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Spectrums: Not Just in Rainbows!

April is Autism Awareness Month. Since I’ve been researching autistic spectrum disorders the past couple of years to write my Mnevermind series, the concept of “autism awareness” has me reflecting: have I always been aware of autism? No, not really. Although autism was first described in 1943, people in my social circles weren’t aware of the condition until autism was portrayed in pop culture media. Rain Man is my first exposure to autism, or at least the first exposure that I’m aware of.

Looking deeper, I think that I was actually exposed to autism much earlier than that.

Remember the “weird kids” in school? The kids in which others sensed a difference, and either avoided, or relentlessly taunted and teased? I have a strong suspicion now that some of those “weird kids” were on the spectrum. While I wasn't a mean kid, I don't think I stood up for the underdogs and probably avoided them. If adult-me could go back in time and cut those kids some slack, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Instead I can only sit with my remorse and try to use it to be more compassionate now.

So, what’s this spectrum? The idea of an autism spectrum was first introduced by Lorna Wing and Judith Gould in 1979. Autism isn’t a single disorder, but rather a group of closely-related disorders that share a core of symptoms that affect communication, social skills and behavior. However, there’s a high level of variation in how each individual is affected. Some people with autism are so profoundly impacted that they may be unable to live independently. Others are less affected, and are considered to be “high-functioning.”

Elijah Crowe from Mnevermind falls on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. He’s well educated and strikingly intelligent. He’s particularly gifted in the field of mnemography, which deals with implanted recreational memories. Despite his intelligence in certain areas, he sees other aspects of the world as operating on some mysterious rules he can never quite figure out.

Here’s a snippet from Mnevermind 2: Forget Me Not that shows how overwhelming the world can be for people on the spectrum. Elijah trying to back out of a date with Daniel, but when Daniel persists and says he was really looking forward to it, Elijah changes his mind.

I wasn’t sure anyone had “looked forward” to doing anything with me lately. Knowing that Daniel had been anticipating our time together made my mood shift, just a little at first, but then with more momentum as it lightened, and my hopeless resignation gave way to curious neutrality, and then, as I mentally reiterated that he was “looking forward” to our date, optimism. “Anyway, I’ll go.”

“To the expo. With me.”

“Yes.” I thought for a moment, until I remembered the cause of my recent slide into discouragement. “But the oil light on my dash is lit.”

“There’s a Quick Lube down the street. We can hit that on our way to the Alliant Center, unless you think it’s something more serious…or I could pick you up.”

Choices—and I liked both of them. If Daniel picked me up, it would feel more like a “real” date…by which, I suppose I meant a date between a man and a woman, which I should probably reassess, since dates shouldn’t need to be gender-specific to be objective. Then I thought of being able to tell Tod I’d handled the oil change myself, which was even more appealing. “I think I’d like to stop at the Quick Lube. Is it quick, really, or is that just the name? Do they service Hondas? Will they need to see my title and registration? Do I need an appointment? Can I pay with my debit card?”

“I think you just, uh…it’s really no big deal.”

Maybe not to Daniel, who understood how things worked by discerning seemingly invisible signals. To me, it was a very big deal.

Leave a comment on LiveJournal if you’d like to win a Mnevermind ebook (The Persistence of Memory or Forget Me Not, winner’s choice!) I’ll pick a winner April 30.


Read more posts on autism and win more prizes at RJ Scott’s April Autism Blog Hop.

Find out more about Mnevermind at JCP Books.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 11th, 2014 02:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing, we had a few kids like that at my school, but fortunatelly I went to a no bullying school.

