The Time Traveler’s Wife – Chicago

What is it about Chicago and oddball science fiction genetics? This month, it was Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time-Traveler’s Wife. Last month, for me, it was Richard Powers’ Generosity.

Generosity posits a bleak Chicago, full of the deep, dreary, grey wells formed by towering buildings, autumnal greyness, dysfunctional winter. When a winter storm brings the city to a halt, the joy of experiencing its midwinter glitter is abbreviated by the drudgery of dealing with iced-up reality. Mostly, however, Generosity bears its sense of place as backdrop. The city itself is not, in effect, a character in the book. Not the way the woman with the covetable genes is.

Niffenegger, on the other hand, clearly holds deep affection for Chicago, even if it is bitterly cold in the winters of the Windy City. Winter, in her Chicago, is more lethal, in its way, but leavened by parties, meetings, adventures.  Life goes on amidst the cold outside in the dark of the year and the air-conditioning of its heat.

Clare, the titular time traveler’s wife, yearns for the big metropolis from her rural upbringing across the lake in Michigan, not so far from Kalamazoo. She moves to it for art college, for the vibrancy of its art scene,  and to find her time traveler,  Henry. Together and apart, their lives unfurl in place. Drives are measured in specific, real streets and the changing of neighborhoods. As Henry observes of it,

Chicago has so much excellent architecture that they feel obliged to tear some of it down now and then and erect terrible buildings just to help us all appreciate the good stuff. (332)

Characters spend time in some of the city’s most significant destinations: the Field Museum; the Art Institute; the Lyrica Opera House; the Newberry Library. They live in recognizable neighborhoods, go to specific restaurants; I haven’t spent all that long in Chicago, but I have eaten at one of the restaurant eaten at in the book. Most, whether or not all, the others seem to be real places too, based on this map of city places from the book.

Niffenegger’s is a vibrant portrait of a lively city, a lived-in city, which I found so successful because of the way place suffused the story. Geography, in this book, is not just background, it’s landmark, the pin-points of orientation the characters, especially, but not only, the time traveler  himself, use to understand the nature of the moments in their lives. Place, time, and people are his means of orientation, which is why a briefer summary of one of his time traveling moments might comprise “I was in the Selzer Library in the dark, in 1989.” (275)

The city develops and changes with and around its characters, beginning – literally beginning – with long-standing cultural havens, the Newberry Library and the Field Museum, and moving outward:

I think about Chicago in the next century. More people, many more. Ridiculous traffic, but fewer potholes. There will be a hideous building that looks like an exploding Coke can in Grant Park; the West Side will slowly rise out of poverty and the South Side will continue to decay. They will finally tear down Wrigley Field and build an ugly megastadium, but for now it stands blazing with light in the Northeast. (332)

I suspect that anyone who grew up around South Haven, Michigan, that town across the lake near to which Clare grew up, would recognize their town too. I’ve only spent a couple of days in Chicago, but in the pages of this book, it came alive for me again, cohesively and expansively.

What was the sense of place in The Time Traveler’s Wife like for those of you who have never been to any of these locations?

May: The Time-Traveler’s Wife

It is still 2003, and will be for another month yet, with a trio of books published in that year making it onto our collective list of the best science fiction novels by women published in the last decade.

The second book of 2003 is Audrey Niffennegger’s The Time-Traveler’s Wife. Astonishingly, given how much attention it has received, I have neither read the book nor seen the movie, so this really will be a first reading of it for me.

It was Niffennegger’s first novel. Although it is now what she is best known for, she has spent most of her career as a professional artist (see, for example, some of her prints) and writes of the novel,

She originally imagined making it as a graphic novel, but eventually realized that it is very difficult to represent sudden time shifts with still images.

Sometimes, a novel really is the right medium.

Strikingly, the title was not altered (to “traveller”) for British audiences.

I will be leading the discussion of The Time-Traveler’s Wife later this month. I hope you will join me in reading and discussing it.

Natural History: Recap

April’s book, Natural History, by Justina Robson, was the third in the chronological series of best science fiction novels written by women in the previous decade which we are reading here at Torque Control over the course of 2011. Published in 2003, it is the first of three books we will be reading from that year alone – clearly a significant one. Whether it was significant because it really was a bumper year for good science fiction, or because it takes seven years to truly judge, digest, and yet still remember a book, I leave to your judgement.

