some January news

New year is sure off to a start!

artwork
cover for Capricious #9, art by Laya Rose
New story: Issue 9 of Capricious, The Gender Diverse Pronouns Issue, is available now in ebook and paperback! It contains my story “Walking the Wall of Papered Peaces”, featuring a (sex-repulsed demiro ace) cis clockmaker engaged to a (allo) non-binary plumber, both of whom end up on a weird quasi-magical quest to find a wall made of origami animals because of communication problems in their relationship. I have some things to talk about regarding this story, but that’ll come in a later post. As you might expect, the other stories in this issue feature gender diverse pronouns and a lot of non-binary characters! Please check it out, and thank you to everyone who supported its fundraising and who has talked about it!

New poem: earlier this month my poem “Penelope’s body looming” was accepted by Strange Horizons! It’s inspired by Greek myth and my gender journey, and it’s the first poem I’ve written in two years so that’s very exciting.

New calendar: well this is a bit late now but at the start of this year I was convinced by some friends to make a calendar of my bird photos for them, and I did so, and now you can buy this bird calendar if you’d like! The individual photos are also available as prints and cards. I have been told I’ll be making another calendar for next year, which I’ll hopefully get organised before next January… :p

New page: I’ve added a wallpaper page to this site! It currently has a few 1920×1080 wallpapers of my wildlife photography (at present, black cockatoos and other native Australian birds) and I’ll be adding more birds to it soon as well as some bees and architecture and flowers. All the wallpapers are and will be free to download. If there’s any specific bird (or other) photos I’ve posted on Twitter that you’d love as a wallpaper, let me know and I’ll prioritise that!

New focus: the last few months I’ve been grappling with an issue that took up a lot of mental energy and time. An issue I started thinking about in 2016 but put off because of the toxic job/unemployment situation. An issue I have, as of this week, partially resolved in that I booked a date for top surgery.

meanwhile and far away

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.

I’ve been trying to work on improving my mental and physical health this year. Reclaiming it, I suppose. De-stressing from that awful job, unlearning the unhealthy habits I formed trying to cope with the stress, forming better betters. It’s been going okay. It’s difficult sometimes, when you have mental illnesses and physical conditions that feed on each other to make you feel like shit, to work out what healthy is, what you can actually aim for, what you can actually achieve. When I look back on how I was this time last year versus now, though, I can see the difference in my life. I can see how far I’ve come, how much of me I’ve rediscovered. I still have ways to go—reading and writing is still very difficult, mental energy-wise—but I’m buoyed with my progress so far. …I think I say that every couple years and then I have a downslide so we’ll see what Terrible Stressful Things next year throws at me.

I’ve continued to delight in photography this year. I’ve had two weekend road trips down south. I’ve tried to see more of my friends. I’ve done 50% of my Pokemon blackwork sampler and I’ve made some embroidery pieces I’m really proud of, like this rainbow lorikeets once.

I sold a story I’ve been editing for what feels like forever, it was on its fifth or sixth revision and I’d actually trunked it. That is “Walking the Wall of Papered Peaces” and it’s going to appear in Capricious in 2018. It is a story I don’t think I would write now—about the insecurities between an asexual clockmaker and her non-asexual romantic partner—but I’ll go into that when it’s published.

“Kin, Painted” will be reprinted again, this time in Queerly Loving #2 by Queer Pack in 2018. (Queerly Loving #1 will be released very soon!)

And I also actually wrote a story this year, and sold it too: “Red, From the Heartwood” will be appearing in Sharp & Sugar Tooth: Women Up To No Good in 2018 or 2019. “Red…” features a dryad who works at Bunnings, her two partners, a light smattering of body horror and lots of apple desserts. There is a queerplatonic relationship between two arospec enbies, and a romantic relationship involving a queer woman. Given my dislike of when non-aro people write non-human aro characters and when non-NB people write non-human NB characters I think I will have some things to talk about when it comes time to talk about this story! I still can’t really believe that I wrote a whole short story. The last one I finished was “Kin, Painted” in early 2015. Since then I’ve had trouble just writing a single scene. But when I saw the theme and Octavia Cade’s name attached I was instantly inspired with the core idea (ha ha… apple pun). It was still a struggle to write and edit it inside three months, even though I was unemployed and it was only 5,000 words, but I did it and it was a huge accomplishment for me, and then even more amazingly Octavia accepted it! I can’t wait to share two new arospec characters with everyone, to talk about this story and to see what other stories are in the anthology.

