It’s here! I’ve finally polished up the draft version of my In Stillness essay and am officially sharing it with the world. :O Prepare yourself because this is 4,970 words long minus quotations, end notes and works cited list. With, it’s about 5,837.
The Perception of Asexuality in Seanan McGuire’s “Every Heart a Doorway”
Before August 2016, I had never read a story with a character who explicitly identified as asexual. It is tempting to say that, before that time, I had never read any character like me before. This is not true. I’d read several stories with asexually-coded (ace-coded) characters before then, but August 2016 marked the month when I first read a story featuring a character who explicitly used the label to describe herself.
That character was Nancy from Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and until I read that novella I did not truly understand why I too needed labels in fiction, why I too needed to see such blunt visibility and recognition. Every Heart a Doorway was published on May 10th, 2016 and has gone on to be nominated for (and sometimes winning) several major awards. To date, it has won the 2016 Nebulas, the 2017 Locus Awards, and the 2016 Hugo Awards, and it was one of the books named on the Tiptree Honors list in part for its portrayal of Nancy’s asexuality.
Being published by a respected traditional publisher, written by a well-known and popular queer SFF author and explicitly including a discussion of the definition of asexuality has seen Every Heart a Doorway rise to prominence as one of the major books included on recommendations lists featuring asexual characters. Arguably, it has gone on to become the poster recommendation for asexual representation within fiction.
As a reader on the asexual spectrum, I was initially delighted by the narrative that McGuire wrote. I was dazzled by the fact that here, for the first time that I could recall, there was a character written specifically and deliberately to mirror my experiences. It wasn’t a complete match, but it was close enough to hit home. It also, deliberately, called out some of the most harmful stereotypes regarding asexuality that I have seen and experienced. That, more than anything, is what I fell in love with the first time I read it.
When I reread it for the Hugo Award nominations in the spring of 2017, however, my experience was markedly different and I found the amisia in the central premise almost unbearable. Nancy’s personal storyline revolves around her desire to return to the Halls of the Dead, the portal world that she visited, loved and wants to return to with all her heart. While the narrative is aware of its amisia on a surface level, this essay will show that once one looks below that surface the story actually perpetuates the very ideas that it so strongly attempts to deny.
In 2017, I read over 40 books featuring characters on the asexual (ace) spectrum in an effort to read predominantly ace rep this year. Though I failed at that, 40 books containing asexual representation is nothing to sniff at, especially considering how prevalent the claims are that the representation just doesn’t exist. Clearly it does because I read almost one book with ace rep per week.
This was a personal challenge I set myself, just as the year before, I set myself the challenge of reading predominantly internationally. This time, however, it was part of a concentrated effort to actually read the books with asexual characters that I’d been accumulating and to discuss the representation they contain.
After I discovered asexuality around 2013, I let that knowledge sit quietly and soak in this idea that I wasn’t just odd and that I wasn’t alone. Slowly, I explored the spectrum and discovered more about myself. Slowly I started to accumulate books that I was terrified of reading either because the author is allosexual and I was scared they’d get it wrong or because the author is, like me, ace spec and I was scared of invalidating their experience by discussing it because it wasn’t mine.
But the more books I bought, watching them be buried under other shinier and newer acquisitions, and the more I realised how hard it is to find good representation even though the internet should be a great boon in this, the more I wanted to sit myself down and read the books I had despite my fears.
After a year of reading asexual fiction, I’ve noticed a few things about the way asexuality is treated in fiction and represented in books that feature explicit and deliberate asexual representation.
So… Fun fact: I’m used to talking through grammar lessons rather than writing them all down entirely. It’ll probably take me a bit to get used to the shift in medium. You wouldn’t think it makes a big difference, but it actually really does.
And, because this is the blog version, some more background because I don’t think I actually announced this properly. One of my Patreon goals was to geek out about (English) grammar once a month. I like grammar and I teach English as a Second Language, so it’s a combination of stuff that I’m pretty good at. Also did I mention I like grammar? This is a fun way for me to ramble about my interests and touch on topics that people find interesting or troublesome.