In my posts on the book, I focused on the parts which interested me the most: the fascinating Forged hybrid people, created, categorized, literally enmeshed in the debate over whether or not form dictates function; the alien technology which sparks off the storyline among the Forged and Unevolved; and the impression that ultimately, for all the things I like about it, I like this book better as a thought experiment than I do as a novel per se. And I really do like and admire it in that capacity.

Thank you to all who joined in reading or re-reading this book.

Discussion: Part 1 (Cladistics); Part 2 (Space and Stuff); and Part 3 (Conceptual Resolution)
Chris Moriarty at SFness

Natural History – Conceptual Resolution

Take a new kind of humanity, the Forged, created as part machine, part animal, part human, living uneasily with Unevolved humans.

Take the Stuff, a mysterious substance capable of becoming an instantaneous interstellar drive and a strangely-uninhabited alien planet.


Natural History is, at its heart, an experiment, working out the ramifications of an alien intervention into humanity’s future developments. It features a wonderfully-wrought cast of characters in a plausibly sketched future, a couple hundred years ago. I didn’t get a strong sense of the fabric of daily life in that future so much as the power struggles over creation – quite literally encoded into the name of guy in de facto charge of shaping Earth, Machen, and the progenitor Pangensis Tupac. Robson shows us the lines of power and the lines of information, in names as well as actions.

Moments of importance are often underlined in overwrought moments of reaction:

Corvax leaped back from the consoles, straight through his virtual arrays, and landed against the wall, smacking his back so hard with the force of his own involuntary retreat that he snapped several feathers and a minor wing bone. (33)

Overreaction such as this, rather than just reaction, was little a little too frequent for my taste, especially given the general lack of emotional reaction to the immense potential of the universe theoretically opening up for humankind. That’s also why I could never quite relate to Isol, whose journey the book is structured around more than most. But those are minor objections.

What really undermined the ultimate shape of the plot arc for me was that there was no way to show the resolution; instead, it required a chapter of info-dumping. Hard-won, it is true, but nevertheless a weary unwinding in words rather than the visualized playing-out of the fate of those with Stuff. The plot-shape is discovery, a burst of experimental effort, and a steady dying away into a much more limited vision of the likely future.

And yet – this is an impressive book, more so on re-reading than reading for me. The world building was too rich for me to process the first time around. The Forged characters and the solar system which created them are the vividly-realized background of this book. Against them, an elegantly-conceptualized philosophy experiment, in effect, can be carried out; but I deeply admired the world more than I enjoyed the story qua story.

Enjoyment isn’t everything though. Since finishing Natural History, I keep finding ways to relate it to other books. To tell you what they are would be to more clearly spell out exactly how the book ends; suffice to say, Natural History does a more compelling job of realizing the possible consequences of that kind of communication system than most which are even vaguely similar.

Natural History – Space and Stuff

If I could instantly teleport through space, secure in the knowledge that I could safely arrive at my destination without worrying about co-occupying space with something else, and certain of being able to breath and not fall, I don’t think I would be content to do it only twice, not if the method I was using allowed for more than that. I would want to know the capabilities of the method I had found, and what wonders the universe holds.

In the first chapter of Natural History, Voyager Lonestar Isol, hurtling through space, damaged and dying, encounters what she nicknames the “Stuff”. It’s a multi-dimensional technology so advanced that it might as well be magic so far as these twenty-third century humans and Forged are concerned. In Isol’s unwitting, stubby hands, the Stuff mutates into a drive allowing for transportation at the speed of thought. And yet she only goes two places: an unknown planet, and back home to Earth.

Isol has a suspicion about the Stuff which the other characters don’t share. She knows she, personally, should not overuse it – but no one else realizes that for the majority of the book. Yet those other characters don’t seem bothered by this lack of use. They’re interested in the political ramifications of that single other planet existing. They’re interested in how the Stuff works, the seven-dimensional mathematics which may lie behind its improbable operations. They never spend that moment in wonder over the possibility that the whole universe has opened up to human exploration.

There are astonishing things and awe-inspiring vision in Natural History, but early on, the lack of wonder expressed by the characters themselves – up until one arrives on that alien planet – baffled me.

‘So, you believe this claim that Isol’s found an extra-solar planetary system?’

