Autistic Book Party, Episode 17: Silence

Today’s Autistic Book Party was produced in collaboration with Disability in Kidlit’s Autism on the Page event, which runs all April [and is not an April Fool’s joke, unlike my last post 😛 ]

The Book: “Silence” by Michelle Sagara

The Plot: Emma, a teenager dealing with the death of her boyfriend, develops an ability to see and interact with the dead.

Autistic Character(s): Michael, a school friend of Emma’s.

Read the full review HERE.

My schedule for Dinosaurcon 2015

I have the flu, so rather than coming up with a new April Fool’s Joke, I decided to resurrect an old one. Literally. Well, sort of literally.


A convention promoting the use of dinosaurs, synapsids, pterosaurs, sauropterygia, and other prehistoric beings in speculative fiction.

Following the success of last year’s University of Etobicoke Room Party, several of our panelists this year are actual genetically reconstructed dinosaurs. We thank the University of Etobicoke and the Jurassic World marketing team for their generosity.

Friday, 5:00 PM. Why Dinosaurs?

For the boyfriend, family member, or other unwillingly dragged-to-the-con participant who doesn’t understand why paleontology is so awesome. We will MAKE you understand. Possibly with lasers. Ha ha! That was a joke, worried boyfriends and family members being unwillingly dragged to the con! We will totally just explain these things in a peaceable, non-coercive manner and with no lasers at all, we promise.

Friday, 8:00 PM. So What Is It Like To Be A Genetically Reconstructed Dinosaur, Exactly

It’s not easy living 65+ million years after your species was supposed to go extinct. Our panelists discuss how they have learned to live with humans, their struggles in handling instincts for which a corresponding social or pack structure no longer exists, their reactions to human enthusiasm and fear, and how they would REALLY like a burger right now. Like, really.

Saturday, 11:00 AM. Signing Sessions

Note: our Tyrannosaurus cannot appear at this year’s signing session because her tiny hands are incapable of signing things. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Saturday, 1:00 PM. Make Your Own Burgess Shale Type Fauna

A fun, hands-on workshop for all ages! With our tinkertoy-like construction materials, learn how to make a life-sized scale model of any creature in the Cambrian Explosion you please, from trilobites to giant carnivorous shrimp. Five eyes? Fourteen rubbery noodle legs with spines on top? No problem! Let your imagination run wild; Mother Nature is already wilder.

Saturday, 3:00 PM. Reading

A joint reading by Ada Hoffmann and Merc Rustad. Last year’s reading was so excellent that half the audience was never heard from again. Can we top that performance this year? Come on in and find out.

Saturday, 5:00 PM. The Social History of Paleontology.

Paleontology is ultimately an activity done for humans, by humans. This panel answers your questions about our socially constructed ideas of dinosaurs. How did dinosaurs get so much more press than other creatures? What causes some children to latch onto them so hard? Why do meat-eating dinosaurs get more attention than plant-eaters? Can discussions of dinosaurs be ageist, sizeist, militaristic and sexist? Of course they can. Our panelists enlighten you.

Saturday, 8:00 PM. Karaoke

Consisting entirely of Katy Perry’s song “Roar”, accompanied by hadrosaurs.

Sunday, 3:00 PM. Apex Predator Beauty Pageant

Mirror, mirror on the wall: who is REALLY the most gorgeously badass killing machine of them all? Cheer for raptor packs, tyrannosaurs, cave bears, giant squid, megalodons, Terror Birds, giant crocodiles, those massive armored fish from the early Devonian, and many even stranger creatures as they compete on a range of challenges for strength, deadliness, cunning, visual appeal, and sheer personality. Contestants are strictly prohibited from eating the audience! We promise. Ha ha.

Ad Astra 2015 schedule

I loved Ad Astra so much last year that I signed up to do it again! …With even more panels! And a reading! And a signing session which I don’t remember signing up for, because who is even going to want things signed by me, but maybe I did? EEP.

