Ria Cheyne Changing Capacities_ Changing

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					Changing Capacities,
Changing Identities:
Disability in Science
Ria Cheyne
Liverpool Hope University
Disability in Science Fiction
• Alternative conceptions of ability,
  disability, and what constitutes a “normal”
• Changing capacities – the alternative
  environment (different worlds)
• Changing identities - technological
• So what?
Alternative Environments
• “The Country of the Blind” (1904)
• “It was marvellous with what confidence
  and precision they went about their
  ordered world. Everything, you see, had
  been made to fit their needs; each of the
  radiating paths of the valley area had a
  constant angle to the others, and was
  distinguished by a special notch upon its
  kerbing; all obstacles and irregularities of
  path or meadow had long since been
  cleared away; all of their methods and
  procedure arose naturally from their
  special needs.”
Alternative Environments
                 • Islands in the Sky (1954)
                 • Commander Doyle is
                   “perfectly adapted to his
                   surroundings” and “the
                   most agile man in the

 •Amy Thomson, Through
 Alien Eyes (1999)
Disabling the ‘normal’ body
• No Man Friday (1956)
• “For it came to me instantly [. . .]
  that I was not the ‘highest’ life on
  Mars. On the contrary, I was a
  highly ill-adapted being. I lived
  with difficulty and by machines. I
  was no better adapted to survive
  on Mars than was a child on Earth
  that had been stricken by infantile
  paralysis and confined to an
  artificial lung.”
Technological Enhancement
• “Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo” (1986)
• “Megan Galloway had broken her neck
  while still in her teens. She became part
  of the early development of a powered
  exoskeleton, research that had led to the
  hideously expensive and beautiful Golden
  Gypsy, of which only one was ever built. It
  abolished wheelchairs and crutches for
  her. It returned her to life, in her own
  mind, and it made her a celebrity.”
Technological Enhancement
• “The world was briefly treated to
  the sight of quadriplegics
  dominating a new art form.”
• “her upper body was traced by
  quite lovely filigree of gilded,
  curving lines. It was some sort of a
  tattoo, and it was all that was left of
  the machine called the Golden
So what?
• Window onto contemporary attitudes.
• Implications of technological advances – what if?
• World that thinks disability (and normalcy)
• “Readers and viewers find their own personal
  interpretations of disability inevitably influenced
  by their imaginative encounters with disabled
  people in fictional works” (David T. Mitchell and
  Sharon L. Snyder, Narrative Prosthesis, 2001).
So what?
• Science fiction “is a discourse that allows us to
  concretely imagine bodies and selves otherwise”
  (Sherryl Vint, Bodies of Tomorrow: Technology,
  Subjectivity, Science Fiction, 2007)
• “by imagining strange worlds we come to see our
  own conditions of life in a new and potentially
  revolutionary perspective” (Patrick Parrinder,
  “Introduction: Learning from Other Worlds” in
  Learning From Other Worlds: Estrangement,
  Cognition, and the Politics of Science Fiction and
  Utopia, 2000)
Try these…
•   Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles Vorkosigan series
•   John Varley, The John Varley Reader
•   Elizabeth Moon, Vatta’s War series
•   Anne McCaffrey, The Ship Who Sang
•   Amy Thomson, The Color of Distance and Through
    Alien Eyes
•   Cordwainer Smith, The Rediscovery of Man
•   Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time
•   Mary Doria Russell, Children of God
•   Judith Merril, ‘That Only a Mother’
•   Tad Williams, Otherland series.

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