A few weeks ago, I talked a little about how I came to realize the way I experience the world isn't how the majority of people experience it. As a result of that particular journey and the things I learned along the way, I came to realize I had written at least two of my characters as autistic without actually setting out to do so. Having come to this realization, I had a choice.
Rewrite them to be neurotypical, which is another way of saying "normal," which in and of itself is just a way of describing how the majority are, or I could keep them as they were.
The thing is, I cannot really imagine either Pyrrha or Asa being any other way than how I have been writing them. Plus, for me at least, nothing has really changed about how I view either character. Both are still strong, intelligent, kick butt women. They have places where they struggle and places where they shine like anyone else. There's just a concrete, neurological explanation behind some of theirs.
What does this have to do with diversity?
Diverse representation in media takes many forms. There is no "default" human. We all come in a vast array of races, nationalities, beliefs, abilities, and so on. So in order to portray the world as it actually is, or how it could become in the future as sci-fi attempts to do, we cannot ignore this.
I have already been trying to be more conscious of this when drafting Icarus. It's near future, set in 2083, either in what remains of New Orleans, LA after a devastating series of events wiped out much of the life on the surface, or in a series of oceanic domes. Several of the domes in the Atlantic Coalition were built and originally staffed by Americans, so it just makes sense the ones living in said domes would be as diverse as those who built them.
I am trying my best on that front despite my rather "white bread" upbringing and life experience before entering the working world. And this is why listening to a diverse group of voices, doing a ton of research, and seeking the guidance of sensitivity readers is important.
Yet, I hadn't given near as much thought to representing differing neurotypes. Looking back, I can see that's been largely due to flat out ignorance. Before the events I talked about in that previous post, my knowledge only went as far as the stereotypes and a couple specific autistic people I knew. (Which looking back, makes me all the more embarrassed and shamed over not taking more steps to correct said ignorance.)
Before 2008, I don't think I had ever even heard the word autism. I'd rather haughtily state ADHD wouldn't exist if we weren't messing up the neurochemistry of perfectly normal kids, who were being asked to behave in ways unnatural to children their age, by giving them a bunch of drugs to make them act more like mini adults. In short, I was a prideful, ignorant fool.
(I still believe it is willful ignorance to believe we can force very young children to sit still and pay attention to things they have little to no interest in for hours at a time. In doing so, you're going against their biological drives, built to help them learn and develop, so you're bound to have lots of push back and frustration on both sides. But, there's much more to the issue of ADHD than what I used to believe.)
The thing is, the world is full of ignorance. We all have our own narrow world views based on our personal experiences. It's hard to imagine people experiencing the same things as you in a different way. It's just as difficult sometimes to imagine life being lived in a different way or how differently someone might treat you based on your skin tone, way of dressing, speech patterns, or any other basis humans use for making "thin slice" judgments.
This is why diversity, of all types, in media is important. Yes, the internet provides a means of broadening the scope of voices you hear, but it can just as easily become an echo chamber, based on how you set up your feeds. And when so many conversations can trigger arguments, sometimes media is a "softer" way of introducing new ideas or ways of seeing things.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
Yekara Series Book 2
The Icarus Project
Rough Draft Progress
77384 / 75000
Myth & Science Collection
Icarus Series Book 2
Sketched w/ Some Drafting
Yekara Series Book 3
Myth & Science Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Icarus Trilogy Book 3
Supers Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Yekara Series Book 4