Destroyer: Chapter 13

Ian Fleming had been planning for a while to introduce Turing and Wheatley. While the two men were, in his opinion, unlikely to get along, they also both had inquisitive, fast-moving minds, of the kind that in Fleming’s view was needed to get the most out of the work the intelligence services were doing. If they didn’t end up murdering each other, they’d spark enough ideas between them to shorten the war by a year, if only a decent pretext could be found for bringing them together.

The opportunity had finally presented itself. Now Turing realised that the documents involved the occult, Wheatley’s area of expertise, he’d been positively eager to meet the man, and had travelled down to London with Fleming, to meet at Wheatley’s club as his guest.

Turing looked completely out of place in the confines of a luxurious gentlemen’s club, and seemed almost to be twitching. Fleming knew that Turing had met with far more important people than Wheatley, even the Prime Minister himself, but it didn’t seem to be the people as much as the objects that were setting him on edge. Turing just didn’t fit in in an opulent background, and it showed on his face.

Wheatley was sitting at his usual table, and gave a faint nod to the two men as they approached.

“Dennis Wheatley, this is Alan Turing. Alan, this is Dennis.”

Ever since the idea of the two men working together had first been mooted, Fleming had been very interested to see how they would react to each other. Sadly for him, they barely acknowledged each other, Turing merely reciprocating Wheatley’s nod. Wheatley gestured to the chairs nearby, and Fleming and Turing sat down.

“So Alan, I believe you have some questions to ask Dennis.”

“I do. I don’t know how helpful he will be, but…Mr. Wheatley, do you actually have much knowledge of the world of the occult, or is the research for your books less accurate than it appears?”

Wheatley thought for a second. “That’s a difficult question to answer. I have little first-hand, practical, experience, but I have spent enough time with those who have that I have a much better understanding than most laymen.”

“I would like, if I may, to ask you to have a look over some documents for me. Now, understand that these are top secret – Mr. Wheatley does have the appropriate classification, doesn’t he, Ian?”

Fleming nodded.

“That’s a relief. Now, may I take it that you will treat these documents with the utmost secrecy.”

Wheatley nodded, the ghost of a smirk appearing although he tried to hide it. “You may.”

Turing passed the papers across, and Wheatley spent a few minutes examining them in what Turing thought was an excessive amount of detail.

Finally, Wheatley put the papers down, and looked thoughtfully at Turing.

“Young man, you asked me if I would treat these documents with the utmost secrecy. Now I must ask you something similar. In order to explain them to you, I shall have to reveal to you secrets which, should they enter into the wrong hands, could do the most frightful damage.”

“You can trust me not to reveal anything you say to anyone, Mr. Wheatley.”

Wheatley nodded. “I believe I can. But it’s not simply a matter of trust. I have sworn oaths, as part of initiation ceremonies, and consider those oaths to be sacred bonds with very real consequences. I have also, however, sworn an even more sacred oath, of loyalty to His Majesty the King, his heirs and successors. That higher oath does, I believe, allow me to give you the information, but only if I am certain that you are bound by equally strong oaths.”

“Mr. Wheatley, I promise you, I am an honest man. I give you my word, and I consider that word to be at least as strong as any oath it is possible you have sworn. I cannot swear on anything but the truth, but I swear on that, and hope that is enough.”

Wheatley nodded. “I see. Yes, yes I think that will do.”

He put down the papers, and leaned back in his chair, as if to tell a long story.

“This ritual,” he began, “is intended to revive England, and bring her back to a supposed past glory.”

Turing interrupted. “But this is from the Nazis! Why would they want to revive Britain?”

Wheatley smiled. “Note that I said England, not Britain. That’s one of the important points here. This ritual would, if carried out, bring about the revival of a very real spirit, that of the Saxon people who inhabited England before the Norman conquest. As a Germanic people, the Nazis believe that the Saxons would ally with them. They want to conjure up the spirit of the English people – not the Norman aristocracy, and not the Scots or the other Celts, but the old, pure-blooded, Anglo Saxons. They think that something in the English people will resist rule by the Norman French. A demon encouraging a treasonous uprising against the ruling classes, in the name of freedom.”

