Autistic Book Party, Episode 27: Defying Doomsday

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 Tak√°cs, “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]

On hope and voices

The world feels like it’s on fire. I’m not even in the places worst affected. I have been sitting here in Canada like a chump this week, watching helplessly while all my American friends panic. (Which is not to say that a sufficiently terrible American president cannot affect the entire world. But I am not in the epicentre.)

Hyperempathy is a thing. I have been very overwhelmed. I have wanted to say something, and I have said many things privately, but I have been publicly silent because everything is terrible and what the hell can I possibly say that will make any difference?

But – hiding and focusing on friends and self-care tends to have an effect. Namely, that after you do it for long enough, you are ready to come out again.

Here is what I want to say.

Please, please, if you are reading this and you are marginalized and terrified for the future, don’t give up hope. I am not here to tell you “it’s not so bad”. But when things ARE very bad, when the future is in doubt, that is when we need hope the most. That is when nothing but hope will sustain us.

Please, if you are reading this and you are marginalized and afraid, please remember that your voice matters. It always has. It always will. It matters in some ways now more than ever.

(Some people are going to be worse affected by the next four years than others, but I am not here today to split hairs about who is and isn’t marginalized enough. If you feel you need this post today then this post is for you.)

It is hard to believe in your voice when the whole world is shouting that you don’t matter, that people like you don’t matter, that your safety and self-advocacy doesn’t matter, that the whole nation already decided against your existence mattering, that you should go away.

It is so fucking hard. But your voice matters.

There are so many ways we can use our voices. There is no one way. All of them matter. Protest and political action is important. (Politics doesn’t stop happening just because the election is over.) Supporting each other is so, so important. Standing up for ourselves is important. Any way at all that we stay connected and believing in each other is important right now. If all you can do is tell bad jokes, as Ursula Vernon brilliantly said on Saturday, even that is important right now.

And art. Art. Please, if you are reading this, keep believing in your art, in your stories or paintings or songs or whatever it is that you do.

I and so many people I know have been struggling with art this week. Wondering how we can keep faffing about with fantasy worlds when the real one is on fire. (Other people I know have lit a flame in themselves, have doubled down and made their work bigger and louder and more defiant because they already know why their work matters now more than ever. If this is where you are right now, I support you.)

But the truth is. Art matters. Art has always mattered. If your art is defiant and angry and shines a light on injustice too bright to ignore, we need your art right now. If your art is full of hope or even happy fluffy escapism, if your art gives frightened people a way to imagine being okay, we need your art really badly right now. If you are marginalized and your art is anything at all, then we need your art. In the face of powerful people who believe that you don’t matter and should go away, all art that you make is defiance and all of it is powerful.

And if you can’t do any of this right now? If you are too overwhelmed, if you can’t speak out, if you can’t art, if you can’t anything?

You are still okay.

Please. Please believe this. Terrible things are happening everywhere all at once and so much is needed. It’s still okay to take care of yourself. It’s still okay to hide and heal. It’s tempting to say “so that you survive to fight another day” – but, you know what, honestly, fuck talking like that right now. You matter. You matter. That is the whole fucking point of all this. We are all trying to speak out now because we know that marginalized people matter. The mattering comes before the activism, not after. If you are too ill, too terrified, too in danger to do anything that feels like it makes a lick of difference for anyone else – you still matter. You are still okay. Believe me.

(Jill S. has a very good post on self-care, in this vein. I recommend it.)

Put on your oxygen mask first. If that’s all you can do, do it, and you have saved one person. You’re okay.

Even when things feel so urgent, even when they are urgent – let’s be real. It is going to take four full years to survive the next four years. There is literally no way around that. There will be time for everybody to contribute and there will be times when even the most spoonful of us need a rest. If you are struggling, take your time, do what you need to do for yourself, ask for the help that you need, because you matter.

Your voice will still matter when you are ready to come back out.

The Giantess’s Dream

Cover of Twisted Moon, Issue 1

As promised, here I am today posting about my new poem!

“The Giantess’s Dream” came to me, very nearly fully formed, on Halloween night of 2012. I had no idea what to do with it. It was… a sexually explicit poem about Loki. (The mythical Norse Loki, not the Marvel Loki, although I am totes not in charge of what you picture in your head when you read it!) Who the heck was going to publish this? I sent it around fitfully anyway, because I liked the poem, but I did not really feel that it was a good fit anywhere, so I ended up reluctantly putting it aside.

Then I found out on Twitter that someone was making a new magazine devoted specifically to erotic speculative poetry. SCORE!

Apparently, several other very good speculative poets had similar sexy things stuffed in their closets somewhere that they similarly didn’t know what to do with. Because Issue 1 of Twisted Moon is now out. It’s gorgeous visually and verbally and features delightfully naughty work by Neile Graham, Sonya Taaffe, Mat Joiner, and other speculative poetry luminaries.

You can read the whole issue here. Or, if I had you at “a sexually explicit poem about Loki”, you can skip straight to my poem here.

(The words of the poems are NSFW, obviously, though the visuals and art that I can see on the site right now are very spare and tasteful.)

(If you are in my immediate family and read this, I don’t want to know.)