Claincy

Disability in Brandon's Books - [Spoilers All]

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Thank you for writing this! While I am not sure if my health problems are severe enough for me to call myself disabled (the term seems to have a quite wide definition), I do struggle with chronic pain and fatigue. I agree with what you said in your letter, especially the part about how people say that you shouldn't let your disabilities define you. I would likely be a very different person without the restraints I have, and having had them since birth they are just a part of what I am. My hatred of that fact doesn't do anything to make it untrue. I also agree with how frustrating it is when people suggest doing extra treatments and then think you to be lazy for not trying them- in my case, it is very easy to do more harm than good. While I admire Brandon for his incredible depictions of things like class inequality and mental health, I hope that he reads this letter and can improve upon his writing when it comes to stuff like this.

Edited by Lunamor
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Best wishes for your health.  Your letter ranged quite a bit.  If you could make one addition or change to Brandon's work, alter one character arc, what would it be?  Where do you think he does the best and the worst?

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I absolutely agree with the content/theme of your letter to Brandon.  

 

Full disclosure: I struggle with depression/anxiety, but I find Brandon's presentation of physical disability more irksome in some way I cant quite define. It didn't hit me until my wife mentioned it after the Bridge 4 miraculous healings - because her Dad, who recently passed away, was wheelchair bound and effectively a quadriplegic for the last ~20 years of his life. It was clear to me that in some way that description of the process, the feelings of the physical disability being healed, etc, were kind of hurtful to her.  Again, I'm not doing a great job expressing myself here, but I do think the OP has a valid point, and I'm also in agreement that Rysn is by far the best written disabled character Brandon has yet included.

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9 hours ago, Claincy said:

But he gets magically cured

I do not think so actually.  He mentions not having one for a while but that could be just because they don't come regularly.  I can't find the quote but I don't think he is cured.

Other then that I thought your letter was excellent.  Best wishes.

 

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I feel like this is a strange area. Because we know Cosmere healing relies on Identity, how you perceive yourself. Hobber lost the use of his legs, but deep down inside he still pictured himself as being someone with 2 working legs. So he was able to heal that. If enough time had passed for him to self-identify as a person without working legs, he wouldn't have been able to heal them, like Kaladin or Kelsier's scars. 

So where do you draw the line between injury and disability? What is it ok to heal and what is considered not ok? If someone chops The Lord Ruler's arm off, and he immediately heals it, he never had the time to even experience it as an inconvenience, let alone a disability. So does that make it cool? Why do Lopen and Spook fall into, "disabled" rather than, "injured." And who gets to make that call? In the Cosmere it's apparently up to each individual character to identify what parts are part of their own Identity to determine what can/can't be healed. 

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@Lunamor Thanks. Sorry you have to deal with that. :( (I have no idea where you could reasonably draw a boundary on what counts as disabled, nor would I care to try. It's definitely a very broad spectrum. Just from what you said I reckon it could apply to you if you wanted.)

@ConfusedCow Thanks. I'd like less magical healing, mostly :P

S: stormlight/mistborn

Spoiler

But if I was going to say one thing I'd rather was different it'd be Renarin still having to deal with epilepsy.
Secondarily Irich not being disabled. He's definitely the worst bit of disability representation in Brandon's work imo.

@NattyBo Hope your going ok. Depression and anxiety are nasty. 

@Karger If you're right and I'm wrong, I'll be happy. :)

S: stormlight

Spoiler

I think he probably would've shown some sign of it at some point during Oathbringer. It seems a long time to go without it presenting at all, based on how it was established in the previous books. It didn't hinder him at all in the final battle, though that could be more an exception than the rule. I think he's just uncertain if it'll still be an issue or not. If it does turn out that he's not cured I'll still be a little disappointed it didn't show up at all in Oathbringer, but happy overall.

@datalaughing Yeah there isn't a clear cut answer, just case by case. Some would, some wouldn't. And I'd be happy with that. I'd forgotten about Kaladin's brand. That is an excellent example.

 

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This letter was a very good read, and good education on ableist tropes that I didn’t realize I was reading. Brandon is the type to seek out opinions from groups he is writing to be as accurate as possible, from what I’ve seen, so I think there’s a good likelihood that this will make him reconsider accidentally following these tropes. It definitely made me think. 

