Disability, Intersex Identity, and Transgender Identity in The Orville’s About a Girl

Bortus and his partner walking down a hallway, a baby in his arms. They look like Klingons

Guest blogger: Joy Michael Ellison.

In case you missed it – or were trying to avoid it – The Orville is a new thinly-veiled Star Trek spoof created by (and starring) Seth MacFarlane. Yes, the creator of Family Guy is writing sci-fi.  At first, I thought the show was what I feared: it’s a little like your least favorite fan boy tried to write satire, but ended up spilling beer and heterosexuality everywhere.  However, somewhere between the dick jokes (and there are a lot of dick jokes), MacFarlane decided to follow in Gene Rodenberry’s footsteps.  In its third episode About a Girl, The Orville does what sci-fi does best: think through contemporary social issues.  About a Girl provides commentary on intersex surgeries. The only problem is, MacFarlane doesn’t seem to know that’s what he’s doing.

Red alert: I’m about to boldly spoil this episode.Read more…

De-institutionalization and Cripping in Breathe, Directed by Andy Serkis

A white man in an old-fashioned wheelchair is outside, abled people surround him, smiling

Guest blogger: Aimee Louw is a freelance journalist, writer, consultant, filmmaker, and radio host living in Canada. Her blog centers on accessibility, crip life, sex, and media.

Based on a true story, Breathe covers the adult life of Robin Cavendish, a man who contracted polio in post-World War II England, when requiring a ventilator to breathe meant across the board institutional living and immobility. The story follows Cavendish’s journey from active and horny young man, to newly-disabled, depressed institutionalized patient, to disability advocate/ innovator. There is a large focus on the triumph of love prevailing over despair with his wife, Diana. As the trailers began, I popped some painkillers, and I settled in with my non-institutionalized boyfriend, J.

The film opens in an idyllic English countryside, with voracious young men playing cricket. The main character, played by Andrew Garfield, ogles with other young men at a pretty lady, Diana, played by Claire Foy. The swells of orchestral music that accompany the displays of Robin’s physical prowess forebode trouble looming for this strapping young man. … Read more…

Cripping Greengully: Accessibility in Charterstone by Stonemaier Games

Green board with square tiles, and one dice with a circle and tie symbol on it. The tiles on the board have tiny buildings on them.

“Wait, what? That’s bullshit! I won!” I yell as I imagine myself flipping the table (as I can’t actually flip it, and I wouldn’t do that anyway).

And so ends our third round of Charterstone, the latest tabletop adventure by designer Jamey Stegmaier. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my boyfriend so enthused by a board game, and I don’t think he’s ever seen me so angry about losing. At its core, Charterstone is a worker-placement game that feels similar to Stegmaier’s popular Viticulture. You start with two worker tokens to place on various buildings on the board, and those buildings give you resources, and those resources let you earn victory points. But what sets Charterstone apart from similar titles is that it’s a legacy-style game. That means, every time you play, you alter the game; this includes opening new mechanics, advancing the story, using special components, and more. It’s like unfolding a present after every game – and that surprise is addicting.

Or, as evidenced by my quote above, the discoveries can be infuriating. Without giving too much away, let’s say that an end-game card drastically changed the score in a way that was out of my control. My boyfriend Michael gloated, marking a victory on his score tracker, while I jokingly stated that the game was cheating. I thought I was going to be undefeated, having won the two previous rounds. But in my mind, I’m still a champ – or, if you listen to Michael, a sore loser. … Read more…

Star Trek and the Future of Disability – #CripTrek

#CripTrek logo with a Star Trek insignia, and a wheelchair icon in the middle. Images of DS9's Melora and Discovery's Ash Tyler as well

Guest Blogger: In addition to being a Star Trek fan, RoAnna Sylver is the author of the hopeful-dystopian Chameleon Moon series, and is working on a vampire series Stake Sauce and Death Masquerade. You can follower them on Twitter, or check out their blog

Spend time in a sci-fi fandom, and you’ll notice something, especially if you’re disabled. Even in universes where warp drive is everyday, disabled and physically/mentally ill people are conspicuously scarce, often absent. We’re told our presence would be “unrealistic,” but I think the reverse is true. It’s unrealistic, and very telling, for us to be missing.

Seminal SFF franchise Star Trek isn’t perfect, but it does better than most. Even non-Trek fans know Geordi LaForge from The Next Generation, the visually disabled engineer whose adaptive equipment lets him do anything able-bodied people can, and then some. But there are a lot more disabled (and disability-coded) characters throughout the series, including the new Discovery. No media is perfect, and often, Trek’s complex stories are simultaneously excellent and disappointing. But, fittingly for the forward-looking franchise, there’s a lot of reason to hope. … Read more…

Convention Tips for Spoonies: Nerding Out with Fibromyalgia (and Other Disabilities)

Aerial shot of a convention hall packed with people looking at booths

Guest blogger: Elaine Tamblyn-Watts is an Ottawa-based Anglo-Anishinaabe writer and editor. She was supposed to become a foreign correspondent, but she developed fibromyalgia and had to drop out of journalism school, so now she watches a lot of cartoons and gets a lot more work done. Elaine served as copy editor for The Charlatan for the 2016-17 year, put out a poetry chapbook called Fingernail Moon, and is currently working on about nineteen other projects.

My best friend is a cosplayer. Between her eye for detail, her sewing skills, her sheer resourcefulness, and her courage in the face of frequent glue-gun burns, she’s got a real knack for it – and it shows. For her, our local comic con is bigger than Christmas. She waits for it, prepares for it, works late into the night beforehand and early the morning of. Last spring, she dragged me along with her.

