Created in 2002, Aspergia.com sought to address autistic culture and civil rights issues at a time when there was very little public discussion of autism outside the medical paradigm. In addition to posting provocative articles, the site was home to a forum community where lively debate took place on many issues related to society’s views of autism. The forum closed in July 2004, and several other discussion sites were founded by members of Aspergia’s community. These sites included Aspergian Island, Aspergian Pride, Wrong Planet, Aspies for Freedom, Fractalus, and FAM. Although some of these sites are no longer active, and the people of Aspergia’s community are widely scattered, the historical role of Aspergia.com in the development of both the neurodiversity movement and the international autistic culture deserves to be recognized.
One of the articles posted on Aspergia.com, entitled The Aspergian Mythos and Ethos, was a fictional origin myth that described autistic people as the descendants of a dispersed ancient tribe. This short story, in combination with the site’s other articles, posed a speculative question for readers to ponder: How would society treat autistic people if, rather than being defined in medical terms, autistics were seen as a minority race?
Some unfortunate misconceptions about the story have arisen over the years, such as that it reflected a separatist and/or supremacist view. This is very far from the actual intent. No claims were ever made that the story was anything other than creative fiction or that autistics were superior to anyone else.
A condensed version of the story appears below:
THE MYTH OF THE ASPERGIAN DIASPORA
Very long ago, on a distant, fabled island whose true name and location have been obscured by the passage of time, there dwelt an isolated race known for gazing out upon the ocean and seeing, far beyond its billowing mists, visions of great and mysterious things. Although history contains no record of what they called themselves, their island has been described in mythical tales as Aspergia, a land of colossal towers and wondrous inventions.
It may be that Aspergia was lost in the great flood, or perhaps an earthquake caused that proud land to sink beneath the waters; the true tale will never be known. The survivors scattered in a vast diaspora to far-flung countries where they intermarried with, and soon became assimilated by, the other races they encountered. Within a few short generations, their history and culture had been almost entirely forgotten. Only fragments persisted in legend.
The migration of the Aspergians contributed to advances in human society as their inquisitive, determined minds explored the mysteries of the natural world, developed new technologies, and created epic works of art and literature. Some tribes revered these forthright, far-seeing people as prophets and shamans. Humanity’s emergence from the caves and mud huts of the ancient world was not without conflict and fear of the unknown, however. Always there were some who clung desperately to the old ways and sought to destroy the bringers of change, declaring them to be heretics or hunting them down as witches.
During a particularly benighted period in the modern era, many young people with strong Aspergian traits were stigmatized as less capable than other children. Their keen intellectual curiosity, perseverance, truthfulness, creativity, and passion for discovery were described as symptoms of a mental disorder. Then, like other minority groups in recent times, the Aspergians came together as a proud and united community to demand equal rights, social tolerance, and respect for their differences.