Signal boost

Those of you who enjoyed Luna Lindsey’s “Meltdown in Freezer Three” might be interested in her Unlikely Interview here.

Autism News, 2014/12/24

Stuff about race and #freeneli:

Stuff involving the Vatican and Autism Speaks:

  • Pope Francis talked to a bunch of children/teens with autism and their families, in order to raise awareness about autism and autism stigmas within the Catholic Church
  • Unfortunately, Autism Speaks was also there.
  • Jess from A Diary of a Mom and M Kelter point out problems with Suzanne Wright’s Autism Speaks speech at the Vatican
  • John Elder Robinson also gives a measured and constructive critique of Autism Speaks’ latest Twitter campaign, #MSSNG.

Misc:

Sad Things:

  • Lisa D. on what it’s like to maintain an autism memorial
  • Amanda Forest Vivian on autistic people abusing other autistic people
  • Samantha Crane on how ASAN got directly involved in the Issy Stapleton case (This is happy, but the Issy Stapleton case is sad.)
  • Carly Fleischmann, an autistic teenager famous for learning to type while nonverbal, posted to Facebook and Twitter early this month saying “needdc fdocttor helphgfi”. Her father posted an hour later saying everything was fine. The autism community in general is not sure what’s going on.

2014 in review

All the cool kids seem to be making year-in-review posts right about now.

I guess that means it’s time for mine.

I am thinking about 2014. You may have noticed a relative dearth of posting in the second half of this year. I did not publish much, especially compared to the epic publishing year which was 2013. A lot of other stuff happened. A lot of things changed in my life this year, some good, some stressful, many both. I appeared at a convention as a panelist for the first time, which was really wonderful. I learned a lot. I did interesting research at school. I picked up a really addictive LARP habit and made wonderful, geeky LARP friends. I let go of some personal connections that had been hurting me for a long time, began to repair holes in others, and learned to embrace some new ones.

And then.

Some of you know that I have been on a low dose of an atypical antipsychotic since I was 14. I was not psychotic when I was 14, but someone with a degree in psychiatry decided this was a good idea anyway. I know there is a lot of controversy about antipsychotics and other drugs as a remedy for autism symptoms. I don’t want to rehash that controversy here. Let’s just say I’ve been on the drugs for a long time and felt ambivalent about them for a long time. I’d talked to doctors before about methods of being weaned off of them (there was a brief false alarm several years ago when we thought I would have to do this under supervision for physical reasons) and had successfully reduced my own dosage in the past without large problems.

So, in June this year, I did one of the stupidest things I have ever done. Without informing a doctor, I tried to go off of them entirely.

Advice to everyone who is reading: DO NOT DO THIS. DO NOT. FUCKING. DO. THIS. Not even if you truly believe that you shouldn’t be on them, and are being “careful” and “intelligent” and weaning yourself off of them slowly in the way that the doctors have always recommended. I do not have enough caps lock to express this. DON’T. Antipsychotic withdrawal is horrifying. It can be worse than the thing they originally put you on the medicine for. This is well-documented.

I was psychotic for about a week before I figured out what was going on, had a headdesk of truly violent proportions, went back on the medicine, and called a doctor.

I do not say this in order to worry anybody or elicit pity or plead for help. This was June. It is December now. I am more or less okay and am caring for myself, and I have been more or less okay for quite some time. I have good health insurance (remember this is Canada) and a very friendly health team at school who are quietly and unobtrusively making sure that I continue to be okay.

I was psychotic for only a week, but it took me two months to feel like I was back in something resembling my usual brain, and three before I could get anything even remotely useful out of it. If not for my partner’s assistance and the support of my amazing supervisors at school during that time, I do not know where I would be.

This blog is supposed to be about writing, but for some reason, my writing is that one last thing that’s still hurt, and still refusing to be the way it was. I am getting a little bit out of it, but only very intermittently, and for a thing that I loved and defined myself by less than a year ago, it is confusing to see it become so elusive and difficult.

(Though I finally did finish the novel draft that I ought to have finished a year ago. I probably have another year’s worth of editing and research to do before I can even consider doing anything with it, but it’s there.)

