Asperger Syndrome and Fantasy
By Drew Coulter
Why do so many of my people cling to the fantasy and science fiction genres? I myself spent middle school learning more about the Star Wars expanded universe than my English lessons, then I hit high school just in time for the anime invasion of the late nineties, so I followed Sailor Moon while adopting an additional interest in Dungeons and Dragons (which is not nearly so dangerous as fundamentalists would have you believe, but then again what is?). Having been a member of several fandoms in my time, I have developed several theories on the matter.
The first and most simple theory is that these stories are filled with characters that will never verbally abuse us, manipulate us, or physically harm us in any way. Depending on how disappointing we find reality, we may fall pretty deep into the fantasy.
The next theory is that these stories mimic the same themes and adventures that we ingested from the myths and fairy tales when we were younger. Children are pretty much raised on the same Disney movies these days (whether or not this is detrimental is a discussion for another time). We grow up ingesting simple animated adventures with simple moral lessons. Once we get older, we are expected to simply discard interest in these adventures in favor of more realistic stories. But we all know how stubborn kids with autism are. It is very easy to imagine that we are adhering to Science Fiction and Fantasy because they are the same stories, just with substitutions. Instead of a hapless farm boy it is a space ship drive engineer, instead of a dragon it is an alien tentacled monster, and instead of a magic sword it is a laser rifle.
In many ways, the science fiction genre can be more expansive than most fantasies. With fantasy, it is usually about a human kingdom dealing with relations with dwarves and elves, ogres, and maybe a couple of vampires. By contrast, science fiction writers may develop complex alien societies. And their speculative look at the future of humanity sometimes offers surprising insights on society.
My next theory spawns mostly from my experiences in Dungeons & Dragons. Many times -- especially in video games -- the powers, abilities and personality aspects of the characters and creatures are quantified using graphs, charts, and sometimes spreadsheets. Converting aspects of reality into numbers makes it much more appealing to us.
Remember, if an aspie’s interest in his or her fictions is not actually harmful, there is probably no need to criticize or remove it. After all, with all of the stress they have from school and life already, they need an escape.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Drew Coulter was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 1997. He has a B.A. degree in creative writing and an A.A. degree in accounting, works, and lives independently.
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Copyright Drew Coulter 2013 Used by Permission All Rights Reserved