Sarah Chorn’s highly successful Special Needs in Strange Worlds column…the recent Kaleidoscope anthology…the upcoming Accessing The Future anthology… Fiction focusing on discussions of disabilities, different abilities, special needs and different needs are increasingly important in the speculative fiction community.
With that in mind, here’s what I asked our panelists:
A classic is Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon – Charlie Gordon’s voyage into another level of self-awareness (which would probably be named today “post-humanity”) is done with an acute perception of a “mentally disabled” mindset. It’s still a reference work.
Robert J Sawyer’s WWW trilogy – Caitlin Decter’s blindness is not treated as disabling, even though the whole point of the narrative is to restore her sight via an implant.
A most recent case is John Scalzi’s Lock In – Haden’s Syndrome is fictional, but his Scalzi’s portrayal of the Hadens, their lives, and their daily struggles aren’t that much different of what quadriplegics have to endure, for that matter.
A specific disability I’ve yet to see written into a speculative fiction story in a positive way? In a nutshell, neurodiversity. The concept itself is an attempt on the part of several organizations (I’m referring here particularly to the National Symposium on Neurodiversity held at Syracuse University in 2012) to recognize and respect differences as human variations instead of disabilities in the bad sense of the world. How does one portray Dyslexia, Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, or bipolar disorders in a positive way? Doing research. As a neurodiverse myself (having being diagnosed as dysthymic a number of years ago), I’ve been able to live what is considered a normal life, even though I have lots of bad, stressful days – just like every other human being in the world.
It’s utterly important that these disabilities are recognized and treated – both medically and socially. But as conditions, not as impairing and/or potentially damaging. I live a beautiful life – even if sometimes this life can seem to be too much, or too little. But storms are part of the weather, and the eco-system (both on nature and on our minds) can’t seem to live without them. I just would like that people would focus on our bright, sunny days as well.
As somebody who spends a lot of time reading and thinking about disability in science fiction, it’s actually more challenging to come up with examples of realistic, “right” depictions of disability because I’m usually critiquing all the bad ones! Nevertheless, I do occasionally read a story that I feel represents or treats disability issues in complex, three-dimensional ways. While Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga has long been the flag-bearer example, I recently wrote a guest post for Pornokitsch on 5 “positive” representations of disability in SF, where I recommend newer, less familiar texts: 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. I’m also currently reading Octavia Butler’s Fledgling, and it has reminded me how adeptly Butler writes about the social aspects of disability: individuals (or entire communities of people) who are marked as “different” constantly struggle against a larger society that makes assumptions about their abilities and attempts to control or “fix” them. Butler’s characters are never just one-dimensional; they are complex (sometimes likeable, sometimes not) and speak to a variety of marginalized/oppressed identities. A lot of the time, realistic depictions of disability in an SF text emerge with other intersectional concerns (such as race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, class, etc.).
In terms of specific disabilities that I’d like to see well-written into a SF story, I don’t have an answer other than “all of them!” I really want to see more SF writers take up disability (visible and invisible; physical and mental) in thoughtful, realistic ways, and not just replicating reductive and harmful stereotypes (like the disabled person as “inspirational” or the need to “cure” everybody all of the time).
I suppose it’s not surprising that I had a really hard time coming up with a list (or any) examples for this. On the one hand, I don’t think I’m necessarily the cross the board arbiter of such a thing – it’s difficult to speak for all people everywhere. On the other hand, I couldn’t really think of any examples of glasses wearers, for example, that were handled particularly well in fiction. I mean, anyone who wears glasses will tell you that you can’t just step out into the rain, peer over a balcony or bridge, eat soup and read a book at the same time, or see which bottle is which in the shower like a non-glasses-wearing person. But more often than not, glasses are used as a shorthand for “nerd” or “brains” or whatever in the character description and that’s pretty much it. I very rarely see that done realistically, so I don’t even hope to see a character with Crohn’s Disease depicted accurately in fiction. I’ve definitely come across more people with the disease in real life than I have done in speculative fiction. I guess it’s inconvenient to be all “I can fight crime, except on flare up days.”