And that was my year, and that was why most of you haven’t seen much of me. Also it’s why I may not be doing a list of my work, or of what I thought were the best works from other people this year, in the usual manner. I will probably be making some form of list but it will be perfunctory at best. I feel that I aged a year, but lived only half of one. I definitely was not keeping up with things professionally and I have officially released myself from any feeling of obligation to do so.

I am not completely sure why I am posting this, except that it happened, and it had an impact on things that the people who read this care about, and I am not sure what is the point, exactly, of keeping it a secret any longer. Stigma? But this blog is all about mental ableism anyway. I know that there exist things in the world that are too dangerous or personal to talk about for whatever reason, and that the decision of what goes and doesn’t go on that list is an extremely personal one. But for me, at this stage, I really don’t feel that this is one of those things.

And if I wanted to talk all about my autism, but failed to admit to this, what a hypocrite I would be!

I love all of you who have continued reading even while I wasn’t really here, and I am full of hope for 2015. Thank you for your support.

Tests and some rambling about tests

The other day on Twitter, Bogi Takács said:

the @bogiperson test of non-tokenized QUILTBAG representation: more than one QUILTBAG character. um that’s it?

Which of course got me thinking of Bechdel variants of all sorts. I actually went in and counted up the number of autistic books/stories that passed an autism version of the Bechdel test.

If you go with the simplest version – more than one autistic character, full stop – then a bunch of good stuff by autistic people passes but some of it doesn’t, and “The House of Idiot Children” passes even though it’s about as horrible as you would think from the title, because the story is set in a special school for autistic children and there happens to be more than one autistic child there.

If you start adding more criteria – more than one autistic character and both of them talk to each other – then everything actually gets even more problematic because:

  1. Both of Meda Kahn’s amazing short stories fail this version of the test, even though both of them show awareness of a multiplicity of autistic people and an autistic community, but people in the community who are not the protagonist don’t actually end up getting speaking roles, and any test that Meda Kahn keeps failing at is clearly the wrong test
  2. How exactly do we define “talking” here? Typing something meaningful is “talking”, right? Sign language is “talking”, right? AAC in general is talking and behaviour is communication RIGHT YOU GUYS? *stares meaningfully*
  3. No, actually, I take back 2 because with a disability defined at least partly by communication difficulties THERE IS NO NON-PROBLEMATIC WAY TO INTERPRET THIS RULE. Really. No. Back away slowly, please.

(Also: You know what definitely does pass an autistic Bechdel? The Big Bang Theory. But only because I read Amy as autistic and I am constantly confused and frustrated at how nobody else appears to read her this way. I mean GUYS, everyone on that show is ridiculous and offensive anyway but in my opinion, Amy is actually a slightly MORE realistic ridiculous depiction of an autistic person than Sheldon. She tries very hard to be socially acceptable to the normal people and just can’t quite get it, but she is completely on Sheldon’s wavelength and knows exactly how to deal with him, even though he treats her like crap. Seriously. I hardly even watch this show anymore and this still bugs me.)

So.

Maybe we need an autistic Mako Mori test instead. This accords a lot more strongly with my general intuitions about which stories suck and which ones don’t. But then, that’s me.

(And oh hey it turns out there are actually even more feminism tests besides these two, although it looks like many of them are specific to the issue of sexism and wouldn’t translate well to judging ableism without a LOT of adjustment.)

I wonder how many autistic people, in real life, have talked to other autistic people? I have heard people saying that they are surrounded by the autistic community, that autistic people are their family and their peeps, etc, that they feel close to other autistic people even when meeting them for the first time and separated by what NTs would classify as a large difference in functioning or other symptoms. I have also heard people saying the opposite, or saying that they simply haven’t ever had the opportunity to meet other autistic people in the first place.

I keep running into autistic people these days (gee, I wonder why? *stares at blog which is all about autism*) and that’s cool and all and I like them, but there was a time earlier in my life when I didn’t know anyone autistic outside my family. I got put in a high school social skills group for a while but I had approximately zero interest in any of the other people there. I know it’s probably internalized ableism but I still kind of roll my eyes when I get emails about ASAN fundraising galas because, seriously, a gala? I think if I went to a gala for autistic people I would just stand in the corner awkwardly the way I do with everything else. I don’t think being around other autistic people would actually help all that much for that purpose. But on the Internet, on my Internet turf… Well, that’s different.

