Tag Archives: autism

(#VIDEO UPDATE) Apocalypse Now: What does the threat bring out in you?

Someone asked, “Do you really believe we’re headed for an apocalypse?”

Dude! The apocalypse is already here!

Sci-fi writer William Gibson said the future arrives at different speeds. Same is true of the end that could throw us backward a hundred years.

I look around and I see the power of antibiotics fading as the bugs come back stronger. There’s an excellent chance we won’t be able to have the surgeries we have now because our antibiotics will no longer work. Do you want to go back to pre-1928 medicine? Of course, not. Nobody wants to die of a sore throat, a bladder infection or appendicitis. But that is our present course. 

I see fracking causing earthquakes and flammable water in kitchen sinks.

I see perma-war.

Most disturbing, I see an unwillingness to change, anti-science and anti-intellectualism. 

Worst? I see a lack of compassion.

Citizens are in big trouble on Spaceship Earth and a lot of people, speaking from fear and ignorance, seem determined to be dicks about it.

One reviewer of This Plague of Days asked, “Why does everyone have to act like assholes in the apocalypse?”

I answer that reviewer directly in Season Three, but look around. The answer is obvious. People don’t think we’re in an apocalypse now (if they aren’t from Detroit or along the Mexican border or in Uganda.) But there already assholes everywhere. Panic and pressure brings out the nastiness stronger. It’s a scary world and people can be monsters. I didn’t invent it. I reflect it. You need look no further than the instincts of your average Internet troll.

But pressure makes diamonds, too.

Heroes can emerge. Will they? I don’t know. Are you willing to be a hero? An apocalypse — to nature, to people and to human dignity — is everywhere.

If you’re waiting for the siren call to action, it’s already howling. If we wait for the actual civil defense sirens to crank up?

Too late.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I write suspense fiction. The scariest stuff I write doesn’t feel like fiction. (But you can hang out for the jokes, too.) If you’re looking for thought provocation along with action amid monstrous destruction and desolation, have a look at This Plague of Days, Season One. The whole first season is on sale for only a buck on Amazon.

Click here for my Amazon page.

All three seasons are now available on Kobo.

To get the This Plague of Days trilogy all at once for an awesome binge-read this summer, read This Plague of Days Omnibus Edition and find the secret video link to get another free thriller.

TPOD OMNIBUS ON AMAZON

TPOD OMNIBUS ON KOBO

 

 

 

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This Plague of Days: Did I mention one random commenter will win the ebook of Seasons 1, 2 AND 3?

UPDATE: Thank you for your feedback so far. Here’s another cover to consider. This is #6:

How's this? A little classier with an added tagline?

How’s this? A little classier with an added tagline?

It’s cover choosing time!

Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com has created the cover for Season 3 of This Plague of Days and it is wonderful. I have no doubt you’ll be impressed. I’ll leave that awesome reveal for later. It’s different from the other covers, but, given where Season 3 takes us, that’s appropriate. It gets weird. I’m aiming for Strangest Zombie Apocalypse Series Ever Award. It’s given out by the Nobel committee each year, but the competition is stiff and those nerdy Nobel chemists grab all the glory.

Season 3 is due out on Father’s Day.

You can pick up Seasons One and Two through the affiliate link at AllThatChazz.com if you’re so inclined (and if you like autistic heroes trying to save the world from several kinds of monsters, including humans.) There are a couple of sneak peeks below this post, too, if you’re looking for more of a taste.

About that prize for a random assist: the compendium of Seasons 1, 2 and the finale in 3 will launch on Father’s Day, too.

In addition, I’m taking care of the cover for the Plague of Days compendium myself. About that, I have many doubts. Which cover do you prefer?

Please let me know which one you like best in the comments, 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5? A combination of several elements? None?

Thanks for helping me out with these heavy decisions as the big day approaches! And by “big day” I’m referring, of course, to the release of the pandemic flu virus that will kill most of us, turn a bunch more into zombies and…well…it gets worse as the virus mutates. Have a great day!

1.TPOD COMPENDIUM

 

 

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TPOD COMPENDIUM2

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TPOD Compendium3

 

4.

TPOD COMPENDIUM 5

 

 

 

5.

TPOD 123 COVER


This Plague of Days: The No Spoilers Edition

Two beta readers, advanced scouts in the dark land of Editoria, are back with reports from the third book in the This Plague of Days serial. Well, now it’s a series and, perhaps someday, a television series or a movie. (More on that another time.)

