10
Sep
14

Interview with Kathryn Allan, co-editor of Accessing the Future

Hi, friends! Today, I’m going to post something a little different than the “high-minded indignation” this blog usually features. Instead, I’ll be giving some space to support the Indiegogo campaign for an awesome short story anthology that will explore disability—and the intersectionality of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both the imagined physical and virtual spaces of the future. Co-edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad, Accessing the Future has already experienced a tremendous outpouring of community support on Indiegogo. Having reached their initial goal of $4,000, the editors are now pushing towards raising $7,000 total by September 16th. This extra funding would allow authors for the anthology to be paid a professional rate (.06/word), which we can all agree is a Good Thing.

To learn a bit more about the people behind this project, I recently sat down with (and by that I mean, “emailed”) co-editor Kathryn Allan to talk a little bit about disability and science fiction.

Space Crip: How do you define science fiction? What makes a story science fiction?

Kathryn Allan: No one has ever asked me this before–awesome! I define science fiction (SF) as a genre that imagines future possible worlds based on the events, politics, and technology that we have today. I personally have a broad understanding of SF, so I would say that an SF is one that is set in time that is not our own current reality; it makes guesses about how we (as humans) will shape our future world(s); and embodies a spirit of exploration and curiosity about what is possible.

SC: Compared to other genres, how do you think science fiction has fared in representing disability? What possibilities does sci-fi open up or foreclose compared to other genres?

KA: I’m the most experienced in reading SF these days, but I think that it is a genre that has always and continues to be one that takes up disability most intensely because of its focus on technology (and medical “advances”). In horror and fantasy, for instance, disability is there too and in similar ways: in horror, like SF, disability too often marks an individual as a monster or evil doer; in fantasy, like SF, disability frequently sets out a person as “extra special” (like the blind mage who can “see” the future). Unlike horror and fantasy, however, SF is kinda obsessed with stories of “cure,” and other medical stuff like prosthetic technologies and genetic engineering (a.k.a., eugenics). Because of that technological (and medical) focus, SF opens up spaces to question/challenge/explore what it means to human, and, perhaps more importantly for this conversation, who gets to be counted as human. Since SF is a genre where writers set out their visions of what may come, it’s essential that care is taken in how they create their idealized (or dystopic) futures: if disability is “cured” in the future, a very common notion in SF, then what does that tell people with disabilities of how they are valued today? I really believe that SF holds the potential to be a leading genre in re-imagining disability in creative ways that challenges the reductive and harmful stereotypes that society currently holds…it’s just going to take a while for a good chunk of SF writers to identify their (often able-bodied) assumptions about what it means to live with a disability and to start writing three-dimensional, realistic characters who have a disability. Also, we need a plurality of voices in SF creating visions of the future and that must include people with disabilities (visible and invisible, physical and mental)!

SC: Where do you think sci-fi has failed in terms of disability? Where has sci-fi succeeded?

KA: As I covered in my answer above, SF usually fails in having realistic representations of people with disabilities. Too often, if a character has a visible disability, they are like super evil (e.g., Davros from Doctor Who) or, alternatively, they are super inspirational (a “super crip”) as they “overcome” their disability (e.g., Jake Sully in Avatar). Or, even worse, disability doesn’t exist (or is highly policed/controlled) in the future because genetic engineering “cures” all possible physical and mental differences deemed undesirable (e.g., Gattaca). These are the kinds of representations of disability that really need to go. In terms of examples of stories that address disability in realistic, thoughtful ways, I recently wrote a post on Pornokitsch that identifies 5 of my favourites: Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl, Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension, Morgan J. Locke’s Up Against It, James Patrick Kelly’s “The Promise of Space,” and Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine. All of those stories treat disability as social construct, and have three-dimensional characters with disabilities.

SC: Space Crip largely talks about television and film whereas Accessing the Future will be an anthology of short stories. Do you have any short story recommendations for sci-fi fans interested in disability?

KA: In addition to Kelly’s story “The Promise of Space,” I think SF fans interested in reading about disability would enjoy reading the recent short stories (all free online) by Anna Caro’s “Millie,” Jack Hollis Marr’s “Always Left Behind,” Nick Wood’s “Lunar Voices (On the Solar Wind),” and Aliette de Bodard’s “Immersion.”

