Saturday, October 10, 2009

Deeper & Wider Than The Marianas

My computer is experiencing difficulties. I'm still trying to figure out what's wrong. But what this means right now is limited and distracted time periods wherein I'm online.

Still this thought popped into my head and I couldn't help but write it out. It's two thoughts actually.

First, I found myself thinking of the movie I ROBOT - yes, the one with Will Smith and maybe some breadcrumbs of Asimov in the Three Rules. I found myself wondering if anyone in that reality thought to extend scholarships and support for those who could make a career out of being care-givers.

Or if instead it was a reality wherein those with disabilities that require care-assistants were simply given a robot and told to be grateful - but no one was encouraged into a career that meant caring for another human being and silently reminding them that humanity didn't wish they didn't exist; didn't want to consciously forget them. I found myself thinking of disability activists in that fictional world - one of our many possible futures - and wondering if they were still struggling for those with disabilities not to be invisible.

And that led to me thinking about SURROGATES. I've only read snippets of the graphic novel and I didn't (and won't) see the movie. But I wondered if the original creator thought about citizens with disabilities who might have had their lives enriched by a surrogate. Then I wondered if that was just another type of invisibility; another kind of 'Ugly Law' where those with disabilities lived their lives hidden away with only their societally approved proxy bodies interacting in the world.

Then I started to wonder what having a proxy surrogate body would be like for the blind. Would there be members of the blind community against something that made it easy for someone to hide away from their house and not learn to cope/adapt and live a fulfilling life despite not having a temporarily fully functional and able body?

If there is speculative fiction out there that thinks about the world from a point of view besides; temporarily able bodied, cis, heterosexual, individuals - I would appreciate a head's up in comments. (Please don't include the raping leper)

I've spent much of 2009, thinking and resting and dealing with personal life stuff and coping and dealing with general stuff (Racefail, Privilege Fail - The Year Long Saga, etc) and feeling frustrated at how my mind could only go in two or three directions at once with none of those directions related to writing. In fact I think I've been spending the year talking myself back into a love of writing because I was so incredibly turned off by what I saw in Jan, Feb, March and what I've continued to see throughout the year.

Now, right now that is, I'm hoping even if I'm not the one who does it, that there is more speculative, amazingly imaginative fiction written about disabled protagonists and characters of colour and transgendered and genderfluid individuals. Because how amazing would those stories be? Really, I get chills just thinking about it.

It's so broad, this, all this that has been left by the wayside of the surge of primarily white, cisgendered, hetero males (and now women in leather with guns) pushing and claiming the dreamscape.

[[ Comments On ]]


  1. Ursula Le Guin's The Left hand of Darkness plays around with gender. Unfortunately, at least to me, it's a crap read. However she does include characters of colour in a lot of her books, like the earthsea ones, and her other books are generally very good.

    Robin Hobb's Tawny Man series focuses on the fool whose gender is ambiguous. you might want to start with the assasins trilogy first though.

    Justina Robson's Keeping it Real is about a woman who's nearly killed in an explosion and is turned into a cyborg, and thinks she lost her humanity. all the readers are meant to think she's an awesome hi tech cyborg and we are meant to want to be her though, so i don't think it's quite what you're looking for. and it's avowedly hetero. and white.

    The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan is a Deaf book. It's not sf, it's set a few hundred years ago but it is brilliant.
    Deafening by Frances Itani is also another good Deaf book, but yet again, not sf. I have yet to find Deaf themed sf books, but Forest books is a good place to start:

    Other than that, I got nothing.

  2. The problem is, in some ways, this is almost an even broader problem than straight white non-differently-abled male privilege.

    This is The Monolithic Public, a phenomenon I've discussed before.

    This is what happens when Marvel Comics portray a world in which EVERYONE hates mutants, and EVERYONE hates Spider-Man, and EVERYONE loves Norman Osborn, to the point that even straight white guys WHO AREN'T EVEN AWARE OF THEIR OWN PRIVILEGE are STILL able to call bullshit, on the simple grounds that EVEN A WORLD FULL OF NOTHING BUT STRAIGHT WHITE GUYS wouldn't have EVERYONE agreeing on ANYTHING.

    It's a trope that lazy writers often use to show how Absolutely And Obviously Right one of their characters is (if it's a hero who's beloved) or how Absolutely And Unfairly Persecuted such a character is (if it's a hero who's hated and feared).

    It's what lies at the heart of The Load-Bearing Villain Boss, whose entire oppressive empire instantly disintegrates into freedom and prosperity for all as soon as he dies, because it basically says that, except for a very few Special Characters, the masses of humanity are mere cattle - hell, WORSE than cattle, they're DRONES, because even CATTLE can get spooked and break off from the herd - and the fate and decisions of those Special Characters, whether they're heroes or villains, will automatically determine the fate of the world as a whole.

    So, yeah, of course these writers can't be bothered to think about what their premises might mean for blacks, or gays, or women, or the blind, or the non-conventionally-attractive, because they can't even be bothered to take into account what it means for PEOPLE WHO ARE EXACTLY LIKE THEMSELVES, who just so happen not to be their Pet Characters.

    Look at how many self-proclaimed anti-authoritarian write stories in which our own world suddenly becomes a pure totalitarian state overnight, WITHOUT any resistance, and without even ANYONE SAYING ANYTHING - these writers are so all-compassingly blind to human nature that they can't even factor THEMSELVES into the necessary reality of such a premise.

    Yes, there's privilege-blindness on TOP of that, in most such scenarios, but how the hell do you correct the totally wrong-headed worldview of someone who CAN'T EVEN INCORPORATE HIS OWN PERSPECTIVE, much less that of anyone outside of his own demographic boxes, into the masses of humanity?

