I don’t ordinarily review movies. And I didn’t think I was going to watch Fantastic Beasts anyway (there were known issues with race, among other things, even before it came out) but I got asked out to it on a date and, well, here we are.
(The rest of this post contains VERY LARGE SPOILERS, including ending spoilers, for “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them”. Also, TW for abuse and murder.)
Last week I posted a review of the autistic stories in Defying Doomsday. I listed Seanan McGuire’s “Something in the Rain” as one of these stories, saying that its protagonist was autistic and schizophrenic.
Seanan McGuire very politely corrected me on Twitter and said that the protagonist has OCD (which Seanan shares), not autism.
I was mortified to have gotten it wrong and quickly fixed the post, crossing out the text of that review. I couldn’t believe I had been so sure that autism was there in the story when it wasn’t.
A commenter pointed out, a few days later, that the text of “Something in the Rain” does explicitly say the protagonist was autistic. I looked back into my copy and found that this is, in fact, the case:
I didn’t have a muscular disorder; physically, there was nothing about me that deviated from what was considered “normal” for a seventeen-year-old girl. I had mild schizophrenia, for which I was medicated, and autism, for which I was not medicated, but that only changed the way I thought, not the way I moved.
I’m not sure exactly what happened here, but probably Seanan misremembered by accident. (Which is ok! There are many reasons why a busy and prolific author might misremember details of some of their stories.)
However, I think it’s more important to respond to what a story actually says than what the author says about it, so I’m going to be restoring the review to its original condition, restoring the protagonist to the list of autistic protagonists, and putting a link in to this post as explanation.
Apologies for any confusion over this one.
I’m going to be doing something a little different today, reviewing an anthology – Short Story Smorgasbord-style – rather than a novel.
The stories in “Defying Doomsday” revolve around a deceptively simple question: what happens to disabled people when civilization ends? Post-apocalyptic literature too often either assumes that we will die – that an apocalypse reduces humanity to “survival of the fittest”, and that disabled people are by definition unfit – or forgets to chart our place in the narrative at all. “Defying Doomsday” consciously takes a different view, showing us disabled people’s stories in the apocalypse, centering their humanity and their desire to survive, even if the ability to do so is in doubt (and while it’s dire for everyone, it’s not always as dire for disabled people as one might assume).
The whole anthology covers a broad spectrum of different disabilities and is well worth a read, even though the grim subject matter can sometimes make it a difficult one. Four stories in the anthology involve autistic characters and/or authors, so here at Autistic Book Party we will review the book by taking a closer look at these four.
Corinne Duyvis, “And the Rest of Us Wait” (Defying Doomsday, May 2016)
[Autistic author] Set in the same apocalyptic Netherlands as “On the Edge of Gone“, this story focuses on a different main character – not an autistic girl like Denise, but a refugee singer with spina bifida, whose name is Iveta. Unlike Denise, Iveta makes it to a temporary shelter, but things at the shelter start to go wrong, including a permanent loss of electrical power. The plot is less complex than the plot of the novel, but if anything, the ableism of people around Iveta and her uncertainty about her future are depicted with an even more brutal honesty. Iveta truly doesn’t know if she’ll survive, but she fiercely self-advocates and holds on to her humanity throughout. [Recommended]
Seanan McGuire, “Something in the Rain” (Defying Doomsday, May 2016)
(ETA: For an additional note about this story, see this post.)
