Friday, March 21, 2014

Blogoversary Celebration Day 5: A Cruise with Katie from "Space Crip" + 15.00 Amazon Giftcard giveaway+Bonus 10.00 Amazon giftcard Giveaway!!!

Diversity blogs seem so hard to come by. Add in diversity blogs that cater to geeks of Sci-fi, Fantasy, Horror, Speculative Fiction and Action, and they're even harder to find. It's very disappointing that of all the blogs we've found highlighting disabled/differently abled characters are so few and far between. That's why this blog is so amazing. Space Crip analyzes and highlights disabled characters in the SFF world. And shouldn't there be more? I mean according to the Census Bureau Reports, nearly 1 in 5 Americans have a disability. And that just in the United States. It's about time we started seeing that represented more in our media. But until then, Space Crip is doing that and more!

1. For those of who may not be as familiar with your blog, please tell us, what is Space Crip?

Space Crip is a long-form blog that considers how sci-fi/fantasy portrays disability and disability’s interactions with other identities (i.e., race, gender, sexuality). A typical post on Space Crip deals with the positive and negative messages that are being made about disability in a sci-fi/fantasy film, TV series, book, or podcast. 

2. Who makes the magic happen behind Space Crip? What prompted you to start Space Crip in the first place?

Space Crip is a one-person blog run by me, Katie. I started Space Crip as an honors thesis project the last semester of my undergrad. The semester before I wrote a thesis paper on how the series Farscape portrays disability and sexuality, and how that compares to Star Trek. The goal of the honors thesis class was to expand on or transform our thesis paper. I realized fairly early that I wanted to share my thesis in some form with online fan communities, because so much of my research and writing was helped by the work done in those communities: I used fan transcripts, I cited TV Tropes a couple times in my paper, I discussed disabled characters with other fans. I decided the best way to share my work was by starting a blog tailored to fannish and disability communities online. So, I turned parts of my thesis into blog posts, which entailed making the language more accessible and adding all the curse words I couldn’t use in a formal academic paper. I also wrote posts that fit in with the way of looking at sci-fi/fantasy that I’d developed while writing my thesis. Things took off from there.

3. Representation definitely matters. When we scream "diversity" , many make sure People of Color and GLBTQ community make their lists, but not enough people make sure to represent disabled people. Why do you think representing disabled characters in a more positive light is important?

(a) Personally, as a disabled person, it really means a lot when I come across a character like me who isn’t a stereotype.

I mean, I can work with stereotypes; I’ve certainly found ways to relate to and even rescue stereotypical characters from the bigoted stories they’re stuck in. I’ve learned how to root for the disabled villain without overlooking their evil deeds. I’ve learned ways to discover moments where pitiful disabled characters resist the non-disabled characters who patronize them for their own good. I think most people who are oppressed in some way have learned to do this with a media that seems to only pump out stereotypical images of themselves. (At the risk of getting too academic, the late great José Esteban Muñoz might call this “disidentification” or a “method of survival”.)
But it’s nice not to have to dig through layers and layers of bigoted storytelling to get to the creamy, non-bigoted center.

(b) There's also the issue of what images of disability non-disabled audiences are getting.

For a lot of non-disabled people, the disabled characters they see in the media are the only disabled people they know--or at least, the only disabled person they know with that specific type of disability. So depictions of disability in the media can have a huge impact on how non-disabled people think about disabled people. For example, most wheelchair users on film and TV have lower body paralysis due to spinal cord injuries--characters like Artie from Glee, Jake from Avatar, Professor X from the X-Men. Because this is the single image of wheelchair users that most non-disabled people are getting, they tend to believe that anyone who uses a wheelchair can't stand or walk even short distances. And this can result in non-disabled people thinking that wheelchair users who can walk and/or stand are fakers who really don't need their wheelchairs. Sometimes that leads non-disabled people into taking unattended wheelchairs or scooters for joyrides, because they believe if someone really needed a wheelchair, they wouldn't be able to get out of their wheelchair.

Basically, a lot of how non-disabled people think disabled people should be treated--as a group or as individuals--comes from who they think disabled people are, and a lot of that comes from media representations.

4. Why Sci-fi, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction? Do you find that there are significant differences in how disabled people are portrayed in SFF, SF versus a non-SFF fiction setting?

One of the big draws for sci-fi/fantasy is that offers the opportunity to show worlds other than our own. That can mean alien planets or the future or magical lands. Those settings aren't bound by the constraints and bigotry of our world, which means disabled people can exist and thrive in new and interesting ways. Unfortunately, this potential isn't always realized.

Sci-fi that takes place in the future is also a really powerful opportunity to show that disabled people can and will exist in the future. We won't be bred out of the gene pool or "cured" or murdered at birth. We will be allowed to live and have a place in society. That offers a lot of hope for disabled people who are constantly hearing messages about medical advancements getting rid of people like them in the future. It also shows non-disabled people that a future with disabled people is possible and could even be a good thing.

