MONSTERS IN MY MIND: story notes, part 5, 9, 16, 28, and 39: micro-poems!

5. Hippocamp

In 2013, I was part of an online poetry critique forum. That allegiance didn’t last (for reasons that are no one’s fault – the people in the forum were very sharp when it came to technique, but couldn’t make head or tail of speculative themes unless they were a metaphor for something, and that frustrated me). But for a while it was a fruitful place to hang out, practice critiquing poetry, and learn.

As a part of that forum, I participated in 2013’s National Poetry Writing Month and some other, shorter-term challenges. Some of what came out of those challenges was excellent (“Self-Portrait as Bilbo Baggins” was a NaPo poem, for instance). Some of it was garbage. Most of it won’t appear in this collection or any other, because see above re: garbage. But some of the pieces, after editing, became things I loved and wanted to share.

“Hippocamp” was one example of a motif I returned to frequently in the 2013 challenges: a three-line poem (NOT a haiku) about a mythological creature. I took to calling these the “bestiary poems”. “Hippocamp” was the first bestiary poem that I wrote, and (in my opinion) still the best.

9. Atavist

Not a bestiary poem – it has five lines, not three, and at least one of the creatures involved is an actual chicken – but related.

16. Crocodile Tears

A three-line poem which has nothing to do with mythological creatures at all.

Beta readers were divided about whether the person speaking in this one is addressing someone who has bullied them, or is a bully themselves. My response to this is WHYNOTBOTH.GIF, but you can choose your own interpretation.

28. Abominable Snowman

Another of the bestiary poems, this is the only one that was actually published – in Niteblade, Issue #30. This used to mean that it was free to read online, although the Internet is fickle and this doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. Amusingly, it was one of the only Niteblade poems to be free from the start; normally that magazine only posted teasers online until their fundraising goals were met, but in this case, it was so short that the teaser was the poem.

39. Baku

A third bestiary poem; this one is about a tapir-like Japanese creature that eats dreams.

This is the last of the bestiary poems that I decided was actually fit for publication. (Or, almost the last; there’s one about a prehistoric creature that I may or may not end up shoehorning into a later, dinosaur-themed collection. We’ll see how that collection takes shape in the future. Sssh.)

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on Amazon, Kobo, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.

Autism News: 2017/10/26

I have once again managed to neglect my Autism News posts for a few months, so now you folks are getting a NICE BIG ONE.

Posts about how people treat us:

Posts about personal experiences:

Posts about online advocacy and the politics of language:

Posts about American politics and core disability policy:

Other pan-disability and policy stuff:

  • Christopher Knaus explains how NDIS disability insurance is being rolled out too fast in the UK
  • Russ Choma on how airlines and the Trump administration are delaying implementing improvements to how US airlines handle wheelchairs
  • Mac McClelland on what happens to Americans who are found not guilty by reason of insanity (TW: institutionalization; medical/psychiatric abuse; descriptions of violent crimes, including sexual crimes and crimes against children.)

Media and reviews:

  • Elizabeth Cassidy explains why having characters who meet all the diagnostic criteria for autism isn’t the same as having realistic autistic characters
  • Eric Deggans summarizes autistic people’s reactions to “Atypical” and “The Good Doctor”
  • Maxfield Sparrow writes a nuanced review of “The Good Doctor”
  • Sarah Pripas reviews “Dina”, a documentary about an autistic couple getting married
  • Nicole and Meadow Panteleakos review “A Boy Called Bat”
  • Chavisory explains the problem with portraying autistic characters as naive. (This is one of those “I think I knew this, but I didn’t have language to say it” type posts for me. It’s a great description of a pervasive problem in a way I haven’t seen before. I might start linking to it in Autistic Book Party reviews once in a while.)


