Disability Cliches

When George asked me to write something for the Wild Cards blog, the first thing that leapt to mind was how nervous I was, trying to write a ‘joker’ character for the upcoming volume, Joker Moon. I’m able-bodied (for now, anyway). My character isn’t.

In the Wild Cards universe (first published in 1987), the major premise is that an alien virus has come to Earth, and if you catch it, you have a 90% chance of dying, a 9% chance of becoming a joker, and a 1% chance of becoming a superpowered ace. A lot of our characters are jokers. As you can imagine, that can lead to some interesting challenges when writing.

It’s honestly super-hard to talk about this given the difference between today’s language and that of forty years ago. If you look up the premise of the series, they’ll generally refer to the jokers as ‘deformed,’ which is a term I would basically never use otherwise. Heck, I wrote an entire essay about my reaction when one of my oncologists referred to making my breast ‘normal,’ again, through surgical interventions after a lumpectomy. (Spoiler alert: her language made me super-annoyed. Perhaps unfairly. I’m still not sure.)

I’m honestly not sure I’ve avoided all the disability clichés in the story I just handed in yesterday. I did try, and I have to shout-out here to excellent writer Haddayr Copley-Woods, who let me talk over my initial conception for the story and pointed our some big clichés I was about to walk right into.

Any remaining issues are my own.

A brief introduction to disability clichés in fiction.

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