Early returns on Season 3 are very good. “Cerebral, but with enough rip and chew to balance out all the existential questions about the universe.” All your questions are answered (and you’ll have a few more of your own to ponder after you close the book.)

Generally, what should I expect?

It’s action, take a breath, action, take one quick breath, action, action, ooh, creepy!,  action, here’s the secret God kept from Himself, tears, action, action, tears, gnashing of teeth, action, mirrors, action…

So, let’s tackle some issues up front:

1. If you’re new to the story…

This Plague of Days is three books/seasons (because it’s written like a television serial, cliffhangers and all.) Seasons One and Two are already out there and it’s going groovy. People love Jaimie Spencer and his family.

Our hero is on the autistic spectrum. Jaimie’s mother Jack (short for Jacqueline), father Theo and sister Anna are all in grave danger as three plagues tear down the world. Wicked bio-terrorists scheme and cavort, the killer virus constantly mutates and a hardy band from Europe try to make it to America to fight the invasion. It’s a zombie apocalypse, but it’s also a lot more than that.

2. This Plague of Days was originally published as a serial with five episodes per season.

The idea was to give readers a very inexpensive story they could bail out of at any time, or opt in and buy the whole darn book for less than the cost of five episodes. Each ep is 15-20,000 words, so I wasn’t scrimping. (Usually episodes are sold in 10,000-word instalments.)

3. Season 3 will hit in June.

It will be sold as one book (ebook and print.)

Why no more episodes?

By now, people who were going to buy in aren’t purchasing episodes anymore. They may have dabbled their way through Season One and got it piecemeal. However, by now those readers are all the way in. You can see what’s happening with the episodes because Season One has 80 reviews, Season 2 has 37 and the later episodes have none. Rather than sell to readers who aren’t there, there will be another new aspect to the finale. And that is…

4. Seasons One, Two and Three of This Plague of Days, revamped and re-edited…

will be sold as one huge ebook.

Sorry, I looked into printing it as one big, dead tree book, but it would be so huge my regular printer couldn’t handle the order. Also, a book over 1,000 pages is quite pricey and is really only for collectors and the die-hard fans. I’ll continue to try to figure a way to do it as a printed book and keep the price reasonable. For now, that’s not apparent. I’m not out to gouge anybody, so that’s tabled for now. (In America, that means it’s not being considered. In the UK, “tabled” means it is being considered. Or is that the other way around? Hm. Weird.) 

5. How is Season 3 different from Seasons One and Two?

The three books travel quite an arc. There are things that are set up in the first book that pay off much later. A huge secret lurks just beneath the surface of This Plague of Days. I held a contest and a lot of people looked for that secret. Some searched really hard and called me names. They didn’t find it.

And now?

What I hear from the beta readers is, “OH!” And, “AH!” and “AGH!” The clues become apparent, but only in hindsight. I’m pretty happy about that.

The thing about everything I do is, I want to write something you haven’t seen before. I don’t want my zombie apocalypse to be like any other. That’s one of the reasons the virus keeps evolving. My zombies aren’t supernatural zombies, but the ordinary humans might be.

Things changed drastically in Season Two. The pace changed. In Season 3, the stakes are upped again. It’s a chance to explore some interesting ideas along the way. You’ll love it or you’ll hate it, but you won’t forget it. And no, the story does not end with, “And it was all a dream.” NO. It does NOT end that way! Just FYI.

Also, yes, those Europeans who survive the fall of civilization will finally get to meet whoever gets to survive America’s zombie apocalypse. Heh. You’ll see. YOU’LL ALL SEE! (Sorry. That was my villainous, And-they-laughed-at-me-in-the-Academy Moment.)

6. Any other hints at what’s to come?

Without spoiling anything? Someone who’s appeared to be a minor character in the past will step forward in a big way. There’s some gore, but it’s parcelled out judiciously. Not everyone you love will make it to the end, but for those who do, there’s a huge reward no one saw coming. Well, no human, anyway.

Season One was The Running Dead (with Autism.)

Season Two was The Stand (complicated by a very selective mute.)

Season Three is Stranger in a Strange Land. 

The stranger is You, Faithful Reader.

(Yes, that’s a clue. No, it won’t help a bit.)

