Ableism in Fiction: My Guest Blog for Disability in Fiction

A pile of books on a shelf, illustrated

A few days ago, my guest blog was published for the Disability in Fiction blog series, hosted by fantasy author Intisar Khanani.

Growing up as an avid reader, I never came across any disabled authors or characters in literature. Before the internet, I only had access to my small-town school library. Seeking out books with disabled characters never crossed my mind; disability was something that I had and not part of my proclaimed identity as it is now. For most of my childhood, abled was the norm, even though I’ve been disabled my whole life. I was the only visibly disabled person in my social circle, and I wasn’t aware of invisible disabilities as a concept.

Read more at BooksByIntisar.com

I want to know what you’re reading! Share your experience with disability in fiction, including any book recommendations, in the comments below.

The Geeky Gimp’s Best of 2016

The Geeky Gimp's Best of 2016. Image of Erin overlayed with fireworks.

While 2016 has been a difficult year for many, I want to reflect on my favorite things that helped me get through the hardest days. Our joy and entertainment, our binge-watching Netflix or slipping away for a few hours with a good book, will aid us now and in the coming years. I hope you enjoy my Best of 2016 list – in the comments below, let me know what you think of my choices, and what’s on your best-of list!

Best Video Game: Stardew Valley

Best video game: Stardew Valley by Chucklefish

By far my most-played game this year, clocking in at 129 hours and counting. You leave a dull office job and travel to Stardew Valley, a small, struggling community with a farm you’ve just inherited from your grandfather. By growing, harvesting, and selling crops, as well as caring for livestock, you earn enough money to expand your farm and help rebuild the derelict community center. You can also go fishing and mining to level up your character. The game never punishes you too much, and there are no time limits for the overall goals; this eliminates the boring grind of most farming sims. Despite all the hours put in, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface. Pick this up if you liked Harvest MoonAvailable on Steam. … Read more…

Review of The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987

Erin reading the book, looking up at the camera

Cover of book, looks like a NES gameDo you remember the first console game you played? For me, it was probably Video Olympics (with Pong included) or Asteroids on the Atari 2600. Turning that knob to slide the paddles up and down, or pushing that joystick to avoid enemy fire was pure joy for my 5-year-old self. Those pixelated titles ushered in the Golden Age of video games, and it’s striking to see how far we’ve come since then. While we may scoff at console graphics of the late 70s and early 80s, we have to keep in mind how mind-blowingly advanced these systems were for their time. I’m sure 20 or 30 years down the line, PS4 games will pale in comparison to whatever technology has in store for us.

There’s a lot of interesting stories to tell about early console design that deserve attention, and Brett Weiss’ book, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987, zooms in on this revolutionary era of gaming. It serves not only as a trip down memory lane, tapping into that nostalgia we so longingly crave, but it acts as an archive and provides a definitive history of popular titles. … Read more…

Comic Review #2 – The Batman Chronicles #5 “Oracle: Year One”

Batman Chronicles #5 cover

I’m a huge fan of Gail Simone’s Batgirl, a series in DC Comic’s New 52 reboot; I was heartbroken when I learned she was stepping down as writer. She breathed life into the character, giving her a nuanced personality, with hopes, fears, relationship problems, family issues (to put it mildly) – and she wasn’t perfect. In other words, Gail Simone made Barbara Gordon relatable, a very average person doing extraordinary things, and that is something I treasure in comics. While I’m not a new fan of Batman, and have read some Batgirl comics in the past, Simone’s New 52 run is the first time I really delved into the character.

Simone started writing for the hero in Birds of Prey, where Barbara was known as Oracle – a persona she embodied after being shot and paralyzed by The Joker in the last comic I reviewed, The Killing Joke. That review was the start of my journey in exploring this character, and I’ve grown to love what she stands for. Oracle is disabled, but she’s not a trope. She is everything she was as Batgirl – smart, powerful, and resilient – but she had to redefine herself because of her disability. She couldn’t go out and fight criminals like she once did, but by using the skills she already had, she created a new, fulfilling life for herself.

When the New 52 reboot was announced, readers learned that Barbara Gordon would be “cured”; she would be back to her spandex and crime-fighting ways. Oracle, a character many had grown to love, was gone; she was once again Batgirl, stripped of her disability. This upset many readers, and Gail Simone was initially against the change herself. Then why was this icon for disabled comic fans taken from us? There is an interview with Gail you can read by clicking here that explains the decision, but I understand why fans continue to be upset over this. However, I think it’s important to remember that the decision was ultimately in DC’s hands, and Ms. Simone continues to create diverse characters (including other disabled individuals) that grace the pages of mainstream comics. That last fact is one reason why I remain an ardent fan of her work.

Since my obsession with Batgirl and Oracle has grown over time, and considering the focus of this blog, I thought it would be important for me to review crucial moments in the hero’s story. I want to make this a regular thing for The Geeky Gimp – a series, if you will. Sure, I’ll review other comic titles as well, but my passion lies here, with Barbara and Oracle and Batgirl. I suppose you could say I started the series already, with my review of The Killing Joke, but I feel icky beginning there. That comic was well done, from a purely artistic level, but it’s a painful read for me. It disturbed me. That isn’t how I want to introduce this character I love. … Read more…

Comic Review #1 – The Killing Joke

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Batman comic, and I’ve surprisingly never read The Killing Joke. This graphic novel is considered a classic, written by Alan Moore of Watchmen and V for Vendetta fame, and hauntingly illustrated by Brian Bolland. I purchased the 2008 deluxe edition, which was recolored by Bolland; he uses a cooler palette than the original color artist, and makes the flashback scenes into black and white, with small touches of color to add emphasis on certain objects. I’ve seen the original 1988 comic (thanks, internet!), and I definitely think the new coloring transforms the comic into the darker, weightier story it was meant to be. You can see the difference here:

kj_comparison

The original looks psychedelic, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t fit the dark theatrical nature of some of the scenes. The recoloring and illustrations are the best things about this comic. That isn’t to say that I didn’t think the story was well executed, but the art is so great here that it overshadows the other elements. I particularly liked the way the Joker was drawn – he looked sadistic and frightening, but you could still see the human behind it. The carnival scenes are effectively chaotic, highlighting the perverseness of the Joker’s thought process and actions.

Despite my praise for the artwork and plot execution, there are some very problematic things about this novel – namely the treatment of Barbara Gordon. So let’s just get right down to it so you can see what I mean. … Read more…