A grimly amusing story in which a teenage girl with autism and schizophrenia is the good guy, a manipulative neurotypical bully is the bad guy, and the bad guy gets her comeuppance in the end. It’s drawn in very broad strokes, sometimes at the expense of psychological accuracy, which will bother some readers; the remorseless means by which the protagonist resolves her problems will bother others. On the whole, though, I found it a satisfying story which is emphatically on the autistic protagonist’s side. [YMMV, but I liked it]
Rivqa Rafael, “Two Somebodies Go Hunting” (Defying Doomsday, May 2016)
A story about a boy named Jeff and his physically disabled sister, Lex. I read Jeff as autistic due to a variety of factors which may or may not have been intended that way. I felt that Jeff’s autistic traits were appropriately varied, subtle (at times), and realistic. But I could have done with a bit less focus on Lex’s annoyance with him, even though it turns out to have a non-autism-related underlying reason in the end. [YMMV]
Bogi Takács, “Given Sufficient Desparation” (Defying Doomsday)
[Autistic author] Aliens have invaded and convinced some humans to work for them at menial tasks. Both the aliens and anti-alien resistance groups are ableist, but in different ways. The protagonist has motor dyspraxia which the author shares, and which limits their ability to fit in with either group. They end up stumbling onto a third option, but even this option may raise as many problems as it solves. An interesting story underscoring what happens when neither side of a conflict makes room for everyone. [Recommended]
The world feels like it’s on fire. I’m not even in the places worst affected. I have been sitting here in Canada like a chump this week, watching helplessly while all my American friends panic. (Which is not to say that a sufficiently terrible American president cannot affect the entire world. But I am not in the epicentre.)
Hyperempathy is a thing. I have been very overwhelmed. I have wanted to say something, and I have said many things privately, but I have been publicly silent because everything is terrible and what the hell can I possibly say that will make any difference?
But – hiding and focusing on friends and self-care tends to have an effect. Namely, that after you do it for long enough, you are ready to come out again.
Here is what I want to say.
Please, please, if you are reading this and you are marginalized and terrified for the future, don’t give up hope. I am not here to tell you “it’s not so bad”. But when things ARE very bad, when the future is in doubt, that is when we need hope the most. That is when nothing but hope will sustain us.
Please, if you are reading this and you are marginalized and afraid, please remember that your voice matters. It always has. It always will. It matters in some ways now more than ever.
(Some people are going to be worse affected by the next four years than others, but I am not here today to split hairs about who is and isn’t marginalized enough. If you feel you need this post today then this post is for you.)
It is hard to believe in your voice when the whole world is shouting that you don’t matter, that people like you don’t matter, that your safety and self-advocacy doesn’t matter, that the whole nation already decided against your existence mattering, that you should go away.
It is so fucking hard. But your voice matters.
There are so many ways we can use our voices. There is no one way. All of them matter. Protest and political action is important. (Politics doesn’t stop happening just because the election is over.) Supporting each other is so, so important. Standing up for ourselves is important. Any way at all that we stay connected and believing in each other is important right now. If all you can do is tell bad jokes, as Ursula Vernon brilliantly said on Saturday, even that is important right now.
And art. Art. Please, if you are reading this, keep believing in your art, in your stories or paintings or songs or whatever it is that you do.
I and so many people I know have been struggling with art this week. Wondering how we can keep faffing about with fantasy worlds when the real one is on fire. (Other people I know have lit a flame in themselves, have doubled down and made their work bigger and louder and more defiant because they already know why their work matters now more than ever. If this is where you are right now, I support you.)
But the truth is. Art matters. Art has always mattered. If your art is defiant and angry and shines a light on injustice too bright to ignore, we need your art right now. If your art is full of hope or even happy fluffy escapism, if your art gives frightened people a way to imagine being okay, we need your art really badly right now. If you are marginalized and your art is anything at all, then we need your art. In the face of powerful people who believe that you don’t matter and should go away, all art that you make is defiance and all of it is powerful.
And if you can’t do any of this right now? If you are too overwhelmed, if you can’t speak out, if you can’t art, if you can’t anything?
You are still okay.
Please. Please believe this. Terrible things are happening everywhere all at once and so much is needed. It’s still okay to take care of yourself. It’s still okay to hide and heal. It’s tempting to say “so that you survive to fight another day” – but, you know what, honestly, fuck talking like that right now. You matter. You matter. That is the whole fucking point of all this. We are all trying to speak out now because we know that marginalized people matter. The mattering comes before the activism, not after. If you are too ill, too terrified, too in danger to do anything that feels like it makes a lick of difference for anyone else – you still matter. You are still okay. Believe me.