Just because you share a diagnosis with someone doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get along. Just because you have no autistic friends doesn’t mean your story as an autistic person isn’t worth telling. Being in the “autism community” (which is actually a lot of different communities if you look at it closely) doesn’t somehow make you more autistic.

By the same token, just because you have a diagnosis associated with social skills difficulties, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be isolated or the only one, and I think NTs don’t realize how common it is for us to “get” each other and become strong friends.

It’s hard to get across this complexity in just one story.

I don’t know.

What do you think?

Autistic Book Party, Episode 15 and a half: Short Story Smorgasbord!

Adrienne J. Odasso, “Letters to Lost Friends & Imaginary Lovers” (Strong Verse, November 2012)

[Autistic author.] A poem. Not about autism, but about connections and the loss of the same. Given that we are so often accused of being unable to form or desire connections in the first place, this is important. It is also very pretty, and very sharp with its evocation of specific emotions. [Recommended]

*

Alex Dally MacFarlane, “Thin Slats of Metal, Painted” (Crossed Genres, Issue #1, January 2013)

Jess is a young girl with a strong interest in measuring things, who interacts with paintings as though they have feelings and agency. I read her as autistic, though I don’t know if that was the author’s intent. I’m not entirely happy with the way her imaginary life is handled, for reasons that are somewhat idiosyncratic to me and have very little to do with autism per se. But MacFarlane does an excellent job of showing that Jess is highly imaginative and empathic despite her solitary existence. As a result, the story rings true. [YMMV]

*

A.C. Buchanan (writing as Anna Caro), “Built in a Day” (Luna Station Quarterly Issue 013, 2013)

[Autistic author.] This story involves a strange planet, a time loop, and a person whose past and future selves work together to build a city but cannot directly interact. The ending has the protagonist learning to end her isolation, and I am conflicted about this: part of me wants to say, “Why can’t one of us stay alone and be happy that way, for once?” But even I do not really want to be alone forever, and there is nothing ableist or condescending about the way Caro drives the story to its conclusion. I think my discomfort here is a sign that the author is engaging effectively with themes that are highly emotional for many autistic people, including myself. This makes it, in turn, an important story. [Recommended]

*

Meda Kahn, “That’s Entertainment” (Strange Horizons, November 2014)

[Autistic author.] A story about disability being used as exploitative entertainment and exploitative entertainment being used as activism. This one didn’t drop-kick me in the feels quite as hard as “Difference of Opinion”, but it’s very smart, very on-point and very sad. [Recommended]

*

Luna Lindsey, “Meltdown in Freezer Three” (The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, December 2014)

[Autistic author.] Like Macfarlane’s story, but to an even greater extent, “Meltdown” deals with the persistent animism experienced by some autistic people. Unfortunately the whole thing is a little too cartoony for my tastes, and the plot doesn’t entirely hold together. (Why are a pair of small children suddenly trying to violently destroy an ice cream truck? Who is supervising all of these children? And where does Corrine get off saying she “doesn’t believe in magic” when there are already tiny “faeliens” living in one of her ice cream freezers?) Still, Lindsey gets props for writing a protagonist who is more visibly developmentally disabled than most, and for an ending which validates Corinne’s atypical thinking style as few endings can. [YMMV+]

A tiny poem

Niteblade #30 is now out, and with it, my tiny poem “Abominable Snowman“. (Yes, the lines visible after that link are the whole poem – though with Niteblade that’s generally not the case.)

If you go here you can see Alexa Seidel, Niteblade’s poetry editor, saying some very kind things about the poem (and about my poem “The Mermaid at Sea World”, which was published in Niteblade earlier in the year).

Though I do have a small correction – “Abominable Snowman” isn’t a haiku. The number of syllables is wrong, and some other stuff (if you are a Japanese haiku traditionalist) is also wrong. It is merely a tiny three-line poem, but I am okay with that. 🙂

Please do check out the rest of the issue as well.