So every month, I’ll be soliciting questions about grammar and we’ll pick one that I’ll be covering that month. This is the first month and I’m happy to report that we had a great question. (I have no idea if people want me to list their names if their question is picked. I figured I’d keep it anonymous in case people feel self-conscious otherwise.)
And… Yeah. That’s what this is. A new monthly feature! These are public posts and anyone can participate in asking questions! Though the posts go live for Patrons a week before anyone else gets to see them (as opposed to the month-long wait of non-goal public posts like reviews). I hope you’ll enjoy it! I’ll put up a call for new prompts later this month.
So… There’s something I’ve noticed about a lot of people making lists about asexual representation. Actually, there’s a few things I’ve noticed and they all fall into slightly similar patterns.
Before I start talking about how to make lists about asexual representation, I want to discuss something else briefly. I want to talk about how these lists make me feel. This is especially true of lists or listers that include multiple queer orientations in their lists. These lists often make me feel like the asexual representation is tacked on as an afterthought with barely any research into what asexual representation exists in the field. The books are out there!
Claudie Arseneault’s absolutely fantasticdatabase of asexual and aromantic characters in SFF fiction lists about 59 novels and novellas with asexual characters at the time I’m writing this. This post is concerned with listing asexuality in books, but a few things about aromanticism:
Aromantic readers have even less representation, the representation they do have is predominantly linked to asexuality1, and I have yet to see a list (that wasn’t compiled by aromantic readers) that explicitly includes aromanticism.
Those 59 books in Claudie’s database? Isn’t all of them. It’s an SFF-only list, so a book like Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence isn’t going to be on it. That’s contemporary YA. A handful of books I didn’t spot on the list that are also SFF and contain confirmed asexual representation: Garth Nix’s Clariel2, R.J. Anderson’s Quicksilver, Jo Walton’s The King’s Peace, Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds.
My point obviously isn’t to diss Claudie’s database. It is a fantastic resource. I mention those books because I want to highlight that there are enough books with asexual representation out there that even those of us who pay close attention to acespec characters in books will miss some of them.
So when I see book lists that include asexual representation and those book lists keep on including the same two or three books every single time that hurts. And that shows me that whoever compiled the list did the absolute bare minimum of research into asexual representation, assuming that they even did that much research.
And that’s why it feels like asexual representation is an afterthought when people make these lists. That’s why seeing the same books recommended over and over hurts so much. Recommending the same books over and over again just makes it seem like there so little representation out there. It suggests that we’re not worth reading about.
Now, I know. I know. When people make lists like this, often the books that get added are the popular books, the well-known ones. Trust me, I know. But when it comes to asexual representation, the recommendations are stagnant. It’s always the same handful of books that get included. A list with asexual representation will always include Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. It will almost always include Clariel. Etc. It’s always the same handful of books. Always from the same tiny pool of books out there. It makes it seem like that handful of books is the only asexual representation out there when, clearly, it’s not. I wouldn’t be able to name 63 books with asexual representation if that handful of books was all there is.
A caveat here: part of this is based on faulty perceptions. I’m letting it stand because I’m talking about how it feels, but other queer communities struggle equally much with finding representation in books, and this is before taking into account intersectionality. I suspect that much of what I’m about to say can be applied to other minorities.
The issue I have with lists that are as stagnant as the ones I see for asexual representation is that this stagnation is actively harmful to readers. If ten different recommendation posts all list the same five books, readers are left thinking that those five books are all the books that are available to them. It doesn’t encourage people to do their own research to find that, actually, there are at least several dozen more! It actively discourages researching because, surely, if there were more books out there they would be talked about more often.
So what can we do about that?
1. Spend as much time researching books with asexual representation as you would other representations.
There are, at least, 64 books with characters on the asexual spectrum that have been published to date. When I searched for ‘asexual books’ just now, this was the second link. There are 135 books on that GoodReads list. Not all of them are fiction, mind you, but a sizeable chunk is. The top result for similar lists is this one about asexuality in YA fiction. It has 54 books on it when I checked (and considers Every Heart a Doorway adult fiction or it would’ve been 55).
