COVER REVEAL, NEW POEM, and poem notes!

I’ve got some really cool news for you today! First, feast your eyes on the OFFICIAL COVER for my upcoming collection, RESURRECTIONS:

Cover of the book RESURRECTIONS by Ada Hoffmann. The title and author are displayed over art of a glowing person approaching a large tree over a misty, cloudy, pink background.

The planned release date is December 19. If you want more about RESURRECTIONS, I’ve made an official page on my website; more detail will be added as we get closer to the date.

Second, I have a new poem out: “The Fox’s Lover” in Orion’s Belt. It’s the tale of a person who falls in love with an Arctic fox-shifter spirit, but reacts strongly to their unpredictable comings and goings. More on that in a bit, but you can go read it right now.

Third, my old friend RB Lemberg is giving a talk on September 22 at the Sturgeon Symposium: “Representations of queer neurodivergent communities in Ada Hoffmann’s The Fallen and Andi Buchanan’s The Sanctuary.” I am, no joke, extremely excited about this; “someone writes academically about my fiction” was always one of my secret career goals. And if you’re talking about queer neurodivergent communities then Sanctuary is absolutely the perfect book to pair with The Fallen. Chef’s kiss!

If I find a transcript or recording of the talk later, I’ll let you all know.

That’s all the news (and that’s probably plenty for one week!) but behind the cut, for paid subscribers, I’ve included some poem notes giving a little more insight into the process behind “The Fox’s Lover.” Probably read the poem first but then, if that interests you, please click on through.

(Read the full post on Substack)

The Courtroom Scene

So, in the draft of MOTHER DRAGON, there is a fantasy courtroom scene. Not literally a courtroom – it’s a fantasy culture and our modern court system is not quite how they do things – but a sympathetic character is essentially on trial because of something they did. They had their reasons, but it’s pretty serious. Damages have to be assessed. Restitution has to be made.

I really did not want to write a courtroom scene, but given the way I’d set up the story, there really wasn’t any way around it.

(Read the full post on Substack)

Autistic Book Party, Episode 80: The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester

Today’s Book: “The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester” by Maya MacGregor

The Plot: Sam, a nonbinary autistic teenager, moves to a new school in a more accepting city after an incident of queerphobic violence that almost killed them. They soon become haunted by the ghost of another teenager who may have been murdered, in their new home, a generation ago – and by a mysterious stalker who seems intent on stopping Sam from digging up the past.

Autistic Character(s): Sam, and the author!

I have a complicated relationship with the word “likable.” There’s a whole brand of discourse about whether characters should be likable, and likable to whom, and what that even means. But when I try to sum up this book and its protagonist, “likable” is the first word that comes to mind – and it’s not ironic, but very sincere. There’s a warmth and an irrepressible sweetness to this book despite its dark subject matter, or maybe, in a roundabout way, because.

Sam is an adorable autistic seventeen-year-old with a big heart, good fashion sense, and amazing hair, who lives with their adoptive father, Junius – more on him in a sec. But as you can see from the plot summary, Sam has a lot of trauma. One of the ways that they cope is through a special interest in dead queer teenagers – those who might have been murderered, or might have otherwise had their lives cut short before they could become the adults they were meant to be. Sam has a whole scrapbook where they keep details from news and the Internet about each of these people, documenting and memorializing each short life as best they can.

By sheer coincidence, this is the second book I read in a row that portrayed an autistic character with a dark or morbid special interest. (I haven’t reviewed the other one yet; I’m finding it unusually difficult to put my thoughts together about that one.) It’s easy for neurotypical people to be put off by these kinds of interests or to characterize them as unhealthy. MacGregor’s approach to the topic is a lot wiser and kinder. Sam is mindful of the way most people would react to their interest, and of its potential pitfalls – the danger of becoming disrespectful, for instance, or invading families’ privacy. But it’s also made very very clear through the narrative that this interest is something Sam needs, a way of processing not only what they’ve been through but how their own trauma connects to a broader history. Plus, it’s what helps them solve the mystery and save the day.

