“Aliens” Speaking Out: Science Fiction by Autistic Authors

Anna Kurowicka


This article discusses depiction of autism in science fiction based on three recent American novels written by autistic authors: Ada Hoffman’s The Outside (2019), Kaia Sønderby’s Failure to Communicate (2017), and Selene dePackh’s Troubleshooting (2018). The novels are discussed in the context of debates about diversity in science fiction, depiction of disability in the genre, and disability and autism studies, particularly in reference to concepts such as authorship, self-expression, and rationality. This is followed by an in-depth analysis of the use of utopian and dystopian impulses in science fiction and tropes such as first contact as well as the specificity of autistic perspectives, particularly in Hoffman’s The Outside. The texts propose visions of futures that include disability, specifically autism, and use the narratives of alien encounters to reflect on potential benefits of neurodivergent forms of communication and perception of the world. The article argues that the novels employ science fiction tropes to engage ideas about neurodiversity and cross-cultural communication, contributing both to inclusion of marginalized communities in science fiction and to an expansion of the genre’s repertoire of cultural representations of disability.

* This article is a result of a research project entitled Representation of Autism in Science Fiction [Wizerunek autyzmu w science fiction] carried out at UMCS and funded by State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled People (PFRON). Project no. BEA/000042/BF/D.

Słowa kluczowe: science fiction, autism, disability, neurodiversity, diversity in science fiction, Ada Hoffman, The Outside, Kaia Sønderby, Failure to Communicate, Selene dePackh, Troubleshooting

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