Wanting to see disability handled in positive, more accurate and realistic ways was one of the driving forces behind Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy which I coedited with Julia Rios this year. There are several stories in this anthology with disabled characters, including Holly Kench’s “Every Little Thing” which tackles what life looks like when you have chronic disease – you might not be able to go to all the parties and do all the things. But also, that doesn’t have to stop you from having friends and adventures. In Tansy Rayner Roberts’ “Cookie Cutter Superhero”, she explores the question of whether a prerequisite of being a superhero is to be physically “whole” and whether, given the choice, would/should someone who has lived (and adjusted to life) without part of a limb choose to be made whole, should that opportunity arise. Roberts, being the writer that she is, explores this sensitive and contentious idea playfully with humour and warmth to keep it light whilst being pointed.
I’d like to see many more stories that better reflect the diversity that actually surrounds us in the real world. The world is made up of lots of different people who live and experience the world in unique, and interesting ways. These experiences make for compelling, complex and colourful stories and I think in the future, we will see more of these published.
Well, the term disabled is interesting, isn’t it? It — and its somewhat more acceptable (to some) neighbor term, differently-abled — still manages to communicate “physically impaired” despite years of advocacy to try and change perceptions. There are a hundred thousand ways to be impaired, each of which requires its own ingenuity, grace, or simple stubbornness simply to achieve the same ends as someone who is considered fully-abled (which is itself sort of a myth, by the way, but we won’t get into that). When we read for sympathetic views of those with disabilities, I think it’s important that we not make the issue more simplistic than it is.
I mean, sure, it’s easy to point at the Vorkosigan books (and it’s perfectly fine to do so, obviously), but there lies a huge spectrum of experience that goes unrecognized. I want greater inclusion in the genre, always, but I also don’t want people to throw up their hands and say, over and over again, “No one writes about disabled folks!” Because that isn’t even slightly true. There are so many nearly forgotten works waiting to be rediscovered — by you, by me — that represent a greater spectrum of disability than we might imagine if we only listen to the cynical folks, and that should be an exciting prospect. It should inspire us to insist, YES, MORE LIKE THIS, PLEASE.
I’ll list the two that come immediately to mind:
Canadian author and poet Phyllis Gotlieb’s Flesh and Gold (1998), in my opinion one of the strangest and most compelling space operas ever written, features an older protagonist by the name of Skerow — a representative of a race, I should clarify, that resembles dinosaurs. This particular dinosaur, who strikes such a sympathetic, human pose, experiences the pain and occasional indignity of old age. We see through her familiarly alien eyes what it means to be impaired by the normal processes of life: arthritis, failing sight, the simple failure of her muscles as she attempts to lift herself from her bath. We’re reminded, in that peculiarly awesome way only science fiction can remind us, by revealing the human in the alien, what it means to be vulnerable. We’re all subject to wounds, often of the variety that exist unknown from the moment we’re born.
At the same time, we’re reminded that being in some way infirm is not the same as being weak. Goltieb infuses Skerow with so much grace that one can’t help but read her narrative as one of triumph.
In Iain M. Banks’ Feersum Endjinn (1994), Bascule the Teller’s narrative is told phonetically and in first person: “Woak up. Got dresd. Had brekfast. Spoke wif Ergates thi ant who sed itz juss been wurk wurk wurk 4 u lately master Bascule, Y dont u ½ a holiday? & I agreed & that woz how we decided we otter go 2 c Mr Zoliparia in thi I-ball ov thi gargoyle Rosbrith.” The technique, apart from being really fun to read, helps the reader understand Bascule’s unique mental state, which is never fully clarified but which surely lies outside the generally accepted norm. Even within the odd world Banks paints, Bascule is a compellingly fractured oddity.
This oddness is beautiful, more so because of the way in which his character views events. It is a reminder of how narrow our outlook can be. The assumptions we make are important to confront, because not every “illness” is actually an impairment. Sometimes, an illness is an advantage — often painfully arrived at, but no less advantageous in certain situations where a more singular perspective is called for. We must not forget that, and celebrate it while still acknowledging the pain and prejudice attendant to disability.
The blacksmith, Gobber, has lost an arm and a leg, and the movie does the “Look at all the cool weapons and toys I can plug into my wrist” bit with his character. But with Toothless and later Hiccup, disability is presented more seriously, without either minimizing the pain and the work or going overboard with Very Important Messages About Overcoming Adversity.
