Sir, That’s My Emotional Support Wookie

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Sir, That’s My Emotional Support Wookie

Science Fiction and Fantasy With Protagonists With Disabilities

Science fiction and fantasy worlds show countless possibilities. People can travel to other planets, shape-shift, even alter the universe with magic. All too often, however, these books focus on protagonists who are neurotypical and able-bodied. The books that do include characters with disabilities often veer in two directions: wish-fulfillment, in which the character is cured by the end of the story; or objectification, in which the character being differently abled or neurodivergent is shorthand for an evil or weak nature, the character is seen as an object of pity, or the character is wholly defined by their disability.
 
The following books focus on science fiction and fantasy protagonists with disabilities who won’t be magically cured by the end of the story.
 
Lock-In by John Scalzi
A virus spreads across the globe, leaving one percent of the world population with locked-in syndrome, in which the affected are aware of the world around them but cannot respond. With seventy million people affected, the world adjusts. Scientific advancements and assistive devices mean that most of the people locked-in can communicate via virtual reality, robots and integrators (people whose bodies can be temporarily borrowed by people locked-in). When the latest murder suspect is an integrator whose locked-in client may have committed the killing, a locked-in rookie FBI agent and partner must investigate.
 
Updraft
by Fran Wilde
As part of a family of traders who travel by man-made wings, all Kirit Densira wants to do is work with her mother and soar the skies. Instead she makes a mistake, earning the wrath of the governing council of her city, the Singers. To save her family from condemnation, Kirit agrees to work for the Singers. The more she learns about the Singers and their laws, however, the more she begins to mistrust everything she believed about her city and she must make another choice, one that might change the entire city. The first book in the Bone trilogy, Updraft has a host of differently abled characters, including a clever inventor who has scoliosis.
 
The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
The Mirror Empire is the first book in an epic fantasy duology where the entire world is at stake. War looms, and a cataclysm that has altered entire continents threatens. Much of the magic is tied to the stars, and waxes and wanes. Together, an assortment of desperate anti-heroes, from an illegitimate ruler to a priestly assassin, must work together to save their world and their people. One of the main protagonists is a girl missing part of her foot.
 
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
The generation ship HSS Matilda travels through space, carrying the last of humanity towards a promised sanctuary, in this science fiction debut novel. But within the confined space of the ship, brutal overseers and the ship leaders use harsh moral laws to control those seemed lesser, the darker-skinned sharecroppers forced to live in terrible conditions. The main character, Aster, an autistic woman, lives in the low-deck slums. Amid rising tensions and the potential for civil war, Aster becomes entangled in a dangerous mystery involving the past suicide of her mother and the more recent death of the leader of the generation ship.    
 
Witchmark by C.L. Polk
In a historical fantasy world styled much like our own, set in the aftermath of the equivalent of World War I, Miles Singer just wants to live a quiet life helping others at a veterans’ hospital and living with his own trauma as a former soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder. He has concealed himself from his noble family, part of a group of cabals which use their magic to control the world. If his family discovers him, he’ll have two choices: either he’ll be forced to work for their interests or he’ll be sent to a witches’ asylum. When one of his patients is murdered, Miles will risk discovery to solve the poisoning.
 
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
In an alternate world where a meteorite destroyed most of the east coast of the United States in 1952 and began a climate change that will ultimately leave Earth uninhabitable, scientists are desperate to colonize space. A joint task force, called International Aerospace Coalition, is making desperate strides to put a man on the moon. Elma York, a pilot and mathematician, works for the coalition as a calculator. As time goes on, however, Elma realizes that the coalition is ignoring a crucial resource: the experienced female pilots and scientists. She becomes determined to become the first Lady Astronaut, and neither her anxiety or society will stand in her way.   
 
The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner
The Queen’s Thief series, whose sixth and final book will be released in 2020, feature a world where gods may or may not walk among mortals and where four countries vie desperately for power. Rulers see visions of destruction and death, and if three of the realms don’t unify, they will either fall to natural destruction or an invading country. One of the main protagonists has a hand amputated by enemies amid deadly warfare and dangerous politics, and spends part of a multilayered character arc adjusting to losing a limb.
 
Bodyminds reimagined : (dis)ability, race, and gender in Black women's speculative fiction by Sami Schalk
Sam Schalk combines disability studies, black feminist theory, speculative fiction, and literary criticism to examine disability representation within works by black authors like Octavia Butler, Phyllis Alesia Perry, N. K. Jemisin, Shawntelle Madison, and Nalo Hopkinson.