Autistic Book Party, Episode 63 and a half: Short Story Smorgasbord

Raphael OrdoƱez, “At the Edge of the Sea” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, April 3, 2014)

[Autistic author] This is a quiet tale of a man exiled to a remote island, which gradually incorporates familiar cosmic horror themes, such as ancient monstrous creatures, obsession, and transformation. Although the events of the story have horrific elements, I was impressed with how the narrative tone of the story remained soft and peaceful; it may well be that the fate the characters meet is one that was suited to them and their situation, after all. [Recommended-2]

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Robin M. Eames, “ritual” (Speculative City, Issue 2: Game, Fall 2018)

[Autistic author] This poem playfully juxtaposes OCD rituals, superstitions, and folk magic – implicitly asking the reader to guess where exactly the lines are drawn between these things, or if the lines are blurrier than we often want to suppose. [Recommended-2]

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Jennifer Lee Rossman, “The Good, The Bad, and the Utahraptor” (Cast of Wonders 332: Dinovember – November 30, 2018)

[Autistic author] A Weird West story of a cowgirl named Rosita who tames a wild Utahraptor. This is great wish-fulfilment fun. I especially like how Rosita notices her raptor is different from the others, disabled in some way, and how she bonds with the disabled raptor as a fellow misfit. [Recommended-2]

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Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, “Bring the Bones That Sing” (Diabolical Plots #65B)

[Autistic author] Muriel, a young autistic girl, discovers that her grandmother is a psychopomp for birds – and accidentally disrupts one bird’s journey. I really like the way Muriel’s sensory needs and overload are depicted in this one, the accommodations she is and isn’t given in her daily life, and the way her grandmother understands her. The underworld she has to enter is a storm of sensory overload, and the music of her grandmother’s magic makes more sense to her than reading, a skill with which she struggles. As with some of Merc’s other stories, I feel this is a good example of how to write an autistic character with magical abilities – neither the autism nor the magic are reducible for, or simple metaphors for, each other, but Muriel’s neurotype actively influences the way she experiences and uses the magic. [Recommended-1]

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McKinley Valentine, “The Code for Everything” (Fantasy Magazine, Issue 65 – March 2021)

[Non-neurotypical author] Izzy, a non-neurotypical young woman, has trouble working out what her friends expect of her. After being humiliated at a party, she is whisked off to fairyland, where the abstruse rules of fairy interaction are sensibly and explicitly written down. I don’t find this story completely satisfying – I think I, personally, would be very overwhelmed by a sudden change of scenery and an imposition of new rules like the one that Izzy experiences. But the fantasy of interacting with beings whose social rules are plainly intelligible has clear appeal, and is a fantasy many autistic readers will enjoy. For me, what rings especially true are the descriptions of how hard Izzy tries to fit in with her friends, and how miserable she feels when she makes a mistake. But don’t be fooled by my dour descriptions – this story does have a happy ending. [Recommended-1]

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