Have a good day :) 

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This post was really good @Claincy. Since yo didn't mention it in your letter, I assume you haven't read Defending Elysium? It has a disabled main character, and I would love to know you opinions on how it was handled there. It's super short and free on Brandon's site.

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@AonEne Thanks. Yeah I'm hopeful. I really think the main reason he hasn't done better so far is that he didn't realise he wasn't hitting the same mark he was with other groups.

 

@thegatorgirl00 I have read Defending Elysium. But I forgot about it when I was writing the letter. Which is silly, because I reread it relatively recently. :/ Ah well. Defending Elysium is a more complicated and interesting one. I think there'd be more varied opinions from different disabled people on it. I reread it again today to try and sort out what I thought of it.

I can't speak for the presentation of blindness with the 'fear of the darkness' thing with any conviction. I really don't know how well that would or wouldn't resonate with someone who'd lost their sight. I'm not very knowledgeable in that regard. Though it's worth noting that the majority of people who are legally blind still have some vision. I'm not sure what someone with partial vision might think of it relative to someone with no vision. Or someone born blind vs someone who became blind. So basically that was a lot of words to say "I really don't know" about the specific case. :P

I can talk a little more generally though. Disabled people with super powers? More please! Disabled people with super powers that directly replace/remove the limitations of their disability? Ehh, it depends. It mostly depends on the limitations and what the author does with it. In this case, replacing sight with what is essentially a better sight isn't as interesting to me. His Sense doesn't have a lot of downsides and has fewer limitations than regular sight. It can be suppressed, sure. But you can suppress someone's sight with darkness or a blindfold (or overly bright light for that matter), suppressing Cytonics is much harder by comparison. I still like Defending Elysium and I don't dislike Jason being blind or anything, but it doesn't stand out to me personally as an especially praiseworthy representation of disability. Jason's experience just seems too separate from normal blindness.

I think generally I prefer if a character's super powers don't directly replace their disability, or if there are more significant limitations around its use. It makes for more interesting story telling for one thing. But it's also a lot closer to reality, and you aren't going to end up with a character who is technically disabled but it doesn't really effect them much. I don't have a strong idea what most disabled people think along these lines, so I'm just speaking for myself here.

I think a solid real-world example is actually a wheelchair. I know a lot of people who don't need a wheelchair see them as something scary, afraid of being 'confined to a wheelchair'. But that's not the reality at all. To someone who needs one, whether they can walk a little or not at all, a wheelchair is great. It's a mobility aid that can really make a big difference in their life and allow them to be a lot more independent. It does have it's own limitations, of course. A lot of places aren't properly accessible for wheelchairs, plenty of terrain isn't easy to traverse in one, (some strangers like to 'help' push you around even when you tell them not to), etc. You're still better off thinking of them as super-powers for some disabled people than as a bad thing to be 'stuck' having to use.

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It would be interesting if Brandon wrote in a few characters where their disability or mental illness does weird things to the investiture they use. Like imagine a Windrunner with a phobia to heights, a Truthwatcher where telling the truth would mentally destroy them because the trauma connected to it is too much to handle, someone with a case of multiple personality disorder where the investiture makes it worse by literally making it a case of two minds in one person where one can do magic but the other doesn’t because the healing factor would split the personalities apart, someone with a abused past where they can’t use magic to hurt others and that’s the only magic they can use or even an Elantrian who suffers seizures or is armless and can’t draw the Aons.

There could be others for ones like blindness being counterproductive for a magic that requires sight or a magic that requires movement but it doesn’t count wheelchairs or other methods for transportation for whatever reason.

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22 hours ago, Draginon said:

Like imagine a Windrunner with a phobia to heights...

There's actually a member of Bridge Four who is this, though Brandon hasn't really given him a character yet. Maybe he'll get a viewpoint in the future, though.

