For the most part, people who are disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, Spoonie, and/or who manage mental illness are faced with stories about us that are crafted by people who really don’t get us.
Nothing Without Us combines both realistic and speculative fiction and stars protagonists who are written by us and for us. These are bold tales, told in our voices, which are important for everyone to experience.
Why we’re doing this
According to Statistics Canada’s 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, more than one in five people is currently living with a disability. If one were to go by how many disabled people we see in fiction or on the screen, however, it would be reasonable to assume disabled people are as rare and misunderstood as unicorns. Even worse, when we are represented, we are lonely, unhappy, searching for a cure, and we often die tragically to inspire the protagonist of the story (who is never disabled themself) or find a magical cure (and inspire the protagonist.) It’s very clear most of these stories are being written by people who do not have those lived experiences; an unsurprising fact, considering that people who are disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, Spoonie, and/or who manage mental illness are chronically both underpaid and underemployed.
Spoonies to the rescue
After publishing her first novel, Cait Gordon was invited to speak on several panels, most of which were about disability visibility in fiction. She rapidly found that panel after panel, members of the public would ask her to recommend books where protagonists were disabled, as opposed to them only being side characters, and she found that she could barely name any title. So, with the help of her BFF, activist Talia Johnson, she decided to assemble this anthology to showcase not only what disabled characters, but also what disabled authors, are capable of.
Renaissance Press is a small, independently owned Canadian publisher dedicated to uplifting the voices of marginalized people. When Cait approached us with this anthology project, we recognized it as exactly the kind of project we love to champion: own-voices fiction written by a majority of marginalized people whose stories also show the intersectionality of marginalized communities. We’re very proud and excited to be able to present Nothing Without Us to you.
The Bellwoods Golem, by Aus Bahadur—Something woke up Hadas in the middle of the night: a golem cradling their cell phone. This alone would be most unexpected, but the creature instinctively knowing what breakfast to prepare gives Hadas further pause to ponder over their new acquaintance.
Knit One, Purl Two, by Carolyn Charron—Maggie has a problem. There’s a vampire in her basement. The coffin in the living room should have been a giveaway, but sometimes tenants can be eccentric.
Names, by Jennifer Lee Rossman—When a coyote crosses Beck’s path, it’s jolting. Mostly because the animal has ‘people’ eyes. And Beck might be the only one in the town who knows why.
Mafia Butterfly, by Raymond Luczak—Entering into any social dynamic can often feel awkward at first, but a young woman soon discovers her local Deaf community events are dominated by a gatekeeping ‘mafia boss.’
Dress Rehearsal, by Nicole Zelniker—Lizzie hates hospitals. She promised her sister she’d visit their dying mother, even though Lizzie and her mom have something in common: they share the same genetic disease.
The Descent, by Jamieson Wolf—A wizard, seeks a mystical Oracle to find out how he can be cured of his debilitating condition, known only to him as the pesky Max Shadow. He must descend a seemingly never-ending staircase unassisted, with Max as his constant companion.
Bug Hunt, by Joanna Marsh—Mina and four other women are given a mission to destroy the best pilot in the Empire, Anna Hyde. Hyde’s leading-edge mech is known as the Godkiller. The five soldiers’ mech fighters are subpar. They’re probably screwed.
Oliver Gutierrez and the Walking Stick of Destiny, by Elliott Dunstan—Oliver must make a decision about xyr cane, which is set against the corner, stalking xem. But before xe can figure it out, two familiar voices pipe in with their opinion on the subject.
Crutch. Cage, Sword, Kerfuffle, by Dorothy Ellen Palmer—A story in three acts, featuring Nellie, a pregnant, disabled activist and improv theatre performer. On Friday, she spots a sword in the Roman Britain wing of the museum—and it’s not just any sword. It’s the sword, which might be the perfect weapon to carry out her plan for the weekend.
Iron Bone, by J. Ivanel Johnson—Fiona manages to have a rod up her backside while being spineless at the same time, especially when it comes to encounters with the Royal family. Still, this equestrian presses on, even if she might be the cause of tragic global events.
Sometimes You..., by Tonya Liburd—Robin is homeless and grappling with mental illness but finds surprising ways to meet the challenges around them. Sometimes it's not as easy as you think...
Search and Seizure, by Shannon Barnsley—Cassie wants answers to why she’s having seizures, only to be met with the response, “It’s all in your head.” Things take a turn for the paranormal as Cassie finds herself back in the hospital once again, but this time, no one can tell she’s really there.
Backbone, by Madona Skaff—Ian is covered in blood that’s not his own. His best friend says he won’t get away with it. What will Ian do now that the cops have found him on the floor… beside the body?