As far as how disabled characters are portrayed in sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction versus other genres, I find that disabled characters in SFF tend to be a lot more integrated into the story and are shown as having something to offer. They get to do things other than sit in a corner and be sad about their disability. In general. Of course, there are a number of stereotypical portrayals of disabled people in SFF--that's partially what I run a blog about--but usually the ways that they are stereotypical or problematic are a lot more subtle and complex than in other genres.

5.  I think it's safe to say disabled people are highly underrepresented or dangerously misrepresented. What do you think are some of the misconceptions about disabled people in Scifi, Fantasy or Speculative Fiction?

Probably one of the biggest misconceptions is that magical, alien, or futuristic institutions (i.e., nursing homes or long-term stay mental institutions) would be so much more advanced than the institutions we have today that locking people away in institutions (often without their consent) would be okay. There are a lot of ways that institutions could be improved, but the larger issues surrounding institutionalization are the ways that those facilities isolate disabled people from their families and the rest of society and limit the power of disabled people to make basic decisions about their lives. No amount of magic or fancy technology can make those negative aspects of institutions go away. You can make as many surface changes to institutions as you want, but the core of institutions remains rotten. That's why the disability rights movement is so deeply opposed to institutionalization. 

6. In Space Crip's opinion, what are some of the best representations of disabled people in SFF(It could be movies, books, tv shows, comics,etc.)? Any real life role models?

Scorpius from Farscape is one of my all time favorites. He's a villain, but he's one people root for. He's sexual and sexually desirable, which breaks the stereotype of disabled people as de-sexualized.

Abed Nadir from Community, which is a sitcom with a lot of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror episodes. Abed finally gives us an autistic character (and a Muslim man of color, at that) in a sitcom who the audience laughs with rather than at and whose experience of discrimination is not played as a joke.

In real life, I greatly admire Lydia Brown, Amanda Baggs , and Leroy Moore, founder of the Krip Hop Nation.

7. If you could choose one book, one tv series, one graphic novel or comic book and one motion picture each with the best representation of disabled characters, which one of each would Space Crip choose?

For books, I would have to say The Hunger Games trilogy for its representation of mental illness. The characters have extremely traumatizing things happen to them and develop mental illnesses as a result, but those mental illnesses aren't the sole focus of the rest of their stories. I think this is really important in a book written for and starring young adults. Other YA lit (like Harry Potter) often shows kids and teens facing some pretty terrible stuff without any long-term emotional or psychological consequences. While I'm not saying everyone who faces trauma develops mental illness, I think excluding those who do from YA lit sends some unfortunate messages to kids and teens with PTSD and other mental illnesses. "Well, if Harry Potter can be abused by his family and hunted down by Voldemort without having panic attacks later on, then I don't have an excuse."

For TV, I'm gonna go with Carnivàle because it has a disabled lead who is played by a disabled actor and is totally awesome. Elementary also does a good job representing drug addiction and recovery culture. 

I haven't read very many graphic novels or comics, so I don't feel qualified to make any judgments on that front.

As for films, there's two short documentaries about disability that I really dig. The Power of 504 is about disabled people occupying a government building in the 1970s to get the federal government to implement one of the first disability rights laws. Breathing Lessons tells the story of disabled poet Mark O'Brien in his own words. 

Granted, none of these representations are perfect. Even the documentaries present a biased picture of the disabled experience.

8. Your blog obviously has a huge following. Im hoping it's from disabled and non-disabled people alike( I know I sure am!). What are some of the best things you've heard from the audience out there on the world wide web?

One of the best things I've heard from my audience is one person calling one of my posts, "high-minded moral indignation," which was intended as an insult, but I think it fairly accurately describes what I'm trying to do with the blog.

In all honesty, the best things I hear are, "I hadn't thought of it that way," or, "I'm glad someone finally wrote about this."

I wouldn't say that I have a huge following, but I'm fortunate to have a good number of people who really enjoy the blog. 

9. Finally, for those of us who learned some, but wish to learn more about anything and everything Space Crip, where can we visit to receive updates and info so we don't get left behind!

You can find me on Tumblr, where I reblog posts relevant to disability and representation in sci-fi/fantasy, write shorter posts about that topic, and link to my latests post on the main Space Crip blog.

I think Katie has made some reallllly great points!This is definitely a topic my sister and I would like to bring up more often. Privilege can sometimes cloud your opinion on something when you yourself can not experience or have not experienced certain things. Learning something new on a particular subject can be a rewarding experience, but sometimes I think we neglect how important it is for us to "Un-learn"certain ignorances or prejudices on things, people or experiences we don't know enough about. We've learned and "un-learned" something extremely important with this fantastic female on our blog! We hope you learned something too! 

Don't forget our giveaway everyone!And just to make your chances of winning higher, Romance Novels in Color is also hosting a giveaway for a 10.00 amazon gift card through Twinja Book Reviews! Visit here for details

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