Just when I thought I was done with apocalyptic/dystopic fiction I found Defying Doomsday: a crowd-funded anthology featuring disabled characters of all stripes, coping with the end of the world. The project, which ends on May 1st and is still $1600 away from its goal, looks full of exactly the kind of stories the genre needs right now.
The book caught my eye because Margaret Atwood tweeted that she’d be contributing, which on its own is enough to get me pumped. Add John Chu, who won last year’s Hugo for an awesome LGBT story, The Water That Falls From Nowhere. I’m already trying to decide my pledge level. It’s disappointing that this project doesn’t seem to have caught a ton of press, at least in the circles I travel in, but I think that might be because the project is on pozible instead of one of the larger crowd-funding sites.
So much of apocalyptic fiction boils down to the struggle to survive in brutal conditions, which can quickly degenerate “only the strong survive” style of gross social Darwinism where “strong” means able-bodied and willing to kill. People who can’t “pull their own weight” are, at best, characters that the protagonist heroes need to protect or, at worst, a burden that should be left behind. Sure, the in-universe explanations often make sense, but we already live in a society that buys into the notion that the disabled are useless or burdens on their communities. Too much apocalyptic fiction re-enforces that message in uncomfortable ways.
That’s why an anthology centered around disabled characters weathering the apocalypse sounds SO EXCITING. It’s the perfect push-back to that notion that someone who is disabled is useless and easy pickings the moment the dead start to rise or whatever ends up causing the end of the world. I’m excited that the anthology is going to be featuring many different kinds of disabilities–not just physical, but also chronic conditions, mental illness, and neuoratypical characters. People with these conditions are in the world too, and I’m excited to read stories about how they react to life as they know it collapsing around them.
Plus, I think that featuring disabled characters will push authors to tell interesting stories about aspects of the apocalyptic genre that readers haven’t seen before. Lately, it’s easy for the stories to feel stale or forced, as if all you need to do is rub some grime on a dude’s face, hand him a machete and, boom, apocalyptic tale achieved! But these characters may have different needs and problems than your average apocalyptic protagonist, and I’m excited to see what different journeys they go on in this book.