|Tropes and genres|
|Related articles on Fanlore.|
Disability fic is a fanfic genre in which a character has a disability (either a canonical disability or in an AU presupposing one) or becomes disabled during the story. Disability fic is often hurt/comfort.
A defining feature of most disability fic is that the disability itself plays a role in the story, such as physical and mental recovery and rehabilitation and the lifestyle changes necessitated. Painless_j states this as her first requirement for a fic on her disability lists: "first of all: actual state of disability should play a part, there should not be just mentioning that a character is disabled or injured, nor only a process of inflicting it". In Kestrell's “Reading in the Dark”, she cites painless_j's rules and comments that "What is interesting about this definition is how it frames the ordinary as the primary desirable characteristic of disability fics". On the flipside, stories in which characters' disabilities do not have a central role are often not listed as 'disability fic' (for example, House is disabled in canon, but not all fanfic featuring House is disability fic).
It should be noted that many disability tropes can be found in canon sources, particularly television series, and that the magical and miraculous return to status quo at the end of many stories reflects that aspect of television storytelling. For example, shows with temporarily blinded characters include due South, Mannix, Hawaii Five-O, CHiPS, M*A*S*H, Doctor Who, Star Trek: The Original Series, Farscape, and many more.
Blindness: Often written as permanent, but sometimes the blind character regains sightedness at the story's end.
- Nightvisions in K/S was the first novel-length example in 1979.
- Beyond Sight, Archived version a frostiron fic by STARSdidathing (2021)
- "Blind Keith" is a fairly popular tag in the Voltron: Legendary Defender fandom.
Loss of Eye: A subtrope of blindness.
- Niles from Fire Emblem Fates lost his eye during a scuffle with another criminal at a young age.
- Saizo from the same game lost his during a failed attempt to avenge his father's murder.
- Princess Camilla's bangs leave one of her eyes covered, leading to headcanons that she either lost that eye or that it's heavily scarred due to her upbringing in Nohr's dangerous politics.
- Saber from Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia had his eye gouged out by jealous soldiers when he was younger.
- Deen from the same game lost his eye during an attack on his fianceé's mansion.
- Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd from Fire Emblem: Three Houses loses an eye and wears a patch in every path save for Crimson Flower.
- Iron Bull from Dragon Age: Inquisition lost an eye defending Cremisius "Krem" Aclassi.
- The X-Files: Krycek's right arm is forcibly amputated in the fourth season episode Terma and especially Mulder/Krycek slash deals with this disability.
- Much Silmarillion fanfiction deals with Maedhros adjusting after his hand has been amputated.
- Jane Eyre fanfiction often addresses Rochester's difficulties on his wedding night due to the loss of his hand.
- Voltron: Legendary Defender fic centered on Shiro in seasons 1-6 focuses on his feelings about losing his organic right arm and being fitted with a prosthetic one made of Galra technology.
- ASoIaF/Game of Thrones: Jaime Lannister's sword hand is cruelly severed by men he stops from raping Brienne of Tarth in the third book/season. Many Jaime/Brienne fics explore the fallout of this loss.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition: The Inquisitor has their left arm amputated at the elbow in the Trespasser DLC to save them from a magical artifact that is killing them. Some fics explore how the Inquisitor deals with this loss, especially shipfics that feature a supportive love interest.
- Elden Ring: Malenia is a blind triple amputee sword-fighter, having lost her eyes, legs, and right arm to a form of magical leprosy pre-canon. Fics centering on her sometimes explore her disability in greater depth.
Paralysis: Primarily written as temporary, although there are plenty of stories with permanent disability. In cases of non-canon disabilities, paraplegia is far more common, with only a few stories dealing with quadriplegia existing.
- Oracle from DC Comics is the main example of a character with in-canon paralysis who features in a large number of stories.
- The first Ingenium, Iida Tenya's older brother Tensei, was paralyzed as the result of a villain attack. Fics that focus on Iida or AUs with Midoriya as a support student often include him as a notable minor character.
- Jake Sully, protagonist of Avatar, is canonically paraplegic, and some fics explore his ambivalence as he is caught between "new life with walking" and "losing his entire humanity."
- Bran Stark of ASoIaF/Game of Thrones is canonically paraplegic. His condition is the result of surviving being pushed out of a window as a child. This is a major inciting incident that sets off the series' plot.
Brain injury: Especially controversial when it involves a perceived infantilization of the injured person. Brain injury in fiction does not usually correspond to common medical outcomes of brain injury.
- Gentle on My Mind, a Professionals novel series in the '80s by Jane of Australia, is an early influential example.
- Jean Kluge's Changes (The Sentinel) is a novel-length Jim/Blair zine which explores this theme.
- Some Smallville fic deals with the trauma of the forced institutionalisation of Lex Luthor, and his subsequent abuse endured.
- More recent examples include the Supernatural series of stories in the Somersault 'Verse.
- The long-deleted Fire Emblem Awakening fic "Stable" featured the Chrom/Robin pairing and a brain-damaged male Robin. The fic ended up being deleted due to inciting controversy and mocking within the fandom, leading to the author's breakdown and subsequent flounce.
