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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]

Goodness Is Something That Blazes

I prefer villains – I really do. When I write good people, it’s so easy to get frozen up before I write anything. It’s easy to feel the pressure that a good character can’t make a mistake – any little thing they say or do could make readers stop liking them.

I think this is more common for autistic people than we admit. So many of us are natural rule-followers. So many of us learn from an early age, either through therapy or through social pressure and our own attempts at figuring out how the world works, that life is full of rules that don’t instinctively make sense to us, and we have to follow them, because people who don’t follow them are horrible. Also the rules are always changing. Also neurotypical people won’t always tell you what they are…

(Read the full post on Substack)


It’s finally launch day! THE FALLEN is out in stores NOW.

“Fast-paced adventure and intricate double-crosses sweep through Hoffmann’s magnificent sequel to The Outside.”
– Publishers Weekly

Here’s the blurb:

The laws of physics acting on the planet of Jai have been forever upended; its surface completely altered, and its inhabitants permanently changed, causing chaos. Fearing heresy, the artificially intelligent Gods that once ruled the galaxy became the planet’s jailers.

Tiv Hunt, who once trusted these Gods completely, spends her days helping the last remaining survivors of Jai. Everyone is fighting for their freedom and they call out for drastic action from their saviour, Tiv’s girlfriend Yasira. But Yasira has become deeply ill, debilitated by her Outside exposure, and is barely able to breathe, let alone lead a revolution.

Hunted by the Gods and Akavi, the disgraced angel, Yasira and Tiv must delve further than ever before into the maddening mysteries of their fractured planet in order to save – or perhaps even destroy – their fading world.

Do NOT miss the launch event this Thursday the 15th, which will be hosted by none other than Janelle Shane of “AI Weirdness,” on Angry Robot’s YouTube and Facebook Live channels:

Want the fun extras that I posted on Twitter this week as part of the pre-release promo? Here they are:


It’s four days until THE FALLEN drops onto bookshelves! I’m so excited.

If you follow me on Twitter, I’ll be introducing a new pair of characters from this book every day until the launch – some of them characters we first got to know in THE OUTSIDE, others new to this book. Plus extras like playlists, Pinterest, and a uquiz – when that tweet series is done, I’ll be sure to round them all up in one big post for people who prefer a longer form.

Here’s some of the other events that are happening very soon:

TODAY (July 9), 3pm-5pm EDT: I, along with a whole bunch of Angry Robot authors, will be doing a collective Ask Me Anything event on The actual thread will be started real soon now so that people can start pre-populating it with questions before the authors arrive.

July 13 (LAUNCH DAY): Angry Robot’s “What the SFF?” podcast will be doing a giveaway!

From NOW until July 15: The Fantasy Hive is also doing a giveaway of both books on Twitter. They have also posted an exclusive excerpt from THE FALLEN – the first time any scene from the book has been available for free online!!

More events, including a virtual launch party a couple of days after the 13th, will be announced very soon!

New Story: The Hedge-Witch of Welland

My story “The Hedge-Witch of Welland” is out now in the Summer 2021 issue of Kaleidotrope!

This story was co-written with Jacqueline Flay. It’s a post-apocalyptic story about two witches living in a little cottage near Niagara Falls, dinosaurs, survivor guilt, and healing.

It was a very long road to publishing this one – to give you some idea, it was first accepted by the “Start a Revolution: QUILTBAG Transmutations” anthology back in 2014, which was sadly never published – and “Start a Revolution” wasn’t the first place we submitted it to. I’m so happy to see it finding a home online at last.

Content Notes: “The Hedge-Witch of Welland” has a happy ending, but it does contain depictions of physical and religious abuse in flashback scenes.

The Problems #ownvoices Doesn’t Solve

I’m still chewing over the talk Book Twitter had this month about #ownvoices. A major review website, “We Need Diverse Books,” decided to stop using the #ownvoices label to describe works of fiction about marginalized characters by authors who share that marginalization, because the label has gotten to the point where it’s doing more harm than good.

I don’t disagree with WNDB’s decision. I like #ownvoices fiction, but if you’ve followed me for a while, you know I’ve never believed in only #ownvoices – and I’ve never cared as much about labels as I do about the narratives and beliefs that underlie them.

(Read the full post on Substack)

Writing an Autistic Society

(This post is an expanded version of this Twitter thread from 2018.)

Autistic people often joke that we’re from another planet. When we find other autistic people who understand us, it can feel like coming home. And speculative fiction gives us room to ask: what could a home like that look like? What would a place look like if it was designed specifically, by autistic people, with autistic people’s needs in mind? What would it be like to live there?

(Read the full post on Substack)

Autistic Book Party, Episode 64: A Big Ship At The Edge Of The Universe

Cover of the book "A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe" by Alex White. The title and author are written over top of a n image of clouds and a dark sky.

Today’s review is a guest post by Richard Ford Burley!

