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!

Arospec Week Roundup

Over the course of Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week I tweeted recommended fiction and blogs, and also wrote several blog posts.

Aroy recs 2016

Stone by me (poem)
Even Robots Learn by me (poem)
Zucchini by me (poem)
Tanith’s Sky by me (short story)
Autobiographical Story about A Hopeless Aromantic (Becoming Loveless) by Chekhov (comic)
An Aromantic’s Love Song to the Populace by Nico Bouvier (review) (poetry)
Supernormal Step by Michael Lee Lunsford (comic)
Shumatsu wa Kazoku by Nozomi Katsura (review) (novel, not in English)
The Crows Her Dragon’s Gate by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (short story)

Aroy blogs and linkspams

How to be a better ally to aromantic people
October 2015 Carnival of Aces Round-Up (Aromanticism & The Aromantic Spectrum)
aroramblings
aromanticaardvark
amatonormative-moments
Teeny tiny linkspam on aromanticism
Teeny tiny linkspam on greyness
Teeny tiny linkspam on asexuality and relationships
Helpful answers

My Aroy posts

Me & Asexuality & Aromanticism
It’s Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week!
Aromanticism in Fiction Pt 1
Aromanticism in Fiction pt 2 – Q&A
Living Aro
I also think this post from last year is important to remind people of: guidelines, welcoming aro & ace, queer

I also started a list of free/online aro- and ace-spec fiction!

You can also see my collection of Acey Recs for Asexual Awareness Week.

living aro

Today’s the last day of Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week and I thought I’d write about some of the everyday ways that being aromantic has affected me throughout my life.

