Disability in Speculative Fiction by Rose B. Fischer

Every spec fic writer should think seriously about representation in their literature and how they want to go about it. This post discusses an often overlooked point of view–that of disabled characters.

9 thoughts on “Disability in Speculative Fiction by Rose B. Fischer

  1. Two good examples I can thinkbof off the top of my head… And by off the top of my head, the only ones I can think of. Jamie Lannister didn’t even come to mind until I read the full post.

    Ascension by Jacqueline Koyangi. The protag is disabled with a disorder that requires daily meds and doesn’t always have them while on space adventures. It’s a great book in about 17 different ways.

    One of my favorite cartoons ever, Exo-Squad from the 90s. There is a character arc with one guy who becomes paralyzed and becoming mobile again is part of his story.

    1. Koyangi’s book is really new–but you’re right. I was just trying to illustrate that characters with disabilities are far and few between, not trying to create a comprehensive list.

  2. Yeah, I think she’s got a valid point about disabled characters’ arcs being mostly about how they look for a cure for their disabilities. I believe that it’s important to show people who are who they are. The disability is like my near-sightedness. Something they deal with that doesn’t even come close to defining them.

    Science fiction does have a bad habit of using disabled characters to show how in the future, everyone will be healthy because we’ll be able to cure everything. That’s part of the reason why I included Troi in Lex Talionis–to show someone who wasn’t cured and lives everyday with her severe, deadly allergies–and yet it doesn’t define her. And I have someone special for book two as well. Her disability came as a surprise to me. Heck, SHE was a surprise. She just jumped out in rewrites, making total sense and everything.

    Love when that happens.

    1. Hrm. I think that gets into the sociology of how cultures define a disability. I didn’t even think of allergies as one and my kiddo is deathly allergic to nuts. And cats. And dust. I’ve had arthritis since my 20s and have to go to my dermatologist 2-3 times a week. I guess I just think of those things as facts. It’s the baseline I can’t do anything about. I think people tend to think of disabilities as something taken away.

      1. Well, in the case of Troi, she’s had everything taken away. She has no immune system really, so she has to control every bit of her environment or risk death. She’s had her freedom and her ability to interact with others taken away. It’s not like your son, who can just avoid peanuts and live a normal life.

        But in any case, I think of disabilities as anything that prevents you from functioning as a normal, healthy human being and forces you to adapt as others would not have to. Troi has to wear antiseptic veils. Some people need prosthetics. The important part is I agree with what you said. These are in fact, just facts. They don’t define people and they aren’t something disabled people think about 24/7. They just adapt.

        But I don’t really think of it as having something taken away. I think of it as being different and having to experience the world differently. That can be more difficult or less difficult than it has to be, but that doesn’t matter because everyone finds life difficult, don’t they?

      2. MIke, most people I know who have conditions that our culture defines as “disabilities” think of them in the same way that you think of your arthritis or your kid’s allergies. They’re just things they have to manage, not things that define us. There are some exceptions to that when people have acquired injuries, have to learn to adjust later in life and you feel like something is taken away, but I think it’s important for authors to present characters with healthier views of disability than “this is a tragic loss.” Disability is a social construct.

      3. I so agree. I can only imagine how hard it must be for someone to adjust to a completely different life than they had before, but I hate the idea that society sees the disabled as someone who has ‘lost’ the ability to be ‘normal’.

        I’m not disabled, but I think if I were, I’d want people to know I’m still me, and whatever’s happened, I haven’t lost me. I’m just someone who adapts to the world in a different way than most people.

        Hope I’m on the right track here, as I have no personal experience to bank on.

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