I am white, and my wife is black. When our son Hunter was born, it was right around the time of the Presidential election in the U.S. The themes of nationalism vs. globalism, racism, and cultural genocide were - and are - front and center in the minds of many Americans. Not to mention the fact that my wife and I were still getting strange - or downright angry - looks and comments from people (of several races) that didn't approve of our union.
And as a writer - and a father to a biracial son - I wanted to understand it.
I think of fantasy as a way to explore elements of human nature by changing the rules of the world to address these elements. To expose them and play with them. So I created a world where everything about you - your appearance, personality, skills, memories, and so on - was potentially contagious. Where strong-willed individuals could pass on their traits to weaker-willed people. And where the strongest-willed of all were called Legends. Those who cannot be changed, yet can change anyone else.
Naturally, this led to a society where people who spend enough time with each other ended up acting and looking like each other. And where an outsider - someone with dark skin, or a different way of thinking - would pose a real, tangible threat if their will was strong enough.
By making the idea of cultural genocide a very real possibility, I was able to explore the feelings both sides might have about it. The ideas of self, of community, and of what makes a people one people. Is it the way they look? The way they act? Their belief systems, or religions, or rituals?
And how do you remain yourself when everyone around you can change who you are?
I hoped that, by exploring these issues through fantasy - and by placing Hunter within that story, and seeing how he might react to such a world - that I could further my understanding of these important issues. I also wanted to write a story for Hunter that he might read when he's older that could help him process these issues as well.
I found that, in writing Hunter of Legends, I often ended up enjoying the characters I disagreed with the most. And I think that, if we all spent a little more time trying to understand each other - without necessarily having to agree with each other - that it would be a good start toward building a better future for our children.