New Contributors and Personal Essay: "After the Last Chapter" by A.C. Buchanan
You Wonderful Space Unicorns!
The Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Uncanny Magazine Year 4 Kickstarter is SO CLOSE to every backer receiving access to an exclusive Rachel Swirsky Patreon story! Only $255 more!
Remember, if the Kickstarter reaches $55,000, we will do a Disabled People Destroy Fantasy special issue! CAN WE REACH THIS IN 35 HOURS?!?!
There's an article on the Huffington Post today about the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Uncanny Magazine Year 4 Kickstarter!
As we head into our final few days, we are so pleased to announce two new contributors to Uncanny Magazine's regular Year Four and one new contributor to the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction special issue!
We've got a brand new essay coming during regular Year Four from Greg Pak!
Greg Pak is a writer and filmmaker best known for comic books like PLANET HULK, MAGNETO TESTAMENT, STORM, and ACTION COMICS. He's currently writing MECH CADET YU for BOOM, TOTALLY AWESOME HULK and WEAPON X for Marvel, and the new John Wick comic book series for Dynamite. Pak directed the sci fi indie feature film ROBOT STORIES and award-winning short films such as "Fighting Grandpa," "Asian Pride Porn," and "Mister Green." His Kickstarter publishing projects include CODE MONKEY SAVE WORLD and THE PRINCESS WHO SAVED HERSELF, both based on songs by singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton. Pak's prose work includes MAKE COMICS LIKE THE PROS (co-written with Fred Van Lente), the KICKSTARTER SECRETS ebook, and the upcoming PLANET HULK prose novel. In 2005, Pak and artist Takeshi Miyazwa co-created the Marvel character Amadeus Cho, who co-starred for four years in the INCREDIBLE HERCULES comic book series and is now the star of the TOTALLY AWESOME HULK book. For more about Pak's work, please visit gregpak.com and twitter.com/gregpak.
We've got poetry coming during regular Year Four from Sofia Samatar!
Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories. Her work has received the John W. Campbell Award, the William L. Crawford Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award.
We've got poetry coming for Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha!
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (she/they) is a queer disabled nonbinary femme writer and cultural worker of Burger/ Tamil Sri Lankan and Irish/ Roma ascent. The author of Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home (Publishing Triangle and Lambda Award 2016 finalist, American Library Association Stonewall Award 2016), Bodymap (Audre Lorde Poetry Award Finalist, Publisher's Triangle), Love Cake (Lambda Award winner 2012) and Consensual Genocide, she is also, with Ching-In Chen and Jai Dulani, co-editor of The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities (AK Press 2016.) Her work has been widely published, most recently in The Deaf Poets Society, Glitter and Grit and Octavia's Brood, and including work in the anthologies Dear Sister, Undoing Border Imperialism, Stay Solid, Persistence: Still Butch and Femme, Yes Means Yes, Visible: A Femmethology, Homelands, Colonize This, We Don’t Need Another Wave, Bitchfest, Without a Net, Dangerous Families, Brazen Femme, Femme and A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over The World.
Here is today's new Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction personal essay (edited by Nicolette Barischoff). These essays, much like their counterparts in the previous Destroy Kickstarters, will feature disabled creators sharing what it is like being a disabled person in the science fiction community. Shine on, Space Unicorns.
"After the Last Chapter" by A.C. Buchanan
This is a story of how I found my life in a book, and what happened after the final pages.
The book in question was John Wyndham's The Chrysalids (also titled Re-Birth), and I first read it when I was perhaps twelve, in snatches over breakfast or in the school dinner queue. As for many, my introduction to science fiction came around this time, reading my way through Asimov, Wells, Orwell, and, perhaps less commonly, John Christopher and Louise Lawrence. I fantasised about worlds beyond our own, worried alone about nuclear war, pondered the ethics of robotics when I should have been focused on algebra.
The Chrysalids was different. The edge of panic started to seize me when I read it. I knew it was saying something deeply personal to me; was too scared to contemplate what.
