Last September I met Paul Genesse and Bradley P. Beaulieu for coffee. We talked about a lot of things. Eventually the conversation dovetailed into diversity in the genre. I, of course, went on my typical rant about how the differently-abled don’t get the representation they deserve in these conversations. Paul Genesse, being the kind man he is, listened to my rant, and then suggested that we put together a panel at Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE). LTUE is a local literary convention that happens once a year in Utah county. I told him I’d be incredibly interested in a panel focused on the importance of disabilities in the genre. Paul said he’d make it happen.
And he did.
I met with Paul again in January and went over his notes with him. I was absolutely amazed at how many notes he took. He had about eight pages of notes in Word, and had read just about everything I’ve written on the topic, and almost every article in my column. He pulled quotes, and asked important questions. After that, he met with all of the other panelists to get their insights and perspectives. I was incredibly impressed by how seriously he undertook his moderating duties, and how anxious he was to make this panel a memorable one.
The panel itself took place on February 14. Paul moderated. Aside from him it had J. Scott Savage, Fiona Ostler, Mercedes M. Yardley, and me. It was my first panel, and I was pretty nervous. I was afraid that about three people would show up to listen to it, and I was floored to see that the room was packed. Every chair was full. People shared stories. People cried. People asked questions. I am still astounded by the turnout, the emotions, the passion for this topic that was felt by so many. It really filled me with a lot of hope.
Full disclosure: I was incredibly nervous, so I think I stumbled over some of the things I was thinking, and didn’t articulate them so well.
One of the audience members offered to record the panel. After, I gave her my email address and asked if she’d send me the file so I could use it on my column. She sent it, and here it is. The quality is pretty good, though some of the audience portions might be kind of quiet. Regardless, you get the idea.
So, here is the Disabilities in Genre Fiction panel, about 50 minutes long.