Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

My name is William

I recently discovered that there is a name for my condition, hyperlexia.  It is a word I thought I had made up, but it was first coined in 1967, the year I was born.

I am addicted to the flow of data – coherent, interesting data.  If you are in the same room as me and I am glued to my notebook without ever looking up, it probably means that you are making too much noise, or talking about something I find embarrassing (usually the spouting of right-wing political opinion) or I just don’t like you.

I studied creative writing with the Open University.  My academic background is in chemistry.

I write short fiction and poetry.

In 2011 I won the 2nd prize in the ‘Grist’ short fiction competition run by the University of Huddersfield.   My story is called ‘Slow Dance With A Skeleton’ and appears in an anthology entitled, ‘Outside the Asylum’.  It is about a man who meets a nutter in a railway station.

I have had a story called ‘Pick-up Technique’ accepted for publication by an e-publishing venture called Goggle.  They have since terminated my contract, and so the story is currently unavailable, and I am marketing it as part of a collection.

On 30 June 2012 I came 2nd in the 5 Minute Fiction 1st Birthday competition, winning GBP 50.  My story is called ‘Don’t Tell Me What It Is’.  I won the 5 Minute Fiction 2012 Christmas competition, with a story called ‘Ten Pence, Please’.

I have had a story published by The Fiction Desk.  It is called ‘Can We Have You All Sitting Down, Please?’ and appears in an anthology entitled, ‘Crying Just Like Anybody’.

My latest publication is a novella, published by Grist.  It is called ‘Escape Kit’.  You can buy it from http://www.inpressbooks.co.uk  .  This is a really good distributor, specialising in independent publishers from the UK and Ireland.  They take debit cards and are very efficient.

8 responses to “My name is William

  1. Claire Jones October 20, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Didn’t we once meet in a railway station, William? I hope I am not the nutter to whom you refer…

  2. wthirskgaskill October 20, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    No, Claire. You seemed remarkably stable. I hope we can meet again soon in another railway station.

    • Claire Jones October 30, 2011 at 7:34 pm

      Pick one. I’ll be there…

      By that I don’t mean that I’ll be at any old random railway station because that’s what I do with my spare time, I mean if you tell me where to be I’ll be.

      But you knew that. Too much caffeine.

      • Mangrove November 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm

        Actually, it reads like something more. Have you ever been tested for Asperger’s Syndrome? I think you might have it, or at least have symptoms that place you somewhere on the autism spectrum.

        At the very least, you appear to have a high degree of self-absoption, as evidenced by the prolific use of the word ‘I’ in the above narrative. However, the anti-social bias that you allude to, and the inclination to become obssessed over data and, perhaps, other narrow fields of interest, could very well indicate some form of autism. Worth exploring if nothing else.

  3. wthirskgaskill November 29, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you for your comment, which I found interesting.

    I have never been tested for Asperger’s syndrome. A former therapist of mine thought that I may have it in a modified form. My ex-wife was convinced that I have it. She once gave me a list of the symptoms, which included things like “being emotionally distant”. To me, that is a symptom of masculinity, not anything clinically diagnosable.

    You have hit the nail on the head when you say that I exhibit a high degree of self-absorption. That is the main reason I started this blog.

  4. Mangrove November 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    It could be liberating to find out, no?

    Here are a few signs that you might recognise:

    Literal thinking – a tendency to take the literal sense from communication, with difficulty understanding figurative speech, such as metaphore, sarcasm, irony and the like. This might be less clear to you than to others. However, you might notice that others seem to laugh at stuff a lot, leaving you wondering what the hell is funny. Figurative meaning plays a big roll in humour. Have you ever been accused of having a poor sense of humour?

    Social problems – because Aspies (as they like to call themselves) find it difficult to ‘read’ body language they may not notice the ‘real’ meaning behind somebody’s words. Around 80% of communication in a face-to-face meeting is non-verbal, so that’s a potential 80% that an Asperger’s person might not fully understand, therefore they might come to the wrong conclusions. For e.g. the words might be ‘you’re very interesting’ but the body language might be ‘you’re so boring, I can’t wait to get out of here.’ If you get that meaning the wrong way around, there is big potential to compound the error and to bore the other person sensless.
    Additionally, Asperger’s people can not guage the an appropriate tone or volume of speech very well: it’s often too loud, too intrusive; too grating perhaps when everyone else is whispering deferentially ,say, at at a funeral or in a library – that kind of thing.
    Do you have trouble fitting in in social situations, or have you been accused of being rude or insensitive?

    Vulnerability to sensory overload – do you get sensory overload? Open plan offices are a nightmare to work in ’cause there’re too many distractions, right? Do you need peace and quiet and isolation to do your best work? Do back street drivers, traffic lights and other drivers make your driving stressful?

    Awkward posture – do you feel uncomfortable, physically, standing in a crowded room. Do you shuffle from foot-to-foot, lean against the wall then change your mind and stand up straight, then walk around a bit, then… you get the idea.

    Difficulty with abstract things – Do you detest vagueness? Are you deeply satisfied when things work out precisely, as in mathematics? Do you often ask for confirmation to double check the precise meaning of instructions that you’ve been given? Do you prefere things to be spelt out exactly, in sequence, rather than been delivered to you in one lump?

    Difficulty in controlling emotional outbursts – do things make you angry? Have you been accused of being bad tempered? Or that you are on a short fuse?

    Tendancy to be highly confrontational – Do you automatically, or often, see the opposite point-of-view to what somebody is saying? If you disagree, to you say so, without hesitation?

