My last post about language was prompted by some of these interesting posts about language.
- Real Social Skills has the most informative and contextually sensitive post about person-first and identity-first language that I’ve yet seen.
- Meanwhile, Neurodivergent K reminds us how often autistic people get yelled at (by abled people) for not using person-first language
- And so does Unstrange Mind (Content warning: lots of talking about abuse)
There was an article recently in New York Times Magazine about children who “recoered” from autism by reducing their visible signs of autism to a certain level after therapy. I’m not going to link to the article, but here’s Chavisory taking it down by explaining what life ends up being like for children who go this route.
- Steven Kapp has another response, with more methodological detail.
Meanwhile, here’s some interesting “what it’s like to be autistic”-type posts:
- Dani Alexis on animism
- Feminist Aspie on the myth of autistic people being unable to lie
- E from The Third Glance on disclosing without disclosing
- Alyssa from Yes, That Too on understanding mental states
- The Autism Women’s Network is Kickstarting an anthology on the topic of autism and race. This is awesome. (Note: As prezzey points out below, the anthology doesn't seem to have a plan for paying authors. This makes it less awesome. Sorry for not catching that earlier...)
- Speaking of autism and race: a while back I posted a link to an article about undercover cops in the US preying on developmentally disabled teens by pressuring them into agreeing to a fake drug deal, then arresting them. Turns out it’s even worse for developmentally disabled Muslim Americans; the FBI entraps them into agreeing to help with fake terrorism.
- On a completely different note: Virginia Hughes on the sexual politics of autism. (Note: This article is pretty medical-model-y, and is exclusively about researchers rather than the viewpoints of autistic people. Proceed with caution. I’m linking mostly because I find it interesting to see what the researchers are arguing about these days, and because it might be useful for newbie/NT readers who have seen gender-related research claims and want context for them.)
And some pan-disability stuff:
- Real Social Skills on what disability acceptance means
- Everybody is talking about mental illness and depression now following Robin Williams’ death. I’m not going to post much on this topic since I’m certain it’s already been plastered all over everyone’s social media feed in great detail. However, if you’re interested in this topic, here is a much-needed post by Jo from Ether Drift Theory reminding us that it’s not only about depression.
- Here is a Disability in Kidlit roundtable about what not to do when writing disabled characters.
- Here is an ASAN toolkit for managing health care during the transition to adulthood.
- Cynthia Kim on backstopping: a useful skill for our close friends and caregivers
- A shout-out from Mel Baggs to atypical Aspies. (Oh man. I fit, like, six of these.)
[Content warning: some discussion of specific slurs and ableist statements]
I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while now, but ironically, I haven’t had the words.
I care about language; it would be hard for a writer not to. For instance, I prefer identity-first language to person-first language, largely because I have considered the arguments for it and agree with them. When speaking about myself or about others with disabilities similar to mine, I try very hard to make use of this language.
I also don’t really care that much how other people refer to me.
Language is an act that occurs in context, and I care more about context and intent than I do about language. If I need help and you’re helping me, for example, in some way that involves referring to my neurotype in front of others, then I don’t really care if you call me an “autistic person”, an “Aspie”, a “person who has autism”, even the dreaded “high-functioning” – whatever. As long as it’s what works in the situation we’re in. If you say something really weird, I might gently bring it up with you later. But mostly, I care that you’re helping.
(Though, of course, claiming you’re “helping” does not give you a free pass. I care that you’re helping cluefully, effectively, and with my consent. But that’s another post.)
I’m also a fan of reclaiming slurs, although that’s neither here nor there.
Many people are more upset by person-first language, or by other language-related matters, than I am. That’s fine, and it’s a thing one should take into account when deciding how to talk. But I think on some level most of us are like this. We care how we, and others like us, are treated. Language is one part of that. It can be important but is not always the most important part, and I think very few of us really believe that it is.
Social justice people get accused of being the “PC language police”, but in my experience, the worst offenders when it comes to pointless PC language (more about the term “PC” below) are very privileged people who don’t actually care about any of this.
A friend of mine told me a story once about an American politician who stated publically that people who are “mentally retarded” should be happy to work for only pennies an hour. (Because yes, it is still legal to pay that little to certain classes of disabled people in certain classes of job.)
After public outcry ensued, the politician apologized, and explained that he had misspoken. He had meant to say that “intellectually disabled” people should be happy to work for only pennies an hour.
I don’t think anybody actually found this reassuring.
