Review: Colin Fischer

I’ve been planning on starting this since the dawn of the blog and here I finally am. This is the first in a series of entries examining books and movies dealing with autism. My hope is to get one entry up a month as I explore art relating to the subject matter. I kick things off with a book that seemed to have a lot going for it. Did it meet its promise?

Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz

Plot: a teenager with Asperger’s inserts himself into an investigation to clear his bully’s name after a shooting. 

Analysis: Colin Fischer is a good book that never reaches great. It’s a definite page turner and I was always interested but I felt a bit frustrated thinking back on it. It’s a case where the genre and the subject matter simply aren’t compatible resulting in an atonal read. 

First the good. This is pretty much steeped in autism on every page. Either in actual discussion, and the book gets major points for actually using terms instead of being weaselly in order to create its own version, or Colin’s behavior. Colin is also an exceedingly accurate portrait of an autistic teen. He’s a shade more severe than I was but he’s recognizable to a fault. Teens who find this book are going get a strong dose of what it is to be autistic. 

Colin himself is also a sharply etched character in his own right. At times he’s a bit of a cliche. He’s an arrogant autistic with a mystery fixation. But this is a cliche that’s well executed so I let the book have it. He’s given a rich inner life at least. 

I also felt like Colin lived in a clear world. I could buy that the writers had thought every element of this story out. Colin clearly lived in a defined universe and I dug that. That’s all too rare. The supporting characters were fairly engaging. 

The problem the book hits is a real roadblock. The mystery is almost a complete afterthought. It’s not a very mysterious mystery largely because I didn’t think the book was all that interested in it. There’s a few token clues and it goes through the motions but it’s not at all satisfying. 

I also could clearly see this wasn’t written as a novel originally. This is a transparent pilot reworked into a book. As a result it never feels like a complete read much less a book. Adjectives are barely there. A real loss. 

And that’s why I’m frustrated. This is ALMOST there as a book. As a depiction of autism it’s incredible. But it’s not satisfying on the basic level. In spite of that, I do recommend the book. It’s worth reading for the depiction. But the balance must be struck. 

The Domino Effect: Where Am I 12/19

So, it’s been a very, very long month and I feel like a post is due on what’s going on as well as a bit of housekeeping.

First off, Diary of an Autistic Father is going to a monthly rather than weekly schedule. There has been a slip and that’s in no small part because I’m repeating myself. So as of 1/8, it’s going monthly so I can give you better entries. I also have a bit less time right now as Lola is teething and napping less.

As for where I am? I’ve had a rough month. I’ll be blunt: The election took it out of me. I’ve had nightmares about it and an intense level of frustration. I’m worried and I feel powerless because I am. I’ve never had world events affect me as badly as this is impacting me, likely because I’m triggered by flashbacks to seeing people who hurt others get away with it.

This has left me anxious. When you’re anxious because of something you can’t control, you try to control what you can in your life. I’ve rarely been quite as fixated on money as I have been of late. I’ve had those moments where I was obsessed with numbers in my head. I’ve tried to be on top of everything. I can’t be.

I’ve also been exhausted. When you’re anxious you don’t sleep well so you perpetually need sleep but don’t get it. Instead you lurch around. Caffeine consumption has been up big time.

Since I’m exhausted, outside of my job and caring for Lola, I’ve been frustratingly unproductive. I haven’t blogged like I’d like. I haven’t watched nearly as many movies as I’ve wanted to since I haven’t had the attention span. I started a script which is in a solid place to continue but again, no will. I haven’t even had the energy to watch a few of the DTV movies I like which are barely over an hour.

So what have I been up to? A lot of playing with Lola of course. I’ve spent most of my time before work caring for my daughter. I’ve been reading too and I may yet get a piece or two up on the tie-ins I’ve read. I’ve been playing a lot with Google Street View VR. That’s exciting.

I’m trying to deal with me. I don’t know how that’s going to go but I stress: I’m trying. We’ll see where I wind up.

A List of Things Autistic People Are Tired of Saying

Another day. Another lousy article making the rounds. This one uses autistic as a term to connote cold and emotionless. Woohoo! That stereotype lives on. I would write about it except I already have. And that’s the thing. A lot of these silly concepts are ones I’m tired of addressing. So I’m doing us all a favor. This is a checklist of things we never want to discuss ever again. 

  1. We are emotional. In fact having to explain this makes us angry. 
  2. We are not unempathetic. But telling us repeatedly that we’re unable to feel empathy suggests you might be.
  3. We are perfectly capable of happy lives. 
  4. We do not all have amazing superpowers. Seriously quit using Sherlock Holmes to represent us.
  5. Yes, we have special interests you don’t get. So what? Don’t you? 
  6. We are not incapable of love. The movies lie to you.
  7. We know all about Sheldon Cooper. Keep talking and we’ll quit being nice about him. 
  8. Our skills are just as varied as yours are. Many of us are incapable of success in STEM fields. 
  9. We do not need to just adapt to the outside world. What harm does it do you to let us be us? It’s traumatic to do otherwise. 
  10. Vaccines don’t cause autism. 
  11. Seriously, we are not incapable of emotion.
  12. We can hear everything you say about us. We are literate by and large.
  13. Stop listening to non autistic people as authorities about us. We are trying to explain our lives clearly. You aren’t listening!
  14. Autistic as an insult is an insult to us. Quit.
  15. We don’t all have OCD. I do but not all of us do. Stop assuming they’re the same. 

This is just a quick list. I’ll gladly add more as the topics are suggested. 

