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Black, white, and red watercolor illustration showing a slightly green eye peaking through a gap between gray and red leaves splattered with black and red droplets. The eye looks human, but the eyebrow sweeps up in an uneven, jagged arc that looks like tufts of fur. This image has been modified from a watercolor by Nika_Akin.


Overview: Pixies are the embodiment of turmoil and disturbance, such as the turmoil that causes, and is caused by, storms. Physically, pixies are one-foot-tall, vaguely-humanoid beings that are a mixture of insect and other animal traits.

Physical Description: Pixies appear more insect-like than anything else, but they are vertebrates, meaning that they have bones. They do have many insect traits, such as chitinous armor, segmented bodies, multiple sets of legs, mandibles, jagged claws, and stingers, with a scattering of traits from other animals, such as shark teeth, goat eyes, lizard scales, snake mouths, and tiger fur. Most pixies have wings and their faces and upper bodies tend to be humanoid. As might be expected for a species embodying turmoil and disturbance, their physical forms are diverse and frequently unsettling. Continue Reading »

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Close-up illustration of gray branches that merge into a bark-covered face with delicate features. This artwork is a modification of a fairy tale image created by Kellepics.


Overview: Dryads originated as forest consciousness within the Other Realm. They are now humanoid beings with tree-like traits. Most dryads have a deep, often magical, connection to the natural world, especially their home forest, and feel drawn to protect it.

Physical Description: The appearance of dryads varies a lot, but they are all roughly humanoid, with tree-like traits, such as bark, roots, thorns, leaves, and flowers. Most dryads have androgynous bodies with green or brown skin. Some have more humanoid faces, while others have mask-like faces covered in leaves or bark. Many dryads have symbiotic fungi or epiphytes, such as moss, lichen, ferns, vines, bromeliads, and orchids, incorporated into their bodies. Dryads can also have plant versions of animal trails, such as horns formed by branches, talons made from thorns, fur composed of moss and lichen, hooves formed from roots, and tails made of swishing vines. Continue Reading »

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Watercolor illustration of a small, rainbow-colored, four-legged creature with an elongated body climbing over a dandelion that is bent down with its weight. It has dragonfly wings and a long thin tail that ends in a leaf-like fan. Illustration by Victoria_Watercolor from Pixabay


Overview: Motley Fae embody the exuberant diversity of nature. Each individual is unique and many have extraordinary appearances.

Physical Description: Diversity and variation are the rule for Motley Fae. They are all sizes from tiny to huge. Some are humanoid and some aren’t. They frequently display a disparate mixture of animal parts, with many plant traits and a few additional natural elements mixed in, but this also varies. There is no body plan or trait common to them. Nothing but variation marks a Motley Fae, not even heredity. The traits each individual’s parents have don’t have any relationship to their traits, not even for Motley Fae-descended people living outside the Other Realm.

Some Motley Fae have contrasting traits paired together, such as a lion with a fern mane, a person with butterfly wings and goat eyes, a deer with beetle jaws, a snake-person with feathers and a scorpion tail, a salamander with gemstones embedded in its skin, and a fungus-person with an elephant face. Others have different traits combined into one, such as flint hooves, tree branches that grow as horns, skin the texture of a seashell, tusks made from ice, wings with leaves instead of feathers, bands of moss and lichen that grow like striped fur, crystal teeth, and crests made from colorful mushrooms. Striking appearances are common, as is asymmetry. Continue Reading »

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Image of the pitcher of a Pitcher Crab, showing the red and green mouth of a pitcher with its lid partially raised. Above the lid, black oval eyes rise on pale eyestalks that attach to the back of the pitcher in the same place as the lid. Two fang-like, green projections hang down from the bottom of the pitcher’s lid, adding the the impression of the lid being the top of an open mouth.


Overview: A sapient plant species that has a large, crab-like body, with roots for legs, a leafy body, and a large pitcher that forms both face and stomach.

Physical Description: An average adult Pitcher Crab is six feet wide and five feet tall. The majority of their size is eight thick, woody roots shaped like the legs of a giant crab. Protective bark on these roots mimics the tough shell of a crab. These crab-like legs support a bushy plant body with long, dark-green, oval leaves. Delicate, feathered antennae are distributed through this bushy body while a single red and green pitcher sprouts from its front. A pair of beady, black eyestalks, like those of a crab, rise alertly from the place where the lid attaches to the pitcher. Below these eyes, the mobile lid of the pitcher acts as a mouth, creating the Pitcher Crab’s face.

The cup of the pitcher acts as a Pitcher Crab’s stomach. In it, Pitcher Crabs ferment and digest fallen leaves and other nonwoody plant debris for both nutrients and energy. The ability to digest food makes Pitcher Crabs less dependent on sunlight than most other sapient plant species, giving them greater lifestyle flexibility.

