Ethnicity and Unspecified Characters


I was toodling around on the internet, as I often do, when I came across a discussion about ethnicity and unspecified characters. It was interesting, so I followed the thread for a little while.

The discussion was about how readers imagine characters when the author didn’t specify which ethnicity the characters were. One of the participants said that they imagined all the characters as white if they weren’t specified, and one of the others argued that this was racist, and that they imagined the characters as they were described by the author.

It is true that Western society as a whole has been socialized to see white as the default ethnicity. This is how our society was constructed, and it’s a hard mindset to get out of. When I was younger, I also imagined unidentified characters as white, and not First Nations, which is my ethnic background, because I didn’t see myself as a default, I had been trained to view myself as an anomaly. Sometimes it was even difficult to imagine characters that were described as non-white as such because it was so ingrained in my head that in order to be important, characters had to be white.

As an off-shoot discussion, this is why diversity in visual media is so important, because I didn’t start to realize that not all characters had to be white until I started seeing media branching out. Shows like Avatar: the Last Airbender, The Proud Family, shows in which a lot of the main characters and not just a token character were POC.

What that person in the conversation said was ultimately true, it is racist, but it’s racist in an insidious way, because it’s not intentional, it’s been hard-wired into people’s heads to think that way. Overwriting our social coding is really difficult to do. Society is inherently racist, and many people ignore it, because we’ve been taught that people who are racist are intentionally racist. That is a very harmful fallacy that removes responsibility from all of us to try and change how society functions.

It took me years to recognize how much I had been brain-washed into only seeing white people as important enough to have a place in a narrative. I had to train myself to not only see other writer’s characters as POC when described as such or possibly POC when left undescribed either way, but I also had to train myself into writing POC characters.

I have written numerous POC characters. All of my Shui-long characters in Across Borders are Chinese. Silveira and her family from Insanity Girls are Indian. Stella from Rangers over Regulus is black. Every character in Hakusan Angel is East Asian, and most of them are specifically Japanese. Maira from Love Rampage is Brazilian. I’m listing them off, not so I can say “look how diverse my characters are, look at how inclusive I am, give me a gold star,” but to tell any readers that might have had the same problems as I did that yes, these are all people of colour.

Now, for the characters I didn’t specify, because there are a few. I didn’t think it was necessary or important, but that might have been an oversight.

I didn’t specify the ethnicity of anybody in Envy’s band or their manager. Personally, in my head, I saw Jae as Korean, but since it’s not in canon, that will remain unspecified. The city from Insanity Girls is based on Vancouver, which is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Canada. I didn’t specify the ethnicity of Liberty in Rangers over Regulus. In my background notes, Liberty himself isn’t entirely sure either. But it should be noted that he was born during the “cowboy and indian” days of the United States, so there’s a possibility of him being a mix. I also didn’t specify almost anyone in Sky Knights. A lot of them are probably Eastern European, but it also should be recognized that Russia spans an entire continent, and people living in the far east of Russia have a closer resemblance to Eastern Asian people than to anyone in Eastern Europe.

I’m not asking for miracles. This is a hard paradigm shift to acclimatize to. It needs to be acknowledged that changing the way you think is not an easy task and it won’t happen overnight. But it is important to try, even if it is difficult.

Just something to think about.


On Fanfiction



I’ve seen a lot of different things written about fanfiction these days, as it has become more prevalent than ever. Lots of young writers have taken to writing it, mostly because current mainstream media is lacking in diverse character options, and the writer is using fanfiction as a medium in which the writer is fixing the problem raised.

Writers and readers of fanfiction make the character trans, or swap their gender, make the character a POC (person of colour), or change the character’s sexual orientation.

As fanfiction becomes more popular, mainstream media has started to notice fanfiction and fan-made art about mainstream media.

The reaction of the vast majority of the population is to completely dismiss fanfiction, or to ridicule it. The idea is that, it’s mostly silly girls writing it, and their opinion doesn’t matter.

