Special Needs in Strange Worlds Kickoff

I wasn’t planning on doing this until Monday, but life has a way of exploding in my face. My doctor called today and said if he didn’t operate on my back ASAP, I’m running the risk of paralysis, which would be permanent. I go in for surgery first thing in the morning. I learned that about an hour and a half ago, and now I’m rushing through the month of May, scheduling posts for this event.

Three things you should know.

First, I had a lot of people offer to participate in this event, and then a lot of them fell through for one reason or another. Normally I’d harp on people to remind them to participate, but my health took a dive and I just haven’t had time. I’m working with what I have.

Secondly, due to the minimal (but very strong) new posts this year, I’ve decided to fill in some of my time with some of my favorite posts from last year. I’m also expecting some posts to trickle in throughout the month, so I will add them when they come. As of right now, expect 2013’s version of Special Needs in Strange Worlds to be a wonderful mix of old and new.

Three: Since I have to approve all the comments on my webpage, please expect a few days between your comment to come in, and me approving it. I’ll be recovering, and while my husband will have the password and run of my website, I don’t actually expect him to be as devoted to comment approval as I am. You’re not forgotten, and your comments haven’t disappeared into the great Internet abyss. I’ll just be recovering, and slow.

As always, I truly appreciate everyone for participating in this event. I was going to write something profound to kick it off, but in the spirit of mixing old and new, I realized I wrote something profound last year, so I’m going to post it again. You can find the original post on this website. This post talks about my inspiration behind this event (my big brother) and the reasons why Special Needs in Strange Worlds is so important to me.

Stay tuned this month. I hope to sprinkle in reviews here and there so I don’t fall too incredibly behind in that regard, but most of the posts will be Special Needs in Strange Worlds themed. If you have anything you’d like to say in a guest post, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Just like last year, I’ll be accepting posts all month long so please don’t be shy. I want to include everyone who has something to say.


There is a line in Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin in which Tyrion Lannister says, “I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards, and broken things.” It is probably one of my favorite quotes from any book I’ve ever read, because it resonates so strongly with me. And it’s notable that of all the actors in the HBO series, Peter Dinklage, who of course plays Tyrion Lannister, is the most talked about and celebrated.

There’s something there, something about disabilities that pulls at the reader (or viewer, as the case may be), and helps them relate to a character and even make them or the plot more interesting. My husband has never read the books, so I was surprised when he heard that line and turned to me and said, “Wow, that’s powerful.” It’s interesting how one line in a show or a book can resonate strongly with so many people.

What is even more interesting is how disabilities in literature are almost never talked about. In fact, when I was organizing my Special Needs in Strange Worlds event, a large chunk of people backed out saying they were uncomfortable discussing this issue. It’s a sensitive topic, and perhaps that’s why, but disabilities in literature should be noted and celebrated. Disabilities add depth and a very human perspective to any plot, but they so often overlooked in literary discussions.

My oldest brother is disabled. He was born without part of his brain, the corpus collosum, to be exact. For a long time my brother was labeled as high functioning autistic. The symptoms fit, but there is more to my brother’s disability than meets the eye. He has a hard time distinguishing between what’s real and what’s not real. He also has seizures and some physical limitations. My brother has always felt like the odd man out, and in many ways he is. He lives in his own little world. In all honesty, I can’t imagine how isolated he feels. He has as hard of a time connecting with the real world as the real world does with him. This makes it hard for him to work, to have friends, to connect with family. He really struggles, and as his sister, that’s hard to watch.

My brother is the person who got me into fantasy. I’ve often wondered if the reason he likes the genre so much is because it’s a genre where his mind can run wild. It doesn’t have the rules and restrictions of most genres. I can see where that would be appealing to someone with his condition.

A few years ago he had a fever of 109. He was in the hospital for days. Doctors thought he was going to die, but somehow he pulled out of it. However, this incident basically fried his short-term memory. My brother can’t read books anymore. He can’t follow complex plots or keep the characters straight. He was a true bibliophile. He lived in his books, and now he can’t. However, his long-term memory is fine so we often discuss books he has read sometime in the past.

It was during these discussions that my brother started talking extensively about how isolated he often felt while reading fantasy due to how ignored disability often is in literature. He told me numerous times (and left plenty of comments during my event) that disability brings reality and depth to books. It makes them more real, because disabilities are so humbling, so human and so prevalent in our own world. When I put the idea of Special Needs in Strange Worlds past my brother, his exact words were, “Finally, someone is going to talk about how people like me can be important, too.”

My brother is the reason I did Special Needs in Strange Worlds. He walked me through the annals of speculative fiction through a disabled person’s point of view, and showed me how incredibly isolating it must be to struggle so much in reality to connect with other people, and then have to struggle for that same connection in literature as well. My brother can’t read and enjoy books anymore, but he’s not the only disabled person on the planet. Disabilities are incredibly common, ranging from depression to far more serious conditions. Disabilities are all around us, and I wanted Special Needs in Strange Worlds to highlight the importance of disability in literature.

What amazed me was how hungry the Internet seemed to be to read a series of posts featuring disabilities in literature. I didn’t expect more than two weeks worth of posts, but instead I had enough to fill an entire month. In fact, I had so many people offering to write posts for the event, I had to turn several people down. Furthermore, this event received more visits than my blog has ever received in one month in its two years of life. Special Needs in Strange Worlds clocked in at 50,000 unique views. Not only was my brother hungry to hear about how disabled individuals can profoundly influence literature, but a massive amount of other people were, as well.

7 Responses

  • You fill a niche and a needed niche at that.

  • JillA

    I remember reading this post last year, and it affected about as much reading it again. Thank you for working to create something special and good luck with your surgery.

  • This is a wonderful idea, and definitely something that needs highlighting and talking about. Thank you for doing this! I’ll be stopping by to read all the posts. 🙂

  • Rob

    As my sister said, I was a read-a-holic. I have read everything from Old Greek to modern fantasy and science fiction. One thing has always bothered me about si-fi all the way through classic literature. There are imperfect people weather it be a mortal human traveling through hell (in hell being human is a handicap isn’t it?) or Frankenstein where the monster is more human than the Doctor, to the Hunchback of Noter Dame and Mobi Dick to Of Mice and Men. If you’re a list maker trying to make a list of books with imperfect characters, the list would be huge. All of these authors thought it was important to write about the frailty of man and all our imperfections. That’s a subject that’s been almost religiously avoided in all fantasy and science fiction.

    I understand it’s a lot easier to write a book with perfect characters but it’s not real. If you think about these books, there is always something to tie a reader to the real world, whether it be landscape, stars, and sun or many other things. Real people with flaws are the reasons the books I talked about are still discussed. It’s the imperfections of the characters in any artwork that makes it memorable. Like the painting Mona Lisa or the movie Psycho when you walk away with the impression of a deep, compelling characters and images, despite how flawed they are. Handicapped characters do the same things, they relate better to the real world and in doing so, leave something inside a reader that not only entertains us but teaches us that we can still make a difference. We can still function and change things for the better. Handicap or not, isn’t that a good lesson to learn?

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