  • I thought there was something wrong with me when I was a teen. I didn’t find people attractive like my friends did (or if I did it was in very specific “I like this hairstyle combined with this waistcoat” aesthetic ways), I wasn’t getting crushes like they were, I didn’t understand why they were talking about boyfriends and the like, I thought the idea of falling in love was suffocating, I thought the idea of meeting someone who would completely change my mind and make me fall in love was terrifying. But I knew of no one else like me. I knew I was broken, I was wrong.
  • I knew I wasn’t gay. At 16 or 17 I discovered the word “queer” and, although I didn’t use it, it was a lifeboat to me. There was a word which meant “not normal, but okay”. If someone could be not straight, if someone could be not gay, someone could be queer? Could… someone be like me? Be like me and be not broken, be not inhuman?
  • When I was younger I had many anxieties relating to my friendships, that they were all fake friendships, that everyone was pretending to like me for some weird joke. (One of my friends deciding, over a term break, that we were no longer friends and that I was someone whose existence she should ignore for no reason I ever knew of… didn’t help this.) I don’t know how related this was to the “once you get a significant other and grow up you stop having friends” trope I had seen so much of in fiction and life. I don’t have this anxiety anymore! I even have friends who’re in romantic relationships and -gasp- we still hang out together anyway.
  • I don’t know whether the zucchini situation will ever not be long-distance. It’s okay if it stays long-distance, it’s okay if the distance shortens, and it’s okay if drifts back down the queerplatonic-platonic spectrum.
  • I don’t think I’m currently healthy enough for a local QPR, to be honest. When work is busy and my sleep is poor (and it often is) I have very few spoons left for the evenings and weekends and, while my QPP is important, sometimes I unfortunately don’t have much energy for emailing.
  • I’m not out at work. Most of my co-workers don’t talk about their home lives and aren’t nosy so I’ve never felt a need to. I refer to my zucchini as “girlfriend”, which is not a lie but contains some omissions.
  • I’m not out to my family. My parents never once asked me if I was dating or why I wasn’t dating so it… never came up. My extended family have on occasion asked my father (“no, but she’s happy”) but never asked me. No one in my family knows I have a zucchini.
  • I think they might have assumed I was dating a male friend who I saw regularly, or mentioned him to my extended family in such a way that they assumed, because I got an invite to a cousin’s wedding which was Penny+MaleFriend instead of a PlusOne. *stares into middle distance*
  • When I was younger both of my parents separately sat me down for the If You Find Someone You Need To Know That You’re Totally Compatible Before You Marry Or Buy A House Together And I Mean Totally Compatible In The Bedroom talk and I nearly mentioned it then but I wasn’t confident enough and also my parents had just mentioned sex and I need to change the topic of conversation because ewwwww.
  • I never dated, which I’m really glad of. I had intense anxiety about the idea of someone finding me attractive or wanting to date me, whenever I suspected someone did I would panic, ask friends “IS THIS??” and hope they never acted because I didn’t know what I’d do. All I knew was I didn’t want that, I didn’t want them, I didn’t want anyone and I didn’t know how to communicate that. I was asked out a few times, every time I panicked and said no.
  • I was an asshole in my late teens/early 20s, and I also did nothing about my personal appearance, and I think part of that was to do with cultivating a more unattractive self so that fewer people would be interested in me. (As I became more confident about being aromantic and matured in other ways, I grew out of needing to be like that.)
  • (But I was also very bad at noticing flirting.)
  • I really like Unresolved Sexual Tension in TV shows because I’m bad at noticing it, so to me it looks like the main leads are good mates and it’s non-romantic and it’s happy and safe. Xena and Gabrielle? Scully and Mulder? Carter and O’Neill? Bones and Booth? Beckett and Castle? NON-ROMANTIC ROLE MODELS FOR THE MATURING AROMANTIC. Until it inevitably becomes Resolved Sexual Tension and then I feel stupid and betrayed.
  • I’ve been told I’m obviously a lesbian because I’m not interested in men; and then called homophobic when I said I’m also not interested in women.
  • I’ve been told I’m immature because I don’t want a romantic partner and children.
  • I’ve been convinced that a friend understood that I was aroace, having seen them use the words and be supportive, and then later found out they thought I was romantically interested in someone.
  • I’ve been told “If you weren’t aromantic we’d probably be dating”.
  • I’ve had friends and known people who didn’t think I was allowed to hate amatonormativity. They would get me to watch romantic films and then get upset that I deigned to dislike such endings like “She gave a rousing speech about how being an independent modern American woman means she doesn’t have to have a partner and then immediately establishes that it’s okay, she’s normal, here’s the guy she wants to date” or “She fell in love and grew apart from all of her friends” or “She had a argument with her boyfriend about how they nothing in common anymore and an argument with her best friend and broke up with both of them, but in the end she only apologises and makes up with the boyfriend”. Their desire for amatonormativity to grant them a romantic partner and a happy ever after was more important than any feelings I had about being erased for my entire life.
  • I feel very grateful to have a group of friends who have no problems if I go “I think this is a good TV show but the succubus powers make me uncomfortable and I don’t want to watch this”.
  • One of the reasons I stopped reading YA when I was a teen was the constant “teen girl just like you learns to fall in love”. The “teen boy or man who’s unlike you learned to fall in love” that was in most of the adult SFF I then started reading was easier to deal with.
  • Romcoms and the romance genre bore me and erase me and alienate me and I can’t do that.
  • I’ve had friendship break-ups that broke my heart.
  • When I was younger I tried to work out what made a romantic relationship so special as if there were some logical maths behind it. I’ve read a lot of “what’s the difference between…” blog posts and now I try to think about it more on an individual level rather than a universal constant.
  • I find writing romantic relationships interesting and frustrating.
  • I find it really difficult to imagine a sff world where aromanticism is completely ordinary. Asexuality, sure. Other queerness, sure. Aromanticism and aromantic relationships as unremarkable, though, is something I struggle with.
  • Sometimes I get really depressed and anxious about how uncertain my life is going to be without a partner to live with and support me.
  • I was a bridesmaid earlier this month and the whole experience—having seen the whole of their relationship, having found out about the engagement, the wedding preparation, the ceremony and the reception themselves—made me both sad that I’ll never have such an experience, and also really glad that I’ll never have such an experience.
  • I get depressed and anxious about how I’m too ill to write most of the time, and there’s no one I can rely on to write about the ace and aro (and agender!) characters I need to write about.
  • I don’t like touching people. Brief hugs from friends are okay (quick tangent: wow, if you’re someone who gets offended when someone doesn’t want to hug you or get massaged or be touched by you without warning then you are gross and you can fuck right off) and the zucchini is the only one I can tolerate holding my hands (and even then there’s plenty of occasions where I’ve had to go “nooo not right now”).
  • I’ve had sex dreams. Every time they’ve made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and like my subconscious has violated me.
  • I’ve had squishes, though the last one was five or eight years ago. The ones that I remember the clearest were both on writers who I did become friends with. I never told them 😮
  • I wonder how much my aromanticism and asexuality has influenced being agender, and vice versa. A large part of Being A Woman, to me, was Being A Woman Who Will Be Attractive To Guys, Being A Woman To Learn How To Look After A House For Your Family, Being A Woman To Get A Man And Kids, which I always rejected with varying degrees of understanding why I did so. Additionally there’s the idea of, well, if I don’t have to worry about which gender I’m attracted to, why even gender? There’s no answers there, of course. I am aromantic, and I am asexual, and I am agender, and that’s who I am.