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@Claincy Thanks so much for writing this letter. It really opened my eyes to some issues that I hadn't known much about before. It also made me take a second look at some characters I've written - I fear that I haven't really done their disabilities justice. I wanted to explore how people see the world differently, but now I'm worried that I don't have broad enough experience to accurately portray their viewpoints. I'd hate to be accidentally promoting ableist views. Would anyone have any advice on writing a deaf character? I gave her a superpower which does cancel out some of the difficulties of being deaf, which I realize now was a mistake. I hope to be able to write her better in the future, as well as making my other characters more accurate.

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@Rushu42 I don't mean to discourage you from writing disabled characters by any means. I'd much rather authors included disabled characters and did well sometimes and poorly others, than not write them at all. :) Even just keeping in mind the major points I mentioned would set you above average.

I can't give you any specific advise on writing a deaf character (or most other disabilities for that matter). My own knowledge is fairly limited past my own experience and I don't want to speak for others' experiences outside of some common tropes/issues. I would say that, speaking generally, a superpower that cancels out some of the difficulties of being deaf isn't necessarily bad. I think it could be good, bad or neutral all depending on the details of how it works, limitations, character and story. But you'd really need to talk with some deaf/hard of hearing folks to get a real idea of what is and isn't helpful.

There are people who specifically do consulting/sensitivity reading for disability in media (and for other minorities). If you are able to, consulting with them might really help. They ought to have a much broader and deeper understanding and be better practiced at providing useful insight. You could also probably learn a lot from blogs/articles/social media written by disabled people, or through conversations with disabled people you know or meet.

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Good discussion here.
I’m currently writing a book where the magic system is directly linked to the characters’ disabilities. So, needless to say, I am very interested in discussions of disabilities in fiction, especially when they mingle with magic systems.
The basic premise of my magic system is that every character with a power has some kind of associated psychological/neurological disability. In-universe, they aren’t sure if the powers cause the disability, or if a preexisting disability is what let’s you develope powers (read and find out ;) ). Regardless, all powers have the built-in drawback of supernaturally aggravating one’s disability when overused. Also, the powers and disabilities tend to be thematically linked. This leads to interesting interactions.
The general rule I’m operating under is that while some characters can sidestep their disability through use of their power, it’s usually short-term and there’s always a cost. For example, one character can manipulate sound but has aural hypersensitivity. He can theoretically avoid his usual problems with sensory overload by lowering the volume of all sound around him, but doing so leaves him even more sensitive afterwards.
Things get even more sticky when different people’s powers start interacting with each other (like, for example, someone who can manipulate emotions meets someone with depression). So I’m having a fun time trying to allow characters to develop organically, and the magic system to interact realistically with their disabilities, all while maintaining sensitivity to real peoples’ experiences.
I’m also planning a deconstruction of what happens when a character's life-long disability does get essentially resolved by the magic system. (Spoiler alert: there will be angst)

TLDR: if my book ever gets close to publishing, I’m going to need all the sensitivity readers. (I'm almost halfway through the first draft. Woot.)

Edited by Scriptorian
Why did I type this on my phone?
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On 23. 6. 2020 at 5:53 PM, datalaughing said:

I feel like this is a strange area. Because we know Cosmere healing relies on Identity, how you perceive yourself. Hobber lost the use of his legs, but deep down inside he still pictured himself as being someone with 2 working legs. So he was able to heal that. If enough time had passed for him to self-identify as a person without working legs, he wouldn't have been able to heal them, like Kaladin or Kelsier's scars. 

So where do you draw the line between injury and disability? What is it ok to heal and what is considered not ok? If someone chops The Lord Ruler's arm off, and he immediately heals it, he never had the time to even experience it as an inconvenience, let alone a disability. So does that make it cool? Why do Lopen and Spook fall into, "disabled" rather than, "injured." And who gets to make that call? In the Cosmere it's apparently up to each individual character to identify what parts are part of their own Identity to determine what can/can't be healed. 

Brandon needs a stamp of approval given by "disabled community" represented through COF - Committee of Disability. Of course the structure of zie Committee is highly branched and operating under strict tenets of Intersectionality and Critical theory. As result it can avoid devastating injustices such as non-mute disabled person making decisions in case of mute character written by non-disabled author.

Claincy can you offer your insight on the Immortal Words and how do they impact a mute reader?

