I have a small–make that very small (pun absolutely intended)–confession to make. When I started writing I made a decision to keep a small (there’s that word again) secret from my online writing friends. More importantly, I didn’t want all the editors to know. Not initially. Not entirely. Even when I was writing about disabilities I might have mentioned once or twice that I have a disability but not what sort of disability. I decided I wanted to be judged on equal terms. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a particular sort of writer. I wanted to either win the Writers of the Future contest or become a member of SFWA (the professional science fiction writers association) before anybody knew the full details.
That point was reached a little while ago. I’m an associate member of SFWA. That’s not quite a full member (yet) but seeing as I’ve put writing short stories on hold in the hope of finishing a novel it could be quite a while before I’ve any chance of qualifying for the rest of it. And obviously I’ve no chance of winning the Writers of the Future contest if I stop submitting short fiction. So I think it’s time to spill the crate of far-from-fresh fish. I suspect a few folks already suspected there was something a bit fishy about me: the fact I don’t travel to conventions or anywhere else much anymore; the fact that I have a very peculiar online avatar and alter ego (yes, I’m looking at you, Gator). But it gets weirder, folks, and could only get weirder still if my name were GRR Martin–as I’m a little person, a dwarf.
I have a condition called diastrophic dysplasia. I’m 3’3” tall which means I’m really rather a small dwarf. I’m shorter than Warwick Davis, the actor who is definitely no giant among dwarfs.
For the first 30+ years of my life I never met anyone who didn’t instantly know that I was a dwarf. I could walk into a room of strangers (or rather roll as I’ve always used a powered wheelchair when out, even when I used to be more mobile than I am now) and I’d know anyone who happened to turn their heads my way couldn’t fail to notice how little I am. If I so much as sneezed I could attract media attention and I must confess I’ve occasionally made use of this. Not so online. Here I’m utterly invisible. Here I actually have to tell people I’m a little person (I generally want them to know) which is kind of strange. And it doesn’t always seem appropriate. Unless of course I simply take photographs which is an even less palatable option.
But people talk about personal stuff so much online it was all beginning to feel a bit ridiculous that none of my writer friends knew about this. My decision to keep quiet began to seem more and more ill advised. Some of you guys I’ve known for years and yet you don’t know this most blatant and fundamental thing about me. So it was time for a change, at least time to write this blog post. Beyond that, I really don’t know what this “outing” of my dwarfism means, if anything. At the very least I’m hoping it will mean I can be more open about how my disability affects my writing process because it certainly does that.
Me at 18
A brief word about terminology before I end. The terms “little person” or “person with dwarfism” are pretty much universally acceptable. To describe someone as “a dwarf” as I’ve described myself here is less widely accepted although for me it’s okay. Others–maybe those less enamoured of fantasy fiction than I am– don’t like it much. The word “midget” is offensive to everyone. It’s pretty much equivalent to the “N-word”. It’s hard to pin down exactly why except that it seems to be the term of derision we were all called as kids (at least I was). Possibly it’s derived from the word “midge,” ie. an insect. I remember once how shocked I was when a close colleague used it, a woman who in every other respect had never given the slightest indication of prejudice. I remember I didn’t have the heart to tell her what she’d said. People just don’t know.
And with that I should sign off. I need to go and placate Gator with a large bucket of smoked salmon, or possibly two buckets, or maybe this time she’s going to end up with that fish farm she’s always dreaming of. I sense our “relationship” may change a little. After all, she’s really not going to be such a happy snappy alligator when people learn the truth about just how small she is. Poor huge Gator.