Special Needs in Strange Worlds | Bryce Lee – The Power of Overcoming

Hats off to Bryce.

No, seriously. We really need to solute the man. He’s quite amazing. I asked him to be part of this event without factoring in the fact that (at the time) he was finishing up law school and preparing to study for the Bar Exam. I should have taken that into consideration, but I didn’t. I guess I’m cool like that. Anyway, if it was me I would have flipped out and had a panic attack with yet another obligation falling on my shoulders. Not Bryce. No, he said he’d love to participate and, despite how incredibly busy he must be right now (he also has twin girls on the way in August – eep!), he came up with the time and the brain power to write a truly amazing post.

Solute him. He deserves it.

Another great thing about Bryce is he runs some of the best, most popular and quality blogs on the net with The Stamp (of Approval) and Only the Best SciFi. He’s also an incredibly nice guy and really loves talking about books and other speculative fiction topics. Plus, I’ve been promising to send him clothes for his twins for about a month now and have yet to do it – (sorry, Bryce, I had a mixup with the post office and I’m still waiting for bigger boxes to be sent to me) and he has yet to complain. He’s got a mass of stress on his plate: an impending exam, twins on the way, a wife on bed rest and he still somehow remains put together, fun to talk to and just an all around nice guy. I don’t know how he does it, but somehow he does and I’m glad. The speculative community is better with Bryce around.

So who exactly is Bryce? Well, I think he’s Superman, but I think you should get to know him and form your own opinion.

About the author

Bryce runs the notable blogs Only the Best SciFi and The Stamp (of Approval).

The Power of Overcoming

When a sports team visits a prison to play the team of prisoners, you may (or may not) be surprised to find out that they don’t root for their own team, they root for the visiting team. To quote one of my all-time favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, “[e]veryone in here is innocent.” The thing is, prisoners don’t associate themselves with the prisoners, they root for the “good guys.”

Possibly since their inception, fantasy and science fiction have been much the same. The all-powerful and flawless hero grabs his busty, yet slim-waisted damsel to defeat the big, bad meanie (or the other way around). I mean, is there even an average-looking “good guy” in the Wheel of Time, Riftwar, or Belgariad?

Readers love this stuff and I’m not saying I don’t. We’re able to imagine this perfect world where we’re in the shoes of that perfect character. We get to be perfectly good-looking, smart, courageous, and we always get the guy or girl…at least for a time.

While this is a fun story, even a highly entertaining story, it’s definitely not a very realistic story and it’s certainly not the best story. So, authors throw these good-looking dynamos through the ringer, they face hardships, betrayals, you name it. When a character has a disability, it is a much more subtle, yet powerful element to overcome.

There are many disabilities out there and it may even be safe to say that we all have one in some way or another. Some are more debilitating than others, but for me, my favorite stories are those where people with disabilities rise above them and refuse to let them be a crutch.

I look at people like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, Helen Keller and Stephen Hawking, these are some of my heroes. These are people who could have easily given up, let their disabilities own them. Instead, they worked for it and have made huge contributions to society.

I think Sarah Chorn is a great example of rising above her circumstances. The minds of Stephen King, China Miéville, and George R.R. Martin couldn’t have put together a more trying and difficult time for her these last few years. And yet she’s a great mother and has built up an amazingly successful blog, and this is only the small portion of her life that I see. And I still can’t keep up.

In fiction, some of my favorite characters have real and perceived disabilities, such as Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire and Glokta from The First Law. Tyrion, known as the Imp among both his family and the outside world, doesn’t just ride the coattails of his rich and noble (not necessarily all senses of the word) family. He’s put in the work to educate himself and as his famous quote goes, “a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” He doesn’t just say this, he lives by it, he’s made his disability a starting point for the development of more strengths in his life.

Then there’s Glokta, who is in pain from sunup to sundown. He does the same work that caused his decrepit state – he’s a torturer. Oh the irony. He’s also very similar to Tyrion in that he is more useful than 100 perfect faces and straight backs.

Because of their disabilities, both these characters are easy to root for, but that only goes so far. It’s their attitude in the face of their situations that I applaud, that I want to read more about.

I used to do a lot of swimming, and I mean a lot. I had a good friend who believed that everything we did should be an awesome story to tell later. Every time we were given a workout to do, he wanted more. Coach said swim 10 laps, he said let’s do 20 and do it butterfly (easily the hardest, most painful stroke to swim any distance). Fast-forward some years and that friend not only has an American record, but he has won multiple Olympic medals.

I don’t share this story to brag (okay, maybe a little), but to prove a point. Disabilities can be used in fantasy and science fiction to do more than add to the suspense or create tension while the “bad guy” earns the upper hand. They can be a very real way to show the human ability to overcome any obstacle, to make the world better despite what hand you’ve been dealt.

If anything I want to read more about characters with disabilities for originality, but mostly I want to read more about characters with disabilities to show me what can be done no matter what is holding you back, to show me that I can do more if I work at it.


If you haven’t checked out Bryce’s blogs, you really should. They are two of my favorite SF blogs – The Stamp (of Approval) and Only the Best SciFi. You can also find Bryce on Twitter.

5 Responses

  • Thanks, Bryce.

    The power of overcoming, indeed.

    I’m going to stay positive, but I am reminded of a certain author’s certain character who has a disability (in the form of a debilitating disease) who only overcomes by accident, and reluctantly. The character doesn’t really “rise above” like Glokta and Tyrion. I prefer characters like them.

  • Thanks for having me, Sarah, and especially thanks for your kind words.

    @Paul – I can’t seem to come up with the character you’re talking about, but it sounds so very familiar…any hints? I honestly love reading Tyrion and Glokta because they do so much more than anyone else even with a, as was so nicely put earlier this week, different ability.

  • Notarealperson

    Paul, are you referring to S Donaldson’s character of Thomas Covenant? I would agree that he doesn’t ever consciously “rise above” his illness until the very end of the third book. However, his refusal to commit suicide could be viewed as a refusal to let the illness “win”.

  • Ah, pointing out my gaps in sff knowledge! 😀

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