I’ve been working hard on a follow-up to my sci-fi novel The Willow and the Stone. Willow in the Desert picks up two years after the first book’s events, complete with characters familiar and new.
One of the new characters is Gordon, a man infected with the changes that turns humans into their alien enemies. Rescued from one of the Old Ones’ Pyramids, he now fights at the side of returning heroes Leo and Carli Black Elk.
Gordon is a hero near and dear to my heart. He has Asperger’s, a disorder considered by many in the medical community as being part of the autism spectrum. As the mother of a child with autism and being suspected of having Asperger’s myself, I wanted to create someone who faces the challenges I see every day. Gordon is based on the experiences I and my child have had, as well as others who cope with the obstacles we’re presented with.
He doesn’t remember faces or names well. He doesn’t always pick up on the feelings of others. He hates looking people in the eyes. He’s incredibly gifted with engineering know-how that sometimes intimidates others. He gets stressed easily in new situations, almost to the point where he doesn’t function well. His quirks sometimes drive others away.
He also has a crush on a woman, wants to make friends, and wishes to be of help to the embattled humans he still counts himself one of. Despite the changes forever altering him and stealing his humanity, Gordon proves himself valuable to the leaders of the revolt against the Old Ones. And he does it despite being a minority in a neurotypical society that doesn’t always understand why he acts the way he does. In the end, despite his Asperger’s Gordon is simply another person, getting along as best he can … and because of the talents he brings, he often does it better than many of the so-called ‘normal’ people.
We’re all gifted in some fashion. Some of us just need the rest to look a little harder to discover what we offer. I think Gordon showed up to not only contribute a great character to a story, but to help others see the value in those affected by spectrum disorders.