The Strategos glanced at the shadows of the two Orniths shifting on the blind, looking like a single monster with two heads. ‘What interests me is this machinery it mentions.’ (62)

Those are the two things which interest all the characters: a single extra-solar planetary system, and the machinery, the Stuff, which Isol has brought back from her interstellar journeying.

How can they be so blasé about the possibilities of instantaneous travel, especially when so many of the Forged to which we are introduced over the course of the story are transit ships? Even when a Forged transit ship take the Stuff on board in the form of a drive, he fails to make much use of it, even though he does not appear to share Isol’s reservations. The universe his apparent oyster, and he coasts about the Solar System.

Natural History is a book which made me feel wonder about the extraordinary things it contains; but it struck me as dissonant that its own characters so rarely succumbed to any sense of wonder about their own world.

(To be continued)

Natural History – Cladistics

I cannot tell you exactly what my first impressions of Justina Robson’s Natural History were. I read the book a couple of years ago and failed to take notes.

I remembered it as densely-confusing in its early chapters, the world-building too rich to take in at the pace at which it was presented. (It works better the second time around.) Still, moments stuck in my mental vision of the book: Isol hurtling through space; the airplane taking off at long last; the dog under the desk. It’s strange how memory works. Two of those three images are not really all that significant in terms of the plot, but rather, are concluding images of particular threads. Isol, on the other hand, is how it all begins.

Isol is one of the Forged, created by future humanity, partially machine, partially derived from animal DNA, partially human. Isol’s body was made to stand the rigors of long-distance travel through the galaxy; her personality was chosen for its robustness in the face of years of isolation. Other Forged are part jellyfish or manta-ray-like airplanes. They are odd, they are Other, but their core of personality is human.

Robson is inspired in the ways she demonstrates how different they are. Early on, there’s a scene in which a not-much-bigger-than-human Forged is visited by a mile-long spaceship transport Forged. In another scene, an observer realizes that, although the Forged of Jupiter and Saturn are physically similar, one is miniscule, the other gigantic.

The Forged are primarily designed to live where humans cannot. They were made for deep space, deep seas, and the skies. As a result, many humans spend much of their lives without running into many Forged, especially the rarer ones. How rare do they get? The story includes at least two very rare varieties, one of whom may be the only one of his type. There are only three of the other. Fortunately for their perpetuity, they do not reproduce, but are made by an absolutely-enormous Mother-Father Factory-like parent in low Earth orbit, the Pangenesis Tupac. (The original one, long-since decomissioned, was named Eve.)

How Other are they? That debate is one of motivations which drives the plot; the Forged do not agree among themselves if they are enough like Unevolved humans to keep to the Solar System, or if they should look elsewhere for their future.

Humans are not sure either. Archeologist Zephyr Duquesne tells a student to read up more on ancient Rome, and compare its use of human slaves to the way modern humans make used of the Forged, pointing out that

“the slaves of the modern age, according to many of their political extremists, are the Forged. You might compare the situation in Rome to this and decide if you think their point is valid. What’s the point of history if it has nothing to say to the present?” (69).

Where their personalities are human, their naming echoes that of species. Isol is, in full, Voyager Lonestar Isol. Zephyr’s first Forged transportation is courtesy of IronHorse AnimaMekTek Aurora. It is very much an intentional echoing of the way taxonomy is used with more traditional species. There are a variety of kinds of IronHorses, but they are all of the same clade, all variants of some earlier Forged model.

The Natural History of this future plays out through the intersections of engineering, willpower, geography, and cladistics.

(To be continued)

April: Natural History

And so it’s 2003.

2003 yielded a bumper crop of admirable science fiction novels written by women, with three books. 2004 was the only other year with more than one on the final list of 11.

I wonder to what degree this might be a reflection on human memory. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not arguing with the merit of the works on the list so much as musing on being human. Five of the books were published in 2003 or 2004.  Is six or seven years the necessary length to digest, judge, and yet still remember reading a given book?

Back in January, I scrounged around with the months of 2003. Which book had been published first? I ignored place of location and went for global first publication. Plenty of people were importing buzzy books in both directions. My notes tell me that Natural History came out in April of 2003.


I’d like to invite you to join us in reading Justina Robson’s Natural History this month, part of a year-long chronological reading of the novels nominated as the best science fiction novels written by women in the last ten years.

