The Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Manifesto

Destroy. That’s the brief of this issue. Destroy science fiction. Why? Because disabled people have been discarded from the narrative, cured, rejected, villainized. We’ve been given few options for our imaginations to run wild within the parameters of an endless sky.

This issue destroys those narratives and more.

As with the previous Destroy projects (Women, Queers, People of Colour), Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction takes the rallying cry of We are here and Our stories matter and looks to the future. The other projects all began by “destroying” science fiction, and this one is no different. By turning our attention to the future, we are able to explore concerns and realities in the present and amplify them, correct them, highlight the ways they might become better or worse if allowed to continue on their present course. Through science fiction, marginalized people are able to say, We are here, now, and we will be there later, too.

But it is not just enough to talk about disability. It is not enough to just say that we are here, that we will be there later. We need to remember that we are people, too. The disabled artists in this issue are not just disabled people, as so many would boil disability down to a single trait. These are fully actualized individuals, living at the intersections and axes of identities. Queer, nonbinary, Jewish, black, PoC, Christian, straight. We are all of these things and we are disabled. Disability itself means different things to different people. We are not a monolith.

Throughout the stories, nonfiction, and poetry in Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, you will encounter narratives and experiences that may be familiar, or not. Perhaps some disabled readers or writers will encounter an experience they recognize, but handled slightly differently than their own. No one experience of disability is the disability experience. Many of the themes dealt with by our authors could, and likely would, be handled in radically different ways by other disabled authors. And that’s the point. The Destroy projects are important to the field because they amplify the work of a specific demographic at a specific point in time, but they are only a small part of what needs to be an ongoing conversation. We need more of those narratives, with a broad range of experiences.

Destroy projects do not, cannot, must not exist in a vacuum. They are as much a call to readers and writers as to editors; they allow members of our field to compare the work they encounter to what they read in other venues and ask, are these stories being told elsewhere? If not, why?

If you don’t have a good answer, maybe it’s time to change the genre, the magazine, the world you work in. Because we cannot destroy forever—we need to build.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry & Dominik Parisien

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry is a deafblind speculative fiction writer and editor. Her nonfiction work can be found in The Boston Globe, Fireside, Uncanny, and Tor.com. She is the managing editor of Hugo Finalist magazine Fireside. Dominik Parisien is an editor, writer, and poet. His work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. He also co-edited, with Navah Wolfe, The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales and Robots vs Fairies.

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