As I read Martian Time-Slip, I was immediately struck by how different this book was in comparison to the other books we have been studying throughout this course. The science fiction aspect and the dystopian society that the plot follows made this book feel reminiscent to the many post-apocalyptic young adult novels and movies that are prevalent in pop culture today. However, there were a few aspects of this book that I felt clearly aligned with the other works we have studied.
In Martian Time Slip, we are introduced to a young boy named Manfred Steiner. Manfred is autistic, much to the disappointment of his father. His father blames his son’s condition on his wife, Manfred’s mother, stating, “When Manfred was a baby, she had never talked to him or shown him any affection. Having been trained as a chemist, she had an intellectual, matter-of-fact attitude, inappropriate in a mother. She had bathed and fed the baby as though he were a laboratory animal like a rat…so naturally he became autistic.” (Dick 37).
While this passage is describing a fictional character in a fictional community, the author is clearly describing a very real phenomenon that we have studied in this class: the refrigerator mother. As we saw in the documentary, in the 1950’s a theory coined by Leo Kanner and Bettelheim that blamed the mother as the cause of autism in children spread rampantly. They theorized that mothers who were cold and detached from their children caused emotional and bonding issues that would eventually result in autism. Through the documentary, we witnessed the damaging emotional repercussions that this false theory had upon these families. While the situation with Manfred that is described in this book is fictional, this particular attitude toward autism and its causes is not.
Another aspect of Martian Time Slip that connected to another topic was have studied in this class was the treatment of Manfred. Manfred is removed from Camp B-G and avoids his own potential death, due to the fact that his autism supposedly causes him to have super powers. This situation felt reminiscent to the events surrounding Hans Asperger discussed in our NeuroTribes book. During Holocaust, Asperger highlighted the savant abilities in his autistic patients to the Nazis in order to keep them from being sent to extermination camps. Because many people are still debating the issue of whether or not Asperger was actually a Nazi sympathizer, I did a bit more research on this topic and found an interesting article published by NPR, which states, “In order to retain his position at the university, the soft-spoken Asperger would have been required at the very least to take a loyalty oath to Hitler…Though nearly all of Asperger’s colleagues eventually joined the Nazi party, Asperger never did.” (Silberman)
The information surrounding Asperger seems to lead to the conclusion that he was a man who truly cared for the children, similar to the relationship Bohlen forms with Manfred throughout the story. This piece also connected to the mental condition Asperger himself. It is speculated that Asperger may have been somewhere on the spectrum, and was described as being “A lonely, remote child who had difficulty finding friends.” (Hans Asperger, Wikipedia) While Bohlen was not described as an autistic character, he is schizophrenic.
Dick, Philip K. Martian Time-Slip. Mariner Books, 2012.
Silberman, Steve. “Was Dr. Asperger A Nazi? The Question Still Haunts Autism.” National Public Radio20 Jan. 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/01/20/463603652/was-dr-asperger-a-nazi-the-question-still-haunts-autism. Accessed 6 Nov. 2016.