I think this is the only blog hop I comment on these days, such a good idea
Apr. 11th, 2014 02:30 pm (UTC)
My nephew is on the spectrum. I can't tell you how incredibly pleased I was to see not only a character, but a main romantic lead, reflecting some of those experiences. It's definitely what bumped this series to the top of my reading list when the second book came out.
Rj Scott
Apr. 11th, 2014 02:39 pm (UTC)
thank you
Hugs you.. thank you for joining in... XXXXX
Apr. 11th, 2014 05:34 pm (UTC)
I've wondered about that myself as well... and I think you're right.
May. 1st, 2014 12:35 pm (UTC)
You're the prize-winner, Indirect! Shoot me an email and let me know if you'd like Mnevermind I or II, and which file format (PDF Mobi or Epub)

Edited at 2014-05-01 04:36 pm (UTC)
May. 1st, 2014 12:36 pm (UTC)
SIGH... my email being jcp.heat@gmail.com
I'm having a chicken-head-cut-off day.
Apr. 11th, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC)
When I was a youngster (back in the black and white days) we didn't know about autism at all. I'm like you - my first exposure was watching "Rain Man". I also found "Snow Cake" with Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver interesting as well.

It's good to know that people are becoming more understanding when it comes to disorders like this now. I feel sorry for all those treated so poorly in the past, through ignorance and intolerance.
Apr. 11th, 2014 10:01 pm (UTC)
When I was young, autism was not well recognized. I am glad that is changing. Thanks for the blog and the great excerpt!

jen.f {at} mac {dot} com
Apr. 11th, 2014 11:22 pm (UTC)
OH wow, now that you say that, thinking about it, I bet some of them were. I was never the bullying time, but then I never really stuck up for them, was too busy trying to keep the target off of myself :(((

It's nice to see someone on the spectrum as a main romantic lead for sure.

Great blog entry.


Apr. 12th, 2014 08:07 am (UTC)
I can't even put into words how much I love that boy. He's so refreshingly different from the norm and it's so cool to realize that it's the differences rather than the similarities that make people so interesting and unique. :3

barbara elsborg
Apr. 12th, 2014 09:46 am (UTC)
Sounds fascinating. I love how writing leads us on paths to deeper understanding of things. I don't know what I'd do without Google - plus a bit of imagination. I have a terrible memory so I don't recall if anyone at school seemed different in that way - probably only me!
Apr. 12th, 2014 09:46 am (UTC)
I've loved both of the Mnevermind books and look forward to more.

Although I'm quite sure I shared classrooms with kids on all parts of the spectrum of mental and physical achievement, I was a self-centered little twerp who really didn't look much outside my books and the kids in my neighborhood for social times. I first came face-up with autism when a friend's grandchild was diagnosed. Although he's doing a bit better, he was quite disabled by it for many years.

- Erulisse (one L)
Shirley Ann Speakman
Apr. 12th, 2014 12:35 pm (UTC)
Autism Blog
We did have a small group at my high school too back then they were classed as "Special" and now I see that they probably had sometime of Autism, but when you are young you never really understand. This Blog Hop is a great way highlight Autism.

Apr. 12th, 2014 05:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you for providing some really interesting history and facts about Autism. Thank you for taking part in the hop and helping to spread awareness.

humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com
diem pau
Apr. 12th, 2014 11:38 pm (UTC)
I was never really sure what autism was nor was I that interested until I read your book Mnevermind. Wow was that a game changer! Now I looking up everything I can about autism and really educating myself. So thank-you!
Apr. 13th, 2014 07:07 am (UTC)
Like you I didn't grow up with an awareness of autism and had never head of it until Rainman - I didn't see anything I recognised in Dustin Hoffman's performance and found the whole idea rather confusing.

Since then I have learned a little more about it and sometimes wonder if we aren't all somewhere on that spectrum.
Apr. 13th, 2014 09:31 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing your insights. I haven't gotten a chance to read this series yet and wasn't even aware that it involved someone affected by autism. I know a couple of people effected by this disorder and it's great to know that there is a series depicting a main character dealing with it. I'd like to see more such things, because it is such a varied disorder that affects so many different people and no two people are effected in the same exact way.
Ashley Van Buren
Apr. 14th, 2014 09:53 am (UTC)
It's so fascinating to see into the minds of people who just don't see the world in the same way. I've had this series on my list for awhile, but it's getting bumped up after this!
Apr. 14th, 2014 09:09 pm (UTC)
Very interested in the subject of this book.
Mary Briscoe
Apr. 16th, 2014 04:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks for putting this out there for everyone to read. What I have read (fiction/nonfiction) it is a heavy load for all those affected: parents/caretakers and the autistic person. Those who are blessed with such a child; you have my up most respect for your courage for such a challenge.
Jun. 19th, 2014 11:16 pm (UTC)
I've been reading your work for years and very much enjoying it, but the Mnevermind series is just... I think you've surpassed everything else you've ever done with this series. Your plots and ideas are always just brilliant and your characters are likeable and interesting, but in this series, they are more than likeable - they are real; they resonate with me and I really care about them.