A Pitcher Crab’s front two root-legs form large claws that can be used like hands to pick up and hold things. The joints in these two root-legs allow a wide range of movement, but like a crab, a Pitcher Crab’s remaining legs have a limited range of motion. It is easiest for them to move sideways, but they can shuffle forward and backwards. They are the fastest when moving sideways, so they always run sideways. Continue Reading »

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An artwork showing the woody trunks of vines twisted and entwined together. This is meant to illustrate the way individual vines might twist together to form a Vine Collective’s body.


Overview: Vine Collectives are a sapient plant species. Each individual is a group of animated vines that entwine together to form a shared body and consciousness.

Physical Description: Most Vine Collectives have a roughly humanoid body covered in leaves. The vines, usually siblings, are unbranching. They are joined together at the feet and weave together as they go upward to form legs, a torso, arms, and a head. Each foot is an interconnected root web that allows the vines to share water, food, and other nutrients with each other. New shoots start in these root webs and grow quickly because they are nurtured by the adult vines.

In order for a Vine Collective’s roots to get water and nutrients from soil or mud, the ends of their roots temporarily extend out of the root web and sink down into the ground. Vine Collective roots can pull in water and nutrients quickly and store them in the base of the vine stems, allowing the collective to retract their roots and move on after only a short time of being rooted. This also gives their humanoid bodies big feet, thick legs, and a low center of gravity. Combined with strong roots, many Vine Collectives have the added benefit of being difficult to knock over.

Different vines in each collective perform specific tasks. At a minimum, most Vine Collectives have woody Structure Vines that hold the other vines up, leafy Energy Vines that make lots of food, and delicate Sensory Vines with organs that let the Vine Collective perceive the world around them. Many Vine Collectives also have tough Protector Vines that form an armor-like shell. A few have thorny Protector Vines instead. And some don’t have Protector Vines at all. There are many other variations and some individuals have vines that fulfill other tasks, like helping the collective endure extreme weather or repel insects.

Most Vine Collectives can reweave their structures as needed to take advantage of the functions of their different vines. For example, they can reweave to extend their Energy Vines and maximize food production, then tuck those Energy Vines underneath Protector Vines when a threat is near. Continue Reading »

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An illustration of pink slime filled with complicated, twisting currents and goopy bubbles.


Overview: Slime-people are sapient beings whose bodies are made from a gelatinous substance that is squishy, flexible, and elastic. Most slime-people have a roughly humanoid form and can change their shape at will.

Plasmodial Slime-people are a specific group of Slime-people descended from plasmodial slime-molds that were altered by powerful magic that infused them with amphibian and humanoid traits. They are the largest population of Slime-people in Crossroads.

Physical Description: Like most species with magical origins, Plasmodial Slime-people are physically diverse. Their gelatinous bodies are roughly humanoid, but vary greatly in size and shape. Some have significantly different body plans, including those with tails, gills, more than four limbs, no limbs, skin flaps, horns, and dangling appendages. While blue and green are most common, their colors vary so widely that they can be any color of the rainbow. Many are a single color, but others are a combination of colors, with a significant number displaying the striking patterns of the most vivid amphibians.

The internal structures of Plasmodial Slime-people also vary, but all have less structure than flesh and blood species. A few have no organ-like structures, while others have one or more organ-like structures that carry out key functions. For example, those without organ-like structures have bits of food floating throughout their bodies as it is digested, while those with a stomach-like structure have all of their food contained and digested in one place.

Like amphibians, most Plasmodial Slime-people are adapted for a life both in water and on land. Most breathe through their skin, which allows them to breathe underwater, but does require their skin to stay moist. Many also have basic lungs which allow them to breathe air and use verbal language. Continue Reading »

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An illustration of a glowing, peach-pink rose with a golden core set against a black background.


Safety Rating: Beneficial.

Environment: Once created, a Soul Flower only dies when the person it is bonded to dies. This means that Soul Flowers can live in any environment.

Details: A Soul Flower is created in a ritual that uses Plant Magic to transform a non-magical flowering plant into a Soul Flower bonded to the life force of a specific person. If that person thrives, the Soul Flower thrives. If that person is injured, the Soul Flower is injured. If that person is in mortal peril, the Soul Flower wilts. If that person dies, the Soul Flower dies.

The typical use of a Soul Flower is to monitor a person’s wellbeing at a distance. This works because a Soul Flower always shows the condition of the person it is bonded to. In fact, a Soul Flower can’t be harmed by anything except harm to the person it is bonded to.

Appearance: Any type of non-magical flowering plant can be made into a Soul Flower. Popular choices are roses, lilies, bromeliads, orchids, and flowering succulents. Once transformed, the plant becomes compact in shape and has a single, glowing flower. While this flower is the same type of flower it was before, its appearance now reflects the essence of the person it is bonded to. For example, what was a smooth, elegant, red rose may transform into a simple, fragrant, pink rose for one person and a lush, frilly, purple rose for another. Continue Reading »

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A close-up illustration of the translucent purple leaves and stem of a plant that looks as if it was made out of gummy candy.


Safety Rating: Beneficial.

Environment: Wild Jelly Vines grow in swamps with mild winters and infrequent frosts. Domesticated Jelly Vines have been bred to grow in a wider range of environments, but they need sufficient water and protection from freezing temperatures.

