- Seth Dickinson, “Laws of Night and Silk” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue #200). Horrible in an unfairly gorgeous, “all my feels” way. I couldn’t decide if I loved it or was incredibly furious with it until the end of the last damn scene.
- Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, “The Orangery” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue #214). A refreshingly nuanced feminist take on Greek mythology. Also, trees.
- Bogi Takács, “Standing on the Floodbanks” (GigaNotoSaurus, November). A quietly beautiful story of a magical apprenticeship, and of learning to move from a system of abusive control to something better.
- Genevieve Valentine, “Everyone From Themis Sends Letters Home” (Clarkesworld, October). Looks like a space colonization story at first, and then blossoms into something far more complex.
- Alyssa Wong, “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” (Uncanny, Issue Ten). Desert magic, vengeance, claiming one’s power. Queerplatonic True Love.
- Aliette de Bodard, “A Hundred and Seventy Storms” (Uncanny, Issue Eleven). Mindships, disability, family, loyalty. Extreme weather on exoplanets. Ordeals.
- Margaret Killjoy, “The Name of the Forest” (Strange Horizons, March 21). Vividly drawn homeless narrator. Matter-of-fact magic. Choosing life when life is messy and difficult. Also, bugs.
- Carrie Laben, “Postcards from Natalie” (The Dark, July). An understated not-quite-ghost-story, with a supernatural element that creeps up real slowly and quietly into gut-punch range.
- Arkady Martine, “Ekphrasis” (An Alphabet of Embers). Hive minds. Poetry. Sacrifice.
- Russell Nichols, “u wont remember dying” (Motherboard, June 23). Police violence, shiny technology as a band-aid solution, and what that means for the people affected. Existential terror. Text messages as prose.
- Nicasio Andras Reed, “Painted Grassy Mire” (Shimmer, July 5). Atmosphere. Alligators. Blood ties and animalism in the swamp.
- Frances Rowat, “Playing Prometheus” (Persistent Visions, November 18). A socially aware time travel story that avoids the usual tropes in favor of a simpler and more emotionally powerful look at consequences.
- Shawn Scarber, “The Opening of the Bayou St. John” (Strange Horizons, February 8). An eerily beautiful story of motherhood, grief, and supernatural bargains.
- M Sereno, “Only Revolutions” (An Alphabet of Embers). Fierce, lush, hungry mythology. Anti-colonialism. Love and survival.
The most brilliant, the most beautiful, the ones that eloquently grabbed me where I live. Read them all.
Long Poems (51+ lines)
- Davian Aw, “hush / it might not get better / give us silence” (Stone Telling #13)
- Kim Eun-byeol, “phoenix fire, tabula rasa” (Stone Telling #13)
- Jessica Fordham Kidd, “Call her auteur but call me sunset” (Goblin Fruit, Winter)
Short Poems (11-50 lines)
- Evelyn Deshane, “Jacob’s Ladder” (Strange Horizons, December 5)
- Neile Graham, “The Sense of Beginning” (Stone Telling #13)
- Rose Lemberg, “The Ash Manifesto” (Strange Horizons, October 10)
- Amanda Lord, “The Path of Needles” (Goblin Fruit, Winter)
- Sara Polsky, “Departures” (Strange Horizons, January 11)
- Margarita Tenser, “Ecdysis” (Liminality, Issue #7)
- Hester J. Rook, “Wattle Skinned” (Liminality, Issue #8)
- Margaret Wack, “Apotropaic Magic” (Strange Horizons, January 18)
Dwarf Poems (1-10 lines):
- Holly Day, “Plate 24” (inkscrawl, Issue 10)
- S. Qiouyi Li, “Parallax” (inkscrawl, Issue 10)
- Michelle Muenzler, “The Bird Woman at Dusk” (Through the Gate, May)
- Wild Soft, “Make Safe My Light” (Stone Telling #13)
And then both of my other planned publications for December were delayed, so here is what I published in 2016, after all.
