AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Elizabeth R McClellan

"So many people's view of autistic people comes from listening to neurotypical parents of neuroatypical children who see autism as a scourge to be fought instead of just another way to be a person."

Elizabeth R.McClellan is a domestic violence attorney by day and a poet in the margins. They are a 2021 Rhysling Award Nominee whose work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Dreams & Nightmares, Illumen Magazine, Rejection Letters, Utopia Science Fiction, the Wondrous Real and many others. They are a disabled gender/queer demisexual poet writing on unceded Quapaw and Chikashsha Yaki land. They prefer to be found on Twitter @popelizbet  or on Patreon at ermcclellan.

Tell me about a recent work you released - a short story, a poem, a book, a game. What one work of yours do you hope readers will go out and read today? What's it about?

The recent work I'm most proud of is my poem "Note of Thanks to Stanislav Petrov for Fairytale Birds," in the most recent issue of Utopia Science Fiction, available at https://www.utopiasciencefiction.com/thanks-to-stanislav-petrov . Some poems come from prompts, some come from an internal urgency: this is one of urgency. I want the world to know and honor Stanislav Petrov for all the things we have for his singular choice. This poem is a small piece of my secret heart and I want to share it with everyone.

When you were learning to write, did you have non-neurotypical authors to look up to? Are there non-neurotypical authors you look up to now? Tell me about them, or if the answer to both is "no," tell me about someone else you look up to.

When I was learning to write "neuroatypical" wasn't a word anyone knew. There wasn't a name for the ways I was strange, and so I embraced strangeness and otherness as themes I've been tinkering with for decades. Now there are so many autistic authors being their glorious selves online and IRL from Chuck Tingle telling us that love is real to Nicole Cliffe dispensing life advice (and an upcoming horror novel!) to R.B. Lemberg weaving Birdverse with so much love, most recently in THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES. Social media can be such a pit of toxic sludge but it has let me connect to and observe such a wide variety of neuroatypical creatives of all types sharing their art and their techniques. I love this for younger people who will grow up knowing who they are and seeing themselves as people in fantastical adventures.

What is most difficult for you about writing?

I am trying (again) to write a novel, and I find it so daunting. I can write a five page poem with a textured backstory and footnotes in a day, but telling more of a story than I can tell in a poem sometimes gets me irretrievably stuck in a plot hole. I'm trying to finish my draft in April so we'll see if I can get out of the pit I dug for myself in the first 50k words. 

What one thing do you wish more speculative fiction readers knew about autism?

So many people's view of autistic people comes from listening to neurotypical parents of neuroatypical children who see autism as a scourge to be fought instead of just another way to be a person. I wish spec fic readers thought of autistic people as people, whole people with whole lives, instead of stereotypes who don't deserve to be centered or understood or have self determination. It's unfortunate, but the eugenics that was so commonly accepted in the "Golden Age" of SF hasn't really gone away, just put on more acceptable dress. I think speculative fiction can be part of that solution.

What's the biggest thing about the publishing industry that you wish would change?

"Just One" syndrome. There's room for many people of many marginalizations in publishing, but we hear again and again that doors slam in the faces of marginalized writers because "we already have one" Black/disabled/queer book or author, when there's room for so many and would be so much more room if they'd stop giving six figure advances to trash like American Dirt that only harms marginalized people while enriching the privileged.