That took, what, five minutes and the most basic of search terms I could think of using. Don’t tell me that you can’t find more asexual books than the handful that keep getting recommended on these “books with asexual representation” lists.
I take back what I said earlier. Including the same handful of books over and over suggests the person who compiled it did no research because it’s so incredibly easy to find others if you actually look for them.
When someone knows how much more representation there is out there, it’s very easy for that person to feel like the only research that’s gone into making the recommendations list is looking at a handful of popular mainstream lists and deciding to mix and match from between those titles and… that’s it. That’s all the research that that person did.
It may not be true! I don’t know the list-maker. I don’t know how much research they did or did not do, but that’s how it will come across to asexual readers looking for more representation.
2. Recognise that asexual representation and aromantic representation are not the same thing.
They are not. I would argue that failing to differentiate between the two is one of the biggest red flags regarding the amount of research someone did in compiling their ace rep lists. (Another red flag is failing to mention aromanticism at all.)
This is… a difficult topic for me to talk about, to be honest, because I’m not aromantic and I know a lot of aros who have been hurt by alloromantic aces speaking about aromanticism and getting it wrong. You can find a good primer written by Mikayla on Twitter here. Bear in mind it’s a 101 thread and will pretty much only give you a grounding in the terms. You can also check out AVEN‘s website or the Aromantics Wiki to get you started.
I will say that while I think the conflation is understandable, given how invisible both orientations are and how often the representation we do get conflates the two, that doesn’t mean it’s right and it’s certainly something that list makers need to bear in mind and actively work against perpetuating.
The easiest way to do that is to list both a character’s romantic and asexual orientation so that people will know what rep they’re looking into.
3. Look at small press and indie publications.
I know. I know. They’re frequently less popular and less well-known than the big popular names, but… I guarantee you that these are the books that need your signal boosting the most. Plus, most acespec authors I know struggle to get published traditionally by the larger publishers because they write characters that are deemed harder to market.
I’m certain that if Seanan McGuire hadn’t been a popular author to start with Every Heart a Doorway wouldn’t have found a traditional publisher. Not without editing out the explicit asexual and aromantic discussions anyway. Even small queer publishers don’t seem to touch asexual representation unless it’s homoromantic and the focus of the story is on the homoromantic.
4. If you have a limited amount of spots on your list available, think twice about including the most popular recommendations.
Sounds harsh, I know. But, listen. There are a couple of books (Clariel by Garth Nix or Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire are the two most notable ones) that have appeared on just about every single list about asexual representation found in mainstream book blogs. These are the staple recommendations that people turn to.
To be absolutely clear: I’m not saying that you should never recommend these books ever. But, in general, most recommendation lists consist of about 5 books per list. Some go as high up as 10! But most tend to be 5 books long because reader attention span and memory.
What I am saying is that when you’ve only got a limited number of slots to recommend books in, you should think about which books you’re including, what your goal is and whether that book reaches that goal. Look at other lists and see which books they share.
And then don’t recommend those on your actual list. Or at least restrict the list to one of them. They’re already available on a bunch of lists, so I guarantee you that there are other books that are just as good (if not better) that need the publicity for including asexual representation a lot more. Yes, even if it’s a traditionally published author like Scott Westerfeld. Did you know he wrote a demisexual character in Afterworlds? Or Laina Taylor. I didn’t know there was asexual representation in her books. No one ever mentioned it to me.
Truthfully, I would love to say “don’t recommend the most popular books in a list of less than 10 books under any circumstance”, but the truth is those are the books that will help people find your post about asexual representation because, well, they’re popular. People are going to search for them. They’re keywords to help boost the visibility of your list.
I get that there are good, defendable reasons for including those books. A list of 5 obscure books with asexual representation is nigh-on useless if no one can find them. Another approach you could take is to name drop the popular book (or books) in your introduction or at the end as an honorary mention. That way, you still get to mention the popular books (and thus get the keywords into your post), but you end up centring other books.
As much as I think the Tor.com article recommending 5 books with asexual protagonists is badly researched and messed up, it did get that aspect spot-on if you’re looking for an example of how to use popular and well-known books to recommend less well-known ones.
