Publication date: November 5th 2018
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Everyone we love, everything we know, is going away… and only an autistic boy can stop it.
Alex knows exactly how many steps it takes to get from his home to Mason Middle School. This is normal.
Alex knows the answers in AP math before his teacher does, which is also normal.
Alex knows that something bad is coming out of the big screen in his special needs class. It’s pushing images into his head, hurting him, making him forget. Alex pushes back, the screen explodes, and nothing is normal any more.
Giant screen televisions appear all over the city. The programming is addictive. People have to watch, but Alex cannot.
Sophie, the sentient machine behind all this, sees the millions and millions of eyeballs glued to her and calls it love. To Sophie, kids like Alex are defective. Defectives are to be fixed…or eliminated.
Francis Moss has written and story-edited hundreds of hours of scripts on many of the top animated shows of the 90s and 00s. Beginning his television work in live-action with Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, he soon starting writing cartoons (“a lot more jobs, and also more fun”), staff writing and freelancing on She-Ra, Princess of Power, Iron Man, Ducktales, and a four-year stint on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, writing and story-editing more episodes than you can swing a nuchaku at.
One of his TMNT scripts, “The Fifth Turtle,” was the top-rated script among all the 193 episodes in a fan poll on IGN.COM. A list of his television credits is at IMDB.COM.
Francis, in partnership with Ted Pedersen, also wrote three middle-grade non-fiction books: Internet For Kids, Make Your Own Web Page, and How To Find (Almost) Anything On The Internet. Internet For Kids was a big success, with three revised editions and twelve foreign language versions. He’s the sole author of The Rosenberg Espionage Case.
After high school where he grew up in Los Angeles, Francis had one dismal semester at a junior college, and then enlisted in the Army. He became a military policeman and served in Poitiers, France, falling in love with the country, taking his discharge there and traveling around Europe (including running with the bulls in Pamplona) until his money ran out.
He attended the University of California, Berkeley and became active in the civil rights and anti-war movements, still managing to earn a BA and an MA in English lit (“the major of choice for wannabe writers”).
Francis is married to Phyllis, a former music teacher and active viola player. They have a son, a daughter and one grandson. They live in Joshua Tree, California.
“If you were a character in one of your books which one would you be and why?”
I can’t imagine how one could even write a book without identifying with one of the characters. All stories come out of our consciousness, our own story.
I would be Alex (of course, you say; he’s the hero). But to me, it’s not about him being heroic; he really just wants things to be normal. It’s about him confronting the obstacles he faces every day, and how he manages, in the course of his journey, to overcome them.
I was shy and withdrawn in elementary school, typical qualities for a writer and/or a serial killer. I thought other kids were more mature, they had their act(s) together. I felt like there was a secret society of well-adjusted, happy kids, and I was on outside, looking in. I was never one of the cool kids. I think I may be a cool kid now, which is good.
But I wasn’t unique or retarded, or mal-adjusted; I was a kid, and I suspect, like a lot of kids, maybe most kids, feeling less-than, not popular.
Those feelings don’t go away. They follow us into our adult lives. They are part of all of us. And that makes for good stories. I admit to being a sucker for underdog stories. Reluctant heroes are the best ones. Tossed into the water, do you sink or swim?
Another part of Alex I admire is that, despite his narrow, kind of rigid approach to life (black-white, yes-no) he learns, helped by Mr. Crumley, Sara and Ian, that he can do things he’d never imagined doing.
Mr. Crumley teaches him how to deal with the thing in his head, not by resisting, but by observing. Sara helps him to step out of his comfort zone: “Come on. It’ll be an adventure.” And Ian, who has challenges of his own, shows Alex how those challenges can also be advantages.
When we first meet Alex, he’s afraid: afraid of crowds, afraid of things out of the ordinary, afraid of the new. I see that in myself. I think people who read my book will find that in themselves, if they’re being honest. Alex doesn’t vanquish those fears, but he learns to act in spite of them.
We root for those characters, because isn’t that what we all wish for ourselves?