Re: Disability-Relevant Movies/Books/etc. GimpGirl Community

November 21, 2009

My friend RB started a thread on GimpGirl community on Disability-Relevant Movies/Books/etc. It is unusual for a guy to be posting on GimpGirl, but I help them out with some stuff, so I get the postings. And I didn’t think it would be improper for me to comment. I thought I’d add it here as it may interest some folks.

Hey RB;

I’ll take that as a question you don’t mind me weighing in on.

I was a fan of Lois McMaster Bujold for a time. Her work isn’t without problems, but what makes it particularly interesting to me was that all of her novels that I read focused on disability, but done as SiFi space opera. She’s also one of the most famous SiFi authors.

Falling Free is about a group of youth who have been genetically modified to live in zero gravity… as soon as they start to reach the age where they can work building space stations and the like, artificial gravity is invented, and the world they were designed for ceases to exist. They have 4 arms and no legs, and cannot even sit in regular gravity. They are to be put into hospitals. They are also non-persons, being designated as post-utero biological tissue. With the help of their welding instructor they…

The 23 novels of her Vorkosigan largely focus on the manic depressive Miles Vorkosigan who has a form of Osteogenesis imperfecta, and is 4’9″ on a planet where everyone who is anyone is tall dark and handsome. He uses his whit and hilarity ensues.

One of the most interesting novels, to me, was Ethan of Athos. Ethan is the equivalent of a midwife on a planet that is all male (and 85% gay). The uterine replicators, which use donated ovaries, no longer work and he’s got to go out into the world of women to negotiate new donations if his planet survives. He meets Elli, a mercenary who who has the most beautiful face, but it is a prosthetic replacement, her own having been burned off in a plasma fire, and she had to spend a year blind and breathing/eating through tubes until able to get surgery, and is never able to reconcile her previous disability with her present appearance.

They’re space opera, so in once sense they’re always silly, and uplifting, and none of the characters really struggle with medical bills and the like… though there’s a fair bit of shooting and indentured servitude to balance that out. Strangely enough, disability is taken as a struggle, an issue of social discrimination, a personal psychological challenge, AND a mechanism for defining plot and character, without it ever taking centre stage. And Lois is not seen a writer of disability focused fiction and I’ve not seen anything written about her that does even take it up, though I’ve not looked that hard.

These novels may or may not interest women. They predominately centre around male characters. However the female characters are clearly, and explicitly, acknowledged as the strongest and most capable, though often at a disadvantage due to cultural restrictions on women. Miles’ apparently nefarious activities gives them a level of autonomy unavailable else where.

One of the strangest characters is 9/Taura in Labyrinth: “Miles breaks into Ryoval’s laboratory, but is caught and imprisoned in a utility sublevel where they are also keeping Canaba’s dangerous specimen, “Nine”. This turns out to be an eight-foot-tall werewolf complete with fangs, claws, superhuman strength and speed, and a ravenous appetite. Miles is shocked to find that the creature is female, and, despite her fearsome appearance, she is an intelligent and emotionally vulnerable young woman” who joins the mercenary fleet on their escape.

THe mountains of mourning can be downloaded from from which focuses on infanticide and genetic abnormalities.

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