Besides a lack of realism, it can be problematic when disability is used merely as a horrible fate that befalls a character, sometimes to teach them a lesson or insight, or to "reform" the character (often, as on television, the disability is miraculously reversed at the end after it fulfilled its function to "restore" the character for the perfect happy ending), or the character is reduced to the disability.
For example, jadelennox writes:
"What I haven't seen much of (and I admit I'm not all that well-read) is stories where the disability is just there. Where the individual follows the plot of the story, adjusting through the day as he always does, occasionally bitter, occasionally angry, occasionally amused, occasionally not thinking about it all. Adjusting as necessary, and having occasional minor breakdowns when something that's easy for the rest of the world is impossible without asking for help. Not being an object of pity or fascination for the other primary characters. Being annoyed by other things just like the rest of the world: traffic jams, the cap left off the toothpaste, demon attacks. Not existing to be the main character in an "I am a psychological survivor" story, nor existing to be hurt and therefore comforted, nor existing to make another character feel bad for her failure in protecting. Just being another character with an extra set of problems."
E. E. Beck criticizes the symbolic use of disability:
"But the thing that really gets under my skin is what I call symbolic use. You'll note that I'm not using the slightly more accepted term symbolic value, but more on that in a minute. Let's take a fic about a character losing his sight. I can pretty much guarantee you that somewhere in the fic the character will make a speech about how the loss of sight has changed them, has taught them blah blah blah. Which, okay, yeah, losing sight changes you. But it's not an allegory. I can assure you that when what little sight I had started failing when I was sixteen, it didn't teach me jack shit. It didn't make me wiser. I had no great revelations about the meaning of life, about how to be a better person, about appreciating the things I have. Blindness is not a lesson, it is a fact. It may change a character, but it is not a means to an end. The use of blindness, or another disability, to teach a character something (and believe me, it's there in 9 out of 10 disability fics) bothers me. It's trivializing and it's glorifying at the same time. When the character loses his sight and, *gasp* what brilliant authorial strategy and use of symbolism, suddenly "sees what's in front of him" and embraces the shipper agenda, it's trivializing the blindness, making it not important, and glorifying it, making it something that it definitely isn't."
In Christina Papamichael’s article “Harry Potter and the Curse of Disability”, writer La Guera talks about what inspired her to write stories based on her own experience with disability:
“It occurred to me, as I read the books, that JK Rowling has representatives of every race and creed, but she has no disabled students of any kind,” says La Guera, a disabled fanfic author in her mid-twenties. “It struck me as very sad.”
Kestrell concludes her essay “Reading in the Dark”, on disability fic in Harry Potter fandom, by stating “HP disability fanfic provides a public story space with very definite ‘rules of the game,’ and the active participation of those writers and readers in regard to disability demonstrate one means by which disability stories can be redefined.” By having accessible source material and a canon whose magic can be used as adaptive technology, Harry Potter fandom was open not only to disability fic but also to disabled writers.
- Multifandom: Disability in Fanfiction list of canon disabilities, and fiction with a disability theme, sorted by type of disability within fandoms.
- Multifandom: Disability Fanfic website, sortable by type of disability or by fandom.
- Multifandom: disability-fic's journal thematic list for multiple fandoms, looks like a Livejournal update list for the website above.
- Multifandom: Recs tagged Disability at Fancake, a thematic recommendation community on Dreamwidth
- Multifandom: canon disability-focused fics by SOBQJMV_Sphinx on Archive Of Our Own
- Bandom: Masterlist: disability, illness, injury by stepps
- Harry Potter: Themed list: Disability by painless_j
- LotR and Lotrips: Fan Fiction Search - Disability, listed by type of disability. Includes a very few fics from other fandoms.
- NCIS: Themed List: Disability Fiction by slashscribe.
- SGA: "Handicapped" tag at the SGA Crossroads slash fic index. Other tags also used, such as "blind!character" and "deaf!character"
- Starsky & Hutch: Physical Disability themed list of Starsky and Hutch fic (from the Tagging Bay City - Starsky and Hutch Fan Fiction by Subject and Category journal) by ckua-pepper.
- SPN and SPN RPF: Pimp the Limp! Limping/Paralyzed!Boys + a few H/C Lists themed list (also of related lists) by calamitycrow
- X-Files: Disabilities - but not necessarily disabled themed list of fic.
- painless_j, Rules for Themed Disability Lists accessed 21 February 2009
- Kestrell, Reading in the Dark acessed 21 February 2009
- Temporary Blindness - Television Tropes and Idioms, accessed February 21, 2009
- Saber ShadowKitten, (2008). Haven. Retrieved 12 December 2010. Webcite.
- he_dreams_awake. Disability in fic. (accessed October 14, 2008)
- Milkshake Butterfly. A House Rant, As Promised. July 27, 2005. (accessed October 14, 2008)
- jadelennox. look, I call *myself* a crip. March 1, 2005. (accessed October 14, 2008)
- E. E. Beck.The old fanfic trivialization discussion, expanded just a bit. Feb. 24, 2004. (accessed October 14, 2008)
- Christina Papamichael Harry Potter and the Curse of Disability accessed February 21, 2009
- Kestrell, Reading in the Dark accessed February 21, 2009
- Kestrell, Reading in the Dark accessed February 21, 2009