Unfortunately I haven’t written much since “Red…” but I’ve been settling into my new job and routines and dealing with, uh, well let’s talk about that now. Last year I started binding occasionally, on the weekends sometimes with close friends. I started researching top surgery, not sure if I wanted it or not—not sure if I could even access top surgery here as a non-binary person not taking testosterone and not transitioning in other ways to masculinity. Binding made me happy, but sometimes I was indifferent to my breasts or mildly liked them rather than hating them, so I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to get top surgery and, if I did want to get surgery, would I still want to get top surgery if I had to fly interstate or overseas to get it. But then I put that all on hold when I decided to quit my job. Now it’s a year later, I’m employed again, my health is better than it was to boot, and I’ve started researching and thinking about top surgery again. If I like the surgeon I’ve booked a consultation with then I can get it done at home, and if not then I can go interstate. While I’m not 100% decided yet—hopefully the consultation will give me the answers I need to finally, fully, make that decision—I feel clearer in my feelings, though if I need to go over to Melbourne or Sydney I’ll have to consider whether the added expense and difficulty on top of all the other expenses and difficulties will still be worth it. I don’t mind if, after all of this, I decide I don’t want top surgery. But if that happens, I want to decide this because I want to keep my breasts, not because I’m too intimidated by the logistical difficulties, the pain and the potential awkwardness.

She is, there—amongst the Mango Trees—a Flytrap Garden

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

Continue reading She is, there—amongst the Mango Trees—a Flytrap Garden

We Met in Dragon Shadow

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.

Continue reading We Met in Dragon Shadow

So you’re allo and you want to write an arospec character (dos and don’ts)

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.

Do open up your search engine of choice and start researching! Use search terms like aromantic spectrum, aromantic identities, aromantic terms, myths about aromanticism, aromantic stereotypes, aromantics in fiction, aromantic representation, aromantic fiction recommendations, realising you’re aromantic, might be aromantic, writing aromantic characters, aromantic resources, aromantic relationships, aromantic relationship hierarchy, relationship anarchy, what does aromantic feel like, am I aromantic…

Continue reading So you’re allo and you want to write an arospec character (dos and don’ts)

Transcendent is here!

artwork
cover of Transcendent, art by Noel Arthur Heimpel
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.

You find it here: Book Depository, Amazon.com, Kindle, Smashwords, and Goodreads.

I’m excited to see what future transgender sff anthologies are like, and what K.M. Szpara edits next!

(And remember to check out Lethe Press’s other books and Patreon!)

Queer Planet

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.

Transcendent

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.

reprint & interview

My interactive poem “stone” has been reprinted in sub-Q! There’s other interactive poems, and interactive fiction and games, over at sub-Q which you can check out too!

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!

Aromanticism in Fiction pt 2 – Q&A

In Aromanticism in Fiction pt 1 I covered some of the whys of arospec characters. Pt 2 attempts to cover some of the hows. It’s still not quite a How Do I Write Aromantic Spectrum Characters guide (I recommend reading the experiences of arospec people and talking to them for more help on that front) but it should help point you in the right direction!

Q. Should I use the labels aromantic/asexual/grey-/demi- in my fiction? How do I make the orientations clear without using labels?
Q. Wait… aro… allosexuals??
Q. Grey-romantics? Wtfromantics?? Aroflux?? ?????
Q. Aro(spec) characters in romantic relationships?
Q. Okay cool so I can just write about grey-romantics falling in love or being in a romantic relationship to keep a partner happy to have a normal story right?
Q. What aro tropes should I be careful around?
Q. So… can my robot/magical construct/non-human/inhuman sociopath/eccentric genius/immortal stuck in a pubescent body/other thing where it’d be weird or creepy for it to be in a romantic relationship/alien be aromantic or will you get mad at me?
Q. Can there be a reason for being arospec?
Q. How do I write a queerplatonic relationship?
Q. What are the alternatives to a queerplatonic relationship?
Q. I wrote a story that doesn’t have any romance in it, does that count?

Continue reading Aromanticism in Fiction pt 2 – Q&A