5. Consider making your goal explicitly “I want to introduce acespec readers to more books with asexual representation” rather than “I want to introduce allosexuals to acespec 101 books”.
This all ties into the popularity of books, as well, really. The most popular recommendation by far is Every Heart a Doorway. It’s Asexuality 101 representation. Most of my friends who’ve read it find its representation, especially its aromantic representation, problematic. Here’s the thing: we’re not looking for 101 representation to explain our orientations to allos. We’re looking for something a little more, well, nuanced.
And by and large the books that get recommended… aren’t. They’re 101 books and the list as a whole is aimed at allo readers looking to learn a little more about asexuality. It’d be nice if list-makers in mainstream outlets would think about catering to those readers who already know about those books.
There’s an added bonus to doing that for allo readers too! Because, you see, you’re also doing them a disservice by only showing them the asexual 101 books. Most Asexuality 101 books feature characters whose asexuality is similar, but asexuality is a spectrum and by recommending the same books over and over you deny allo readers a chance to understand that spectrum. In fact, you’re actively encouraging them to see that asexuality only looks one or two ways.
Which… While we’re on the subject, does a lot of harm to asexuals who don’t align with those ways because people will attack them for ‘not being queer enough’. We are queer enough, but the narrative put forth by the most-recommended and most well-known books with asexual characters wouldn’t suggest it. (See also: queer romance publishers won’t touch a book featuring a heteroromantic asexual MC or LI, even though heteroromantic asexuals aren’t straight.)
So… You know. By shifting the goal and focus of your list around, what you end up with is a list that, in the long run, does more good and promotes more diversity and cultivates more understanding between different communities. It’s win all around!
And… that’s all I can think of (for now). Hopefully that will get you started in figuring out how to write lists of books featuring asexual representation! I’m pretty sure that you can apply the same general ideas to any list focusing on representation.
To recap and to offer you a tl;dr version: do research into the marginalisation you’re recommending, think about what you want your list to accomplish and make sure that the books you include actually help you accomplish that goal.
1. In the interest of full disclosure, at the moment my works are adding to this as both the prominent aromantic characters in my books are aromantic asexual. I aim to work on including other aro rep, but I’m a slow writer. 🙁 I’d also like to apologise for making this a footnote. I didn’t know how to fit it into the main body. My apologies. 🙁
2. Clariel is one of the most frequently included books for asexual and aromantic representation. Most aspec readers I know find Clariel deeply problematic representation, so I’m not surprised that this one isn’t in the database despite how well-known it is.
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One thing that, in my experience, comes up a fair bit when people see aces and aros ask allies to speak up about the issues we face too is the idea that people can’t boost our voices or issues because something else is happening that affects that person directly. This post, however, won’t look at aces and aros specifically. It looks at general ways I’ve found that are important when speaking up about the hurt done to other marginalisations when your own marginalisation is being hurt too.
It is written from an ace perspective on account of the fact that I am ace spec, after all, but I have done my best to keep the tone of this piece neutral-to-positive and general. It’s also, because I spend most of my time on Twitter, going to use Twitter terminology more than anything else, but I think it applies across various platforms. I hope you’ll find it useful, so let’s dive straight in with the first and, in my opinion, most important point!
1. Keep talking about your own issues.
Seriously. Don’t stop talking about the issues that you and your community face to talk about someone else’s. For one, if you don’t share that marginalisation, that community doesn’t need you to speak for them. For another, your voice regarding what’s happening in your community matters! It’s important!
Do you know who’s qualified to talk about the issues you/your community faces? You are. Don’t stop speaking just because another marginalisation is asking you to boost their voices.
This is especially true and especially important when multiple trashfires are happening in different communities simultaneously. Talk about yours! You don’t have to make threads to discuss what’s happening in another community unless you choose to. People just want a boost in visibility. That’s all.
If you share both? It’s okay to pick and choose which one matters most to you if you need (or want) to. Focus on whichever topic is more important to you at that time. You’re not obliged to talk about both (or either) of them. Just… Do try to boost both if you can.