If you’re in the area, here is the official schedule of Things At Which I Will Be Expected To Say Words:

Saturday, April 11

Genre Crossing: Please Watch for Slow Moving Pathetic Fallacies

Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Room: Oakridge

Sometimes you just want to read, write or direct a paranormal romance during the robot uprising on the medieval planet of urban fariy hipsters.

Signing Sessions

Time: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Rooms: Richmond A, Richmond B

Formatting, Style and Sticking it to the Man

Time: 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Room: Oakridge

Where do you draw the line between personal style and compromising? What is a “voice” versus “extraneous undisciplined spasms of words”?

The Big Bang Theory: Revenge of the Nerds or Geeksploitation?

Time: 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Room: Aurora

There has been mixed reaction to TBBT in the SF fandom community. When the show first aired some hailed it as a breakthrough—there “we” were every week on TV! But not long after a backlash began: there “we” were every week on TV, the butt of the joke. Or are we? Are you a geek or nerd who loves TBBT? Are you a geek or nerd who loathes TBBT? Are you laughing with or at Sheldon, Howard, Raj, and Leonard? As TV’s idea of geeks are they portrayed as heroes or just hapless? Let’s discuss opinions of the show—ours and those of some insightful media commentators—and decide where we stand on The Big Bang Theory.

Readings: Ada Hoffmann & Kate Heartfield

Time: 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Room: Unionville

Sunday, April 12

Body and Person in SF: Identity and Diversity

Time: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Room: Oakridge

North American literature has never been great at portraying diversity. What is new is also weird, what is alternative is considered faddish or rebellious. When it comes to people in SF/F it is extremely difficult to write about identity and diversity in a casual way. Our bodies are political spaces and each word has to be chosen with care – or so we have been taught.

Mental Health and Fandom

Time: 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Room: Markham B

Fans don’t talk about it. Literature hardly acknowledges it. TV and Film generally ignore, mock or misrepresent it. Is it really so hard to talk about?


New Canadian Noir launch, March 31

If anybody wants to see me read a scene from “Lady Blue and the Lampreys”, while eating pub food and drinks, and maybe buying a copy – or if you’re interested in seeing David Menear, Michael Mirolla, Kelly Robson, or Michael S. Chong do the same things – you can come to the Toronto launch on March 31, at 7:30 (food and drinks available starting at 6:15) at the Dora Keogh, 141 Danforth Avenue, Toronto.

Or you can sit at your computer enviously because you can’t make it to Toronto that day. Or whatever, really. 😛

Autism News, 2015/03/11

Today, the Sad Things come first, because March 1 was the official Day of Mourning for disabled people who are killed by their caregivers. Vigils were held in many cities, mostly in the US but also in a variety of other countries.

  • For those of you not sure what happens at a disability day of mourning vigil, here is a detailed description of one from Vancouver
  • A eulogy by Ari Ne’eman
  • Kerima Cevik on the role social media plays in this violence
  • Zoe Gross on copycat crimes
  • ASAN has an Anti-Filicide Toolkit here
  • Lisa D., who maintains the Autism Memorial LJ, has opened a Memorial Annex as a side project  – this lists other disabled crime victims she comes across in her autism-related research.

With recent measles outbreaks in the US and Canada, there has been even more talk about vaccines than usual.

April is coming up, and in many places April is Autism Awareness Month. Here is a post by Kerima Cevik about reclaiming the month from Autism Speaks

Some posts on the benefits (and pitfalls) of diagnostic labels:

Some stuff about stories and media:

  • A.C. Buchanan on why autistic authors should do research when writing their own autistic characters
  • Luna Lindsey in defense of “Benny & Joon

In “what is it like to be autistic” news:


Lady Blue and the Lampreys

Today is the launch day for The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir, which features my short story, “Lady Blue and the Lampreys”. I’m excited and intrigued to see what happens with this book – noir is not at all my usual genre. But I happened to have this story lying around which involved a femme fatale, a gender-flipped fairy tale, and a bunch of soul-eating three-headed lamprey people who invade a dingy little small town. It had enough elements of Weird Noir that I looked at it and said, “Hmm, I bet Claude Lalumière and David Nickle would like this,” and then they did. 😀

Merc Rustad gets major thanks for helping me talk out my vague “I want to write a female Bluebeard because reasons” ideas, way back when this was being drafted, and connect them to a workable plot.