 

 

 


This Plague of Days: Contest Closed

I posted this on Facebook tonight: 

Proofing Season 3 of This Plague of Days tonight, I realized something new about the book. That secret I’ve teased? Yeah, about that:

Some people are really going to HATE me for it. Fans will give me credit for the magic trick, but…wow…as I was reading along tonight I kind of finally understood the scope of the lunatic gamble. But this business, and art, isn’t for sissies.

I should also say, we’re too far along in the editorial process to add names, so the contest to discover the secret of This Plague of Days is closed. Sorry nobody got it, but thanks for playing and, as a consolation prize to take home, some lucky readers will be receiving their names in the book, anyway.

And no, I’m not telling you the secret now and no, please don’t ask for inclusion in the book. All the characters are named and I can’t create more characters to kill. The book’s already plenty long and I’ve already killed so many!

I thank you in advance for your understanding. About all of it.

Want to keep up with the latest updates on Facebook? Connect with me here.

I’ve recruited several new volunteers to our beta reading team and the book is coming along nicely. Shooting the manuscript over to our editorial aces in a few days. I’ll announce a firm date soonish, but you can expect the finale to This Plague of Days in early June. (And by the way, yes, that’s still spring. I checked.)

Thank you for your patience a I work furiously to deliver you a really kick-ass book. More to come, soon! Really!


Spring is coming. This Plague of Days is coming, too. Just not…quite…yet.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 3.19.38 PM

CLICK THE PICTURE FOR MY LITTLE SLIDESHOW OF DOOM.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app


One Big Sneak Peek of the Prelude: This Plague of Days, Season 3

As I work on This Plague of Days, I’m very aware that many readers are waiting (mostly patiently) for me to hurry up and finish the third and final season.

You’ve been generous with your reviews and, gosh darn it, everybody’s so nice! If you’ve read Season One and Two, you know this trip has evolved from Kansas City, Missouri to big weirdness across continents and scary strangeness through the mindscape.

There’s plenty of violence and suspense in this war for the future, plus Latin proverbs. (I know! Crazy and crazed!) My zombie apocalypse continues to evolve. Yes, we’ve had forays into fearful dreams, but the battles to come happen in the our world. I promise plenty of surprises, twists and, best of all, more of Jaimie Spencer’s view of the world. 

How weird and scary is the Apocalypse on the Autistic Spectrum?

You can find out on Wattpad now. (Wattpad is a free fiction sharing platform where you can read all sorts of interesting stuff. Please do check it out.)

At this link, you can read the opening to

Season 3, Episode 1, The Prelude.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S EVEN MORE!

If you’re looking for more free me, I have even more good news. As I write this, you can grab a complimentary download of Murders Among Dead Trees. This creepy short story collection of psychological horror, reeking of “intense violence and bizarre themes” is free to download on March 6 and March 7, 2014 (today and tomorrow, guys!)

Please download Murders Among Dead Trees. If you like it, love it or maybe want to fondle it, don’t hold back on leaving a review. Enjoy! Thank you!


Is science fiction’s view of the future too dark?

I just listened to the C-Realm Podcast in which the question arose, is dystopian science fiction merely hip cynicism? (The “C” stands for consciousness.)

What happened to the utopian visions of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek? His future eliminated poverty while the remakes by JJ Abrams are about fighting terrorism. It’s a fascinating question well explored on the C-Realm Podcast, though my answer is, by necessity, going to sound a tad grumpy.

I think of myself as a suspense writer first, but zombies and vampires are generally thought of as horror and post-apocalyptic books are classified under science fiction on Amazon. Call it science fantasy if you want, but the story crawls into paranormal and supernatural, too, so it’s Genre-of-the-Moment Slugfest.

But is my vision (gasp) cynical?

Are zombies a hipster fad of which we should be ashamed? Can’t sci-fi lead the way as a predictor of glittering tech advances instead of dwelling on how we’re all going to die long before each person on Earth gets their very own sex robot? 

Every cynic thinks he or she is a realist, but first, I want to back up and say that Roddenberry’s visions weren’t always so rosy. I think the stories on Star Trek that succeeded for me were the war stories. Humans versus Klingons and The Wrath of Khan (the story itself the death of a utopian dream) held my attention. However, it’s probably true that the franchise got darker and grittier after Roddenberry’s death. Deep Space Nine had some of the Enterprise’s nifty IKEA furniture, but the quarters were more cramped and the lighting less cheery.