MONSTERS IN MY MIND: story notes, part 3 and 4

3. And All the Fathomless Crowds

Attempting to exterminate Non-Minds on sight is a sign of Romero Disorder. In the days immediately after 12/12, many human survivors developed this disorder. The sheer number of Non-Minds overwhelmed them, and each human died of exhaustion mid-rampage – if the Non-Minds didn’t get them first.

“And All the Fathomless Crowds”, first published in Dead North, is an anti-zombie-apocalypse story. The world has been overrun with dangerous, mindless creatures… and humans just kind of sit tight and learn ways to exist as peacefully as possible. It’s centered around Sandra, a young woman at university taking her Survival 101 exam, who runs into a very unexpected form of Non-Mind.

Dead North’s submission call asked for stories with local flavor. Mine is set in a post-apocalyptic version of Queen’s University, my alma mater, and it was delightful to add details from Queen’s and from Kingston, Ontario more generally which could serve as inside jokes with other folks who have lived there. The story should be perfectly intelligible to people unfamiliar with Kingston, though.

A lot of the eerie atmosphere is taken from what it actually feels like for me to walk down the street on a bad sensory day, except that it’s made absurdly literal and concrete. So other people aren’t just unnerving to look at but are dangerous magical creatures, etc, and so is every other sensory thing. In that sense, it is a stealth autism story, though no one in it is autistic and the word “autism” is never used.

Derek Newman-Stille at Speculating Canada wrote a wonderful review of “And All the Fathomless Crowds” which articulates some of the thoughts behind it better and in more detail than I would have been able to. (Although I do have some related thoughts about zombies, diseased bodies, violence, and ableism, which went up on Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s blog.)

The title sounds like a reference to something, but it’s really just a bunch of words that I made up so that they would feel rhythmic and topical.

Song Pairing: For Sandra’s test of outer survival and inner strength, there is no better accompaniment than Lacuna Coil’s “Survive“.

4. Mama’s Sword

They talked a long time, mostly things I didn’t care about. Mostly Daddy talking on and on about how much he loved her, wherever she’d been, whatever had happened to her. He sounded like he was trying to convince himself. He sounded like he was crying.

“Mama’s Sword” is a Lovecraftian sword and sorcery tale about a seventeen-year-old girl, Kejiu, whose mother comes back from her adventures traumatized by a too-close brush with cosmic horror.

(Horror fiction talks a lot about characters going mad after witnessing Things Man Was Not Meant To Know; it more rarely acknowledges that this is also more or less how PTSD happens in real life.)

The inspiration for “Mama’s Sword” was an incident from a D&D game. To make a very long story short, a woman was rescued from an adventure that had gone very terribly wrong. I wanted to explore what happened to that character after she was rescued. In the process, of course, it became something that wasn’t a D&D story at all, and the setting was changed to reflect that.

This was a very emotionally difficult story to write, and I probably wouldn’t have finished it if not for Krista D. Ball bugging me to get something written quickly for an anthology her friend was editing. (I’d tried to write a story along these lines, and failed, before. If you’ve heard me referring before to the story that made me want to stab myself in the eye with a toothpick, this is it.)

As a result of this, “Mama’s Sword” ended up being first published in the extremely obscure little book, Blood Iris 2012. If you never heard of that book, you’re in luck, because now you can read it collected with my other works right here in MONSTERS IN MY MIND. Enjoy!

Song Pairing: There are a million artists who have written powerful, sensitive songs about PTSD. Battle Beast are probably not those artists. But they’re my guilty pleasure listening and I can only take so much gloom in one post, so here, have “Dancing With The Beast“.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on Amazon, Kobo, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND: story notes, part 1 and 2

  1. You Have to Follow the Rules

Where I come from, you can rock or cover your ears or run away from people and no one will tell you that you’re bad.

This story was my first full-length pro sale (though I had a pro flash sale or two before it). That, and the neurodiversity themes, and the hopeful tone, make it a wonderful opener. It’s also an opener that you can read for free online – like a free appetizer for the full book. It’s here in Strange Horizons.