  3. Saranga:

    I've read the Earthsea books, but the only made a mild impression on me. No doubt I likely need to re-read them at some point and see what more I can get out of them.

    I rembmer I discovered them around the time the movie came out and these days when I think of them, I just think about how wrong SCIFI CHANNEL got it. Oh so very, very, wrong.

    And I do remember I wanted more 'magic school' than I got. :)

    After I posted I realized that some might also count the McCaffrey series 'The Ship Who Sang' etc. But that doesn't quite seem to be SF about the disabled so much as 'OUR AI's ARE DIFFERENT' (to put it in TV Tropes terminology)

  4. Ancestral Magic by Moondancer Drake. Not only is one of the main characters a blind teenage boy, but the main romance in the story happens to be a lesbian romance between a white woman and another woman of Navajo ancestry.

  5. Kirk:

    There is so much in your comment I don't even know where to start. It branches off my question, I think, and goes to proper writing in general; or what is believable in good storytelling and what is not good storytelling.

    But bringing the comics world into this did give me something to think about. Like Misty Knight and Forge and Scott Summers all existing in the same universe within a couple miles from each other and each experiencing a disability (Scott is relatively blind without his glasses).

    There are probably good stories there about what it means to have highly technologically advanced artifical limbs for Misty and Forge when other amputees in the Marvel universe don't have the same privilege.

    And there are likely good stories that could be written about what the Iron Man suit might meant in technology to assist those who have difficulity being vertically mobile with their bare bodies. Y'know, something other than Tony Stark being a drunken, lush idiot disregarding the unique opportunity he has to live despite what should have been a fatal injury.

    I started to say that such stories would be fanfiction, but then I remembered that fandom is often as oblivious to non able bodied, cis, het, non white individuals as well.

    Someone more familiar with autism and Kevin Ford could probably tell me if there couldn't be a possible parallelism storyline involving someone with an inability to reach out and interact with the world, even if Kevin's deal is more fear of his abilities than a different way of thinking about the world from the start.

  6. C/P COMMENTS FROM: Kirk ; because I pressed the wrong button.


    Willow -

    Beyond just simple stupidity and laziness, the most frequently given excuse given for not addressing what Iron Man technology would mean for the disabled is the insistence of comic book publishers that the worlds of their superheroes remain relatively similar to our own.

    Thus, the existence of Thor in the Marvel Universe does not lead to a resurgence in Odin-worship among the general public, nor do we see any evidence that Wonder Woman's emergence as the world's most prominent feminist icon in the DC Universe has affected global gender politics in any way.

    The problem with this excuse, though, is that it's no longer true, ever since DC and Marvel decided to try and convince us that having super-powered people in the real world would do nothing but make the real world suck, in both cases by having supervillains take over America/the world (as the two are regarded as synonymous in the comics) through ostensibly legal means, to the point that the heroes can't touch them.

    It says a lot about the worldview of those writing the comics now that they're willing to deviate from the real world ONLY in ways that make it WORSE, which is why AN OPENLY SELF-DESCRIBED INSANE MASS-MURDER like Norman Osborn can be given control of the government and be universally beloved, without even Stewart or Colbert (the latter of whom actually exists in the Marvel Universe) raising a peep, but showing super-science inventing a cure for cancer is "too unrealistic."

  7. C/P COMMENTS FROM: Saranga;because I pressed the wrong button.

    Comment 1:
    hmm, yes I haven't seen the earthsea movie and I don't want to. with that in mind you may want to ignore some of the covers to the books then.

    I've only read Mccaffery's Pern books. Though I have a special place in my heart for them, because I read them so long ago and was engrossed, i read tham again now and I'm appalled. She's not really doing much for equality, for anybody, in any way.
    some of the later books let a few queer characters exist, but only men, and the problems with the gender relationships are not really rectified

    Comment 2:
    Ahh I'm such a dumbass, can't believe i didn't think of this before. Have you heard of the women's press?

    It's a feminist publisher based in London, UK. They have an sf imprint and it's brilliant. All their books focus on women, and they cover race, gender, queerness. anything but white cisgendered hetero men. I think you'd love it.
    their website doesn't have a distributor for the states, but i'm sure you could order books direct from them, to you.
    i pick all mine up from charity shops, they've got a very distinctive black and white stripey spine with an iron featured on it.

  8. the women's press website needs HELP. but the books look tasty.

  9. I was thinking about 'The Ship Who Sang' etc. until I saw your comment, and of course you're right about the 'Our AIs are Different' thing, though I do like that the authors did at least incorporate some stuff that indicates they thought a bit about disability rights. I got into that series via 'The Ship Who Searched', and the thing I really liked was how Tia Cade basically started a new system whereby shellpersons got more autonomy over their earnings. Also, in a small way, the fact that shellpersons tell softperson jokes gave my glee.

    But yeah, in the end we are looking at books which seem to have been conceived as 'What if the AI were actually a human consciousness for whom mechanical stuff becomes a new body?' rather than 'How would severely disabled people live in a future world of spacefaring?'

    Hmph. I know I've got some more recs somewhere and will try to dig them up... otherwise, I'm left with that old familiar feeling that I may have to write the stuff I want to read in this area...

  10. Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark (2003) is an incredible novel with a protagonist/pov character who is a high functioning autistic adult male: he's white and male, but it's one of the few novels I've read that breaks the mainstream mold of "normal people" are the center of the narrative, and the occasional disabled person needs to be fixed.