That said, I see what they’re saying on C-Realm. They credit Blade Runner as a leader in dystopian visions, at least in film. That’s a far cry from the gee whiz optimism of many sci-fi writers from decades past. We all need a little more Spider Robinson in our lives.

In the ’70s we had Omni magazine trumpeting the hope for the future of science and science fiction. For instance, they featured a graphic artist who created stunning spacescapes. It was truly beautiful art that only actual images from the Hubble telescope could replace. It was the artist’s policy never to paint any picture in which two spaceships engaged in battle. That’s admirable, yes, but it kind of sucks the dramatic potential out of a lot of fiction, kind of like taking the visual majesty and volleys of flaming arrows out of the battle scenes in Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, and asking, can’t we all just get along and make this a cozy comedy of manners? Is that beheading with all the blood spray on the wall really necessary?

Optimistic visions of the future in fiction make me think of Paul and Linda McCartney asking Weird Al Yankovic to refrain from a making a cover of Live and Let Die. Weird Al did not release Chicken Pot Pie out of respect for the former Beatle’s wishes. Longtime vegetarians, Paul and Linda worried a comedic song would worsen the commercial slaughter of chickens. It probably would have. Thinking about it makes me want a chicken pot pie right now. I also think Weird Al’s song would have been awesome.

But to the question, is science fiction’s tone too relentlessly dark?

The C-Realm host and guest offered the movie Her as an antidote to our dour visions of the future. There is something very alluring about a story that cranks up Iron Man‘s personal digital companion, J.A.R.V.I.S., to Level Scarlett Johansson Sexy. (J.A.R.V.I.S. stands for Just a Rather Very Intelligent System, by the way. Siri would have been cooler if Apple had called it J.A.R.V.I.S., though Siri has yet to live up to the J.A.R.V.I.S standard of service, reporting on my armour’s structural integrity and whatnot.) Actually, Iron Man’s inventions (as long as they don’t fall into the wrong hands) might be the most optimistic vision of the future you’ll see on screen this year, besides Her.

The darkness in our fiction lies not in our stars but in ourselves.

We write from the heart, or at least I do. A future where we’re overrun by a world flu pandemic is actually considered long overdue by virologists. (Could happen next week. Pack a linch and wear a sweater.) My zombies aren’t real zombies and my vampires aren’t real vampires. They are humans infected with a virus that changes their physiology. There are supernatural elements in This Plague of Days, but once you’re dead, you don’t get up again in the world I’ve built. It looks a lot like our world.

But is it too dark? Well, it is dark.

Some of the events go from creepy to downright grisly. There are also jokes. I even include a few optimistic touches toward the end. However, I am allergic to Happily Ever After. I promise a satisfying ending and resolutions you don’t expect, but Happily Ever After often seems too pat and easy to me.

And that’s the crux of it.

My vision for the future springs from what I see now, not what could be if we really believe and clap our hands. If George Orwell hadn’t already written 1984, I’d attempt to write that. Drones, surveillance and the NSA cracking everyone’s porn privacy? That’s a dream straight out of an adolescent Big Brother’s wet bed. Because I’ve mentioned them and they’re always googling vainly, say hello! Hi, NSA! (Waves.) Just a writer spouting on the state of science fiction and the future. Nothing to see here. Move along to checking up on the sex lives of your former girlfriends and boyfriends from high school! Thank you! Also, please go catch a real terrorist with a suitcase dirty bomb. Aces.

Back on topic

I was promised jet packs when I was as kid (a fixation that’s shared widely, I think, since it’s also mentioned on C-Realm.) I’m still disappointed about that. No…bitter is the word. And yes, all the endless toil minus robots is a downer.

When we see the space shuttle in the promo reel before the movie trailers? I always think, We don’t even make those anymore! There is no Omni magazine heralding gee-whiz hope and they plan to shut Hubble down! And a trip to Mars? Sounds like a stupid suicide mission to me, especially when we could solve a lot of world problems with the money we’d waste on going to the red planet. (Think of Mars as the worst parts of Arizona, but without oxygen. To be fair, at least Mars doesn’t go out of its way to try to suppress gay rights, so there’s that.)

