Science in the Fiction: Autism, Neurodivergence, and Idioglossias
No, my characters are not explicitly Autistic. Yes, they are implicitly based on how some of us (myself included) experience autism, the intense world theory, and findings related to the associative nature of autistic intelligence (yes, I know “intelligence” is a troubling concept, but I’m not getting into it here). I invented K-syndrome, to be transparent, because I didn’t want to get into discussions about what autism is or isn’t, or how what I’ve written is not like so-and-so’s experience of autism–and anyway, this is speculative fiction, which means that I get to make stuff up to be convenient to the business of storytelling. In this case, that business was two-fold: 1) from a technological perspective, to meet the needs of the quantum brain computers used by the characters; 2) from a thematic perspective, as a device to explore real-world issues around disability and disability rights.
My characters are explicitly neurodivergent. A genetic difference causes them to perceive and interact with the world and themselves in a way that is not like how most people do. Autism is one of may kinds of neurodiversity. Medically-oriented people classify that diversity into diagnostic bins: autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, attention deficit disorder, learning disability, etc. There are strong arguments for the value of diverse minds in society–just like there are for the value of diverse critters in ecosystems.
From a technological perspective, the neurodivergent connection to the quantum brain computers lies how the characters process language, and their highly associative thinking. At the heart of the characters’ language “impairment” is an idioglossia – a language known to only one’s self. This is both what enables them to create strong encryption in quantum systems, and isolates them, even among their own kind. With respect to associative thought, wrangling complex mathematical structures requires a good deal of nonlinear, pattern-type thinking.
From a thematic perspective, just as in our world, there is a tension between the benefits of neurodivergent minds–“autistic super-powers,” perhaps–and the decency to value people simply as human beings, without need for them to have “powers” or some other thing that mainstream society values more than person-ness. There is a tension between the brilliance and wonder of our experience of the world, and our frustration as we butt up against the limitations of both functional impairment and a society and culture hostile to what we need to survive. And there is a tension between acknowledging what we do better than typical thinkers, and typical thinkers exploiting that–exploiting us–for their own gain. These tensions and oppressions are not fiction.
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