Secretly, like many trauma survivors, Sam doesn’t feel that they’re really alive. Before long, they’re going to turn nineteen, and they have a strong feeling that they’re not going to survive past that birthday. Fate, or awful happenstance, will somehow intervene.

All this trauma is offset by the fact that Sam’s support network is genuinely warm and wonderful. To begin with, there is Junius, the best and coolest adoptive dad I’ve ever seen in a story. He is also a Black single parent – although Sam is white. MacGregor doesn’t shy away from showing how frustrated Junius gets with the racism he encounters, but also the resilience with which he seeks out situations where he and Sam can thrive. Junius is steady, supportive, and playful with Sam in ways that fully take Sam’s needs as an autistic young person into account. Check out this quote, for instance:

“Come on,” he says. “We’re gonna unload the car. And then we’re going to set up our egg crates and sleeping bags, and then we are going to go for a walk to see . . .” He pauses to stare at me melodramatically. “The ocean.”

I can’t help the small bounce I do. Dad is good at this. Giving me direction, expectations. Especially because tomorrow will be stressy, and even he can’t tell me how it’ll go.

Dad notices the bounce and grins wider. He has learned to tune himself to my frequency.

The community Sam finds at their new school is also good like this. It’s not perfect – there is some bullying and other instances of garden variety high school drama, and MacGregor takes those episodes seriously. But for the most part, as soon as Sam joins Rainbow Island – a student group for LGBTQ+ and allies – they are immediately welcomed by a new friend group full of queer teenagers who are just as adorable, quirky and sweet as they are themself.

The sheer warmth and love in this story provides an effective counterweight to the heaviness of the violence it’s processing. This is a book that doesn’t bowlderize the aftermath of murderous, queerphobic violence – or the effects of stalking and death threats in the present. But it’s a book that holds and supports you while it shows you those things. At heart, it’s an affirming book, and it refuses to leave Sam in the darkness alone.

In case there was any doubt, they do turn nineteen – and they do survive.

The Verdict: Recommended-1

Things I’ve Been Reading

This is a feature I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. I love recommending autistic stories, but my reading life is more than just autism and sometimes I want to show people other things, too!

(Read the full post on Substack)

Keeping Short SFF Alive

For those of you who don’t already know, Kindle Newsstand is closing, and magazine editors are freaking out.

If you are like me, and not a heavy Kindle user, you might not even have known what Kindle Newsstand is. (My own reading habits are part “paper books please!” and part surfing the Internet.) It’s the part of Kindle where they subscribe users to magazines. They’re not only phasing out electronic subscriptions through Kindle, but also any print subscriptions that used to be available through Amazon. (Some magazines will still be available through Kindle Unlimited, but that’s a different business model which allows for a lot more obfuscation of crucial data like how payments are calculated and how much each magazine is supposed to actually be getting.)

(Read the full post on Substack)


Yesterday Apex Books gave Twitter users a sneak peak of the cover art for RESURRECTIONS – my new collection coming up on December 19. But of course I want to show it to all of you, too!

Lost Sky Tree

(by robydesignsofficial)

RESURRECTIONS, my second collection of short fiction and poetry, has been in the pipeline for a while. I haven’t been posting about it a huge amount; I’ve been waiting until we had cool visuals like this to show to people. In the fall you’re going to hear me talk about it a lot more!