Psyched as I was for us to hang out together, especially in full Teen Titans cosplay, I didn’t handle it super well. The lack of sleep barely fazed her, but it had me looking more like a Walking Dead extra than a 2005-era Cartoon Network Raven. I stumbled through the convention center parking lot with very little grasp of what I was getting into. After five minutes in the main con area, I nope’d back out again to hunt down some coffee and silence. By the end of the day, I was miserable and exhausted, and I figured conventions weren’t for me. … Read more…

Gaming While Learning Disabled: 3 Tabletop Games that Just Don’t Work

6 game pawns in different basic colors

Guest blogger: James Cole is a freelance writer living in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. He was diagnosed with a Learning Disability in Grade 4, in the wild and lawless 1980’s. James belongs to two board gaming groups, just started running a D&D campaign, and is wildly uncomfortable writing about himself in the third person. Yelling at James can be accomplished on Twitter, and you can judge his board game collection on Board Game Geek under the handle talentdepot.

I’ve made mistakes.

I try to be strategic in my board game purchases, but it’s complicated to navigate because of my Learning Disability.

I was diagnosed with a visual processing LD in grade school. Broadly translated, I have difficulty learning things I’ve seen. That includes basic things like math, spelling, and attaching people’s names and faces.

These three games are good, maybe even great games. Their reputation and reviews got me to purchase them. But they were unsuitable for me because of my LD. As a result, they’ve left my collection. … Read more…

Black Disabled Art History 101 – Book Review

Image of a black man in a room, a young black boy projected behind him on the wall

Guest blogger: Jackie Pilgrim is an advocate diagnosed with Asperger’s, mother to a young adult also on the Autism Spectrum, and an International Speaker on Autism and Intellectual Disabilities. You can find her on Facebook, as well as on her blog, AutismsLove.

A young Black boy born with a physical disability learns about Black disabled musicians from the album covers of his father’s record collection. Later, he would come to realize the strength he gained from seeing those images and listening to their music when having to face teachers and other adults constantly telling him there were no artists who were Black and disabled like him. Leroy Moore’s passion kindled when he was a little boy has come full circle as he draws from his childhood discovery of not being the only, but being one of many Black disabled artists.

Black Disabled Art History 101 will open airways and doorways for Black disabled children’s imaginations to soar as they aspire to become artists or whatever else they want to be. Like Leroy, they too will draw strength from the images, knowledge, music and written words about and born of disabled Black artists. Readers of all ages will enjoy discovering a genre of history little known, beautifully crafted with colorful portraits of artists and their work interwoven with poetry in an age old storytelling style.

Black Disabled Art History 101 is a chronicle of art history unlike any other.

This is only the beginning.

Read more…

No Dice? No Problem: Web-Based Solutions for Tabletop Gamers

No Dice? No Problem. Web Based Solutions for Tabletop Gamers. Image of a laptop with a d20 on screen

Guest blogger: Lydia Rivers is a writer who enjoys service dog advocacy, gaming, and nerdly fandoms. You can find her with the good folks at Anime Herald, advocacy on her personal blog, and Twitter @Planet_Bork.

The saying is “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but for me, games are apples. Even if I only have time for a single Sudoku, I have to play something to maintain my mental health. And it’s not easy for disabled social gamers. Even if we manage to avoid ableism in our gaming groups, a myriad of other circumstances can physically isolate us from our friends.  Many years ago, I developed major depression from limitations interfering with this hobby. Fortunately, for isolated gamers, technology has presented increasingly sophisticated solutions to our problems. Web-based tabletop gaming (and distance co-op in general) has changed my life by enabling my social gamer – and therefore allowing me to avoid comorbid depression.

Drawn Dice in a lineRead more…

The Mortiest Morty: Disability on Rick and Morty

Disability in Rick and Morty. Image of two main characters in a green swirl

Guest blogger: Adam Langley is a full-time dweeb and part-time writer, specializing in mental health, disability, and why Jessica Jones is the best Defender.

Disabilities are often treated by popular culture as problems that need to be fixed, as something to overcome. Learning or developmental disabilities in particular are shown to be surmountable if the character in question just works hard enough. Look at Sheldon Cooper. Look at TV shows like Atypical or literally any “special” episode which tries to portray autism or dyslexia. There is an underlying message that, with hard work and perseverance, and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone and let people in, you too can be “normal” – or at least as normal as you can be until the narrative requires a quick gag and your condition is played for laughs. … Read more…

Night in the Woods: Where It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

Night in the Woods: Where it's OK to not be OK. A cartoon cat image with big, yellow eyes

Guest blogger: Deborah J. Brannon (codename: Geek Dame) spends her days in the Southeastern United States, scribbling furiously as a freelancer and speculative fiction writer. In her free time that may or may not exist – it’s in a box somewhere with a cat, she really doesn’t like opening it – she plays video games and reads books and talks about both incessantly. Find out more at www.geekdame.com or follow her on Twitter at @geekdame.

“The point remains that this is the setup for some great stories.”

“Or terrible, horrifying, traumatic experiences.”

“Great clearly means different things for us.”

Gregg and Bea, Night in the Woods

Welcome to Night in the Woods. There is death here and disappointment and decay. There is also connection and catharsis and care. It’s okay not to be okay, and it’s okay to change your mind. You may face a cosmic horror, or meet the truest heart – all in a playfully illustrated, easy-to-navigate video game. … Read more…