Raven Oak is the author of the bestselling fantasy novel, Amaskan’s Blood, and the upcoming sci-fi novels, Class-M Exile and The Silent Frontier. She spent most of her K-12 education doodling stories and 500 page monstrosities that are forever locked away in a filing cabinet.
She lives in Seattle, WA with her husband, and their three kitties who enjoy lounging across the keyboard when writing deadlines approach.
For more information and excerpts, visit http://www.ravenoak.net
by Raven Oak
- Cats fed & medicated—check.
- Husband & myself fed—check.
- Dressed & ready—wait.
Oh god. Here we go again.That was me three days ago. One wrong movement reduced me to more than tears. It rendered me unable to move without excruciating pain.
It was so simple a movement; most people wouldn’t think anything of it. I reached across the counter for my hairbrush. Yet to look at me, most would never know I am disabled. Most would never see what they’ve never experienced, let alone been exposed to.
The first science fiction book I ever read was The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey. In it, people born with physical disabilities are given a chance at a normal life rather than be terminated. Their bodies are fused and wired into the metal hull of a galactic ship. They become a ship-person.
It would be another year before the first accident that triggered the ruination of my body. My thirteen-year-old self found the idea of being a ship quite romantic. I was too young to see the controversy involved in such an actions as explored in this book, and too able-bodied to understand the appeal of such an undertaking.
Science fiction loves to explore the wonders of technological advances, especially when they give people with special needs or disabilities the ability to function as normal people. Whether it’s a robotic arm attached to someone’s neurons or instantaneous knowledge via hard drives in the brain, we’re good at exploring the what-ifs of the body.
However, when writers venture into the world of physical pain, most focus on pain caused by wounds. Whether they’re received during war or an animal attack, authors love the pain that comes coupled with the easy backstory. Few authors explore character arcs involving chronic pain as a disability.
Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis—four diseases that carry with them the debilitating curse of chronic pain. Invisible disabilities that we love to ignore.
Imagine if Spiderman had M.S., how might his movement change? How capable would he be as a superhero? Would people still consider him a hero at all?
With pain comes the stigma that the sufferer is either lazy or lying. It’s a stigma well known to me since the first accident that destroyed my knee. If I’m not wheelchair bound, people assume that I’m not disabled. They don’t see the day-to-day struggles in maintaining normalcy. They see someone with all her appendages parking in a handicap spot and assume the worst about me. If Spiderman suffered from Lupus, would society tell him to “suck it up” as they have me?
Imagine not being able to shop for groceries because walking from the car to the store entrance sends your muscles into multiple spasms. Imagine needing help to wash your own hair or brush your teeth. Nothing is pain-free and yet, your pain is invisible to the world.
We read about war heroes with missing limbs or characters born deaf or blind, but rarely do we read about those suffering from chronic pain or diseases that cause it.
Why is that? Does society believe us to be incapable of being a hero/heroine? Or is it that society believes pain to be nothing more than a minor inconvenience?
Two accidents left me disabled. Thirty surgeries later and my good days far outnumber my bad. But one bad day sends me into a tailspin.
Despite the excruciating pain, I write. Despite the pain that makes five feet feel like a marathon distance, I edit and revise.
Spiderman’s heroism is like my own—made that much stronger by each pain-filled moment. Pain may prevent me from hiking through the mountains today, but rather than allow it to defeat me, I’ll use it as an opportunity to look at my world through a different lens.
I’ll use it as an opportunity to write and shape heroes who triumph in spite of their disabilities, be they mental, physical, or invisible.