Author feature: Challenge Accepted. Coordinated by Stephanie Barr

Challenge Accepted - Seventeen stories about people who rise above anything that tries to stop them, even their own limitations.

A blind spaceship pilot. 
Cops and maintenance personnel in wheelchairs.
Taking on bad guys with only one leg or no arms.
It’s not what you are that makes you something special. It’s who you choose to be.
With stories by Stephanie Barr, Micha Burnett, Jennifer Busick, Adam David Collings, Steve Curry, Scott G. Gibson, Joyce Hertzoff, Jane Jago, Clarence Jennelle, Jeanette O’Hagan, Layla Pinkett, Jen Ponce, Connor Sassmannshausen, Lynne Stringer, E. M. Swift-Hook, Margret Treiber, Andy Zach.
An anthology of stories with disabled main characters kicking butt, like they do in real life. 

All proceeds to go to the Special Olympics.

“Not pirates,” a third voice said. “We’re more like explorers—space explorers—out to conquer new territory for China much like your ancestors did our neighbors a few centuries back.”
All three laughed at this, leaving Renaud sputtering. “Are you actually telling me that this act of piracy is sanctioned by the Chinese government?”
There was a pause. “Why should some international company have a stranglehold on the growth of replacement organs? Why them and not us?”
“Didn’t they develop them?” Weston asked and was smacked again for his trouble.
“It’s too much power for one company to have,” the brute retorted. “And, if they can’t preserve control over it like we would definitely do, they deserve to lose it.”
There were a few more minutes of uncomfortable silence. She would have to adjust her flight in nine minutes or they would be committed to a long elliptical orbit that would use up all their resources, including oxygen, unless she killed most of these men. She wasn’t set up for a several day mission.
Something pinged . . . twice. Sin was so clever with her signal—that also meant she was back in the cockpit. The other seven men were still in the original room. That could even the odds. She slipped the toe of one boot under a flap of what looked like thermal blanket riveted to the floor and pressed a button, then pulled her foot back. She heard shouting from a distance, some of it quite vehement, and then the clang of multiple doors closing and locking. Now it was just the three of them on the bridge.
There were some grunts and the sound of hands grabbing hand holds and slapping metal, perhaps in frustration. “How did you do that? Open that door back up immediately!”
“What door?” she asked, feigning ignorance. She was always amazed how many people presumed that being blind meant she wasn’t very bright.
“The door where my men are trapped. The door to the cockpit.”
“You’ve been watching me this whole time. Have my hands moved?”
Something—likely a gloved hand, smacked across her face. Hard. Now she tasted blood as well. “I’m getting tired of your attitude. That door didn’t close itself.”
“Maybe they triggered the meteoroid alarm accidentally. That seals off all the internal compartments in case of leak.”
“Is that true?”
Weston’s voice was nasal. She wondered if they’d broken his nose. “Yes. Most ships have those. Or we could have been holed and it happened automatically.”
“You mean, my men might be locked in a leaking compartment?”
“It’s possible,” Weston said.
“How do we know?”
Kayla smiled. “Listen for screaming.”

An extract from ‘None So Blind’ by Stephaine Barr one of stories in Challenge Accepted which she has brought through from the first idea to final publication as an anthology. 

A Bite of... Stephanie Barr
Q1: Is it important to include all shades of belief and sexual orientation in a book?

Depending on the size of your epic, it’s not always practical to include everyone across the board. Nor do I think every shade of belief needs to be there, but I’m a scientist, so that flavors my thinking. If you have a cast of five key players, no one says you have to have one of them gay or one of them straight for that matter. If you have a cast of dozens, leaving out folks becomes more problematic, because representation matters when building worlds. Leaving out (or demonizing) religions (while including others that are recognizable)

But it’s a difficult conundrum. I’m not qualified to write the black experience or the indigenous experience. There will be aspects I just won’t get and will likely flub it if I try by overtrying while missing key aspects of it I never even knew about. BUT, I do think it’s important to include people of different races, creeds, conditions, sexual orientations, etc, because otherwise you argue worlds that don’t include them and that’s particularly frightening. It’s like you erase them from the future and I don’t want anyone excluded. That was, in fact, the notion that drove this book. Including disabled persons in future worlds where they were important players, where they weren’t tokens or objects of pity, but capable, intelligent, useful parts of the world they inhabited.

Just like they are now. 

Q2: Are you ticklish? If so where?

I am, but only above the waist. My feet are not ticklish, and, be warned, I’m totally kick-ass at tickling so you’d better not try tickling me unless you’re invulnerable. My two children (still at home), don’t have a chance, but they love to be tickled for some reason.

Q3: Have you ever written somebody you love into a book?

Yes. Dante da Silva, from Tarot Queen, is really close to what I could see my (now ex-) husband as in similar circumstances. Generally careless and capable but also with the capacity of devotion if he found the right one. I turned out not to be the one, but he seems to have found it since.

My son is also the model for Hans Kado, who is high-functioning (in some ways) autistic in several stories in Legacy and who has a cameo in my story “None So Blind” in this anthology, Challenge Accepted. My son is totally non-verbal but many of his tendencies (as I observed them) I included in the short stories. Kado totally charms me, too, though I don’t know how someone else would react. 

Although Stephanie Barr is a slave to three children and a slew of cats, she actually leads a double life as a part-time novelist and full-time rocket scientist. People everywhere have learned to watch out for fear of becoming part of her stories. Beware! You might be next! Kado and Lola who have bit parts in “None So Blind” can also be found in her solo anthology, Legacy.



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