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On 7/19/2020 at 6:28 AM, Kain said:

Brandon needs a stamp of approval given by "disabled community" represented through COF - Committee of Disability. Of course the structure of zie Committee is highly branched and operating under strict tenets of Intersectionality and Critical theory. As result it can avoid devastating injustices such as non-mute disabled person making decisions in case of mute character written by non-disabled author.

Claincy can you offer your insight on the Immortal Words and how do they impact a mute reader?

I'm not sure I'm understanding you properly sorry. Are you asking if a mute or nonspeaking person would be able to swear radiant oaths? If so, I'm reasonably sure that they can. It seems that the acceptance of the oath is more important than actually speaking it. Saying the words without embracing the meaning doesn't accomplish anything.

Oathbringer:

Spoiler

Lopen speaking the oath counts when it does and not before because he's "ready", he's internalised it.

Edgedancer:

Spoiler

Lift is able to summon Wyndle as shardblade (as such) when she accepts the oath, immediately before she says the words out loud.

It is quite possible that to seal the oath properly requires communicating the oath in some way. But if so I expect that could be accomplished through written language, sign language or other means.

 

@Scriptorian That sounds pretty cool to me. So long as the author writing it was taking care to handle the topics seriously/get sensitivity reading. Which it sounds like you are. :)

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I am sure Brandon would be very interested in reading your letter Claincy! It is wonderfully written and brings up some great points. As someone who has experienced depression, I appreciate a good depiction and you definitely deserve to see some quality representation! Thanks for sharing with the rest of us. Ableism is something I've been trying to become more aware of. Honestly, having kids has opened my eyes to a lot of it. Through pregnancy I have near constant nausea, migraines, and fatigue. It just changes how I need to do things day to day. I know I would be extremely hurt if someone thought that I should be able to just "power through" feeling sick all the time and get over it. Taking a heavy stroller everywhere has certainly opened my eyes to how poor accessibility is for wheelchairs...let's just say I (and the world in general) have a long way to go in understanding the needs and experiences of people of all walks of life!

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Exciting update time: I finally gathered the nerve and energy to share the letter on the Brandon subreddit as well. There's a bunch of thoughtful discussion in the thread. And Brandon responded! It's probably best to read the posts with the context of what he was directly replying to, but I'll drop the text here as well for anyone who doesn't want to visit reddit.

1st response

Quote

Hey, thanks for the tag. And also /u/LatteCat234. This is the perfect post I needed to be tagged on. You two are great.

/u/Claincy I've read this, and will keep it pinned. This is exactly the kind of feedback that is useful for writers to hear. I try to do the best I can, but I can always do better. I particularly like how you outlined some of the traps/tropes authors fall into, because those are exactly the things that are super helpful for me to read. (And similar lists have helped me a lot with my writing in other areas.)

I don't want to say much more than that, because I don't want to imply your perspective is invalid. (It most certainly is.) But I do want to mention that I pay a lot of attention this kind of issue, and there is a fine line to walk. Many things having to do with disability have a bit controversy surrounding them similar to the cochlear implant one--where the community itself can be very divided at what they want to happen, and what they want to see happen in fiction.

I consider it my job to listen, particularly to well-reasoned and passionate arguments like yours. But I do need to note that there are arguments on the other side that I do also listen to. And I personally--from all the many things I've read and the time I've spent pondering it--do not currently consider curing of physical aliments with magic to be inherently problematic. I DO consider it to be a difficult issue, and recognize your feelings, which are completely valid. If healing people of disability in the real world is difficult and full of touchy subjects, with a variety of opinions, then it certainly is valid to consider it so in fantasy!

My goal is always to try to depict the varieties of different human experience and opinions. And, indeed, one of my goals with Rysn is to specifically have a character to contrast someone like Lopen--who falls (as you have noted) on a different side of the argument.

But, to be honest, I don't even consider the healing of mental disabilities with magic to be inherently problematic. (Speed of Dark, an excellent science fiction novel, is about a cure for autism--and is done brilliantly.) I do run into a lot of people who really like that I don't let Stormlight heal most mental illness--but I'd say I've run into an equal number of people with depression who wish that I would let it do so, and have told me they'd take a cure for depression without hesitation if one gets invented. (Indeed, there are many who do a great deal to medically to try just this.)