If my fiction appears cynical, all I can say is it comes from an honest place. Dark visions are the logical extensions of my worldview. Ideas about a cheery, brighter future would be a nice diversion and uplifting to be sure. However, I’m more interested in drama rising from conflicts I observe in the present. There’s something about those cheery futures which reek of white privilege to me. I’m not going hungry and I’ve got a cell phone (made by slaves) so why can’t we envision a future that amps up all that gee-whiz hope?

Because it doesn’t feel real, that’s why. Because we’re still stuck in stupid wars. Because the logical extension of now is more darkness. My fiction is dark because, as a person of conscience who listens to Democracy Now a lot, my worldview really is that dark.

Yes, I do give glimmers of hope here and there in This Plague of Days.

But the price at which that hope is bought — in both human lives and sacrifice — is very high indeed. I guess it sounds silly to talk about verisimilitude in a story about an autistic boy versus zombies versus vampires. But every emotion and conflict within the Spencer family at the end of the world feels very real to me. Joy, redemption, love, hope and loss is all there. I think of it as To Kill a Mockingbird, but with more zombies and even more child endangerment. For a zombie apocalypse, there’s a startling lack of gunfire in This Plague of Days. I think there are plenty of apocalyptic books that read like Rambo married an army manual and I attempt to do something different with all my fiction.

This Plague of Days is silly, escapist fiction (for the thinking reader with a conscience, I hope)…but I write it real.

I write what I see. And I concede, I do wish I could be more hopeful.

 

~ Season Three, and the conclusion of This Plague of Days by Robert Chazz Chute hits Spring 2014. Catch up on Season One and Two here.


This Plague of Days: Zombies! Vampires! You!

Wow. What a week. As I approach the last chapters of This Plague of Days, I’m struggling with it. It’s not that the writing is hard. Tarring roofs and digging ditches and living in Canada in winter is hard. I’m struggling with time management, for sure, yes. (Also, winter in Canada.) But mostly, I’m really going to hate ending this story. I have other books to write, of course, but This Plague of Days is my most successful book and it’s a fun world to play in. A little paranormal activity and a pinch of Anything Goes is fun.

And there is, of course, the doubt that creeps under the door, touching my heart with cold fingers.

Expectations are high. One reviewer wondered how (if?) I was going to pull it all together. I always promise big reversals, but there are scenes toward the end of the series that will challenge readers. The subtext challenges readers to think. A particularly horrific scene might make them want to close the book. Another plot point is so over-the-top crazy, you might think I’ve smoked Douglas Adams’ ashes. And then there’s that pesky, Way of Things. Is that the God in the Machine? Is God really pulling the levers? Or is the Machine set on automatic, devoid of the divine except for the meaning we give our lives?

And then there’s the…okay, I can’t write about This Plague of Days this way without annoying you. You haven’t read Season 3 yet, so we’re (literally) not on the same page.

Let’s just say, that, yeah I can and will pull it all together. The book has been in the making a long time. I don’t have graphs and pie charts and a wall of cork boards upon which a thousand little index cards are tacked. But I’ve got it all in my head and I’ll deliver. We’re very close to finishing another revision. 

One extremely brief review I got this week opined that the story arc that started with zombies had gone to vampires and…well…sigh. Frowny face. Um…was it the credibility and literary gravitas of zombies that was lost when another Sutr strain made the scary Alphas? Alas. It’s okay. My brand of whimsy isn’t for everybody, but I think if you’ll come into my Goofy Latin and Twisted Weirdness Tent, you still could have a pretty good time.

Someone else mentioned that Jaimie changes in Season 2. Yes. His character and abilities do grow. Despite being on the autism spectrum, he can interact with others somewhat easier, though his selective mutism is still a problem, he’s subvocalizing a bit and flashes of telepathy are helping things along. However, rest assured, Jaimie Spencer isn’t going to win the door prize at your local Toastmasters meeting anytime soon. He’s still a mystery to most people around him. Another reviewer dinged me for indulging in talk of auras more than twice. Several people wanted more of that.

As James Dean said in Rebel Without a Cause, “You’re tearing me apart!”

