Reality Skimming
7Mar/12Off

Dialogue #2: Diane Whiteside (3 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 www.DianeWhiteside.com.

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. Do your superhumans have different attitudes toward others of their own kind than to people without their special powers? Explain.

Diane Whiteside: Sahirs are protective toward people without magic. They’re both more formal and more violent among themselves, with most of their interactions cloaked in magic. Given sahirs’ long lives, most of Astrid Carlson’s friends are sahirs like herself.

Jake Hammond, a homicide cop, is unimpressed to learn that he’s not a “normal” person but a kubri, who can enhance a sahir’s power. His irritation grows when he finds out recruiters will want to make him a full-time kubri, rather than a cop.

Lynda Williams: Demish Sevolites enforce a hierarchy of birth ranks based on a person's geneprint. They have a paternalistic attitude toward commoners. Vrellish Sevolites classify people as highborns (best flyers), nobleborns (better than commoners but worse than highborns) and stationers. They have a symbiotic relationship with the stationers who keep their habitats operational and perform skilled trades the Vrellish lack the patience for, but one has to be tough to survive as a Vrellish stationer.

Lorels consider all humankind a problem to be solved, and most of them are smart enough to be much too good at it. There aren't many Lorels left in the universe and most people have a superstitious dread of them. But the Lor'Vrellish Ava, Ameron, was much beloved of commoners for reforms that he, himself, considered mere gestures. Like his political disciple, Di Mon, Ameron's belief in the equality of commoners could be hard for him to live up to, in person.

Q. How does the story you tell challenge your protagonist(s) to act on, or examine and evaluate, their moral concern for others like themselves vs. people at large?

Diane Whiteside: Astrid knows that if she’d witnessed the murder of another member of the Shadow Guard, there’d be a no-holds-barred hunt for the killer by the entire Guard. Instead, she has to use a “normal” person as her proxy. Even when she realizes that she’s hunting a very dangerous killer, somebody who could threaten the United States, she can’t obtain any help. The best her commander will provide is a promise not to kill her – so long as she doesn’t embarrass the Shadow Guard in public.

Astrid is forced to reconsider who has more concern for people: her Shadow Guard commander (a sahir with strict rules about whose murders can be investigated) or Jake Hammond (a “normal” person who’ll solve anybody’s murder).

Lynda Williams: Divided loyalties is the short answer. For example, Di Mon's people, the part-Vrellish and part-Lorel Monatese, have a monopoly on medicine and info technology that is threatened by the prospect of trade with Reetions. Yet Di Mon is ethically bound to protect Ranar's people from conquest by Sevolites because he respects what they've achieved.

In Part II: Righteous Anger, Horth Nersal watches the admirable bond between his parents warp his father's integrity over something he was always taught was non-negotiatble: the destruction of habitat. Doing so is okal'a'ni -- a violation of his family's religious beliefs. The matter comes down, in the end, to the fact that the space stations concerned contain only Reetions, who are commoners. Horth's strongest attachments are to family, and none of them are commoners. But the principle is inescapable. The question of whether commoners "count" as people becomes a matter of life and death for him, personally.

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