Typically, for Blindness Awareness Day this blind author does an Ask Me Anything on his various social media platforms, but this year, I’ll be at the Twin Cities Book Festival, taking part in the Minnesota Authors Mashup, so I’ll be busy all day.
Instead of the AMA, let’s talk about today about how I, as a blind author, use blind characters in my fiction.
Surprisingly, over 3 published and 5 unpublished novels, 7 novellas, and over 100 pieces of shorter work, I’ve only written 4 blind characters. One is featured in a pair of as-yet-unpublished novels, so I think we won’t talk about them today.
In my novel Old Blood’s Fate, the character Emma loses her vision at the very end of the book. She has the ability to work a piece of powerful magic, but knows there will be a sacrifice. She walks toward her blindness, embraces it in order to save those she loves. We only get one chapter of her living with that blindness, but she is a character I plan to revisit at some point in the near future. Old Blood’s Fate is part of my mythical Twin Cities series and can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/Old-Bloods-Fate-Michael-Merriam/dp/1482689812/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
In the short story By Moonlight, we meet Selma, a woman who hunts the local rogue fey. Selma wields a small bit of magic to help her in her job, but she is slowly losing her vision. As Selma goes on her final mission, she finds herself pitted against a sadistic half-fey who is also her half-brother. Selma isn’t particularly superpowered. She’s no Daredevil and must finish her tough job while living within her blindness. By Moonlight isn’t available anywhere right now, but I’m hoping to put it in a future short story collection.
Finally, we come to William in a story called Out Among the Singing Void.
Out Among the Singing Void was the first time I wrote a blind character and grew from my desire to write a story featuring a blind protagonist. Because of my own battle with a degenerative eye disease, I wanted to describe the world — and my character William’s perception of it — without using any visual clues.
My hope was to challenge the reader to experience the story through their other senses. This proved more difficult than I had expected. Despite being legally blind, I still slipped into the easy technique of using visual descriptions. I found myself returning to the story to add smells, textures, tastes, and sounds while taking out visuals that would have broken the story’s point of view.
I also wanted to write a story combining elements of fantasy (William as the “Blind Billy/Pied Piper” archetype from folklore) and science fiction (his love Maria as the cybernetic enhanced starship pilot). Too often proponents of each genre argue that their favorite one is superior to the other. I wanted to write a story where those elements co-existed.
This blending of fantasy and science fiction proved fun to write. I enjoyed the world-building I needed to accomplish to make the story ring true. I really enjoyed writing William as he came to realize that he and Maria essentially do the same work.
Most of all, I wanted to write a story about two lonely, somewhat broken people who still harbor a fierce love for each other. I wanted to create a story about them finding their way back together despite the years and distance between them and their different perceptions of reality. It is still one of my personal favorites of all the pieces I’ve written.
You can read Out Among the Singing Void for free here: https://mmerriam.dreamwidth.org/240547.html#cutid1