SC: Thank you, Kathryn, for taking the time to talk. Readers, if this interview has peaked your interest, head over to the anthology’s Indiegogo page and pre-order your copy before September 16th!

07
Sep
13

The Two-Headed Quarterback: Disabled Identity in Night Vale

Warning: this post contains discussion of medical and parental abuse, murder, and spoilers for “Dana.”

A small meta blog where the cooling rods are cold, the ableism is fantastic, and JJ Abrams ruins our favorite franchises while we all pretend not to weep.

Welcome to Space Crip.

::instrumental music plays::

Hello, listeners/readers/magick users who access the blog by astrally projecting themselves into the Internet and joining with the essence of Space Crip.

Like a good portion of the intertubes, I have become an avid listener of the podcast, Welcome to Night Vale, having listened to twenty-eight episodes within the span of three days. Partially because my laptop was in for repairs and partially because I surrendered to the half of my Tumblr dash that had been swallowed by the fandom. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show (and therefore did not get any of the references I made in the previous four paragraphs), Welcome to Night Vale is a fake community radio show set in a small desert town full of weird, unexplainable phenomena that the citizens consider just a normal part of everyday life. The show’s host, Cecil Baldwin, a lifelong Night Vale resident, comments on town matters, like a glowing cloud that hovers over the town and rains down dead animals, mayoral hopeful and five-headed dragon Hiram McDaniels, and the beautiful, perfectly-coiffed out-of-towner scientist named Carlos who’s trying to understand the town’s inherent weirdness.

Like all Quirky Towns, Night Vale is populated by Eccentric Townsfolk. Like Old Woman Josie who frequently hosts angels (all named Erika; all technically non-existent according to the all-powerful city council) in her home out near the car lot. Or John Peters, you know, the farmer who grows heavily-subsidized imaginary corn. Or the focus of today’s post, Michael Sandero, high school senior and quarterback of the Night Vale Scorpions. Continue reading ‘The Two-Headed Quarterback: Disabled Identity in Night Vale’

20
May
13

Star Trek Into Darkness: Able-Bodied Angst and Abrams’ Anti-Intellectualism

Warning: this post contains discussion of genocide and spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness.

Compared to most popular film franchises, the Star Trek fandom has waited a long time to see the Enterprise take to open skies again. In an industry where popularity and success are capitalized on as quickly as possible, four years was an unusually long gap between a blockbuster summer film and its sequel. During the four year wait, some fans (especially those of the Prime universe) grew increasingly cynical about the second reboot film’s ability to move beyond the flashy origin story of its predecessor and mature into a more contemplative series about the intragalactic, ethical repercussions of one ship’s actions. This subset of fans grew ever more disheartened each time the director, writers, and producers opened their mouths, typically to comment on how they weren’t making a movie for Star Trek fans, why a female character needed to be shown in her undies while an accidental shot of Chris Pine’s clothed butt needed to be edited out in post-production, or how the Captain Kirk of TOS was a womanizer uninterested in love.

I have to admit, I was one of those fans. I tried to be optimistic, but once the details of Benedict Cumberbatch’s role were spoiled, I became a Trekkie fatalist. I may have spent an evening listening to “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Mis on repeat while cursing J.J. Abrams’ name for killing the dream I dreamed of a faithful reinvigoration of the Star Trek franchise.

Yet, even before my descent “into darkness” caused by casting spoilers, I knew that the film was going to fail me from disability perspective. I knew it would fall into one of the most egregious ableist tropes in film and television. As soon I saw the promo stills, I knew what was going to happen.

Continue reading ‘Star Trek Into Darkness: Able-Bodied Angst and Abrams’ Anti-Intellectualism’

30
Mar
13

Fantastic ableism and disability: the Amnesia Girl

Warning: this post contains brief discussion of lynching, sexual assault, and caregiver abuse. Spoilers for season 2 of Grimm and Once Upon a Time and the series finale of Chuck.

