Apocalypse Fiction and Disability

City overlooking desolate desert landscape with cracked earthToday, we interrupt our scheduled programming for a special guest post by Holly Kench! Holly is one of the editors of the upcoming Defying Doomsday, a project we at DivYA heartily support. So have a read and be sure to check out this wonderful anthology.

Apocalypse fiction rarely includes characters with disability, chronic illness and other impairments. When these characters do appear, they usually die early on, or are secondary characters undeveloped into anything more than a burden to the protagonist. Defying Doomsday will be an anthology showing that disabled characters have far more interesting stories to tell in post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction.

Defying Doomsday will be edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, and published by Twelfth Planet Press in mid 2016. Defying Doomsday is currently crowdfunding via Pozible. To support the project visit: http://pozi.be/defyingdoomsday

Apocalypse fiction is nothing new. We’ve been reading it in some form for literally thousands of years and some of the enduring classic apocalyptic tales were written in the 19th Century, but it just doesn’t seem to get old. There’s something about the end of days that always has us clamouring for more.

It’s not exactly complicated to work out why. As with all things, there are lots of reasons, but on a basic level apocalypse fiction allows us to explore our fears, both societal and personal. It’s easy to see our fears reflected in all genres of fiction, but apocalypse fiction does something specific with those concerns. It lets us take our fears to the worst possible conclusion and allows us to see how these fears might play out. It’s pretty morbid – we’re a pretty morbid bunch – but as much as we are reading about the collapse of human civilisation, we are also reading about stories of survival.

Not that everyone always lives to the end in apocalyptic fiction. In fact that’s rarely the case. But part of why we read it is linked into our desire to survive. To see characters fight to the end and hope that they’ll prevail… because then maybe we can too.

Unless you are disabled. In which case you die at the beginning of the end. Or that’s how the stories seem to go.

Half the time disabled characters seem to be completely invisible in apocalypse fiction, like maybe they just vanished from the face of the Earth at the first sign of trouble. Other times they might be seen at the beginning of stories as some kind of burden to the protagonist. We rarely see them survive for long and almost never see them as the main characters of apocalyptic stories.

It’s as though our lives are deemed so unimportant that they aren’t worth exploring in apocalypse fiction. Or is it that our lives are already seen as some pitiable, contemporary worst case scenario? I’m really not sure. Either way, I’m certain it’s due to common misconceptions surrounding disability, misconceptions that see disabled people as less, as other, only worthwhile as two dimensional characters or a plot device. And that’s pretty crappy. Disabled people have full lives and deserve full characterisations. We have just as many fears and are as morbid as everyone else. We have just as much desire to see how we might survive the end, and I think those stories would make for interesting new narratives in this genre which has endured for so many years.

With that in mind, Tsana Dolichva and I are editing an anthology exploring the narratives of disabled characters in apocalypse fiction. Defying Doomsday will be an anthology of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories, featuring disabled, chronically ill, mentally ill and/or neurodiverse protagonists. We are currently holding a crowdfunding campaign through Pozible to fund the anthology. To support the campaign or to preorder a copy of Defying Doomsday, visit: http://pozi.be/defyingdoomsday

Your support is greatly appreciated! You can find out more about Defying Doomsday at our website or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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