Rebuilding Tomorrow with Disabled Folks in the Lead

Rebuilding Tomorrow: Anthology of Life After the Apocalypse was published a year ago, in November 2020, and is the second in the series of one year anniversary book reviews. Edited by Tsana Dolichva and published by Twelfth Planet Press, the anthology is a follow up to the 2016 Defying Doomsday: Stories of Fear, Hope and Survival. Both are important books that tell stories about living with disabilities and chronic illness. 

Defying Doomsday is a more apocalyptic anthology with a tone of doom and stories about basic survival. Rebuilding Tomorrow, on the other hand, while not solarpunk, has a more optimistic and hopeful tone. Like solarpunk, it focuses on marginalized people—in this case people with disabilities and chronic illness—as protagonists and community leaders. Also like solarpunk, the stories in this anthology aren’t mired in apocalypse. Rather, they take past apocalypses as their starting point, and move beyond mere survival to recreate and rebuild communities and better futures in post-apocalypse worlds.  

cover art by Geneva Bowers

The Rebuilding Tomorrow anthology, which won the 2020 Aurelius Award for Best Anthology, is very much a sequel to its predecessor. Not only does it qualify as a sequel in terms of moving from apocalypse to rebuilding society, but also in the fact that a number of the stories in Rebuilding Tomorrow are direct sequels to stories that appeared in Defying Doomsday. As a result, the books have an even more direct relationship to one another, and it is highly recommended that readers pick up Defying Doomsday prior to diving into Rebuilding Tomorrow

Many of the authors whose stories appear in this book are writing from their own experience, giving the stories a feeling of authenticity that many attempts at inclusion, no matter how well intentioned, lack when written by those without the relevant lived experience. The result is that this anthology doesn’t just put protagonists in wheelchairs, for example, and call it (token) inclusion. They are told from perspectives that are unique to people who do, in fact, have that lived experience. Many of the stories also deal with practical issues and challenges that people living with chronic illness or disability might face in rebuilding society.

A great example is “Textbooks in the Attic” by S.B. Divya, the one story in the anthology that could qualify as solarpunk. It takes place in a world that has been flooded by climate change, and tells a story about how chronically ill people rebuild communities in the face of wealthy people who hoard resources like medicine. Other examples include, but certainly aren’t limited to a story about neurodivergent people adapting to life after an alien invasion, autistic and deaf people building a community together that values silence, and a woman who suffers from chronic pain working with an alien—post-alien invasion—to find the parents of a baby who survived the conflict.

People with disabilities and chronically ill folks make up the largest minority group in the world that has had and continues having to fight for justice and equal access to public space and resources. If the futures we imagine aren’t accessible, and if they don’t go out of their way to include and make space for these communities, then the worlds we are building can’t by any right be called utopian. Rebuilding Tomorrow points us in the right direction, and we should follow its lead.

Justine Norton-Kertson (they/he/she) is the co-editor-in-chief of Solarpunk Magazine. They live in rural Oregon with his partner, puppies, cats, goats, and beehives. She can be found on Twitter @jankwrites.

Published by Solarpunk Magazine

Creating a new and better world through speculative literature.

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