Autistic Book Party, Episode 55 and three quarters: Short Story Smorgasbord

Polenth Blake, “Hello, World!” (Patreon original, 2017; I read it reprinted in Transcendent 3)

[Non-neurotypical author] This quite adorable story is about an AI sent on an uncrewed mission to Mars, caring for a breeding population of guppies. As it gains awareness and independence, the AI becomes attached to the guppies and decides to prioritize their safety and wellbeing over the original mission objectives. I really love the careful, conflicted way the AI communicates with mission control, complying with the chirpy and deferential style of speech that its programmers expect while diverging more and more from their dehumanizing (de-guppifying?) goals. Many autistic readers will be able to relate. [Recommended-2]


R.B. Lemberg, “A Splendid Goat Adventure” (Patreon original, 2017)

[Autistic author] This humorous epistolary story is set in Lemberg’s Birdverse universe. Marvushi e Garazd, an irrepressibly impulsive pupil of the Old Royal (who we first saw in A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power), sets out on a journey to research a rumor about magical goats. What they eventually find is… not quite goats, but it is a delight, as is Marvushi’s narration throughout. [Recommended-2]


Andi C. Buchanan, “Girls Who Do Not Drown” (Apex Magazine, Issue 115, December 2018)

[Autistic author] A powerful story about an isolated island and the seemingly limited possibilities for girls and queer youth who grow up there. Every girl in Buchanan’s story has to one day go into the sea – metaphorically or literally – and risk drowning, sometimes at the hands of a glashtyn. When a closeted trans teenage girl sees a glashtyn, her own struggles and worries about the future come into full focus. There is suicidal ideation in this story, but the ending is a hefty punch of hope. [Recommended-2]


Sunyi Dean, “-Good.” (Flash Fiction Online, July 2018)

[Autistic author] A tense, careful piece of flash fiction about an abusive relationship and a cloning technology which could make the abuser immortal. The way the narrator has been worn down, trained not to resist or object, is depicted with unusual clarity and sympathy; in its context, the hesitant ways in which she does resist have the feeling of heroics. The title, once its meaning becomes clear at the end of the story, is a master stroke. [Recommended-2]


Robin M. Eames, “the body argonautica” (Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction!, September 2018)

[Autistic author] I was extremely remiss in not including Eames’ poem in my previous DPDSF post, as I somehow failed to notice that they were autistic. “the body argonautica” is an absolutely kaleidoscopic, nearly hallucinatory love poem between two disabled people and it definitely deserved to be mentioned in that prior post, sorry. [Recommended-2]


Julian K. Jarboe, “Estranged Children of Storybook Houses” (Hypocrite Reader, December 2018)

I’ve mentioned before how changeling folklore has modern echoes in much of our current rhetoric about autism. This fabulist tale, set in a universe where fairies are considered a scientific fact, illustrates my point perfectly – and draws it to a very satisfying conclusion. Be mindful that violence against children is portrayed. [Recommended-1]


Yoon Ha Lee, “The Chameleon’s Gloves” (Cosmic Powers, 2017; I read it reprinted in Transcendent 3)

[Autistic author] An art heist story which, as one might expect with Lee, swerves into something bigger, darker, and military. It becomes apparent partway through this story that it takes place in the same universe as the Machineries of Empire series, though much earlier; the hexarchate has not yet arisen, and the Kel, rather than being one of several factions working together to control a society, are some sort of autonomous spacefaring mercenary group. This doesn’t make them any less interesting or less deadly, though, as they bring the protagonist’s past back to haunt them. [Recommended-2]

(ETA: Yoon Ha Lee appears to have been misdiagnosed with autism, and has asked to be removed from Autistic Book Party.)


A. Merc Rustad, “This Is A Picture Book” (Sub-Q, November 2017)

[Autistic author] A piece of interactive metafiction that will make you go WTF DID I JUST READ?! – but in a good way – and rethink what is actually going on behind the pages of books. [Recommended-2]


Rivers Solomon, “St. Juju” (The Verge, Jan 2019)

[Non-neurotypical author] A quiet hopepunk story in which fungi are slowly reprocessing the trash of human civilization. Two queer women living in a small enclave, where an understanding of ethics is required for legal adulthood, must choose if they will stay in their enclave’s relative safety or strike out on their own. I really like the way Juju, the protagonist in this story, struggles with the state of the world – things are clearly better than they were, yet the oppression of the past and the ways it is replicated in the present still weigh on her. Juju might be autistic or might have some other related non-neurotypicality, but her uncomfortable ruminations and insecurity about the way she communicates are familiar to me from some my autistic friends, and I really like the way her lover accepts her as she is. [Recommended-1]


Bogi Takács, “On Good Friday the Raven Washes its Young” (Fireside, April 2018)

[Autistic author] A dark and heartfelt piece of flash about deep-sea aliens and street violence. The narrator is (probably) not autistic, but their body moves atypically and they are visibly intersex, which leads to awful treatment from the bigoted inhabitants of their colony. (It should be noted – as Bogi does carefully, in eir story notes – that all of this awful treatment is #ownvoices.) The narrator not only survives, but finds a delightful (if ominous) ending by using their own skills and agency. [Recommended-2]


Xan West, “Nine of Swords, Reversed” (self-published novelette, December 2018)

[Autistic author] An established-relationship BDSM romance between two genderfluid disabled witches, one of whom is autistic. Both partners have multiple disabilities, and they face an impasse in their relationship caused by a complex interaction of these disabilities as well as trauma, gender, and magical issues. The moments of non-sexual, service-based intimacy in the story are very sweet, and I really liked the scenes of Dev (the autistic partner) using visual colors and patterns to calm xyrself. Once Dev and Noam are pushed to address their relationship issues, they talk everything out so carefully and correctly that it almost feels unrealistic to me. But this remains an #ownvoices story written from a place of deep caring, addressing the kind of nuances in relationships between disabled people that an able-bodied author would never be able to fathom. A lot of autistic romance fans will enjoy it very much. [Recommended-1]

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