The book was well-received, collecting a group of notable award nominations, if no wins. It was shortlisted for the BSFA for the best book published in 2003; nominated for the Campbell award in 2004; and for the Philip K Dick Award in 2005. It was Robson’s third novel.

Apropos of Chris Priest’s Clarke Award-winning novel that year being dedicated to Paul Kincaid, the award’s administrator, David Langford commented, “Justina Robson, already twice nominated for the Clarke Award, thoughtfully provides future gossip-bait for The Spectator in her third novel Natural History – featuring a vast, lumbering, obsolete and not very bright terraforming engine, called Kincaid.”

Coincidentally, this month is a good one for focusing on a work by Justin Robson. She’s going to be one of the Guests of Honour at Swancon, in Australia, over Easter weekend.


On 23 January 2003, NASA lost contact (as expected) with Pioneer 10, the first space probe to go beyond the asteroid belt. In February, the shuttle Columbia burned up during atmospheric re-entry. The first Chinese manned space mission was completed, and Mars was as close to Earth as it will be for another 50,000 years. Wars in Darfur and Iraq were just beginning. The Human Genome Project completed sequencing human DNA, and Dolly-the-Cloned-Sheep passed away. There was the SARS scare,  Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California, the Concorde made its last commercial flight, and in the UK, mobile phones had become common enough that their handheld use while driving was specifically outlawed.

I will be leading the discussion later this month. I hope you will join me in reading and discussing it.

Speed of Dark: Recap

Elizabeth Moon’s Speed of Dark was the second of the  poll-topping best science fiction novels written by women in the last ten years that we’ll be discussing here at Torque Control over the course of this year. It was the only one of them published in 2002. Notably, where Bold as Love was written before 9/11, as Niall observed, Speed of Dark was finished after it, and reflects that in a scene in an airport, where security is not quite as we know it. Major airports now have separate access to the gates for arriving and departing passengers (much as international transfers have long had):

This is not the way it used to be. I don’t remember that, of course – I was born at the turn of the century – but my parents told me about being able to just walk right up to the gates to meet people arriving. Then after the 2001 disasters, only departing passengers could go to the gates. (41)

But that’s not what the book’s about, merely an observation of a way in which it is part of its time.  Speed of Dark is set in our near future, when space exploration and brain manipulation are both somewhat more advanced than they are in our world. It’s about Lou and his distinctive, wonderful, evocative voice which positions the reader so clearly in his head. It’s the clarity and accomplishment of that voice which meant the ending disappointing me: Moon doesn’t give her readers a chance to get to know the revised version of Lou, and so I didn’t feel the ending was earned. I liked and admired the journey; I stumbled on the destination.

Niall hosted this month’s discussion, exploring Lou’s voice, the arguably brittle construction of the book’s antagonists, and the ways in which Moon resolves the book’s major narratives. That last post in particular resulted in a number of thought-provoking comments as to why the ending does or does not work for some people.

My thanks to Niall for hosting the discussion, and to all the commenters who joined in reading (or re-reading) the book.

Niall’s Discussion: Part I, Part II, and Part III
Discussion and reviews from December, when Speed of Dark
Recent Reviews
David Hebblethwaite’s Review
Alex Ward’s Review
Kilroy bounced off of it
Speed of Dark was a March Group Reads suggestion on GoodReads

Speed of Dark: III

Speed of Dark cover


So what can we do with Gene Crenshaw? Right from the start he feels false; in his first scene, we see him berating Pete Aldrin about how “these people” — Lou and the rest of Section A — “have to fit in”, have to give up their “toys” (17). It’s Crenshaw who insists to Section A that “you are not normal. You are autistics, you are disabled” (103); in his most charitable moments the most he can allow is that it’s “Not their fault” (163); when the police come to interview Lou about the vandalism, Crenshaw’s first assumption is that Lou is the one under investigation, and his second assumption is that it’s Lou’s fault: “What have you been up to, Lou, that someone’s trying to kill you? You know company policy — if I find out you’ve been involved with criminal elements –” (247). But it’s Crenshaw who drives the central tension of the novel. There is, it seems, a novel treatment that could “cure” adult autism. Crenshaw buys it (just like that!) and sets about blackmailing Lou and his colleagues into taking it, or face redundancy.