“You Have to Follow the Rules” is the tale of Annalee, an autistic child at a science fiction convention, who discovers doors to an alternate dimension full of strange, fey-like children – children who are, she suspects, like her.

The inspiration for the story came from an exchange that A. Merc Rustad and Ursula Vernon had on Twitter. Merc had had a dream which framed itself as an Ursula Vernon story, called “Children of the Con”, in which strange, white-eyed children lived year-round in a convention center. They told Ursula Vernon that she should write the story; Vernon replied that Merc should do it themselves. I asked Merc if I could yoink the story idea, and they said yes. (Merc and I borrow from each other a lot.) Then I threw in the autism angle because, well, at that point, why not.

The editors at Strange Horizons, particularly An Owomoyela, helped me deepen and polish the story in several respects – most notably, giving the mother character a little bit more depth than she had in the first draft (though she’s still awful), and developing a more playful and allusive narrative voice for Annalee.

“You Have to Follow the Rules” was long-listed for a BSFA award.

Song Pairing: I don’t write to music the way many authors do, but I do make playlists and form associations between songs and things very easily. Each full-length or flash story from MONSTERS IN MY MIND (but not poetry or micro-fic) will be paired with a song that I associate with it.

The song for “You Have to Follow the Rules” is Mike Scott’s “Sensitive Children” – one of the few song pairings here that’s obscure enough I can’t link you to it on YouTube. It’s not perfect – for one thing, it’s from a bystander’s perspective, not Annalee’s – but the association stuck, so here it is.

2. Self-Portrait as Bilbo Baggins

Over casserole you explain
that hobbits are three feet tall, like me.
I want to stay this size forever.

This is a poem about my father, told through the lens of the classic fantasy he read to me. (The scene in the first three stanzas, in which I act out “The Hobbit” with a horde of teddy bears and so on, are things that actually happened.) Autism runs in families, and mine comes mostly from my father’s side – as, very likely, do risk factors for other mental illness.

“Self-Portrait as Bilbo Baggins” is available for free online, in the first issue of Liminality. It and “You Have to Follow the Rules” are also what you’ll see if you use the Look Inside feature on Amazon: a childhood-themed preview for the rest of the book.

In the next post, we’ll get into a couple of stories about young adults.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on Amazon, Kobo, Indigo, and Barnes and Noble.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is up on Amazon!

It’s a real thing! It’s available for purchase! It’s here! (And, according to the page, has been here since October 2, although I did not notice it until Bogi Takács pointed it out on Twitter.) You can buy it for US $20 paperback or, apparently, $8.01 for the Kindle edition.

It isn’t up yet on the publisher’s website, for some reason, but I expect that this (and perhaps other online retailers) will happen soon.

I had a great book launch party on Friday night with some great loyal readers who were very understanding about the physical books not quite being here yet, and very entertained by the readings. I had a great time at Can*Con this weekend in general, for that matter. More updates soon!


The table of contents for MONSTERS IN MY MIND is now up: here!

Over the next couple of months, I’ll be posting more information about each story and poem, and making the titles in the TOC into links to where you can learn more. (Including links to free versions of the stories/poems, where available – although, if you’re eager, you can already find those links in my general Bibliography.)

Can*Con Schedule

The official schedule for Can*Con is out. Here’s what I’ll be doing in Ottawa this weekend:

7:00 PM, Friday. Book Launch: Monsters In My Mind. (Ada Hoffmann) – Con Suite

Ada Hoffmann’s debut collection, Monsters in My Mind, features non-neurotypical fairies, apocalypse velociraptors, soul-eating lamprey people, and Mothers of All Squid – among many other acclaimed stories and award-nominated poetry. The book launch will include a short reading and signing, delicious home-baked desserts for all, and loads of monstery door prizes.

