Autistic Reader Interview: Jennifer R. Povey
"Some of us are assholes, but it's not because we're autistic. Just saying."
Born in Nottingham, England, Jennifer R. Povey (she/her) now lives in Northern Virginia, where she writes everything from heroic fantasy to stories for Analog. She has written a number of novels across multiple sub genres. She is a full member of SFWA. Her interests include horseback riding, Doctor Who and attempting to out-weird her various friends and professional colleagues.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Is there anything you've written or made recently that you'd like other readers to know about? Other than what's in your bio, is there anything about your connection to autism, books, and reading that you'd like to share?
I have a horror story about autism masking that will be coming out some time this year (likely late in the year) from F&SF. My most recent short story was actually an alternate history published in the Flame Tree Publishing Alternate History Anthology in March.
My debut novel, Transpecial, has an autistic protagonist.
What are you reading right now? What are you looking forward to reading soon?
Right now, I'm reading Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree, which is about an orc who retires from adventuring to set up a coffee shop. It's weird anachronistic D&D stuff that I kind of wish I liked better.
I'm actually working through Nebula nominations, not all of which I've read, and I think I'm most looking forward to "A Prayer for the Crown-Shy," which is the second Monk & Robot novella from Becky Chambers. After that I need to get back to my reread of the entire Foreigner series. Which is basically the science fiction Wheel of Time.
What are some of your favorite works of fiction? What makes them your favorites?
Thank you for sayiing some of!
I'm fond of C.J. Cherryh's Cyteen, which puts you so deep into a civilization we would consider immoral you start thinking about the things *we* don't notice are immoral. Cherryh writes science fiction that uses sociology as the science. Her protege Arkady Martine is also quite excellent.
Michael Swanwick's undeservedly obscure The Iron Dragon's Daughter (and sequels) warrants a mention too. It's a very different and kind of steampunkesque view of fairyland with some fascinating characters.
I also just finished Nona the Ninth, book three of the Locked Tomb. I'm quite fond of this series, but oddly find Book Two (Harrow the Ninth) the most compelling of the three.
I could go on all day, though. Saving the last one that comes to mind for the next question.
What are some of the characters in fiction that you find most relatable? Some autistic readers love autistic representation, and others prefer aliens, robots, or characters who they relate to in a subtler way; do you notice any patterns in the kinds of characters that resonate for you?
Murderbot! It should be insulting to be represented by a robot, but what an amazing robot. The special interest, the way she pretends she doesn't like anyone...it's so easy to pretend that when you're autistic (I'm hyperempathic). I love Murderbot. Read that series.
I tend to lean towards the more subtle representation because so much autistic representation is bad. I found Big Bang Theory to be unwatchable, for example.
Elizabeth Moon's subversion of the cure narrative in The Speed of Dark is an interesting one, though.
Are there any tropes you really, especially love?
Tropes I love?
In romance tropes, fake dating, what I call "Screw it, polyamory" and subversions of love triangles where the ending is not "Bland girl chooses between bland YA boyfriends." An example of something I'm there for is Xiran Jay Zhao's brilliant Iron Widow.
In non-romance, I'm fond of redemption arcs of all kinds, found family, interspecies friendship, and any and all in jokes.
Are there any tropes you really, especially hate?
Classic love triangles.
"Stockhom Syndrome Romance" - he kidnaps her, she falls in love with him. Please stop.
It was all a dream. I will throw your book across the room and never buy anything from you again if you pull this or the variants of "The protagonist hallucinated the entire thing in the lunatic asylum" or "It was all a virtual reality simulation." I won't name and shame the author who combined those two variants, but I won't trust them again.
Have you ever had a special interest in a fiction series or genre of fiction? What makes a work of fiction special-interest-worthy for you - or do the interests seem to descend at random?
Doctor Who *eyes the stack of screwdrivers*. I think it's just that I was introduced to it so young and it hit everything I needed in fiction...and still does.
What makes a book difficult for you to read? What, if anything, helps make books accessible to you?
I have comprehending hyperlexia. It's nearly impossible to make a book difficult for me to read. The one thing that I don't handle well is typed out accents. Any accents. I will throw your book across the room if you try to type out my birth dialect and get it wrong, which I have seen a couple of times...which isn't anything to do with autism, but no, you can't just do it by taking out all the h's...that's...not how it works.
Am I a pedant? About some things, yes!
Is there anything (a type of character, a type of plot, a type of setting, a type of author, an idea, a style, etc...) that you have difficulty finding in the books you read right now? What do you wish that there was more of?
Definitely more own voices autistic representation, but I also get it. I find it more interesting to write about characters who *aren't* like me. More space opera with diverse characters and by diverse authors.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
If you are writing an autistic character, in whatever media, can we have a moratorium on hand flapping for a bit? I don't hand flap. Only some of us hand flap. I spin my keys. Do some research on stims and give your autistic character a different stim from hand flapping because I'm honestly bored with it and it's become a stereotype.
And consider very carefully before having an autistic character do bad or asshole things because they're autistic. We do not lack empathy. We are not all assholes. Some of us are assholes, but it's not because we're autistic. Just saying.
This month at Everything Is True, we’re interviewing a wide variety of autistic readers with questions like these! You can find a schedule with the rest of the interviews here.
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