Running the Bases With Shei Darksbane
Running The Bases’ guest this week is Shei Darksbane. Shei is a co-founder of Darksbane Books, which publishes diverse representative speculative fiction.
- What are 3 of your favorite fantasy characters? (Please say where they’re from)
This is so hard. I love so many characters so very deeply. But if I have to respond, and I’ll refrain from answering on my wife’s characters 😉 since then I’d have far more than 3 to name anyway… I’ll say Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, Starbride from Barbara Ann Wright’s Katya and Starbride series, and Bentley and Corman (sorry, they come as a pair!) from Craigh Schaefer’s Daniel Faust series. Gosh this is hard. I could name wonderful characters all day long!
- What is 1 fact about your book/series you’d like a new reader to know?
One thing I can say about all our series is that you don’t have to be LGBT to enjoy them. They are not LGBT stories for LGBT people alone. They are stories. And the protagonists and some of the other characters are LGBTQIA+. Some of the other characters are diverse in other ways too, such as race, religion, and disability. Our mission is to create excellent stories just like any other great fiction with a focus on excellent plot, characters, development, world building, etc… but featuring characters with traits that are under-represented in media. So if you’re not a lesbian, or not “into lesbians”, it doesn’t matter. You can still enjoy these stories. They don’t focus on “being a lesbian”. They focus on kick-ass heroines, witty dialogue, and deep world and character building. They just happen to be lesbians instead of straight.
- What’s your most and least favorite things about being an author?
Favorite thing: the feeling I get when someone tells me that they were thrilled to feel represented in my story. Just knowing I’m helping someone feel like “*this* represents me while still being in my favorite genre” (since it’s hard to find LGBT representation outside of romance/erom/erotica)… It makes me happy. Because I want that feeling too, and rarely find it. When I stumbled upon Barbara Ann Wright’s series, I was just so excited because for once, the plucky heroine wasn’t drooling over a guy who I’m sure was quite attracted to straight girls, but for me, it just broke my connection with the character because I couldn’t feel it. The story didn’t have to be just about them being lesbians. But just seeing lesbians in a great fantasy story helped me feel like I was a part of that world in ways many series, even my favorite series by my favorite authors never did. I still enjoy The Mercy Thompson series, but I’ll never be as connected to Mercy as I am to Starbride, for instance, because ultimately, I can share in Starbride’s emotions more closely than I can in Mercy’s.
So when I get a note or a review where someone says they were so happy because for once they felt represented, it absolutely warms my heart.
Least favorite thing: revisions. 😑 gosh I hate it more than even blurbing. lol
- Why does diverse spec fiction matter to you?
I think I’ve managed to answer this all over my other answers… But to say a final word on the matter, it matters to me because there are so many young people out there who are struggling to feel like they belong in a world that is often far to cruel to them. I want to help build a world where they can find themselves in a book just as easily as anyone else. I want the LGBTQIA+ readers to find themselves in Dakota,in Ashes, in Riv’s massively diverse crew. I want them to feel like they can truly slip into a story and immerse. I want them to FEEL the romance budding between two girls in the story, and not simply *know* in their gut with dread that the relationship is probably going to turn out to be just friendship or even some gay-baiting and it’ll never simply be that they’re actually going to be in a romance… right? Because that never happens in fiction… No one does that.
Well… we do that. That’s what we’re here to do. We’re going to make sure those books exist for the people who want them, and honestly, I feel there’s a lot more people who want them these days than not. You don’t have to be gay to want representation and diversity. You don’t have to have a particular skin color to want to see characters who aren’t white. You don’t have to be disabled to want to see some disabilities (physical and mental) represented in your stories. And you don’t have to be a social justice warrior to want to see women handled respectfully without bashing men, a lack of toxic masculinity, and generally just respect to all kinds of people in the fiction you read. It means so much to me to be able to contribute even a little of this kind of material to the great library of humanity. I know what it feels like to be endlessly frustrated because you never find yourself represented in fiction, and I’ve seen the harm it does. I watched a video once where they showed kids two dolls, a white and a black doll. They asked questions like “which is the good doll” “which is the pretty doll” ” which is the ugly doll” “which is the bad doll”. The message was telegraphed so I expected to see the kids saying what you’d expect from this society. It hurt, but I knew it was coming as the little kids kept saying the white doll was good, pretty, and the black doll was bad, ugly. But when they showed the black children answering those questions… and they said the same… it absolutely broke my heart. I cried. I cried so hard. Because why should those precious, beautiful children believe they were ugly or bad? Our society has a lot of work to do, and I don’t pretend that one couple writing diverse fiction can change these things, but I refer to the famous parable of the starfish. If we can’t make a difference to all of them, at least we’ll make a difference to a few. And maybe one day, there will be enough authors doing the same, that we will have contributed to a real change in society. Maybe one day, the lesbian girls will know they can find a book about a strong heroine they can find themselves in and know they won’t have to deal with that heroine then falling for a guy they don’t feel any connection to. Maybe one day, girls of color will know then can find themselves as the heroines, the beautiful and good heroines in fiction too. Maybe one day, no one will really have to make a big deal of their protagonist being gay, black, non-Christian, or disabled anymore at all… Because maybe one day, all fiction will be diverse. I hope for that day. But I believe we must be the change we want to see in the world. So we’re doing what we can.