You see Toothless’ frustration and fear when he’s unable to fly, and an admittedly condensed process of Hiccup building and fitting the prosthetic tail, then the two of them learning to use it to fly together.
But what really works for me comes after the final battle. Hiccup is injured and loses his leg. You see him awaken back home in his own bed, start to sit up, and realize what’s happened to him. He has a wood-and-iron leg now, built by Gobber.
Skinny though he might be, Hiccup is still a Viking, so you’re not going to get a lot of outward grief. But you see the sadness and loss in those few seconds before he stands. He takes one step and starts to fall, only to have Toothless dart in to catch him. The two of them together make their way toward the door, giving the viewer a silhouetted shot of Hiccup’s new foot and Toothless’ prosthetic tail. The whole sequence is less than a minute long, but it’s one of my favorite scenes of the whole movie.
It seems like in recent years I’ve read a lot of really good interpretations of disabilities in speculative fiction. There are a lot of situations where disabilities aren’t explained away or magically healed (Which I applaud. Not everyone needs to be “fixed.”). However, there are a few newer books that stick out in my mind for their representation of disability in the genre, and just how disability in speculative fiction is changing from something never done, to something that is being integrated into books more frequently so well.
- Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter is a social sci-fi series that deals with genetic modification of humans for specific reasons. What I really liked about how Saulter dealt with all of these different genetic modifications is that every modification had a “effect” of sorts. For example, one character who is incredibly good at all things electronic – basically plugged in all the time – is functionally autistic in real life. Another person who was altered to grow extra organs for doctors to harvest is physically deformed. There is a sliding scale of disability, and no two people are the same. However, Saulter makes their struggles heroic and her entire book focuses around these people striving – yearning – to be seen as human and viable members of society. It’s very well done, and incredibly touching. She takes a very human struggle and makes it magnificent and poignant and her characters are incredibly memorable.
- Afterparty by Daryl Gregory is another example of a recent book that does disabilities well. Set in the near future, in a world where just about anyone can make their own designer drugs, Gregory thrusts readers into a situation where designer drugs have mind altering, permanent side effects. All of his main characters struggle with some sort of horrible side effect that has impacted their lives from a drug they have taken and probably been addicted to. Gregory really gets into the mental state of his characters, and fills the book full of hallucinations and plenty of other confusing states. His characters have to navigate those side effects and wade through the intricate plot that Gregory has laid for them. However, he never apologizes. In the end, the book is so wonderful because of his characters mental states, and there’s nothing to fix. His characters are more compelling for their flaws, and his book is more poignant and powerful.
- Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig is a book that I’m always kind of hesitant to put in this category, but I always mentally lump it in with books that deal with disabilities. Miriam Black is one of the most powerful characters I’ve ever read, and the whole reason why she’s so powerful is because of how Wendig has dealt with her ability to see how people die. He takes this ability, and shows just how it would completely alter a person’s psyche. Miriam Black is completely shut off, shut down, incapable of normal relationships, almost completely incapable of functioning normally in society. She’s reclusive, she’s unstable, has no home, constantly wanders, and she has this raw sense of humor and lack of a mental filter that keeps everyone at arm’s length. It’s all due to her ability, and I really have to hand it to Wendig for how he deals with that. So often in books additional abilities that characters have make them stronger, and while Black is a phenomenally strong character, she’s also completely broken. Reading Miram Black books is an experience. It’s an emotional journey because it’s so real, and Wendig’s use of Miriam’s ability is realistic and completely unique in a genre where so many authors seem to be afraid to show how characters break under the strain. Miriam is broken, but she’s so incredibly powerful despite that.
For those who are interested, I do have a shelf on Goodreads called Special Needs in Strange Worlds which I am constantly updating with books I read/have read that fit into this category.
I have to admit that when I saw this question, my first thought was, “Wow, when have I seen disabilities written well in spec-fic?” I have one example ready to mind, but that was a short story (I’ll use it anyway, but last), and generally I keep up with novels better than short stories, so I was curious about which of the hundreds of novels I’ve read might handle disabled characters “the right way.”
And that led to my second thought, which was, “what is the ‘right way’?” For my purposes, I’ll say that it’s a way that acknowledges the disability without making the character less of a person or limited in other areas because of it. But in that context, is it then all right for part of the story to be about the character struggling with their disability? Overcoming it if it stands in the way of their goal? Living with it if it doesn’t? In the end, I chose two books and one short story that treat the characters’ disabilities in different ways that I think are positive.
