Welcome to Dr. Kathryn Allan's blog! I'm an Independent Scholar of science fiction and disability studies (specializing in cyberpunk, feminist SF, and SF TV & film), Editor of Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure, and the inaugural recipient of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship. My PhD thesis is awesome: Bleeding Chrome: Technology and the Vulnerable Body in Feminist Post-Cyberpunk SF [pdf]. I write about my time spent in the academy, my current research into representations of disability in SF, and anything shiny that catches my eye. If you like what you read, follow me on Twitter @BleedingChrome.
The Accessing the Future campaign turned one week old this weekend and we (my co-editor Djibril al-Ayad and I) have been busy spreading the word. Thankfully, we've had a lot of cool and generous people blog about the anthology or interview us about the ideas behind Accessing the Future. Also, Jo Thomas kicked off a blog hop where we invite writers and readers to reflect on the role of disability and power in a recent work. Here are all of the links in one place:
- Blog hop home page (The Future Fire)
- Accessing the Future Fiction, The Journeymouse Edition (blog hop by Jo Thomas)
- Accessing the Future from the Graveyard Shift (blog hop by David Gillon)
- Interview by Fabio Fernandes (Different Frontiers)
- Post by N.A. Ratnayake
- Post by Maureen Kindcaid Speller (Paper Knife)
- Post by Cheryl Morgan (Mewsings)
- Interview on Margrét Helgadóttir's blog
- Interview (of me!) by Cheryl Morgan for Salon Futura podcast
- Post by A.C. Buchanan about disability in speculative fiction
I'll post another link round up next Monday as we continue to take over the internet. Until then, please help boost the signal and contribute to Accessing the Future!
After months of planning and preparation, I am totally stoked to announce my next project: co-editing (with the amazing Djibril al-Ayad) a volume of dis/ability themed speculative fiction, Accessing the Future. I've been dreaming of this project for years now, so it's quite exciting to see it come to reality...well almost. We are fundraising on Indiegogo, so please visit our page and snap up one of the many great perks. We've already received a promising first reaction from our campaign supporters and allies, so we're confident that this campaign will be a success. Please help us cross the finish line and make Accessing the Future the next hit SF anthology! Visit our Indiegogo campaign to donate & get cool stuff, and help boost the signal over Twitter, and like our Facebook page. Awesome!
We are raising funds to publish a special anthology of dis/ability-themed speculative fiction, Accessing the Future, co-edited by Kathryn Allan (me!) and Djibril al-Ayad, to be published by Futurefire.net Publishing. Futurefire.net Publishing is the publisher of both The Future Fire magazine of social-political speculative fiction, and of two previous anthologies, Outlaw Bodies (2012, co-edited by Lori Selke) and We See a Different Frontier (2013, co-edited by Fabio Fernandes). Djibril al-Ayad, a historian and futurist, co-edited both volumes and has edited TFF since 2005.
This anthology will call for and publish speculative fiction stories that interrogate issues of dis/ability—along with the intersecting nodes of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both the imagined physical and virtual spaces of the future. We want people of all abilities to see themselves, as they are now and as they want to be, in our collective human future.
The Anthology Details
Inspired by the cyberpunk and feminist science fiction of yesterday and the DIY, open access, and hacktivist culture of today, Accessing the Future will be an anthology that explores the future potentials of technology to augment and challenge the physical environment and the human form—in all of its wonderful and complex diversity.
We are particularly interested in stories that interrogate issues of dis/ability—and the intersecting nodes of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both physical and virtual spaces. Dis/ability is a social construct, and all bodies do not fit into or navigate the material environment in the same way(s). Personal and institutional bias against disability marginalizes and makes “deviant” people with certain differences, but it doesn't have to be that way.
We want to ask:
- How will humanity modify the future world?
- What kinds of new spaces will there be to explore and inhabit? Who will have access to these spaces and in what ways?
- Given that we all already rely on (technological) tools to make our lives easier, what kinds of assistive and adaptive technologies will we use in the future?
- How will augmentations (from the prosthetic to the genetic) erase or exacerbate existing differences in ability, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, and race?
- What does an accessible future look like?