(Read the full post on Substack)

Autistic Book Party, Episode 79 and a half: Short Story Smorgasbord

Andrew Joseph White, “The Constellations Are Unrecognizable Here” (Strange Horizons, November 2021)

[Autistic author] Two trans boys are casualties of an intergalactic war, living on a medical spaceship where the doctors are helping them heal – but also paternalistically deciding what medical procedures they do and don’t need, offering reconstructive surgery to erase their scars but withholding any gender affirming care. There is a lot of self-harm and a lot of trauma in this story but the bond between the two characters, and the desperation they are driven to by the one-two punch of wartime atrocities and transphobia, is memorable. [Recommended-2]


Kiya Nicoll, “A Dragon in Two Parts” (Escape Pod, December 30, 2021)

[Autistic author] A disabled woman undergoes a procedure that will transform her physical body, turning her into a dragon. Magical cure stories are a hard sell for obvious reasons, but I ended up liking this a lot. There’s a refreshing nuance both to the protagonist’s thoughts and reactions, and to the transformation itself, which doesn’t always cure disability – it brings people’s bodies into alignment with their ideal selves, whether or not that involves a cure. This is one of those stories that leaves me  wondering wistfully what would happen if its fantastical technologies existed for real. [Recommended-2]


James L. Sutter, “And All Their Silent Roars” (Nightmare, Issue 116, May 2022)

This is a really interesting case of a horror story – so interesting that I’m going to need to review it at greater length. A family with three bratty children moves into a new home, and the youngest – an autistic boy named Denny, who is obsessed with small animal figurines – digs up something in the sandbox which may be vaguely, ominously magical. Danny is delighted by what he’s found. The narrator, his brother Jeremy, isn’t so sure.

There’s a lot of quite ableist language toward Denny, mostly in dialogue but also to some degree in the narration. I don’t get the sense that the narrative endorses the ableism – it’s too nuanced to feel that way for me. Some characters are just plain vicious to Denny; others are gentler while still cringing at him a little. Jeremy goes out of his way to spend time with Denny and protect him from bullies, and seems to have some moments of genuine affection and connection, but that doesn’t stop him from thinking about Denny in an ambivalent, othering way, and feeling relief when Denny isn’t around. It’s perfectly realistic for a character like Jeremy, even if it’s one of the tropes I hate to see, and Jeremy seems to be dimly aware that his ambivalence isn’t quite what’s fair to Denny or what Denny really needs.

The Author Spotlight says Denny is inspired, partly, by Sutter’s own younger brother. It says:

I also think a lot of the story’s energy comes from recognizing ourselves in the narrator’s internal conflict. He loves Denny, while also resenting the inconvenience he poses. I think we all have to wrestle sometimes with the knowledge that we’re not as selfless as our loved ones deserve, and that sense of guilt adds to the story’s tension.

So, like, sure. I get that part.

The story is not badly written on a craft level; there are some intriguing moments of tension and atmosphere. But it still hews pretty close to a set of tropes that don’t work for me most of the time. It’s the kind of story where there’s an autistic character, seen somewhat opaquely from the outside, who gets involved with something creepy; the neurotypical POV characters wring their hands, but we’re also invited to wonder if maybe the Land of Creepy Things is where autistic people belong after all.

It’s possible to redeem or subvert these tropes, and Sutter veers close to that in places. (I really wonder what the story would look like from Denny’s point of view, for instance.) But, between the story structure and the ambivalently ableist POV, it didn’t quite subvert anything hard enough to end up landing for me. [Not Recommended]


Sunyi Dean, “How to Cook and Eat the Rich” (, January 18, 2023)

[Autistic author] In a dystopian future riddled with food shortages, a wealthy man is tempted into a secret society of cannibals. The big twist at the end is not really a twist since it’s telegraphed right in the title; but if you are autistically angry at the state of the world and would like to see a very bad, entitled person get his comeuppance, then you’ll like it just fine. [Recommended-2]


Louise Hughes, “Out of the Rain” (Kaleidotrope, Winter 2023)

[Autistic author] The narrator in this story is a woman who is reincarnated over and over again, destined to die for the sake of a man’s character arc. When she meets another woman who remembers many lives, they find a way – just maybe – to escape together. Lyrical and melancholy. [Recommended-2]


Jennifer Lee Rossman, “Don’t Look Down” (Kaleidotrope, Winter 2023)

