Actually, I’m going to make one more post tonight.
So, most of us are shapeshifters. In our inworld, we have several different body maps each. Usually it’s a smooth spectrum between our ideal self and our vessel, and we slide along that depending on how strongly we are feeling like ourself. For instance, Tetcha has a fully draconic body map, but often allows herself to feel more like what you see in her gravatar. (Oh, we should talk about pronouns here, too.) And that “midform” of hers is what we drew upon to describe her character in our novels.
I, however, tend to slide between a fairly young girl, maybe about 14 years old, and something akin to our body. My actual age is just a couple years younger than our vessel. I’m just talking about appearances here. No inhuman traits besides unusual eyes and maybe some kind of magic powers. Again, in our inworld, we all have powers. We are the gods of it, after all.
I don’t look at all like how we have described my character in Systems’ Out!
The reason for this is that when we sat down to work out what our novel would be about, we decided that there would be no typical humans in it. Everyone would be some mix of animalistic traits, some of which might not even be Terran. We also decided that nobody would have “he/him” or “she/her” for pronouns. The reasons for this are largely political, but they also lend to an aesthetic that we really appreciate.
I’m not entirely sure that the choice we made for my fictional body was the best one we could make. I didn’t have much input into it myself. It was supposed to be dysphoric for me, after all. But the others thought, “what would be a really cool form that we all might like to have?” and “what would be fun to draw and describe?” and then went with that. And while we tried to write it straight and work around the problems it presented, it does make me visually look something like a Lovecraftian cultist. And that becomes an unintended allusion that has some racist cultural baggage we were hoping to avoid in the first place. We don’t really yet see how it looks from the outside, though. So we don’t know if changing it is in order.
Suffice it to say, in the story, my dysphoria is not described nor meant to be a moral judgment on the form I was given. The dysphoria is just an unfortunate thing I was born with, that others are not. It’s the same thing as with our outworld vessel, which has caused us all incredible agony. That we couldn’t continue to allow ourselves to look like a cis man isn’t an indictment on cis men. It’s just not what we were, and to such a degree it nearly killed us.
Also, our intent with the unique physiology of every person in the Sunspot was to mirror our own inworld diversity while also representing personal abilities and disabilities. And we tried to lean in that direction. Still, it may not work for some readers. We don’t know yet, but we do worry.
I’m not asking for guidance here. I’m just pointing this out so that if anybody wonders, you know at least I have thought about it. Most of the rest of the cast have, too. When we have the resources, we plan on hiring a sensitivity reader, and until we do, we’ll be receptive to criticism about it. For all we know, we’ve let worse stuff slip in elsewhere in the story. After all, the premise is that we’re on an interstellar generational star ship powered by a gigantic fusion reactor, and something like that cannot currently be built without exploiting the planet where it comes from. At least, it’s hard to imagine anyone would be able to (though, Ursula LeGuinn dares us to imagine ways we could).
Anyway, we’ve got the story down the way we were inspired to write it in the first place. We can preserve that for our emotional needs and for accountability, and put a better version up here. So if anyone messages us with critique, we’ll work on addressing it. We’re not profiting off of this. We’re not selling it. And without that promise of cash flow, we can’t hire editors. We also have no boss and no deadline. We expect to be tweaking it for as long as we have the energy to do so.