Apr. 15th, 2017

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I’m just imagining Nate finding out about this and then he’s collecting like a million gold things and just grinning at Nick.
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I had an interesting series of thoughts at work today.I started off thinking of a solarpunk zombie apocalypse story - society has collapsed, survivours rebuild from the ashes with solarpunk tech and the like while dealing with zombies, marauders, bandits and other threats. I was enjoying the idea until I realised something:

The post apocalypse genre is inherently ableist.

How often do you see disabled people in post apocalypse fiction anyway? Not very - off the top of my head I can think of Eli from The Book of Eli, Tomonaga Ijiro and Joe Muhammad from World War Z (the book) and Davis, Jodie and Jennifer from Dead State. Everyone else, able-bodied and neurotypical, with nary a chronic illness in sight - anyone who isn’t 100% mentally and physically “normal” is left behind or dragged along with reluctance and openly considered “dead weight,” with no consideration given to that person’s skillset or other qualities they might have that could come in handy. Even people with PTSD - a perfectly understandable thing to have after the apocalypse - are often looked down on as being “weak” or “unable to handle it” and are rarely given any decent help or support from those around them.

The entire genre feels like it’s designed with this ableistic outlook in mind and while I acknowledge there is limited realism to it - a lot of people with chronic illnesses or disabilities do need support to work at their best ability, and most post apocalypse settings won’t have anything like this in place which will put many of them at risk - that doesn’t mean we have to drag it all along in our stories with no questioning of why. Just because some may not make it through doesn’t mean every single person who has a condition that isn’t 100% curable is going to vanish with them.

We can do better than stories that tell disabled people that they’ll be better off dead so they don’t drag everyone else down; that tell people with chronic illnesses that they are worthless; that tell people with mental illnesses that they are a drain on resources; that tell the neuroatypical that they are nothing more than liabilities. Even people that stay behind to care for their loved ones who have such a condition are seen as noble but naive and generally condemned by the narrative as unfit to survive unless they leave the person “holding them back.”

Given that (in my opinion) post apocalypse stories are about how we’d like to rebuild society if we had to start over, the fact that disabled and neuroatypical representation is so rare in the stories across this genre says so much about society, and none of it positive. Neuroatypical and non-able bodied people aren’t all magically going to go away just because society has, and their absence in your story just says more about your attitude than about any “harsh realities” of the setting you’ve created.

This is such a great observation, and I definitely think a big part of the appeal of post-apocalyptic fiction for a certain kind of reader and writer is that you get to wipe out huge swaths of human complexity with “They all just die but it’s not eugenics because the zombies did it.”

But I don’t think it has to be that way, and I think a solarpunk approach could be a great way to bring that out. It would be harder to write, sure, because if the nature of a setting is to say “any shortcoming is a justification for letting someone die,” then it’s got to be a much bigger deal to the protagonists to resist that kind of thinking.

But that also makes it a great kind of story to showcase exactly the kind of values it’s often used to condemn: to show a group retrofitting their friend’s wheelchair with a solar powered motor and all-terrain wheels, or using precious power and backpack space to keep a supply of insulin refrigerated, or all learning sign language to accommodate their deaf teammate. 

You could show people not failing because they chose compassion over pragmatism — maybe even succeeding because of it. All three of those accommodations have advantages, too: the group member with a powered wheelchair can probably carry more than other group members,* if you’re hauling a fridge you can refrigerate more than just insulin, and sign language is a valuable silent form of communication if you’re in a world filled with hostile zombies.

The important thing is to show groups choosing to stick up for their disabled or neurodivergent** members and not be punished for it. Those group members don’t need to ultimately be the climactic key to success — in fact, that’d probably be a problematic way to take it, because it would end up re-emphasizing the idea that their value comes from their ability to be useful.

But showing them as fully realized contributing characters in the story, whose teammates care about and support them (and vice versa), and showing them all make it out alive, flies in opposition to the ableist nature of apocalyptic fiction.

Of course, fiction where the world as it exists doesn’t have to end for things to start to get better is also important. But I can see a lot of value in post-apocalyptic fiction that isn’t a thinly veiled excuse to start gleefully describing the tragic deaths of everybody not optimally equipped to serve the new libertarian/military grim utopia.