“But isn’t it the ruling classes themselves who are doing this? And aren’t they rather against freedom?”

“Oh, Hitlerism is just a route to a greater anarchy at the end. And Crowley and his ilk believe that they will naturally rise to the top, once freed from the shackles of law and society. Filth.”

“So this ritual is merely intended to conjure up a ghost?” Fleming asked.

“Oh, it’s more than that. This ritual would, if carried out, destroy the British Empire.”

“Destroy the Empire? Nonsense! The British Empire is the greatest the world has ever seen! She’s at the height of her powers. How could a simple magic trick destroy that?”

“Empires do fall, Ian,” replied Turing. “I’m not saying that this makes any sense, but empires do all fall, eventually.”

Fleming turned purple.

“The Empires of the past fell because they became decadent, because they became weak, and allowed subversives to undermine them from within. That is not the case for the British Empire, and never will be!”

Turing nodded. “You may well be right. Of course I hope so.”

Noting the tension between them, Wheatley took a calmer tone. “Of course the Empire is as strong as she ever was. We all know that. The question is whether Herr Hitler does. We have already seen that he has quite an outsize opinion of Germany’s importance on the world stage. It is not difficult to imagine that he has an equally inaccurate opinion of Britain’s unimportance.”

Fleming nodded. “All right. I can see that.”

“Let me have a think about how to proceed with this, Ian. Meet me back here in a week, and by then I should have the beginnings of a plan.”

This is an excerpt from my novel, Destroyer. If you like this chapter, please buy the book. It can be bought in hardback from Lulu. The Kindle and paperback editions are available from Amazon (UK) and (US). For non-Kindle ebook versions This Books2Read Universal Link will give you links for your preferred ebook retailer.

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Linkblogging for 19/08/17

Not done one of these in a while, and practically delirious with exhaustion, so here’s some links.

Jennie talks about autism-friendly clothing.

The history of Alice and Bob (and Eve, Mallory, et al)

I think I may have linked some of these before, but Nicky Case’s site has some wonderful interactive tutorials and simulations — half game half explainer blog post — on stuff like the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Hacking a gene sequencer by encoding malware in DNA

Chris Dillow talks about his socialism. His socialism and my liberalism are very compatible.

And Millennium on Brexit and optimism bias

Destroyer chapter tomorrow, and then with luck the next Prometheans post on Monday and the first of a series of looks at Harry Nilsson’s albums on Tuesday. That’s if I’m not so tired it takes me three goes to spell “luck” and two goes to spell “three”…

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What Liberalism Means to Me

One thing half my twitter timeline seems absolutely certain of at the moment is that the real problem in the world today isn’t the fascists, so much as the liberals. These liberals are perpetuating white supremacy and anyone who doesn’t support Jeremy Corbyn is exactly as bad as Donald Trump and objectively part of the problem.

(For those who don’t follow Politics Twitter, there’s a *lot* of line-blurring going on at the moment as to where US political issues end and UK ones start, so a discussion about the cancellation of the electrification of the railway between Manchester and Leeds is liable to veer off into one about bringing down Confederate statues, largely because the latter is sexier.)

Now, blaming everything on liberals is their right, though personally if I was supporting someone who said we have to stop freedom of movement to stop foreigners coming over here taking our jobs, and who appointed as shadow equalities minister someone who wrote a column in the Sun saying that Pakistani men rape white women, I’d at least be considering my own side’s culpability in appeasing racists. But the odd thing is that most of the people they’re talking about are not liberals. They’re generally Labour moderates or soft-leftists, or even Tories.

