Tsana Dolichva is a Ditmar Award nominated book blogger. She is editing the anthology Defying Doomsday with Holly Kench, the managing editor of Visibility Fiction. As editors and readers of science fiction, who also live with disability and chronic illness, Tsana and Holly have often noticed the particular lack of disabled or chronically ill characters in apocalypse fiction. They are excited to share Defying Doomsday, an anthology showing that people with disability and chronic illness also have stories to tell, even when the world is ending.
by Tsana Dolichva
How many speculative fiction stories have you read with disabled or chronically ill characters playing a major role? I’d be surprised if the answer is more than a few.
I suspect that a lot of the time writers don’t want to put disabled or chronically ill characters into their stories because they worry it might slow down the plot. That is, if they think about it at all. Quite frankly, they probably don’t.
Look, it’s not that every story ever has to be about disabled or chronically ill characters (unless it’s in Defying Doomsday, then it does), but when almost no stories feature these characters it becomes a problem. Just like QUILTBAG (Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer) and racial representation, disability representation is important. You might be thinking “Oh, but there are hardly any disabled people around, so it doesn’t matter that there are hardly any books about them.”
But actually, did you know that disabled people are the largest minority it the world? According to the UN 15% of people worldwide have some sort of disability. That’s about one billion people, far from “hardly any”. Don’t they also deserve representation?
As for slowing the story down, if that’s the case, maybe you should think about why your story has to be written in that particular way. A lot of being disabled or chronically ill is finding alternative ways to do things that other people might not think twice about. Why not employ a little bit of that in your story?
To bring more stories about disabled and chronically ill characters into the world Holly Kench and I are editing an anthology to showcase some of them. Defying Doomsday will be filled with apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories featuring disabled, chronically ill, mentally ill and/or neurodiverse characters. We are currently holding a crowdfunding campaign through Pozible to fund the anthology.