We might, I suppose, find it ironic that the character most ardently convinced that Lou is defective is himself monstrously inflexible, entirely unable to adjust his preconceived ideas to accept Lou as a person. We might also find some satisfaction in the fact that Crenshaw’s obsessive vendetta leads directly to his downfall late in the novel. We might reflect on the ways in which institutional policy and social conventions support and validate Crenshaw’s bias, while at best tolerating Lou’s. We might even find Crenshaw’s antics amusing, theatre, if his whole routine wasn’t so drearily predictable. It’s not that Crenshaw clearly wears a black hat that’s the problem; it’s that he fits his role in the plot too neatly and completely to develop any of the possibilities above, denied the personhood insisted upon for Lou.

In contrast, Don’s plot strand, perhaps because it is of secondary importance, ends up somewhere interesting. It helps that we simply see more of Don, including — if only briefly — different sides to his character, and helps, too, that his judgments of Lou are mostly muttered and snide, rather than improbably explicit. But in many ways Don is as much a device as Crenshaw; it’s just that something interesting happens after he’s dealt with. After his arrest, the police explain to Lou that the probable punishment, if he is found guilty, is the insertion of a “programmable personality determinant brain-chip” (284), because:

“Recidivism,” Mr Stacy says, pawing through a pile of hardcopies. “They do it again. It’s been proved. Just like you can’t stop being you, the person who is autistic, he can’t stop being him, the person who is jealous and violent. If it’d been found when he was an infant, well, then …” (285)

A little on-the-nose, perhaps, down to the possibility of early correction, but effective nonetheless: having spent 300 pages being conditioned to recognise the possibility of the modification of Lou’s personality as beyond the pale, it’s nicely unsettling to be asked to accept it as justified for someone else, perhaps especially someone as obviously a bad guy as Don. (We might think: it’s been proved, you say? Like Lou’s disability?) The feeling is reinforced when the fencing group welcomes the news, over Lou’s misgivings:

“I think it is very scary, I say. “He did something wrong, but it is scary that they will turn him into someone else.”

“It’s not like that,” Lucia says. She is staring at me now. She should understand if anyone can; she knows about the experimental treatment; she knows why it would bother me that Don will be compelled to be somebody else. “He did something wrong — something very bad. He could have killed you, Lou. Would have, if he hadn’t been stopped. If they turned him into a bowl of pudding it would be fair, but all the chip does is make him unable to do anyone harm.”

It is not that simple. […] Even I know that, and I am sure Lucia knows it too, but she is ignoring it for some reason. (291-2)

Thus is the second point of parallel — the treatment — made explicit, and thus does the ground of the novel shift a notch further, moving away from the unambiguous wrongness of Crenshaw’s blackmail towards the more challenging questions of what might be changed, and what change might mean in practice. (Although we never get to see the chipped Don, which seems a shame.) “I am sideways to the world”, is Lou’s assessment of his own situation (277); and at some point, he starts to wonder whether that’s how he always wants to be.

And so to the closing chapters of Speed of Dark, where the novel is at its tough, thoughtful best. With Don apprehended and Crenshaw deposed, there remains only the question of change itself, the cost/benefit analysis of becoming a different person — or rather, hastening the process. As Lou himself points out, he has changed already, and would have done even if Gene Crenshaw had never impinged on his life. But the possibility of removing his autism feels more fundamental. The crucial passage probably comes when Lou goes to church, and finds himself confronted with a sermon about the necessity of choosing to be healed. He asks whether he should want to be healed, whether God would want it; the best his priest can do for an answer is, “only if it doesn’t interfere with who we are as God’s children, I suppose” (347). (And Lou is more than his autism, the novel has been telling us.) At the fencing club, his friends can scarcely believe it when he tells them he’s going to take the treatment, some being sure that he must be doing it to be accepted by Marjory; at work, Pete Aldrin can’t quite believe Lou really understands that there’s no longer any pressure from the company, or threat to his job. Lou’s choice is not unexpected — if you hang a miracle treatment on the wall in the first act of a science fiction novel, it’s almost unthinkable that you won’t do anything with it in the third — but it feels like a choice nonetheless, suffused with ambivalence and uncertainty. The chapter in which Moon breaks down Lou’s voice and then reconstructs it, the same but different — not out of love, nor out of fear, but out of curiosity and ambition — is very effectively controlled. Of course it changes things more; changes Lou’s job, his friends, his relationships. (Though not, in the case of Marjory, in the way that the earlier Lou would have hoped.) But at least, he tells us on the final page, at least “Now I get to ask the questions” (424). The call-back is one more neatness in a novel that has too many of them; but this one, I think, is earned.

