I have a book out today, Ghosts of Christmas Past.
I’m proud of it, I love the characters of Al and Noir, I love that it’s a Christmas story, and I love that I was able to integrate A Christmas Carol into the plot.
But a part of me feels like it’s a little gauche to celebrate my personal victory today with the tragedy of what’s happening in Ferguson and the continued tragedy of deadly race relations in America.
My story features a cop as the hero, an African-American detective who’s one of the few honest men in his city, like Jim Gordon on the Gotham television show. Why is he African-American? Why wouldn’t he be in an urban city like my Charlton City aka the Double C? And there seemed something off to me about a white cop trying to impose order on a racially mixed city, even a fictional one.
When I was writing this story, I tried hard to make the setting realistic, to make certain anything that happened could potentially happen in our world. In one sequence, Al stops the corrupt SWAT team from tossing flash-bang grenades into a restaurant full of civilians.
I thought this might be pushing the boundaries of what could happen in an American city.
Then Ferguson happened.
And suddenly, my corrupt SWAT team paled in comparison to the sight of police officers, 99 percent white, in full riot gear imposing order on the mostly African-American citizens of a city.
I don’t want reality to be worse than a horrible situation I create for fiction.
But this is another reason that Aloysius James is who he is. Because as long as we (society) view the world as black and white, as long as some people are seen as the other, then we’re going to continue to have these problems. We need change.
I’m not patting myself on the back. I think adding in diverse characters to my stories, like Al, or the Japanese-American heroine in Phoenix Rising or the Native American heroine in Eagle of Seneca, or a mixed race hero in the upcoming Phoenix Inheritance, is the absolute MINIMUM any writer can do.
Because, at this point, using only straight white characters in stories is ignoring reality. A writer has to deliberately eliminate part of the reality outside our windows, on the internet and on our televisions screens, in order to create an all-white world.
Acknowledging reality’s truth is the least I can do.