The Speed of Dark - Elizabeth Moon

Lou Arrendale is a brilliant man, with a regular job and hobbies.  He also happens to be the last of a generation left behind of medical advances used to treat neurological deviations pre-birth.  The world around him sees his diagnosis before they see the man or the mind that he possesses, and the company he works for sees the cost of "special accommodations" before the benefit of the skills of Lou's department.  An experimental procedure has "cured" autism in apes, and Lou's work is pressuring his department to take part in the trial treatments.  Now Lou needs to decide what it would me to be neurotypical, and what it means for who he is.

I find this book both incredible and deeply upsetting to read.  The fact that it's told from a non-neurotypical point of view really makes it stand out.

The book's investigation on the concept of normal and identity is why I selected it as the December Virtual Speculation read.

Discussion Fodder:

  • Does the story make you examine your own behaviors and assumptions towards others?  Do you see the behaviors that Lou experiences?  What sort of prejudices exist towards those with different disabilities?
  • What do you think of the portrayal of Lou?  What do you think of Lou's choice?  Do you think the story falls victim to projection and fulfillment?
  • What is the difference between "parroting" and use of a large vocabulary?
  • What is the speed of dark?
  • Joe Lee received neonatal treatment for his autism, and grew up able to normally process stimulation.  How does this change his life experience?  Is he still non-neurotypical?  What about the differences between Lou's generation and the older autistics who missed out completely on the medical advances as children?
  • What is "normal"?  How "normal" are "normal people"?
  • How do things change who we are?
  • What do you think of the procedure and it's theorized applications beyond treating autism?  What are the ethical implications?  
  • What do you think about the Programmable Personality Determinant chip for correcting criminal behavior?