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

Aromanticism in Fiction Pt 1

In Aromanticism Pt 1 below I’ll take you through some reasons why you should write arospec characters. In Aromanticism in Fiction Pt 2 I’ll start going into more details about how to write them.

Let’s write characters on the aromantic spectrum!
The crowd shuffles their feet awkwardly.

Look, I get it, okay? Stories without romance in them are boring, nonsensical, a waste of time. Happy endings are just physically impossible without someone getting romantically rewarded. Romance is definitely not ever crammed into films just for the sake of it without paying any mind as to how this might fuck up the rest of the film. Romance is absolutely never tacked on merely because society has conditioned us that a dedicated romantic and sexual monogamous relationship is the peak of all human endeavours.

But you know what?
Fuck that.
Fuck. That.

Continue reading Aromanticism in Fiction Pt 1

It’s Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week!

It’s Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week!

I’m taking this opportunity to talk about aromanticism rather than just shaking my fist and hissing fuck you amatonormativity at the sky. Who am I? I’m Penny, and I’m aromantic and asexual (also agender, and if they’re necessary my pronouns are ou/ou/ous/ous/ouself or they/them/their/theirs/themself) and I’m in a long-distance queerplatonic relationship. I’m posting reading recommendations on my Twitter every day and I’ll be blogging about writing aromanticism later in the week.

See what else is going on at the Arospec Week tumblr!

So let’s get into it! Aromanticism.
You know.
Aromanticism? The asexuality thing that isn’t asexuality? Because one is a sexual orientation and one is a romantic orientation? Because while you can be asexual and aromantic, you can also be asexual but not aromantic, or aromantic but not asexual?

Continue reading It’s Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week!

pronouns, 2015

I’ve started using neutral pronouns: ou (ou/ou/ous/ous/ouself) or they (they/them/their/theirs/themself)! It took me a while to find some that felt right for me and I was discouraged seeing how certain cis people treated and misused neutral pronouns, but if I let people like that hurting people like me stop me doing things then I’d probably still be assuming I was an incredibly broken alloromantic woman so fuck that shit, I’m doing this thing.

Speaking of discouraging matters: 2015 frustrated. In 2014 I made gains, and then I lost them again. Frequent illnesses impacted on my chronic health issues and most of the time it was all I could do to tread water. The last story I completed was in January, the last poem February. It’s incredibly frustrating; previously I had finally started feeling good about my relationship with writing and then it was back to exhaustion and depression and wondering if I’ll ever get that part of my life back. It’s impacted upon other areas of my life, and then there’s rebound impacts and, to be honest, I’m surprised I even managed to survive working full-time. I have hopes for 2016, hopes for better health, for life improvement and getting back to things like writing and seeing friends more often and going on road trips and drawing and playing games and reading more and all that jazz, things that I enjoy and that improve my life. But I had those hopes for 2015 and I saw how that went so maybe I should be hoping just to continue treading water, to not slip under. Or to not slip under as much. Hah…

It wasn’t all bad, of course. I did manage to work full-time, I had a really great week in Melbourne with a good friend, saw my zucchini and made plans to travel in 2016, finally figured out the agender thing, got asked to be a bridesmaid, made some embroidered gifts which people loved, supported friends, had good times, made people laugh, tried new foods, became enraptured with new cartoons and shared them with friends, knew I was loved and appreciated.

