Autistic Fantasy? What’s that? Is that a thing? I didn’t know it existed! Well, that’s because I just invented it. Allow me to explain.
Awhile back, I read a journal article entitled “Diagnosing Fantastic Autism: Kafka, Borges, Robbe-Grillet” (Olsen, 1986). It was extremely interesting. I did not know what “fantastic autism” was, even though I’ve been a longtime Kafka fan. Turns out I’d been doing it since 1989, with no prior knowledge. I guess the practice came before the theory. I feel like an isolated tribe who gets a surprise visit from a scholarly anthropologist. He observes them, and names their customs, only for them to shrug their shoulders and say: “Really, is that what it is called? We’ve been doing it forever.”
The article got me thinking and reflecting on my own writing. It’s a bit hard to define what I do. I fumble when people ask me what I write. It’s usually easy for me to say “It’s kinda like …” followed by the standard-issue list of cultural touchstones, with the hopes they’ll understand. But now I realize what I’ve really been up to all these years: autistic fantasy.
In case you’re wondering what on Earth I’m going on about, I’ve come up with this handy list. Now, this list is based solely upon my own work and it isn’t static. It may evolve over time.
Twenty Three Traits you could find in autistic fantasy:Tweet
Playful use of language
Creation of new language
No language (lack of dialogue)
Keen sense of observation
High level of detail
Highly visual (cinematic quality)
Connections between seemingly incongruous elements and events
Mash up of many influences / genres / styles / types
Hybridization (could be symbols, icons, characters, people or ideas etc.)
Disregard for the convention (social, cultural, literary etc.)
Willingness to shock, confront and confuse readers
Atypical sense of humour
Simple, mundane, day to day activities made to seem fantastic
Plays with time and place (temporal and spatial confusion)
“Childlike” sense of wonder and creativity (inner child allowed to flourish)
Surreal, stream of consciousness (dreamlike or nightmarish quality)
Focuses on the author’s inner world
Strong moral foundation
Strives to teach or educate
Cameron A. Straughan is a Canadian writer, photographer, filmmaker and teacher. He was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism (Asperger Syndrome Profile) in May 2017. The diagnosis, after decades of not knowing why he was ‘different’ and didn’t seem to fit in, was a mainly positive experience which he is still adapting to. On the positive side, his autism has gifted him with a vivid imagination, unique perspectives, a distinctive sense of humour and an absurd view of life, which he freely expresses in his writing.