If you ever hear me use the term “politically correct” non-ironically, then this is likely what I mean. People in power who carefully sanitize their language without actually caring about context, or about the effects of their actions on the people they are talking about.
It’s possible to be very, very dehumanizing and emotionally abusive without ever using the “wrong” words or the “wrong” tone. It’s possible to dress dehumanization up in a nearly-unlimited number of kittens, rainbows, and reassurances. It’s possible to do it with exactly the terminology and speech style of the people you are dehumanizing. It still is what it is, and if we critique only the surface features of language, we’ll never fix it.
However, even though it is not one of the battles I choose for myself, critiquing the surface features of language can be important. I don’t want to shame anybody who does choose this battle, or to suggest that their concerns are not worth hearing.
And, while it’s easy to go on, say, Tumblr and find people who seem to be focusing on language to the exclusion of all else, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is rarely what’s actually going on. Sometimes people choose that battle for themselves because they recognize it as a battle someone has to fight, and one that they have the tools for; that doesn’t mean they believe there are no other worthy battles. Sometimes people are genuinely upset by certain terms or language forms and need to talk about it. Sometimes people talk about language in one place, and other issues in another place. Sometimes people want to make a deeper critique of someone’s attitudes, but have trouble doing so without pointing to specific words and saying “see, that.” All of these things, and others, are valid.
(Though there are some related problems that should be talked about. Such as “punching sideways”, in which a marginalized person tries to talk about their experience and is shouted down by other marginalized people – or, worse, “allies” – because they didn’t use the correct terms. I want to talk about this but I don’t have my thoughts in order about it and can’t right now.)
In the meantime – and I can only say this for myself, personally, never for other autistic people – as long as it’s clear in context that you actually do have my back, and are actually listening when I talk to you, then you can call me whatever seems reasonable to you. And when referring to yourself, you can use whatever language you damn well please. I don’t, and shouldn’t, mind.
That is all.
I’ve somehow been totally dumb and missed this for the first several days it was out. But! My poem, “The Self-Rescuing Princess“, is up now at Lakeside Circus!
This is my second short piece appearing in Lakeside Circus. The first, in Issue One, was my micro-story “The Button”, and I have another poem coming up in Issue Three. I am now wondering if I can challenge myself to somehow appear in every single issue ever…
Anyway, it’s an angry little survivor poem with princesses in it. So, if you’re into that, go check it out.
A podcast version of this poem, read by Carrie Cuinn, is in the works, but has yet to appear. I’ll try and link you guys to it when it’s available; it’s a monologue style of poem, and those are the MOST fun ones to read, so this ought to go well.
So, I don’t like non-paying markets. This is probably not a surprise; I have a vested interest in being paid for what I write. Writing is work; and there is a time and place for volunteer work, particularly in an activist context. But when one is expected to work for free as part (or all) of one’s career, or told that working for free is the only option because of one’s marginalization, bad things happen.
I don’t like non-paying markets. And I don’t, as a rule, review non-speculative stuff.
So why the heck am I reviewing Barking Sycamores?
This is a zine which is dedicated to showcasing the work of neurodiverse poets (and artists), but doesn’t pay them. There’s a “donate” button, but the money goes to distribution, not contributors.
And I could rail about this being an unethical way to showcase poetry from an already-underrepresented group. Or I could roll my eyes and go do something else. Yet here I am, writing an actual review of Issue One. Possibly because this is exactly my thing; possibly because I don’t know of any other market, paying or not, with the same mission. Possibly just because my brain grabs on to things sometimes and doesn’t let go.
You might expect that, in a non-paying market, the work will vary in quality. It does. But there are many good pieces in here, and the issue as a whole is enjoyable to read. There is a strong sense of shared mood and theme: topics vary, but each poet conveys a sense of a slantwise sensory and cognitive approach to life. Each poet owns and validates their difference, even though many are painfully aware of surrounding forces that wish to erase them.
The best of these more-painful poems, dealing with the sheer weight of NT expectations, is Savannah Logsdon-Breakdone’s “Sleep“. Emily Page Ballou’s coordinated pair of poems, comparing her “real” self to the self adults wished her to be, is also intriguing, as is Barbara Ruth’s “At Sixty-Seven, Still Brain Damaged, Still Brilliant“.
Those readers looking for speculative fare might be satisfied by Sarah Akin’s magical-realist “To George“, or by a few of Christopher Wood Robbins’ poems; meanwhile, Lucas Sheelk’s “Dear Allistic, Love, Autistic” is not quite a poem, but is well worth reading as an intimate, true-to-life look at a type of relationship we don’t often get to see in what’s published about us.