One novelette: “The Scrape of Tooth on Bone” in GigaNotoSaurus (Canadian lesbian steampunk with an autistic protagonist and dinosaur fossil ghosts)
One short story: “A Spell to Retrieve Your Lover From the Bottom of the Sea” in Strange Horizons (underwater witchery, uncertain love, and difficult choices)
- “Kraken Quatrain” in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine
- “The Raising of Lazarus” in Breath & Shadow
- “Snowflake” in Through the Gate
- “Million-Year Elegies: Hallucigenia” in Liminality
- “Million-Year Elegies: Edmontonia” in Mythic Delirium
- “Roar” in inkscrawl
- “Million-Year Elegies: Tyrannosaurus” in Uncanny
- “Million-Year Elegies: Oviraptor” in Strange Horizons
- “The Giantess’s Dream” in Twisted Moon
- “Million-Year Elegies: Archaeopteryx” in Asimov’s
Roundups of my favourite stories and poetry by other people are coming soon.
My overly personal little deep-sea story in second person is picking up some acclaim around the Internet.
Charles Payseur of Quick Sip Reviews had some kind things to say about it:
…I like that, that the story really isn’t about fixing someone or saving someone. That it’s about being with someone and creating a space where they might want to move. Might want to break free.
Payseur later added the story to his Monthly Round of favorite stories from November, pairing it with a Vanilla Stout:
It is a slow kind of spell that the narrator casts, that the narrator asks the reader to experience. A spell that resists the common tropes and implications. That something can be fixed just by waving at it. That some things can be fixed at all.
Benjamin Wheeler at Tangent Online praised the story, despite admitting he doesn’t like second person:
With the active language, great descriptions and melancholy you could cut with a butter knife, this story really cinches what the author tries to accomplish.
Greg Hullender at Rocket Reviews was less impressed:
Although it’s a fine statement, it doesn’t make for much of a story.
Maria Haskins listed the story on her list of 12 awesome spec stories from November:
Wow… Hoffman’s prose is exquisite: it sings and flows and dances. Outstanding and captivating from start to finish.
And Nin Harris tweeted the story as one of her 30 favorite stories of the year.
If you’d like to see what all the fuss is about, the story is here.
A year in review post will happen later in the month; I still have another short fiction publication lined up for December, so I’m waiting for that, first.
My poem, “Million-Year Elegies: Archaeopteryx” is up in the December issue of Asimov’s. I got my contributor copies on the weekend. The poem is delightfully placed in the issue, appearing directly after the conclusion of an article by Robert Silverberg about reviving extinct animals, and with a very cute Archaeopteryx-fossil illustration in the background. If you like Asimov’s and dinosaur poetry, perhaps you should go check it out.
Kythryne Aisling, “quiet hands” (inkscrawl Issue 10, August 2016)
The title of this poem is a catchphrase commonly used by educators who try to stop autistic and other special needs children from moving around. The poem will be relatable to autistic people who have experienced coercive medication and attempts to extinguish stims. [YMMV, but I liked it]
Bogi Takács, “Toward the Luminous Towers” (Clarkesworld, August 2016)
[Autistic author] A story about a non-neurotypical person with immense magical power who is coercively drafted into a war effort. (Bogi’s story notes confirm that the protagonist is autistic.) This is a well-written but difficult story; there is a great deal of abuse and coercion, and the ending could be mistaken for suicide by a careless reader. Readers who are put off by this content might want to wait for later installments in the series, which according to the story notes will be more cheerful in tone, and in which autism will play a greater role in the plot. [YMMV, but I liked it]
Rose Lemberg, “The Book of How to Live” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #209, September 2016)
[Autistic author] A story about a magicless autistic artificer in a magical world, and the beginnings of a revolution. Efronia’s autism is downplayed but recognizeable, particularly in her confusion over people’s motivations and in a period of sensory overwhelm she has towards the end of the story. She is a patient, steadfast person, which is a nice thing I don’t see often enough. The story overall is political in a very good way. [Recommended]
Julie Nováková, “Becoming” (Persistent Visions, October 21, 2016)
A story about a woman who becomes the mind of a space station, then is “rescued” and pressured to assimilate back into normal human life by other humans. Ana’s neurotype is written to closely resemble autism, although it’s unclear to me if she was always autistic or if this is somehow a consequence of having been a space station for a long time. (Her synesthesia and physical disability certainly predate her transformation.) Neurotypical society never really gets around to respecting Ana’s autonomy or ability to choose, even when they offer her old position back to her again – but Ana still triumphs by staying true to her own chosen values. [Recommended]
Amanda Sun, “What Harm” (Strangers Among Us, August 2016)
A non-speaking autistic boy named Colin is sold to an evil overlord and unexpectedly becomes the overlord’s undoing. This is a cool idea for a story and might have been enjoyable in different hands, but I was very distracted, alienated, and frustrated by the writing style. Colin is constantly othered by the narration in a variety of ways, even when it makes no sense to do so. I suspect that this may have been intentional on the author’s part, an attempt at ironic contrast between the way Colin is described and what he is actually capable of, but it really didn’t work for me. Colin’s deeds effectively undermine other characters’ claims that he is incapable of intentionally affecting anything, but many other ableist aspects of how he is described in the narration remain unchallenged. A well-intentioned attempt that left a bad taste in my mouth. [Not Recommended]
Well, I haven’t made an Autism News post since before the American election, so we need to address that. All of you have presumably already read a million thinkpieces about the election, but there is less being spread around from a disabled point of view than from some others, so here are some important election-related posts by disabled people.