The novel is set in northern Canada, some years after a global nuclear war, in a society ruled by religious extremism which denounces any biological mutation or atypicality as the work of the devil. This is a world in which disabled people are either killed or sterilised, then banished from society. The book follows a group who are forced to conceal their telepathic abilities for fear of their lives. At the conclusion of the novel they are rescued by a woman from the island country of Sealand, where these telepathic abilities are both common and viewed as a positive stage in evolution.
In retrospect, it's obvious why this work was so important to me. I was both autistic and queer, only partially aware of both, in a conservative country where neither was acceptable. I tried—and failed—to find a balance between the inevitable violence that would follow any expression or exploration of my reality, and the slower, but no less destructive, intense denial of any sense of self. I spent my teens careering between rebellion and obsessive rule following, between internalised self-hatred and burning anger, eventually determining that no matter what I did, the parts of my person I did not yet know to call autistic would always be suppressed whenever they dared to show themselves.
So the idea that there was something wrong with them, not me, that there were others like me, and that I would find a safer, happier life, were fantastically appealing for all the obvious reasons.
No-one would be coming to save me, though. I had to save myself. I saved money from my Saturday library job, money from my grandfather, money from a summer employed removing staples from hospital records. I opened a dated school atlas and traced a route as far as I could go. New Zealand. Sealand.
It would be a lie to say I picked my destination based on a fifty year old novel; language, climate, and the easy accessibility of a working holiday visa were my more immediate concerns. But the novel wasn't far from my mind. I'd like to say I packed it and kept it with me the whole time but in truth I put it in a box of books I gave to my younger brother, taking satisfaction—if combined with a little fear—in purging as much of my old life as possible.
And that's where the story ended. I'd made my escape. There were people like me here, and I was safe. All threads wrapped up, a satisfying read.
Except that wasn't the end of the story.
I was safer and happier than I had ever been, yes, and I began to find pockets of community, began to talk about myself, to claim the word "disabled" and understand how it related to me. But none of the science fiction of my pre-teens told me how to navigate the fact that even our refuges contain oppression and discrimination, and that every question I found answers to only yielded a dozen more. Nor could I leave my upbringing behind as easily as I had once hoped. I doubted myself, questioned myself, used the terms that had been used against me—lazy, clumsy, useless—against myself. I experienced times that were deeply painful, that made me once again want to pack my bags and run, and sometimes I'd stare at a map and despair that there was nowhere further away to run to.
And where things did become easier—or at least straightforward—for me, there were always others who were struggling. The forces pushing people like me down were perhaps not as strong, and sometimes avoided me altogether, but the more I built myself back up, the more I could see others around me being marginalised.
The easy solutions fiction can provide are rarely present in reality. I began, too, to realise the flaws in The Chrysalids. It was inescapable that, in what I had read as a celebration of difference and a condemnation of oppression, the characters readers were invited to identity with were those whose mutations would either be inconsequential in our society (such as an additional toe) or could be thought of as super-powers (such as telepathy). Those who were more obviously different, or who experienced significant impairment, were presented as deserving of compassion but not as protagonists, effectors of change, or potential members of a sustainable society. And in the presentation of telepathic abilities as an advanced stage in evolution, Wyndham ends up reinforcing some of the eugenic implications he earlier seemed to challenge.
I keep The Chrysalids—a new copy—on my shelf, and I reread it every few years. It's a brilliant, important book for all its flaws, and it's served me well. But here's another thing that's changed: when I want science fiction that I related to as a disabled person, I no longer have to grasp at anything which could possibly, non-literally be about people like me, and offer me a glimmer of hope. Part of this journey has been discovering science fiction by disabled writers that I relate to in more complex ways, stories where people like me are allowed to be directly and unambiguously on the page. Stories I don't have to secretly claim, but are written—and waiting—for people like me.
A.C. Buchanan lives just north of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. They're the author of the novellas Liquid City and Bree’s Dinosaur and their short fiction has most recently been published in Glittership, Kaleidotrope, the Accessing the Future anthology from FutureFire.net and the Paper Road Press anthology At the Edge. They also edit the speculative fiction magazine Capricious and co-chaired LexiCon 2017 - The 38th New Zealand National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention and . You can find them on twitter at @andicbuchanan or at www.acbuchanan.org.