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Retraction: Interview with Stephen Roberts from The Dark Fiction Spotlight

  • Posted on January 10, 2011 at 1:02 PM

On October 26, 2010, I wrote a scathing post about The Dark Fiction Spotlight for hosting an autism anthology that stated in the guidelines, “Anything that will offend Autism Speaks will offend me and will not be considered.”

I didn’t really expect a response from the magazine.  I certainly didn’t expect the response that I received from Stephen Roberts:

I stumbled upon this blog by chance and it pains me that this is the image you’ve gained of myself, my associations and my magazine, The Dark Fiction Spotlight.

I wish to tell you about the autism anthology that will never be. 

[You read the rest of the comment here.]

Well, to say the least, this required a retraction.  But I was curious.  I wanted to know more.  So, I contacted Stephen Roberts, and was granted an interview.

You stopped participating in the autism anthology you were working on with Autism Speaks.  Where did this project come about and what ultimately made you make the decision to pull out of the project?

Well, to be honest, I’m new to the politics and such of autism. All I knew was what I learned from my nephews as I watched them grow. I was tapped by a publishing company preparing to launch that was to be run by a good friend of mine and she said she wanted to do the occasional charity anthology, to which I immediately thought of autism and my nephews.

Once announced, I received a great deal of support from the literary community, but also an outcry as to whom I’d associated myself with and more so my nephews, as they were to be involved in the cover art.

I immediately hit the web and started looking up every forum on autism I could and I found out that autism didn’t represent my views on autism to say the least.

You are still interested in pursuing a similar project.  What are you looking for in recipients to the funds you raise?

I would still love to do something to help out the families touched by autism, namely the education of children and even the continued education of adults. I have found that many people write off those with autism, whereas all they need is a bit of patience from us to show us how brilliant they are.

I’m open to collaborate with somebody that has the vision and perhaps even the connections to get the funds earned to the proper place.

I also feel like we need more sites that represent the community of those touched by autism and not just the same biochemical explanations. More communication, less misinformation.

You are helping your sister raise your nephews, who have diagnoses of autism.  How has that changed or shaped your views on autism? 

Frankly, I knew little to nothing about autism several years ago, but when my oldest nephew was diagnosed (he’s 8-years-old now, his brother is 6-years-old), I sort of understood it, but mostly just did what I had to do for them on a day to day basis. I know their autistic, but to me they’ve never been “special” or hindered by anything.

I guess we (my family) must be doing something right, as their schools consider them to be gifted and they grow both socially and academically in leaps and bounds. 

What do you consider the most important areas for research in autism?

Again, to me I believe it to be all about education. Isn’t it a magical idea that my nephews could be given a shot that would immediately “fix them”, giving them perfect speech and altered personalities?

I do not mean to insult anybody on their views, but I just personally feel that education is key to the benefit of an autistic child as to ensure a healthy and prosperous adulthood.

I’m always open to learn more about the study of autism and welcome all opinions and websites to learn from.

If you had the opportunity to interact autistic adults, what would you most like to learn from them?

 If I could ask anything, it would be what I can potentially look forward to in the growth of my nephews. I’d love to know their views on the political stances taken on autism and the politicians who seem to be asking everyone but them.

I know that autism doesn’t make you “slow” or anything to the like, but in fact simply one who views this world from a different perspective. That’s something special in itself and anybody should want to converse and learn from them.

I hold my nephews to the highest of standards as far as their futures go and I’d just love to be able to know the stories of others and what they’ve achieved as individuals. Much like how a high school student might want to know what to expect in college, I’d just love to see what’s next. 

What change do you consider most important in how we, as a society and a world, address the challenges presented by autism?

I think we all just need to listen more. For one, I think that the whole puzzle piece symbolism is absolutely insulting. I don’t know if this is the consensus of the community, but once I really thought about it I didn’t like it. It implies that they’re not human or just don’t fit with us as a society.

What I’ve seen with my nephew’s teachers is that patience is key; all students are different, but they will tell you what they need if you’re willing to listen. No assumptions, no exceptions. 

For my readers who also write speculative fiction, can you give any tips on how to break into The Dark Fiction Spotlight?  (Also, do you have any idea when submissions will open again?)

Well, I wouldn’t say it takes much more than a love for your craft and the darker side of fiction to fit in with us folk. We’re open to most concepts as long as it’s dark in nature and the only thing we do not like are those who don’t take writing seriously.

We as a group do not believe in writing to be a hobby anymore than it is a talent to be born with. All the best writers I know don’t sleep some nights as their so obsessed with their craft.  Unhealthy? Perhaps. Does it pay off at times? Yes.

But all in all, Daniel, Stacy, Thadd and I are pretty easy folks to work with, at least I think so.

Unfortunately The Dark Fiction Spotlight is on hiatus, but not in a negative sense. We’re developing a solid game plan to take our 4theluv/contest money e-zine and evolving it into a print/digital magazine at pro rates. This is something we take very seriously and do not wish to rush just yet. We’re also considering anthologies, contests and things to the like on the site until said launch, so please do keep in touch with us and or visit the site to see what’s going on.

The site:

TDFS submissions/query e-mail:

While I cannot apologize for my gut reaction, I sincerely apologize to Stephen Roberts, The Dark Fiction Spotlight, and my readers for not researching the proposed anthology more extensively.  I know I’ll be check in with The Dark Fiction Spotlight from time to time, and I hope you do as well.  And I hope Stephen Roberts gets to edit the anthology he was hoping for!