Professor and author discusses book by deaf writers

By Page H. Gifford, Correspondent

A deaf author will visit Fluvanna to speak about writing within the deaf community and to promote a recent compilation of works by deaf and hard of hearing writers.

Christopher Jon Heuer is an English professor at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and has been there for 20 years.

He is also the author of two books: All Your Parts Intact: Poems, and Bug: Deaf Identity and Internal Revolution.
Tripping the Tale Fantastic: Weird Fiction by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers is the first book he has edited. His writing has also appeared in numerous magazines and periodicals. His background may not seem out of the ordinary, but Heuer is also deaf.

“The book is an anthology of science fiction, horror, and fantasy short stories by 25 deaf and hard of hearing authors from around the world,” said Heuer. The book is unique in that readers are used to writers using five senses to convey a certain reality. Seeing it from a different perspective draws the reader into an alternate reality and gives insight into deaf characters that writers who hear cannot.

“Up until now most anthologies of fiction by deaf and hard of hearing writers are themselves usually about deafness, and I wanted to break this community out of that,” Heuer said. “We’ve created enough fiction on what it’s like to be deaf. Now we need to start focusing on developing our unique ideas in other genres of fiction and on other topics besides just deafness. To be sure some of the stories in the book are about deafness or have deaf characters but that wasn’t a requirement. You just had to be a deaf or hard of hearing author.”

There are a wide range of stories in the book, including stories about a ghost hunter, a woman facing down a psychotic stalker, a football team of cyborg amputees, and a family teleported to another world.

Through the work of deaf authors, readers begin to see that a world only using four senses is not limiting when it comes to writing. Deafness doesn’t change the person writing the story except that they cannot hear the world around them. Heuer believes communication comes in many forms and languages. He said that limiting ourselves to what we believe is normal is also imposed on those who are different.

Helen Keller, who was not only deaf but blind as well, had an expressive writing style that came from using her other senses to understand the world around her and convey it with deep meaning. Writing is a great outlet for all human expression, and Heuer understands its importance as both an author and a professor who teaches various forms of writing.

“Writing has helped me develop my thinking and my political positions on almost everything. Whenever I’m uncertain about something I read about it and write about it until I clarify my feelings. This has been true since I was a little kid,” he said. “I also love reading and going to the places that the words take me. I’ve always loved science fiction for especially this reason.”

Heuer hopes that readers get the sense that the deaf community is moving ahead with its literary explorations.

“We’re not writing about deafness anymore just to get the topic of deafness out there into the wider world,” he said. “We’ve done that. Now we’re writing about other things and this is our first shot at a community collection of sci-fi, horror and fantasy.”

The book has been generally well-received, he said, and many of the authors have presented on their work to standing room only crowds in multiple states. “So I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made thus far,” he said.

Tripping the Tale Fantastic: Weird Fiction by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers can be found on Amazon, as can Heuer’s other books. Heuer will be discussing this book at the monthly meeting of Friends of the Library on Oct. 3 at 7 p.m.

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