As many of you know, I have an interest in portrayals of queerness and disability in Canadian Speculative Fiction. I was very excited when I came across Ada Hoffman’s work and when I came across her website, which does critical readings of SF that portrays autism http://ada-hoffmann.com/autistic-book-party/ . It is great to see an author with autism writing about portrayals of autism in SF and bringing critical attention to the way disability is constructed in speculative fiction.
Check out our interview this Friday December 6th. Here are a few highlights to our interview for you to check out!
Ada Hoffmann: “We are made of the stories we tell about ourselves and the world, and the commonalities between stories form larger structures. Tropes, worldviews, cultures, archetypes. A single story might explicitly question or subvert an aspect of a worldview but with enough of these questions and subversions, a new substructure with its own rules and tropes forms.”
Ada Hoffmann: “I didn’t set out to be The Autism Lady, but when I found autism stuff that frustrated me, I blogged about it, because I was frustrated. Then I realized no one else was blogging about it this way. It was a side note in social justice discussions, if it was mentioned at all.”
Ada Hoffmann: Not every shift in thinking or questioned assumption works the same way, nor is every shift in thinking equally valuable, though to some extent the ability to question one’s thinking is always valuable.
Ada Hoffmann: “I think what frustrates me most is when an NT (neurotypical) writer produces something which is nothing like autism, or which is insulting, but NTs who don’t know any better think it is a good portrayal and therefore it gets lots of attention and praise – even in the face of actual autistic people trying to point out why there are problems.”
Ada Hoffmann: “[Short stories are] a wonderful place to learn and experiment. [They are] short to write, which means you can try all sorts of risky things without such a steep penalty for failure. You can switch settings, genres, characters, themes, or anything else about your writing whenever you want to.”
Ada Hoffmann: “Everybody who’s good at something gets impostor syndrome, but marginalized people get it worse.”
Ada Hoffmann: “If your own underrepresentation pisses you off, great! It’s worthwhile to talk about that, and to talk about what other writers are doing wrong. But don’t stop there. You are a writer yourself (if you aren’t a writer, this advice is not for you). You have the power to make books of your own, to your own specifications, so do it.”
Ada Hoffmann: “What I’m finding these days is that there are a fair number of queer characters around if you know where to look, especially in short fiction. But it’s still hard to find queer characters who turn out happy with each other the way the straight characters do, as opposed to dying, or having a crush on a straight character who dies, or getting into an abusive relationship and turning evil, etc. Which is ironic, because hope is a thing that real queer people badly need.”
Ada Hoffmann: “[In Speculative Fiction], we can imagine futures (or magical, alternate pasts and presents) in which under-represented people actually exist… Going further than this, of course, we can naturally use SF for subversive purposes. We can imagine worlds in which we overcome oppression in new ways, or in which people flourish in new ways because oppression does not exist as it does here. Or we can build worlds in dystopian and satirical modes in order to point out the workings of oppressive systems in the real world.”
Ada Hoffmann: “[SF] doesn’t all have to be overtly political. There’s nothing wrong with SF serving more individual purposes: wish-fulfilment, catharsis, escape, validation, emotional regulation, education (in many senses), or just being a heck of a lot of fun to read. In a perfect world it would serve these purposes both for the majority and for the marginalized. Which means that as well as political stories we simply need a larger amount of awesome fiction which happens to be inclusive, and which doesn’t scare all the marginalized people away through casual prejudice and erasure.”
Ada Hoffmann: “I’m not sure I even believe in a distinction between science fiction and fantasy. There’s just so much good stuff in the gray area in between. I like SF with magic-y bits and fantasy with science-y bits, and stuff like a China Miéville novel that doesn’t fit neatly into either category because it’s its own thing. I think the idea of a clear distinction between science fiction and fantasy comes from the very 20th century idea that “science” and “magic” are incompatible. Modern people think this rule is so obvious that it has to apply even in imaginary worlds.”
In our upcoming interview, Ada Hoffmann breaks down barriers and shows the ability for SF to disrupt and destabilise the barriers that we, as a society, erect around people, genres, ideas, and perspectives.