There are several poets in these pages who are very interesting to me, and whom I’ll (eventually) be looking up for further work. If you’re interested, as I am, in both poetry and neurodiversity, then it’s all worth a look.
One wishes, however, that each of these worthy poets had been paid something for their efforts. I totally agree with trying to distribute neurodiverse poetry to a wider audience, in order to give new readers a sense of neurodivergent authors’ experiences and personhood. But if we really wish to honor the poets’ personhood, surely that should include paying them something for their published work, as other poets are paid – not simply using them as a convenient source of free words to use in furthering a cause.
So a few people did my likeability exercise back in June. Not many, and not nearly enough for any of these to be scientifically rigorous conclusions (lol), but I’m gonna summarize some stuff anyway, because I’m in a posting and summarizing mood!
It seems that people are pretty consistent in their preferences. Most folks seemed to have a set of traits that really endeared them to a character, and most or all of the people on their list would have most or all of those traits. However, the set of traits was completely different for each person, and was heavily based in their own values.
Likeability contained an element of moral approval for some people, but not others. Some people’s preferences changed slightly based on a character’s gender, but others didn’t change at all, and even for the former group, there was considerable overlap.
So it seems that likeability isn’t objective – there’s no one formula to make everybody like one character – but it’s also not completely arbitrary and meaningless. Instead, it’s a question of what appeals to an individual reader.
Oddly, I found that I had more of a double standard / change in preferences between genders than anybody else who dared to do the exercise. I also had more difficulty doing the exercise than I thought I would. Neither of these was what I expected!
If you’re curious, here are my answers:
This part was easy, and I just wrote down the first / biggest three that came to mind out of many runner-ups:
- Miles Vorkosigan
- [A player-turned-recurring-villain from a D&D game I used to play in - anybody who's done an RPG with me or talked about large projects with me recently will probably know who I'm talking about.]
- Loki, as played by Tom Hiddleston
Shared traits, between these and nearly all of the runner-ups: Extremely clever, quick-thinking, charismatic, unconventional, a bit devious, and larger-than-life.
There seems to be no real moral component here, as I have heroes, villains, and morally-ambiguous antiheroes (O HAI, Vlad Taltos) crowding up this runner-up list with about equal aplomb.
This part was way, WAY harder than the male characters, and I have no idea why… As before, there was a sizeable runner-up list, but with the male list, the runner-ups were like “Oh yeah, I like him, too.” With this one, it was more like, “Could she go on the list? Should she go on the list? MAYBE ALMOST she goes on the list but I am not sure and not happy about this and I’m not sure why I’m unhappy or feel reluctant/awkward? I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THIS LIST. I thought I PREFERRED books/shows with female characters, what even IS this.”
Anyway, after a lot of confusion, the actual list ended up like this:
- Melinda May (from “Agents of SHIELD”)
- Adelle DeWitt (from “Dollhouse”)
- Granny Weatherwax (from the Discworld novels)
So clearly this is different from the other list? Hyper-competence is still an aspect, but it’s defined more broadly, and there’s also this aloof, closed-off, unfriendly quality which is suddenly all over the place.
(It also seems like the opposite of the male list, personality-wise, except it isn’t quite. It’s possible to have the aloofness and the showoffy unconventional-thinking-charisma at the same time – Benedict Cumberbatch’s character on “Sherlock” comes to mind – although it is not typical.)
(Also, speaking of “Agents of SHIELD”, I belatedly noticed that Skye fits all of my “male character” criteria at least to some degree, though not as flamboyantly as some and with a degree of inexperience. I quite like Skye; she’s on my female runner-up list. Despite the fact that half of the fandom apparently hates her? And I don’t know what’s up with that, either?)
Anyway, so apparently I just have WAY more internalized sexism than all of the rest of you for some reason. And I’ve had enough crushes on girls that I can’t even blame heterosexuality… I have no idea at all.
If this doesn’t scare you away, you can still do the exercise for yourself here.