See this, for example, from Laurie Penny (not singling Laurie out, it’s just one I saw today):

So stand up if you have ever dismissed the words and deeds of organized racists and violent misogynist movements as simply examples of freedom of speech and therefore by some arcane metric acceptable; stay standing if you have ever argued that the center-left needs to court anti-immigrant and anti-Black sentiment to win power.

That’s from a piece called “A Letter to my Liberal Friends“. And yet the people I know who have fought hardest against that kind of attitude are liberals. To quote a friend’s locked Twitter account “I follow a lot of big L Liberals and despite continued assertions otherwise, we pretty much all like the idea of punching Nazis. So if you could find another epithet for the guardianistas you’re on about (most of whom vote Labour, not Liberal), that’d be great.”

The problem with all this is that many on the left use “liberal” interchangeably with “centrist”, when the two are in fact very different. It is possible to be a moderate liberal *and* a centrist, just as it’s possible to be a moderate Tory or social democrat and be a centrist, but in the same way one wouldn’t define socialism by Ed Miliband standing in front of the Ed Stone, it makes no sense to define liberalism by its most moderate adherents.

So when I defend liberalism, I am *not* defending centrism. Which isn’t to say one can’t put together a perfectly good defence of centrism, but that I am a *radical* Liberal. Centrists can fight their own battles, or send drones to fight them for them (I’m kidding). I think many of the more vicious attacks on centrists at the moment are incorrect, but that’s not what this is about.

But be aware that I am NOT speaking for all liberals here, and I *am* more radical than many.

I know the political compass test is hugely flawed, but it’s useful in that it’s widely known. Here’s my own current score after taking the test a few minutes ago:

That is not an uncommon position *at all* for Liberals in the UK. Most of the Lib Dem activists I know get scores in that rough area. Not especially centrist or moderate. And certainly not very “let’s not make a fuss about oppression”.

So what *is* it that liberals believe, if it’s not “fascists have a point”? Well, I wouldn’t like to speak for anyone other than myself, but I’ve recently been rereading a few great Liberal writers — Mill, Popper, and so forth — and especially rereading Conrad Russell’s utterly masterful An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Liberalism, which traces the intellectual threads that have animated British Liberalism since the 17th century.

And while it’s not at all possible to summarise four hundred years of thought and the consequences of that in a few paragraphs, I think I can give the gist.

Liberalism is, in essence, about power, consent, and boundaries. It is about making sure that everyone has the chance to be the version of themselves that they want to be, and to live the life they want to live, without anyone else being able to stop them. It’s about removing all unjust power relations, whether they be imposed by society, government, or employers, and ensuring that any power one individual has over another is by consent, revokable, and the minimum necessary.

It’s about dismantling all oppressive systems of power, getting rid of all privilege, whether the inherited privilege of rich people owning houses and poor people having to pay rent to them (“why should we work hard and let the landlords take the best?” asks the party song), or the privilege of white over black, male over female, Christian over Muslim, British over foreign, abled over disabled, cis over trans, monogamous over poly, shareholder over employee, boomer over millenial, straight over LGB+.

It’s about decisions being made by the people they affect.

It’s about the harm principle: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” (Mill’s wording, I wouldn’t use “his”, but he was writing in the 19th century). Note that this does *not* mean the kind of fundamentalist free-speech frothing you get from some quarters — Nazi speech causes harm to others, and indeed that’s its entire intent, so it’s *entirely* acceptable to exercise power to prevent Nazi speech.

It’s about celebrating people’s identities, whatever those identities are, but also about ensuring people don’t have those identities imposed on them by others, whether legally or through social pressure. Whether someone wants to transition and have a different gender recognised by society, or they want to cross a national border and live somewhere else, or convert to a different religion, there should be no barriers in place to stop them doing so, and their decision should be celebrated as allowing them to live the life they are best suited to.

