Accessing The Future: A Personal Action Plan

So, we’ve established that starting the “Accessing The Future Fiction” blog hop got me thinking. In the context of the science fiction anthology that kicked this all off, it’s about writing futures that make room for the different people that are part of our world. For all of my fictional worlds, though, it’s about making dis/ability more obvious.

Inclusivity is something that I ought to work on, even if I do it with my usual, privileged, white + British + cis-gendered + heterosexual + able bodied + not quite middle aged naivety and lack of tact.

ASIDE: As said before, I’m going to use the term able-bodied for someone who has the full count of limbs, etc. This is mainly because I object to using terms like “usual”, “average” or “normal” for those of us who are lucky enough to look like we stepped out of a school biology text book. If this upsets you, please suggest some alternative terms that I will use instead.

Having had a minor audit of the work I’ve already produced, from the the point of view of including dis/ability, this time I’m going to come up with a small action plan for myself that I can use to consider how I frame a new story idea and ensure some diversity and inclusion.

But first, here’s the reminder of the planned The Future Fire [External Link] anthology that started this particular mission:

Accessing The Future

The Future Fire are crowdfunding a science fiction anthology, this time focusing on the issues that come with dis/ability – and the intersections with other issues such as race, gender, sexuality, class, etc.

There’s a blog about it here: [External Link]

The actual fundraising is here: [External Link]

Please give serious thought to getting involved, even if it’s only buying a copy and / or taking part in the blog hop. These are things that need discussing.

So…

The Stories Yet To Be Told

I’ve realised that I’ve failed on my part to talk about dis/abilities as something that doesn’t need to be cured or killedremoved in my current bibliography.

In the instances where physical disability have been shown, it’s usually as a result of injury before or during the narrative – and relates to the narrative in some way, either because the story involves “curing” the injury (The Boy And His Dog, drafting Ten Little Women). I’ve even implied, through making use of particular proposed technology, that certain dis/abilities (both mental and physical) should be removed by germline gene therapy.

I faired slightly better with mental health and dis/ability if only because many of my main characters are scarred by the trauma I put them through and I have implied that suffering from stress, PTSD and paranoia are perfectly acceptable responses to said trauma. I have also had a mentally disabled character who doesn’t need to be “fixed” (An Honest Woman’s Child in No Monsters Allowed, see right).

However, in real life, these people have aids – or should have them if our society were not so weighted in the favour of those who are able-bodied and not suffering from debilitating mental health issues or dis/abilities. (I’m pretty lucky that I can pass for so close to normal, although my response to stress is not great.)

The Question is, how do I show this?

In common with a previous post on “Strong Women”, there’s two approaches that are not mutually exclusive:

  • Increasing the number of self-identifying dis/abled lead characters.
  • Improve description of background characters to show that the population includes dis/abled characters.

There’s a danger of turning dis/abilities into a super-power (think someone who has super hearing to make up for no sight, rather than just slightly more attentive than “normal”) or magical (the dis/abled character is wise and all-knowing simply because they are dis/abled), turning them into a Mary Sue / Marty Stu (they can do no wrong and everything works out for them, regardless of the situation).

There’s also a danger of turning their problems into a plot point – that the thing they live with every day is introduced so that later in the story it turns out to be the point on which the whole plot or even the fictional world turns. This is exploitative and cheap (in my opinion), so I’d like to avoid doing this.

Conclusions

So, my action plan for being more inclusive is:

  1. Consider whether a primary character (i.e. hero / protagonist, villain / antagonist) categorically would not be dis/abled:
    • If NO – work out whether I can include a dis/abled primary character with sensitivity and tact, and a lot of research! This does not have to be a plot point.
    • If YES – go to step 2.
  2. Consider whether any secondary characters (i.e. friends, family, sidekicks, henchmen) categorically would not be dis/abled:
    • If NO – work out whether I can include a dis/abled secondary character with sensitivity and tact, and a lot of research! This does not have to be a plot point.
    • If YES – go to step 3.
  3. Describe more people with dis/abilities in speaking roles without using them as plot tokens or defining them by their dis/ability. This doesn’t need to be a big deal to those around them or important to the plot.
  4. Describe more non-speaking people with dis/abilities in scenes set in public or work spaces. This doesn’t need to be a big deal to those around them or important to the plot.

I shall also do my best to go through the same steps with age, gender, sexuality and race in mind – although not differences are physically obvious. There will also be exceptions to the “it doesn’t need to be a big deal” in that if I’m trying to show that a world or an individual is bigoted in some way, they are quite likely to make a big deal out of things!

There’s not much I can do about my existing body of work, but I’ll do my best to perform some surgery on my current WIPs and to think about these things more clearly with future stories.

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