Speed of Dark: II

Speed of Dark cover

(With apologies for the delay.)


One of the few scraps of information we gain while outside Lou’s viewpoint comes in a conversation between his line manager, Pete Aldrin, and his new boss, Gene Crenshaw. The latter feels the supportive environment their company provides for Lou and his colleagues is an expensive indulgence; the former defends the cost by pointing out that Section A is “person for person, more productive than any other department” (18). Rationality has no effect on Crenshaw, who launches a crusade to get Section A’s “privileges” removed, and its personnel more “integrated” into the company — on which more tomorrow — but we get the point. In the right context, someone like Lou is better than most of us.

Lou’s great skill, we are told, is pattern recognition (a skill that, by the by, for me is emblematic of twenty-first century sf). It’s what enables him to excel at his (rather vaguely defined) job; it’s what makes him a skillful fencer, once he’s mastered the physical basics. “What I like is learning patterns,” he tells us, “and then remaking them so that I am the pattern too” (34). Patterns structure his daily life, from the regimented day to day activities — the routine — to any social interaction. Lou knows the rules of the psychiatrist’s office, and the rules of the office, and the rules of the supermarket; what is expected, how things should go. And he sorts people by the patterns they enact: friends, acquaintances, colleagues. And, perhaps more pertinently, when he doesn’t understand people, he assumes it’s because he can’t see their pattern.

Moon is good, as I already said, on Lou’s analytical approach to life, his constant assessment of patterns, of testing behaviour against expectation and projection: good at conveying the seductive functionality of it all. Inevitably, however, a major strand of the novel turns on the problems that this approach to the world — so successful at work — can cause. And on that front, I’m less convinced.

Among Lou’s fencing friends, there is a woman called Marjory on whom he has a crush (and who seems to like him), and a man called Don, who is rather obnoxious (and not much liked by anybody). He seems — to us, and not to Lou, who has Don firmly in the “friend” category — that Don is jealous both of Lou’s talent, the skill it gives him it fencing, and of his friendship with Marjory. Matters take a darker turn the week after Lou enters, and excels in, his first fencing tournament. They day after the next fencing class, Lou discovers that the tires on his car have been slashed. The pattern is clear to us but, this time, opaque to Lou.

Put another way, at this point, there are two possible stories that could be developing. (OK, more than two, but two obvious ones) In one of them, the reader’s intuition that Don is responsible will be correct; in the other, Lou’s assumption that the tire-slashing is a random event will be proved valid. A week later, Lou’s windscreen is smashed; and a week after that, a small explosive is attached to his engine. At this point Don’s name finally enters the frame — Lou and a cop have an entertaining conversation about the mathematical validity of “once is accident, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action” — and see that Lou’s affinity for patterns led him into excessive rigidity, refusing to recategorise Don until it’s almost too late. But the problem with making the reader right and Lou wrong in this way we readers haven’t, in fact, worked out the right answer based on a superior understanding of people, the understanding that the text wants us to recognise that Lou lacks; we’ve worked it out on the basis of a superior understanding of the formulae of fiction. Lou is trapped inside a pattern that he can never know, but that we can solve easily.

The other story, I think, would have been more interesting: the story in which Don may well resent Lou, but the vandalism has nothing to do with him; where the challenge to Lou’s behaviour is not that he recognises the wrong pattern, but that it’s hard for him to tell when there’s no pattern to recognise; where we as readers are denied the neatness of pattern, and put in the same position as Lou, not opposed to him. (What proportion of incidents of vandalism are random or targeted, I wonder? Which narrative would be more “true to life”?) That would be a story in which it’s easier to accept the argument — made forcefully in another strand of the novel — that Lou’s cognitive approach to the world is only a point at one extreme of a spectrum of human behaviour, that we are like him in crucial ways. In a similar way, there could be a more nuanced understanding of the interplay of class, money and power, of the forces that make an executive gym earned, but Section A’s gym a luxury. It’s one thing to be shown that autism can be as effective as “normality”; it would be another to be shown that normal can be just as error-prone, as fooled by life, as autistic.