I don't talk much about it on this blog, but I've always been a science fiction fan. First and foremost, it's been sci-fi that has shaped and motivated me as a writer, and first and foremost among science fiction series, it has been Star Trek that has given me a target to aim at as a writer.
I know the objections to Trek fandom. I know how cheesy it can be, how contrived the stories can seem to people who are still trying to figure out why all the aliens look like regular humans in pirate costumes. I also know how the rose-colored glasses of utopian humanism can put some people off the show.
To me, those rose-colored glasses are important, though. Whether it succeeded or not, Star Trek made a firm stab at showing us a future where kyriarchical axes of oppression had been removed from our culture's psyche. A future where human endeavors could be measured out in terms of the help they brought to others, new knowledge they contributed to the whole, or the way they increased the quality of life for the masses.
I know that, to some extent, the human-dominated discourse in the Star Trek universe has echoes of the ugliest parts of colonialism in it, but I'm also fairly sure that as a sensitive, quiet, and observant child, it was this show that first got me thinking in terms that would allow me to discuss its problems.
But I also know it didn't go far enough. As Trek evolved, it had the opportunity to outgrow its naivete and to develop into a stronger force for cultural criticism. The cracks in the Federation's utopia, the voicing of othered opinions by non-affiliated races, and the greater conversation about how the Federation's values undermined their professed commitment to diversity could have been great topics for the show. On Deep Space Nine, they were treated significantly, and it made me hopeful (as a teenager) that the other Trek shows and books would follow suit.
Unfortunately, they did not. But other science fiction stories have. As Star Trek reached its decadent period, Battlestar Galactica (developed by Ron Moore, the showrunner for Deep Space Nine) took up some of these questions. While BSG had its weaknesses, such as its reliance on extra-natural deus ex devices to fuel the plot's overall design, it was a huge step forward in terms of science fiction as cultural criticism.
Next month, I will be releasing my own first attempt at science fiction: Mirror Project. I don't expect it to be perfect. Even the best science fiction isn't perfect. What I know about the project is that it gave me a vehicle for discussing bodily autonomy, gender construction, the social construction of identity, death, immortality, and the psychological dynamics of coercion. And it allowed me to do that with a robot, which is super cool.
My hope for it is that it will make a strong case for those of you who are not interested in disability lit that I am an author you want to be reading. I also hope that it shows that some of the things that I write about when I write about disability and social justice don't have to be abstract or even very complex--they are fundamental consequences of the way we allow ourselves to talk about relationships and rights in our culture. It's just hard to pin words on them, so for those of us who are uninterested in academic analysis, it can be easier to have that talk through parable or through example.
Nothing is Right gave you an example. Mirror Project is the parable.
Lynn can remember being human, even though she never was. That's part of her problem. Saddled from birth with the memories of her creator's dead wife, she finds herself held inside his laboratory complex against her will. All of her attempts to reach out to the staff are colored by their memory of the woman she was created to replace, too, so they aren't really interested in hearing her arguments about why she is not the woman that they expect her to be.
The really frustrating thing is that they don't even hear her when she expresses anxiety at having to be a woman. Lynn knows what she is, and she knows that her body was created in someone else's ideal image. She can't change that, but she has to confront it every time she looks in the mirror and sees her exaggerated breasts and the permanent "Perfect 10" makeup they've tattooed on her.
With no allies and no one to support her, she begins to act out in the only way she can--by trying to drag her heels, to ruin her sort-of-ex-husband's investment before he can figure out a way to monetize the creature made from his grief. How much resistance can she offer, though, when he can shut her down (or worse, paralyze her but leave her conscious) with the push of a button?
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Mirror Project is currently in the editing phase. To get a sneak peak at a couple of sample chapters, and to receive notification of future releases from me, sign up for my mailing list. After the book's release, I will be posting a couple of excerpts here on my blog, but only list subscribers will receive access to full chapters, and only they get them in advance of the release.