ETA: Now with moar shiny linkses for your perusing convenience! May you find a fantastic read!
ETA2: Go check out Claudie Arseneault’s awesome list of five other indie ace rep recommendations! She’s WAY more awesome and better at reccing things than I am, so go look at her recommendations first. And so far, between us, we’ve covered… more or less the whole ace spectrum with our recommendations, I think? And we also showcase a nice selection of what’s on offer in SFF as a whole, so you’re sure to find something that you’ll enjoy!
So… Recently (as in earlier today), Tor.com reran an article about books starring asexual protagonists. As an ace spec reader and author, I found it a disappointing and discouraging read. While the article explicitly acknowledges that many ace spec authors pursue indie publishing, all of the books actually mentioned in the post are traditionally published, most are, as far as I know, not #ownvoices, and one of the characters highlighted isn’t actually the protagonist. Not to mention that the article only cites one (ONE!) indie ace spec author and then only to prove that we generally pursue indie publishing. And don’t mention the author’s books by title because, clearly, when you’re writing an article that is about (indie) asexual spectrum representation this is a wise and intelligent thing to do. If I’d written the article, I would totally have focused on mainstream, traditionally published authors after saying that asexual representation is more likely to be found in indie books too. I would absolutely have asked people to do my research for me and leave me research material in the comments. I would definitely not have reached out to the one (possibly two) ace spec authors on the list for hints on where to start looking for good asexual spectrum representation that I could highlight and showcase. And I would certainly have included a book that the asexual SFF comunity generally considers to be an example of negative representation. Definitely.
As I said, I found it a disappointing and discouraging read, especially since the post explicitly states Tor.com would love to spread the word about indie ace rep and it feels more like it’s paying lipservice to our existence. Treats us like a trend. So. Here’s another list of books with asexual protagonists that actually includes indie and/or asexual authors. It’s quickly compiled, my apologies, but as I’ll repeat nearer the end: one day I shall do a better post that is researched properly. Meanwhile, here are some books with ace rep to get you started all the same.
Disclaimer: I am SUPER SLOW at reading/acquiring all the books. A lot of these books are ones I only heard about this year, as I started to get more involved with the ace spec SFF community, and I’ve been focusing on other books for much of the year, so they are, by and large, books I haven’t yet read myself.
However, all of these books are, to the best my knowledge, well-known in and recommended by the ace spec SFF community, so while the representation in them may still be problematic for some of us or for reasons that have nothing to do with asexuality or aromanticism, enough of us liked the books that we’ve been recommending them in a positive light when it comes to asexual representation. (Drop me a comment if not!)
This is going to be the one and only trad published story on the list. Every Heart a Doorway is, rightly speaking, a novella. It’s a lovely little portal fantasy that is, so far, the only book I’ve read that explicity states Nancy is asexual. She’s also romantic, as opposed to aromantic. I won’t always be able to make that distinction, but it’s one that matters. Asexuality and aromanticism get conflated a lot, to the communities’ understandable aggravation.
Anyway, Every Heart a Doorway is, I think, the most visible traditionally published book with an asexual protagonist of the moment, so, while it’s a good story and I happily recommend it, I am including the mention here largely because it will, hopefully, make the post more likely to be found by people. So this is going to be more like six books.
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.
No matter the cost.
Lauren Jankowski is the only actually indie and ace spec author the article actually cited and it had the temerity not to name her work. IN AN ARTICLE SUPPOSEDLY ABOUT INDIE ACE REP. This is the first book in a series. I’ve been… super-slow about getting to this since the overall genre isn’t my favourite, but this is the first book that I learned about that was explicitly marketed as being a book with an asexual protagonist. Also the first time I encountered an openly ace spec author.
Isis is a normal woman living a normal life in a normal world. She is a photojournalist in a small city where practically nothing happens. One night, she photographs the scene of a gruesome murder. A woman is found dead in an abandon factory. On the wall there is a strange symbol painted in blood. Isis photographs the scene. The next day, all evidence of the crime has vanished from her pictures and no one seems to have heard of any murder taking place.
Isis proceeds to investigate and is soon drawn into the world of shape shifters and guardians. Secrets and mysteries are common place in this strange world. As Isis finds answers about her own mysterious past, she also finds more questions. What is happening to the people that vanish without a trace? Who is watching her from the shadows? And what exactly is the key that everyone seems willing to kill for?
Fourth World is YA science fiction, starring not one but two ace spec protagonists. Again, it is #ownvoices. Again, I haven’t read it yet, but that’s because one of the protagonists identifies as (or is identified by the author as) demisexual and I’ve put it aside for when I start working on my “Read all the books with demisexual representation and write essays on how the representation actually works” project.