I’m readjusting my habits (again) and we may actually have a small and on-time news post for once. First, here are some posts about social skills and social coping:
- The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism on how to avoid becoming hateful when people are cruel
- Real Social Skills on the idea of NTs “instinctively knowing” social rules that autistic people don’t, and why this idea is not actually correct
- Emily Brooks on learning to date while autistic
Some pan-disability stuff:
- A list of tips for interacting with disabled people
- Maria Yagoda on girls with ADHD
- Liam from Yet Another Lefty on what depression looks like
- The mobile phone company Sprint has launched a Neurodiversity ID pack with AAC, language and educational games, and other content specifically geared towards autistic children and others with neurodevelopmental disabilities. [ASAN statement about the ID pack]
- Autmystic on adulthood
- Dani Alexis on “paying attention“
- Lisa Daxer has some kinda-good news on a very sad topic, with a couple of people who murdered autistic teenagers being brought to justice.
- A new law to help prevent organ transplant discrimination
- Real Social Skills on a version of ABA that doesn’t use punishments, and why there are still problems with this version
- A safety warning for people who post pictures of their autistic family members
- I missed this when it was first posted, but lately this article by Stop Hurting Kids, and an accompanying myth-busting fact sheet about seclusion and restraint in schools, have been making the rounds again.
My spooky science-fantasy poem, “Evianna Talirr Builds a Portal on Commission”, is now available in Year 1 of the HWA Poetry Showcase, along with works by Geoffrey A. Landis, Ann K. Schwader, and many other famously spooky poets of spook. These were the Horror Writers Association’s favorite poems out of what was submitted to them in their contest back in April.
Ev, a sort of Lovecraftian mystic-scientist who both invents and destroys things, has been creeping around and showing up in different works of mine for some time now, but this is the first time one of them’s actually sold. So, I’m pleased.
More later. IRL stuff has been keeping me away from the blogosphere, but it’s slowly getting back under control.
This one is a long one, and a somewhat-overdue one, and a sad one.
First, there was the (utterly unscientific) study that claimed to show a link between autism and serial killing. Unfortunately, this was not what the study actually showed. It measured autism by looking in media reports about criminals and seeing if anyone speculated that they might be autistic, or that they behaved oddly or had strange social skills. So the correct conclusion isn’t that “autism and serial killing are linked”; it is “people in the news tend to speculate about the mental health and/or neurotype of killers”.
- ASAN statement on this and related research
- Lisa Daxer looks at the numbers in more detail
- Emily Willingham on other problems with the study
Second, of course, there was the Isla Vista shooting. An #AutismIsNotACrime flash blog happened in response to this, organized by Gretchen Leary, but it was not properly archived, and I dropped the ball and missed it at the time. However, here are a few posts, both from within the flash blog and from elsewhere, which relate to the shooting and the complex social issues which sprung up around it.
- Amy Sequenzia explains what the problem is with blaming crimes on autism, in general. (This is a good post to read if you’re sort of staring at things wondering what is going on and what the big deal is.)
- Cristiana Bell describes the impact that this blaming can have on autistic people’s families
- Morénike from Just Being Me describes another kind of impact that it has
- Dani Alexis on autism and misogyny, on what can happen when a person is both autistic and misogynistic, and why using autism to excuse misogyny creats a double standard
Since aggression, in the form of extreme violent acts, has been such a hot topic this month, here are some helpful posts on dealing with more everyday aggression and meltdowns in general.
- Chavisory on identifying sources of aggression in autistic children and teens
- Autistic Drift on what to do when you are having a meltdown
Meanwhile, here is some stuff about research:
- Google (yes, that Google) is helping Autism Speaks compile a database of the genomes of many autistic people and their families, called AUT10K. Many autistic people have reservations about this database (and not just because Autism Speaks is involved). ASAN explains the issues here.
- Here’s an example of autism research that could actually be useful: a simulation that helps autists build job interview skills.
- And some not-so-nice, but interesting, genetic research
- A company called My Ambrosia is planning an app to help autistic adults with cooking and grocery shopping, and they are running a survey to determine what is needed. If you are an autistic adult, you can take the survey here.
Posts about other issues and differences:
- You may know about synesthesia, but did you know about mitempfindungen?
- Chavisory on awkwardness
- Dani Alexis on different types of difficulty talking
- Shawna from Not the Former Things on what it’s like bringing an autistic child to (Christian) church
- M. Kelter on autism and self-medication
- A slide show about sensory overload by Recovery Community
- No More Puzzle Profits on the ice cream sundae theory of autism
- Vituki on things to remember if you are a social justice person whose posts are read by disabled people (i.e. all social justice people)
- Amanda Baggs on the idea of advocacy as a “package deal“
So, my non-writing life has been pretty unbelievable lately, but I Aten’t Dead. And I’m finding myself still fascinated with this topic, despite myself.
