Autistic Stories

These days many fiction magazines, in addition to seeking and prioritizing submissions from people of color and LGBTQI?+ writers, are also seeking “neurodivergent” voices. That’s me. Should I be optimistic?

First a little clarity, if “neurodivergent” is unfamiliar to you, or you haven’t thought about what it means. The term covers attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). (The acronyms are usually used even by those objecting to “disorder”.)

The vagueness of the word makes it inclusive. It could extend to other conditions considered neurological, or apply if one meets the criteria for both ADHD and ASD (me) or decides one has been misdiagnosed as one but is actually the other (common). The word is sometimes used for other conditions such as schizophrenia, disassociate identity, bipolar, or borderline personality. While I don’t think there’s a consensus on this, I assume the editors are interested in fiction from these folks as well.

Of course I have a stake in this, but I’m afraid publishers are looking for stories like these:

(1) Fiction that shows the true humanity of neurodivergent people. Because all fiction is supposed to be about this “humanity”, and good readers will wax and get feels about it.

(2)A young adult has to leave their ignorant village, forced upon an adventure, or internally driven on the hero’s journey. And on top of all this challenge and hard growth, they have to deal with autism! (Disclosure: I’ve been submitting a story like that for publication.)

(3) An ADHD/ASD protagonist is also BiPOC and LGBTQI?+, giving everyone representation in one fell swoop.

Instead (or in addition), how about stories from the mysterious worlds our “different” neural networks can portal to?

(1) Normal people aren’t real. It matters less whether they are robots, aliens, or VR (including BRAIN IMPLANTS!). What counts is that they are a harbinger of cosmic evil, organized by a massive sinister force.

(2) An autistic person tries to adapt and fails, so they stay home with plants, costumes, books, and some Internet—including a mysterious site with possibilities … good for them.

(3) … Or they do adapt. A divergent learns to combine the best of normative and divergent cognition to get an advantage over just about everyone. Though they aren’t selfish. They have a plan to save us from the impending invasion.

(4) A person with sensory processing stuff hears the voices of demons in car horns, beeping, power tools, and random people screaming in the night. They write the sequel to the Necronomicon.

Of course, do tell your own normative-reality crushing story-concept in a comment!

1 Comment

  • Fascinating post, Steve. I’m just glad we’re not all the same. It’s the diversity of Nature that keeps the universe humming. How fair would it be if God, Creator, or Nature (whatever you want to call it) only produced one model and all people, plants, and animals were the same? Life could not evolve or move towards perfection if Nature did not gamble on us.

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