Autism News, 6/21/2014

This one is a long one, and a somewhat-overdue one, and a sad one.

First, there was the (utterly unscientific) study that claimed to show a link between autism and serial killing. Unfortunately, this was not what the study actually showed. It measured autism by looking in media reports about criminals and seeing if anyone speculated that they might be autistic, or that they behaved oddly or had strange social skills. So the correct conclusion isn’t that “autism and serial killing are linked”; it is “people in the news tend to speculate about the mental health and/or neurotype of killers”.

Second, of course, there was the Isla Vista shooting. An #AutismIsNotACrime flash blog happened in response to this, organized by Gretchen Leary, but it was not properly archived, and I dropped the ball and missed it at the time. However, here are a few posts, both from within the flash blog and from elsewhere, which relate to the shooting and the complex social issues which sprung up around it.

  • Amy Sequenzia explains what the problem is with blaming crimes on autism, in general. (This is a good post to read if you’re sort of staring at things wondering what is going on and what the big deal is.)
  • Cristiana Bell describes the impact that this blaming can have on autistic people’s families
  • Morénike from Just Being Me describes another kind of impact that it has
  • Dani Alexis on autism and misogyny, on what can happen when a person is both autistic and misogynistic, and why using autism to excuse misogyny creats a double standard

Since aggression, in the form of extreme violent acts, has been such a hot topic this month, here are some helpful posts on dealing with more everyday aggression and meltdowns in general.

Meanwhile, here is some stuff about research:

  • Google (yes, that Google) is helping Autism Speaks compile a database of the genomes of many autistic people and their families, called AUT10K. Many autistic people have reservations about this database (and not just because Autism Speaks is involved). ASAN explains the issues here.
  • Here’s an example of autism research that could actually be useful: a simulation that helps autists build job interview skills.
  • And some not-so-nice, but interesting, genetic research
  • A company called My Ambrosia is planning an app to help autistic adults with cooking and grocery shopping, and they are running a survey to determine what is needed. If you are an autistic adult, you can take the survey here.

Posts about other issues and differences:


Likeability: An Exercise

So, my non-writing life has been pretty unbelievable lately, but I Aten’t Dead. And I’m finding myself still fascinated with this topic, despite myself.

During our last discussion, people brought up a wide variety of issues related to character likability, including the impact of a character’s sexual and romantic orientation, and the difference between genre and literary fiction in approaches to characters, plus a whole whack of “Wait, but what does this ‘likeability’ thing actually mean, anyway? Does it mean ANYTHING?'”

Meanwhile, Silvia Moreno-Garcia linked me to this post from Overthinking It. A post doing actual research in likeability, you guys! I highly recommend it, and it’s spurred me to (belatedly) construct some informal research of my own, which covers a few questions that the Overthinking It article may have missed… Although, when I say “informal”, I mean really informal. As in, this would never pass peer-review EVER, ANYWHERE, and the fact that you guys are a biased sample is only the first of its many problems in that regard.

Still, I’m curious.


Ada’s Totally Informal Likeability Exercise

If you’d like to participate, please do this on your own, before looking at anyone else’s answers. No cheating!

For the purpose of this exercise, characters that you “like” are the characters that you get excited to read about. You’re more likely to pick up a book (/movie/whatever) if it has one of these characters, vs. other work by the same author. You enjoy scenes more when these characters have something to do in them. You don’t necessarily have to have any other beliefs about the characters, such as a belief that they are good people (though you can if you want to).

Got that? Let’s begin…

1. Quick! Write down your 3 favorite male characters. (It doesn’t have to be exactly 3; 2 to 5 is a good range. Don’t stress about getting The Very Best Ones Ever, either; just write down the ones that come quickly to mind.)

2. Now! Quick! Write down your 3 favorite female characters, in a similar manner.

3. (If you have favorite genderqueer/nonbinary characters, or characters who don’t otherwise belong on a binary list of “male” and “female” characters, please list them here as well. I’m not making this a strict requirement since there tend to be relatively few such characters, but if you want to list any, please do.)

4. For each character on the lists you just made, write down 3 things about them that make them your favorites. Again, don’t stress; go with what comes to mind first.

5. Look at your lists. Can you see commonalities between all of the characters you just wrote down, or are they all completely different from each other? A commonality could be a specific character trait (they’re clever, funny, vulnerable, tough) or something much more “meta”. Are the things you enjoy about your favorite male characters different from the things you enjoy about your favorite female characters? Do you see any other patterns?

6. If your favorite characters (or favorite male/female characters, etc) all have something in common, can you think of a character who also has that trait, but whom you dislike? Why?

7. Comment and share your answers, and let’s see what we’ve learned!

New Story: The Screech Owl Also Shall Rest There

So now on to happier news!

My friend/collaborator Jacqueline Flay and I have a new story out in the anthology, “The Death God’s Chosen” by Deepwood Publishing. It’s a novelette featuring Mesolithic vampires, polyamory, an unusually large-scale Revenge SVP, and the origin of writing. Among other things.

This story was quite a while in the making. Working with Jacqueline was a new experience for me at the time, but a good one, and she helped push the story into territory I would have normally been too intimidated to venture into. We had to drop out of the market for which we originally wrote it due to a contractual dispute, and I had some moments of despair wondering if ANYONE else but that market would buy this type of story, but of course it was not only snapped up in due time, but by a market which, despite being a very small press, paid more than the original. And has better cover art. So… Yay!

Plus we’re the first story in the whole anthology & the first authors to be named on the cover, which is kind of cool, in a mindless-ego-feeding sort of way.

An excerpt:

“Close your eyes. Sing.”

Tiqu, the new boy, does as he’s told, standing tense in the temple’s centre with Ishka poised in front of him like a lover. He opens his lips on a wordless melody. It doesn’t matter what the song is, only that it distracts him. The comb will hurt worse if he’s thinking about it too hard.

The temple is a monumental thing, carved full of lion-gods, eagle-gods, even beetle-gods. Ishka usually does this under the trees or the stars, wherever her pack happens to be. But the temple was close this time, and she could not resist it. She is old enough to remember when this was pure blasphemy. Imagine gods that stay in one place, not roaming freely like every other creature! There were wars over this temple once. Ishka still smells blasphemy when she visits, and she likes that, even if the humans no longer remember why.

Tiqu’s brow furrows. He repeats his melody, a chant to match the carvings.

Ishka dips her sharpened obsidian comb into the bowl of ash in front of her and looks Tiqu’s nude body up and down.

Then she drives the comb into the flesh of his thigh.

The anthology is ebook-only, but is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

If you like this, you should know this isn’t my only collaboration with Jacqueline Flay; we’re also in the TOC for Michael Matheson’s anthology “Start a Revolution: QUILTBAG Fiction Vying for Change“, which comes out in 2015.