Defying Doomsday  

Clearly, I’m still not blogging regularly. I can make all sorts of excuses, but it boils down to me not sitting down and just doing it on a regular basis. So, is blogging regularly something I even want to do? I’m not sure yet. Anyway…

Defying Doomsday is an anthology of apocalyptic survival fiction that edited by Holly Kench and Tsana Dolichva for Twelve Planet Press (who published the Aurealis Award winning YA spec-fic anthology, Kaleidoscope). It will be focused on characters with disabilities, chronic illness and other impairments. And I will have a story in it. It is also in the final days of its Pozible campaign

Normally, this is where I write about why we need this anthology. I’m not a big fan, though, of the idea of some anthology themes need to be justified while others we simply accept. I mean…

I can point out that we are used to reading disabled characters where their disability is their sole defining feature. In apocalyptic fiction, we are used to them being obstacles that are eliminated to show how awful the apocalypse is. Rarely, do we get stories where the disability is a defining feature rather than the defining feature. Rarely, do we get their stories rather than having them support someone else’s story.

I can make this argument that a single repeated narrative is not only boring but harmful. Fortunately, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has already done this in her wonderful 2009 TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story”. If you, somehow, haven’t already seen it, go do that now. It’s only 19 minutes long and worth every second.

The problem is that this makes whatever you’re trying to justify sound like the equivalent of “eating your broccoli.” (For the record, I love broccoli. Lightly sautéed with garlic and olive oil, dressed up with a little lemon juice and it’s terrific. It totally does not deserve its bad rap. It’s all in how you cook it.) So, instead, I’m going to talk a little about the Star Trek:The Next Generation episode, “Lower Decks” and the Doctor Who episode, “Blink”. Each is among the best episodes of its series.

They are both episodes focused on characters who aren’t the series regulars. “Lower Decks” is from the viewpoint of four junior officers on the Enterprise. “Blink” is from the viewpoint of Sally Sparrow, an eventual DVD store owner who hasn’t even heard of The Doctor at the start of the story. In the process, they both tell interesting stories that, otherwise, would never have been told. In the case of “Lower Decks”, it’s the story of four junior officers in course of their day-to-day life as they are up for promotion. In the case of “Blink”, it’s the slowly evolving relationship between Sally and Larry.

It’s series TV and the regulars have to be involved somehow. So, in both cases, they operate in the background. The senior crew of the Enterprise has intercepted Dal, a Cardassian operating as a spy for the Federation then has to send him back into Cardassian space without blowing his cover. The Doctor is trapped in 1969, and has to recover his TARDIS from the Weeping Angels. In both cases, the series regular stories gradually unfold in the course of the stories of this episode’s main characters.

What makes the stories of returning the Cardassian and recovering the TARDIS work, though, is that they are told from the junior officers and Sally Sparrow’s viewpoints respectively. From the view point of Picard et al., the story of retrieving Dal then sending him back could feel like any of a number of good, but not great, episodes. It’s not hard to see what each of the regular cast has to do and, in fact, “Lower Decks” gives each of them short scenes where they do those things. You can easily fill in the blanks yourself. In the case of “Blink,” the interesting stuff is not happening to the Doctor, who spends much of the episode waiting in 1969 for DI Billy Shipton, then the TARDIS to show up. The episode rightly focuses on the person who’s doing all the interesting things. As a result, you get terrific episodes that could never have been if ST:TNG and Doctor Who had stuck to their standard formats.

So why feature characters that don’t normally get the spotlight? Not just because we then get stories that otherwise wouldn’t have been told, but because those stories can be awesome.

This takes me back to Defying Doomsday. It is going to tell stories that otherwise wouldn’t have been told and it will have an open submission period to find those awesome stories. In addition, it will have stories by Corinne Duyvis, Janet Edwards, Seanan McGuire, and me.

Mine is called “Selected Afterimages of the Fading.” The editors describe it as a story about “a world disappearing and a man afraid of doing the same.” The apocalypse is that the world is disappearing ever more quickly. The main character, Caleb, has an invisible disability. You can’t tell by looking at him how he is impaired. In fact, at a glance, “impaired” is probably the last word you’d use to describe him. (I’m being cagey because I want you to discover how he’s impaired.) A chronic condition affects his life but the story is more concerned about him fighting to keep things in existence and the possibility, or maybe the impossibility, of a relationship when the world is literally fading away around him (and his potential boyfriend).

It’s not a secret that I’m not a big fan of inscrutable Asian villains and gay characters who die to re-establish a norm. Both of those are stories that others can tell (and have many, many times). My story features a Chinese-American hero who is absolutely scrutable. (You’re in his head for the entire story.) However, can he stay alive in the face of an unfolding disaster where everything is fading out of existence and he is more susceptible to the fading than most? Read the story and find out…

The Defying Doomsday Pozible Campaign runs until May 1st. It isn’t just for this anthology, but to encourage more stories about disabled characters in the future. I hope you check it out.


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