Speaking Fandom, Or How I Keep Convincing People I’m Into Stuff I’m Not

All the world’s a stage, and autistic people are better actors than our detractors will ever know. The allistic majority operates by alien rules that most of us do not truly understand until we are nearing adulthood, and which seem arbitrary and pointless even then. In the meantime, our traits are unwelcome in their spaces and they respond to them with vitriol, ostracism, and violence. To exist in public and maybe even have friends, most of us learn one pivotal skill: masking. We master hiding many of the traits that define us, restraining stims, concealing enthusiasm, and imitating social niceties that do not come naturally. The mask becomes instinctive, unwanted and unnatural but nevertheless automatic.

And sometimes, that has me looking pretty sus.

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Speaking Fandom, Or How I Keep Convincing People I’m Into Stuff I’m Not
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Alcapurrias, Alyssa Style

Some memories demand to be remade.

One of the few culinary memories I have been completely unable to experience outside of a home kitchen is alcapurrias. This classic Puerto Rican fritter features prominently in my childhood as an occasional treat, especially around holidays, and made for exciting lunches because of their rarity. On occasion, the whole family would get together to make an especially large batch, a rustic experience wonderfully out of place in our big-city home. Posted recipes posit that the alcapurria is a variety of croquette and usually recommend the familiar croquette log or cigar shape, but the ones I knew were round, more like hand-pies or empanadas in size and presentation. Once I left Miami, those memories became more and more distant, and more and more treasured. As a matter of my Puerto Rican pride, I needed to take control of those memories and make them more firmly mine, and that meant learning how to make alcapurrias. And today, I succeeded.

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Alcapurrias, Alyssa Style

Save Me From Ordinary

It was ordinary people who told me my soul would burn when I told them I am an atheist.

It was ordinary people who kept me from recognizing my gender until my 20s.

It was ordinary people who promoted a level of homework that devoured my free time for most of high school.

It was ordinary people who saw everything about me that was not useful to them and demanded that it change.

It was ordinary people who kept me feeling excluded, misunderstood, and feared until I was an adult, and sometimes still.

It was ordinary people who lied to me for fun and jeered at me for believing them.

It was ordinary people who made the world too bright, too loud, too messy, too much, and told me I was wrong for noticing.

It was ordinary people who made it so that, when I am frustrated or scared enough, I stop feeling my hands.

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Save Me From Ordinary

Beef and Walnut Rendang, Alyssa Style

This one is a little different.

If the foodways of the coastal tropics have a unifying feature, it is the coconut. Spread by its own maritime machinations as well as human effort, Cocos nucifera is a large, flavorful, energy-dense addition to numerous cuisines and if there is anything about my people’s cooking that frustrates me, it is that it does not use enough coconut. Coconut has been my gateway into so many other delights and into so many different cultures’ recipes, and today, it serves that role again.

Enter beef rendang, or rendang daging in Bahasa Indonesia.

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Beef and Walnut Rendang, Alyssa Style

A Series of Silly Shipping Vignettes, Because I Am Not Going To Watch Debates This Year

The garbage fire of 2020 demands a little levity, and I am here to provide. So, here are some silly vignettes about unlikely relationships. You are welcome.

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A Series of Silly Shipping Vignettes, Because I Am Not Going To Watch Debates This Year

We Are All Entrapta

If there is one accusation that the allistic world likes to inflict on people like me, it is the idea that we do not care. Our norms flout theirs, our preferences are alien to them, our interests do not align with theirs, our emotions do not work like theirs, and to each of these, they levy their curse: you don’t care. They fling a tiresome welter of robot and reptile and cold and computer and alien at our feet, each a stiletto aimed at the part of us that is willing to believe them. Their only idea for who and what we are denies our humanity.

When I see the same accusation leveled at one of the most impressively competent and compassionate portrayals of our neurology in popular media, Princess Entrapta from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, my irritation turns to icy resolve.

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We Are All Entrapta

Redemptive Sacrifice Done Right: On Shadow Weaver

Redemption through sacrifice is an old motif that has gotten more attention in recent popular media. Redemption arcs are powerful when done correctly, but they are also difficult to execute and require specific story structures to support them. Writers who want the powerful singular moment of redemption with less of the work required to earn it often use sacrifice as a shortcut. When a character’s life ends in the service of the people they have wronged, it can seem like the ultimate return payment for the harm they have caused, but can also be emotionally cheap. Without an effort to actually make right the wrongs of one’s past, a redemptive sacrifice can seem like an effort to suffer enough that some cosmic scale is balanced, a retributive impulse turned inward rather than a restorative one aimed outward. Worse, destroying oneself in a sacrificial blaze can also seem like an effort to escape accountability and prevent an honest reckoning with one’s legacy. For these reasons, I have grown to resent the idea of characters experiencing redemption through destroying themselves.

But one piece of media managed this difficult task with impossible grace, and that is She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. The story of Shadow Weaver might be the only time in my conscious memory that I have seen a redemptive sacrifice work. And to understand why, we have to go through Shadow Weaver’s story.

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Redemptive Sacrifice Done Right: On Shadow Weaver