The Case of the Silenco Scientist, by Maverick Smith—A client’s spouse and child are missing, presumed abducted. It’s now up to two Silenco investigators to get to the bottom of this case, and there’s no time to lose.
Flight, by George Zancola—It’s summertime in Toronto, during a heatwave in ’76. Tom and his sidekick Cathy have just escaped detention, hoping to begin a new way of life as they march through the city’s sweltering heat.
Panic in Paradise, by Diane Koerner—A woman coping with multiple chemical sensitivities finds some relief in her home on the Big Island…until the Volcano Goddess Pele makes known her displeasure at what humankind has constructed around this paradise.
The Blessing Cookies, by Laurie Stewart—It’s the Harvest Festival and time for the Blessing ritual. The family matriarch has been the Voice of Lethe for decades. The cookies must be doled out, and the crystal will decide. This will be a miserable day.
Jungle Demon, by Tom Johnson—In an African wood of dense trees and vines resides a monster who could even be part of the jungle itself. N’Domo Demon is the game given to this creature, once a man, who now observes human life from the fringes.
The Living Among the Dead, by Tasha Fierce—What’s it like to feel like you have to ‘pass as alive’ among the living? When nobody wants to believe you’re dead, even though you’ve tried to explain it to them, you’ve no choice but to keep it a secret.
Alone, by Nathan Fréchette—Grief can be life-changing. Having a support system is crucial, especially when you don’t want to go through it alone.
No Room at the Inn, by Emily Gillespie—You find yourself in the hospital and cry out for water. You’re not convinced anyone can see you until a doctor asks you a direct question. You know you should spend the night—they even have your pill—but they’re not listening to what you’re asking for.
Charity™, by Derek Newman-Stille—It’s fundraiser time, when all the disabled folks are on display, hoping to entice the ever-so curious able-bodied donors to cough up some cash. After all, money from the Normies is all they have to live on, now that there are no other financial assistance programs. The better the inspiration, the higher the donation. Except…not every Crip wants to play the game.
Why this matters
As some of our authors so eloquently put it, it’s important to have people with a variety of disabilities in fiction who are presented not as problems, but as people. Because it’s not just important for disabled people to see ourselves reflected in stories; it’s important for abled folk to see us as full people too. This is how empathy and understanding are built—by seeing us as we actually are.
This project will present disability in a huge variety of forms, and not a single character will exist only to showcase their disability to inspire the main character. With your help, we can ensure that the voices of these disabled authors reach far, and wide, and most importantly, that this time, they get paid for their labor.
We have so many things to offer you! On top of our gratitude, you can:
- get your hands on the eBook or print version of the book, plus buttons and t-shirts;
- gain access to the entire catalog of Renaissance eBooks up to date;
- an exclusive, version of the Queer Disability Anthology, signed by editor Raymond Luczak;
- see your name in the book's acknowledgements;
- get your portrait done as a "spoonie";
- get a beautiful, hand-made doily by author Tonya Liburd;
- have a gorgeous, custom made cross-stitched piece by author Jennifer Lee Rossman;
- a magnificent and cozy custom-made and hand knit "spoonie" sweater by author Carolyn Charron.
Here’s a breakdown of our costs:
Author payments: 1800$
Kickstarter fees: 400$
At 5500$, we will produce a full audio version of the book; this audio version will be added to all rewards levels above 20$ as a downloadable mp3 file.
At 6500$, we will be producing a fully illustrated version of the book, with a line art illustration of every story. Some of these images have already been done for promotional purposes (as featured below) but we would love to be able to fully illustrate the book! This beautiful anthology deserves to be experienced in as many varied ways as possible. Should this goal be reached, the illustrated version will be the default version, so every backer will receive the fully illustrated version of the book.
This last stretch goal is a goal that matters a lot to us, because it's a goal that will allow us to pay our authors not only fair rates, but professional market rates. Please help us make it a reality!
Video materials attribution:
Anthology background photo created by yingyang - www.freepik.com
Music Perennial by Pictures of the Floating World - www.freemusicarchive.org
Risks and challenges
We launched our first anthology last year, and boy did we have a lot to learn! From a completely different editing process, to challenges in communications with such a large group of authors, to unforeseen printing challenges, it was a true trial by fire. But we managed to assemble, print and distribute an amazing, gorgeous anthology, and we learned a ton while doing it.
This year, we have more people leading the project, more rigorous processes for communicating with authors, and the stories will be going through their complete editing process during the Kickstarter, having already had one round of editing by our lovely editors-in-chief. What this means to you is that this anthology is mostly complete, very close to going to press, and will be delivered ON TIME. We’re very excited to present you with this project, and you won’t have to wait too long to hold it in your hands!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (29 days)