Dear Blog Friends,
I have witches in my urban fantasy. Of course, lots of people have witches in their fantasy, but the thing is, I have real witches. I’m not a witch myself, but I have friends who are witches, and if I were ever to join a religion, it would likely be Paganism because I love the do-it-yourself vibe to it. I also like that it’s one of the only religions around that doesn’t espouse some version of “Women suffer because God made them inferior to men and therefore they deserve to suffer.”
But one trait I’ve found in some urban fantasy is the way that their “real” witches (the ones who do magic) denigrate real witches. Their magic-wielding women and men treat honest Pagans like Kate and William treat the King and Queen of the SCA. I don’t think this is cool.
In response to this, I decided to have Pagans in my story who are real people. They’re similar to Wiccans, but not completely the same. I know I’m gonna get some flak for this. I already met one person at a con who insisted that the word “Pagan” was HORRIBLY OFFENSIVE and would never be redeemed, and that she could sense the people in the audience flinch when I said it. Could be. She admitted she was raised in a very religious area of the country. I kinda don’t think right-wing Bible belt Christians read an awful lot of urban fantasy novels, so I’m going to take a risk of losing them.
I’m sure some of the Wiccans and other real Pagans might be unhappy at my depiction. After all, I made them real people. They are sometimes petty, and sometimes shallow, and sometimes they do bad things. But I hope they are at least believable people.
I did a lot of research for this. I read a lot of books, attended some gatherings, spoke with Wiccans and Druids and people who self-identified as Pagan. Did I mention I read a lot of books? I even started contributing to a Pagan periodical in Seattle. One day I started wondering why I hadn’t yet joined a coven, why I hadn’t actually gone out and gotten any spell-making supplies, why I didn’t draw down the moon on the witch sabbats. Then I kind of laughed at myself, because I’d gotten so involved in the character I was writing about* that I forgot I didn’t actually believe in that stuff myself.
It’s kind of scary, because with any minority, whether it be an unusual religion, or a racial group, or people who are handicapped in one way or another, you’re bound to get something wrong. I think that writers have two choices. Either we do it wrong, or you don’t do it at all (which is like doing it wrong). There’s no way to please everyone. If you slip in a stereotype, someone will be angry. If you avoid all stereotypes, someone will be angry that you haven’t depicted that person accurately. If you avoid having anyone outside the white-straight-able-bodied-protestant, etc. parameters, well, that doesn’t make for very good (or very accurate) fiction.
And if nothing else, witches are pretty cool.
*James Melbourne, who was the protagonist in a failed novel that I abandoned after 20,000 words.