So yesterday I wrote a mini rant on Twitter about character agency, and how it is actually a function of plot, not of what type of character you have.

It went viral and got posted on io9, which is quite astounding. Some people even told me they were using it to start discussions in writing and game design classes. I didn’t know that was even a thing.

I thought of writing a longer and more coherent version here (complete with corrected grammar >.> ) but considering how many people seem to like it the way it is, I think I’ll let it stay that way.

Though, to be honest, I prefer the Storify version made by Merc Rustad, because it includes some really good additional points that Rose Lemberg made. I talk in the Twitter rant about female characters, but the logic here really applies to all characters, especially marginalized characters (queer, PoC, disabled, trans, or whatever else) who are very frequently sidelined.

Autism News, 2015/02/06

March 1 is the official Day of Mourning for people with disabilities who are murdered by their caregivers (yes, there are THAT many). Vigils will be held in many cities. Most are in the US, but a few are elsewhere. You can find out here if there is a vigil being planned in your area.

This news cycle, there was a lot of talk about the idea of “high-functioning” autistic people dominating discourse about autism, and about whether or not this is acceptable.

  • Here is a good post about this by Dani Alexis
  • And by Lysik’an, a non-verbal autistic person
  • Relatedly, Sparrow Rose Jones has a good post about potential

Some interesting lived experiences:

Some posts about forms of treatment and research:




2014 Poetry: Better Late Than Never

I actually kept up much more closely with poetry this year than I did with fiction! Or at least the major speculative poetry venues. I’ve just been procrastinating, etc on writing it out. Here are some pieces I especially enjoyed:

Dwarf Size



Autistic Book Party, Episode 16: Hawk

Today’s Autistic Book Party was made possible by Rose Lemberg, who generously donated a review copy of the book because she was interested in knowing specifically what I thought of this one. YES, this DOES work as a method of getting reviews out faster. 😛

Today’s Book: “Hawk” by Steven Brust.

The Plot: Vlad Taltos, an assassin / witch / general-purpose organized criminal, comes up with a cunning plan to get the other organized criminals who are hunting him off of his back.

(This is book #14 of a series that will eventually have 17 parts.)

Autistic Character(s): Daymar, a Hawklord and powerful psychic.

We’ve met Daymar before, when I reviewed “Dragon“, an earlier book in the series. Daymar seemed cool but didn’t appear in very much of that book. Everyone’s been telling me that there is more Daymar in this one. And there is. Sort of.

Vlad’s cunning plan in this particular book involves a lot of psychic stuff, so he naturally calls on Daymar to assist him. Daymar is as friendly, helpful, polite and cool as ever. The problem is… Well, you can go back and read that previous review. Don’t worry, it’s short. You know the part where I said that Daymar is cool because he asks polite questions when he is confused about things, instead of making rude and arrogant assumptions as so many fictional Aspies do? Yet, despite this, Vlad for some unknown reason finds him really annoying?

Yeah, there’s… a lot of that going on here. And it’s more noticeable here than in the previous book. Maybe just because Daymar shows up more, but for whatever reason, even Daymar’s most helpful and considerate attributes seem to drive Vlad off the deep end. Here is a fairly representative quote:

“It’s good to see you, Vlad.”
“You, too,” I lied.
“When I saw Loiosh, I concluded that you wanted to see me.”
“Good thinking.”
“He let me get the location from his mind, so I teleported.”
“Yes,” I said.
“So I was right?”
I nodded.
He sat back, tilted his head, and waited.
“I wanted to ask you about something,” I said.
He nodded. “All right. I’m listening.”
“You wish me to ask you, then?” I said, keeping my face straight.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s up to you. I wasn’t doing anything important. And I’m not in a hurry. So, take as much time as you want.”
Explaining the joke to Daymar seemed like a poor use of my time, so I said, “It goes back to a remark you made some years ago. We were sitting around Castle Black, and you mentioned a Hawk rite of passage you’d undergone.”