[Autistic author] An autistic girl, who’s recently been moved out of an abusive situation and into a group home, begins to have visions of strange creatures in the sky. I like this one for its moving descriptions of how the narrator dissociates, how she can’t quite trust that anything better than her past will stay real – and for the nuance of how the group home can be quite imperfect while still convincingly enough of an improvement on the past to cause these feelings. Although the narrator is reluctant to trust humans, her impulse is to reach out, to touch, to connect, even in an inhuman way. There’s an environmentalist message which feels a bit tacked on, but the psychological arc alone is worth the price of admission. [Recommended-1]


Lesley L. Smith, “Let Sleeping Gators Lie” (Academy of the Heart and Mind, April 5, 2023)

[Autistic author] A sweet, sad piece of climate fiction, with an adorable dog who may or may not be a ghost. [Recommended-2]


Yoon Ha Lee, “Counting Casualties” (, April 26, 2023)

[Autistic author] An intriguing story about a war in which, whenever the alien adversaries win, they make a culture’s greatest arts disappear. There’s some pretty strong social commentary in this one, especially once we reach the end and find out why exactly the aliens are doing this. It’s tense, ruthless, and surreal in the way that Yoon Ha Lee does best. [Recommended-2]

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


Mary E. Lowd, “Orange Sherbet Unlocks a Better Loot Box” (Deep Sky Anchor, June 2023)

[Autistic author] Mary E. Lowd is a very prolific author who I haven’t featured here as often as I should – as well as a tireless advocate for furry fiction, a genre that’s often misunderstood. But she’s at her best, in my opinion, when she writes about virtual realities. This is a short, sweet story that takes on some heavy topics, especially the effects of COVID-related isolation and heavy Internet use on children. But it takes them on gently, without shaming or monster-izing anyone – child or adult. [Recommended-2]

Autistic Book Party, Episode 79: The Winter Knight

Today’s Book: “The Winter Knight” by Jes Battis

The Plot: In an alternate Vancouver, the Knights of the Round Table – among other figures from English and Germanic mythology – have been reincarnated. When one of them is beheaded at a university faculty party, everyone tries to find the killer.

Autistic Character(s): Wayne, one of our two POV characters – a college student who is the reincarnation of Sir Gawain. Also, the author!

We first meet Wayne at the faculty party where the murder is about to happen, awkwardly skirting the party’s edges in a way I found very familiar. He meets another student, Bert, who’s fascinating and accepting. They share a moment of chemistry; but when the murder is discovered a few moments later, both of them become suspects, including to each other.

Battis isn’t the kind of author who holds a neurotypical reader’s hand and painstakingly explains all the 101 of how autism works. But there’s a lot of painfully apt, recognizable moments in Wayne’s arc, and a lot of thoughtfulness in how they’re portrayed – often showing experiences that are common in real life, but that I don’t see in fiction as often. Without a formal diagnosis, Wayne struggles to register for disability support at his university; he eventually finds a good counselor, who happens to be Sir Galahad somehow, but the process is complicated and ambivalent, and Wayne’s discomfort is relatably described:

Wayne stared at his shoulder, then willed his eyes to move up to the guy’s nose. Noses were safe. Noses were his greatest allies. The psychiatrist looked vaguely familiar.

He extended his hand. “Hi, Wayne. I’m Dr. Hadley.”

Shake his hand. It’s not a claw. It’s just a hand, and it’ll be over in three-two-one.

He pumped the hand once for good measure, then withdrew. A ghost of the contact remained in his fingertips, like mild shocks.

He gets euphoric when he sees a fellow student displaying symbols of neurodiversity pride. He struggles with how to disclose his autism on a first date with Bret, and feels awkward and defensive and exposed.

