THE WORLD HAS changed radically since Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol was first serialized on SciFiction.com in December 2000. Sandy Becker had died in 1996, but Joey Ramone was still alive. The Twin Towers had not yet fallen. Books were still primarily a carbon-based technology. The Internet wasn’t exactly a novelty, but it hadn’t colonized the world to the extent it has today, and there was still exhilaration and joy and even amazement to be had in discovering some long-lost friend or song or forgotten corner of the world online.
Another change: Since 2000, the prevalence of autism has increased, though whether this is due to improved diagnostic procedures or external environmental or genetic factors remains unknown. There’s still no cure, but new treatments are available along with more tools for early diagnosis and intervention, not to mention developments that couldn’t be imagined in the world in which four-year-old Peter Keegan lives: gene therapy; computer apps; and internships, scholarships, and post-secondary schools for those with Asperger’s syndrome and other forms of high-functioning autism (as of 2013, these are now given the single diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder).
Last Christmas season, twenty first-grade children and six faculty members died in the inconceivable horror of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut (perpetrated by a deeply troubled young man who had Asperger’s). One of those children was Dylan Hockley, an autistic child who died in the arms of his special-education teacher, Anne Marie Murphy. I knew Anne Marie as Annie McGowan: She was a classmate of my younger sister Kathleen at John F. Kennedy Catholic High School, attended by both our families. Kath described Annie as “a good friend, but probably every person who knew her considered themselves to be her good friend, because she made them feel that way.”
Anne Marie’s parents have asked that any donations in their daughter’s memory be given to Autism Speaks, America’s largest autism advocacy and research organization. All royalties from this edition of Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol will go to Autism Speaks in Anne Marie Murphy’s name. You can learn more about this organization, or contribute individually to Anne Marie’s tribute page, at the links below.
General information on Autism Speaks
Anne Marie Murphy’s tribute page