This is why I have to write to please myself first. The editor and beta readers will tell me if I’m on the right track or not, but let’s face it: I’m going to go crazy my way and hope you love it. My betas help me immensely, but as for the course I set through Crazy Town? Writing is not a democracy. I’m a guy alone in a room with a keyboard. I can’t guess what you’ll like, but I know what I love. So it is with all writers. (One of the joys of publishing TPOD as a serial is answering the few outlying critics. I took their concerns into account and answered them pointedly. It’s a source of some of the jokes in the text. The winks and chuckles aren’t too inside baseball. You’ll all be in on the joke.)

That said, when This Plague of Days, Season 3 comes out, everybody gets a kick at my autocratic, authorial can, of course. Be gentle. I’m a crier. 

Oh, and sneak peek/spoiler:

Little Aasa, the elder of the Vermer girls, gets a bigger role in Season 3. As more people die, the world is waking up to a new interconnectivity. Without the white noise of so many minds, we can hear each other’s thoughts better. Those flashes of insight everyone gets occasionally? It turns out, if you commit mass genocide and billions die, it turns up the volume and tunes the frequency. So…I guess all that grim death and destruction was worth it if we don’t have to pay for wi-fi.

When the plagues strike us down, if there are any survivors, we’ll send pictures of our cats with our minds. Sweet!

~ FYI: My next book is mostly written. The title is chosen and the fuse is lit. I just have to revise it, take out 1,000 profane words and revise again. It’s thick, but more “literary” (whatever that means to you) and not nearly so complicated as This Plague of Days. It will be relaxing not to have armies of characters to kill off.

The next narrative is more character-based and not nearly as complicated as directing a vast story across continents. It’s about a young man living in poverty in New York. He wants to be a movie star. He might get to be that, but only if the murderer doesn’t get him and if he can put on a high school production of Romeo and Juliet. (Long story) There are drugs, suicide and his mom’s gone missing so…wait…I guess it does get pretty complex. Stay tuned.


A quick update on This Plague of Days, Season 3

I think if I write a chapter a day for two weeks straight, this revision of This Plague of Days will be done with a new ending. There will be tweaks and another run-through or two, of course, but we’re definitely getting there. Work continues apace.

Oh, and plaguers will be glad to know a romance blooms, old friends return from the tent city and, weirdly, there are a lot of fish in Season 3. (Don’t worry. It works. It’s creepy and disturbing and teetering on the precipice of disgusting, but it works.) We also find out precisely what The Way of Things is.

If I had to characterize the conclusion of TPOD, I’d say it’s blood lust versus altruism. I do not promise a Happily Ever After. I promise a satisfying ending. You were patient, so it doesn’t end with a cliffhanger…not exactly. 🙂

The secret hidden away in TPOD is…still safe.


This Plague of Days and The Big Bang Theory and Autism

It’s past time I write something about autism as it’s presented in This Plague of Days. I’ve heard from happy readers who are related to people with autism or who have developmental issues. They all love the protagonist, Jaimie Spencer, because he’s on the autism spectrum. Later on in the story, Jaimie makes some very normal and logical yet scary choices. I hope readers will still love him when they see some of the things he’ll ultimately be responsible for.

Deep down, This Plague of Days is a little like all my books. Good versus evil doesn’t interest me. The choices are too stark. But Bad versus Evil? Complex motivations where the good isn’t all good and the bad isn’t all bad…or at least well-intentioned and understandable? Yes, that interests me very much. So far, readers agree and thank you very much if you’ve bought, dug and left a happy review for This Plague of Days.

As I write and revise Season 3, the world is getting darker. Season 3 answers the questions posed all the way back from Season One. One of the mysteries of the series* is Jamie Spencer. He’s a selective mute on the autistic spectrum. That surely makes him an unlikely champion in the apocalypse and unique in the genre. However, he’d be unique if this were a simple family drama.

My beloved wife, Dr. She Who Must Be Obeyed, is a school psychologist. She said the sentence that spurred this post:

The key thing to know about anyone on the spectrum is this:

When you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.

Everyone is different and autism affects each person differently. Some are extremely visual thinkers. Many are very high-functioning people and the list of well-known people on the spectrum might astonish you (click here for that). There’s much speculation that some of the greatest thinkers and inventors in history were autistic. Though never diagnosed, Tesla, certainly, comes to mind. (Love Tesla and you’ll learn why if you click this link, but I digress.)

When asked, I tell readers that Jaimie has Aspergers with some interesting variations, like selective mutism and synaesthesia. He’s unique, as all people are.

