I've recently been rereading my completed novel (XLI), mostly to make sure there aren't any major continuity errors between XLI, Ordinal (book 2), and Hope (book 3 / prequel). During that reread, I came across a potential land mine, and it got me thinking. The landmine in question is related to both racial and sexual orientation, and how they relate to the needs of the story. I'm going to meander a bit in describing the land mine, so please bear with me.
At one point in the story, I needed a character who was a strong character in his own right, but who was unwilling or unable to hold a direct leadership position. As a note, the group he is the second in command of is a group of, for lack of a better term, neo-savages. Ergo I need someone who is too much of an oddity to lead the group, strong enough to earn a high ranking position despite that, and possessing a reason for unswerving loyalty to the character I'd already put together for the leader.
The setting is in the far future on a world settled primarily by a mix of European and Asian
cultures. There are some others, but they're decidedly a minority. There are valid story reasons for that, mostly to do with subcultures that currently match a variety of criteria. The combination, in case anyone is wondering, is a strong belief in pacifism, some degree of belief in the virtues of a simplistic or primitive lifestyle, and (this is the real kicker) possession of a fairly large amount of high value or potentially high value real estate.
Now there are a few cultures that sprang to mind immediately, and a few others I pulled in as well. Immediate ones I'm familiar with personally are the Amish, the Quakers, and American 'hippies'. The others I researched and pulled in were from various parts of Asia. I'm not an anthropologist, I'm certain there ARE some subcultures in Africa or Eastern Europe that qualify. I'm just not aware of them, and couldn't find enough information to even include them as a 'long ago and far away' kind of source. So, short story long, the world is a mix of northeast Europeans (English and German anscestry primarily) and Asians (a somewhat broader mix, including Indians, Thai, Japanese and Mongolian). There are some others, but they're far less common, mostly pulled in via that 'hippie' connection.
So, an easy way to make the character stand out was skin tone. Most of the world wouldn't care, but in that particular savage subculture, any difference is a reason for discrimination. So as I'm wont to do, I pulled together several actors or famous personalities to come up with a voice, a face, a body, and a personality. Kevin Grevioux for the voice was first, and him mixed with a bit of Michael Clarke Duncan for the look. Finally, for the personality, a stong dose of the public persona of Doctor Dré. That last was at least partially because one of the inspirations for the physical look of his 'liege' was Marshall Mathers (the other was Mark Sheppard) so he was right there to mind. Finally, for an additional reason the character is both an outcast and loyal is if he is deeply infatuated with his leader.
Ok, so I've got the bare bones of the character there. Physical description; big, black, very masculine. Personality; forceful, loyal, possible residual self-doubt from being several ways an outcast. He's a supporting character for a supporting character, so I've not really put much thought into whether he's worked that out or is just suppressing it, but a moment's thought tells me that introspection doesn't gel well with the rest of the character. He's a leader, they tend to be extroverts. Finally, 'additional information' about the character; he's gay, he's in love with his boss, he's from a culture steeped in primitive hand-to-hand violence, so he's got a lot of physical courage. He's also just a touch cocky, although there are strong arguments he has cause to be. Name drawn out of a hat came out as Abdul. A bit cringeworthy given everything else, but ok.
Not too bad for a secondary character, really. Might need to work on the name. Arthur? His leader is Angus, so I might go with something not so alliterative. Most folks on the world are some variety of religious, either Buddhist, Hindu, or Christian (mostly Mennonite derivative), so something Biblical could work. That would make him some form of lapsed christin, possibly 'second gen, as it were.
So I look through my world - is he possible? Yes. Is he likely? No, but that's part of the character requirement. So what's wrong?
A lot, I've found. More on that next.
Ship from Blade Runner 2049 by George Hull
7 hours ago