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Three Questions with Kathryn Allan about Accessing the Future

Accessing the FutureAccessing the Future reached its funding goal last week, meaning this forthcoming anthology about disability in SF/F is on its way. As money comes in from funding and pre-orders, the publishers will be able to pay pro rates, so please consider pre-ordering this terrific project. With the success of anthologies like We See a Different Frontier, it is great to see another example of crowd-funding being used to launch projects that explore the future (and present) in long-overlooked and much-needed ways.

Kathryn Allan, co-editor with Djibril al-Ayad, dropped by a few weeks ago to recommend existing works of SF/F that explored the subject well. We invited her back to talk about what's next for Accessing the Future.


Congratulations on Accessing the Future's successful funding! One of the next steps will be the call for submissions. What kind of stories would you like to see?

That’s an excellent question and one I’m not sure I can fully answer because I’m sure what I expect now is not what I’m necessarily going to receive and end up loving. I guess I want to see stories that place a person with disabilities at the centre of the story as a three-dimensional character. I want that character to have strengths and flaws; I want the writer to have an understanding that disability is socially constructed.

Stories that explore the benefits and challenges of using technology to navigate the world (either physical or virtual) are most welcome. I also am interested in stories that explore the ethics of genetic engineering from a disability viewpoint: who gets to decide whose lives are worth living? Basically, any story that challenges ableist assumptions about technology, culture, space exploration, and future human development are the ones that I want to read.

What are some of the broad areas you're looking to explore with the anthology? 

I always want to know why certain uses of technology are allowable for some people but not others; about how technology shapes us in terms of our social identities. Why is there a hierarchy of ability/disability (not just that abled is culturally considered “better” than disabled, but depression is “better” than schizophrenia, or losing a leg is “better” than losing one’s eye)? Like how neuro-atypicality casts such a stigma on people, when humans have always existed on a spectrum, and what counts as unusual in one historical period does not in another.

Also, when it comes to thinking about technology, why do so many writers recreate a relationship where technology leads people? People make technology! Technology serves our needs, whether we are abled or disabled. It’s people first, technology second, isn’t it? I’m interested in issues of agency and how we all use tools. No matter our ability, I think we should have access to the tools that fulfill our needs and desires to be as we want to be (as long as we aren’t hurting others) - I’m curious to know not only what an accessible future looks like, but how we can get there. 

I'm not sure if this is cynicism or optimism (and I'm happy to go either way!) - but do you think an anthology of speculative fiction can change the world? 

I don’t think that any single anthology will change the world; but I do think that a great many anthologies, a whole library of stories, will effect noticeable, appreciable change. It’s really easy to not act when we view our individual efforts as “too small” and “not worth it.” But that kind of thinking is the generally the privilege of the privileged. I don’t want to wait for someone else to do the work I’m interested in seeing - I think that we create the change we want. And I want to see people with disabilities included in SF; I want to hear the voices of people who are routinely marginalized in favour of able-bodied imaginations of the future.

The community I live in is made up of many different kinds of people: to read SF that is homogeneous is both boring and dangerous. Not only will Accessing the Future contribute to the growing library of “diverse SF” when it’s published, it already has encouraged a whole bunch of people to reflect on disability in their stories through our blog hop.

Thank you very much - and good luck in the closing days of the campaign!


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