Diary of an Autistic Father: 6 months in

6 months ago…

I was tired. I had no sleep the night before. I was cranky. I was frustrated. We kept waiting all day for things to happen and they wouldn’t. Then they finally did. And she was here. 

Today marks 6 months since Lola Faye Shinn entered my life. It’s been a full half a year. What a wild thought. She’s gone from a seed to a rising person. She’s officially here to stay. 

It’s been a rather epic 6 months honestly. I’ve had a lot to learn very fast. Lola keeps me on my toes in that way. Being a dad truly is a learn as you go job. 

I do feel undeniably that I’m stronger as a person for having learned these things. I’ve been forced to grow up to a certain degree and I cherish that. I’m a better man for it. Things that I cared so much about I care less about now. 

But some of my issues are still in place. I’m going to worry about money until I die. I’m going to worry about Amanda until I die. I’ll now worry about Lola the same way. 

What I’ve learned in this time is what I can do to achieve victory. Not much. I can take my pills. I can repeat mantras. But it’s just enough. 

Because being a father is a powerful thing. It forces you to have a new top priority. Your worries are bad but you have a child so she’s first. Lola will always dominate for me no matter what.

She rewards me by being the simplest joy in my life. She’s a pure, innocent soul I can be with. All she does gives me life. She surprises me. She amazes me. 

What amazes me the most is watching her grow. Every day she does more than the day before. She’s livelier. She crawls. Her noises sound like speech. My baby girl is coming alive. And I can’t wait to see it. 

In the weeks to come she has her first Christmas. After that, who knows. But in 6 months I’ll be back here. For now I’ll enjoy being here. 

Thoughts From a Parking Lot in Humble, Texas

It’s hot.

I don’t really know that. I’m just discerning it from the context. It’s very hot though. The heat is drifting off the pavement and I can feel it. I can sense it.

I’m standing in a parking lot in Humble, TX. About a block away was my occupational therapist. This center was a favorite of mine. I used to love being here. I haven’t been here since 1993 but I’m back.

I look around. Almost nothing is the same as it was. Off the top of my head I can see the arcade I used to love is gone. There was a book store next door but it’s long gone. Perhaps the most crushing blow is the movie theater I remember wanting to go to but never reaching. It’s a thrift store now.

There is a dinging in the background. I try to ignore it. It’s a distraction.

Reaching down, I take a long drink of my hard lemonade. It’s smooth, tasty, and cold. It helps me to focus on this moment. I’m trying to enjoy being here after all. Drinking alcohol might not be the ideal way to set your mind for a return to a childhood haunt but it’s what I choose to do.

As I look around, I think about what I’ve seen on this journey. I’ve seen my old house. I’ve seen my old movie theaters of choice. I’ve been to the beach. And I’ve got a few major stops yet to go on this journey.┬áSome of these places are as I remember. Most are nothing like it.

A rattling distracts me in the background. I take another sip and focus.

For some reason, this plot of land bothers me far more than the others. Maybe it’s because it was never truly mine. I had a few years here including one moment so important it opened my book. But I wasn’t really connected to this center. I wanted to be. I’ve dreamt of it. But it was out of my reach.

That’s how my past feels to me now. It was something I had and don’t have anymore. I can recall images of it but it’s not real necessarily. Not without evidence. As I look around, I’m bereft of that evidence. That haunts me.

But then, is what I’m looking at necessarily real? I mean, to my eyes, I’m standing in the middle of Humble, Texas. Everywhere I look, I see that area. I can tell by context clues such as the way people are dressed that it’s July. It’s the middle of the afternoon based on the sun, a partly cloudy afternoon. I’m clearly outdoors.

And not one bit of this is true for where I actually am.

In fact, I’m indoors at 12:15 am on a cloudy, cold December night in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m not looking at what’s really in front of me. I’m looking at a Google street view capture on my phone which has been strapped into a cheap VR headset.

That’s just it. This isn’t real. It’s based on a real place using real images but it’s not a real experience. In fact it’s not even an accurate experience. The software sent me to the wrong part of the center, sending me past the movie theater, which is still open and doing fine apparently. ┬áThe only part that is indeed real is the delicious, cheap hard lemonade I’m drinking.

This is how memory works. We use images to craft a sense of reality. We trust them to be true but in the end, unless we’re actually there we can’t know they’re accurate and indeed they’re often not. They’re lies we trust. But like the virtual experience I’m having in this moment, they’re still real in their own way. I am indeed going through this.

I take a long last sip and ponder this oddity. I continue to soak up the details. Then I lift my headset up and look around at the real place I’m at.

Diary of an Autistic Father: Weeks 24/25

I had to skip last week’s entry out of sheer fatigue. It’s been a long month but thankfully November is over and I survived it. It was tricky but it was achieved. 

Lola had her first Thanksgiving and it went superbly. She had a few pieces of bread, and by pieces I really mean oversized crumbs. But she’s eating more and more real food. She’s fattening as a result. It’s adorable. 

She’s now fully online. She’s expressive as can be. It’s a joy to see her react to everything and I do mean everything. Her eyes bounce around catching every stimuli. I’m jealous of her awe really. 

There’s a clear sense of a bond these last few weeks too. More than before even. Lola lights up when she sees Amanda. There’s this energy to her face I just love. I wish I could bottle it. 

Lola has been vital to my self care. When I get overwhelmed, I play with her. Rubbing her baby head helps so much. Watching her reminds me that for all the hate, there’s good too. 

I love this job. I can’t wait to see what happens next in it.