1. "How SciFi and Fantasy Can Help Us Reimagine the Lives of the Disabled"
"Scifi and fantasy have often glorified the supremely able, the man of great sinews and strength who can stand against a thousand with his axe one-handed, with his ray-gun or phaser, or with his donkey’s jawbone.
But almost as often, scifi and fantasy have opened doors to looking at the least able in our own society. SF imagines the technologies that improve the lives of the disabled, and fantastic fiction grows the mental and heart muscles we use to place ourselves in the shoes of others – even in the shoes of those we don’t consider to be much like us. These are stories that bring us into inevitable collision with difference, and that demand, implicitly, that we face the extent to which we “other” others and create lepers in our communities. ...
Most of all, speculative fiction celebrates the potential of the human imagination. If you can imagine a thing, Miles Vorkosigan insists, you can do a thing. He drives his more able comrades to great deeds with the gleeful words, “If I can do it, you can do it!” Our ability to imagine – an ability to the able and the less able share alike — is actually the greatest ability, these genres suggest. Imagination takes us to the stars, permits us to solve problems, and, most importantly, sparks our empathy with those who do not look like us or cannot do some of the things we do or who do them differently. ...
From Victor Frankenstein’s creation to Jaxom’s time-traveling white dragon Ruth to Miles Vorkosigan’s crooked-legged dance across the stars, speculative fiction is uniquely able to help us imagine, re-imagine, what it means to be able. We learn in the pages of these stories that everyone we meet, regardless of their most immediately apparent level of ability, may have strengths and characteristics that we don’t expect but that might enlarge our own lives and our own experience of our world, if we only allow our first response to be curiosity and interest rather than violence or shunning, if we only take the time to get to know them, listen to them, or love them."
2. "It's Not Just White People Exploring Time and Space"
"We are the writers and readers of speculative fiction. We speculate. It’s what we do. We imagine possible futures and possible pasts. So why do we speculate mostly about just a small percentage of the earth’s peoples in their encounters with wonders scientific or magical? I’ve lost count of how many recent fantasy novels I’ve read that feature variations on medieval Europe, or how many science fiction sagas in which the universe is explored by fleets of American or European people. I am white, and male, and I love some of these stories. Who doesn’t want to see themselves captaining the first star vessel to Alpha Centauri?
But where is my friend, who is an engineer from Iran, and his story? Where is my friend, who is a Lebanese astrophysicist, and her story? What if that portal to another dimension opened up in Buenos Aires rather than London? What if the nearest solar system was settled by the Reconstructed Republic of Mexico or by Sri Lanka? In the exploration of vast universes, where is the rest of our planet? ...
I want to write about everybody, read about everybody, and hear from everybody. The more ideas and stories I hear from different people, the wilder my imagination grows and the bigger both the world I live in and the worlds I can imagine become. This is SF! I want to write and read about extravagant, big ideas! I want no limit on my imagination or my reading experience—I want to roam time and space, and visit every civilization on and off the earth. I don’t want to be bored. If you want small ideas or small worlds, there are other shelves in the bookstore you can visit for that.
SF has the opportunity to be a bit scrappy, a bit outrageous. We’re the folk who boldly go where no storytellers have gone before, who insist that you can’t take the sky from us, and who seek out new civilizations and speculate fiercely about startling new ways to live long and prosper. It’s what we do.
So come imagine with me. Let’s imagine not only outside the borders of our biology, our century, and our engineering, but outside our civilization too. It’s a big earth and a big universe, and every morning when I wake up, I can’t wait to explore it and experience it and speculate about it a little more."