* I’m not actually sure about this point — if anyone reading has personal experience with the physics and practical concerns of using a wheelchair re: carrying capacity, and wants to correct me, please do.

** I know I don’t actually have any examples of neurodivergence in the post. I’m gonna keep thinking about that aspect of this but I don’t have anything atm.

This is all spot-on and speaks to an understanding of the genre I’ve developed, having formerly been part of the problem. 

I used to be really into post-apocalyptic fiction, especially zombie-apocalypse settings. I actually had discussions with one of my coworkers about the suitability of our workplace for survival during such an event (conclusion: too many windows, we were probably screwed). From the perspective of where I was in my life at the time, it seemed like a good bit of fun and, hey, if it did happen, at least I’d be ready, right? 

Then I became medication-dependent. Now, when I thought about the logistics of survival in a post-apocalyptic situation, I had to consider where the hell I would be getting my anti-androgens and estrogen from. I didn’t think about it before, even though I knew I was trans, because I didn’t realize how fundamentally I needed to be on the right hormones. These meds doesn’t exactly grow on trees, and I’d hardly be the only trans woman who needs the stuff and, well… suddenly it’s not as fun as it used to be. 

Moving from one category to the other really soured me on the genre. I still watch it, read it, hell, I even write it, but it doesn’t have the same appeal to me that it used to. I think that’s the problem, really. Cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical people don’t think about this sort of thing because it doesn’t affect them personally, just like I didn’t think about it when I didn’t think it affected me. To them, survival is a bootstraps thing — if you’re HARD and MAN enough (but not TOO MAN, as Walking Dead’s perfectly shaven ladies helpfully illustrate), you are rewarded with continued life. At least, until the writers decide there’s too many black men on the show and whoops, time for one to get bitten. If you’re not HARD or MAN enough? Well, that’s your own problem! 

If we could get post-apocalyptic media to a less relentlessly heteromasculist and individualist place, I think that would improve things immeasurably. Right now it basically exists to soothe the fears of men that they are not, in fact, HARD or MAN enough, and if the world would just give them the chance they could prove it. I don’t think this is the cause of the ablism in the genre, but it sure feeds into it. 

All this to say that an inclusive community-oriented solarpunk post-apocalyptic setting sounds amazing and I would read the hell out of it. 

Self-reblogging to add that there’s an anthology about this very subject!

“Defying Doomsday is an anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring
disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the
“fittest” who survive – it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and
innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when
everything is lost.

In stories of fear, hope and survival, this anthology gives new
perspectives on the end of the world, from authors Corinne Duyvis, Janet
Edwards, Seanan McGuire, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Stephanie Gunn, Elinor
Caiman Sands, Rivqa Rafael, Bogi Takács, John Chu, Maree Kimberley,
Octavia Cade, Lauren E Mitchell, Thoraiya Dyer, Samantha Rich, and K L
Evangelista.”

It’s going to be out on the 30th of May (two days from now) and you can get it from Twelfth Planet Press or Amazon.

I feel like there’s also some people-are-wrong-about-history ableism feeding into it too. The assumption often seems to be that the apocalypse (whatever it is) will revert us to a subsistence level of existence, and Paleolithic humans and other early human groups are often invoked to justify the idea that you can’t support disabled people in a subsistence level economy. The common belief is that Paleolitic people practiced a harsh form of eugenics towards the disabled/‘useless’, after all.

What that line of thought is ignorant of is the substantive evidence suggesting that Paleolithic people cared for and supported disabled tribe members, to a far more substantive degree than later ancient/medieval societies. 

If the apocalypse does bring us back to Paleolithic-style subsistence that is no reason to assume that survivors will have to abandon the disabled to thrive. In fact, precedent supports the opposite.

@siriustachi provided plenty of evidence supporting the fact that our neolithic ancestors cared for the disabled in a different thread also talking about the same topic.