Relatively, if you think the best approach for you is to focus on making positive and inclusive art and boosting the same, that is absolutely valid. You do what makes sense for you. Everyone does activism in their own way (and this is activism) and there is no One True Way.
2. Retweet or otherwise boost other marginalised voices.
Okay, so you’re dealing with your own stuff, but you see a tweet about something another marginalised group is dealing with. Why not hit that RT/reblog or like button? Even if you don’t engage with it otherwise, that will help the issue become visible to other people and it sure as heck will make the people you’ve retweeted/reblogged feel like they’re being heard and seen.
That’s basically it, though. Whatever you’re dealing with, unless you’re in the middle of a tweetstorm or aught, why not hit that RT button? It only takes a few seconds and a single click and your extended reach could help a lot.
Yes, even if your reach is only tiny. You know that saying about small things adding up? That applies here too. Lots of boosts from people with small reach adds up. It’s like crowdfunding. If 100 people can only chip in $1 each, the total sum raised is still $100 dollars. That can still make a huge difference!
But this is social media, so chances are that a boost is going to reach more than one person. I’m terrible with numbers, so to make maths easier for me (and you!), let’s say that each RT boost will reach 10 people who’ve never heard of the issue before.
If 20 people boost one of my tweets, that means that 200 people whom I could never reach on my own saw that tweet. If those people then boost your boost, that reaches another 20 people each and… that’s… like… 20 times 20 number of people who’d see it so that’s like 400 people? (This is a genuine question.) In any case, that one RT you gave me has the potential to reach exponentially more people than I could reach on my own. And all of that just for a few seconds of effort to hit a button!
3. Don’t speak for the people you’re boosting. Speak with them.
If you don’t share the marginalisation, you are not an expert on what they face. Let them speak for themselves. They’re perfectly capable of it and usually prefer to.
Just to be clear: that doesn’t mean “don’t talk about what other marginalisations deal with”. It just means “Don’t make your voice the only voice your audience sees”. Remember that you’re boosting the people, not the issue.
There are things that, if you don’t have a particular marginalisation, you will never understand in the same way. There are nuances you’ll miss and microaggressions that you might accidentally repeat. You’re trying the best you can, but there are just some things that you can’t see because you have privilege along that particular axis. Sucks, but that’s life.
If you want to speak with people, by all means do. Your voice will be welcome. But please remember this isn’t about you. Do your best to centre the people who are being hurt.
You may not always succeed. That’s okay! We’re people. We mess things up. It happens.
Relatedly, this also applies to including ways for people to support you financially without including ways for them to support the people who are actually being hurt the same way. Yes, I know that it takes a lot of effort and emotional labour to speak about an issue like, say, why something is erasive, but remember this is not about you. If you direct people only to places where they can financially support you, you’re making that thread about you and your voice, even if you include links or boost other people’s threads at the same time. They’re doing the same labour you are and, if you don’t share the marginalisation, at a much greater personal cost. Remember to centre them.
It’s okay to tell people “Hey, if you want to support me, here are ways to do it” if you also focus on ways they can support people of the marginalisation you’re boosting! Please remember to centre them in this area too! They could often use the boost!
4. Recognise that it’s okay if you, personally, cannot boost a specific instance.
Really, it’s okay. People don’t know your circumstances. If you, personally, cannot boost something at a specific time, that’s okay. You, personally, are just one person and self-care is important. Also we can’t boost all the things all the time. It’s exhausting and leads to burn-out.
Just… If you never boost a specific group or topic, even when you’re aware of an issue, and you do routinely boost other groups, the people from the group you never speak about will notice. And at that point, you may have to ask yourself why you never boost that particular group because it’s clearly a pattern that only occurs with that particular group.
5. Recognise that not all marginalised groups get the same level of boosting.
Let me be very clear here: this is not me trying to play a round of oppression Olympics. This is just a simple fact because not all marginalisations are equally widely understood or discussed. Asexuality and aromanticism are largely invisible, so of course straightwashing an aroace character is going to have less visibility (and thus less boosting) than straightwashing a gay character is.
