I love creating characters. It’s one of my favorite aspects of writing. That’s one reason it’s so much fun to do a series of shorts, such as The Cities of Luna, where I get to come up with new characters all the time.
When humans settle on the moon, it will not be a homogeneous culture from just one region of Earth. There will be cities that are founded by different countries or partnerships, and more than one metropolis founded by multi-national corporations.
The moon will be a melting pot more culturally diverse than any area of Earth can ever be.
Whether I’m writing lunar shorts or something else, I always strive for the kind of diversity that reflects real life, and a positive, plausible extension of what real life will someday be like. In Steampunk, that’s more difficult because although my setting is an alternate timeline, it must still be based loosely on Queen Victoria’s empire.
Diversity is more than just genetic and regional heritage. One of my best sciencey-writerly friends is an Asian guy from Texas who lives in Australia. I’ve never heard him speak, so I have no idea what accent he has. Many of my characters, like this friend and I, are married folks with a couple of kids. Some of my characters are very young, while others, like Kellan and Moriel in Grands, are great-grandparents. Non-heterosexual people pop up randomly, and their sexual orientation is almost never a plot point. These attributes and others are a roll of the dice, as far as character creation is concerned.
Skin color is more difficult. I rarely describe my characters in detail, so pointing out what color a character’s skin is feels like I’m smacking the reader over the head with the two-by-four of racial diversity. Names are more fun. I can imply Jewish heritage if everyone in the family has a Jewish name. (Adding in a friendly visit by their rabbi, which happens in Schrodinger’s Cookies, and the point is hammered home.) However, names are something our parents choose for us, and don’t always reflect our nationality. My oldest daughter is adopted, and we have no idea why her birth parents chose a name that is more traditional in Hindu or Jewish cultures, as they are neither. I gave my younger daughter Welsh first and middle names even though, heritage wise, we aren’t at all Welsh. Her first name is from a Fleetwood Mac song and her middle name is from a book by Stephen Lawhead.
Recently, Robert Silverberg (Hugo and Nebula award-winning author of such contemporary classics as Nightwings and At Winter’s End) posed a question on facebook about utopias vs. dystopias. I prefer to write utopias, or at least a positive future, because that is what I want to see happen and I believe this is not only plausible, but highly likely if it is what we expect and strive for. There are a million great stories that can be told within the setting of a happy, prosperous society. I write diversity for the same reason. It is not only plausible, but desirable. We can envision this future, and then we can create it.