Self-reblog to add in some useful commentary from @octopocalyptic from a different branch of this thread that discussed Mad Max: Fury Road:

Academic nerd out warning: For anyone interested, there’s some really
interesting writing in post apocalyptic literary criticism that looks
at ableist discourse and narratives. Karen Renner talks about how it’s a
fairly recent trend to focus on the physical aspects of the end of the
world. (Earlier work was often more about social changes after an
apocalypse.). So she writes, “Notice, for example, that among the prime
qualities that survivors of contemporary apocalyptic films
consistently exhibit are superior physical stamina and dexterity .  .
.  Today’s apocalyptic narratives, especially cinematic ones, are far
more interested in the physical battles faced by the protagonists”
(205). Specifically masculine protagonists, too, I think…

She
connects this with a general desire for a dif. kind of society, “one in
which the average person who puts aside shallow and self-interested
impulses is recognized as the true hero of the world” (210). But looking
at post apocalyptic stories, the desire is for a society in which
strong, able-bodied, often stony-eyed white dudes can punch Bad Guys (or
Bad Animals or Bad Tidal Waves) either w.out guilt or with that weird
guilt of someone who’s willing to get their hands dirty when others
aren’t. For a genre all about re-forming the world it’s actually really conservative.
That’s why I got so excited about solarpunk’s inclusive futures when I
found out that it was a thing, and why I can’t wait to see Mad Mad: FR.

Anyway, tl; dr– Post apocalyptic lit. crit. is cool and talks about this kind of thing.

Citation: Renner, Karen J. “The Appeal of the Apocalypse.” Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory 23:203–211, 2012.

Reblogging this because my husband made the OP and I amde one of the stories in Defying Doomsday.

I could really use a MUCH more disabled and neurodivergent friendly post-apocalyptic fiction. I grew up believing that I had no place in any adventure that had to involve the wilderness (because my batteries for my cochlear implants would eventually run out, leaving me totally deaf) or desert (because I need water so much that I would tell my teammates to shoot me first to conserve the water for them.)

Then I got my chronic illness which has progressed to being quite severe, and I have become thoroughly bitterly resigned to being the “first one to die” in such a scenario. To the point I jokingly comment how if there was a big explosion (from nuclear bomb, missile, asteroid, comet, supervolcano, alien attack, whatever) that I’ll take the “Come to Jesus!” pose (mimicking the spread-eagle position of Jesus on the cross) and just accept my inevitable and hopefully quick death. And that all the discussions of such a post-apocalyptic world described sounded so horrible I’d rather shoot myself than endure any sort of life in those conditions.

….Never mind the fact that I have so much to contribute to such a community-focused actual case of post-apocalypse. Look at how people band together to survive any huge tragedy in their area, and they pull through together and try to leave no one behind. The miners trapped in the cave-in in Chile could’ve had more food for themselves if they left the others to die. But NOPE. The first miners brought out of the mine actually tearfully refused to leave the area until EVERYBODY got out, so engrossed they were in ensuring EVERYBODY’S survival. The most hurt were sent out first, mind you.

This is what the human species does to survive such terrible scenarios. We don’t all become antisocial and violent as fuck loners that beat up every living thing in sight. We band together so tight that a threat to one of our members is a threat to us all, no matter who the member is, and our motto might as well become “survival of all or none.”

Keep reading

<3@irisbleufic this might be of interest to you?

After playing a whole bunch of Fallout protagonists who were pretty much loners, it’s been a lot of fun to play Nate in 4. I RP him as autistic and with PTSD, and he really can’t go it alone. He fixates so much on one thing that it’s very easy, when he’s sniping, for someone to come up behind him and shoot him. He also really needs someone with him if he ends up in a meltdown, if only to shoot the things attracted by the noise he’s making. He’s also got an eating disorder so is pretty frail, so extra help lugging shit around the wasteland is appreciated.

It’s been SO MUCH MORE FUN working with the game to write Nate’s story because unlike my other protagonists, Nate NEEDS a connection to the world. He has to make friendships and support and become part of the larger world. Purely in terms of character development and worldbuilding, having characters who aren’t Stoic McStoic is a lot more rewarding.

It might be just a video game, but Fallout 4 has finally beaten out Mass Effect 2 in terms of the most fun I’ve had in a game, and it’s 100% because of Nate Brooks.

Okay, Nate Brooks and Nick Valentine.

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