(Part of the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane.)
And I’ve been pleasantly surprised but I’m still conflicted about parts of it. I’m holding out to see what happens at the end.
We’ve got some great Latest Modern Theory stuff, that I’m fairly sure was part of the “New Millenium Edition” update, and is about as good as any description from the outside could be:
“I seem to remember that there’s a theory about some autistics having trouble with interactions, not because they’re out of contact with what’s going on around them, but because they’re too much in contact, because it’s too intense to take. And structure’s really important to them then… the structures they’ve built up over time to deal with the pressure. If theirs has been violated by recent events, communication might be tougher than usual. There might be a lot of ways the communication could look that you wouldn’t necessarily be expecting, so you’d need to be willing to dump your preconceptions about that.”
“There are so many different ways that autism affects people: it’s a spectrum, after all. I wonder if a lot of the trouble with helping them is caused by trying to pigeonhole them into narrow categories to make it easier. When there are probably as many kinds of autism as there are autistics.”
“Why’s he been stuck in the middle of an Ordeal, on top of everything else that’s going on with him?”
Tom shook his head. “If he’s been offered wizardry, that means that there’s some problem to which he is the solution… so fairness doesn’t come into it. In whatever form was right for him, the Wizard’s Oath found its way to him, and he understood and accepted it. Our only business now is to find out how we can assist… without interfering with the basic challenge.”
But I just can’t get over the darn sad clown– which is an aspect, or a manifestation, of the autistic character, although the POV character here doesn’t know it yet:
“She kept coming back to the clowns. To Nita, there was a fake quality about them, nothing genuinely humorous. It was strange to think that someone seriously thought that makeup could make you funny. But there was no question in Nita’s mind that makeup could make you scary. The stylized clown face, too generic, too cartoony: that really bothered her. So did the baggy, motley costume, disguising the real body shape so that it could have been a bare steel skeleton underneath instead of flesh and bone. And the slapstick jokes, endlessly repeated but supposedly amusing because of the repetition—all these left Nita cold. There was something mechanical about clowns, something automatic, a kind of robot humor; and it gave her the creeps.
It was doing so again, right now. Because here in the darkness, followed around by one of those sinister spotlights, was a typical clown act—the clown riding around and around on a ridiculously small bicycle, in ever-decreasing circles. There was nothing funny about it to Nita. It was pitiful. Around and around and around, in jerky, wobbling movements, around and around went the clown. It had a painted black tear running down its face. The red-painted mouth was turned down. But the face under the white greasepaint mask was as immobile as a marble statue’s, expressionless, plastered in place. Only the eyes were alive. They shouted, I can’t make it stop! I can’t make it stop! And, just this once, the clown didn’t think it was funny, either.”
I’m holding out for the ending to be different from (what I remember of) the original.
Why does this bother me?
The uncanny valley is not MY problem. It’s not a part of me.
The concept of the “uncanny valley”.
As explained by Wikipedia here.
As explained by TvTropes here.
This is what Nita is feeling in that last quote up there.
You’ll notice that the Wikipedia article sort of mentions in passing that people with disabilities can fall into the “uncanny valley”– they include prosthetic limbs as an example of a not-quite-human thing, and they label the peak of their graph “healthy person” not just “person”. But they don’t actually address the idea that “uncanny valley”- type reactions are part of prejudice against disabled people.
Well, it’s pretty clear to me that they are.
The uncanny valley effect is not a problem with the things and people that are perceived as creepy because of it. It’s a problem with the perceptions of the people around them.