In the least speculative of the fictions I chose, Madeleine L’Engle’s YA book The Young Unicorns, Emily (a twelve-year-old girl) has been recently blinded by a futuristic laser-type device during a robbery. We meet Emily on page 11, and though there are little clues to her blindness (her friend ‘steering’ her through traffic, asking if she knows which coat she has on), we are not specifically told that she is blind until page 17, by which time we’ve seen her help a younger child with his boots, walk through streets, and arrive at her piano lesson, just as any sighted girl might. The book also includes a lamp and a genie, and when Emily and her friends encounter him, she asks the genie to restore her sight, which leads one of her science-minded friends to knock the lamp out of her hands.
Despite that early crack—what twelve-year-old girl wouldn’t want her recently-taken sight restored?—Emily accepts her blindness and is a full and active participant in the book’s adventure. When her disability is an obstacle, she navigates it with confidence, never letting it diminish her. The only speculative elements of the book are the laser device (the Micro-Ray) and some drugs; otherwise it takes place in a fairly recognizable 1960s New York.
A more solidly speculative book is the fantasy A Pride of Princes, the fifth in Jennifer Roberson’s epic Cheysuli series about a family of warrior shapechangers and the land they rule. A Pride of Princes features Brennan, a young man with claustrophobia, which he feels to be a form of cowardice, and his brother Hart, who can change shape to a hawk until he loses his left hand, which robs his hawk form of the power of flight. Brennan’s claustrophobia is perhaps not at the level of a disability, but he does regard it as one, a weakness that can be (and of course will be) exploited by his enemies.
Hart’s loss of his hand is more problematic. Cheysuli warrior code dictates that maimed warriors be banned from their clan and their family, and there is a great deal of discussion in the book about the origin of that stricture, as the characters question the need to follow it. They point out that Hart is still a useful person and indeed a useful warrior, that he can live a normal life and be part of the family. It is worth noting that Hart is also presented with the opportunity to restore his hand, but he refuses this bargain.
Last in my series of examples is a story in the new anthology Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios with the mission of emphasizing diversity in YA protagonists (full disclosure: I have a story in the anthology). The first story, “Cookie Cutter Superhero,” by Tansy Rayner-Roberts, stars Joey, a young girl with a missing hand. Unlike my other two examples, she’s had this disability her entire life, and also unlike the other examples, it’s not the focus of the story, though it is a large part of it. She doesn’t think about her disability much anymore, but her friends are protective of her and other acquaintances ask whether her upcoming transformation will give her a new hand. She views the disability as part of who she is, part of her identity, and she doesn’t want a new hand. In the end, the disability doesn’t affect her ability to do what she needs to, only the perceptions of others.
If there’s a common theme to the above, it’s the struggling of the protagonists to accept their disability versus the perception of the world around them. In some cases the world reassures the protagonist of their worth; in other cases she must reassure herself. But all of the stories focus on the person, with the disability as much a part of their character as a hot temper or a love of running. My perception of the above stories is that they are all positive, showing the struggles of disabled people without making them pitiable or defined only by their disability. Emily is brave and devoted to her adopted family; Hart is loyal and just as brave; Joey is worried about what people will think of her post-transformation, but not about whether she’ll be able to do the job.
All of the above are physical disabilities, which are more common to read about than mental disabilities. Depression has been in the public spotlight recently, but I haven’t read a novel with a depressed protagonist or even side character (not a spec-fic novel, anyway; there are countless mainstream fiction books in which the protagonist battles depression, but in that case the depression is the focus of the book). Other mental illnesses rarely make an appearance; characters with physical limitations but sound minds are easier to write and easier for readers to relate to (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time being a famous exception), because we still think of the mind as more central to a person’s identity than the body. John Scalzi’s recent novel Lock In focuses on the plight of people with sound minds whose bodies have failed them and addresses many questions of disability—all physical. Brennan’s claustrophobia, which probably would not even be catalogued as a mental disability, still stood out to me among characters I’ve read.
