Monday, September 8, 2014

Accessing The Future- Kathryn Allan & Djibril al-Ayad talk about their SF anthology, exploring disability and the intersectionality of other marginalizations in Science Fiction

Kathryn Allan, with Djibril al-Ayad (of Publishing), is co-editing a forthcoming anthology, Accessing the Future, that will explore disability—and the intersectionality of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both the imagined physical and virtual spaces of the future. Kathryn wants people of all abilities to see themselves, as they are now and as they want to be, in our collective human future(s). Please pre-order the anthology and help the editors pay a professional rate to all authors: Accessing The Future Indiegogo link. They’re so close to a first stretch goal!


In your pitch for the campaign, you note that cyberpunk is an inspiration. What elements from cyberpunk (including pre- and post-) are you inspired by in terms of thinking about disability?

So many! First things that come to mind are the body mods: mirror shades, razor nails, brain jacks, sped up reflexes… all of the “cool” tech stuff that makes cyberpunk characters so much fun. I want to know the cost of using that tech: not only in terms of how much money or resources it takes to buy it, but in terms of the physical and mental costs involved. Does it hurt to have the internet directly jacked into your brain? Do you get tired faster? How do you experience time passing? How does one’s social identity impact how they approach using a brain jack? Who do they become when they are online? Is it really possible to be someone else in a virtual world? All of these kinds of questions are fascinating to me and they become quite complex when you think of them in a disability framework where you need to consider access, power, lived experience, navigating institutional and environmental barriers… There’s a lot going on in cyberpunk (regardless of its generation) in terms of disability because the subgenre is so focused on questions of power and technology in a globalized world.

Tell us a bit about your interest with body modification and technological augments. What questions do you think are important for SF writers to address?

Thinking of any kind of body/neural modification, I always want to know who has access to the technology and at what cost? If brain implants turn people into tools, what does that say about our current valuing of marginalized people? If the kind of technology (or close enough) is in use today, what’s happening with it? Who is excluded/included? Where does agency lie? Too often, people with disabilities who use prosthestics and other technological aides are viewed as “cyborgs” and seen as something other than “normal” people. When many science fiction writers take up similar technologies in their work, they don’t stop to think about the people who use them today, in really mundane (and often physically uncomfortable) ways.

Your past experience with editing is in scholarship (with Disability in Science Fiction). How do you expect the process of editing a fiction anthology to differ from publishing a collection of academic essays on this theme?

The audience, for one, is different. Of course there is overlap, but there are definitely varying expectations of language, theoretical framing, and intention. And, for Accessing the Future, I am co-editing with Djibril al-Ayad, which is certainly a new experience for me (as I edited Disability in Science Fiction on my own). When I was editing my scholarly collection, I had full creative control over what went into it: I wrote the call for papers, selected the essays, I gave feedback and direction to the writers, and I had a clear plan on how the anthology would be organized. For Accessing the Future, on the other hand, I don’t know what to expect from the writers who will submit—because the call for submissions allows for a broad range of stories, I expect that we will see many pieces that we simply can’t anticipate. And that’s exciting! Editing a fiction anthology is full of more unknowns, which, for me, makes it a greater challenge, especially when it comes time to select the stories we want to buy. I’m already looking forward to arguing (in a good way) with Djibril about what story works and what doesn’t—the end product will definitely be a worthwhile one!

Please support the Accessing the Future anthology at Official Indiegogo Campaign.


  1. I think this book is great. It's also a fantastic way to put writing and advocating for a good cause together. I hope to get a chance to read it.

  2. @Anne, I know, I cant wait to see the final product!


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