(Jill S. has a very good post on self-care, in this vein. I recommend it.)
Put on your oxygen mask first. If that’s all you can do, do it, and you have saved one person. You’re okay.
Even when things feel so urgent, even when they are urgent – let’s be real. It is going to take four full years to survive the next four years. There is literally no way around that. There will be time for everybody to contribute and there will be times when even the most spoonful of us need a rest. If you are struggling, take your time, do what you need to do for yourself, ask for the help that you need, because you matter.
Your voice will still matter when you are ready to come back out.
As promised, here I am today posting about my new poem!
“The Giantess’s Dream” came to me, very nearly fully formed, on Halloween night of 2012. I had no idea what to do with it. It was… a sexually explicit poem about Loki. (The mythical Norse Loki, not the Marvel Loki, although I am totes not in charge of what you picture in your head when you read it!) Who the heck was going to publish this? I sent it around fitfully anyway, because I liked the poem, but I did not really feel that it was a good fit anywhere, so I ended up reluctantly putting it aside.
Then I found out on Twitter that someone was making a new magazine devoted specifically to erotic speculative poetry. SCORE!
Apparently, several other very good speculative poets had similar sexy things stuffed in their closets somewhere that they similarly didn’t know what to do with. Because Issue 1 of Twisted Moon is now out. It’s gorgeous visually and verbally and features delightfully naughty work by Neile Graham, Sonya Taaffe, Mat Joiner, and other speculative poetry luminaries.
(The words of the poems are NSFW, obviously, though the visuals and art that I can see on the site right now are very spare and tasteful.)
(If you are in my immediate family and read this, I don’t want to know.)
I’ve been continuing to sell things these past few months, which is gratifying.
My short story “A Spell to Retrieve Your Lover From the Bottom of the Sea” will appear in Strange Horizons next week. This is my first short story sale in quite a while, hopefully with many more to follow.
Another short story, “As Hollow as a Heart”, will appear in the December issue of LampLight. This story is about Lady Blue, the gender-flipped Bluebeard protagonist of “Lady Blue and the Lampreys”, but may or may not actually take place in the same universe at that story. More on that later.
For poems, I’ve sold “The Giantess’s Dream” to the very first issue of the erotic speculative poetry magazine Twisted Moon, which is coming out tomorrow – eep! I guess you’ll get another post tomorrow. Another much shorter poem, “Unicorns”, will appear in a future issue of Liminality.
Finally, a few updates on works that are already in the wild. I neglected to mention that earlier this month, “Million-Year Elegies: Edmontonia” went up on the Mythic Delirium website and is now free to read. And the HWA 2014 Poetry Showcase, which features my poem “Evianna Talirr Builds a Portal On Commission”, is now out in paperback. Happy reading!
I’ve been so busy that somehow there wasn’t an Autism News post since June. But news has been accruing at an astonishing rate! So we’re going to have a REALLY BIG news post today. Hold on to your hats.
- Lydia Brown on the intersection of autistic and trans experience.
- A Fusion video on the intersection of race and autism
- Dani Alexis Ryskamp on emotional labor and autistic women. [I’m really glad to see an article on this topic; I’ve been wondering about autistic people’s experience of emotional labor ever since I was introduced to the concept.]
Science and technology:
- The University of Edinburgh’s Development Autism Research Technology team overturns some common assumptions about screentime, “technology addiction“, and children’s physical health
- Speaking of which, Feminist Aspie on technology panic
- Mark Wallace has an interesting new theory about sensory integration and timing
- Emily Morson on ADHD tipping points. [ADHD and autism are not the same, but there are similarities, and there are many points here that I feel autistic readers might find useful or thought-provoking.]
