Autistic Book Party, Episode 47/48: Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun

Today’s Books: Two for the price of one! “Raven Stratagem” and “Revenant Gun,” both sequels to “Ninefox Gambit” by Yoon Ha Lee – also known as the Machineries of Empire series.

The Plot: After the events of “Ninefox Gambit,” the hexarchate – and Cheris and Jedao – have to pick up the pieces. (It’s really hard to write non-spoilery plot hooks for sequels, wheeee.)

Autistic Character(s): The author.

I pounced on these books and devoured them because of a rumor that “Revenant Gun” contained an autistic character. This rumor is not true, sorry! But they are still cracking good space operas with delightful magic space battles and intrigue which are every bit as compelling as the first one.

It’s really hard to say a lot of detailed stuff about these two books without giving spoilers for “Ninefox Gambit,” or for new stuff that happens. Also, I read both books in a bit of a concerned haze because I was trying way too hard to figure out who the autistic character was and couldn’t figure it out. A discussion in Lee’s open thread about “Revenant Gun,” listing other neurodivergent characters, suggests that there was never meant to be one in the first place.

(I did wonder at times about Kel Brezan, who is cranky, fidgety, fixated on small details and seemingly unable to perform the social scripts that go with the powerful role he is given – but overall the evidence isn’t strong enough to suggest that Brezan was meant to be autistic, or any other specific thing. Brezan is, however, a “crashhawk” – someone for whom Kel formation instinct doesn’t function properly – which is arguably an in-universe form of neurodivergence!)

The overall portrayal of neurodiversity in this trilogy was never bad, but I did note a few concerns in my previous review. These concerns are things that improve over the course of the series! In particular, “Ninefox Gambit” gives us several minor characters who appear to be examples of the “sociopathic villain” trope, but the next two books develop these characters further and give them much more nuance which pulls them away from the problematic elements of that trope.

According to the open thread, Shuos Mikodez, one of these characters, was patterned after manic phases which are #ownvoices for the author (although he also pinged as possibly ADHD to me and at least one other reader). He’s shown taking meds, relying on an aide and a double for support, and realistically needing these accommodations while also being brilliant and good at his job. A more monstrous character, Nirai Kujen, is… I don’t know how to talk about it without spoilers, but in “Revenant Gun” we learn much more about how Kujen came to be the way he is, and I found it very compelling because I have absolutely met people who would turn evil in that way if they could. Eeeeep.

Anyway, most of the book isn’t about this stuff, but about MAGIC SPACE BATTLES and revolutions and divided loyalties and cute robots, and it is really excellent. Machineries of Empire is one of my favorite sci-fi series, not just by autistic authors, but out of all the sci-fi series I have read ever. Go read it 😀

The Verdict: Recommended-2

Ethics Statement: Yoon Ha Lee and I have had one very brief correspondence, which is described in the “Ninefox Gambit” review. We haven’t otherwise interacted.

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Announcing THE OUTSIDE!

Hello, blog readers!

I’ve been very scarce because of (good, but intense) stuff going on in my life – I moved into a new home (with a longterm partner of mine) on Monday and am still settling in.

But I could not fail to announce this one thing that I have been keeping under wraps for months!

THE OUTSIDE, my debut science fiction novel, is coming out in the summer of 2019 from Angry Robot Books.

THE OUTSIDE features an autistic lesbian protagonist, supercomputer Gods and cyborg angels, a touch of Lovecraftian horror, and a heap of what the publisher is calling “mind-bending Big Idea science fiction.”

Read the full announcement here! I’m SO EXCITED!!

Autism News, 2018/07/12

Posts about useful activities:

Posts about comorbid conditions:

Posts about people being treated badly:

Misc Updates

In between all of the bewildering short story and poem publications of the past month, a few other things happened:

  • I now have a monthly newsletter: just the important updates, all in one place and in a shiny package. You can sign up for it here.
  • I also have a Facebook fan page. If you want to follow me on Facebook, this is how!
  • My story “Minor Heresies,” which first appeared in Ride the Star Wind, will be reprinted in Transcendent 3: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, edited by the excellent Bogi Takács.
  • Finally, in goofier news, if you want to listen to all the Song Pairings from Monsters In My Mind all in one place, here’s a Spotify playlist. It is a TERRIBLE PLAYLIST WITH NO RESPECT FOR ANY GENRE, but I’m okay with that… 😀

More soon!

Brothers at the Water’s Edge

SOMEHOW I HAVE EVEN MORE STORIES COMING OUT?? I don’t even know what is happening anymore.

But anyway, apparently my new story “Brothers at the Water’s Edge” is up now in Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry.

This one involves MAGIC VS SCIENCE (one of my least favorite tropes ever), family difficulties, and a questionable geyser.

Research Lab Electricity Usage Timesheet Reporting

…And speaking of DELIGHTFUL FLUFFY CUTENESS, my contribution to ROBOT DINOSAURS! went up this weekend.

Research Lab Electricity Usage Timesheet Reporting” is a flash fic about a professor and her pair of hyperactive robot raptors. Enjoy!

BTW, “experimental robots that could learn from their embodied experience through means analogous to human child development” are an actual thing, and are quite trendy in some corners of AI. I’ve never worked on one, though. And, to my knowledge, none of them have ever jumped onto a professor’s desk and demanded cookies.

Cool Story, Bro: Short Works I Loved In May and June

These past two months I have been MIRED VERY DEEP in the last stages of my PhD thesis’ first draft. (Finished Friday morning! WHEEEEEEEE!) I kept up with my reading and read many good stories, but the ones that were really able to take root in my heart during this time were ones that appealed to my most basic drives. Either sex, or DELIGHTFUL FLUFFY CUTENESS. You’ve been warned.


Marissa Lingen, “My favourite sentience” (Nature Futures, April 25)

This is just so darned cute. Like, I find AI cute already, and NOW THIS?! It’s also a great example of worldbuilding by getting deeply into a viewpoint(s), rather than zooming out.


Toby MacNutt, “Batholith” (Twisted Moon, Issue 3, May)

This is the second time in a row I’ve had one of Toby MacNutt’s erotic poems in my bimonthly recommendations. Okay but they are just REALLY GOOD, though. The heat in this one is so physical and palpable. The intimacy that occurs feels elemental, more primal even than animalism, like a force of nature itself.


Melody Watson, “celestial objects” (Twisted Moon, Issue 3, May)

ASDFGHJKL; – and then there’s this one, which is not just elemental but cosmic, a dance of life and death and longing on the largest scale. Yes.


John Wiswell, “Buyers’ Remorse and Seven Slain Cause ‘Adorable’ Robot Dinosaur Stock to Plummet Tuesday” (ROBOT DINOSAURS!, May 25)

BAHAHAHA THIS IS SO ADORABLY HILARIOUS. I giggled the whole way through and so will you.