Is it right to portray characters from history without the full force of our prejudiced past?
As I write Aether Legions, I’ve taken an interest in broadening the diversity of characters. That’s a fancy way of admitting to none in the first novel (unless you count having a strong female character in a world dominated by men).
Caricatures; that’s my fear. Too light a treatment of their plight, or too cliche a role, and their presence will only prove me more disconnected from my message than I imagine.
So how to include different races, religions, and cultures in a way that livens the work and does justice to history?
My first conceit comes from my main character. Solomon Hanson, a white male, sees the world with a more open mind than most of his contemporaries. As a teen who enlisted in the army shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation, he began his adult life with high hopes for mankind’s future. As the son of a coal miner in a company town, he understands the oppression of wealthy businessmen over the laboring masses.
Having already traveled to alien worlds helps him withhold judgment of the exotic people he encounters in ‘Aether Legions’. Regina Wells’ perspective in those past adventures helped him see more clearly and understand more deeply, the wonders of the worlds they explored. The memories of those adventures remind him to approach new places with an open and inquisitive mind.
Regina Wells fights for her life as a hostage of the nefarious Dummond brothers. While she works to outwit her captor, does she discover a chance to turn a monster into a man or is she succumbing to his desires only to survive?
Douglass, a former Buffalo Soldier, is an amalgam of family histories from friends and co-workers willing to share a piece of themselves in the hope of saving this character from being too simple or a stereotype. He is a man on a path toward self destruction until he meets a soldier of fortune who values people based on demonstrations of character rather than society’s prejudices.
In the shadow of Krakatau, Solomon Hanson meets Hamzah and Gadjah Mada, two sides of the same coin of colonial rule.
Hamzah walks a thin line between serving his Dutch masters honorably and guiding the the reins from within the system, always wary of when his pressures will push too far.
Gadjah Mada combines a myriad of faiths handed down through the generations to unite his people, to make them strong enough to throw off the yoke of the spice empire. He carries an ancient artifact and claims it holds mystical powers; but does he too believe or simply use his people’s beliefs to rally them to his cause?
As much as Adventures Above the Aether served as an allegory some of the problems we face today, Aether Legions brings this effort home, to Earth.The Steampunk community helped open my eyes and heart to a bigger world and I pray Aether Legions does that lesson, and the wonderful people who taught me, justice.