Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on Richard Stephenson's blog tour for Collapse, his dystopian thriller that came out in July 2012. Collapse marks the beginning of a new dystopian series that sees the United States as a failing superpower and environmental disaster around every corner. Richard has stopped by WFTM to discuss Asperger's Syndrome in fiction since Howard Beck, one of the leads in Collapse, has the condition. Take it away, Richard!
Asperger's Syndrome In Fiction
By Richard Stephenson
Quick! Name a fictional character that has Aspergers!
What did you come up with? Perhaps Dr. Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory? Good one. Anybody that is even remotely familiar with Aspergers knows that Sheldon is a textbook Aspie. He has all the telltale signs.
How about Dr. Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds? Yep, all the telltale signs are there once again. Any Parenthood fans out there? A married couple has to cope with the diagnosis of their son having Asperger's. Very touching stuff. My wife and I watched the first few episodes in tears because it hit so close to home for us.
OK, well, what about in books?
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon comes to mind. Excellent book told from the first person point of view of an Aspie. In the Millenium series, and in the recent film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the main character,Lisbeth Salander, is an Aspie. One of my favorite literary characters from my childhood, Sherlock Holmes, is thought to have Asperger's. Many psychologists have had a little fun and given a "fictional" diagnosis to the character.
Which brings me to the point of this blog entry, yes, I do have a point to make. If you have read the sneak peek to Collapse you know that one of the main characters, Howard Beck, has Asperger's Syndrome. I knew that when I started writing this novel that one of the three main characters would have Asperger's Syndrome. It was never a question, that's just how it was going to be. Never occurred to me not to do it.
My fourteen-year-old son has Asperger's. He was diagnosed at the age of four. Dealing with the diagnosis was an ordeal for me and my wife. We had never even heard of Asperger's, when we found out it was on the autism spectrum, we immediately assumed the worst. The only frame of reference that we could lean on was Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. We pictured our son requiring constant care, even into adulthood. Patience and education was our saving grace. We absorbed everything that we could find on the subject. It didn't take long into our journey for me to figure out that I very well could have Asperger's myself. I've never been formally tested, but I share a lot of the characteristics. I become fixated on something to the point of obsession. I am awkward around people that I am not comfortable with. I seldom look anyone in the eye when they talk to me. I can retreat into my mind and stay there for a very long time and not come out. All of these traits I share with my son. I feel that I have a duty to help raise awareness. People need to be educated when it comes to Asperger's. Parents need to know what it is so that they can recognize it and get a head start on treatment. Our son was lucky, before he started kindergarten he been regularly attending speech and occupational therapy. Parents also need to know that an Asperger's diagnosis is not the end of the world. Their child will grow up to live full and productive lives. Some of the most influential characters in history are thought to have had Asperger's. Men like Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Mark Twain, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Speilberg, and Bill Gates are all thought to be among the ranks of Asperger's.
I'm proud to offer up a fictional character in the name of Asperger's awareness. I'm not pretentious enough to put Howard Beck on the same level as the references I have made in this entry. That being said, if anyone opens up Collapse having never heard of Asperger's, I hope they can close the book and have a better understanding of Asperger's. If that happens just one time, I will be satisfied.
Stephenson & Powers Publishing House
Released July 5, 2012
America is falling, ready to join the Roman Empire as a distant memory in the annals of history. The year is 2027. Tired and desperate, the American people are deep in the middle of The Second Great Depression. The Florida coastline is in ruins from the most powerful hurricane on record; a second just like it is bearing down on the state of Texas. For the first time in history, the Middle East has united as one and amassed the most formidable army the world has seen since the Third Reich. A hidden army of terrorists is on American soil. This is the story of three men: Howard Beck, the world’s richest man, also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Richard Dupree, ex-Navy SEAL turned escaped convict. Maxwell Harris, a crippled, burned out Chief of Police of a small Texas town. At first they must fight for their own survival against impossible odds. Finally, the three men must band together to save their beloved country from collapse.
About the Author
Richard Stephenson was born in 1975 in Denison, TX and spent his childhood in North Texas. In 1992, he graduated high school after only three years. He then pursued his degree at Oklahoma Christian University, once again accomplishing the task in three years. Richard then married his best friend before going off to basic training to be a military policeman with the US Army. With his new wife joining the adventure, they spent the next four years at Fort Polk, LA and had two children.
Just before his son turned five, Richard and his wife were told that their oldest child had Asperger’s Syndrome. Nine years later, Richard’s son would become the inspiration for the character of Howard Beck.
After leaving the armed forces, Richard continued his law enforcement career in the federal sector and has been with the Department of Justice for eleven years.
Richard enjoys many things. He reads constantly with the thanks of his trusty iPad. When he can find the time, he can be found playing Mass Effect, Fallout: New Vegas, or Modern Warfare 2. When a friend or a friend of friend needs a computer fixed, Richard is on the case
You can view his website at http://rastephensonauthor.blogspot.com.
His latest book is the dystopian thriller, Collapse.