The Winter Knight is a literary novel, not the kind of tropey urban fantasy that its premise might suggest; most of its magic is not transparent or easily explained. Characters remember their mythic past lives but blurrily, in jumbles crossing multiple lives which both do and don’t feel like themselves. There are big powers afoot but for the first half of the book they are more shadows and suggestions than visible things, and there is a meandering, dreamlike feel to the whole thing. Wayne and the other protagonist, a valkyrie named Hildie, are trying to solve a murder, but they often feel like they’re flailing to construct any meaning out of the information they can see: more hints than clues, more omens than leads. They’ll get partway to figuring a part of the case out and then get distracted by a fox, an uncertain flirtation, or something half-remembered from a past life. When the magic does ratchet into high gear – a SkyTrain, for instance, that derails and begins to fly over the ocean – it does it not with SFnal sensawunda but with the uneasy surreality of a nightmare.

I thought about The Green Knight (2021) in some of these sequences, the sense that magic is all around and must be reckoned with, but that it defies easy explanation. I don’t know enough Arthuriana to guess if there’s any intended homage to that movie in particular, or if this is just how all the Gawain stories go. I also thought about how this kind of meandering surreality, in itself, can be a way of writing neurodivergently – rendering an honest picture of how the world looks when you live your life without the expectation that it will ever make sense. Battis at one point draws these parallels themselves:

Remembering something was never a straight line. It was a snarl of lights that needed to be untangled, except that he couldn’t, because all of the lights were connected and winking at each other. Sometimes it felt like he remembered too much, rather than not enough. He knew it had something to do with what various psychiatrists called executive function, but it was way more than that. Memory was different for everyone. His mother used to say that he took the scenic route, and he liked that.

I won’t spoil the ending, but the motive that eventually comes out for the murder is complex. It has a lot to do with stories themselves, the idea that someone’s story is repeated over and over in different iterations, and what they would have to do – what depths they might find themselves sinking to – in attempting to escape that fate. But the eventual villain of the story isn’t the only one who asks those questions; the heroes have also been asking them all along. All of the knights, valkyries, and other mythic creatures have a complicated relationship with the myths that define them. Some of them cling to what they find meaningful about their pasts, even as the world shifts around them; some resent and resist their mythic heritage, only to find meaning in it later; and some have been updating their identities from the beginning, skillfully making them work to suit their present selves. The metatextuality, the idea of being trapped in your own story and what that does and doesn’t mean, reminds me of some of Merc Fenn Wolfmoor’s work.

Occasionally the meandering plot started to frustrate me, but overall this is a very well written book, with a strong sense of place and a lot of intriguing themes to chew on. The autism representation is great, and it’s also very queer. (Bert is a bear – not in the sense of being an animal shifter or something, but in the gay sense; it’s great to see bears in this context. Hildie is asexual and sapphic and gets a very well-drawn, hesitant, longing romance with a character even more mystical than she is; and Wayne’s best friend Kai is a wonderfully sharp, clever trans woman.)

If you like the slower, thinkier, more impressionistic autistic books, this one’s for you.

The Verdict: Recommended-1

Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher. (I’m sorry it took me so long.)

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

Conference Highlights

I’m back from the Fourteenth International Conference on Computational Creativity. It was a whirlwind of a week. My scholarly contribution was minimal, but it exists. My ability to engage – socially, professionally, critically – felt higher than it’s ever been. My spoons, alas, were not infinite. I have a lot to unpack about how this went and about what I want for the next few years in my scholarly career (it still feels presumptuous to assume that I have things like a “scholarly career”), but I am tired and I don’t want to unpack it now. What I want to do is jot down a few memorable moments and share them with you. Not an exhaustive account of the week, but a highlight reel.

ICCC has always been a weird little misfit of a scholarly community. It’s not where people go when they are building LLMs and disrupting the world. There’s a lot of discourse about what exactly the community’s goals are, or should be – but in reality there are multiple goals. There are people trying to do a cognitive science and test hypotheses about creativity. There are people who are sentimental about Strong AI and who sincerely do want a computer to become an “autonomous creator in its own right.” There are people just mucking around and “making things that make things” because it’s fun; there are people waxing philosophical about what creativity means in the first place. I like it, personally – it feels cozy, eclectic, sometimes a little annoying in a way that endears me.

Anyway, highlights.

(Read the full post on Substack)