I’M AN INTERGALACTIC WARRIOR: ON DISABILITY AS AN ALIEN CULTURE:
Well, it’s been an exciting weekend! I had a friend over for olives and beer while trying to explain intercultural discourse, followed a Doctor Who blog, (Blogtor Who); I got a surprise visit from my mom and went to Whole Foods for Indian. Curry tofu. Later, we had curry chicken, but my mom is vegetarian, and so she had more tofu. On the first trip out for lunch, she explained to me that she’d met a “spirit reader”; a shaman. Being a sci-fi nut and a storyteller, I usually take such readings with a grain of salt. This one especially. So, she told me that he said I was an intergalactic warrior from the Pleiades in a past life, and she had been Alantean.
For me, I guess it was just cool to be pictured as an intergalactic warrior. I don’t believe it for a second except as cool sci-fi. Maybe I’ll write a story about it. What was interesting is that the shaman said that in my “present form” I felt pulled down by the density of my physical body. This is before he had learned that I have cerebral palsy. So, as we ate, I couldn’t stop thinking: If I know the environment of the Pleiades constellation, then maybe I can extrapolate some idea of the weapons and culture that existed there.
One of the things I had read later on an astronomy website said that its surrounded by a nebula, pulsars, and flare stars. So, I got this idea of people battling in zero gravity with radiation guns, energy shield rings, flamethrowers, light saber-type weapons darken the bright nebulous battlefield like camouflage Though I’m sure this is all laughable to a real astronomer: If life existed on such a constellation, wouldn’t it be informed by its nebulous and poisonous environment? Can any real astronomers help me out?
Also, I got to watch all of Joss Whedon’s 2009 Astonishing X-Men. I especially like Joss Whedon’s depiction of Professor X…although his wheelchair looks like concrete. Looking back on it, I suppose there’s an element of alienation in every Professor X portrayal, because, so far as I know…he has never been designed by a person with a disability. If anyone can prove me wrong, I’d love to be proved wrong. Professor X has always been my hero, but it never really struck me how odd his wheelchairs are until I saw him in Astonishing X-Men.
The earliest depictions of Professor X as paralyzed were in the 60s. He has a practical manual chair, with a blanket over the legs. In the 90s X-men he has a hover chair, but I wonder if this is reflective of the density of being pulled down by his body. It seems to symbolize the hope of inclusion, but is so impractical. I think in the 80s, he retained the manual chair, but in 1989 it became a power chair in Pryde of The X-Men. Thus, in X-Men Arcade it was also a power chair, but ways were contrived by which Xavier could also walk (in the comics, and 90s cartoon.) The power chair model returned in Bryan Singer’s X-Men trilogy, and the walking power suits stopped; however, Xavier dies. Days of Future’s Past may right this wrong! In X-Men: Evolution Xavier becomes a slave of Apocalypse.
It seems being both the world’s most powerful telepath and disabled means the writers really don’t know what to do with Professor X physically except destroy him or make him evil. Let’s not forget Warren Ellis’s Onslaught Epic! (Hover chair Xavier; 1996.) But, the Onslaught Epic does raise a good point…that people never say what they mean…Ellis’s Xavier can’t take this anymore, and years of repressed psychic darkness turn him into Onslaught. As a person with a disability, I can say I’ve been upset by the doubletalk I sometimes experience, such as when someone able-bodied says they think of me as “Just the same” as them; but obviously I’m different. Being telepathic and disabled would amplify (and perhaps verify.) this doubt. So, in that sense Xavier has been very strong for 30 years holding back. He is repeatedly referred to as the most powerful telepath on Earth, so Onslaught must be a negative manifestation of all his mental power.
Indeed, I might not be an ancient alien warrior, but my first experience as an alien was the awareness of the difference between my mental and physical abilities. I’m at home in more a weightless, maybe formless environment. One ruled by imagination. But, at the same time, that means there’s a certain euphoria in every physical victory. Every hang out, every time I give a correct speech, turn of phrase, when my speech inspires ACTION, when I even go to the library across the street; there’s a feeling of victory, going beyond my form.
Speaking of form, now that The Doctor is set to regenerate this Christmas, I wonder what form he’ll take next. In the sense that he’s a formless super genius unbound by time, The Doctor has always been my friend in disability experience. But, as you have seen, I have a tendency to read disability as an alien experience. Even in disability-based communities. Because no one experience is the same. For every Iron Man, or alien, cyberpunk, or sci-fi experience…there seems to me to be a disabled experience as well. I am able in this way to make the familiar seem strange. I’m comfortable looking into alien spaces.