During our last discussion, people brought up a wide variety of issues related to character likability, including the impact of a character’s sexual and romantic orientation, and the difference between genre and literary fiction in approaches to characters, plus a whole whack of “Wait, but what does this ‘likeability’ thing actually mean, anyway? Does it mean ANYTHING?’”
Meanwhile, Silvia Moreno-Garcia linked me to this post from Overthinking It. A post doing actual research in likeability, you guys! I highly recommend it, and it’s spurred me to (belatedly) construct some informal research of my own, which covers a few questions that the Overthinking It article may have missed… Although, when I say “informal”, I mean really informal. As in, this would never pass peer-review EVER, ANYWHERE, and the fact that you guys are a biased sample is only the first of its many problems in that regard.
Still, I’m curious.
Ada’s Totally Informal Likeability Exercise
If you’d like to participate, please do this on your own, before looking at anyone else’s answers. No cheating!
For the purpose of this exercise, characters that you “like” are the characters that you get excited to read about. You’re more likely to pick up a book (/movie/whatever) if it has one of these characters, vs. other work by the same author. You enjoy scenes more when these characters have something to do in them. You don’t necessarily have to have any other beliefs about the characters, such as a belief that they are good people (though you can if you want to).
Got that? Let’s begin…
1. Quick! Write down your 3 favorite male characters. (It doesn’t have to be exactly 3; 2 to 5 is a good range. Don’t stress about getting The Very Best Ones Ever, either; just write down the ones that come quickly to mind.)
2. Now! Quick! Write down your 3 favorite female characters, in a similar manner.
3. (If you have favorite genderqueer/nonbinary characters, or characters who don’t otherwise belong on a binary list of “male” and “female” characters, please list them here as well. I’m not making this a strict requirement since there tend to be relatively few such characters, but if you want to list any, please do.)
4. For each character on the lists you just made, write down 3 things about them that make them your favorites. Again, don’t stress; go with what comes to mind first.
5. Look at your lists. Can you see commonalities between all of the characters you just wrote down, or are they all completely different from each other? A commonality could be a specific character trait (they’re clever, funny, vulnerable, tough) or something much more “meta”. Are the things you enjoy about your favorite male characters different from the things you enjoy about your favorite female characters? Do you see any other patterns?
6. If your favorite characters (or favorite male/female characters, etc) all have something in common, can you think of a character who also has that trait, but whom you dislike? Why?
7. Comment and share your answers, and let’s see what we’ve learned!
So now on to happier news!
My friend/collaborator Jacqueline Flay and I have a new story out in the anthology, “The Death God’s Chosen” by Deepwood Publishing. It’s a novelette featuring Mesolithic vampires, polyamory, an unusually large-scale Revenge SVP, and the origin of writing. Among other things.
This story was quite a while in the making. Working with Jacqueline was a new experience for me at the time, but a good one, and she helped push the story into territory I would have normally been too intimidated to venture into. We had to drop out of the market for which we originally wrote it due to a contractual dispute, and I had some moments of despair wondering if ANYONE else but that market would buy this type of story, but of course it was not only snapped up in due time, but by a market which, despite being a very small press, paid more than the original. And has better cover art. So… Yay!
Plus we’re the first story in the whole anthology & the first authors to be named on the cover, which is kind of cool, in a mindless-ego-feeding sort of way.
“Close your eyes. Sing.”
Tiqu, the new boy, does as he’s told, standing tense in the temple’s centre with Ishka poised in front of him like a lover. He opens his lips on a wordless melody. It doesn’t matter what the song is, only that it distracts him. The comb will hurt worse if he’s thinking about it too hard.
The temple is a monumental thing, carved full of lion-gods, eagle-gods, even beetle-gods. Ishka usually does this under the trees or the stars, wherever her pack happens to be. But the temple was close this time, and she could not resist it. She is old enough to remember when this was pure blasphemy. Imagine gods that stay in one place, not roaming freely like every other creature! There were wars over this temple once. Ishka still smells blasphemy when she visits, and she likes that, even if the humans no longer remember why.
Tiqu’s brow furrows. He repeats his melody, a chant to match the carvings.
Ishka dips her sharpened obsidian comb into the bowl of ash in front of her and looks Tiqu’s nude body up and down.
Then she drives the comb into the flesh of his thigh.
If you like this, you should know this isn’t my only collaboration with Jacqueline Flay; we’re also in the TOC for Michael Matheson’s anthology “Start a Revolution: QUILTBAG Fiction Vying for Change“, which comes out in 2015.