Valuing Care

A review of Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law’s The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound (Laksa Media Group, 2017)
By Derek Newman-Stille

As a society, we undervalue care and undervalue care workers. We tend to assume that people who do care work are doing it because they like helping people and we assume that the job is compensation enough. Even in the home, we de-value family members who provide care, viewing their care work as something that doesn’t need compensation. Care work is consistently treated as though it is not real labour and isn’t valued or compensated for. 

Part of this lack of value for care work stems from patriarchal beliefs that position care work as a feminine labour and therefore de-value it the same way that patriarchy de-values anything viewed as feminine. 

Care work has been in need to reimagining for some time. It has needed a fundamental disruption of social assumptions and a re-evaluating of the meaning of this labour. Using the medium of speculative fiction, a genre devoted to asking questions, Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law’s The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound brings together stories that critically interrogate the way that we imagine care and care-giving. These stories take a broad exploration of what care can mean, looking at parental care, long term care homes, social responsibilities for care, foster care, maternal care, elder care, medical care by doctors and nurses, the care relationships of pets, and even the care roles of insectile species’ (since care isn’t just a human trait). These stories examine complexities of care that are critical to this culture moment such as what is the value of care?, what difference does quality care make?, what is quality of life?, is care the role of home or the state?, what are the gendered dynamics of care-giving?, why do we de-value care-givers?, how much responsibility should parents have in the care of their children?, and what is the role of robotics in care? These are all critical questions that are in need of complex and creative answers and The Sum of Us invites readers to think critically about them. It doesn’t introduce easy answers about care-giving, but instead invites readers to explore often contrary ideas about care, asking readers to come up with their own critical questions and creative answers to the meaning of care.

These are tales of robots, aliens, insects, future wars, supervillains, nanites, other worlds, plagues, and mutants, but at their core, these are all tales about what caring means, and these are real, human questions. They may be explored through the lens of the alien, but they are fundamentally about human values and what care means to us. Sometimes the only way to get us to ask critical questions about the way that we value (or de-value) caring labour is to project our modes of care onto another, onto the future, onto another society, onto the inhuman so that we ask ourselves “if this makes us upset when we see an alien doing it, what does it mean that we are doing the same thing?”

To read some of the reviews of individual stories in this collection, see my review of:

Claire Humphrey’s “Number One Draft Pick”

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2017/07/25/skating-on-the-thin-ice-of-sports-masculinity/

Juliet Marillier’s “The Gatekeeper”

https://disabledembodiment.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/the-reaper-cat/

Edward Willett’s “The Mother’s Keeper”

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2017/07/08/insectile-intimacies/

Sandra Kasturi’s “The Beautiful Gears of Dying”

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2017/07/06/exposing-the-caregiver-within-the-human-suit/

A.M. Dellamonica’s “Bottleneck” 

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2017/06/10/caregiving-at-war/

Caroline M. Yoachim’s “Dreams as Fragile as Glass” 

https://disabledembodiment.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/breakable/ 

Kate Story’s “Am I Not A Proud Outlier”

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2017/07/28/what-is-means-to-be-an-outsider/
To find out more about The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound, visit http://laksamedia.com/the-sum-of-us-an-anthology-for-a-cause-2/ 

The Cost of Living

A review of Holly Schofield’s “Generation Gap” in Lazarus Risen (Bundoran, 2016)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Increasingly age is being associated in our society with an economic threat. We are hearing more and more uses of terms like “the grey tide” to illustrate the perceived threat that an ageing population represents. Age is constructed in ideas of cost and ageing bodies are assumed to be unproductive bodies. The focus of a lot of the rhetoric of threat is the perceived cost of health care for ageing people, and the assumed impact this will have on the overall economy.

Holly Schofield’s “Generation Gap” begins with a character who is threatened by health care debt. We are told by Brendan’s medi-bot that “Personal health care debt exceeds five hundred thousand dollar maximum. Re Federal Act #AJ4448802-Mar 2060. Confirmation #28495488988. Euthenasia approved.” The medi-bot prepares to end Brendan’s life because he is now deemed to be too expensive to keep alive. Schofield explores the interaction between the perception of aged bodies as unproductive, the notion of health care for the elderly as expensive, and the danger of the right to die. In the world Schofield imagines, current issues around the construction of ageing as unproductive and economically threatening have exacerbated to the point where aged people are viewed as disposable. Schofield opens up a dark window into our future if we continue to construct ageing as an economic waste.

Schofield challenges other features that popular culture tends to associate with ageing, like the assumption that aged people have issues with memory and Brendan is able to save himself from involuntary euthenasia by giving him a job providing information about the past to a young person named Jonno, who is trying to recover his family’s past. Schofield challenges the stereotype of aged people not wanting to participate in society by illustrating Brendan’s joy at having a job and feeling like he can contribute to the next generation. He is ecstatic about having a job that he is capable of doing well and that caters to his abilities.

But in addition to the questions and cautions that Schofield raises about the social construction of ageing, she also creates a story about family divisions and intergenerational differences, pointing out the complexities of different relationships to identity and the body between generations.
To discover more about Holly Schofield’s work, visit https://hollyschofield.wordpress.com/
To find out more about Lazarus Risen, visit Bundoran’s site at http://www.bundoranpress.com/product/1/Lazarus-Risen