Autistic Book Party, Episode 64 And A Half: Short Story Smorgasbord

Robin M. Eames, “is this a gender?” (Subbed In, June 30, 2019)

[Autistic author] “Delightful” is not the right word for this poem, but I really love what it does with its own medium and format – playfully bringing in memes as part of the poem, while simultaneously deconstructing the role of memes and other seemingly facetious statements in online trans culture, using them to expose a much more serious truth underneath. [Recommended-2]

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Noe Bartmess, “Squeezing and Entering” (Translunar Travelers Lounge, February 15, 2020)

[Autistic author] This is a super-fun, cheerful little story about a sentient octopus doing a yarn heist. I particularly love the way the octopus’s consciousness is portrayed – biologically only some of an octopus’s brain tissue resides in its head, while the rest is distributed throughout the arms, and the result (as Bartmess writes it) is a mind which is coordinated, but made of several parts which might at times disagree. [Recommended-2]

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Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, “Behold the Deep Never Seen” (Avatars Inc, March 2020)

[Autistic author] In this story, MIDOS, a deep-sea exploration mech, discovers something that motivates it to turn against the rapacious mining company that created it. The plot is familiar, but MIDOS’s narration is adorable, and its mindset around ethics – clearly caring very much about what it sees, but processing this in terms of discrepancies and roles, is very autistically relatable to me. [Recommended-2]

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Sunyi Dean, “This Song is Dedicated to the End of the World” (Prole Poetry and Prose, Issue 30; I read it on Sunyi’s web site)

[Autistic author] A sad, sweet, bracing story about a rock star trying to get her band back together at the end of the world – spurred on by something that may be an angel, or may be more of a hallucination under drugs and duress. I started caring about these characters quickly, with their hardscrabble beginnings, their determination to make the most of the time that remains to them knowing the world doesn’t have long, and the painful human mistakes they’ve made along the way while trying to do just that. There’s a line near the end that moved me very deeply. [Recommended-2]

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Jennifer Lee Rossman, “The Steel Magnolia Metaphor” (Escape Pod 786, May 27, 2021)

[Autistic author] A moving story about a young autistic girl, Astrid, coming to terms with her mother’s cancer and the experience of grief. Astrid has difficulty with metaphors, with acknowledging that things might not all work out in the end – and with overbearing, well-meaning relatives who try to hug her despite her touch aversion. Knowing her mother’s favorite movie is “Steel Magnolias,” but not really grasping the plot of the movie or the metaphor at the heart of the title, Astrid instead builds an actual robot magnolia tree that can zap insects. But of course neither metaphor nor human feelings can really be escaped forever, and even the actual robot magnolia ends up turning out to be a metaphor – maybe a metaphor that will work better for Astrid than the original one. I love the space and respect that the story gives to Astrid as she slowly learns a hard but valuable lesson in her own way. [Recommended-1]

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R.B. Lemberg, “The House of Ill Waters” (The Deadlands, Issue 2, June 2021)

[Autistic author] A heavy, ominous poem in which the poet confronts a spirit responsible for storms and disasters, only to find that it’s almost entirely done with humanity’s entreaties, broken promises, and crimes. This poem is set in a secondary world, but it’s extremely easy to read the parallels with real-world climate change and spirituality. It’s chillingly well done (pun not intended) and will be staying with me for a while. [Recommended-2]