Friday, June 10, 2016

Of Ethnicity and Sexuality in ‘Eyes’

I include several ethnic groups in my new fantasy novel, THE EYES OF THE WIND, but do not dwell on them. It is better, I think, to simply mention such things in passing as a part of the world I have created — no need to draw attention away from the narrative. But it is important to have differences among the folk populating my books. Too many (bad) fantasies are plopped down into an homogeneous and quite unrealistic pseudo-medieval world.

So what or who are these groups? Well, in order of appearance:

Mura — This is the ethnicity of our protagonist, Saj. The hints about their appearance would probably make most readers think ‘Asian’ of some sort, and that is pretty much so. At the time of the novel, they are very much mixed with other groups, at least in Saj’s part of the world, but I intended for the ancestral Mura to be rather akin to Native Americans or perhaps certain Siberian populations.

Sharshites — I won’t call them ‘Caucasian’ because there is no Caucasus in their world! But they are essentially white, generally of a brunette sort. Think maybe Eastern European or even ancient Iranian stock. They filtered into Sharsh from the North but exactly where they originated is uncertain. As with other groups, their ancestors may have first lived near the Great Chasm (pretty much on the other side of the world). Note that the Cuddonians of my Donzalo novels are closely related (and perhaps descended from Sharshite refugees).

Ildin — This group is darker than the Sharshites, with more of a Mediterranean or Near Eastern appearance to them. They were the original (apparently) inhabitants of southern Sharsh, now largely displaced. Again, their place of origin is uncertain but I think it likely they came from across the sea --- whether the Great Sea or the Lesser Sea, I could not say...

Baxac — The name actually refers to group of languages rather than a people. Baxac speakers vary greatly in racial features but are generally rather dark. The original stock might have been more akin to Papuans than to Africans. There may have been some Denisovans in the mix, too.

Tesrans — We meet only one individual of this people, who are descendants of the Australian Aborigine-like folk of the ‘Valley of Visions’ we encountered in the Malvern novels. Thousands of years and much mixing has occurred since then! They remain a dark people, on whole (those who still survive), but blond hair remains a common occurrence (as does long life).

Finally, there is an unnamed group, only one of whom is glimpsed from a distance. These are a fairer people than the Sharshites, though still often dark of hair. It would seem they were never numerous and were absorbed into Sharshite and Muram populations. More live beyond the mountains, in scattered tribes.

Then, the sexuality part: yes, the Pirate Queen Qala is a lesbian. She is many things, truly, and hardly defined by her sexual preferences. Qala is also manic-depressive and has a strong streak of nihilism. But most of all, she is a pirate. That, more than anything else, drives her choices and actions.

I could have made her straight and she would have done much the same things. Except she might have had a hankering for Saj, rather than Marana. I could even have made her a Pirate King and the story would have played out quite similarly. Whatever her preferences, she is used to having what she wants and doing what she wants — that is what defines her.

As far as her dabbling in men — well, I have known lesbians who felt the same way about it, that is, sex is sex and feels good regardless, but they know they could never fall in love with a man. Shoot, I’ve known men who said the same thing. Should they be called bi-sexual? I think that whom we choose to love, not whom we have sex with, ultimately defines our sexuality.

And sometimes it is just a matter of loneliness, of needing someone to hold. Human contact — we all crave it, and Qala is no exception.

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