ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the November 8, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] ari_the_dodecahedron, [personal profile] librarygeek, and [livejournal.com profile] ng_moonmoth. It also fills the top row (threats from outside, generalization / specialization of members, generations, failures) in my 9-2-16 card for the Worldbuilding 4x4x4 Fest. This poem has been sponsored by [livejournal.com profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the series An Army of One.

Warning: This poem touches on some sensitive and controversial issues. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. There's a lot of cute kid stuff, but the adult emotional plane includes some miserable stuff. There is homesickness, hatred of current location, extreme discomfort, near-total dissatisfaction with family life, relationship issues, lack of accommodation for needs, which makes it incredibly obvious how little the neurotypical officers cared about their neurovariant staff, post-traumatic stress, questions about family, general criticism of unsupportive societies, family planning, challenges of social engineering to fill gaps in necessary services, and other issues. On the bright side, Armelle is finally starting to think about how to make Sargasso Station more livable. If these are uncomfortable considerations for you, please think about your tastes and headspace before clicking through.

"Make Their Own Boxes"

Armelle hated living on Sargasso Base.

She hated the bare walls and the bare floors
and the way noise bounced and echoed endlessly.

She hated the fact that most of the population
consisted of adults who weren't parents, and
everything had been designed for adults only,
without consideration for children underfoot.

She missed her family and her friends, all of whom
had died in the Massacre of Cascabel, and she
hadn't had much luck making new ones.

Her husband tried, but honestly, Bottleneck
was the next best thing to useless.

At least Darmid was a ray of hope.
He was a father and a fellow refugee,
and he had taken over teaching the handful
of children who had come to the station.

One day, Armelle found Darmid supervising
the children as they made craft boxes from
some sort of foam. Packing crates and
boxes lay scattered around them.

"What happened here?" she asked.

"Oh, they started playing with empty boxes --
which make great toys -- but they had trouble
getting things to fit the way they wanted,"
he said. "So we're making our own."

"Why not just figure out how to use
the boxes they already had?" she said.

“The most interesting people you’ll
find are ones that don’t fit into
your average cardboard box,"
said Darmid. "They’ll make what
they need, they’ll make their own boxes.”

So Armelle let Embry play with the scraps
of foam and cardboard while Tyson and
the others put together their boxes.

Bottleneck dropped by and immediately focused
on the materials. "Where did you get all that?"
he wondered. "The kids seem to love it."

"Some of it came from storage, but there's
also a machine that makes all kinds of foam,
soft or firm, in different colors and patterns,"
Darmid said. "No one was using it, so I
appropriated it for craft supplies."

"Oh right, that's a habitat extruder,"
Bottleneck said. "It's for making offices
soundproof, or repairing ships when they
have damage to the crew quarters."

"Soundproof," Armelle said. "Could we
make enough of this to insulate a whole room?"

"Sure, that's what it's for," Bottleneck said.

"Let's do it," Armelle said. "People are always
yelling at us about how noisy the children are,
and bare walls are really uncomfortable."

"Yeah, almost nobody likes the noise,"
Bottleneck said. "People just didn't bother
to fix it before, except the secrecy cubicles
and now some of the quiet rooms are lined."

"What about doing a whole corridor?"
Darmid said, picking up a sheet of blue foam
with a wavy pattern. "If we put families in
the same place, we could soundproof it
with children in mind. That ought
to make everyone a lot happier."

"It should work," Bottleneck said.
"But how do we define families?
People will want to know, and well,
what we have here is kind of a mess."

"Children first," Armelle said, pulling
Embry into her lap and picking up
a foam puppet to entertain her.
"They're the most stressed here,
and the most noisy. After that ...
I don't know, what else is there?"

Bottleneck blushed. "Weavercreep
and Operetta are loud," he said.
"We don't have many couples, but
I'd put those next on the list."

"If the extruder is meant for
mass production, it's not likely
to run out soon," Darmid said.
"We can start soundproofing
the children's areas and then
move outward from there."

"The AYES have human pilots,"
Armelle said, thinking about
recent news reports. "They
might appreciate this too."

"Yeah, and we could trade them
supplies for transport," Bottleneck said.
"I think Supply Base Bounty 3D3N is
the only other place with an extruder.
Everyone else will have to barter.
Just because we're the first place
to have kids, doesn't necessarily
mean we'll be the last."

That got Armelle thinking about
population replacement and
sustainable growth patterns.

"We'll need to plan for more kids,"
she said. "If we want this society
to continue, then it will need more
than just a single generation. We've
seen what kind of failures the Arms
generated, we don't need that here."

"Start small and build on it,"
Darmid said again. "We'll manage."

"Generalization and specialization,"
Bottleneck said. "We have a lot of people
who do one thing really well, and other things
badly or not at all. We have a few who can
do lots of stuff, but not many. That means
thinking about what we need most, and
what jobs we could phase out and replace."

The threat from the Arms was distant,
but ever present. The threat from space
was closer and constant. Armelle knew
that Bottleneck was right; their skillset
had been established with espionage
in mind, not colonization. They
would need to regroup.

"Colonies need families," she said.
"I know some people here aren't
very interested." She carefully
did not look at Bottleneck as she
spoke. "For those who are, we'll
need to help them find partners
and fill in any skills they're missing."

"I've done some family support,"
Darmid said. "I could help, if we can
find a few other folks to learn about
raising and teaching children."

