Disability & Fiction: After the Dragon by Sarah Monette

Sarah Monette wrote a short story for Dragon Magazine called After the Dragon.

After the dragon, she lay in the white on white hospital room and wanted to die.

The counselor came and talked about stages of grief and group therapy, her speech so rehearsed Megan could hear the grooves in the vinyl; Megan turned the ruined side of her face toward her and said, “Do you have a group for this?”

She felt the moment when the counselor dropped the ball, didn’t have a pre-processed answer, when just for a second she was a real person, and then she picked it up again and gave Megan an answer she didn’t even hear.

The doctors talked about reconstructive surgery and skin grafts, and Megan agreed with them because it was easier than listening. It didn’t matter; they could not restore the hand that had seared and twisted and melted in the dragon’s heat. They could not restore the breast rent and ruined by the dragon’s claws. They couldn’t stop the fevers that racked her, one opportunistic infection after another like the aftershocks of an earthquake. Her risk of thirteen different kinds of cancer had skyrocketed, and osteoporosis had already started in the affected arm and shoulder.

They could not erase the dragon from her body, and she hated them for it.

Confession: I think I met Sarah Monette at WisCon last year.

I think this is an interesting story about disability. Unlike so many others I’ve read, it assumes the main character, Megan, is a complete human being and doesn’t need to go through something in order to become complete. It centers Megan in the story, not the reactions of her friends and family, while at the same time making it clear that not everyone can cope with a sudden dramatic change in ability status. It doesn’t present this as a story where Megan learns a Very Special Lesson, or is a Very Special Lesson for others.

I’m in a household where disability has been a component since I started it, so I’m not as familiar with the Stages Of Grief that can come from a sudden and traumatic change in ability status. To me, it all reads true.

I admit, I was dreading reading this when I realised it was going to be about disability and recovering from trauma, but I’m glad that I did. I think it’s a good short story, and I like how disability just is in it.

After the Dragon.

10 thoughts on “Disability & Fiction: After the Dragon by Sarah Monette

  1. Thank you for the link to that story, it’s quite fabulous. I like that it is entirely Megan’s story. Not a story about the dragon, not a story about the people around Megan, Megan’s story. And it neither minimizes the difficulty of her changed ability status and recovery/adaptation to her injuries or turns them into some maudlin, overwrought tale, which is a refreshing change.

  2. I loved that! And

    ***********spoilers, in case you haven’t read it yet*******************

    i loved the tattoo at the end. It felt so similar to why I have my tattoo in a way that I hadn’t been able to put my hands on. My tattoo was a reclaiming of my body in a way that is both powerful and beautiful for me.

  3. I love the story, but I must admit right up front that I’m biased: it was inspired by a piece of art I made, a necklace called “After the Dragon, She Learned To Love Her Body.” (People write stuff sometimes because they get ideas from art I make; last year I got nominated for a World Fantasy Award for inciting such art.)

    That means it’s a story with disability in it, sparked by a piece of art made by an artist with disabilities… and one could go on. It’s all interconnected, really, when considered carefully.

    Anyhow, hi! I’ll check this place out; you seem like interesting folks.

  4. Hi Elise! I have heard of you, because you are awesome! (I actually only learned of the piece because I occasionally haunt Sarah Monette’s LJ, where she mentioned your piece as inspiring it.)

    I didn’t know that, Jesse – I admit, I assumed otherwise. *cough* *blush*
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Sunday, Lazy Sunday =-.

  5. Exactly so, Jesse. Glad you mentioned it; I wasn’t sure whether or not to, and was going to email herself and ask if I could, and then spaced it out when something interrupted me. But yes indeed.

    (“Interrupt-driven” turns out to be such a useful phrase. Heh.)

  6. I was alluding to Sarah’s disability stuff with the “… and one could go on. It’s all interconnected, really, when considered carefully,” in fact. Because yeah, it really, really is.

    I love reading what she writes whenever she does an Artists’ Challenge or sparks off of something I made — well, I love reading what she writes all the time, but especially then. It’s meant a lot to me to watch people take a smidgen of inspiration and make it into something wonderful that reaches so much farther than the original thingie of inspiration. I feel like somebody who handed a tool to somebody, and that somebody used it to build something that saves lives. Uh, the technical term for how I feel would be “deeply honored.”

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