Monday, August 18, 2014

Accessing the Future: Disability in SF

Every now and again I come across a project I really want to support. Here's one: Accessing the Future, an SF anthology exploring disability and how it intersects with other factors, edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad.

Disability—and those other factors—is something that concerns me deeply.1

Kathryn and Djibril are raising money at Indiegogo. They need your help. I hope you'll get behind and push. Meanwhile, here's Djibril to tell you a bit more about their goals (note: the footnotes are mine).

Disability in SF: support a new anthology
Djibril al-Ayad
Accessing the Future will be an anthology of disability-themed science fiction stories, co-edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad for Publishing. We want your help to raise the funds to produce it. 

Why a disability-themed anthology?
Disability has always been one of the axes of privilege in fiction that cares about. Issues around disability are poorly treated not only in fiction but in most aspects of our society. People with disabilities are still among the most marginalized and financially disadvantaged, and are often smeared as "malingerers" or "spongers."

In too much science fiction, especially cyberpunk or space opera, we see disabled characters "cured" by the miracle of modern technology (or "escape" their body into the freedom of cyberspace2). We can do better than this. Along with other, intersecting oppressions, disability needs to be addressed in science fiction.

Why address these issues via scifi?
Speculative fiction has freedom to be "unrealistic," utopian, imagine futures or alternate realities where prejudices and rules of our own world do not necessarily exist. In a secondary world, with invented laws of physics or magic, lines between realistic narrative and parable or “message” are blurred and multivalent. Every literary image has a cacophony of possible readings, conditioned by reader expectations via the shared perceptual filters of our society and genre. When you see a protagonist in mirrorshades talking about meatspace, you know what’s coming. Or you think you do, until the author slips you a queer ball.

These decisions impact the story we want to tell, whether in a subversive postcolonial agenda or a conservative "apolitical" romp. This may mean being overtly political, but the alternative is to be covertly so, and audiences aren’t stupid. If this means we find ourselves preaching to the choir, that's okay. People who already agree with us, especially when we’re talking about under-represented voices, deserve to read good, politically palatable stories too, to be reminded that they’re not alone, and the good fight is worth fighting.

And hey, having a choir at all in these circumstances is a good problem to have, right?

Support’s latest anthology of disability-themed SF by pre-ordering or picking up one of the perks at

1 It's a rant, yep. I do that sometimes.
2 Turns out I've ranted about this, too, in "Writing from the Body."
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