Recognize Fascism, edited by Crystal M. Huff

Book Cover for The Death of All Things

The Death of All Things, edited by Laura Anne Gilman and Kat Richardson


Climbing Lightly Through Forests: A Poetry Anthology Honoring Ursula K. Le Guin, edited by R. B. Lemberg and Lisa M. Bradley

Passion and Disturbing the Universe

Autism is an experiment in passion.

(I don’t know which blog to put this on, heh. Let’s go with the writerblog, because I’m going to be talking about writing and fandom and stuff, but I started it on the religionblog.)

Long ago, in another lifetime, I got into a conversation on rec.arts.sf.fandom where, if I recall correctly, I argued that The Fannish Spirit was one that encouraged a more enthusiastic engagement with the material than was considered socially acceptable, more or less. I was at the time frustrated with a world that considered overt passion déclassé, that expected particular roles, particular fitting in, and I was at an age where I was hitting the expectation that I would give up “childish” things – my games, my roleplaying, my storytelling – in order to do something Practical. Or something.

I was not at all sure where I fit into that world, that model of “adult”, that considered passion unimportant, even tacky. (And these days, I see the people looking at the nihilistic lulz culture, the ‘caring about anything is Uncool, if our “ironic bigotry” upsets you that shows you’re weak’, wondering where it came from, and think back to where I was at the turn of the century, looking as a young adult for some reassurance that it was actually okay to care about things.)

I see so much saying that passion is untrustworthy, that logic and reason must rule. (But go into that dark bar and have a beer with Dionysos every so often, as Le Guin said, and there is a reason that I have long cherished that particular piece of that particular introduction.) Investment of myself is something that – at least for the right thing, the right moment, comes so easily for me.

But the things where it comes easily are not the things that the world outside respects. The bubble in which it’s okay to, for example, spend two weeks delving into gaining a superficial but details understanding of the history of the social crucible that gave birth to fandom, the modern pagan movement, the modern environmentalist movement, fascism, and fundamentalism (among many other siblings, half-siblings, and cousins) is not a large one, and it’s constantly threatened by this sense that if I must be so tacky as to have passion, I should monetize it, I should turn it into capital. If I want to return to college, I’m told I need an excuse that will bring in sufficient money to make it worthwhile (and with the cost of college being as it is right now, I can’t really argue with that; I can only hope that the ‘free state college for all’ movement has won some victories by the time the kids are old enough for me to imagine trying), and the masters’ I would love to pursue is wholly impractical and thus “But, why?”

Passion isn’t a good enough reason for anything, you see.

But back to autism is an experiment in passion.

I was talking, recently, about how my development is in many ways a steady sequence of finding things to fall in love with, and the way that shapes my stories, the things I tell, because my longest, truest passion has been the writing, the storytelling, the sense of falling in love with a piece of the world and trying to express that to someone else. And each story comes with little bits of other passions – delving into ecological architecture for a solarpunk city, or the class history of the temperance movement in the late Victorian era, or other things. And the more of these passions I pursue, the richer things are, because I can’t write fantasy steampunk like Cracked Pots without an awareness of the crazed mystical uprising in the same time period as gears-and-steam nostalgia, and I can’t chew on temperance ladies without poking at the class dynamics I was investigating when digging in a bit of history thirty years later when I was loving on Captain America.

Everything that I do uniquely, everything I do that is most of myself, is driven by this sense of falling in love with a moment, with an idea, and asking it to dance with me. And all of that is driven by that particularly, peculiarly autistic passion, that thing that gets called “special interests” by people who want to tut-tut over it all, but damn if I don’t write good nineteenth century mystical bafflegab social justice aesthetic pastiche.

Because of that intersection of passions.

There have been times I’ve wondered if what I do, what I care about, can be truly worthwhile, and at root that’s likely because I don’t have a passion for capitalism. I have passions for creation and knowledge and I write because I don’t know how not to and the stories happen and people keep telling me that “Delayed Exchange Deferred” in The Death of All Things made them cry and that’s a thing that matters in the world. (And that was a story I was passionate about, that needed to be told.)

But it’s been a long time since I was secure in the idea that passion was okay. That it was enough on its own, a justification of its own thing. I think back to those conversations in rasseff, and other things, and having this breakthrough that the art that I do, the art that I care about, the art that can only happen because of me, that I love, that I invest in… that’s something that genuinely matters in the world.

There will be time, as the poet did say, to murder and create.

And the time to dare to disturb the universe can only be now.

So I write.

Autism is an experiment in passion and this is the monomania that has animated me since I was a child, upon which all other passions depend, and which all other passions feed. I need not despair when I read someone’s perfect words, the ones that make me come alive, the stories that I hungered for without knowing I hungered for that, right there, because I can trust that that which I conceive in passion may feed some other spirit, somewhere down the line. I know that I can do that, because I have done it.

And so I will do it again.

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