What I would say is that I need to be careful not to present one idea as the only valid response to these sorts of things. You're absolutely right that there is a perspective I need to be careful not to invalidate, and tropes I can be harmful in perpetuating if I don't watch myself. (My sister in law has chronic fatigue, and yeah--the number of people who told her if she was just stronger-willed, she'd get past it, is huge.)

I will be very careful with the Rysn novella. (And we do these days try very hard to have specific readers who have disabilities like the ones I depict. It is my plan to do this here.) And I'll keep your post handy as I revise, as I think it will be helpful.

Thanks for putting yourself out there, and doing all this work, just to help me do better. It's really a great thing for you to have done.

2nd post (I asked him if we would see assistive technology using fabrials, and commented on a poor choice of wording when Hobber is healed that I noticed in my Oathbringer reread.)

Quote

Dawnshard actually has Rysn looking at fabrials and wondering if those could be of use in the way you're indicating here. I think you'll be pleased with the result.

As for the rest of your post, this is a really useful distinction to point out to me. I can see it's all about HOW one approaches it.

I think you'd be a really helpful beta reader, if you happen to be interested. Drop me a DM if you are. Either way, thank you very much for these posts.

3rd post (In response to a post talking about autism and Renarin)

Quote

I have no intention of "curing" Renarin, as I agree with your points here--but I really appreciate you mentioning them. We are aligned on this idea. I used Speed of Dark as an example of how a theoretical cure could be used in a story in a non-problematic way. (In that story, a cure is invented, and the story is entirely about the ramifications of it--and the dangers. It is a highlight of why I think Science Fiction is important. Asking the question, "What if?" before something happens in real life gives us a lot of questions, ideas, and concerns to work on as a society in preparation for such events.)

That said, that is a book that specifically deals with this idea. My intention for the Stormlight Archive, and Renarin specifically, is to explore him as a character. Not to change him into someone else.

In summary, Brandon is great. (Not exactly news, I know.) :P

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On 6/26/2020 at 9:42 AM, Claincy said:

@AonEne Thanks. Yeah I'm hopeful. I really think the main reason he hasn't done better so far is that he didn't realise he wasn't hitting the same mark he was with other groups.

 

@thegatorgirl00 I have read Defending Elysium. But I forgot about it when I was writing the letter. Which is silly, because I reread it relatively recently. :/ Ah well. Defending Elysium is a more complicated and interesting one. I think there'd be more varied opinions from different disabled people on it. I reread it again today to try and sort out what I thought of it.

I can't speak for the presentation of blindness with the 'fear of the darkness' thing with any conviction. I really don't know how well that would or wouldn't resonate with someone who'd lost their sight. I'm not very knowledgeable in that regard. Though it's worth noting that the majority of people who are legally blind still have some vision. I'm not sure what someone with partial vision might think of it relative to someone with no vision. Or someone born blind vs someone who became blind. So basically that was a lot of words to say "I really don't know" about the specific case. :P

I can talk a little more generally though. Disabled people with super powers? More please! Disabled people with super powers that directly replace/remove the limitations of their disability? Ehh, it depends. It mostly depends on the limitations and what the author does with it. In this case, replacing sight with what is essentially a better sight isn't as interesting to me. His Sense doesn't have a lot of downsides and has fewer limitations than regular sight. It can be suppressed, sure. But you can suppress someone's sight with darkness or a blindfold (or overly bright light for that matter), suppressing Cytonics is much harder by comparison. I still like Defending Elysium and I don't dislike Jason being blind or anything, but it doesn't stand out to me personally as an especially praiseworthy representation of disability. Jason's experience just seems too separate from normal blindness.

I think generally I prefer if a character's super powers don't directly replace their disability, or if there are more significant limitations around its use. It makes for more interesting story telling for one thing. But it's also a lot closer to reality, and you aren't going to end up with a character who is technically disabled but it doesn't really effect them much. I don't have a strong idea what most disabled people think along these lines, so I'm just speaking for myself here.