When Grimm and Once Upon a Time premiered in fall of 2011, there was a lot of buzz about there being two shows on the schedule featuring fairy tale characters in modern settings, capitalizing on the popularity of revamped fairy tales sweeping Hollywood at the time. Based on this similarity, media outlets and even fans were apt to put the shows in competition with one another. Obviously, only one could survive the season. The competitive spirit faded as the season wore on and the shows demonstrated how very different they were from each other. Once Upon a Time proved itself to be a family-friendly show committed to the power of True Love, while also being a spiritual heir of Lost (the difference being that Once actually answers the numerous questions it raises; unfortunately, everyone in the audience has figured out the answers long before they are revealed). On the other hand, Grimm is a gritty noir procedural where love is vulnerable to secrecy and the chaos of the universe, while also bearing a structural resemblance to Buffy: the Vampire Slayer (the difference being that Slayers are women oppressed by patriarchy but empowered by magic; Grimms (and Nick specifically) bear great institutional power and are empowered by magic, which can make them scary as all hell).

Continue reading ‘Fantastic ableism and disability: the Amnesia Girl’

23
Feb
13

“Conventions of Space and Time”: Toby is a douchebag, but not for the reasons you think…

“Conventions of Space and Time” marks Community‘s second exploration of Abed’s autism/undiagnosable-ness through Inspector Spacetime (the first being “Virtual Systems Analysis,” which you can read about, at length, here.) Like “Virtual Systems Analysis,” “Conventions of Space and Time” deals with the perceived threats to Abed and Troy’s friendship—except this time it’s Troy who’s worried about losing Abed to a new relationship. When the study group attends InSpecTiCon, an Inspector Spacetime convention1, Abed finally meets Toby Weeks, an online friend and “arguably the biggest Inspector Spacetime fan in the world.” Troy is instantly jealous of the rapport Abed has with Toby, but little does he know how far Toby is willing to go to keep Abed for himself…

Continue reading ‘“Conventions of Space and Time”: Toby is a douchebag, but not for the reasons you think…’

20
Jan
13

Reaction Post: “An Enemy of Fate”

Warning: this post contains spoilers for the Fringe series finale.

As the credits rolled on the final episode of Fringe, I knew one thing for sure: I did not like the ending. I felt somehow dissatisfied with it, rubbed the wrong way. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something Not Right at the core of this happy ending. After some reflection (e.g., browsing on Tumblr), I realized I was mostly upset about Donald/September dying rather than living on with his son. Which, okay, I guess is what the show was going for. They want viewers to be upset when a sympathetic character dies. But, for me, this went way beyond the feels and right into crip rage.

Why? Because this bittersweet happy ending was sweet for Peter and Olivia and Etta (the white, heterosexual, able-bodied nuclear family), but bitter for Michael and Walter (the neurodivergent contingent of the Fringe cast this season).

Continue reading ‘Reaction Post: “An Enemy of Fate”’

04
Nov
12

What’s got me Rumpel’d?: Once Upon a Time wasn’t enough

Warning: this post contains discussion of emotional abuse, ableism, and rape. Spoilers through “The Doctor.”

Additional note: Moff’s Law presiding, as usual. If placing Once Upon a Time within a larger social context of racism, ableism, and sexism is upsetting to you, please don’t read and leave nasty comments. I’d hate for you to waste your free time on something that frustrates you so.

About a year ago, I wrote a post about Rumpelstilskin from Once Upon a Time, noting the ableism and racism in his two personas while living in the Enchanted Forrest. If you’ll recall, Rumpelstiltskin the Town Coward walks with a limp and a cane, while Rumpelstiltskin the Dark One is able-bodied with dark, glittery skin. Meant as an introduction to the character, I didn’t say much in that post besides, “You know, racism is the most-likely influence behind one of OUaT’s biggest villains being called ‘the Dark One’ and having the start of his evilness coincide with the darkening of his skin.” In other words, Rumpelstilstkin as the Dark One, while being portrayed by a white man, embodies certain racist tropes that hold up whiteness and lightness as good and darkness as bad or evil.

Today, I wanna expand on that post by looking at how those two personas (Town Coward and the Dark One) relate to Baelfire and the women in Rumpel’s life.

Continue reading ‘What’s got me Rumpel’d?: Once Upon a Time wasn’t enough’




Space Crip

People with disabilities? In my sci-fi? It's more likely than you think.

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