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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Zee"
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ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2012 05:21 am (UTC) (Link)


>>Am I weird for disliking the "disabilities into superpowers" trope?<<

Based on my observation of this topic, dislike is the prevailing opinion. I'm in the minority for liking that trope. As long as you're polite about it like this, I'm cool with that; people are entitled to have different tastes. I just get annoyed when people are snarky about it, and that's very common with these issues.

>> Maybe I'm too fond of the reverse, turning superpowers into liabilities...<<

I really like that one too.

I like both, because they speak to different aspects of my own experiences and my observations of other people's experiences with abilities that are above or below average. Sometimes a limitation in one area pushes you to develop something else a lot more than usual. Sometimes a gift comes with a very costly drawback. To me, those are interesting stories.

I very frequently do this with gaming characters, and I will never understand why gaming companies always give in and nerf the super-powered races because dumb game masters don't understand the built-in drawbacks well enough to compensate for the advantages. I love playing, or GMing, characters with very strong strength and weakness peaks. It's just more exciting.

Thing is, when you're dealing with a topic like this, you have to know what you're doing. If you screw up the practical details, people will justifiably complain. If you trivialize the gravity of the situation, people will justifiably complain. Sometimes writers flub this stuff awfully, and I don't like that at all. But I wish that people would not assume it's always going to be a botch-up in some way.

I believe that a good story about a handicapped hero is one where the flaw matters -- you can see how it affects the character's worldview, actions, other people's behavior, etc. -- yet that isn't necessarily the only thing going on in the plot, there is also some other concern.

Some of the stories I write are 'about' disability, and how people deal with it, like "Clouds in the Morning," where Rai struggles with a visual handicap in a school system that makes no accommodations for it. Others are just stories about people going about their lives, and it happens that they have a disability; "These Teeth, Like Stars" is about Marai celebrating Raiser Day, and how she experiences it as a deaf woman. I developed both of those Torn World characters, and for each of them I did research on what their handicap is and how people with that handicap function. Marai is actually an adoptable character, shared by contributors, and several other folks have also done research on deaf people so her stories are really good at conveying that experience. Now it happens that Rai has an ability he doesn't know about yet, but I as an author do: he can see the Others. That's not exactly a superpower, but could be construed as such in the South, although it's the norm for Northerners. Marai on the other hand is pretty ordinary. Then if you look at the daughter of Monster House, she is blind, just barely able to distinguish stark constrasts. But she's got a seeing-eye gremlin, and later on, the Eye of Fate. There are things she can see and things she can't, which affects how she moves through the world and how she interacts with people. She's never all one thing or all the other, always in-between. And her poems often focus on her perceptions of the world, especially the difference between eyesight and visionary awareness. Those are just a few examples of exploring different aspects of ability and disability, worldviews, how other people react, etc.

42 comments or Leave a comment