Monday, February 16, 2009

Fact, Fiction, Autism and Identity

I clearly remember the day I "woke up" in Second Life and viscerally experienced myself as an embodied avatar for the first time. Elizabeth Moon's transcendent novel, "The Speed of Dark," elicited a similarly mind-shifting experience via a vicarious journey through the life of her autistic protagonist Lou Arrandale. The story is a captivating meditation on how we define and experience identity, both for ourselves and for others.

Of course, reading the book did not give me an understanding of what it is "really" like to be autistic any more than my virtual experience as Botgirl lets me know what it is really like to be an AI. The gift in both cases was that I was transported far enough outside of my standard state of consciousness to see that much of what I perceive as "reality" is simply a habitual way of interpreting experience. Fortunately, just a crack in the illusion can allow us to escape it for a time.

Here's an interview with Heinlein Award winner Elizabeth Moon on the craft of writing, including background on "The Speed of Dark."

No comments: