I Have a Hero

Yes, folks, I’m playing the long game with a book about empathy with autistic people. And it’s framed as a murder mystery. Go me.

I Have a Hero

Continuing with my weekly PLN to write shit about Murder Dollhouse until it generates buzz, this entry is yatting on about my main character and the delicate balance I’m holding therein.

Now, the thing with my book is, the character I care about the most probably won’t get any POV until at least a third of the way into the book, when they hybrid (pro/an)tagonist finally reaches a state of empathy with her, because that’s what the book’s actually about.

Yes, folks, I’m playing the long game with a book about empathy with autistic people. And it’s framed as a murder mystery. Go me.

The actual focus of the book is an autistic woman of colour who may or may not be queer. I’m still making up my mind about that. Her temporary name is ROSEMARY. Like I said in an earlier blog, there’s lots of things up in the air. But let’s call her Rosemary for now.

Now, since television is overloaded with paler-skinned ladies in the Paper Bag Brown realm of colour, I already decided that Rosemary is going to be a lovely dark-skinned lady. Anyone complaining now about lens apertures should invest in inventing a new gorram lens. It’s about firkin time something was done about that. [End systemic racism in Hollywood, yada yada yada]

Since I don’t have a concrete idea of where I’m setting this, I’m debating about other angles of Rosemary’s heritage. Like – I want her to have some First Nation’s ancestry, but there’s that whole “too many labels” argument. Even though there are queer, mixed-race, dark-skin, autistic ladies out there, you can’t sell that to anyone unless you are already a Name in the business and possess solid titanium cojones the size and weight of medicine balls.

Making her the keystone of a murder mystery with potential for a series might be too much for the narrow, whitewashing minds of the mainstream to comprehend. The poor little dears might just explode.

could pull a J. K. and just not mention it, leaving such details for later novels in the series [I so want this to be a series. Later books will be more about the murders and still include accomodation for the disabled] but I also don’t want to pull a J. K. and not do a damn thing about that sort of nonsense later on. So peppering the narrative with little hints that the oblivious would miss and those in the know would spot in a cold second seems to be the way to go.

Which means absolute loads of research so I can pepper them properly.

Of course, I’m willing to listen to anyone in my audience who knows their shit about this particular area. I can do the autistic stuff without much bother. I freaking live there. The POC stuff is where my blind spot is. Sure, I follow a lot of POC online and I’m getting the idea of where they are, but true immersion requires going a little deeper.

And I am very willing to listen.

On the ASD side of the coin, I know that girls have a harder time of gaining a diagnosis, and the earliest I can find evidence for said realisation is papers in 2012. Which means, if I’m being charitable with this, the earliest I can go with an official diagnosis for Rosemary is 2010. Because papers come out some years after people on the workforce actually realise that the thing is a thing.

I could go on for years about how ASD was long assumed to be a male-only disorder, and how so many ladies were betrayed by sexism, assumptions, and people just not listening to women. But there’s loads of stuff on that already. Definitely worth a google.

Like most ASD girls, Rosemary was misdiagnosed and, because she didn’t follow standardised tests very well, got shunted into a special school. There, boredom made her prone to misbehaviour or just going off to do her own thing.

Fortunately, people who work in special schools know all about asking the wrong questions. One staff-member who’s cannier than the others recognises some tells and does some smarter tests. Even then, the diagnosis is not official for some years because modern medicine has to catch up with the truth.

Through all this, Rosemary is working on model houses. She has an eye for detail, and an osmotic knowledge of crime and emergency medicine. Because her father’s a Detective with the police and her mother’s an emergency room medical technician.

Her father has been trying to get Rosemary to “be normal” and attempting to spoil her with toys, but the breakthrough is when she gets into his cold case, and makes a model of the scene. Rosemary’s mother saw the victim and remembers the wound patterns. Which don’t match the clothing that was found on them.

Rosemary’s the one who catches this. She’s twelve at the time.

This is where the specific genius of ASD can come to the fore. Intense focus and laser-guided expertise in very specific areas can be helpful if you’re willing to listen to an infodump.

Rosemary is twenty-something when my book starts. This is all backstory that will be explored in later chapters.

Tropes I will definitely be destroying are:

  • Broken black home: Rosemary’s parents are still married, and still goopy in love. Much to the embarrassment of their adult kids.
  • Hyper-sexualisation of black women: Rosemary doesn’t dress up unless she has to. Even then, it’s full formal stuff. Less cleavage, less tight-to-the-curves. More frilly, flowery, and floaty stuff. Because sense issues.
  • Neutering of disabled people: Rosemary -officially mentally disabled- has a significant other and a loving relationship. Nevertheless, what they do together is not for the voyeurs.
  • Criminal elements: Rosemary’s older brother may have been an asshole when he was younger, but now he’s a genuine good guy who works at something meritorious and definitely not corrupt in any way. Same with any other family members I may introduce.
  • The entire ‘Burden’ narrative: Nypical families who listen to Autism $peaks’ bullshit will get the concept that an autistic child is little but a burden on their families. Of course this is bullshit. The only burden is learning how to interact with and relate to the autistic kid in question. [I will stop now before I get into another rant]
  • Only White Asshole Men Are Crime-Solving Autistics: Yeah, this one is dying in a fire. I’m sick of seeing it. I’m sick of it being the only representation that Autistes get for an ASD hero. I’m really sick of ASD folk being nothing but assholes, and getting away with it. The only white male asshole in this thing will be the one going on a journey to learn how to not be an asshole. It’s not like it’s hard.

These are the hills I’m fighting on. These are the things that I’m setting in stone. I don’t care how ‘interesting’ it might be to have a cousin in the city gangs or to do a story where they rescue a younger relative from joining them. Just. No. POC get enough of that shit from the regular procedural drama. I’m not touching that noise.

Do you have any pet peeves vis-a-vis POC, Autistic, or queer representation in the media?