Things I would like to see more of: protagonists with a physical disability that is not the focus of the story, that doesn’t need to be healed or overcome in order to have a happy ending (as in “Cookie Cutter Superhero”). In most of the examples I’m aware of, the protagonist is disabled over the course of the story and has to cope with his/her new state of being. But there are many people who have already gone through that part of coping with a disability. It would be nice for them to see a hero who has moved on from figuring out how to live with a disability to simply living. I’m not qualified to write that story by any means, but I’d be happy to read it.
There’s a whole genre of science fiction that uses the disability-as-ability trope: these are stories in which the disabled person is compensated for their disability by being given some other ability. For instance, in John Varley’s “Persistence of Vision,” a group of blind and deaf people builds a town and develop their own style of communication that allows them to be much closer and more intimate than sighted and hearing people. Or in Greg Egan’s “Reasons To Be Cheerful,” an extremely depressed person is given an implant that allows him to consciously override and reset his own preferences—his likes and dislikes.
Although I have a fondness for these stories, they’re probably not the best representation of disabled characters, because they seem to override the reality of disability, which is that it imposes some sort of cost. These disability-as-ability stories seem to represent a form of wishful thinking wherein disability doesn’t really hold a person back.
For the purposes of this Mind Meld, it seems more productive to examine science fiction stories that try to examine the nature of disability.
The first and best of these stories that comes to my mind is Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed Of Dark. This book, a Nebula winner for best novel, is a near-future story that’s told from the first person perspective of an autistic man whose independence is threatened when the program that employs him—one that receives a subsidy for employing autistic people—starts pressuring him to undergo a treatment to cure autism. And it is amazing. It’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read. The main character’s narrative voice is so raw. He really struggles to make the best of his life, but he’s so confused by the senseless way that people act. Over the course of the book, he makes slow moves to find friends and expand his horizons, but he routinely has to face the fact that he lives in a world that does not value him and has no place for him.
What makes the book brilliant is that it doesn’t gloss over that struggle. It doesn’t go ahead and say, “Oh, of course all people have value, so this guy’s brain is just as good as anyone else’s.”
Instead, you can feel the book struggling to build the case that the main character should remain the way that he is. In the end, it doesn’t provide easy answers, and I suspect that the ending will be more controversial to today’s readers than it was even a decade ago. However, it’s very worth reading. I’ve never seen anything else like it. This is a book that deserves to be read a century from now.
Another book that comes to mind is a bit older. Anne McCaffrey’s The Ship Who Sang is a mosaic novel about a physically disabled child who’s encased in a steel column and hooked up to the control systems of a starship. In a sense, the ship becomes her body.
If there’s anything that science fiction is good at, it’s literalizing metaphors. In this case, we have an allegory for a person who is mentally the equal of anyone else, but who’s completely incapacitated on a physical level. Technology allows her to build some kind of life in the world, but it’s a life that’s very different from a non-disabled person’s, and one that leads her down a different developmental path. It’s been ages since I read this novel, and I can’t make any promises as to the quality of the writing (the last McCaffrey book that I revisited turned out to have unbearably bad writing), but I did really love this book (and its sequels) when I was a teen.
The third novel I’ll recommend is Caitlin Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl. Here, the protagonist is a schizophrenic woman who is living on her own—she’s recently broken up with her girlfriend—and is haunted by conflicting visions that she knows can’t be entirely true, but that nonetheless have some kind of truth in them. This novel did something so amazing that it’s hard to even describe. The book uses this woman’s mental state to examine what it means to be haunted by something: an image, a vision, an experience. And, through the careful accretion of experience and memory, it starts to bring out the psychological truth that underlies this woman’s experience of life. In the end, we realize that her visions are more true (on a literal level) than we’d initially thought, but that’s not really the important thing. Instead, the important thing here is why she was haunted by these images. And I, at least, couldn’t help but think of similarly haunting moments—images that had stuck with me for years after they happened. In this novel, Kiernan has teased out and analyzed an aspect of the experience of being alive that I had never even noticed. It’s an approach to writing about mental illness that’s very different from the ordinary. When you’re writing about people who have delusions, it’s so easy to say that we see reality and they see fantasy. And even if a writer avoids that trap, they risk coming off patronizing when they veer in the opposite direction and pretend that insane people are only seeing their own, unique truth. The Drowning Girl avoids both of these pitfalls by doing its best to isolate the way in which the main character’s experience represents a heightened reality. It’s a level of psychological analysis that most books are afraid to engage in.
