The Future is Scar-y: the Connective Tissue of Emotion, Body, & Identity

  • Michael Dale Stokes Michigan State University


This paper brings conversations around coalition work between communities of trans people and disabled people into the greater scope of popular culture. Drawing on theories of reboot culture - the practice of updating and remaking past storylines - alongside disability theory, this paper brings together the material and metaphorical elements of cultural conversation. Staying with the historical violence of science fiction, this paper does not move towards restoration or "cure." Instead, attentiveness to the white-, cis-focused practices of the past speculations on the future offers a route to re-code our present moment. I argue that scars offer a place for this conversation. By defying a fixed temporality of injury followed by healing, scars provide a connection where the conversations of non-normative community can take place. An acceptance of the pain and loss from the original runs of sf narratives opens the potentials of new futures that allow these narratives to be reshaped.

The work to integrate trans and disabled communities is happening in legal, activist, and scholarly communities, however it has not yet been integrated into popular culture. The coalitional reading/viewing of Predestination in this article offers the opportunity to suture these community efforts to widespread popular culture conversations. As more people push against a compulsive normativity that puts social pressure on and forces readings of the various configurations of the body, it is inevitable that stigma and scarring will continue. This paper turns toward stigma as a material metaphor for an interactive space engaged with both disabled and trans communities. Stigma links people with disabilities and trans people through its origin: bodies that have been marked to carry a societal message. Scarring is present in the origins of stigma, and it makes sense that in returning to the matter of bodies we recognize the connective tissue between embodied and cultural marking

Author Biography

Michael Dale Stokes, Michigan State University

Michael Stokes is a scholar whose work engages with the complex entanglements of disability representation, science fiction/horror, critical race, and contemporary culture. He is a first year PhD student at Michigan State University. His work focuses on the relationships of disabled characters in science fiction and horror literature and film from the 1900s to the present with race, queerness, and sexuality. He is particularly interested in how these narratives are (dis)figured as they are remade, rebooted, and rehashed in contemporary literature, film, and television. Michael's work has been delivered in the Centre for Cultural and Disability Studies' Disability and Emotion lecture series and published in The Journal of Analogue Game Studies.