Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Disability in Fiction - A Load of Lovely Links

Thanks in part to your support, the brilliant Lisa Egan made the Independent on Sunday's Pink List, coming in as the country's 78th most influential LGBT person.  Leave this place at once and read her excellent acceptance blog post on the double discrimination of being disabled and gay.  Hooray! (That's hooray she made the list, not that... well, you know what I mean.)

I've been meaning to compile a list of useful links around the fictional representation of disabled people. This is going to be a work in progress and I would very much appreciate your help.  I've compiled this list by memory and from the links given in the comments, so if you have a link to any resource, blog post or article on this, please add it to the comments and I'll add it to my list.

And by all means, if in the future you write or create something about disability in fiction, feel free to come back and (as long as it is suitable) I'll add it to the body of the post. 


This is Stuffed Olive's project which promotes fully inclusive young adult fiction; "specifically fiction with protagonists from groups with limited visibility in popular culture" including disabled people.

The idea is to compile a database of information writing by disabled people about their impairments, how they are misrepresented in fiction, examples of where they are represented well and resources to help writers represent them better.

Media Representation of Disabled People

Provides a basic and accessible breakdown of the problems with disability as currently represented in the media in general.

Rachel's blog covers many disability-related subjects, but features frequent reviews of books and other cultural materials featuring disabled people.

Lisy Babe's Thoughts on TV and Film

As mentioned previously, Lisy talks about disability in TV and film and she also frequently uses this Tumblr to link to useful or pertinent articles or news.

s. e. smith

is one of the most prolific writers on social justice and popular culture on-line, writing about disability and other identities in film, television and books. However ou writes about all sorts, all over the place, so all I can suggest is that you follow ou particularly at Bitch Magazine, but also Tigerbeatdown, Global Comment and ou own blog, this ain't livin'

The FWD team did loads of book, television and film reviews.  I especially recommend trawling through them if you are a non-disabled writer or lack confidence in writing characters with particular impairments. The FWD team were not any kind of representative cross-section of disabled people and we all have different sensitivities when it comes to this stuff (especially language), but a little reading here would give you a good idea about common mistakes and cliches, together with some of the nuances of good representation.

Bogi Tak√°cs: reviews of literature featuring disabled characters.

Loads of fairly short, very readable reviews featuring common tropes of disability in fiction. Prezzey also has a tag for reviews of work by disabled authors.

Blindness Resources Guide for Fanfiction (thanks chordatesrock)

Advice that focuses on portraying a particular blind character (Auggie Anderson from Covert Affairs), however contains tips and resources that would be useful to anyone writing a blind character.

Articles, Essays and Blog Posts: 

this ain't livin': Writing The Other

s. e. smith addresses the anxiety that writers may feel in writing about people with different identities and outlines the importance of putting character before identity. 

Writing on Stella Duffy's blog, actor Lisa Hammond describes the various fears that can stop non-cliched disabled characters appearing on television, and disabled actors being cast in roles which aren't all about their impairments.

SpeEdChange: "God Bless Us Everyone"

Ira explores the position of Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol, his history as a character in the book and the subsequent movie adaptations and his changing symbolism over the years.

Bea Magazine: Bitches Be Cray: The Good, The Bad, and the Pretty Little Liars of Mental Health on TV

This is all about recent (possibly current) US TV shows, but Diane Shipley writes well about the use and abuse of female characters and mental illness in fiction.

It's not actually about fiction, but since this trope has not been covered by any of the other links and it is very well written, Unreliable Witness: Experience mental illness? Oh, you must be creative

Lisybabe's Blog: Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
and So scared of breaking it that you won't let it bend (a review of Unbreakable)

These posts are very specific, about one particular book and film and about the representation of one condition.  But they provide very good examples of the ways that writers and film-makers can latch onto the idea of a medical condition and twist the facts to fit a dramatic story, without considering a readership or audience who have that condition.

The Independent: Why do Bond villains need facial scars?

Victoria Wright talks about the unrelenting trope of the villain maid evil by a facial disfigurement.

Feminist Philosophers: Moving Beyond The Stereotypes

Posts on disability at Feminist Philosophers are a touch disappointing, but the comments thread under this post contains many recommendation for good fictional writing with disabled characters.

These are mostly about addressing common mistakes or assumptions about the lives and behaviour of disabled people including sexuality, attitude towards impairment, the practicalities of life and megalomania. Again, the comments contain some good stuff too. I've also got a Fiction tag which has some other posts on disability and fiction.

The following links are all courtesy of chordatesrock - Thanks! 

Rabbit Lord Of The Undead on how hallucinations & delusions are nothing like on TV

An excellent and personal explanation of one person's experience of hallucinations and delusions, which are, of course nothing like you see on TV or film.

kestrell: What Good Writers Still Get Wrong About Blind People Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Three detailed essays on blind characters in fiction, as well as general stereotypes and misconceptions about blind people and their abilities.

katta: Some Clues on How Not To Write Deaf Characters.

A critique of the common mistakes that writers make when writing deaf characters, with a particular focus on American Sign Language (although I'm sure the same applies to BSL etc - it's about meaning, not words).

The 32nd Flavor: A House Rant, As Promised

Milkshake writes in detail about the character of House and some of the impossible things fanfic-writers want that character to do, including activities that would need a great number of pillows.

Right, what have I forgotten or not seen yet?  Yes, my criteria is fairly loose.


Max. said...

Inside I'm Dancing with James McAvoy as a young man with Duchenne muscular dystrophy is very good.

prezzey said...

Hi, I'm reviewing recent speculative fiction (mostly short fiction) with a focus on underrepresented groups. I have some related tags if you're interested. These two are probably the most relevant:


But I have a bunch more, here's my comprehensive list of tags:


If you have any recommendations about recent stuff to review (it can also be bad!) I'd be happy to have them. This is probably the only way I can do disability advocacy currently due to my health, so I'm trying to get at least this right.

I hope this was at least marginally useful :]

Ruth Madison said...

Awesome! I'm working on a book about writing characters who have disabilities as a resource for authors.

I would love to get your input on it when I have a draft ready!

The Goldfish said...

Thanks folks - sorry a bit slow this week, lots going on.

Max - Thanks for the recommendation, but I've not heard many good things about it at all (the title doesn't help).

Prezzey - this is more than marginally useful, thank you. I think looking at literature and popular culture is a valid and important part of disability advocacy.

Ruth - That sounds great, and I look forward to it.

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to put together a list of resources for a long time. Here's what I have so far:



Mental illness

Mobility-related Disabilities

The Goldfish said...

Wow Cordatesrock - these rock!

Thank you very much. Not only have you provided great resources, but you've pointed me to bloggers I didn't know before.

(Sorry that, once again, it's taken me ages to reply to comments - a very heavy week, but the load is beginning to lighten.)

The Goldfish said...

P.S. Apologies for misspelling of your name!

Anonymous said...

Here's another series: http://rachelmanija.livejournal.com/541123.html This is Part One, but it links to all the other parts.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I have recently started a penguins of Madagascar fic called 'how madagascar came to be' it's not finished yet, but it involves a lot of disabled oc's. I would provide a link but i don't know how, so if you type in the name it should come up. Roxy