Please don't wait another two years to release part three. I think I will die if you do. I love this series so much that, even though I own both books for my kindle, I just purchased them both in paperback. They deserve a place on my shelves and you deserve my money twice.

All respect to you and what you do (and I am freakin' begging you to get part three out there as soon as you can!!! Or you know, I'll pay chapter by chapter if I can get it that way. Just sayin'.)
Jun. 20th, 2014 06:57 am (UTC)
Re: Mnevermind
Thank you so much for all the kind words! Mnevermind feels like a more mature series to me than my prior stuff. I made a lot of deliberate choices in it that I didn't have the craft to make with earlier books.

I love that you're so eager for the third book! It wasn't so much that I waited to write book two (twiddling my thumbs, playing video games, etc), it was that it took me two years to get Elijah right. I really needed to nail his personality and it took a ton of research and thought, trial and error.

That said, book three is next in my brain's queue.
Jun. 20th, 2014 01:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Mnevermind

Your research clearly paid off, so I guess I can't whine too much about the delay. What is more, you managed to filter the research information through your imagination and distill from it a unique and real character who is more than just a collection of tics and symptoms from a diagnostics manual (so often you can "see" the research in books; not here). I think that is probably the most impressive feat of all. And I'm clearly not alone - just read the amazon kindle reviews (which I'm sure you've seen) and they are full of praise from people who are, or are related to, folks on the spectrum.

More than being engaged by the autism aspect alone, though, I like the series as a study of perception/reality as a whole; it ties in with the mnemming, with Big Dan's altered reality (what is reality? Totally subjective, that's what.), and Elijah's different-brainedness. A remarkably interesting and philosophical subject told through a series of utterly engaging characters (and on top of it all, some of the very best intimate scenes you've ever written).

I'll stop now, but again: keep it up. You're doing genre transcending work. I hope it gets all the recognition it deserves.
Jun. 22nd, 2014 07:33 am (UTC)
Re: Mnevermind
It's hugely gratifying to see people on the spectrum are feeling like the book represents them. Stunningly gratifying. Because think of all the potential there was to come off as an outsider looking in, someone co-opting the experience of people with spectrum disorders and getting it wrong, minimizing it, or parodying the textbook quirks and tics.

Thank you so much for all those kind words. It's the sort of comment I'll come back and read when I'm gearing up to write the third book when I feel stuck.

If you haven't already and you feel inclined to write an amazon review (even cutting/pasting something you've said here) I'd be over the moon! The reviews already there are all fantastic but there are far fewer of them than for other books in the genre by similar authors. I'm concerned that the low number of reviews makes the series seem unengaging to a new reader--thus skippable--despite the heartfelt, unique and glowing reviews it did receive.

Edited at 2014-06-22 11:33 am (UTC)
Jun. 24th, 2014 11:18 am (UTC)
Re: Mnevermind
I will absolutely do that - within the next few days. It'll be my first Amazon review! I do keep meaning to start writing them, since I depend on them so much when it comes to picking much of the self-published stuff (it ain't all gold). I've also recommended the series to quite a few friends (including the one who introduced me to the Psycop series and who has an autistic teenager herself).

I think some folks are just waiting to read the series until the whole thing is finished. I have quite a few friends who do that - they've been burned in the past by authors who never finished or they just don't like the long waits. I just try to look at long gaps between segments as an excuse to reread the previous books... (but I still want. the. next. bit. now!! I'm looking forward to getting back into Daniel's head with a new perspective on what is going on in Elijah's; should be really interesting!)

Off to heavily edit boring things written by boring people (lawyers); this is the "writing" I get to do for a living. (Boo!) Thanks again for giving me great breaks from the mundane with your wonderful work!!
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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