The term “Aspergers” has fallen out of favor in professional circles. That may be a great thing. I’m not sure. Mere labels can’t help the individual, but sometimes they help others understand people on the autistic spectrum. Generally, many people would recognize stereotypical Aspergers traits in someone like Dr. Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. The show’s producers have stated on many occasions they are not holding the comical character up as the poster boy for autism and he doesn’t represent any group.

I don’t want anyone to think Jaimie represents such a vast and varied community, either. He’s a fictional character who’s delving into deep matters of religion, mortality and immortality while dealing with people infected with three varieties of a deadly plague. His family unit and their problems relating to each other provides a realistic context and special challenges at the end of the world as we know it. He’s a wonderful character to write and he adds layers and depth to what otherwise be a pretty silly story. Jaimie’s point of view makes humans versus zombies versus vampires work.

Why make the protagonist a person on the autistic spectrum?

I could catalogue the artistic reasons to do so, but the short answer is, why the hell not? He’s a person first. The way his brain works is peculiar, but secondary. Despite how different he is, I (and many readers) connect with Jaimie Spencer emotionally, not as a mere intellectual curiosity. Jaimie’s a genius, but he’s no freak.

How does autism play into This Plague of Days?

At one end of the spectrum, autistics don’t develop language skills. With his special interest in words and their origins, especially in Latin, Jaimie does not lack language skills. In fact, selective mutism has nothing to do with autism. Fans of The Big Bang Theory will recognize the problem as an anxiety disorder (which, until recently, afflicted the character of Raj on the show.)

However, on a couple of occasions, I admit that I do indeed tackle issues around autism. It would be weird if I didn’t address those natural consequences, wouldn’t it? It’s tricky, in that autism is another obstacle in the family’s struggles at the end of civilization, but the story is not all about autism.

I came at the issue sideways, in character development.

We learn about Jaimie through his actions and we see how he sees the world. Anna Spencer relates to Jaimie in a very natural way. She’s protective of him when outsiders are involved, but within the family, it’s all sibling rivalry and older sister irritation at a little brother. There’s friction there as there is in many families. I purposely avoided Anna being too precious with him. Of all the people in Jamie’s world, Anna is the one who most treats him as if he’s not unusual.

Before the plague struck, Jaimie’s mother, Jacqueline (Jack) Spencer, struggled with the school and medical systems to get help for her son. She often wishes Jaimie was not on the spectrum. Meanwhile, Theo Spencer, Jaimie’s father, almost seems in denial. While Jack wishes her son were different, Theo accepts Jaimie as he is rather than fixating on changing him. The parents aren’t on the same page and one’s a complex atheist while the other’s faith is hard to hold on to in the face of so much horror. More fun family dynamics to mine there.

As we progress through This Plague of Days, you’ll find that Jaimie is changing. He’s getting wiser and, to survive, he has to learn how to lie. He’s discovering the new world’s secrets. In Season 3, Jaimie is much different from when we first met him. Travelling the road in the apocalypse will do that to anyone, but I don’t find he’s any less likeable. He’s just more complex and less sure of himself. The challenges ahead are too difficult for him to resist transformation.

In the final scene, readers will have a choice.

Some people reading This Plague of Days will also be transformed.

 

*A note to fans of Seasons 1 and 2 of This Plague of Days

In the third season, this officially becomes a series, not a serial. This Plague of Days will be sold as a trilogy in one complete book (This Plague of Days, The Complete Trilogy) assuming CreateSpace can handle printing a book that big. It will also be sold as Season 3 in paper so, if you got 1 and 2 in paperback, you’ll have a third to round out the collection on your shelf. Finally, of course, I’ll put it out as an ebook this spring. After that, I’ll be peddling it to Hollywood for a movie, I suppose. Or make it a graphic novel. Or get it on HBO with Alexander Skarsgard as Misericordia. Who knows?

However, unlike Seasons 1 and 2, there won’t be any releases of weekly episodes for Season 3. Despite my best efforts, there are still some readers who get confused about serialization, so I’m letting that go. The Law of Diminishing Returns had kicked in, anyway, so onward to a very dramatic conclusion. A lot of people you love will die in unexpected ways. Some will live to receive surprising, wonderful rewards. I’m going to be a little sad to finish the journey with Jaimie, but it’s going to be a wild ride right to the end. 

 


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