The Big Idea: Mary Weber
Posted on August 20, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 11 Comments
Authors go into their books with what they intend to put on the page. But there are also the things that they put in there that take them by surprise — and sometimes those things add a new level to the work. Mary Weber talks about one of these things in Storm Siren — and how it got into the book in the first place.
My big idea didn’t start out as big. In fact, I didn’t realize it was even an “idea” until a friend gave me feedback that went something like: “I love your focus on diversity. It’s cool you incorporated other races and special-needs characters into the book. What made you decide to do that?”
“Huh?” I frowned. She clearly didn’t understand. The big idea was supposed to be female empowerment. You know – slave girl with superpowers discovers her worth isn’t in her status or abilities but in who she is? Yeah, that.
Later, as my shaky hands slipped the story into a few more inboxes, the replies came back with more of the same: “Good job on how diverse it is. How’d you come up with that?”
Um… I didn’t. But I should have. I should have considered the importance of diversity in story. Been intentional. Yeah, that.
Now, in my defense, I did purposefully make my main character’s love interest a hot black man instead of a hot white guy. Because HELLO. He’s hot. But did I add the various individuals and special needs into Storm Siren to make a statement? No. Part of me wishes I had, because that sounds so intentionally awesome. But the truth is much simpler. Perhaps humbler.
I live in the real world.
I work with special needs individuals and their families. Some of my own family members have special needs. And those people and families are the most incredible, passionate, and hardworking that I know.
I also live in a California coastal community that’s a virtual mixing pot of cultures and ethnicities and beautiful beliefs. Rarely have I encountered any shade of skin copping an attitude toward another person’s shade of skin. We simply are who we are. People. Trying to get by as a community of college-agers, professors, lawyers, waste-removal truck drivers, plumbers, dentists, artists, photographers, middle-agers, parents, homeless, wealthy, elderly.
So, I’m not sure it’s really a big idea when those faces weave their way into a fictional story and are “represented” in romance or fairytale, or westerns, or, in my case, fantasy. It’s simply that they are in my community, and therefore, the people who influence my life story. I bet they’re the same type of people who influence yours as well – people who empower us.
In looking at it that way, maybe my earlier big idea wasn’t too far off. Because at the core of female empowerment – heck, at the core of human empowerment – is value. No matter what things make us different or the same, we are each valuable because of the very fact that we exist.
And we add value to each other by the fact that we choose to live life together, sharing with each other, caring for each other. We add value by standing up for the rights of anyone who has to fight harder to have her voice heard.
And if you ask me, that right there is what makes us powerful.
Storm Siren: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s
Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.
I think you’re wrong- it’s much, much cooler that you gave us a story with diverse characters without thinking about it.
You just made a sale!
I came here to say the same thing Pam just did, I think it’s awesome that you wrote such diversity without consciously choosing to do so, it shows how much that diversity is a part of who are and your reality and we need so much more of that.
I’d like to third the coolness of unconsciousness. This is what we should all strive towards. We’re a long way away, but when we can all write stories that are casually diverse, we’ll be a long way towards not looking at each other as “other”.
Reblogged this on db mcneill – Momsomniac and commented:
The best reason ever for diversity in fiction, because…that’s what reality looks like.
Nicely stated, and I agree with the other commenters. :-) I too live in Coastal California and people are just people to me. Being able to write about it without feeling the need to call it out is a good thing.
I don’t normally read a lot of fantasy, but I do have a special needs (deep autistic) son, so I just bought it to say thanks. I’m pretty sure my daughter will read it even if I don’t.
So thanks! :)
Mary Weber – even your subconscious rocks!
I’m mostly just wondering here about like… how to decide on what to read. When do you call it quits for giving a book the chance to provide you the adventure? 10 pages? 50? Is there some sort of nonmonotonic bounding function that describes when one should, according to one’s personal tastes, keep going with a book or forsake it assuming that there’s better out there, that finishing the book would only provide like… bits and pieces of throwaway thought at times when you already have too much? Or is reading never a bad thing? Am I the voice of the devil?
Beautiful photo/cover art makes me want to read the book. There is a saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Why? Why not? I find that at some point in your life, you often become wiser than these sayings. That they become nothing more than the little blurb in the Chines fortune cookie that you then eat on accident and it’s no big deal because they’re just for fun anyway and you know better and that’s not a big deal either.
There seem to be different ways of reading.
Skimming, once-through, backwards, twice-back, upside-down, like that paraplegic from Poisonwood Bible (word jumbles and spelling mistakes don’t matter). So… what is the right way to read? Or am I the voice of the devil? Have I been deluded into thinking that there’s some sort of standards organization (like the Royal Crown and perhaps all educational establishment) that is doing a really good but non-optimal job of describing, prescribing, and enforcing more or less beneficial statutes for the intellectual? Or is this a delusional that I’ve fallen upon and lived my whole life in, and rather do you really just have to establish your own standards alone? And what does that say about meeting people? What is the difference between a fictional encounter and a nonfictional encounter? Surely, in this panicked state of mind, the difference between the two would be insignificant if you can’t even decide what to read in either of the two worlds (pending the two worlds aren’t sort of coalescing onto one another in a very combative, warlike way). Erm, fantasy and reality.
Some thoughts. Obviously I have bias and points and that may be some of the things people respond to, but I don’t know.
What to make of words jumping out at you? Startlement? What if a book is so poorly written that it is in fact a crime? That is hurts people? And responsibility? And duty? Reading for pleasure. How does that differ from reading because you feel peer pressured into reading by some all-knowing non-hand? But perhaps that mild risk is what gets people to try new things that they (in the ideal, subjonctive, theoretical world) like but can’t see from where they’re standing.
Slow thought. Big decisions on slow thought. Yes. Certainly.
Yeah, I live in that same real world, and it’s about time that just naturally started showing up on the page. Good job!
Great intro..I just bought it from Amazon. I love finding new authors!
This is EXACTLY what the people who are pushing for more diversity are talking about. The world around us is diverse, and books should reflect that — not “to check ticky boxes”, but because that’s how things ARE. I’ve just added your book to my wishlist.