About the Author
Hello, my name is Nicholas Anderson. Planet Ripple is a project I've had in the works for a few years, and I drew
and wrote everything attached to the name. I am also on the autism spectrum . Not that I want a medal for it. It's
just a fact. It's there, in my brain, and I can't get rid of it. There is no curing or escaping autism. There are varied
levels of it, though. It's a spectrum, and every autistic individual is somewhere on that complex spectrum. It's
different for everybody. Most people would never know that I have it now unless it was explicitly pointed out
to them, but when I was a child it was pretty evident, and intense. I played with legos a lot, but my "play" was
different from other kids. I mostly just built them, took them apart, built them back up and broke them down again over and over obsessively, for hours. During this time, it was rare that I'd put a piece in the "wrong" place or even experiment much because it was more like a study project for me than a game. I could memorize every line in a movie after seeing it only once or twice, or a chapter of a book that was read to me one time and repeat it line for line, not missing a single word. . . but I didn't really know what was being said. I didn't understand a lot of it, but I knew I liked the way it was said. A neuropsychologist tested me by listing a series of numbers (each number was a few digits long) and asked me to repeat them backwards. I could do that. But I didn't do so well with simpler things, like if we played a game of opposites, he'd say, "Fall is to spring what cold is to. . . ?" The answer is hot obviously, but my mind went down such a different line of thinking than neurotypical kids my age that I got that and every similar question wrong. I couldn't find the words. I found other ones, but not the ones he was waiting to hear. It's like we were speaking different languages. The way my brain approached problems was different. Looking back it almost feels like looking at another life, like reincarnation, you know?
With that much of what brainpower I had being diverted to things that seemed like such a waste of time, there was so much about the world I didn't understand that from the looks of it, my classmates did. I always seemed to be a step behind, even though I'd race through my homework (while still in the school) to get to my true passion,
drawing. Drawing gave me that understanding of other people that I needed. It started with smiley faces and stick figures. Then I got into "Thomas and Friends". This was back when they used model railways and practical effects. Heck, this was back when they still based most of the episodes on the actual Railway Series books, and those static, easily readable facial expressions of the engines gave me good inspiration to draw from during those early formative years. Heck, any cartoon where the faces were drawn in some exaggerated way helped me understand what those facial expressions meant, because they made it so obvious and hard not to see. This was also the case for many other autistic children growing up at the time. Then I got a little older. My interests changed. I started getting into more "mature" things, like "Bionicle" and "Transformers", things where the characters stood upright and more closely resembled people, in some ways at least. From this I gained a very basic understanding of human anatomy, though not that far beyond where arms and legs go. Then I began drawing comics, and not too long after I was drawing human characters. They didn't look good. They weren't exactly convincing humans, but it was a step that for a long time, I didn't have the confidence to take. Through my teen years I kept testing myself, not just with new characters, but new stories. It was around this time that I'd gained a second passion, writing. In the beginning it was mostly fan fiction, but it was a start. I began applying myself in new ways, subverting things I never liked about certain stories, taking on more challenging subject matter, increasingly adult, serious material, and even the occasional children's book . And I threw it all into the public sphere to see what people made of it. The stream of feedback I got throughout those years helped. My readers kept me on track, gave me focus, let me know what I was doing right, what to keep doing and what not to. For a time, I'd have an idea for something I wanted to try out and think "I could never do something like that," and then a few years later, find myself doing that exact thing. These were all just little steps up a tall ladder, testing myself to see what I was capable of, how I'd handle whatever material I was working with, what I could add to it, what I could get away with, how it would turn out. I even started writing my own, more original works. But none of them were good enough to market. None of them felt like things I could actually use to feed myself. But I was getting closer. And all the while, writing gave me a better understanding of how people communicate, how people actually talk in real life. I could look at something I'd written a few years before and think, "This is silly. People don't talk like this," and it's only in recent years, after all that work, that I've felt ready to take that final necessary step and put something like Planet Ripple together. And here it is.
But I never would've made it here, never come close, if it weren't for people like my mother. Throughout all my
excursions, she believed in me when I can say many parents in her place probably wouldn't. She's an artist herself, so she understood. She didn't find it silly of me to spend so much time on these projects or say I should give up and settle for something more practical, And people like me need someone like that in their lives. Minnow needs such people in her life too, people who will never stop believing in her.
With enough support, patience and understanding from loved ones, things that come naturally to others can
be learned in time. It's a story you'll hear from more than a few autists, and the progress many autistic adults have made and the things they've gone on to do are something, but it never really "ends." Chances are, you may always be autistic, whether you "look it" or pass. But so what? What's wrong with being autistic? Why is it seen as an insult to be called such? With more people than ever being diagnosed to be somewhere on the spectrum, it's made me wonder . . .
"Is there a market for a story featuring an autistic character? Is there even an audience of people who may want
to read such a thing?" Stupid question, of course there is. While a few ableists may see some danger in "normalizing" the condition, or giving neuroatypical people "false hope" by making it seem like not that terrible of a thing, I think it's important not only that this group be positively represented in media so they can aspire to be like the characters they see in stories, but that neurotypical people can come to understand those with the condition. Minnow, the lead protagonist of Planet Ripple, is my ambassador. Like me she is at a point in her life where in most conversations people may not even pick up on it, and no one in the story ever outright calls out what her condition is by name, but there are enough flashbacks to her youth and other, more current scenes where the symptoms manifest that people who have seen these symptoms before in real life or know someone who has them or even have these symptoms themselves will notice and realize, "Oh. She's autistic. Okay, neat." Of course, I don't want to market this as "just" an autistic person story with no other substance to it, because people with autism are not "just" their condition. It is not their entire personality. They have tastes and interests and desires and dreams like anyone else. Yes, Minnow's struggle is the emotional core of Planet Ripple, but if that was its only selling point, it may not be interesting enough to catch on. It would feel more like a PSA than an actual story with resolution, character growth and a world that feels alive. Just as she is not her condition, Minnow does not live in a void where nothing affects her. I want Minnow to go places. I want her to succeed. In the contents of this series of books, I've developed a whole world for Minnow to live in, and I hope readers find it to be compelling stuff, because there is very little Minnow does in this story that any high functioning autistic person could not also accomplish.
If you've made it this far, I hope you enjoy the journey to come. Thank you.