NerdGuy #33: Making Choices

(This post will have some minor spoilers for Miranda Chase #8, White Top.)

Please note that the following is written by a white, hetero male of the Baby Boomer cohort who has been happily married to a woman for almost a quarter of a century and looks forward to at least that much more of the same. Any offense to any group or individual is wholly unintended. My goal is rather to inform about a wider view I have learned and found supported by research.

#MeToo

Before we go on todays’ main topic (autism and sexuality), I’d like to take a moment to discuss this briefly due to its relevance to what comes below.

The MeToo movement has finally exploded into the news and is starting to weave its way into the fabric of our culture. My comment? About freaking time.

As my fans know, I’ve always been about writing amazing women. Some are kick-ass take-no-prisoners types (Yes, Emily Beale, Kate Stark, and Holly Harper, I’m talking about you). But others are the quiet heroine. The ones who operate from a place of understated brilliance (Miranda Chase, and Perrin Williams in my Where Dreams series to name but two.)

So the MeToo train? I was already on it years ago and I’m cheering ever moment of it. The theory that our society should treat women as people strikes me as kind of a “Duh!”—it is in the top 3 themes of every story I’ve ever written.

There is a history here you don’t want to get me started on right back to the Paul’s original writings and then the Council of Nicea in 325 AD when approximately 300 male bishops redrafted the Bible by choosing what books to include. The conclave of all men, among other crimes, did their best to remove women from almost all significant roles (right down to recasting the woman that a growing body of evidence said could well have been married to Jesus, instead naming her a whore). [Note: modern religious scholars have cast out ancient writings speaking of their marriage as forgeries… Is that truth or are they protecting their beliefs? I’m not in a place to judge but, based on past history, I find it hard not to reach certain conclusions regarding institutional bias.)

Let me just say that as a white hetero male, I find these and other actions to be a horrific reflection on my gender. (I really want a third primary gender: women, decent men, and the rest of the bigoted, misogynistic, abusive male jerks.) As I said, don’t get me started.

But there is another battle that’s been going on a long time and may have an even higher hill to climb.

Gender Choice

And this is what I want to delve into a little today. Some have expressed surprise, even shock at a choice Miranda makes at the end of White Top. Here’s a bit of the nerding out that I did when she came up with the idea.

Gender Identification

I’m a Boomer, born at the end of the 1950s. My social and sexual mores were formed through the lens of the “wild” ’60s and the “conservative” backlash and disaffection of the ’70s.

So, I did some research. Based on a Gallup poll of 15,000 individuals, Statista created this summary chart.

LGBTQ chartA Millennial (born 1981-1996) is 7x more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ than people of my Boomer generation (1946-1964). Gen Z the number jumps to 12x (that’s 1 in 6 people).

Are these changes in our population or a change in our population pressures? (I’ll get to this in a moment.)

Yet here I am writing almost strictly hetero relationships. That statistic got me thinking and led me to write Brenda in Wild Fire (Firehawks #5) and Tricky Dog Gals (White House Protection Force stories #5).

Autism and Societal Pressures

To say that I did a lot of research to create Miranda Chase as a believable person on the autism spectrum would be an understatement. My kid has been an autism researcher and therapist for over a decade. And she was bringing books and discussions on the subject into the house well before that.

And one fact (of kajillions) was tucked away in my writer brain waiting for White Top. One of the common challenges faced by an autistic is the inability to understand “social norms.” The nuances of “correct” ways to be, behave, when to speak and when not to—and so many more—can completely elude the autistic. They may learn by rote how they’re “supposed” to behave in a public setting, but it is not something they can understand.

Along with this comes another challenge, unless it’s an advantage. Their inability to perceive social norms will make them less likely to conform their thinking to those norms. An individual on the autism spectrum will spend a great deal of time asking “Why?” Why is it done this way? Why do people do that and not this? And a common response to the answer will be, “But that doesn’t make any sense.” Societal constructs are, in that sense, false. They are rules we neurotypicals (those not on the spectrum) have created to run our society.

The more I’ve learned about people on the spectrum, the more I’ve come to truly understand that it’s not necessarily because they have some deficiency. In many ways, I think they have an increased range of view uninhibited by society’s imposed expectations. An autistic person may actually be far more rational as this Science Direct paper suggests.

Autism and Sexual Identification

Then the question arises: Is sexual identification a fact or a norm imposed by society?

Studies on this question are mostly lacking. Here’s one that states 15-35% of non-intellectually handicapped (ie. are sufficiently cogent to make their own reliable choices) identify as LGB. In the same article, a psychologist states that the likelihood of someone with autism not identifying as hetero is 2-3x more likely than the normal population.

Playing with the numbers

Above I noted that 9% of Millennials, Miranda Chase’s cohort, are likely to identify as non-hetero. If those with autism, are 2-3x more likely to identify that way, that says that 18-27% of them do so. That is in keeping with the 15-35% statistic. For Gen Z autistics those numbers become 32-48% (a third to a half) of the entire population. (versus 2.6-3.9% for us Boomers).

