I first really got into science fiction and fantasy when I was in middle school. A friend of mine gave me a copy of Split Infinity by Piers Anthony for my birthday, and I just went from there. [I had stayed away from fantasy before that because, any time I got any book with magic in it (other than the Narnia books), my dad would throw it away. Perhaps because it was a birthday present, no one took it from me. Or, maybe, it was because I didn't advertise it. Anyway, this isn't about what I was "allowed" to read when I was a kid.] Thinking back on it, now, basically everything I read was... well, it was "white." In fact, the only sci-fi/fantasy books I can think of that I read back then with a non-white lead was Bio of a Space Tyrant by Piers Anthony (because I spent years reading everything that Anthony wrote).
Not that it's really a sci-fi/fantasy problem; it's just a book problem. Or, at least, an American book problem. Or, maybe, a Western book problem. And there's plenty written about the lack of diversity in literature, so I'm not really going to get into that. It's a huge problem with no easy answer, except, hopefully, now that publishing has more options, we can hope that a more diverse body of writers begins to develop.
That said, the whole question of diversity, this being the day after MLK Day, made me think about diversity in my own work. I mean, I'm a white dude which, when it comes to books, is about the least diverse you can get. Okay, not "about the least;" it is the least. Going back to Piers Anthony: the guy's written something like 150 novels but only a handful have significant non-white characters (at least up to the point that I stopped reading him) and, actually, that's probably pretty good.
Honestly, before this topic came up in one of our IWM discussions, I hadn't given much thought to how diverse I am in my writing, but, after thinking about it, I'm not displeased.
Tib, in Shadow Spinner, is bi-racial.
The Evil That Men Do" to find that out. I wouldn't want to throw out any spoilers. Not that I tried to write him "racially;" I wrote him as a kid struggling with the kinds of things that kids struggle with, and his issues are not race issues; their being different issues, which, I suppose, most kids feel that they are at some point or another. Basically, I didn't make the race thing an issue; it's just something that is. It was just... natural.
However, when I wrote "Christmas on the Corner," there was more premeditation about racial ideas. Not that I was trying to be racially diverse; I just thought back to my own childhood and growing up in the South and decided that I wanted Sam's best friend to be black. Having black friends was normal to me when I was a kid... right up until almost middle school when I wanted to bring one of my friends, who happened to be black, to church with me, and my mother wouldn't let me. [It wasn't, I don't think, because of any prejudice of her own that she wouldn't let me, because she had never said or done anything about me having black friends (in fact, the only friends she ever protested where the other "smart kids" I was friends with, because they were "weird"). She was worried how people would react at our all-white church.] Since House is set in the South, I wanted to be able to explore race issues, so Sam's best friend is black.
All of that said, I don't recommend throwing in diversity for the sake of diversity; that smacks of trying to hard. If I had been thinking, "I need to be racially diverse, here," I probably would have messed it all up, but, as it is, I think it all comes off pretty natural. It has to be something that's there without "being there." It has to be there without calling attention to itself. Probably, the best way to accomplish that in writing is to be more diverse as a person. That sounds like a pretty good goal to me.