Details: These part-slime plants are translucent, with vibrantly colored leaves that can be any color of the rainbow. They use tendrils to grab onto anything that can support them as they grow upward. When mature, Jelly Vines can be up to thirty feet long with sturdy stems capable of supporting significant weight.

Jelly Vines can stretch and compress in response to touch. This is why so many domesticated Jelly Vines are used for adjustable-height furniture, such as couches, tables, chairs, shelves, desks, and beds. Because Jelly Vines like to have something to hold onto, they are usually provided with wooden pegs securely anchored into the walls and ceiling. These pegs help the Jelly Vines support the weight of the furniture.

Instead of feet, most Jelly Vine furniture has small pots of soil, which can make the furniture tricky to move, especially when vines are attached to the walls or ceiling. Chairs that need to move easily require a special (more expensive) design. All of the vines in these chairs come from a single pot of soil that the vines are woven around, making the whole chair moves as one piece. Continue Reading »

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An illustration of a stand of aspen trees showing an up-close view of the white and black trunks of older trees alongside the leaves and branches of younger trees.


Safety Rating: Mildly to extremely dangerous, depending on which allies are nearby.

Environment: Cold areas with cool summers, especially mountains and high plains.

Details: Like Quaking Aspen, the leaves of Whispering Aspen flutter in the slightest breeze. What makes Whispering Aspen distinct is the unsettling whispers that infuse the hiss of its leaves. These magical whispers continue in winter, but in the absence of leaves, the whisperers infuse the scratch, clatter, and creak of the bare branches.

The magic of the whispers lets the trees pass messages to each other and the other plants around them. These messages include everything that concerns a plant, especially the presence of pests, herbivores, and strangers.

Whispering Aspens are good at recruiting allies, especially other magical plants. When a Whispering Aspen perceives a threat, it sends out a message to those allies, especially those that are predatory plants and fungi. Depending on what allies are nearby, this can be exceedingly dangerous. Adding to the danger, Whispering Aspen whispers are unsettling to those who hear—but can’t understand—them. Anyone unsettled by the whispers becomes less aware of what is going on around them, making it easier for the Whispering Aspen’s allies to sneak up on them. Continue Reading »

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I’m excited to say that I’m working on a new article about creating assistive devices. In it I’m channeling all of my frustration with people unthinkingly acting as if assistive devices need to carry the entire weight of creating accessibility for disabled people and I’m really happy with how it is coming out. I’m also presenting my personal method for creating assistive devices. Here I’m sharing everything I’ve completed so far, followed by the outline of the remaining sections. As I finish new sections, I will update this post. I hope you enjoy what I’ve completed so far!

A dark skinned wheelchair user with long hair and a beanie sits at a small table, using their laptop to participate in a video meeting. The laptop screen is shown to their right, with the call being live captioned. The main speaker is a dark skinned person wearing a hijab and glasses, and three other participants are at the bottom of the screen, in smaller windows. In the bottom right corner, a yellow service dog bounds towards the wheelchair user. Illustration by Dana Chan for Disabled And Here.


Crafting Assistive Devices for Speculative Fiction


Respectfully portraying assistive devices in non-speculative fiction requires research and consulting, but it is a straight forward process. How do we do this in speculative fiction, when magic, advanced technology, or alternate worlds are involved?


What Are Assistive Devices?

Before we do anything else, I want to be clear what assistive technology and assistive devices are, because the mainstream view of disability portrays them in a narrow, distorted way. Surprisingly, there is significant variation in the definition of these terms, so I’m using the ones I find to be the most helpful.

  • Assistive technology is any item, system, or product that a disabled person can use to increase their functional capabilities. This includes things that are specifically designed for disabled people and things that aren’t, such as magnifiers, speech recognition software, railings, and elevators.

Assistive technology and assistive devices are often used interchangeably. Technically, any assistive technology that is a device (a physical object made for a specific purpose) is an assistive device, making assistive device a narrower term because it leaves out things like computer programs. Although I recognize this difference, this article uses the term assistive device instead of assistive technology because it is more easily recognized. Not many people associate low tech devices, like grips and grab bars, with the word technology.

One more important definition is that of adaptive equipment.

  • Adaptive equipment is a subcategory of assistive technology that only includes equipment specifically designed for people with disabilities, such as prosthetic limbs, power chairs, and Braille books.

The reason these definitions matter is that the mainstream view of disability leads people to confuse adaptive equipment with assistive devices and think of them both in limited ways. However the reality of assistive devices in the lives of disabled people is much broader, and showing that is part of portraying disability respectfully.



Start with the Big Picture

Now that we have a clearer idea of what assistive devices are, the next thing to know about assistive devices is that they don’t exist in isolation—they are part of a broader set of accessibility tools that come together to create access and inclusion for disabled people. Key accessibility tools to think about are: accessible physical environments, inclusive social structures, accommodations, assistance animals, assistance work, and medical care. Continue Reading »

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