Sunday 3 August 2014

Accessing the Future from the Graveyard Shift

Accessing the Future is an SF anthology looking at issues around disability and intersectionality that's currently in its crowdfunding stage. Spinning out of this they've launched a blog hop - I had to look it up, seems roughly equivalent to what we do for Blogging Against Disablism day each year: set up a common theme for blogging and have an index page that links to them all. And for Accessing the Future's blog hop that's here.

The theme here is exploring disablism and body privilege in fictional worlds through five questions for writers and/or readers:
  1. Tell us about your Work In Progress (WIP) / Current Read (CR) and the world it’s set in.
  2. Who are the most powerful people in this world?
  3. Where does their power come from?
  4. What physical characteristics underpin their positions of power?
  5. How does this affect the weakest people in the world?
Seeing as I finished the first draft of my novel Graveyard Shift literally five hours ago, I'm going to go with that, though it's actually an urban fantasy rather than SF.

1. Tell us about your Work In Progress (WIP) / Current Read (CR) and the world it’s set in.

The eponymous Graveyard Shift is Seattle's 13th Street Precinct, in a world that isn't quite our own, where myth is true, belief has consequences, and where St. Wilberforce barnstormed equal rights for all through the UK's Parliament 200 years ago and shamed the rest of the world into following suit. 200 years on and werewolves and vampires aren't just real, they're living next door and registered to vote.

Of course equal rights and no discrimination are totally different things, and 13th Street is Seattle's non-human ghetto, and the 13th Street Precinct is SPD's ghetto for cops who are no longer entirely human. But a fantasy world doesn't mean that there aren't real world concerns. The Russian mob are causing issues, there's a sudden influx of hellbane on the street, and three SPD officers are about to trigger a nightmare.

2 Who are the most powerful people in this world?

In the world is a difficult one, when the focus is Seattle at its widest, and mostly 13th Street, but the protagonists for the novel are my three SPD officers.

There's Aleks, daughter of a spy, only Papa was KGB, not CIA. Russian immigrant, fanatically fit, inclined to be short-tempered, and since an incident 8 years ago, also inclined to turn furry once a month. And host to Suka, an even more short-tempered Alpha wolf, who watches the world from the cave of Aleks' mind.

There's Bobby, a political operator and ladies man, who once betrayed a much younger, more vulnerable Aleks by two-timing her, currently breaking in a new set of fangs after a run-in with vampire gang the Bloods. And who has just been banished by a grateful department to the Graveyard Shift, where his new partner is the woman he once betrayed.

And then there's Laura: Witch, Mother, CSI. Aleks' BFF, who walked into that same incident with Aleks 8 years ago, and came out of it not furry, but with a flashy set of wheels.

Other movers and shakers? Quinn, the enigmatically scary cop who runs 13th Street; Father Paddy, the 13th Street Chaplain; Yuri Vlasenko, negotiator for the Russian mob; Bennett Gorman, FBI Special Agent in Charge for the Seattle Field Office, a man with one target, and no time for anything else; Cathal O'Shea, Daoine Sidhe elf and head of SPD's Office of Professional Accountability, La Belle Dame Sans Merci come again, much to Aleks' annoyance; there's Baron, necromancer and drug lord, a man with a hidden grudge; and a whole rogues' gallery of Voudoun Lwa.

3 Where does their power come from?

Oh, interesting question. Is power inborn, acquired or gifted? For Aleks her skills come from her background, but her power comes from the wolf. For Bobby, power is something he has yet to grow into. For Laura, power comes from being a seventh generation witch, but her power is honed through her academic degrees and her position as a Board Certified Forensic Sorceror. For others, Yuri, Bennett Gorman, Baron, power isn't simply acquired, it's actively taken.

And in this world power, supernatural power, comes from belief. So religions wield power, but belief can shift and change them, for good, or for ill.

4 What physical characteristics underpin their positions of power?

Aleks is a fitness freak, a runner, a biathlete, the equal of anyone physically, but well aware her people skills are occasionally lacking. Bobby is a man who built himself on looks and style, but now finds himself wondering if that was style without substance. And Laura is the contradiction, mother, wheelchair user, paraplegic, and the most dangerous one of them all.

5 How does this affect the weakest people in the world?

The oddity of Graveyard Shift is that the strongest are also in many ways the weakest. Aleks and Bobby are both victims of anti-paranatural prejudice, with Aleks in particular scarred by that, while Laura isn't just a witch, she's a wheelchair-using witch trying to hold a command position in a male-oriented, physical ability-oriented organisation. But the weakest of all, at least on the surface, is Laura's daughter Megan, three years old, cute as a button, and target for vengeance. Of course she is her mother's daughter, and Aleks' goddaughter, so god help anyone who endangers her, on either side of the law.

And if all this sounds like it might be allegory for the issues disabled people face in the real world, damn straight it is!

(It's suggested that contributors to the blog hop also nominate three people to add further contributions, that's not necessarily easy for those of us on the neurodiverse side of the fence, so I'm going to pass on that element).

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