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Zira is a neurodivergent animal lover with a head full of ideas. She is currently a kindergarten teacher by day and a writer by night.
When I was a kid, my mom's number one rule was “Never, ever lie.” Her number two rule should have been, “Unless it'll make your little sister happy.” My sister Ava is autistic. She's smart, funny, and graduated both high school and college with a 4.0 average. But Ava also tends to get stuck on things she finds upsetting. For example, one time the batteries corroded in one of her toys. She spent three days checking every single battery compartment in house to make sure they were safe until I finally told her that only AAA batteries could corrode. And from there, the lies continued. “The stuffed dog that came in the mail with the price tag still on is definitely the same one you lost at the state fair.” “It's impossible to throw up on a JetBlue flight.” “There's no such thing as rabies in real life.” One day, Ava got a copy of a book called The Future Is Wild. It is based on a television show that explores what types of animals might evolve after humans have gone extinct. Whoever bought this book must have genuinely meant well. Ava loved science and cryptozoology, so in theory, it should have been right up her alley (despite the horrifying cover image of a flying monster fish). Except, of course, for the part where it opened with the concept of the entire human race dying out. For nearly a week, Ava badgered everyone with questions about our impending doom. She found our mom's answer of "don't worry, there is absolutely no way to predict the future of mankind" to be completely unsatisfying. Stupid grownups and their stupid honesty. Like any good scientist, Ava did her research. She pulled out all her cryptozoology books to search for proof that The Future is Wild couldn't be true. Unfortunately, even books about the biology of dragons tend not to have addendums like, "PS, the human race is not going to die out and be replaced with flying monster fish." So she mostly just kept asking questions and being upset. I wasn't sure about biology or flying monster fish myself, but I did know one thing: this had gone on long enough. "Hey Ava," I asked. "Who was it that wrote that book again?" She showed me the title page, which revealed that the book was written by Dougal Dixon and illustrated by John Adams. "Oh, I see what the problem is now! That book was written by two men! Of course they got everything wrong, men never know what they're talking about. Yep. In fact, I heard a female scientist read this book and was able to disprove everything they said. Yep. I read an article about it in the...uh...Los Angeles Times!" By this point in my sister's life, she had absorbed enough of our mom's blunt feminism for this explanation to make complete sense to her. But she did have a few more questions. "I don't know, how about I just print out the article and you can read it yourself?" An hour of terrible Microsoft Word editing later, I had the front page of Volume 8, Issue 6 of the Los Angeles Times. The cover story, of course, was titled, "Research Proves That Authors Were Lying." In just a few short months, Dr. Angela Wyser had proven that humans were never going to go extinct as long as the universe was habitable. Dougal Dixon and John Adams had fabricated The Future Is Wild in order to get rich, and they had been fined and also sent to prison. Now not only satisfied, but vindicated, Ava read the article to each of our parents. My mom listened to her seriously, then came into my bedroom, closed the door, and laughed for five minutes. My dad was less thrilled, and even tried to explain to Ava that what she was reading couldn't be real. But it was hopeless. She had an article in her hand from the motherfucking Los Angeles Times. There was no stopping her. There were several follow-up articles about Dr. Angela Wyser continuing her research, Dougal Dixon and John Adams being put to work a coal mine, and a personal email from Dr. Angela Wyser explaining that the Dougal Dixon who had written Ava's favorite paleontology book was definitely not the same Dougal Dixon who had written The Future Is Wild. Poor Dougal Dixon. He tried.
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