Former First Lady, Michelle Obama is currently adapting her bestselling book, Becoming, for young teens who are beginning their lives of real purpose. In an interview with Stephen Colbert for the promotion of her book, she talked about crying for 25 minutes after boarding Air Force One on the last day of her husband’s time in office as the 44th President of the United States and the release of eight years of always being cautious as to how the world perceived her, her husband and her children. She was the First Lady for eight years but she was defined by race and held accountable for representing her ethnicity as First Lady. Never defined purely by who she was as a human being and what she accomplished in her own life’s work, after all she was a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She was also a successful practicing attorney of Sidley Austin Law Firm in Chicago, Illinois. She is a wife and a mother.
As a writer, how do we create such a duplicitous woman of stature, a woman of accomplishment and a woman of color? As a society, we put characters in boxes but what if a character fits into more than one box? How would one recreate a character with similar heritage to a Meghan Markle? For clarity sake, Meghan is the Duchess of Sussex. She is a recently retired American actress who married Prince Harry, thus becoming a member of the British royal family. More than that, Markle was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and is of mixed race. As a writer, how do we create a character that’s remarkable, and both female and multiracial? Where do we begin?
How My Biracial Superhero Found Her Journey To Story
I created a biracial superhero that is defined by the content of her character and not a stereotypical orchestration based on her ethnic heritage. I began by defining the world in which she lived. I wanted her surroundings, her family and her aspirations to be personal. I wanted her beginnings to come from parents who loved each other, much like the home I grew up in, nothing about it seemed exceptional to me. I was a witness to the love shared between two people who married until the day my mother died. In fact I had many friends growing up that came from a two-parent household that was typically middle class. And I remembered my science fiction teacher from the University of California, Los Angeles Writers Program, explaining to his students, about the importance of always remembering the “human condition”. Incorporating the relatable aspects of humanity is key to connecting our character to the audience they will serve.
Writing Inspiration Comes From the Global Adoration of Many
I read an article on Wonder Woman by Charlie Jane Anders (from Tor.com, an online science fiction and fantasy magazine published by Tor Books), that conveyed such a poignant and relevant context of how this writer defined her: ““For all their kinky eroticism, the original Wonder Woman comics are also a story about slavery, and what comes after you win your freedom. But most of all, the thing that made Wonder Woman irresistible to me, back then, was the way she felt like a fairytale hero and a conventional action hero, rolled into one brightly colored package.”
Creating a superhero has always been about answering a call for preserving the integrity mankind, righting a wrong or making a statement about an imbalance of some deep chasm that society needs. Being a teacher and part of the education community, I was drawn to watch Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman, which is a documentary on education. Guggenheim’s title comes from the life and perspective of Geoffrey Canada, an American educator, a graduate of Harvard University, Bowdoin College, and Harvard Graduate School Of Education, who was devastated to find out in his youth that Superman wasn’t real.
Canada is African American and he grew up in the South Bronx of New York. His background is ground breaking. He founded the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), a non-profit organization for poverty-stricken children and families living in Harlem that provides education beginning with adolescence that is directed at breaking the cycle of generational poverty for the thousands of children and families the school serves. Superman was who Canada believed would save him and many others from a life of poverty and challenge, finding out Superman was fictional shattered his hope for a time. A writer’s inspiration comes from many places, world events and conditions of society that resonate within as to who we are as human beings.
The Breadcrumbs of Creating a Biracial Female Superhero
In my perspective, Superheroes provide hope. And as a writer, I believe, we design them to do so. As such, they have to feel real and relatable. Tying their creation to the plight of the fight in which they will battle pulls us in to their story and the struggle they will serve to win against it. Heroes and superheroes are iconic and relatable because we believe in their struggle yet they are not self-serving nor do they fall into a stereotypical frame. They are not all blonde and blue-eyed, they don’t grow-up inside a home surrounded by a white picket fence. They are not the high school quarterback or cheerleader. They struggle because they are unique and exceptional but unable to share their condition with a peer or someone they love and trust.
Superheroes tug at our hearts because of the plight or condition of which they must overcome to answer the call of their superhuman abilities. Superman is super because he is an alien that lives among humans that he has grown up with and has come to love. Batman is relatable because he cares about the conditions of society and wants to balance the scales against injustice. Wonder Woman is human and alien but believes in the goodness of mankind. I decided to create a superhero that combined the worlds of black and white and alien DNA. I wanted to see someone that looked like me yet was fighting the battle of the many heroes I loved as a child.
I drew inspiration from Gene Roddenberry and the fantastical world he created called Star Trek. I wondered about that world of which he created. I wondered…what would it be like if we had a world of totally equal opportunity, if we had no inequality, no disease and no poverty? What if we lived in a world where mankind only needed to better itself? What might that world look like? I considered quite a bit about the futuristic world of hope that he created.
Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek Inspires A Writing Process
In Roddenberry’s original Star Trek TOS series (1966–1969), officers served and coexisted in rank on a bridge of multi ethnicities. Nichelle Nichols, (cast as Nyota Uhura), shared the story of how she met the world renown, Martin Luther King, during the Civil Rights Struggle while she contemplated leaving the Star Trek series. She explained that she resigned on a Friday to launch a career on Broadway. Roddenberry asked her to reconsider, because he was building something of significance. Making a statement about the inequity of a society during a time in which Roddenberry and Nichols both were living. I was moved by the reason she changed her mind and her ultimate resolve.
Nichols was invited to a civil rights organizational event at the end of her first year staring in the original Star Trek series and as luck would have it, she met the famous civil rights leader, Martin Luther King that night. He sought her out and told her how much her show meant to him. Nichols explained to him that she was leaving Star Trek, bound for Broadway. He reacted quite desperately and told her that she just couldn’t do that. What she represented was too important. Roddenberry’s Star Trek was the only show that he would allow his children to watch at that time, because of the multi ethnicities that served together of equal rank (all officers) and of equal capability and training. Nichols decided to stay on the series after her conversation with King. This was a moving inspiration of historical significance for me. It was my muse, so to speak and the beginning of the stirrings that lead to the creation of my superhero, Vela Kurv.
How Star Trek Influenced My Biracial World Changing Superhero
Star Trek had such a resonating tone of truth for me. It spoke to me as a child; I would watch the syndicated reruns everyday after school during my grade school days. The truth of opportunity and capability resonated with me, as well. How could it not, resonate with everyone, I thought.
This television series did something extraordinary during a very turbulent time in the United States. Star Trek was able to shine a light on inequity, on prejudice and racism and on the plight of war. In fact, so much of the series connected with me, that I decided to create my own biracial female superhero inside my own world of science fiction, like Roddenberry did. I named my character, Lorabella, who becomes a superhero that ultimately becomes, Vela Kurv. Her creation is tied to the Constellation Vela that goes supernova during the birth of the very first Vela Kurv.
My Superhero Finds Its Way To Story
It took some time for me to create the backstory of Vela Kurv. It is somewhat surreal. The story began as a short story assignment in one of my early classes in The Writers Program. I wrote about the future, incorporating time travel because for me, that’s where hope lives. I grasped on to the futuristic worlds that superheroes come from because of past societal inequities and created such conditions for the creation of my Vela Kurv. Lorabella becomes Vela Kurv because of her alien and human bloodline. Like all superheroes, she struggles with her own humanity. She has a lesson to learn in dealing with her own father, who happens to also be the commanding officer of Earth’s military.
My reasons for creating her were an answer to what is missing in today’s world. This world where she lives is a world filled with many faces and races of color; it is a world where humans of all races want to live and support one another. In this world they only see the humanity in one another and love and respect one another. Humans unite to save their world because they all love what the quality of life offers, and the possibilities of what it offers for generations to come.
The Writing Process of Creating a Whole New World
I drew the creation of my world from the struggle of humanity as it exists for us all in how we view our own world and circumstances; this is because the scales of justice don’t always feel balanced because the struggle for equality has never been just.
In my creation of a whole new word, I am hoping for one filled with truth, justice and equality for all men, women and children but until that day becomes a reality, I make my commentary through the world of Vela Kurv and I show how this biracial female superhero seeks to balance the scales of right and wrong, because she believes that it’s possible. She fights to make justice the prevailing truth inside the world in which she lives.
Writers create because we find inspiration. Science fiction is all about drawing from science to recreate our story of fiction, be it story or a whole new world. Finding the originality in our creation is key to telling a real, personal story. This is where a world changing superhero can live and become a surreal but relatable hero wrapped up inside a biracial beginning.
This article first appeared on the She Writes blog here.
Riley Rose (Author) McKesson is an author of superhero Vela Kurv books.
She is also a professional writer and producer that is currently working on a film project with Chas. Floyd Johnson, Executive Producer of NCIS TV series, as well as the Producer of Red Tails (2012), which he produced with George Lucas and (LucasFilms).
Rose co-produced the documentary project, ‘The Green Girl’. It revealed the story of the life of Susan Oliver in the award winning move. It was funded on both crowdfunding websites: Kickstarter, and Indiegogo. The film has won three awards.
Rose has written treatments, story synopses, and analyses. Rose has produced several short films for Sundance Film Festival. She has also worked with the Webby Award Winning web series creator of BZ Shorts.
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