Where Is This Going For Me?

I don’t really know. I’m not going to suddenly “flip over” and become a major non-hetero writer. It’s not who I am. But am I going to be listening more to my characters when they suggest that they aren’t like me, as Miranda Chase did in her very quiet way? I’d have to say the answer is yes.

Why is it yes? I’m the author, I’m in control, right? Not completely. An author has to respect the integrity of the character. Making them behave in ways that aren’t true to them can “break” the character, making them unbelievable or untrustworthy within the scope of the story.

Is Miranda suddenly lesbian or bi-sexual? No. Miranda is a woman with autism, who doesn’t understand societal norms, and is instead making choices based upon who she likes and wants to be with. That strikes me as a pretty glorious way to be. She is, for lack of a better word, herself.

I hope, as an author, that my characters in the future will have a greater ability to make a choice of their own without my “boomer societal norms” being imposed on them—in any area of their thinking.

Is it a truth or a societal norm that “Women have no souls” as was argued in 575? Or that: “Women should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear and bring up children… If a woman grows weary and at last dies from child bearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing – she is there to do it.’” (Martin Luther)

Is it a truth or a societal norm that we must live within the hetero bounds of the gender we were born with?

You know my answer. Look at the evidence and make yours.

White Top

White Top

Miranda Chase—the heroine you didn’t expect. Fighting the battles no one else could win.

More info →

Release Day: Chinook

A Fine Day to be a Miranda Chase fan

Miranda and the team are back…and in more danger than ever.

In her world, an airplane crash is never what it first appears.

  • A shattered Ghostrider gunship that explodes on impact kills everyone…or does it?
  • A firefighting helicopter downed by an exploding tree should be simple, except when it isn’t.
  • An airshow crash in front of a capacity crowd might be a simple mechanical failure—or a prelude to war!

Fly with Miranda and Jeremy, Holly and Mike, and Andi, who joined the team in Raider, as they race to solve four crashes at once: one in the past, two in the present, and one that hasn’t happened yet—the last could be the worst of all.

Chinook

Chinook

Miranda Chase—the heroine you didn’t expect. Fighting the battles no one else could win.

Order Now!
About the Book

When a crashed helicopter could start a war—Miranda Chase is the woman to save the day.

When the fastest and most powerful helicopters in the US Army’s fleet start falling out of the sky, autistic air-crash genius Miranda Chase and her team of NTSB investigators are called in.

One crash leads to another and they are fast entangled in a Chinese conspiracy to start a war over Taiwan. Only Miranda’s team can stop the trade war from becoming a real one.

Other Books in "Miranda Chase novels"
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

NerdGuy Fridays #1: generals, boneyards, and autism

As if you didn’t know that I’m a major nerdboy (guy) by now. Anyway, I’m going to start posting some of my favorite nerdiness. No guarantees on how often, but it will be on Fridays to end your week with a good dose of quirky stuff I’ve learned, read, or just simply thought about. Some were in my books, some will be, and some are just cool.

The Death of an Iranian Quds General

This has been all over the news this week, but what is Quds? I learned a lot about them while researching Night Stalkers #4 (2013), Take Over at Midnight. They appeared only briefly and were only mentioned in one line, describing an earlier scene where our heroes escaped by the skin of their teeth:

General Rogers spoke over this piece of film. “This has been identified as an element of the newly formed Quds Unit 400. They were first reported in March 2012 as the top-secret Iranian Special Forces. They were formed to operate strictly overseas to carry out terror on extraterritorial targets. But here we see them operating within Iran against one of their own military plants.”

But what are they? The news calls them a part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. That’s like saying Delta Force is part of the Army.

Quds is Iran’s version of our Special Operations Command (SEALs, Rangers, Green Berets, Special Warfare Schools, Night Stalkers, Marine Raiders, and a host of others). Within that there are what we in the US call our four Special Mission Units or Tier 1 assets: Delta, ST6, Combat Controllers, and a curious little intelligence agency sometimes called The Activity or The Army of Northern Virginia that I’ve written about in several places. Special Operations is Quds…kinda. And this is what the dead general commanded and was the mastermind in making it what it is today.

The “kinda” part of that is, among others, a weird little force called “Quds Unit 400” that I mentioned above. Special Operations Command has no equivalent…but the CIA does. Inside the CIA is the Special Activities Division. SAD is tasked with doing the really black ops—Quds is sort of half Special Mission Units and half SAD.

Then it gets interesting. Inside of Quds (which like the SAD is mandated to deal with overseas operations [most of which the US would label as terrorist activities]) is the “Unit 400.” The equivalent inside the CIA is the SOG (Special Operations Group). You need an assassination, or something really, really ugly done, we’d call on SOG and they’d call Unit 400. Both sides would say (have said) that it is the terrorism arm of the other.

