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Fight On, Space Unicorns: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction

And now, a vital guest post from Michael Damian Thomas, co-editor of Uncanny Magazine along with Lynne M. Thomas, who wants to talk about their daughter, the political state of America, and the mission behind the new Disabled People Destroy Science-Fiction series — you will find the Kickstarter for that right here, so go click and go give.

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The above picture is of my daughter, Caitlin, at her appointment to pick up her ankle-foot orthotics on November 8, 2016. Earlier that day, Caitlin voted with me. As we waited for her orthotist to finish grinding the orthotics to fit her, I told her our candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, was about to become the first woman president.

That was her smile about HRC—a smile so magical I had to take a photo to share with the other HRC supporters in our lives who were about to experience this historic moment together.

Twelve hours later Caitlin was in bed, and we were all in tears.

Not because history was missed, but because we knew what this could mean for Caitlin’s life, and the lives of so many other people. A corrupt, treasonous, hateful, asshole conman was now going to be our president, with a Republican-controlled legislature. A man who made it very clear when he mocked reporter Serge Kovaleski how he felt about disabled people. A man who had no problem cutting off his own nephew’s 18-month-old child from medical insurance—a child with infantile spasms.

Caitlin had infantile spasms. It’s a main marker of her Aicardi syndrome. They’re violent, rare seizures that made her infant body fold repeatedly in half, causing brain damage with each spasm. They would happen over and over again (the worst series went for 45 minutes before the paramedics got Caitlin to the ER). The medicines which finally controlled her infantile spasms cost our health insurance $18,000 per month. Thankfully, we had insurance without lifetime caps and access to a Medicaid program, which was codified through the Affordable Care Act. This kept us from going bankrupt.

We have walked that fine edge of financial disaster for her entire life. Caitlin’s 2014 alone cost a million dollars, thanks in part to a spinal fusion surgery that vastly improved her quality of life. And now, because of the election, these hateful GOP assholes who wanted to destroy the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and so many other laws and programs for disabled people have the power to do so. Without these protections and programs, Caitlin wouldn’t have been able to live with us and thrive. Others, too, saw their lives in peril. They fought. National ADAPT claimed this summer, waging civil disobedience war against the GOP. Rooted in Rights published articles about the political struggles disabled Americans like Caitlin found themselves in.

What would happen to Caitlin if we lost? What could we do?

This was just our story as the year started. So many different groups of people were suddenly scared and in trouble: women, immigrants, POC, Muslims, Jews, queers, women, disabled people, and so many more. (My wife and I are both queer, and I’m also disabled.) As fascist white supremacists moved into power, we did Tweetstorms. We called our legislators constantly. We fought and tried not to collapse in discouragement. Often Lynne and I felt frustrated that we couldn’t do more.

Then a dear friend reminded us that we have a magazine. Uncanny Magazine, to be exact.

The Thomases have a history of pissing off the alt-right. Wired named two things Lynne edited in “The Books and Stories That Sparked a Culture War” for their Sad/Rabid Puppies’ article. Milo attacked these works and Lynne’s Hugo Awards on Breitbart. Some of our more political stories, like Brooke Bolander’s “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” have gone viral and been nominated for numerous awards.

This is what we do. We help create and publish art that pisses hateful people off.

We decided it was time to get even louder.

Uncanny Magazine first started with a community coming together, which we named the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps after our Space Unicorn mascot, during our initial Kickstarter. Now, this community is getting politically active together, which is glorious.

We made an open call for Uncanny Resistance essays. People flooded us with pitches. We published essays that taught civil disobedience methods, how to run for office, how to lobby, and personal stories about how merely existing when you’re marginalized is a form of Resistance to this regime. Science Fiction and Fantasy fans and writers came together as a community in our pages, sharing information and support for the fight.

As part of this mission, we also took Lightspeed Magazine up on their offer to continue the Destroy series with Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction. We brought together an amazing team of disabled guest editors:

  • Editor-in-Chief/Fiction Editor: Dominik Parisien
  • Editor-in-Chief/Nonfiction Editor: Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
  • Reprint Editor: Judith Tarr
  • Poetry Editor: S. Qiouyi Lu
  • Personal Essays Editor: Nicolette Barischoff

As Co-Editor-in-Chief/Nonfiction Editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry said:

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction is a continuation of the Destroy series (now brought to people by Uncanny Magazine) in which we, disabled members of the science fiction community, will put ourselves where we belong: at the center of the story. Often, disabled people are an afterthought, a punchline, or simply forgotten in the face of new horizons, scientific discovery, or magical invention. We intend to destroy ableism and bring forth voices, narratives, and truths most important to disabled writers, editors, and creators with this special issue.

We are currently running the Kickstarter for Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction/Uncanny Magazine Year 4. (Above art by Galen Dara.) We will continue running essays, stories, and poems by people who Resist this regime. People who fight hate with art. People who come together as a community of artists and thinkers and find ways to push back, create the world we want to live in, and inspire others to do so, too.

For Caitlin. For everybody.

Please consider backing us if you have the means.

Fight on, Space Unicorns.