It’s not that any specific exchange of this nature is particularly awful, it’s just that they never really stop being like this. Daymar never stops trying very hard to be helpful and considerate, and Vlad never stops quietly mocking him and being annoyed.

Part of this, of course, is that Vlad is an ornery antihero. I mean, he used to kill people for money a lot, among other evil deeds. So it’s not very reasonable to expect Vlad to be the model of understanding and politeness, whether towards people on the spectrum or just towards people in general. In fact, Vlad is usually pretty snarky to everybody; his snarkiness and cleverness is part of what makes him a good narrator. There are many scenes in the book of Vlad hanging out with people whom he genuinely likes, and who are very important to him, and these scenes largely consist of snarky banter and friendly insults going back and forth. So if it was just the fact that Vlad got annoyed and was snarky with Daymar and Daymar didn’t get it, I’d just chalk it up to Vlad being Vlad.

In fact, I have a suspicion that the reason Vlad gets so annoyed by Daymar is precisely because Vlad likes to be snarky to everyone. Daymar likes to be open, honest, and considerate, and Vlad’s usual communication style goes completely over his head. I think that Vlad doesn’t know what to do with a clash of communication styles of this magnitude, so he defaults to being frustrated and annoyed.

The trouble is that Vlad’s annoyance towards Daymar seems to go beyond his usual rudeness and snarkiness to everyone else. For instance, he talks with annoyance about Daymar to other people:

“I’d ask Daymar.”
“Yeah, I’ve been trying to avoid that.”
He chuckled. “I can understand that. I could look for someone else-“
“No, no. We’ll go with Daymar. I told him I’d be needing his help again.”
“That makes me feel better. If I have to deal with you, you have to deal with Daymar. More klava?”

Vlad doesn’t talk like this to other people about any other character, and he does this repeatedly. Even more troublingly, absolutely everyone Vlad talks like this to about Daymar seems to be as annoyed by Daymar as he is. Even when they are ostensibly also in a circle of friends that involves Daymar.

I can’t figure out where this level of animosity comes from, because Daymar is always helpful and cool. He is oblivious to a few things that seem obvious to Vlad and the other organized criminals, but then, he knows a lot of things about psychic communication that Vlad is oblivious to, so that ought to put them on equal footing.

A final problem is that Daymar’s role in the plot is pretty well limited to letting Vlad consult with him about certain matters, finding rare and expensive items for him, and otherwise helping out when requested. He asks for literally nothing in return for this help; he appears to be doing so because Vlad is his friend. (Vlad does thank him, once, briefly, but only near the end of the book.) Meanwhile it is painfully obvious to any reader that Vlad is not his friend and would much rather not be around him.

I can’t explain why this bothers me more than, say, Vlad killing people. Mainly I think that Brust likely does not understand what real-world narratives he is upholding. We all know that being an assassin is not a good thing in real life. But it is so common for autistic people in real life to fall into this pattern, where they believe someone to be their friend and try very hard to help and be nice to that person, but that person turns out to be a bully who is mocking and complaining about them behind their back, or who simply uses them for the one thing they’re especially good at, while actually wanting nothing else to do with them. Considering how common this is, and how common it is for autistic people to be portrayed as annoying enough to merit such treatment, I can’t really sit back and enjoy watching Daymar go through it. I can’t really treat it as funny escapism the way I can when the characters are killing each other. I don’t know.

And we don’t even really get much character development out of Daymar. There’s a little bit – a really interesting couple of paragraphs or so that happen when Vlad asks him about what he’s interested in – but mostly he just shows up when Vlad asks, does what Vlad asks him to, gets made fun of, and goes away again. So while he does show up more often than in previous books, it’s not really a win for readers who happen to be Daymar fans.

I usually really enjoy the Vlad books, so this was kind of a downer.

The Verdict: Not Recommended

For a list of other past/future/possible Autistic Book Party books, or to recommend a new one, click here.