Nonfiction Introduction

The notes that I wrote myself when I started the journey of editing Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction are clear. The words I gave myself were about envisioning a future free from eugenics, about confronting the implicit biases of our genre, and I’m pleased to say the authors in the nonfiction section have torn those walls down in ways I never could have imagined.

Despite a history of thinking about how to make the future better for everyone, science fiction has relentlessly left disabled people behind. These essayists have re-envisioned the genre beautifully. Ira Gladkova’s essay on Miles Vorkosigan explores how the disabled hero has done more than just create representation for physically disabled readers, and John Wiswell discusses the intricacies of disabled exclusion in his Infinity War essay.

Fran Wilde teaches us how to write our stories, explaining the importance of point of view and perspective to a disabled narrator. “In Design a Spaceship,” Andi Buchanan beautifully disrupts the narrative of no disabled people in space, leaving no room for anyone to disagree with the image of wheelchairs on a spaceship. Marieke Nijkamp reminds us that eugenics has no place in a future that we build together.

In the science fiction that we write, we are envisioning new worlds, new futures, new beginnings. Each of the authors in Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction’s nonfiction section has done their part to show you the world they want to live in, and that they already belong to. We belong to the stars, to the spaceships, to the scientists and time travellers. We belong to new worlds and places no man has gone before.

We couldn’t wedge every single disabled perspective into this issue, though we tried. Not every disability is represented here, but we encourage you to dream past the borders that you’ve been given by this genre in the past. We encourage you to see Deaf astronauts, imagine blind scientists, give voice to wheelchair-using time travelers, and hand new tech over to neuroatypical hackers in cyberpunk worlds. We hope you’ll see this issue not as an ending, but as a starting point for a re-envisioning of a genre that has left us out for too long.

I’m incredibly proud to have worked on this issue with my co-editor Dominik Parisien. Together we’ve worked hard to create a writing and editorial environment where disabled creators (including ourselves) could flourish. Where we could imagine beyond the borders of what we’ve been given, and where, if we needed it, there was always someone to catch us and support us as we worked towards our mutual goal.

Welcome to the future. Welcome to OUR future, the one we all hope someday to have.


Elsa Sjunneson

Elsa Sjunneson is a Deafblind author and editor living in Seattle, Washington. Her fiction and nonfiction writing has been praised as “eloquence and activism in lockstep” and has been published in dozens of venues around the world. She has been a Hugo Award finalist seven times, and has won Hugo, Aurora, and BFA awards for her editorial work. When she isn’t writing, Sjunneson works to dismantle structural ableism and rebuild community support for disabled people everywhere. Her work includes her debut memoir Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism, her Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla novel Sword of the White Horse, and her episode for Radiolab “The Helen Keller Exorcism.”

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