Now, before we get into this, I would like to point to history and say that this has all happened before.


In the 18th century, the growing popularity of the novel was beginning to make people anxious. They worried that novels were immoral, especially Gothic novels. They thought that by reading them, those who read them would not be able to tell reality from fiction. As it so happened, the people they were most worried about was young women. Jane Austen’s book “Northanger Abbey” is actually about this very issue. Men didn’t read novels except as a silly pastime. They read serious things in Greek or Latin, things like Ars Poetica, philosophical works, works about knowledge.

Society of the 18th century devalued the novel because girls liked them. That’s the bottom line. Now, we’re seeing a similar trend in which fanfiction is devalued because it is mostly written by women – and not just women – a lot of queer women and women of colour are popular fanfiction authors.

In today’s society, novels are seen as serious literature. Shakespeare is highly regarded, when at the time, his works were the equivalent of a sitcom. Novels used to be suspect because of their immoral nature. Now, today, fanfiction is seen as frivolous and unimportant because it’s “not real writing.”

EPSON scanner image

EPSON scanner image

First of all, it is very much real writing. Many works start of with a main frame using the premise of a popular work in the media, but then change it entirely. There are even different genres, and works that are hundreds of thousands of words long. Some fanfiction authors are very popular for how good their writing is. Fanfiction is also a medium in which new authors can experiment and learn to write as they go. It is a diverse and changing system, and I think that is something amazing.

Secondly, a lot of today’s novels are actually fanfiction, with the difference that those authors are recognized as real authors and are getting paid big bucks for it. Fanfiction from online is free, for the most part. Just take a look at all the adaptions of Sherlock Holmes –  are those seen as “just fanfiction” by the world at large? No! How about the Percy Jackson series? That’s fanfiction based on Greek mythology. How about Lord of the Rings? Some of what J.R.R. Tolkien has written is based on works of Shakespeare. And let’s not forget Fifty Shades of Grey, which is literally acknowledged as fanfiction and has sold 125 million copies.

Not only do I acknowledge that fanfiction is, in its own rights, real writing, but I think that it’s important writing. When people look back at this literary time period (I have no idea what they’ll call us), I think that fanfiction will be a genre. A real genre, not just something people snicker about or pretend they don’t read or write.

Why do I think that?

Sense8 Netflix original series

Sense8 Netflix original series

Just look at the impact fanfiction is having on mainstream media. There are hundreds of thousands of works of fanfiction, and it’s shaping the way media is consumed. LTBTQ+ fiction is starting to grow as a genre because of fanfiction, because of the reader’s desire to consume diverse media. Fanfiction proves that people want diverse media and that they would consume it, and consume it in vast, unending quantities.

And I would just like thinking of that, of something written online, on sites like AO3 or being turned into a work of literature for high school and university students to study in the next century. Can you imagine it, an Oxford classics section dedicated to fanfiction?

Some of you are horrified by the idea, for different reasons.

But I think it’s just brilliant.

(Just so some of you know, that poster above is for Sense8, which is a Netflix series. It’s proof that mainstream media is picking up on the fact that a lot of people want diversity in their media. On that poster above, there’s a Korean woman, a black man, a gay Latino man, and a trans woman who are all main characters on the show who are amazing. I really suggest you watch it if you can.)

Diverse Books Month


Hello everyone, I’m taking part in Diverse Books Month during August as a guest blogger!

Diverse books month banner

This month is all about celebrating diversity in literature! Of course, I’ll be talking about LGBTQ+ characters in fantasy and science fiction. But there will be all sorts of authors talking about racial, religious, and cultural diversity! I’m excited to be taking part in this month of diverse blogging!

The calendar for the event can be found HERE

My post will be going up on the 17th of August, so stay tuned for that, and make sure to check out all the other blog posts as well! I hope we can make this a successful event!