- Dani Alexis Ryskamp reviews “In a Different Key”: [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] [Part 8] [Part 9] [Part 10]
- Shannon des Roches Rosa reviews “Life, Animated“
- Sparrow Rose Jones reviews “Life, Animated“
Some writing advice:
- pyxamid et al on writing accidentally autistic characters
- Alyssa Hillary on what to do if you find this occuring in your own writing
Some good posts about ableism:
- Alyssa Hillary on the hidden meanings of “use your words”
- Alyssa Hillary on indistinguishability from peers
- M Kelter on the effects of stigmatizing language on suicidal autistics [TW for basically what it says on the can – there are no graphic or specific descriptions of suicide.]
- Chavisory on privacy
- Rhi from Autnot on safety nets
- Lisa Daxer on faking normal
- Susan Walton on a school for autistic students based on movement and activity needs
- Joel from Evil Autie on “prompt-critical excursions“. [I had one of these after arriving back in Canada from Finland and trying to get home.]
- Clarissa Kripke has a very detailed post for caregivers on dealing with meltdowns
- Kerima Cevik describes her attitude towards meltdowns
- Sam Crane on housing choices for autistic people
- Alyssa Hillary on Pokemon Go and autism
- Zoe Cannon on the Association for Autistic Community Conference
- Kermia Cevik on why she opposes the use of tracking bracelets for autistic children
We have a doozy of a Sad Things section this time, partly because of a few well-publicized cases of attacks on autistic people in the news. A man named Charles Kinsey was shot by police in the US, who later claimed they had meant to shoot the autistic person Kinsey was caring for. Meanwhile, an autistic man named Abdirahman Abdi was killed by police in Canada. A person in Japan performed a mass shooting in a facility for disabled people, claiming he wanted a future without disabled people in it. An autistic boy named Austin Anderson in the US who was killed by his mother also made the news.
The Charles Kinsey case got enough media attention to merit its own section:
- Official ASAN statement on the shooting
- Lydia Brown on the violence of ableism
- Pharoah Inkabuss on #BlackDisabledLivesMatter
- Kerima Cevik on the role of community in preventing more shootings like this
Meanwhile, other sad things:
- Carly Findlay on the mass murder in Japan
- Feminist Aspie on the Austin Anderson case
- Aside from the most publicized cases, Lisa Daxer’s Autism Memorial keeps accruing additional names, including five autistic people who were killed in nine days in June, and seven more over July and August.
- The deaths of four developmentally disabled men and their group home’s administrator in California are being investigated as homicides.
- Jennifer Partin on how awareness campaigns contribute to ableist violence. [I don’t think that everyone who uses the word “awareness” is guilty of what Partin describes, but what she describes is a very real thing that a great number of people using the word “awareness” do, including the biggest autism charities in the world.]
I continue to be completely swamped, mostly by good things!
Can*Con. Um. Can*Con. I somehow went to an entire convention in Ottawa last weekend and forgot to post anything about it. Spoons were in short supply, but it was a lovely convention as always and I enjoyed seeing both familiar and new faces (and a few people I knew, but only from online). I did panels on Mental Health and Character Arc and Bodies of Difference: Disability in Science Fiction, and read “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library” aloud.
(Side note: This is still my greatest story title ever.)
The Bodies of Difference panel was especially good, with all of us agreeing that we could easily have talked about the topic for another hour. Shout-out to Derek Newman-Stille, who was, as always, an excellent and clueful moderator.
Also, school. Omg school is starting and I completely forget how everything just flies out the window at the beginning of every new semester. I’m taking a class, as well, for the first time in several years, so that’s new.
While I was mostly off the Internet for a few days due to technical issues, my poem “Million-Year Elegies: Oviraptor” went up as part of the Strange Horizons fund drive bonus issue!
The poem is, as @goblinpaladin put it on Twitter, “a great poem about a sad dinosaur fossil”.
Strange Horizons is an amazing magazine. They were my first full-length professional fiction sale, and one of my first poetry sales. They consistently publish interesting work by diverse authors and employ diverse editors also. If you like my poem or anything else they have published, and you can afford to do so and haven’t already, then I would strongly recommend their fund drive as a worthy target for your donations.