Richard Ford Burley (he/they) is a queer neurodivergent writer and recovering academic. They’re the author of two novels and a handful of stories, most of which incorporate queerness and/or neurodivergence in one way or another. They blog (infrequently) at and tweet (incessantly) at @schadenford.

Today’s Book: “A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe” by Alex White.

The Plot: A magical F1 driver and a magic-less washed-up soldier-turned-grifter join a rag-tag group of salvagers in a search for the titular “big ship,” while some very dangerous people pretty much constantly try to murder them all.

Autistic Character(s): The author, plus while none of the characters are explicitly autistic, many of them seem to exhibit familiar neurodivergent traits.

The book begins in two places. First, we have Nilah Brio, a brilliant (wealthy, privileged) magical race-car driver who’s carving up the track and on her way to secure the galactic championship when someone with very powerful magic kills one of her competitors—leaving her as a witness and therefore in need of elimination. Second, we have Elizabeth “Boots” Elsworth, washed-up former treasure-hunting reality tv star, former-former washed up soldier from a now-dead planet, being chased by some folks who she sold a fake treasure map to (and one of whom who happens to be her old war-time captain, one Cordell Lamarr). Nilah meets Boots, both end up kidnapped (and later crew) on Cordell’s ship, and they’re all forced into a shared mission by the fact that the people who wanted Nilah dead now want all of them dead. At that point, it’s a race to try to find out the truth behind the people trying to murder them all before their pursuers succeed.

Before I get into it, let’s get this out of the way: this book is a magical space opera. It is a lot of things—a lot of things I like, I hasten to add—but “subtle,” “pensive,” and “meditative” are not words that are going to show up in this review. But then, if you’re looking for a quiet meditation on magic as a disability analogue, maybe a book called “A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe” isn’t the first place you’re going to look for that. It is, as the saying goes, exactly what it says on the tin.

That said, there’s a lot to love about this book. One of my favourite things is its diverse and endearing cast of characters. The author, Alex White, is autistic (which is, truth be told, why I picked the book up in the first place), and while there aren’t any explicitly autistic characters, most, if not all of them had character elements that felt welcoming to an autistic reader. Boots, for example (who I was completely unable to imagine as anyone other than Tig Notaro for some reason), has a condition referred to as “arcana dystocia”: unlike most of the people in the universe, her brain lacks the plumbing necessary to use magic. There are some…let’s say familiar…moments where other characters say they can’t imagine how she functions, and all she can do is respond with tired, dry wit and a shrug, as if to say she always has managed to function, so clearly their imagination isn’t required.

And there are plenty of others: Armin Vandevere, a socially-brusque datamancer, clearly has bouts of almost self-destructive hyperfocus; Orna Sokol has a delightfully-complete vacuum where any sense of guile would normally be found; and even the brilliant and popular Nilah mentally berates herself multiple times for misreading other characters’ emotional cues. There is a sad moment where [a certain character who shall remain nameless for spoiler reasons] is killed to basically put Boots further through the wringer and to up the ante, but when all of your most important characters are either disability analogues or queer, and you need to kill off an important character for narrative reasons, you’re going to end up killing somebody’s favourite.

And that’s another thing White doesn’t shy away from—the sheer number of terrible things that happen to these poor characters leaves the reader with the ongoing feeling that, in this universe, the consequences are very real. Anyone could die at any moment, even a character you love—and you are going to love some of these characters.

Fans of standalone works of fiction may be a little disappointed by what is clearly designed to be the first part of a much larger story, with threads left dangling both small and large. They range from tiny, gnawing questions like “what’s up with the uniforms on the soldiers they found on Alpha?” to broader concerns, like “well that’s an upsetting number of murdery, god-level villains left unaccounted for.” But one reader’s flaw is another’s feature, and fans of multi-book series will undoubtedly want to continue reading in order to find the answers.

Overall: “A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe” is a cinematic, fast-paced, compelling magical space opera with a great cast of characters and a real sense of consequences. If that sounds like your kind of book then it is definitely your kind of book.

The Verdict: Recommended-2


Notable side-note: Even though it’s in reference to the racing world, it’s still incredibly brave for an author to name the very first chapter “D.N.F.” Reader, as you can tell, I did in fact finish it.


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

Love and Fiction

When I was younger, I used to worry that I didn’t do romantic love correctly, because it only made sense to me when it was half fictional.

I feel like this is common for autistic people, actually – the idea that our special interests and our deepest desires for other people occupy some of the same brain circuits. Finding a new special interest feels a little like falling in love to me, and falling in love feels like finding a new special interest. But fiction isn’t a special interest, in itself – it’s more like an overarching framework through which all my special interests emerge.

(Read the full post on Substack)

New (?) poem: “I grew out of it”

With the absolute whirlwind of drama that April was for me, I neglected to announce a poem that came out in that month – “I grew out of it,” in Not One Of Us #66.

Better late than never! You can still go pick up the issue, which is an adorably old-fashioned paper zine with many good things inside.

“I grew out of it” is dedicated to Jacqueline Flay.