The thing is, though, those smaller marginalisations will notice when they don’t get the same level of boosting and they’ll talk about that amongst themselves. And when they do, someone somewhere is going to tell them that they have no right to be upset about the issue because X, Y or Z is far more important.
That response is what turns it into oppression Olympics. That response is telling marginalised people how to feel and that their issues and oppression isn’t as important as another. So don’t do that. If people are hurt by the lack of support, allow them to talk about that without trying to shame them for it.
Sometimes, members of these groups will vent about the differences in boosting. Sometimes they’ll discuss it amongst themselves. I stress: they’re not doing that because they want to say “Oh, we’re more oppressed than others!” They’re doing it because, actually, it really hurts to see others speak up for or boost everyone else and they just want to talk about that hurt, process it and deal with it. And yes they often also phrase as “Why us? Why does no one listen to us? Why does everyone else get boosted?” because those are valid questions to ask when that’s why you’re hurting. (I have yet to see anyone decide that the answer is “Because we’re more oppressed!” It’s usually something along the lines of “Because we’re invisible”.)
Now, obviously, if someone is making threads about how their issues are more important or trying to derail existing discussions, that’s a different matter. Do not do these things. They are wrong on so many levels and, really, the only thing it accomplishes is that you’re hurting the community you’re trying to help. You’re also hurting the other community that was originally being discussed. Don’t do this. It is harmful to everyone.
6. Be prepared to learn.
Issues don’t just disappear because we RT them (though we can dream and wish). If you’re RTing a specific instance once, chances are that there are more examples of that instance either in the past or in the future that you’re not aware of. That’s okay! You don’t need to be aware of each instance individually ever!
My point here is that when people are talking about issues they face because they’re part of a marginalised group, chances are that this singular instance is an example of something systemic. For example: an article discussing how Jughead might still be ace (and makes no mention of his aromanticism) is a single instance of aro erasure that you can call out. But there have been articles that did it before and there will, almost certainly (T_T) be articles that do it afterwards. It’s a pattern of aro erasure.
Sometimes you’ll easily be able to see how the system repeats itself. Sometimes you won’t. But just because you can’t see it that doesn’t mean it’s not there. (Remember: if you don’t share the marginalisation, you may not notice it. Heck, even if you do share it, you may not notice it at first!)
Anyone, calling out a specific instance once likely isn’t going to do much besides making you feel good for helping.
Be aware of the fact that specific instances that gain discussion traction are often symptoms and examples of a wider problem. You don’t need to know (or recognise) all the individual instances. You do need a rough idea of what the framework it occurs in is, so you can speak out against the framework the instances occur in. And that requires a bit of effort to learn what’s happening in that instance you saw and why it matters.
You don’t have to drop everything to learn about that framework right there and then! Especially if you’re dealing with an issue in your own communities or have personal issues that mean you’re not up to learning new things, you don’t have to drop everything immediately. Again, you are important too. Focus on yourself. Practice self-care. You matter.
But when you’re in a better place and can manage it, try to learn about the issues those other marginalisations face. You want them to learn about the issues you deal with too, right? If you’re never willing to learn about other people, you can’t really expect them to be willing to learn about you.
7. Self-care is important.
I’ve said that a few times and in different ways, but it’s worth repeating and giving it its own point. As many people have pointed out, if you’re marginalised in any way self-care is the most radical thing you can do. I assume that, if you’re reading this, you’re marginalised in at least one way yourself. If you’ve ever spoken out about anything, you’ll undoubtedly know that doing so comes at a price. Trolls will find you and harass you for it. They’ll do the same if you speak out for people whose marginalisation you don’t share.
Practice self-care. Don’t feel obligated to take on more than you can handle. See also: don’t speak for others. That’s a related issue. Often, I see people think that “help us” means “speak for us and get attacked by the trolls for us” and… Listen, I won’t deny that it can be nice to have someone else handle the brunt of the troll attacks for you, but that doesn’t mean they should. No one is obliged to take on trolls. If someone chooses to, that is incredibly generous of them, but it should be their choice.