And it’s about taking those principles and constantly reexamining one’s ideas in light of new information, and applying the same principles to new situations. (Hence the joke “a liberal can become a conservative in twenty years, without changing a single idea!” — and most Lib Dems could name quite a few people they know who that one applies to…)

I’d urge anyone who wants to know what liberals actually think to read Russell’s book. The Amazon link above should work, but it’s out of print so copies may become unavailable. However Nick Barlow did an excellent series of blog posts reviewing the book’s major arguments, linked here. But also look at what liberals themselves are saying, people like Nick, or Jennie or Richard or Alix or Sarah or Richard or any of dozens of others.

You’ll find they disagree with me, and with each other, a lot of the time. But what you won’t find is any of them defending fascism as freedom of speech, or arguing for a stronger anti-immigrant stance to appease racists.

There are many words for those stances, but “liberal” is not one of them.

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Books I’d Like, That Aren’t Like Me?

I need to read more fiction that isn’t by white males, but it’s very difficult to find stuff I’d love, and I wonder if anyone here can help with that?

You see, I have fairly specific tastes for fiction, and the stuff that really appeals to me is… well, it’s pretty much exclusively written by white men. But it’s not *only* written by white men, and I think I have an absolute responsibility to read more of the stuff that isn’t.

Of course, I read anything I get recommended, and I read all the Hugo nominees most years (I didn’t get to all the novels this year as the surprise election got in the way), and I find plenty of good stuff by women and BAME people that way — but “good” isn’t the same as what I love. Something like The Long Way To A Small, Angry, Planet by Becky Chambers is definitely a very good, enjoyable, book, but it’s not one that satisfies the particular itch I have. I’d put it in the same category as, say, Ben Aaronovitch’s books, or Agatha Christie’s, or Stephen King’s — all authors who I can happily read and enjoy (I’ve read all of Aaronovitch’s stuff, and the bulk of the other two), but whose works don’t stay with me and cause me to think about them for weeks, months, or years afterward.

(Actually, a couple of Christie’s books do — The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None).

What I’m after, ideally, are idea-based novels, with a multiplicity of narratorial voices. Metafiction is always good, as is time travel. I like self-aware narrators, stories in which multiple layers of reality collide, and books which posit wildly different ways of organising society. I like plots based around solving a puzzle — whether a murder mystery, a puzzle about the nature of the world, or a problem in politics. I like books to be thematically dense, and to have plots and structures that reflect the thematic concerns.

I tend not to read for character — I can appreciate a well-drawn character as well as anyone, but it’s not why I read — and I strongly dislike long descriptions of the physical environment (because I’m aphantasic) but I also don’t like the kind of “clear prose” that reads like it was written to be adapted into a film without any changes.

Now, I’ve asked for recommendations like this before, and what I’ve done then is describe the kind of book I want, usually by reference to white male authors, because so little of what I’ve read in the style I like is by anyone else — up until last year I could name a handful of short stories in City of the Saved and Faction Paradox anthologies and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and that was more or less it. But since the start of last year I’ve read three novels by women (or co-written by a woman in one case) which are absolutely the sort of thing I’m after, and so I thought I’d talk about them, and ask for recommendations *of books like them*.

The first of those is one I already wrote about, The Lathe of Heaven. I won’t rehash everything I said there, but will just say that it’s *exactly* the kind of thing I’m after reading more of.

Second, there’s The Just City by Jo Walton. This is the first book of a trilogy, and I intend to read the second and third volumes (I bought the second a year or so ago, but bounced off it because I tried reading it in a period when my mental health was wrecking my concentration. I’ll be trying it again). I was sure I’d reviewed it here before, but apparently not — and when I’ve finished the trilogy, assuming the other two books in the series are anything like as good, I *will* be posting a long review, because this is frankly one of the best SFF novels I’ve ever read. It’s a book I’d recommend to literally anyone — with the important caveat that one of its major themes is bodily autonomy and consent, and so there are several rape scenes, fairly graphically depicted, in which the rapist is someone previously portrayed as a sympathetic character or friend of his victim. These scenes are *not* gratuitous, and are *absolutely* necessary for the themes the book is working through, and at no point does the narrative treat them as excusable, but they may be all the more distressing for that, so people with triggers around that may want to avoid the book or only read it when they’re in an appropriate state of preparedness. Those scenes distressed *me*, and I’m (thankfully) someone who has never experienced anything like that.