I think a solid real-world example is actually a wheelchair. I know a lot of people who don't need a wheelchair see them as something scary, afraid of being 'confined to a wheelchair'. But that's not the reality at all. To someone who needs one, whether they can walk a little or not at all, a wheelchair is great. It's a mobility aid that can really make a big difference in their life and allow them to be a lot more independent. It does have it's own limitations, of course. A lot of places aren't properly accessible for wheelchairs, plenty of terrain isn't easy to traverse in one, (some strangers like to 'help' push you around even when you tell them not to), etc. You're still better off thinking of them as super-powers for some disabled people than as a bad thing to be 'stuck' having to use.

Gotta ask: how mad were you when Oracle went back to being Batgirl?


Because I was furious, and I’m not disabled. I’d never known her as anything but Oracle, and thought the change cheapened her character tremendously.

 

As an aside, regarding chronic pain: Both Kell and Marsh have this, although it’s quite subtle for the former. Kell’s scars do bother him, and he experiences phantom pains. It’s VERY easy to miss though, since the character naturally tends to ignore it. (Which is completely in character for him.) Marsh is in quite a bit of pain from the moment he becomes an Inquisitor. Saze may have helped this, via a literal act of god.

 

Regarding Spook: I don’t see him as a disabled character at all, actually. Maybe it’s because I’m in the psych field, but I always saw him as more like a drug addict. It was like he was addicted to Tin, always needing to burn it. Even his reasoning fits with many addicts. So Saze didn’t cure his disability so much as he healed the damage from Spook’s Tin addiction, if that makes sense.

However, Harmony did heal all the disabled Scadrians upon his Ascension. I’d probably have been annoyed if it wasn’t so obviously intended to parallel the Revelation at Sinai, where God is said to have done the same. Brandon was clearly trying to go for that resonance, what with the hill covered in flowers and the people’s leader receiving a holy book. So in that particular case it made sense, since those things do all go together in a way that’s supposed to feel familiar to us.

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12 minutes ago, Kingsdaughter613 said:

However, Harmony did heal all the disabled Scadrians upon his Ascension. I’d probably have been annoyed if it wasn’t so obviously intended to parallel the Revelation at Sinai, where God is said to have done the same. Brandon was clearly trying to go for that resonance, what with the hill covered in flowers and the people’s leader receiving a holy book. So in that particular case it made sense, since those things do all go together in a way that’s supposed to feel familiar to us.

And the world being reborn, new world, new god, new bodies.

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11 minutes ago, Frustration said:

And the world being reborn, new world, new god, new bodies.

Exactly. He changed them on multiple levels; the healing of disabilities was minor compared to the Kolos, or altering the people’s lungs and digestive tracts. Probably their skin too, though that would have been more minor a thing.

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@Kingsdaughter613 Sorry for the slow reply.

Quote

Gotta ask: how mad were you when Oracle went back to being Batgirl?

I haven't actually read those comics so I don't have a strong opinion on that specifically. But I suspect if I was reading it now I wouldn't exactly be delighted.

Quote

As an aside, regarding chronic pain: Both Kell and Marsh have this, although it’s quite subtle for the former. Kell’s scars do bother him, and he experiences phantom pains. It’s VERY easy to miss though, since the character naturally tends to ignore it. (Which is completely in character for him.) Marsh is in quite a bit of pain from the moment he becomes an Inquisitor. Saze may have helped this, via a literal act of god.

Oh right, yeah I forgot about that. With Kel I think it's more emotional trauma + a desire to itch them than outright pain, the physical pain doesn't seem to really have much of an effect/impact. But still.

Marsh I definitely should have thought of. Reflecting on it now; we don't get to see much of his perspective (or much of him at all really) after being inquisified until HoA when Ruin's complete control takes centre stage. That's not really a complaint, just noting that we don't really get to see him living with his pain or how it might effect him when not being directly controlled by a much more powerful entity.

On 10/21/2020 at 1:22 PM, Kingsdaughter613 said:

Regarding Spook: I don’t see him as a disabled character at all, actually. Maybe it’s because I’m in the psych field, but I always saw him as more like a drug addict. It was like he was addicted to Tin, always needing to burn it. Even his reasoning fits with many addicts. So Saze didn’t cure his disability so much as he healed the damage from Spook’s Tin addiction, if that makes sense.

