Noola schooled me in ’Cosm. Xax did in The Stealth Lovers!

Space background with ringed planet. In white text: Life in Cait's 'Cosm

I feel my characters in these microcosms are always trying to tell me something about myself. When I was drafting Life in the ’Cosm, I was #DisabledAndAlone, so not in community with other Disabled folks. I was frightened, completely unsure about my future. I had been a runner and worked out regularly. Then fibromyalgia pummeled me, and I could barely walk. The fatigue had made it so I could hardly do anything in a day. Frightened? I was terrified, without any comfort. Advised to do yoga.

As I said hundreds of times, I started writing ’Cosm as an exercise to take my mind off the pain. In Chapter three, I decided to create this wacky, glittery, monstery-haired person on roller skates who slams into my protagonist. Yup, enter stage left, Ms. Noola Quirk. She was so upbeat, but had no qualms about keeping things real. Her love of people and lust for life was infectious. She was also kinda silly, but in a fun way. And then my hands typed the words that identified her as disabled—with a neuropathic disease that could possibly leave her paralyzed in a few short years. Um, what?

But I didn’t delete. I just went forward with the story. When she takes the MC to a club, and he’s resistant to enter because he’s shy and feeling socially awkward, she says to him:

“Virj, there’s a time coming for me; I know it’s crouching, just waiting to pounce. I won’t be able to stand or walk by my own power, and there’s a chance I might not be able to leave my flat much, because of excruciating pain. After that, there won’t be pain. There’ll be no feeling in my legs at all. I don’t know what my life will be like then, and how I’ll manage it. Maybe everything will be fine. Maybe I’ll figure it out. But until that happens, I’m gonna grab every moment that is presented to me and savour it to the full. You can go back to the hotel if you like, but I’m inviting you to enjoy my life with me, tonight.”

Life in the ’Cosm, Chapter 12, by Cait Gordon

Maybe I didn’t have a disease that would eventually leave me paralyzed, but I did have a neuropathic pain condition that led me to believe I’d be in a wheelchair one day. At that time, I thought this was the worst fate and didn’t understand how freeing a mobility device would be. (Yay, internalized ableism!) However, I examined what Noola was saying: “I don’t know what my life will be like then, and how I’ll manage it. Maybe everything will be fine. Maybe I’ll figure it out.” These were my true feelings then. What is cool about that passage is that I did figure it out, got into Disabled culture, and everything is fine (apart from the systemic ableism, but I’m managing my mobility just fine).

Now comes, Book 2, which I guess is Book 0, since it’s a prequel. I put a lot of work into The Stealth Lovers. This wasn’t all stream-of-conscious writing like in my first book. I wanted to craft a plausible military culture to set Xax and Viv in, so we could find out how they became legendary, formidable, and fabulous!

Xax is always a blast to write. One thing that struck me about him in TSL, as I was shaping the story, was how his brain had a way of slowing everything down so he could hyperfocus during battles or even simulations. The way in which he’s skilled without it dawning on him as anything special intrigued me. He doesn’t really assume he’s that talented. He figures anyone can do what he does. And he’s not really impressed by earning accolades or by those with them. Social norms? What social norms? He’s just going to be Xax. He does care about being a warrior and will do his duty, but he’ll only respect those who are worthy of it. And he has a really strong sense of justice. You want him on your side. He’d also be least likely to fail a lie-detecting test, because he calls out BS with such relish.

I said to my BFF, “I think Xax might be neurodiverse.” Then I submitted the story to Renaissance, months before I had this almost Biblical-like revelation that I, too, am neurodiverse. I’d written it subtly through Xax here and there—my brain was probably trying to gently hint at me. Yeah…I didn’t clue in at all. Then my brain eventually got fed up and threw me into such sensory overload late last year as a way of saying, “OKAY??? ALSO: HERE’S ALL YOUR LIFE FLASHING BEFORE YOUR EYES SO YOU CAN SEE BACK TO YOUR CHILDHOOD, TEENS, YOUNG ADULTHOOD, AND UP UNTIL NOW, YOU SEXY YOUNG CRONE!!! Go call yourself autistic, tell your doctor, and let’s get on with it!”

Spoke to my BFF first, who is also autistic, and she made a “this is my surprised face” face, metaphorically. We spoke about my various traits at length. Welp, guess I was the last to know. So, nowadays I’m also tuned into the autistic and neurodiverse community, where I’m feeling validated and encouraged. I cannot get enough of the snark, too. Snark is truly life.

Anyway, thanks, Xaxxy, for sparking my brain to realize a thing. You’re an awesome pilot, dude. You’re never gonna be a diplomat, but Viv has that covered, so it’s all good. Keep being you!

Huh. I wonder what I’ll learn about myself in Life in Another ’Cosm?

Cait Gordon, in a black and white digital sketch

Cait Gordon is a disability advocate and the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. When she’s not writing, Cait’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also teamed up with Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us anthology in an attempt to take over the world. Narf.

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