    Self absorption – Everyone sees the world through their own eyes, hears it through their own ears and filters the information through their own brain where it is coloured and interpreted according to their previous life experiences. Asperger’s people tend to have difficulty in appreciating the implications of that, with a tendancy to behave as if everybody else reaches the same conclusions as them, or sees things in the same way, or is interested in the same things that they are. This leads to self-absorption and a genuine and sincere non-interest in the lives, thoughts, motivations, interests and events of other people. Do other people irritate you? Do you find their petty problems and concerns to be pathetic or boring? Are you deeply interested and committed to the schemes, projects and plans that you have in your own life? Do others tend to get in the way of that?

    Blurting, and innapropriate responses – If you walk into a room and somebody has a very bright orange shirt on that clashes horribly with their jacket, are you likely to express your opinion of the shirt to them, are you honest in that way? Do you think of yourself as being very honest and frank? Asperger’s people, because they only tend to recognise one perspective – their own, often say blunt and innapropriate things to others. They have difficulty realising that the other person, who may have chosen the shirt carefully because they think it looks nice, may be emotionally hurt by the blunt statement of dislike, which they will probably take as criticism. Non- Asperger’s people would tend to be more tactful and hold back from expressing their opinion of the shirt for fear of hurting the other person’s feelings. Have you ever been accused of being rude or disrespectful to people?

    As previously mentioned, Asperger’s people have a tendancy to become obssessed with a narrow field of interest. For that reason, they tend to achieve highly in their field (as long as the social problems allow it). There are many great scientists, investors, mathematicians etc who are Asperger’s people – mostly back-room professions where they can work alone. There is a thriving Asperger’s community on the web – they like to call themselves Aspies.

    Anyway that’s enough to give you food for thought. Good luck.

    • wthirskgaskill November 30, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      Sense of humour and figurative speech: no, I am the exact opposite. My late father once received a serious offer of a job as a professional comedy writer and I take after him. Both my parents were engaged in almost constant wordplay and I began to contribute to this at quite an early age. Have you not read either of my “Made-up tutor” articles? Or the parody I wrote of a Michael Stewart play? I do occasionally take what people are saying too literally, but that virtually never occurs in a humorous setting. It is usually just because I have allowed myself to forget for a moment that other people don’t try very hard to make themselves clear.

      I do get accused of being rude or insensitive all the time but, again, it is for somewhat more complex reasons than you mention. I don’t behave inappropriately at funerals. Again: quite the opposite: I have officiated at three non-religious funerals and on each occasion, people I did not know previously asked me if I had considered becoming a professional officiant.

      I definitely get sensory overload. I would say that I am not much different in this regard from other people. Others may disagree. There is a very loud woman in my open-plan office and a man who whistles, both of whom I would quite happily strangle, but they don’t stop me from working. Having to live and try to carve out a career as a writer in a house where crap TV programmes are on constantly has actually increased my output. I work with my lap-top or notebook on my knee, and I use immersion in the work as a shield against the extraneous sensory load. I parodied some Open University material which described what seemed to me to be improbably tranquil and uncluttered writing environments.

      Posture: no problem. The time when I feel happiest and most alive is when I am on a platform with a microphone in my hand and everybody in the room is looking at me.

      Vagueness: I do have a passion for precise language, but that is partly because I was brought up by lawyers. My day job is founded on vagueness and I am better at dealing with this than some of my colleagues.

      Emotional outbursts: it depends who you ask. I do get angry sometimes. Sometimes I get very angry indeed. I am a human being. Most of the time I spent in therapy was to deal with the effect my late father had on me, which was to inculcate the idea that all expression of emotion (other than in literature) was always a bad thing.

      Being confrontational: no, I try to avoid conflict if I can do so without harm to myself. I despise what I call “cliff-dwellers”: people who refuse to take a single step back because they think that even a tiny concession will destroy their whole position.

      Self-absorption. Do other people irritate me? Yes, they do. No human being ever spoke a truer sentiment than Sartre, when he said, “Hell is other people.” I am not as bad in this regard as I used to be, but it is something that I have to consciously work at.

      Blurting things out: no, that’s not me at all. Most people complain that they can’t tell what I am thinking. If I saw some-one with a bright orange shirt on, I would probably admire him or her for having a distinctive style and then carry on along my way.

      Narrow fields of interest: I am the world’s worst specialist. My specialised subject is general knowledge. My field of interest is everything.

      I think everything you mentioned had already been raised by my therapist. Another thing which, in my case, is very marked behaviour is emotional detachment – not just from people but from situations. I am a very good person to be around if the building catches fire: the worse the physical crisis, the calmer I become. This is an example of how rational behaviour can be interpreted as being dysfunctional if it is “too” rational.

      Thank you again for your comments.

  5. Mangrove December 1, 2011 at 11:00 am

    At the risk of of becoming boring, here are a couple more observations for you to consider:

    You said, “She once gave me a list of the symptoms, which included things like “being emotionally distant”. To me, that is a symptom of masculinity, not anything clinically diagnosable.”

    I think that’s a mistaken belief. Emotional detachment is not gender specific. From my own experience, I know plenty of emotionally engaged men and women and plenty of emotionally disengaged men and women. Neither is the symptom of emotional detachment specific to the autistic spectrum, as it presents in other conditions, too. Nevertheless, taken with the other indicators that you’ve mentioned, it could be relevant.

    You said, “Being confrontational: no, I try to avoid conflict if I can do so without harm to myself.”

    I think that you might lack insight on this point. For example, in the text for this web page you have used a highly confrontational approach with this bit: “If you are in the same room as me and I am glued to my notebook without ever looking up, it probably means that you are making too much noise, or talking about something I find embarrassing (usually the spouting of right-wing political opinion) or I just don’t like you.”

    Best wishes

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