Autistic Book Party, Episode 18 and a half: Short Story Smorgasbord!

Steven Brust, “The Desecrator” (, March 2011)

This is another story about Daymar (whom we last met in Dragon and Hawk). This time, Daymar is doing archaeology! He’s interesting, helpful, and competent, but the narrator – who is not Vlad – finds him irritating in a manner more or less identical to Vlad’s. At the very least this is better than Hawk, since the narrator doesn’t deliberately use and manipulate Daymar; he’s just an unsavory guy on an adventure who happens to run into him. Still, there’s no real development for Daymar, and no real departure from the formula of “protagonist has adventure peripherally involving Daymar; Daymar is helpful but annoying; protagonist gets what he was looking for; the end.” [YMMV]


Marie Vibbert, “Keep Talking” (Apex Magazine, December 2014)

This one reads as though the author tried to be respectful, and did some research, but never looked outside of medical model / Autism Speaks-esque resources. It’s at least fairly realistic, but a lot of really problematic stuff is presented uncritically – such as forcible physical restraint being used as the go-to method of ending a meltdown. We sometimes get the POV of Sarah, the autistic character, but it is very shallow and never gives much insight into useful topics, such as why the idea of moving to a new place might be upsetting enough to her to cause the aforementioned meltdown. There is a general “poor me, I am defeated and unhappy in life because of my disabled child” vibe from Sarah’s father, who gets much more POV time. The story’s conclusion validates Sarah on a plot level, actually to an unrealistic degree – she makes a major scientific discovery and is instantly offered jobs by universities – but it ends, not in rational triumph or pride over this achievement, but in continued self-pity from her father, who never seems to have taken Sarah’s research seriously anyway. [Not Recommended]


Beth Cato, “The Time Traveler’s Diagnosis” (Star*Line 38.1, January 2015)

A poem about a time traveler who is able to go into the past to correctly diagnose autism. There is a nice theme here of connecting to an autistic person at their level instead of hurting them with intensively medical techniques. However, it feels very oversimplified, with the title character attempting to solve everything in only a few sage words of advice. [YMMV]


A. Merc Rustad, “Under Wine-Bright Seas” (Scigentasy, May 2015)

A small, ornate story of sea creatures, escapism, family, and acceptance. The protagonist (transgender and with expressive speech difficulties) is not necessarily autistic, but reading him as autistic is not inconsistent with what is depicted, and there will be a large portion of autistic readers who find him easy to identify with. Such readers will also appreciate the positive, hopeful note on which the story ends. [Recommended]


Rose Lemberg, “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds” (Beneath Ceseless Skies, June 2015)

[Autistic author.] A coming-of-age story about a girl named Aviya, her lover, her transgender grandparent and her younger sibling, Kimi. Kimi is a minimally verbal autistic child, and Aviya’s struggle to respect and care for Kimi while Kimi comes of age in their own way is a major part of the story. Both the care of Aviya and others for Kimi and the prejudice and lack of understanding shown by their society at large feel real and well-developed. The core reactions are likely universal, yet the details of both are culturally specific and very interesting. This is a very good case study in how to write autism both respectfully and creatively in a secondary world. [Recommended]

Rose’s story notes say a little bit more about Kimi.