Accessing the Future will be a collection of speculative fiction that places emphasis on the social, political, and material realms of being. We aren’t looking for stories of “cure,” that depict people with disabilities (or with other in/visible differences) as “extra special,” as inspirations for the able bodied, or that generally reproduce today’s dominant reductionist viewpoints of dis/ability as a fixed identity and a problem to be solved. We want stories that place emphasis on intersectional narratives (rejection of, undoing, and speaking against ableist, heteronormative, racist, cissexist, and classist constructions) and that are informed by an understanding of dis/ability issues and politics at individual and institutional levels. We want to hear from writers that think critically about how prosthetic technologies, new virtual and physical environments, and genetic modifications will impact human bodies, our communities, and the planet.
Slowly but surely, people are discovering Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure. So far, the edited collection has received four positive reviews. I couldn't be happier. I really didn't know what to expect when the book was published. Would anyone read it? How would non-academic fans react? The response to date, after 10 months on the market, has been excellent. See for yourself (links listed in order of most recent to oldest):
"In her introduction to the collection, Kathryn Allan writes that she intends this book to be an opening round in the only just beginning conversation between SF studies and critical dis/ability studies. But I would argue that she has quite surpassed that humble goal, giving us instead an anthology that will remain a critical work for scholars and fans in both fields for years to come." - Sarah Sackville-McLauchlan, Canadian Journal of Disability Studies
"Disability in Science Fiction seems to present a selection of possibilities rather than an overarching argument (a sort of critical buffet) - though these possibilities can feed off each other in exciting ways. Other works and collections will hopefully build on some of what is here; Allan's collection is a good beginning." - Aishwarya Subramanian, Strange Horizons
"It is hard to say enough good about Disability in Science Fiction. It is, quite simply, the single best resource for those interested in the intersection of SF and disability. Not only does it provide seed stock for future research in disability studies, but in the rich example of nexuses between disability and SF that it provides, it makes the case that no course in science fiction literature can afford to ignore a discussion of disability . . . While it may not be true that every reader is a science fiction fan, it would take someone with a great poverty of imagination to come away from Disability in Science Fiction without becoming excited by some idea it sparked." - Michael Northen, Editor of Wordgathering
"Disability in Science Fiction is an unusual collection of academic articles: it combines interesting scholarship with an remarkable degree of accessibility to the general reader . . . It is a very thought-provoking collection, and one I'm glad to have read." - Liz Bourke, Tor.com
I don’t know what to write about the time I spent in the University of Oregon’s Special Collections reading room in the beautiful Knight Library from May 26 to June 5. There’s not enough distance between the massive information download and today when I write this post. It was only yesterday when I realized that not even two weeks have passed since I returned home. It appears I’ve lost track of time. When I was researching, hours felt like minutes. I measured out time in folders of letters. The first few days back home, I threw myself into re-establishing my normal routine in order to avoid fully acknowledging that something integral in the direction of my life has changed. At the moment, my head is still full of other people’s lives and I only hold back telling their stories by force of will and mental exhaustion. Needless to say, I didn’t expect to come away from my archival research with such an overwhelming mix of intellectual excitement and emotional turmoil (but in a good way).
As the inaugural Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction fellow, over the course of ten days (from 10:00am to 4:30pm), I power read 1000s of letters in the archived collections of Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Suzette Haden Elgin, and Sally Miller Gearhart. The letters cover the time period from the late 1960s to the 2000s (I kept my search to the 60s to mid-80s). I was privy to the often intimate thoughts of these women, and also to those on the other side of the correspondence. Most significantly, for me, were the letters of James Tiptree, Jr. and Philip K. Dick. There are other notable science fiction writers on that list too, but as they are still living, I’m not quite ready to name them in any kind of public reflection. It’s enough to say that I’ve met many of the great luminaries of science fiction through their inspiring, well-crafted letters.
I returned home with scans of over 500+ letters (1,021 pages in total), and I am expecting scans of another entire series of an important correspondence (which was unintentionally missed during my stay) to be sent to me in the next few weeks. This is a lot of data to process. Now the real work starts. I must intently read each page and begin to make sense of what I’ve learned. I don’t know what any of it really means to my own scholarship yet. A few projects have taken shape in my mind, but I’m simply too close to the original research experience to see what’s in front of me (the whole “can’t see the forest for the trees” kind of deal). If you were hoping for some exciting research revelations in this post, sorry! I need more time to process everything. I need to return fully back to my own time, to the current moment. I am all starts and stops right now but I wanted to post something here to help ground me. This is a beginning.