Let me start by saying that I love John Scalzi. Really. I do. I swear. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have gone to his signing/reading up in Houston when “Lock In” came out. I was totally enthralled by his reading of the part of the “book” that wound up not being in the book.
Then I read “Lock In.” Well, I tried to read it, anyway.
I stopped about 100 pages in. Because, regardless of his intent, what I got from it was autism and Asperger’s.
The threep suit that the main character (male or female – you take your pick, but I’m using “he” for short-hand in this blog posting) wore made him seem like he had Asperger’s.
The sensory stuff that he dealt with, the super-memory, being locked in his own head…like kids with autism who can’t communicate.
I was okay with it, and I kept reading because I kept thinking maybe I was reading too much into it. Maybe I was the one who just put autism into everything because I think about it so often.
Then it was time for the scene at the dinner table of the fund-raiser of the main character’s father. And there was an argument because many people at the table felt that the locked in people should try to be more “human” (even in their threeps), while others argued that it was the individual’s right to choose how they interacted with the world.
And I had to stop.
There is such an argument right now about how much people should accept. Should people on the spectrum be forced to be “normal”? So many people force their children to go through ABA and learn to behave like all the neurotypical people. No stimming (which, as you can read about, is often extremely detrimental to stop for many people on the spectrum).
I also remember, from oh so many years ago, an article that I believe was in the New York Times about a woman who was happy with her son, she kept saying that in the piece, but then when he was 8, he wanted to be Mickey Mouse for Halloween. And, clearly, that was unacceptable, and so she had to “fix” him to get him to be more like his peers. I wanted to slap her for forcing him into a role he didn’t want to be in. Why should he change – just to make her happy? To make society happy? The kid was happy. What difference did it make if he loved Mickey? There are plenty of adults who do, too!
It goes further than that, of course. I could write about this for pages and pages.
But I’ll just stop with this: imagine being truly locked in. Imagine not being able to communicate your wants and needs. And imagine that, like in the book, the government cut funding to things that would help you to communicate.
And now you know why I couldn’t keep reading. The reality is there. The thought of the insurance not covering things that might help Simon is a reality I don’t want to consider, even though I know that’s probably where the world is going.
But rather than end with that achingly painful thought, let’s think about something else. What if we looked at the behaviors of autism differently? What if we considered the good and the bad, and we helped those on the spectrum be happy instead of making us happy?