If you don’t want to take on trolls for another group, that’s okay. Never let anyone tell you that it’s not. It is not your job or obligation to take a proverbial bullet for other marginalised groups.
Take care of yourself too when you boost other people. Boost in ways that balances with your needs and personality.
8. Consider boosting positive things related to a marginalisation.
Again, I’ve mentioned this before, but I thought it deserved its own thread. So something is trash and people are hurting? Boosting their hurt and their discussions isn’t the only way to boost people from that marginalisation! You can also boost positive things that people from that marginalisation have done or are doing!
For example: if a white author publishes a racist book, boost non-white creators and encourage people to support them financially. That creates positive visibility for the people who are being harmed by that instance and it can introduce people to new favourites and marginalised people to creators who share their marginalisation. It is powerful to read books by people who get you.
Marginalised creators often need the boost for visibility and many struggle financially, so your boosts of their work can offer concrete support in a way that boosting the conversations and threads can’t.
And on that note, I think that’s me all rambled out. I hope this is helpful to you! Please do use this post as a jumping out to add more things people can do or shouldn’t do while boosting others. And let me know if I’ve messed something up or left it unclear. Let’s work together to make the world a more inclusive and positive place for everyone!
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I’ve been asked recently how to get started with indie publishing. That’s… a slightly tricky question since, like so many questions, the answer is roughly “It depends”. That’s not me being coy! It really does depend on who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your budget it and what you want to accomplish. There’s more but that’s a good start!
Nevertheless there are a few basic things that you’ll need to take into account if you want to pursue self-publishing. First and most importantly: you need to research your options. You need to know what you want to do and what will work for you.
For example: Do you want to publish to Amazon exclusively? Do you want to publish via Draft2Digital, Pronoun or Smashwords? Do you want to offer only ebooks or only print? Or do you want to offer both? What about audiobooks? If you want to publish print books, do you go with CreateSpace, IngramSpark or some other publisher entirely? Do you hire someone to do the work for you or do you want to invest the time yourself? Do you want to set up a small imprint for your own books? If so, can you design the logo yourself or do you want to hire someone to do it for you? What are the benefits and drawbacks of any and all of these choices? Etc, etc.
That’s… a lot of question to throw at you, sorry. They’re important, but you don’t have to tackle them all in one go! For me, personally, the biggest issue was anxiety, so for me the main thing that I needed to do was a quick way to get my work out there and then sort the rest later. It’s not a strategy I recommend unless you need it, but it’s a strategy. Anyway, let’s break it down a bit by looking at what you need before you get to that “hit publish” button.
Yesterday, I saw a YouTube video discussing the differences between the original two Thief games and modern AAA games in general. You can see that video here, but for the sake of convenience and because I want to tangentially continue what the video talks about here are the main points of what AAA games nowadays do:
Quest markers make for lazy gaming
Level design draws your attention to the fact that you’re playing a game rather than immersing you in the world.
They add so much content that the game loses focus
They don’t use the environment and game design to further the narrative and instead rely on cutscenes and cinematics
The games often offer high rewards for low player effort and token rewards for going off the beaten path
I highly recommend watching the whole video as it makes some great points about modern day game design as shown in AAA gaming. I don’t always agree with everything, but it’s a relevant and salient discussion topic. For me, what I like about the video is how much it put into words exactly why I love the original games so much and why the reboot disappointed me so badly. But there’s a few things that the video doesn’t cover that I wish it had.
Yesterday, I attended a job interview. I have anxiety, so a daylong trip that involves going to another country for a short interview is, well, let’s just say I spent most of today balancing needing to keep my sleep rhythm proper and needing to recuperate. I’m really glad that everyone I met was super nice to me because human kindness really helps me out. But even with human kindness the parts where I was travelling on my own were… not great.
I won’t go into all the details, but since it followed so closely on Yuri!!! On Ice episode 11 and because Yuuri’s anxiety has been on my mind a lot, it is something I’ve been thinking about and have been since I watched Yuuri’s flashback to last year’s Grand Prix Final where he failed. It also features VERY MILD spoilers for YOI episode 11.