The novel has Athena and Apollo set up a colony, in the past, to which they bring everyone throughout history who has ever read Plato’s Republic and prayed to Athena to live in that state (including a number of prominent historical figures, as well as people from our own future). Aided by robots (whose sentience or otherwise is a major theme of the book) they build the Republic, precisely as described by Plato, and the novel describes the problems they face. It takes Plato’s ideas utterly seriously, and as such is an incredibly strong critique of them. It’s told from multiple first-person perspectives — a child slave brought to the Republic, a nineteenth-century woman who wanted to live in the Republic because it treated women as equals, and the god Apollo, incarnated as a human to try to understand humans. It’s an utterly fascinating work, and *precisely* my kind of thing.

And finally there’s The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. I read this because of Stephenson, who’s a favourite writer of mine, but my guess is that here the plot and ideas came from Stephenson, but most (not all) of the actual prose came from Galland, just judging from the prose styles. This is another story that sits on the border of science fiction and fantasy — there’s a science-fictional handwave explanation for magic having existed in the past but no longer existing in the present day, and for time travel which allows a government agency to try to rectify that, and so various characters go back in time to liaise with witches in pre-revolutionary America, Elizabethan and Victorian London, and earlier time periods. But they find that changes to the past have some unpredictable effects on the present, and that not everyone is working towards the same goals…

It’s an epistolary novel, and has some wonderful pastiches of different writing styles and genre collisions — there’s a lovely bit, “The Lay of Wal-Mart”, which is a Viking saga about a gang of marauding Vikings who get a witch to send them to 21st century America and invade a supermarket:

The West-march of the Walmart
Held all the food in the world,
Bottled beer by the boatload,
Frost-kept food, milk and meat.
Setting up for a siege behind barricades
The Norsemen fetched food, collected clothing,
Turkish trousers with flies in the front
Kept closed with clever contraptions,
Tiny teeth, meshing like millipedes’ legs,
Gnashing, knitting, concealing the naked.
Zipper the Fatlanders called it.
Cock-catcher it was to Hunfast, the hapless.

The best analogy I’ve come up with to describe the book is that it’s clearly the same kind of thing as Stephenson’s earlier Anathem, but is to that book as the Doctor Who story City of Death is to Logopolis — a time-travel comedy romp, even involving a subplot very like the multiple Mona Lisas from City of Death, and getting by on wit and a general sense of joy and playfulness, but almost exactly as clever as it thinks it is.

All three of those books get as high a recommendation as I can give (with the caveat that D.O.D.O ends on a cliffhanger and leaves a ton of plot threads hanging), and I want more of this. So, where can I find it?

(Incidentally, no need to recommend Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library, which I’m told ticks all these boxes — I have it downloaded and it’s on the digital TBR pile already).

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I Aten’t Ded

I’ve just only had one full night’s sleep since Thursday. Proper post tomorrow.

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Dog Advice

Just putting this out here in case anyone can help me, though I suspect not.

My wife and I have had a rather neurotic Jack Russell terrier, Gary The Wonder Dog, for the last couple of years — he’s eleven or twelve, but we adopted him because of family stuff, so he was pretty set in his ways when we got him.

He’s a great little dog, with only two real flaws (and one of them can be solved by just never giving him Dentastix). The one that can’t be fixed is that he gets terrified he’s being abandoned when I go to bed every night — he practically has a panic attack more nights than not, and this distresses both of us. (He never gets like that when alone at other times — he’s actually a rather standoffish dog who likes his personal space — just bedtime.)

Now the obvious solution to that would be to let him in the bed with us. But while he’s OK in bed with just Holly, if I try to get into the bed he’ll get incredibly territorial, snarl, snap, and generally make it impossible for anyone to rest.