(Note: I’m not completely sure how to TW this section properly. Please assume, as with the Sad Things section, that everything that sounds like it might be negative/triggering is what it says on the can.)
- Carolyn Zaikowski on why the Trump administration will be deadly for disabled people
- Sara Novic on Donald Trump’s ableism and the dangers of his presidency, from a Deaf perspective
- Julia Bascom on what ASAN plans to do during the Trump administration (and beyond!)
- Real Social Skills has advice for disabled people who are struggling more after the election and for accepting human limitations while fighting evil
But not all of us live in the US! Here are some slightly less terrible things that are happening in the UK.
- Toys R Us follows in ASDA’s footsteps and introduces quiet hours for autistic customers in the UK
- An organization in the UK is campaining for more attention to autism-related and learning-disability-related hate crimes. (The article does not contain any detailed descriptions of hate crimes.)
- The Labour Party is appointing a Shadow Minister for Neurodiversity
Some useful psychological information:
- Alyssa Hillary on “life skills” that are not exactly skills
- Lisa Daxer on IQ testing
- Shannon des Roches Rosa on autism and electroconvulsive therapy
- Alyssa Hillary on aphantasia and apraxia
Some posts about personal experiences:
- Feminist Aspie on being an autistic college freshman
- Alyssa Hillary on the difference between silence and absence
- Dani Alexis Ryskamp on being able to love (TW: detailed description of pet medical emergency)
- M. Kelter on getting a therapist (TW: contains mentions of suicidal ideation)
- Katelynn Parlow on being a “high-functioning” adult who has meltdowns
- Sabrinawhitenight reflects back, one year after being diagnosed
- N.I. Nicholson on being autistic and multiple
- Matthew Rozsa on the underdiagnosis of autistic women
- Bryony White on being autistic and trans (TW: contains descriptions of police violence and medical ableism/cissexism)
- Rhi from Autnot on when mental health services are inaccessible
Some activism, and some posts about how to do activism:
- Lydia Brown on conference attendance as privilege, conflicting access needs, and the asymptopic standard of universal inclusion
- Weeds from into-the-weeds on why ableism is more than a set of words
- Some affirmations for Autistics Speaking Day from Feminist Aspie
- Ivanova Smith argues against institutionalization
- Jacqueline Koyanagi on writing queer and disabled characters
- Ari Ne’eman on the history of autism politics (TW: contains descriptions of eugenics, including murderous eugenics)
- Autism Speaks removed the word “cure”, and many other pathologizing/stigmatizing terms, from their mission statement. (While this change is too little too late for many autistic people, it’s still really interesting news!)
- Brent White and Lindsey Anderson give a presentation on understanding and coping with meltdowns.
And finally, the Sad Things section. (Or should that be Sad Things Other Than Trump?)
- The fire in California which killed four disabled men and their caregiver has been confirmed to be arson-related, and potentially a murder-suicide.
- Lisa Daxer’s Autism Memorial logged six known times in October and November when autistic people were killed for being autistic:      
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]