The unique thing about General Soleimani was that he was involved from the highest level of command to on the ground organization (which is how the US found him outside his country). So, when I see they’ve taken out the Quds commanding general, I see the strategic genius—who has militarily created Iran as it is today—being killed. The ramifications? Only time will tell. But the inner workings of these agencies cost me about two days of research to find worthy adversaries for my Night Stalkers and write that one line above.


AMARG (AMARC)

The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (formerly Center). Also known as the “Boneyard”, it’s one of the primary places that the US Military stores their old planes. They might be in temporary storage, or headed for destruction and recycling. In the high Arizona desert outside of Tucson at Davis-Monthan AFB, it is the largest collection of aircraft anywhere in the world. As of the December 2019 inventory, there are 3,262 of them.

That’s a lot of airplanes.

Is it any wonder that I keep playing with it. Robin, my heroine in Flash of Fire (Firehawks #4) grew up right there. It also keeps appearing in my new Miranda Chase series (which is about crashed planes, so sure).

AMARG Boneyard
Yes, all those plain brown areas with little dots on them are fields of planes. Click here to load this image in Google Maps. Fun to zoom in on.

Another fun thing to do is go and look at the actual current inventory of planes parked there.

Some are familiar: (107) B-52 bombers, (122) KC-135 aerial tankers (essentially a Boeing 707 turned into a gas pump, high time we replaced those), (86) Sikorsky Black Hawk and SeaHawk helicopters, (311) C-130 Hercules (in various model configurations)

Some are a bit less familiar: (23) Learjets and (7) Gulfstreams for VIP transport, (70) Predator drones (first generation stuff), and (2) Grumman TC-4C Academe (US military designation for a bombardier, navigator trainer (based on a Grumman Gulfstream 1) for the US Navy and Marine Corps, first flown in 1967. Aircraft were fitted with a Grumman A-6 Intruder nose radome, a simulated A-6 cockpit and four bombardier/navigator consoles for A-6 crew training, nine built.) So it’s a plane that’s pretending to be 5 other planes, which is kinda cool.

Some surprising: There are only (10) F-14 Tomcats left (Maverick’s Top Gun plane); they’ve been long since decommissioned from active service (since then we’ve already outdated and placed in storage (163) F-15s and (383) F-16snot making any Maverick fans feel old, am I?). (57) C-5A Galaxy (the second largest military transport in the world; granted these are an older model that could still be upgraded for later use if needed, but that’s a lot of a very big plane.) [This plane also figures prominently in my upcoming Miranda Chase origin story in the Origins of Honor anthology and less prominently in the upcoming Condor.]  And (18) B-1B Lancers (a really amazing, and huge, supersonic bomber).

And some just curious: (1) Ryan Firebee target drone, (1) 60-year-old helicopter, the VH-34 Choctaw, (5) Polish C-145A Skytrucks.

And to honor Miranda Chase’s favorite plane (featured in Drone and Thunderbolt), they still have (1) North American F-86F Sabrejet (the most manufactured fighter jet—ever—with over 10,000 built [most during the Korean War]).

If you want to really go down the rabbit hole with me on this, check out:

https://www.airplaneboneyards.com/airplane-boneyards-list-and-map.htm

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140918-secrets-of-the-aircraft-boneyards

And here are some hints on where to find even more:

https://jalopnik.com/the-ten-most-unbelievable-airplane-junkyards-in-the-wor-1464369226

https://thepointsguy.com/2017/04/guide-to-aircraft-boneyards/


Currently Reading: “Neurotribes” by Steve Silberman

If you’re a layperson looking for an education in the field of autism, this is a startling read. My kid is a professional therapist, so I thought I had some understanding of this scourge that’s becoming so prevalent.

“On the Spectrum” is sort of the new watchword. Perfectly functional adults take aspects of their own personality (shyness, exceptional abilities to concentrate, easily overwhelmed by sensory overload, etc) and decide they’re “On the Spectrum.” (I’m not the right judge, having wondered about this myself, but reading Neurotribes I’d have to say…So Not!)

How to view something we know so little about. It has increased to beyond pandemic proportions in our population. Some of this is due to better diagnosis over the last 50 years since it was first recognized, but there is also a significant rise in occurrence.

Bottom line: scientists, the folks who really study this, have no idea what the cause is. It’s a whole series of disorders that are currently being swept up under the common umbrella of “The Spectrum”, without having common expression or any traceable source. Yet we have Neurotribes and Neurotypicals and…well, I’m still reading the book. (BTW, the whole “immunization causes autism” thing has been proven to be a disastrous fake news epidemic in its own right, dating well before the current US administration. It has been disproven so many times that it’s a great way to really tick off an autism researcher or therapist at a party. Just saying, don’t even go there.)


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