Anyway, those are my three top picks. There are also books that don’t do much to interrogate the nature and the concept of disability, but which feature kick-ass disabled protagonists. And those are well worth reading as well, simply because it’s important for everyone, disabled and non-disabled, to remember that disabled people have their own stories—stories that don’t always (or even usually) revolve around their disability–and are just as capable of being heroes as anyone else. The characters who come immediately to mind are Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan and George R. R. Martin’s Tyrion. But, of course, most readers of this post are probably already familiar with those two.
And to answer your last question, I’m sure these exist, but I’ve yet to read a novel that’s told from the point of view of a blind or a deaf person. It might be difficult to do, particularly for a non-disabled person, because it would mean eschewing the normal details, but it feels like something that ought to be done.
I’m going to have to talk for a bit about what I think the term “disability” means first before I name some names and recommend some writing. What counts and doesn’t count as a disability is determined in large part by the way society is organized. I know that people react badly to this idea, but bear with me. A species of cavefish with no eyes isn’t “disabled” just because they can’t see; in other words, disability not about abstract capabilities or lack thereof, it’s about how bodies fit in with “the norm,” however that’s constructed or perceived. In the U.S. right now, legal definitions are quite important in determining the scope and the limits of the category “disabled.”
So, for a real life example, my poor eyesight doesn’t make me disabled, even though it’s a visible marker of difference I wear glasses every day. It’s not stigmatized. My repetitive stress injuries aren’t severe enough to trigger a legal declaration of disability. But when I was pregnant, my high blood pressure was enough to get me designated disabled and eligible to receive government services…temporarily. There’s a huge ongoing debate, in fact, about whether pregnancy should be counted as a temporary disability at all, and it’s clear that a large part of the resistance to the idea is because disability is a stigma, and it seems like a bad idea to stigmatize pregnancy. If disability was a neutral category, the debate would be entirely about legalese.
Note that there are also ideas of “natural” and “unnatural” embedded in there pregnancy is a “natural” state, and the implication is that disability is not. Disability is not treated as a natural state for a body. I would argue that this a foundational assumption of the category, in fact.
So, for an SFnal example, a society of space dwellers whose bones have decalcified and turned soft and whose muscles have atrophied aren’t “disabled” until they find themselves in an environment where that condition is a) not common and b) stigmatized as a disadvantage in some way. This is the kind of story I would like to read more often. I would like to read about the issues of passing as normal versus being visibly different.
I am so glad, by the way, that the question is not phrased around “positive” depictions of disability, because that’s not what I’m interested in reading (or writing), even if it doesn’t devolve into what disability activists dismiss as “inspiration porn.” I am interested in reading complex depictions of disability, not oversimplified cheerleading.
OK, enough chatter. Speculative fiction that I’ve enjoyed that has the complexity around nonstandard bodies that I seek include all of Shelley Jackson’s work, her novel Half Life and her short story collection The Melancholy of Anatomy in particular. Jackson has a strong surreal and nonlinear bent, not to mention a fascination with the less tidy aspects of human bodies, so she won’t be to everyone’s taste. I also like the similar visceralness of Hiromi Goto’s work in Hopeful Monsters. The fact that Goto also deals with themes of motherhood and pregnancy (and breastfeeding) doesn’t hurt in my book.
Elizabeth Lynn’s fantasy novel Dancers of Arun features a one armed main character adopted by a troupe of dancers. I read this when I was much younger, when it first came out, and I still wish there were more character oriented high fantasy books like this one. Le Guin fans will appreciate Lynn in particular, I would think.
Octavia Butler’s “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” collected in Bloodchild and Other Stories, is a story about a unique and devastating genetic disorder that’s incredibly rich and thought provoking, the kind of work that packs so much meaning into its confines that someone could write a dissertation or three on it.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t confess that reading XMen comics in the 1980s has probably thoroughly saturated my subconscious when it comes to these sorts of issues is a superpower mutation a disability of an enhancement? In some cases, it’s clearly both, and that informs how the characters move through the world. Plus, of course, Charles Xavier in a wheelchair. As Stan Lee likes to say, ’nuff said.