Life on Mars isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when you’re Isaak Contreras. Ever since his dad disappeared two years ago, Isaak’s been struggling to keep up in school, and he never seems to be able to live up to his mom’s high expectations. But everything changes when he finds an ancient coin among his missing father’s possessions. The coin makes him a target of both the Martian colonial government and a crazed scientist with a vendetta–and it leads him to a girl from another time named Nadin, who believes that Isaak might just hold the key to saving both their worlds. That is, if they can survive long enough to use it…
This one has recently been rereleased, and been rewritten to be much clearer on the asexual representation. Henry is a heteroromantic asexual (who gets a romance plotline)! ASEXUAL REP WITH A ROMANCE SUBPLOT FOR THE ACE CHARACTER.
I am so in.
Henry Schmitt wants nothing more than a quiet life and a daily ration of instant noodles. At least until he learns the terrible secret that drove his father away—the Plague that killed his mother and ravaged his country was created by those now in power. His only chance to expose the truth is through a ragtag band of outlaws who knew his father and an airborne radio broadcast, but he’d have to dig into his family’s past and risk the wrath of a corrupt government.
Viral Airwaves is a standalone novel sitting firmly between dystopia and solarpunk and centering LGBTQIAP+ characters. If you love hopeful stories about overcoming desperate odds, nemesis working together, and larger-than-life characters, don’t miss out!
This is actually the second book in a series, but the first one doesn’t feature ace rep, so I can’t rightly list it for this.
Colt, Janie, and Damien were planning a weekend at Zed Games when the real apocalypse canceled their trip. Now the planet is trying to kill them. Evacuation by plane is less than successful. The Piper goes down. They survive, stranded somewhere up the East Coast with all the gear they could ask for but no idea where to go.
Colt never saw himself as a leader. Now his friends are turning to him to make decisions. He can’t be sure of the answers. He’s used to having one foot in many worlds – a Cherokee living in Asheville, three-quarters nerd and one-sixteenth responsible adult – but never in charge. Now he feels the pressure to keep his friends alive while the planet is dying.
Scraping from one disaster to the next, Colt and his friends encounter Mab, a punky survivor on her way back to a safe haven in the Canadian wilderness. She invites them to tag along. Recruiting some horses from an abandoned farm, Colt, Janie, and Damien charge into the post-civilized unknown.
Are you looking for intersectionality in your fiction? Chameleon Moon has it. In spades. I actually only learned about this one… last month? When it was being rereleased anyway. So, again, haven’t read this yet, but it sounds fantastic.
The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.
The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.
Regan, silent, scaly stealth expert, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. His ability to disappear into thin air isn’t enough: he needs an escape, and he’ll do anything for a chance. Unluckily for him, Hans, a ghostly boy with a chilling smile, knows just the thing to get one. It starts with a little murder.
But instead of ending a man’s life, Regan starts a new one of his own. He turns away from that twisted path, and runs into Evelyn, fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now Regan has a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.
They join forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and her wife Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy.
Separately they’d never survive, much less uncover the secret of Parole’s eternally-burning fire. Together, they have a chance. Unfortunately, Hans isn’t above playing dirty, lying, cheating, manipulating… and holding Regan’s memories hostage until he gets his way.
Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…
Some End Notes
And that’s it for the
five six books!
Fun fact: I think that a fair number of these authors are fairly well-known ones. There are more! Many more.
For example! Hello World! is an upcoming book by Tiffany Rose and Alexandra Tauber. Or their Bone Diggers, which you can read online for free. There’s Unburied Fables, which is a collection published by Creative Aces and features lots and lots of ace spec fairytale retellings. I finished serialising Sea Foam and Silence earlier this year. I’ve already mentioned three of the members of the Pack of Aces, so let me just add Joel Cornah and Darcie Little Badger‘s names to the list of authors to look out for.
Another fun fact: This is a list that I threw together very quickly. (So, yes, it may contain mistakes about the protagonists themselves, but hey so did the original article.) Okay, that may actually not be a fun fact, but, seriously, I’m overtired and trying to work out everything I need to do before year’s end and I’m losing at least one day to family engagements already and I just don’t have the time to read all the books I want to to know exactly how to discuss highlighting them.
So please! Do not hesitate to add your recommendations in the comments, discuss the books mentioned, make posts of your own. (If you do make posts of your own, please link me to them! I can do a round-up or the like later. Let’s show the indie ace spec authors that we do support them!)
I will do another post/list sometime in 2017. Or I will aim to, because for all I know mental health issues will kick my behind too badly, but I want to redo this list and have constructive and useful things to say beyond “Here is known indie ace rep. GO REC THESE INSTEAD”. It will have pretty graphics. And be shiny. So also, do let me know what you want to know beyond “Which character is ace spec and are they romantic or aromantic?” so I know I need to take notes on it!
GO FORTH AND REC AWESOME ACE SPEC AUTHORS AND THEIR BOOKS. (Please do not feel obliged to exclude trad published authors. I included them too. Well, sort of.