Reality Skimming

Dialogue #2: Diane Whiteside (1 of 3)

Dialogues: Lynda Williams and a guest author tackle the same topic from two points of view.

Topic: Moral responsibility for empowered characters.

Protagonists with special powers beg the question of how they will relate to others. Despotic evil is always an option. But even an ethical character can suffer conflict over competing attachments. Lynda Williams and Diane Whiteside both write about characters with superhuman abilities who wrestle with these issues.

Diane Whiteside Diane Whiteside
Arriving third in four generations of published authors, Diane Whiteside has more than a dozen novels, four novellas, and a collection of short stories under her belt. Creator of the Irish Devil and Texas vampire series, she has written fantasy and historical novels for both print and e-publishers, traditional and independent publishers. Her latest novel, The Shadow Guard, was inspired by far too many late night black-and-white movies. For more information, please visit her website at

Lynda Williams Lynda Williams
is the author of the Okal Rel Saga (Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing) and editor of the Okal Rel Legacies series (Absolute Xpress). Part 7 of the Okal Rel Saga, Healer's Sword, arrives in 2012. Lynda's work features moral dilemmas in a character-driven, multi-cultural setting with radically different attitudes to sex and social control surrounding space warfare and bio-science. She also works as Learning Technology Analyst for Simon Fraser University and teaches a introductory web development course at BCIT.

Q. Describe the superhuman protaganist(s) in your work and their general relationship to normal people.

Diane Whiteside: In an alternate version of today’s world, the Shadow Guard protects America from magical dangers. Powerful, arrogant, and honorable, its sahirs are superb magic workers but their long lives have taught them the high cost of freedom. They live secretly, away from normal people, and they would always place “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Lynda Williams: Sevolites have larger-than-life emotions. The Vrellish are an over-sexed, spatially gifted variety; the Demish are arch conservatives and lovers of literature. Lorels scheme to manage the affairs of others. All are descended from bio-engineered lines created to do mankind's flying using a punishing faster-than-life method of space travel called reality skimming. To this purpose, they were created to be regenerative and physically stronger than natural humans. The centrality of reality skimming in their era gives them power. By the time of the 10-novel Okal Rel Saga, Sevolites are ruling a neo-feudal empire in which natural humans are "commoners".

Q. How does your storytelling force protagonist(s) to confront questions of moral responsibility toward "normals," as a group.

Diane Whiteside: Astrid Carlson is a century-old sahir and widow. When she accidentally witnesses the murder of a normal person through her magic, she is forced to relive her husband’s death. But the only way Astrid can obtain justice for the victim is to reveal herself as a sahir – which is impossible.

Jake Hammond, on the other hand, is a homicide cop. He lives to speak for the dead and ensure that their killers are brought to trial. For him, “the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.” At first, he doesn’t understand why Astrid can’t talk openly about how she witnessed the crime. When he does comprehend, he’s forced to wonder – for the first time in his long career – whether he should fight to close a murder case or not.

Moral responsibility is a difficult balance to strike, when you’re guarding a secret that’s protected your country for centuries.

Lynda Williams: In Part One: The Courtesan Prince, the need to re-think Sevildom's relationship to commoners is cast in a new light by Pureblood Prince Amel, who discovers at age 16 that he is potentially heir to the empire although he was raised as a commoner. He has a hard time claiming power, however, given his gentle nature and embarrassing years as a courtesan sword dancer.

Reetions, members of a distinct culture comprised of 100% natural humans, also start to challenge Sevolite ideas of their superiority, and to perturb the age-old balance of Okal Rel, a religiously-underpinned system of self-restraint that keeps Sevolites from destroying the territory they fight over.

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