Spook is more a "has parallels to disability" than "is a disabled character" I think. I don't think hypersensitivity comes up much in media, but it certainly can be a major difficulty. Here it's taken more as a part of a super power, or turned into one. I thought it was worth mentioning the connection, but yeah, I'd hesitate to firmly call him a disabled character.

On 10/21/2020 at 1:22 PM, Kingsdaughter613 said:

However, Harmony did heal all the disabled Scadrians upon his Ascension. I’d probably have been annoyed if it wasn’t so obviously intended to parallel the Revelation at Sinai, where God is said to have done the same. Brandon was clearly trying to go for that resonance, what with the hill covered in flowers and the people’s leader receiving a holy book. So in that particular case it made sense, since those things do all go together in a way that’s supposed to feel familiar to us.

I had completely forgotten about that. That's..hrm. I see *why* and I can see Sazed doing that. But any time you get a setting or situation where you remove all disability, whether through technology or magic, that's...yeah. Not a huge fan. On a more practical consideration, if you have a group of people rebuilding society from the ground up following an apocalypse and none of them are at all disabled that would likely lead to a society even less accessible and more ableist than our own. Not intentionally of course. But if the foundation & default assumption is of a complete lack of disability, I think that's highly unlikely to turn out well for future disabled people.

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For context: I trained in martial arts for 18 years but quit because injuries were piling up (residual pain from a knee reconstruction and simultaneous issues with feet, shoulders and elbows). I'm more on the chronic pain end of the spectrum than an actual disability, but I have noticed that in stories which include a powerful magic system severe injuries are completely healed pretty quickly.

Kaladin is healed in WoR, Lopen gets a whole new limb, even the Elantrians who suffer from chronic pain suddenly get better. It's gotten to the point where the questions of 'who will die next' make me think of someone like Adolin getting injured but without dying or being healed.

I didn't notice it too much beforehand, but I've been seeing it more and more since I read the latest Dresden Files books (spoilers for all of them)

Spoiler

Murphy's disability was just terribly handled. We could have seen so much more of her dealing with the ramifications of her injuries, but she just gets too hung up on it and makes the boneheaded decision of the century to go into the battle of Chicago. Then she dies, and doesn't even get the dignity of being taken out by her own moronic choice.
We've seen wizards who will explicitly recover from paraplegia given enough time, and even Michael's rehab is skipped over (not to mention the literal guardian angels watching over him), but our first non-magical person getting horrifically injured is fridged.

I'm debating whether to go back to uni, and the treatment of physical disability in high-magic fantasy is starting to look like a decent PhD topic.

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On 7/10/2020 at 8:36 AM, Scriptorian said:

Good discussion here.
I’m currently writing a book where the magic system is directly linked to the characters’ disabilities. So, needless to say, I am very interested in discussions of disabilities in fiction, especially when they mingle with magic systems.
The basic premise of my magic system is that every character with a power has some kind of associated psychological/neurological disability. In-universe, they aren’t sure if the powers cause the disability, or if a preexisting disability is what let’s you develope powers (read and find out ;) ). Regardless, all powers have the built-in drawback of supernaturally aggravating one’s disability when overused. Also, the powers and disabilities tend to be thematically linked. This leads to interesting interactions.
The general rule I’m operating under is that while some characters can sidestep their disability through use of their power, it’s usually short-term and there’s always a cost. For example, one character can manipulate sound but has aural hypersensitivity. He can theoretically avoid his usual problems with sensory overload by lowering the volume of all sound around him, but doing so leaves him even more sensitive afterwards.
Things get even more sticky when different people’s powers start interacting with each other (like, for example, someone who can manipulate emotions meets someone with depression). So I’m having a fun time trying to allow characters to develop organically, and the magic system to interact realistically with their disabilities, all while maintaining sensitivity to real peoples’ experiences.
I’m also planning a deconstruction of what happens when a character's life-long disability does get essentially resolved by the magic system. (Spoiler alert: there will be angst)

TLDR: if my book ever gets close to publishing, I’m going to need all the sensitivity readers. (I'm almost halfway through the first draft. Woot.)

This is really late, but if you need someone to answer questions about the disabilities you mentioned I’d be more than happy to help, I have both depression and a hypersensitivity to sound.

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