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"The normal human consciousness is not equipped to deal with the pillars and suspension cables of the universe."

Message to Readers

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this, especially if you have a some kind of chronic illness or disability. But even if you don't, you're welcome in the conversation!

Disabled Characters in Speculative Fiction

December 29, 2018


        As someone who’s both chronically ill and a reader/writer of speculative fiction, I want to see more people like me in the stuff I read. I want characters who live with chronic illness and chronic pain and terrible mental health and incurable diseases. What I don’t want is Fault in Our Stars kinds of stories. Trust me, as a sick person the last thing I want to read about or watch is a story about a sick person dealing with being sick in their every day life. ‘Cause that’s me, every day, and I really don’t need more of that. I go to sci-fi and fantasy to get away. To get away from the nightmare that is everyday existence as someone with a chronic illness or disability. 
        But I still want to see people like me represented. I want characters with problems like mine in sci-fi and fantasy settings. I want to see them thriving or even just getting by in fantastic alternate worlds, because I want to be able to think that I could too. 
        So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m a writer. I’m going to write sci-fi and fantasy, and I’m going to write the characters like me. 
        I’m going to write about a mercenary who’s an expert shot.  She never misses, but she has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and POTS—a faulty connective tissue and a broken nervous system—so she avoids hand-to-hand combat and keeps her distance from her targets. Her skills are sought after, and she’s doing fantastic financially. 
        I’m going to write about a brilliant inventor with crippling fatigue and brain fog, who lives for the little moments of clarity and energy when he can scribble down a design. He spend the rest of his time tinkering as best he can, but he gives his best designs to able-bodied friends to complete. He feels pride and excitement when he sees the finished products, but there’s a small, broken part of him that hurts so much because he never got to feel the circuit board hum under his fingers, never got to hold the tools in his hands. He designs wonderful things, but he is never the one to breath life into them. 
        I’m going to write about a young girl with a prosthetic leg who can’t run from the bad guys, so she uses her head, lays traps, thinks them into circles; uses her brain to think her way out of trouble and keep herself  safe.
        I’m going to write about people who are diabetic, people with epilepsy, people with depression and anxiety and BPD, people with the disabilities that normally have no place in speculative fiction. 
        I’m going to write about the people in pain, mental and physical. The people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired, but who live extraordinary lives regardless. The person whose mind and skills make them interesting and valuable despite the fact that their body is all but useless. The person whose life was already a living hell, so the apocalypse can suck it if it thinks it can break them. The person who wouldn’t last five minutes in a horror story or an action film, but who does because they’re clever and resourceful and because the people around them care enough to make sure that they survive. 
        I’m going to write these characters because I need them, and because I know other people need them too. People with chronic pain and mental and physical disabilities are extraordinary, and they weren’t given a choice about it. They have to be. It’s either that, or just stop living. But ordinary everyday life when you’re sick is hard and messy and painful and you just feel broken all the time. You’re constantly fighting a battle, but it really does make you strong. The people facing the hardest stuff often turn into the strongest. Those are the people worth watching and reading about. And those are the people that I’m going to write.

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  • Kahasai

    Yes, please write these stories. They sound amazing.

    My elder sister has an unique form of epilepsy. I've never heard of anyone else with her symptoms. One day I'm going to write a story for her.

    over 1 year ago
  • Araw

    I agree! As someone with a chronic illness, I've always wanted to see more of us in fiction. I think it's a common misconception that disabled and ill people wouldn't last in the crazy adventures that people like to read about, but the truth is it's entirely possible. We've just got to go about it a little differently, compensate for our difficulties with our talents. Heck, it might even make things a little more interesting. Our struggles and experiences are what make victories so much sweeter and I think this is a little under represented.

    over 1 year ago
  • Dyno_Isabella

    Amazing! You enunciate everything so well. Went ahead and did a peer review (new to this site and it popped up first before the comment section so I went ahead and poured my thoughts into it). Hope that's okay.

    over 1 year ago
  • janice

    I agree with you so much!! I don't have a chronic illness, but I absolutely hate "golden characters." The ones who need to struggle to overcome something that isn't their fault are the best ones.

    over 1 year ago