Content Note: Descriptions of how anxiety manifests for me and related food issues as well as descriptions of how I talk about anxiety.
Last night, I did a short(?) series of tweets discussing tips on how to write demisexual characters in your fiction. Those tweets have been storyfied here. WHOOHOO! The tweets focus on how to write demisexual protagonists, though it’s probably general enough to give you an idea on how to write any kind of demisexual. (That said, less screen space and no pov time makes it really hard to show a character as explicitly demisexual, so my recommendation would be that, if you want to include demi representation in your stories, make it a prominent character, so you have the space needed to explore how demisexuality works.)
And because I tend to write out longer tweet threads/storms like this before I start tweeting, here’s the original too. It’s slightly different at points because I do rephrase a little as I tweet, usually to allow for the character limit, but it’s effectively the same thing.
tl;dr best tip version: Let characters become firm friends first and then slowly layer in your demisexual character’s sexual attraction. Layer it. Also read the linked tumblr posts on how to avoid invalidating other ace spec sexualities and, when you’re looking for sensitivity readers don’t forget about the rest of the spectrum. Everyone will have something valuable to say about how you handle it!
When the kingdom discovers that their crown princess doesn’t like cake, chaos ensues. How will the royal line ever continue? Cake is essential to a good marriage! (Not to mention, the rejection of his cake was deeply insulting to the baker-prince who proposed with it.)
…and the stableboy who loved her…
The princess befriends a stableboy. She’s oblivious to the fact that he’s in love with her. The stableboy does his best to explain to the princess what is so wonderful about cake, but it takes an arduous journey to convince her to try a slice.
…in a kingdom that didn’t want to understand…
The Princess who Didn’t Eat Cake is a demisexual fairy tale. It aims to introduce people to the concept of demisexuality and to offer a rough idea of how the world may be experienced by people identifying on the asexual spectrum. It offers both the titular fairy tale, a brief essay explaining what demisexuality is in more detail and a short list of books featuring demisexual characters for anyone who would like to see more representation in fiction.
Content Note! View Spoiler »The Princess who Didn’t Eat Cake features a suicide attempt. « Hide Spoiler If this is sensitive material for you, please tread with caution.
Surprise release! Yay! It is out and available! Well, to some retailers, at least. It is still percolating its way to most others, but I couldn’t wait to share it with you all! Call me impatient. (Because I am.) But here it is! A handy-dandy ebook version of The Princess who Didn’t Eat Cake, accompanied by a short essay for additional information and a short list of other books to explore! It’s also a little more polished and doesn’t feature the word ‘cake’ quite as often as it did.
It should be available for free from most large e-retailers within a few days. The exception to this is Amazon, sorry! Amazon won’t let authors release ebooks for free and it’s not all that happy about authors asking them to price-match either. T_T So I’ve set the price there as low as I can for now. I hope it’ll price match for me automatically, but this is actually something where I could use readers’ help! If any readers could contact Amazon to inform them that the booklet is available permafree elsewhere, I would be super grateful. The more people inform them, the more likely it’ll be price-matched and stay that way.
I’ve released the booklet for free on large retailers because I’m hopeful that their reach will allow more readers to discover the story and, through it, raise more awareness of the asexuality spectrum and demisexuality in particular. Payhip includes DRM-free epub and mobi files and is available on a pay-what-you-want basis, in case you like what I and the booklet are trying to achieve and you want to support a queer indie author produce more stories. (But that is totally optional.)
Please do spread the word to anyone you think will enjoy it or find it useful. I am happy to talk to you about the asexual spectrum and demisexuality too if you have any other questions. I admit that non-fiction is not my strong point, but I’d be happy to do my best to answer any questions you have.
This is the story that sparked the longer DemiPrincess project that’s currently on sort-of official hiatus while I piece my heart back together. (I am getting there and I still aim to have a completed first draft before December.) But the DemiPrincess novel isn’t going to be a particularly good educational opportunity. Sure, it’s longer, but that also means it’s going to have a lot more elements to draw attention away from the focus and it can’t use the cake metaphor quite as easily as a short piece like this can.
I think that about covers it. I hope you’ll enjoy it!