside someone who's asexual?
That makeup of humanity is the world I see around me. So that's the world I try my best to write about.
About the author: Dan Jolley began writing professionally at age 19. Starting out in comic books, Dan has worked for major publishers such as DC (Firestorm), Marvel (Dr. Strange), Dark Horse (Aliens), and Image (G.I. Joe), and soon branched out into licensed-property novels (Star Trek), film novelizations (Iron Man), and original novels, including the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy series Five Elements and the Urban Sci-Fi Gray Widow Trilogy.
Dan began writing for video games in 2007, and has contributed storylines, characters, and dialogue to titles such as Transformers: War for Cybertron, Prototype 2, and Dying Light, among others. Dan lives with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert felines in northwest
and enjoys connecting with readers via his website (www.danjolley.com) and on
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