2017, huh? Okay, so. At the beginning of the year I quit my job because workplace conditions had repeatedly deteriorated to the point where my mental health was in a tailspin and dragging my physical health down with it. With no relief in workplace conditions and workload in sight, unable to reliably fill out job applications because my free time was occupied with being stressed out from this week’s workload and being stressed out thinking about next week’s workload, feeling constantly miserable and drifting towards… the bad end of depression… I quit. Luckily I had enough savings to weather several months of unemployment, and now I have a new job which I very much like and my co-workers are lovely and supportive and my manager isn’t toxic and I am not being overworked and underpaid! It’s nice and strange and good for me.
Here’s a flash prosetry piece of mine which appeared in Verse Kraken in 2014! The formatting in this inspired me to do “stone”, my twine poem.
“She is, there—amongst the Mango Trees—a Flytrap Garden”
by Penny Stirling
For the summer holidays she goes north to her girlfriend's family's mango farm
of parental introductions and appraisal—oh, scriptwriting? many jobs?
red dust, sweat, spiders, mosquitoes and flies, wondering if she'll make it 'til New Year's.
bit overwhelmed but okay!
Here’s a poem of mine which appeared in ASIM in 2014!
“We Met in Dragon Shadow”
by Penny Stirling
The first kiss is a fleeting duty
on my cheek burned and sooty.
“Thank you,” she says, “mighty sir—”
But then I remove my armour.
Although the fight was my conquest
the dragon’s sullied the success.
My gryphons are dead, my magics blown.
Princess and I have a long walk home.
• Do think about why. Why do you want to write an arospec character? Are you questioning or have you identified as aro in the past? Do you have aro friends or acquaintances and what to do right by them? Did you accidentally create an aro character and realise something that an aro wrote resonated? Do you want to be inclusive and raise awareness and educate your readers about us? Have you read about the aromantic spectrum and thought it was interesting? Did you decide not to write a romance and then thought “well, in for a penny in for a pound”? Have you been thinking your writing’s getting a bit formulaic and that it’ll be an invigorating challenge to write an aro character? Are you collecting characters of different identities like they’re Pokémon? Do you think it’s the new craze to make you stand out amongst the crowd? Are aro readers just easy advertising and money? Do you think being aro is more palatable than other queer identities? Is there some plot block that you can only solve with an aro character?
Just like with any minority, there are better reasons and worse reasons to write an aro character. I’m not saying that if you have some particular reason then you shouldn’t, but you perhaps should think more carefully about the character and whether the reason for their existence might lead you to negative stereotypes and upsetting real life aros with this representation.
Yesterday’s Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week entry is an update to my how to write aromantic spectrum characters guide, in response to seeing some people ask about aro romances and how that would even work. I don’t know much about romance genre or romance-centric stories so I don’t have any recommendations for aro romances, but I can clear up why they could and should exist!
Q. Aro(spec) characters in romantic relationships? talks about both arospecs who fall in love and those who don’t but are still in romantic relationships.
I had a short Twitter thread on this topic several months ago and have finally been able to expand on my thoughts!
I’ve been interested in attraction magic for a long while. Succubi, love spells, seduction magic, manipulation, enthralling—all that kind of stuff. I’m interested in thinking about how they would work, or how they would not work, on acespec and arospec characters. So whenever I see a piece of fiction where attraction magic and asexuality/aromanticism coexist I’m always excited to see how the author’s chosen to think about this intersection. And so far… So far I’ve always been disappointed. There’s just “this asexual (usually also aromantic) character is not affected, that’s it”.
Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction has been released into the world! It contains my story “Kin, Painted”, originally in Lackington’s, a gentle thing about queer children growing up in a supportive family, and Our Narrator trying to find a true self and place amongst them. I wrote a bit about it, as well as my gender and ungendered protagonists, here. (Bit funny rereading that; last year feels like only just yesterday, yet also so long ago.)
“Kin, Painted” is the concluding story in Transcendent, and also the inspiration for the cover painted by the outstanding Noel Arthur Heimpel, and I am just all ヽ(ﾟ〇ﾟ)ﾉ and (⁄ ⁄•⁄ω⁄•⁄ ⁄) and (ღ˘ᴗ˘ღ) at such an honour.
Here’s the full table of contents! Look at that line-up, damn.
I’m excited to see what future transgender sff anthologies are like, and what K.M. Szpara edits next!
Strange Horizon’s Queer Planet special (a month of queer-focused fiction, poetry and non-fiction) has begun, and one of this week’s items is my column, “Did You Mean ‘A Romantic’?” which talks about growing up as an aromantic in a amatonormative world, highlighting some of the media which has scarred me and some of the reactions and realisations I’ve gotten throughout life.
This is my first non-fiction sale! And the title is from before “aromantic” became a term Google knew and that was the standard search correction suggestion.
My story “Kin, Painted” is going to be reprinted in Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction! At the link you can see the amazing cover, the TOC, and preorder details (with $5 off at the moment). It’s edited by K.M. Szpara and the cover is by Noel Arthur Heimpel which is personally very exciting for me because Noel’s webcomic Ignition Zero has been one of my favourites for a loooong time and to see my name right there next to their art is *__*!!!
I had to be talked into submitting to Transcendent so, uh, self-reject lesson?
If you can’t wait until September then you can read “Kin, Painted” right here in Lackington’s.
And I did an author spotlight over at Pack of Aces where I talk about my published acearo characters and how much better my writing life is since I discovered the terminology that described me:
When I was a teen I tried to write characters who were like me. This was before I’d heard of asexuality or aromanticism. All of the characters were broken, like I obviously was, and they were all eventually fixed like I was told I would be. (Perhaps “they were all broken, and they were all eventually broken in” is better phrasing?) They should have been happy endings: the character admitted they were in love, sex was usually implied, hooray, the character is fixed. But they were all off. Stockholm syndrome was common, overbearing and wearing down of wills was common, power imbalance was common. The characters did not choose to fall in love, they didn’t really fall in love; they were pulled into love and sex and held there with a grip that only at a glance looked like a romantic holding of hands. Messed. Up. (But that’s what I thought I saw in books and films and TV, that’s what I thought was the only path for me. There were many stories which horrified me, which people insisted were romantic. He loved her, so it was all right. She ends up saying she loves him, so it was forgiven.)
There was a month dedicated to these author spotlight interviews with various acespec creators and you can check them all out here!