Guest Post by Mishell Baker Author of Borderline
When I heard about Borderline all those months ago, I was instantly intrigued by the idea of an urban fantasy with a main character with a physical disability and a personality disorder. We’ve been asking for fantasy starring characters with disabilities for so long, and I was so nervous to start hoping we were finally making progress. Now that I’m nearly done with Borderline myself, I know that I shouldn’t have been nervous. I absolutely love this book and so I’m thrilled to welcome Mishell to the blog to talk about other unlikely heroes! And remember, Borderline is out now (Amazon affiliate link) so go pick it up :D.
Millicent Roper, the woman who saves the day in my urban fantasy novel Borderline, is a bilateral amputee with a personality disorder. While it’s true that Millie isn’t exactly the stock image that pops up if you Google “hero,” she wouldn’t be the only surprising person to fill the role of protagonist in a fantasy or science fiction adventure. SF has long been a refuge for the sorts of heroes who’d be picked last if the cool kids were in charge of saving the world. Not sure what I mean? Here are a few favorite oddball examples from my personal library:
- Roen, The Lives of Tao, Wesley Chu. In a fun twist on the “chosen one” trope, a flabby, aimless IT technician is in the wrong place at the wrong time and by sheer dumb luck ends up as host to an incorporeal alien on a mission to save the world. Poor Roen has no choice but to rise to the occasion through painful hard work and turn himself into someone worthy of fighting a war for the future of humanity.
- Tyrion Lannister, A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin. In most stories about clashes of royalty, a little person like Tyrion might, at best, hope for the role of court jester. Although “hero” might not be the most precise word for this unwanted second son, Tyrion Lannister is always at the center of epic events and is quite possibly the character with the highest intelligence, the kindest heart, and the largest army of adoring readers of any in the series.
- Meg Murry, A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle. Fourteen-year-old Meg does not exactly inspire confidence at first sight. She’s young, awkward, unattractive, and barely getting by in school despite coming from a family of highly intelligent people. But in the end it is only Meg’s love that can save her father and brother from the soulless evil that is trying to swallow the universe.
- Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed. When a series of supernatural murders threatens the great city of Dhamsawaat, who rises to the occasion? An overweight, elderly ghul-hunter who wishes he’d retired years ago. His silvery beard, round belly, and fondness for tea and poetry may not be standard-issue for a monster hunter, but his courage and honor carry him through what he hopes will be one last job.
- Nicodemus Weal, Spellbound, Blake Charlton. In a world where magic revolves around the precise construction of language, the dyslexia-like disability that causes Nicodemus to “misspell” any magic he touches is more than an inconvenience; it’s outright dangerous! He’s the guy everyone tries to keep as far away from the action as possible, and yet he excels when fate casts him in the central role of world-shaking events.
None of these characters would be identified as heroes on sight, and they’re just a handful of examples. SF is rife with characters who may not look like much at first glance, but who possess deeper qualities that are crucial to solving the problems at hand. As readers — often less than glamorous ourselves — we take comfort from these characters and look forward to the day when the world requires the use of our own hidden talents.
ABOUT MISHELL BAKER
Mishell Baker is a 2009 graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and her short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Redstone Science Fiction, and Electric Velocipede. She has a website at MishellBaker.com and frequently tweets about writing, parenthood, mental health, and assorted geekery at @MishellBaker. When she’s not attending conventions or going on wild research adventures, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children. Borderline is her debut novel.
© 2016, Anya. All rights reserved.