We can’t put his bed in the bedroom, because then he just jumps onto the bed. Does anyone have a suggestion for any way I can actually go to bed without causing my dog unnecessary distress?

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So Netflix have a new series, Atypical, centred around an autistic teenager. I watched an episode out of morbid curiosity. It did not go well.

It still went slightly better than I imagined it would going in, to be honest. This is a show featuring a neurotypical actor cripping up, with no autistic people involved in the writing, production, or performances. That would, in itself, be an immense demerit on pure “nothing about us without us” grounds, but the problems with the production went further than that.

When questioned about this, the production team started talking about how they’d talked to the parents of autistic people. Not to autistic people themselves, but their parents. Now that in itself is a major problem — our parents *cannot speak for us*, and in many of the most vocal cases, the wishes of parents (that their children be “normal”, that their autism be “cured”) are diametrically opposed to those of autistic people ourselves. Of course there are many parents of autistic people who are nothing but good and caring about their children, and I count many among my friends. But there is nothing at all about being a parent of an autistic person that makes you any better informed about autism than anyone else, and talking to our parents is no substitute for talking to us.

(The argument made that some particularly nonverbal people, especially those with comorbid disorders, can’t talk for themselves has some validity, but doesn’t apply here, as the character in the series presents much the same at age eighteen as I presented at age thirteen or so. Whether one considers the autism that people who are unable to live unassisted, or who have an inability to communicate, qualitatively different from what I have or not, the character here is clearly one who has the same thing I have. And people like me can talk for ourselves.)

But they went further than that, and consulted with UCLA’s Center for Autism Research and Treatment. This is an organisation that views autism entirely in terms of “deficits”, and which brags on its website “Our Milestones: 1960s: Dr. Ivar Lovaas established behavior modification as the first effective treatment for autism.”

To be clear, “behaviour modification” is the exact same thing as “gay cure” therapy — punishing people for behaving in ways which are natural and comfortable to them, until they conform out of fear. Lovaas *tortured* children, giving them electrical shocks for daring not to make eye contact, or for stimming behaviours they used to calm down. Any organisation that considers this “effective treatment” and brags about it on their website is, by definition, not an organisation that anyone should be talking to about autism, or about anything at all.

(And it really *is* the same thing as “gay cure” “therapy”. Lovaas also wrote about his techniques in papers such as Behavioral treatment of deviant sex-role behaviors in a male child and The behavioral treatment of a “transsexual” preadolescent boy, with his colleague George Rekers. To see how well that worked out — and if you’re not triggered by discussions of homophobic/transphobic child abuse and suicide — click here.)

Lovaas was on the UCLA faculty until his death in 2010. His colleagues, the people he trained, the people he was in charge of — those are the people that Atypical chose to consult, rather than involving *any autistic people at all at any level whatsoever*.

Amazingly, given this, Atypical, from the one episode I saw, is *only* horribly offensive and perpetuating negative stereotypes, rather than being some sort of The Eternal Jew-style call for our extermination.

Again, I only saw one episode — I simply couldn’t stomach watching more — but the main character is defined solely by his autism. He has no characteristics other than autistic ones. To be fair to the series, those autistic characteristics are rather accurately portrayed, as far as they go — he has a special interest which he’ll talk about at any opportunity without realising he’s boring people, he isn’t very good at understanding non-verbal social cues, he has sensory processing issues which mean loud rooms are bad for him, he insists on 100% cotton clothing because anything else makes him uncomfortable and he has other sensory issues, he is extremely honest, and he goes into unnecessary detail in explaining things to people. He gets words stuck in his head, going round and round. These are all traits I recognise from myself, especially at his age.

But that’s *all* there is to him. He’s a collection of autistic traits without a person to hold them together. And this is a problem for a few reasons.

