Written by Mindee Arnett
When I started writing the first book in my Arkwell Academy series, The Nightmare Affair, I had no idea what the prevailing themes of the series would be. Like most writers, I simply took my idea and ran with it. But by the time I finished the first book and started on the sequel, I began to recognize one of the major, underlying themes at work. And imagine my surprise when I realized that I’d laid the foundation for this theme all the way back in chapter two and quite without realizing it.
Even more surprising is that the theme centers on racial identity and racism—kind of weird for a story about magic and murder. But then again, maybe not. You see, when I was first figuring out the mechanics of my world and how my main character, Dusty, fit into it as a half-human, half-Nightmare, it made perfect sense to create a classification system for all the various types of magical creatures based on shared characteristics. I mean, that’s how the real world works, right? It seems every other day we’re asked to fill out an ethnicity/race data collection form. Self-identification is important to us as human beings (for reasons best not explored here), and I didn’t think magical creatures would be any different.
So I decided that the magickind of my story would identify themselves into one of three main groups based on the way they fuel their magic. There are Witchkinds, including wizards, witches, and psychics whose power is self-fueled; Naturekinds, such as fairies, dryads, and mermaids who derive power from nature; and Darkkinds, such as demons, werewolves, sirens, and Nightmares who draw their magic from other living creatures.
At first, this organization seemed rather harmless and downright useful from a storytelling standpoint. I soon discovered that the various groups feel pretty strongly about their identity and have historically harbored deep-rooted prejudices toward one another. Witchkinds tend to think they’re superior because their magic comes from within themselves, while Naturekinds think they’re better because nature and the elements are so ancient and powerful. And of course everybody looks down on Darkkinds because their magic is predatory. You can imagine the resentments such divisions have created.
Although I never had any intention of grappling with such a major theme as racism, as I move forward with the series, I’m very happy to have this source of external conflict and upheaval. It’s provided me with ways to layer my story and to put plenty of obstacles and challenges in Dusty’s way. And as a writer, it’s given me a path to follow as I traverse the dark and mysterious journey of crafting a series.
From the Tor/Forge March newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
More from the March Tor/Forge newsletter:
- Commuting Between Universes by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
- What is Gaslamp Fantasy? by Terri Windling
- Ignoring the Body in the Library: The World of Farthing by Jo Walton