I had one story published, “Kin Painted” in Lackington’s, and two republished: “Love Over Glass, Skin Under Glass” in GlitterShip and “Tanith’s Sky” in The Best of Luna Station Quarterly: The First Five Years; and four poems published: “Stone” in Interfictions, “Skin Ashore” in inkscrawl, “Singing Her Body Oceanic” in Liminality, and “The Selkie Before Summer” in Liminality.

Four poems from someone who doesn’t understand 99% of poetry. Whoooops.

Only one of those was written in 2015, and then nothing else but scraps of paragraphs. I repeat: frustrating. Especially since, having figured out the agender thing and having thought about pronouns, that’s something I want to poke more in my fiction, moving away from non-gendered characters and background conceptualisations to characters like me, characters sort of like me, characters less like me. But, alas, the body decreed it was not to be.

In embroidery, I had a good year, I think. I didn’t get as much done as I wanted to because of health reasons and unanticipated projects, but I’ve really liked what I’ve done and I’ve challenged myself. I cross stitched Doctor Who using actual embroidery thread for the first time; my blackwork projects included Avengers, Gardevoir, Ninetales. The last of those I’m especially proud of, that style was uncharted (*sunglasses*) territory for me and it was a lot of trial and error to understand what I was doing. I learned a whole lot and I think I pulled it off! I also made several other patterns, and I nutted out a quicker way of making patterns. I’m currently in the middle of an important gift project and then I’ve got a commission to do, so I think after that I’ll take it easy and stitch some Pokemon blackwork patterns I’ve got waiting for me.

I played a few games too. Gravity Ghost was my favourite, even though it made me cry (it was a stressful week)!

The Selkie Before Summer

My long poem “The Selkie Before Summer” is up at Liminality! It’s about a southern fur seal (or maybe an Australian fur seal) who leaves the ocean for the first time to rescue a lover and ends up exploring Victoria and gender and matters of the heart. (And there’s another poem in this issue about a sea creature who heads inland, by Sandi Leibowitz!) Yes, it is yet another S-title poem about skin. I might have gotten it out of my system now but I promise nothing.

Earless seals like greys and harps have always seemed like quasi-fantasy animals to me. I knew they were real, I saw them on documentaries, but they were just so different to the fur seals I was more familiar with that there was something mythical about them. (White swans have the same effect. When I visited Britain and saw them it was a very “how is this even a real island” moment. Seeing a lone black swan amongst a group of white swans in Windsor did not help this surreal disconnect.) But imagine an Australian fur seal selkie walking along a yellow sandy beach, their brown skin draped over their head to keep off the burning December sun, even though every story and art I see specifies otherwise. That’s more real to me than anything involving a grey seal and the Atlantic.

Of course, it is now well and truly summer, but I was in fact in Victoria this past spring, so here’s two indulgent photos. (If the eucalypts look strange, they’re shedding their back, which is one of my favourite things! Such a beautiful time of year, seeing the trees shed and change colour.)

Acey Recs 2015

For Asexual Awareness Week I’ve been recommending some ace/aro media on twitter. Here’s the collection.

The Hues by Alex Heberling (ongoing webcomic)
Oh THAT’s Why I’m Aro-Ace! by Puteri Hana (ongoing webcomic)
stone by me (poem)
The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker (non-fiction)
The Occidental Bride by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (short story)
Ace Reads (tumblr) & Ace Reads (database) by agentaletha (reviews)
Nkásht íí by Darcie Little Badger (short story)
Asexual Artists run by Lauren Jankowski (interviews)

If you’d like to see what else was going on during Asexual Awareness Week, click here!

2013’s acey recs are here!
2014’s acey recs are here!

If you’re wondering why a particular acey story hasn’t been recommended, I either didn’t know of it, didn’t read it, didn’t like it, didn’t think it was ace/aro and/or didn’t think it suited my particular list. I’m always happy to be told about ace/aro stories and comics, though! I usually don’t have much time/energy for reading so it’s difficult to stumble across things on my own.