Jim Hines discusses how seeing yourself (black, autistic, gay, whatever) in fiction makes a difference in what you think you can be. And points out how weird it would be to see things reversed: “Imagine the backlash to a science fiction show in which the main starship crew—the captain, first officer, navigator, engineer, and doctor—are all women. The only male character is basically a switchboard operator. Or a dystopian tale in which children are forced to fight to the death each year, but a group of rebels works together to overthrow the evil government. There are only a handful of white characters, all of whom die to help motivate the black heroine.”
•Shannon Thompson links to several articles on diversity including discussing it herself. Swoonreads has more links. Malindalo discusses common LGBTQ stereotypes and cliches. Sarah Hockler discusses race. All focusing on YA, but I think the commentary is generally applicable.
•A good discussion of disability stereotypes.
•Here’s an example of how not to write a fat girl. And how not to kill off a lesbian. This letter criticizing the decision (relating to The 100 on CW) and explaining the dead gays trope (like black characters in action films, lesbians in TV have a high mortality rate)sounds oddly familiar: when I was in Buffy fandom some years back, the creative team killed off Willow’s gay lover Tara and got much the same response. And as with The 100 the producers seemed to be tone-deaf: after Willow/Tara became a thing, the producers assured fans who brought up the Dead Lesbian cliche that they knew of it and no way were they going that route.And then they went that route.
•If you’re writing historical fiction it never hurts to remember that women did more stuff than we often realize. I’d certainly not heard of these artists before.
•An older example of How Not to Do It was this Legion of Super-Heroes story (cover by Mike Grell, all rights to current holder) from the 1970s. The story introduces Tyroc as a new member for the Legion, a black mutant whose voice can basically work magic (he yells, he creates some weird effect—pretty much whatever the writer wants). The story explains that we haven’t seen black characters in previous Legion stories because by the 30th century they’ve all moved to Tyroc’s island of Marzal (this origin got revised slightly later) and rejected white people (apparently the alternative of finally showing blacks as part of the everyday world wasn’t good enough). But as Tyroc learns, any hate and resentment he and other black people have for whites (why do they never show up and help when Marzal is in trouble?) is irrational because the Legion are totally cool about race and so is the rest of the future, the only problem is the Marzalians being irrationally pissed-off. It’s the black people who have the irrational hate. (one more reason John Stewart stands out for me as a black super-hero who’s angry but in the right). And apparently that still leaves the Earth mostly white.
His costume by the way, was deliberately designed to be goofy by Mike Grell, as detailed here.