Firstly, his special interests are scientific in nature, and this is in itself a stereotype. I am, personally, a white cis male autistic person who had scientific special interests as a teenager, but not every autistic person is me. One of the reasons autism goes undiagnosed in women is that their special interests often tend in a different direction, and the media stereotype of autistic people isn’t seen to apply. (Honestly, Elle from Legally Blonde, with her special interest in fashion and law, seems to me like a perfect example of an autistic woman in fiction, though it’s been sixteen years since I saw the film so may be misremembering).

Autistic teen white boys who like technology and biology (in this character’s case, especially penguins) are boring. Why not an autistic black girl with a special interest in literature?

Then there’s the more disturbing aspect — the series is set up to be about his desire to have sex, and in the first episode we see him following PUA advice and “negging” women, as well as unthinkingly lashing out at one who touches him. These are both, in themselves, not implausible, but I think they were at the very least unwise. They were played as being understandable mistakes for the “character” (such as he is) to make.

The problem is, behaviour very like that but for wildly different motives is often excused, especially in nerd/geek spaces, on the grounds that the perpetrator may be autistic, even though the vast majority of the time he isn’t. This show *will* lead to more people being persuaded that it would be ableist to complain about harassment, stalking, or abuse, even though it really, *really* isn’t.

(Quick way to tell the difference — an autistic person may behave in an inappropriate or harmful way out of ignorance of unwritten social rules, but if told their behaviour is inappropriate or harmful, *will be mortified and stop*. If they don’t stop, that’s not because they are autistic, it’s because they’re an abusive prick. Of course, some autistic people are *also* abusive pricks, but in my experience the proportion is rather lower than among neurotypicals, not higher.)

But the biggest problem is the whole tone of the show.

It’s a semi-serious family sitcom, no different in tone or style from a million 90s US network sitcoms like Malcolm In The Middle. But the scenes with any members of the family *other* than the central “character” are played as straight.

There are only two sources of comedy in the whole thing. One is the main character’s workmate, who is “humorously” open about his sex life. The other is the main character getting things about the neurotypical world wrong, and upsetting either himself or the people around him. And in every one of these scenes, we’re meant to be laughing at, not with, the main character. Ho ho he has to use noise-cancelling headphones when on a date in a noisy room, because assistive devices are funny. Ha ha other people judge him for laughing to himself on the bus and having an odd posture, because accidentally forgetting to comform to other people’s judgmentalism for a moment is a bad thing. Hee hee he smiles too broadly at a woman and scares her off because he looks creepy, because someone failing to put on a perfect imitation of someone with a fundamentally different neurology is something that deserves mockery.

This must be that famous neurotypical empathy I’m told so much about.

And the thing is, you *could* do a really, really, *really* good piece of comedy about an autistic person in a neurotypical world, *by having the neurotypical people be the funny ones*. With an autistic character you could easily point out all the absurdities of everyday life that most people don’t notice. There is a huge amount of stuff that is taken for granted that is utterly nonsensical, on every level of society, and having a character who doesn’t understand those things could point out their absurdity. It would be a perfect lens through which to do a whole range of comedy, from observational comedy to social satire. It would be easy to write an autistic character who combined a genuine lack of understanding of social conventions with a sort of Tricksterishness — part Groucho Marx or Bugs Bunny, causing everything around them to collapse, while they remain a calm centre.

But that would involve treating autism as a perfectly valid mode of existence, rather than doing something that’s half-way between a freak show and Mr. Magoo — except that at least Mr. Magoo had a certain naive honesty about it and just freely admitted it was mocking a disabled person, rather than trying to pretend it had some redeeming social qualities and was an “important” piece of work.

There are autistic writers in the world (I am one). There are autistic actors. And these are careers in which autistic people are disabled by society, because more than most jobs they rely on networking, self-promotion, and other skills autistic people lack. So if you want to make TV about us, fucking hire us and let us tell our own stories. Don’t make a freakshow featuring a neurotypical cripping up, ask people who are proud of their involvement in torturing minority kids with electric shocks to give you advice, and then look for ally cookies.






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