Bottleneck looked at the lopsided octagon
that Tyson was trying to hand him.
"I think we'll need flexibility too,"
he said. "Don't assume that we
can do the same as everyone else.
For us, a lot of things --" He waved
at the discarded boxes. "-- just don't fit."

"That makes sense," Armelle said.
"Some people might not want a spouse
or children, but might have someone else
who is special to them, like the AYES
and their pilots, or Backup and
his honorary brothers."

"I'll talk to Hootowl and Router,"
Darmid said. He paused to show Mair
how to use the plastic safety scissors,
which she still hadn't figured out. "Then
we can start a discussion about families
and what new arrangements they need."

Armelle looked at the colorful bits of foam
that littered the deck -- and the children --
along with the boxes they had made.

Maybe Sargasso Base wasn't awful after all.
Maybe she had just been trying to shove
her life into the wrong kind of box.

Armelle picked up a sheet of foam.
"Let me show you kids how to make
a round box," she said. "My mother
taught me this when I was a girl."

* * *


Armelle -- she is neuroambiguous, the wife of Bottleneck and mother of Embry. Armelle lost her entire family in the Massacre of Cascabel, except for her husband and daughter. Armelle and Bottleneck aren't close; the marriage was urged on them by their parents because it's what people do. Eventually she tracked Bottleneck down. Introduced in "New Wine in Old Bottles."

Bottleneck -- a neurovariant man with an interest in materials, who takes up some of the manufacturing as the Lacuna starts to produce its own goods. He is introduced in "Seeking a Happy Medium."

Darmid -- a neurotypical man. He is married to Verena, a pilot. They have a three-year-old daughter, Mair (probably neurotypical) and a four-year-old son Tyson (neurovariant with ADHD). Darmid is currently a teacher, and also has a background in emergency work. He moved to the Lacuna to escape persecution of his family on Epizygis. Introduced in "No Measure of Health."

Embry -- she is a neurovariant toddler, daughter of Armelle and Bottleneck. She came with her mother from Casabel to Sargasso Base. Introduced in "New Wine in Old Bottles."

Mair -- a three-year-old girl, probably neurotypical. She is the daughter of Verena and Darmid, younger sister of Tyson (neurovariant with ADHD). Her family moved to the Lacuna to escape persecution on Epizygis. Introduced in "No Measure of Health."

Tyson -- a four-year-old boy, (neurovariant with ADHD). He is the son of Verena and Darmid, older brother of Mair (probably neurotypical). His family moved to the Lacuna to escape persecution on Epizygis. Introduced in "No Measure of Health."

* * *
“The most interesting people you’ll find are ones that don’t fit into your average cardboard box. They’ll make what they need, they’ll make their own boxes.”
-- Dr. Temple Grandin

People with autism don't fit in with neurotypical society, and often feel alienated. This can get so extreme that they describe it as "being born on the wrong planet." Forcing people to act neurotypical is abusive. The pressure to fit in is not only damaging to those who cannot no matter how they try, but exhausting to those who can fake it. This is why folks in the Lacuna didn't want to go back to the Galactic Arms, and also why aspies here fantasize about a world of their own.
Well, I've done my best. Here are some apps that people on the spectrum use to cope with neurotypical culture and its challenges.

3D printers can make amazing things such as houses and memory foam cushions. Watch this 3D printer make an emergency house out of foam. Here is a summary of large-scale 3D printing.

Craft foam comes in rolls, sheets, blocks, appliques, etc. Explore fun projects for kids.

Acoustic panels muffle sound, providing peace and privacy. These ceiling tiles come in many patterns and several colors. They're as nifty as classic tinprints only more practical. These panels come in one wavy pattern and many bright colors. Check out these decorating ideas. You can also make your own sound-absorbing panels.

Boxes and bags are fun to make. Read instructions for building custom-sized storage boxes, keepsake boxes, hexagons, foam bowls, round boxes, and a funky makeup box.

Safety scissors come in different styles. Some are all plastic and will only cut paper, not skin, hair, clothes, etc. Others have metal cutting edges which can typically cut soft things such as paper or craft foam, but not fabric.

Alternative families come in many types. Although reproduction is generally considered the core of family formation, there are many other types of kinship. These diverse household arrangements affect shopping and other habits. Families of choice belong to the changing social landscape too.

Some cultures have other terms for relationship groups. Nakama (Japanese) can mean "friend, comrade, crewmate" or "closer-than-kin." 'Ohana (Hawaiian) includes genetic relatives, formally or informally adopted ones, and close family friends. A related concept is calabash cousins, for people who have grown up together. The practice of hanai adoption is integral to Hawaiian culture, but can cause friction in contemporary times.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-05 05:16 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
I like. This is smooth; plotwise it has the good quality of calm fluid forward movement of a flowing stream.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2016-12-05 05:48 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
I'm used to that? Nobody seems to come to school *without* some of it? I don't know. People are always so tired and stressed, but then kids are awesome anyway and it's so totally worth it to do great things with them.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2016-12-05 06:28 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
You're not wrong. High-poverty neighborhood. With the best of prep and self-care, even when things are going right (and there are things that are NOT) adults still come into work / their kid's classroom braced to hear about a new trauma. Yeah, including me. You're right to worry. But ... I can do this. And it helps. And I do know when I'm losing my cope ... I'm not losing it *at work* right now. Although I wish I had more *time* in my day. And more spoons.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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