6:00 PM, Saturday. Benefits and challenges of #ownvoices writing. (Elizabeth Hirst, Ada Hoffmann, Talia Johnson, Tonya Liburd, Waubgeshig Rice, Dominik Parisien) – Salon F

#Ownvoices fiction was coined by author Corinne Duyvis to describe stories “about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group” — and has filled a major gap in the young adult reading landscape. As well as its unique joys and perspectives, writing #ownvoices fiction means working with a unique set of craft and marketing challenges. Join authors writing #ownvoices work for a practical discussion of the creative, personal, and business aspects of writing people like you — and how the process differs from handling other kinds of fiction.

That’s all – just the two events. It should be a nice light convention, which is good, because October this year has become a big travel month. Feel free to catch me anytime at the convention and say hi!


Autistic Book Party, Episode 38: Libriomancer

Today’s Book: “Libriomancer” by Jim C. Hines

The Plot: Sparkling vampires are running amok in Michigan, and it’s up to Isaac – a “libriomancer” who can pull fictional items out of books – to stop them. But the vampires may only be the tip of the iceberg…

Autistic Character(s): Nicola Pallas, the Regional Master of the Porters (a magical organization including libriomancers and other magicians).

So, I will say this up front. Nicola Pallas is cool. She’s also hardly in this book at all. She shows up for a few scenes, and they’re good scenes, but that’s about it. Her role in this book is to be the trope of the authority figure who tries to pull Isaac off the case when things get out of hand. She does play that role well, and her decisions are ones that make good logical sense based on the information and concerns that she has.

What we do see of Pallas, in terms of her characterization, is fun. She’s a bard who does magic by using music, and who keeps an inordinate number of magical creatures as pets. She has a rather flat affect, but Hines never confuses this with actually having no feelings; it’s clear that she is, at times, fearful and concerned and having other appropriate emotions about the plot, even if she expresses them differently than others. I will admit I have a weakness for steely, cool-headed women in positions of power, and Pallas’s snarkily logical messages to Isaac play right into that:

“Deb said someone had hacked our communications,” I said warily. “I’ve already had one Porter try to kill me this week.”
“This connection is now secure. We’ve heard nothing further from Mrs. DeGeorge [the Porter who tried to kill Isaac]. Her apartment was empty, and she appears to have gone underground. Perhaps literally. As for myself, either I’ve been turned by our enemy and therefore already know any information you might share, or else I remain human and Regional Master of the Porters, in which case I would appreciate your report.”
That certainly sounded like Pallas.

Aside from this speaking style, Pallas’s autism also comes across in small gestures, such as the fidgeting she constantly does with her jewelry. Isaac as a narrator isn’t very well-informed about autism, but his adventuring partner, Lena, is able to fill him in:

“How exactly did Pallas react when you told her I had found the other libriomancer, and the thing that came through the book after us?”
“I have a harder time reading autistics, but-”
She blinked. “You didn’t know?”
“I don’t have access to her files.”
“Neither do I,” Lena said sharply. “But I’ve learned a thing or two living with Nidhi. I’ve been here for four days, long enough to get a sense of Nicola Pallas. She doesn’t express her emotions the same way you or I do. I think she’s frightened, though. When I first described what happened, she walked away from me in midsentence and started making phone calls. When she finished, she was playing with her bracelets and moving around like she wanted to run but didn’t know where.”
“She knows something,” I muttered. “Why wouldn’t she tell me?”
“Maybe because she knows how close you came to dying,” Lena said sharply.
I had no answer to that.

That’s pretty much all that happens, though. “Libriomancer” is a fun book, but readers who want a story specifically about Nicola Pallas should instead read Hines’s short story, “Chupacabra’s Song“.

The Verdict: Marginal

Ethics Statement: I have occasionally corresponded with Jim C. Hines. I read his book by checking out a physical copy from my local library. All opinions expressed here are my own.

This book was chosen by my Patreon backers. If these reviews are valuable to you, consider becoming a backer; for as little as $1, you can help choose the next autistic book.

For a list of past/future/possible Autistic Book Party books, click here.