November 9th, 2010

don't mess with me today, think so do ya?

Autism and Eureka (or Why Allison Blake is a Great Big Jerk)

So Eureka appears to be on hiatus until after Christmas, giving me plenty of time to fuss, fume, and explain why its treatment of its major autistic character, Kevin Blake, makes me want to punch things.

In the Pilot, we meet Kevin, and he's just a kid. His mom, who runs Global Dynamics, explains to the new sheriff, Jack Carter, that Kevin is brilliant but severely autistic, that he rarely interacts with anyone. He interacts with Jack, however, and helps to Save The Day, and the young actor who plays Kevin does a pretty fair job of holding both his body and his chalk like some autistic kids we've known. There's a little bit of the Magical Autism Powers problem, but on the whole Kevin gets to be a contributing member of the team. While his mom is a little overprotective, the other people say, hey, we have a problem, it's in Kevin's field of expertise, well done Kevin, good show. Like, y'know. He's a person or something. Go figure. So when timprov and I first watched this, we had great hopes that Kevin would continue to be a character who was treated like a person--a person with autism. A person who didn't want to do social chitchat with the other characters, a person who sometimes had very specific sensory issues that provoked severe reactions. Still: a person. Good good.

Things go downhill from there, with Magical Autism Powers coming more to the fore and treating Kevin like a person being less of a thing--alternating in, of course, with the regular television problem: if an adult character has a child who does not receive top billing, that child only exists when it's convenient to the plot. Being a single parent with an autistic kid never, ever means that you have to go home suddenly for his sake or that childcare is an issue or that there are any issues at school or...anything even remotely inconvenient. He requires no attention in public places unless he is about to do something plotworthy. He is no longer Kevin, person, potential team member. He is now Magical Autism Powers Source.

Then it got worse.

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scold with Lilly, no more monkeys!, and another thing!

Not so much the cat's pajamas, daddy-o.

Dear everyone older than me,

When you are writing a contemporary teen narrator, please stop having them talk about "going steady" and "necking."

It's not that today's teens don't do these things. It's that they don't call them that. With their crazy teen lingo. And if you hear them do so when they're talking to you, quite often they are trying to translate for your benefit.

My cousin A was visiting when I was telling my mother that my young friend B now has a boyfriend. "And he gave her his [activity] sweatshirt, so apparently that's a thing," I said. "Oh yah, that's a thing," said A. "It's like when you were in high school and your boyfriend would give you his letter jacket." I had to explain to the dear child that I was not of that generation in the slightest. While one of the unsuitable boys I dated in high school did, in fact, have a letter jacket, if I wanted to wear one, we both felt I could certainly earn my own.

So. Returning to the point. "Going steady." "Necking." Please. Stop.


Muse and Reverie, by Charles de Lint

Review copy provided by Tor.

Whew, I promise I am not ever Posty McPost-a-lot this much. I just had several things to catch up on today.

So. For years, Dreams Underfoot was in my top five favorite short story collections of all time. And I would buy the new de Lint automatically and eagerly, unless it came out close to a holiday, in which case I would hope very hard that someone would get it for me. That's fallen off lately; I've felt like the Newford stories have gotten a lot more formulaic, and that the things that gave them their heart feel less heartfelt when they're repeated ad infinitum. "I'll buy that right away in hardcover" became "I'll pick that up in paperback," and then "I'll get that from the library," followed by, "Oh dear, another?"

So when Tor sent this along, I winced a little. I wanted to think of de Lint in terms of Dreams Underfoot and reading it in the Math Club van as dawn broke on the way to a math contest in South Dakota when I was 16. I did not want to be reminded of how little I have liked some of the more recent things.

But this, this was better. There were still a few stories that struck me as shocking self-indulgence that would by no means be permitted a less established writer ("A Crow Girls' Christmas," good heavens), but then there was the real stuff. There was the stuff that was not a rehash, not the same story with different labels, but had its own heart, worth doing. When we got to "Dark Eyes, Faith, and Devotion," I thought, "Well, this might go all right, then," and "Riding Shotgun" didn't go where I expected it to, in good ways. And then "Da Slockit Light" was like he had noticed what he kept doing and almost did it and then did something else instead, something more interesting.

Which made me pretty happy.

So what we wound up with was a short story collection with some weak points and some strong points, which is, when you think about it, most short story collections, if you're lucky. It is not going to make my top five short story collections ever. But that's a much tougher crowd than it was when I was 16. What this collection did was remind me why I was so enchanted that I had to pause and take breaths and stare out across the stubbly dawn-lit cornfields in the Math Club van 16 years ago. And that was no small thing.