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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Discussion: An Army of One, Autism in SF
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ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 13th, 2013 07:56 am (UTC) (Link)


>>I'm on the autism spectrum and greatly enjoyed this premise.<<

Thank you for sharing! I really want this to work for folks with something in common with these characters, so that's valuable feedback.

>> Can't think of too many great/awful depictions off the top of my head but I appreciate you being forthright about the theme here. <<

Often the first prompt in a series will set part of its core themes. In this case "autistic people fight a war of secession" gave me the characters and plot, where the fishbowl theme (military SF) hinted at a setting.

Then when the series really caught on, I wanted to clarify the central ideas so that it would be easier for folks to join the conversation about it. That initial prompt set up a lot of premises and not all of them are obvious. Frex, this is a subset of autistic people as a whole because the initial characters all have to be within a stone's throw of "able" mentally and physically in order to be in the army. That matters because as new characters arrive from outside the Lacuna, they may be very different.

>>One thing I would consider is how some autistic characters might work for separatism outside of a military model.<<

When the word gets out, I think they will attract sympathizers, some who want to join them and some who just support them from afar. So that's going to influence the development of their culture.

>> I.E. I tend to make broader, more sweeping (some would say naive) generalizations about how to morally behave, and so since I tend to oppose killing in general, would also view the military as unconscionable. <<

That's really useful. Suppose you were in one of the galactic arms and heard about this group of people, with whom you had some cool things in common, but yak! they're all soldiers. How might you respond?

>> The idea of remotely hacking things and "cutting the wires" so to speak is more appealing. <<

It's a surprising twist for military SF, but I think that's going to stick. I've got enough poems so far that I can see a nascent pattern of sideways thought and diverting attacks rather than trying to kill everything that moves. I suspect that the different approach is partly because autistic people think differently, and partly because they're spies accustomed to indirect tactics.

>> If there are specific notes about my own experience that would be useful for you, please let me know. :) <<

Yes, please! I am particularly looking for insights into how problem-solving works within this kind of neurovariant mindset. Examples of how you work through a challenge and come up with a different solution than other people expected would be great. Social interactions and conflict resolution are also on my wish list. Areas where your limitations pull you up short, or you can do things that ordinary people find difficult, are helpful. But really any of the things that snag your attention as being different, or being typical of your own experience, would be welcome. I'm looking for seeds that will go into forming characters, suggesting subplots, and figuring out accurate portrayals.
primeideal.dreamwidth.org From: primeideal.dreamwidth.org Date: January 13th, 2013 04:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I'll think more about the latter points later on. But let's say I heard about a group of military secessionists, it's possible that one of my first reactions would be to go "whoa, hold on, they don't speak for all people on the spectrum." I'm assuming a very "net" (of some sort) based setting, so perhaps one of my first instincts would be to try and find the equivalent to a website/Facebook group made up of fellow spectrum people (n.b. /not/ neurotypicals who mean well and assume they speak for us) that is saying something like "the military is not the best approach, we don't all support the use of force in this way." Whether I'd be so offended as to be pushed towards a more integration-ist approach, would depend on context.

A couple more things: in my case I had a lot of difficulties with muscle coordination, especially as a young child. (Special education for speech articulation, gross and fine motor skills.) By the age of 14 or so I didn't really need any more accommodations, but using weapons is something that would probably be extremely difficult for me. Technology can help.

How far has medical technology advanced in this timeline? There are likely many possibilities that can help people on the spectrum (every case is different, for some people it would be about language and communication, for others muscle control in general maybe). But when it starts getting to talk of a cure, that can be extremely divisive; many of us (myself included) resent the idea of being considered disabled or that we should be cured, and would phrase it as "so you want people like us to not exist"? If the secessionists were trying to create a safe haven where people wouldn't have to worry about being cured, that would help sway me in their favor. Conversely, a counterargument from well-meaning neurotypicals would be "but think of all the low-functioning people who don't deserve what they're going through, please stay part of our society so that we can use our resources to help them out."

This might be going too far afield though, I'll try and think more about problem solving like you said. It's hard to tell my how experience is or is not typical, we'll see.
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