Fiction: If Absurd Works

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

An unexpected letter sees Suki of Sirenne, a red-robed priest of the Sojourner, doing the unimaginable: returning home to farewell a dying Mama Polly. After ten years of studying the ways of Spoken Service, she’s built a life that serves her nature … even if she’s still inclined to a sharp turn of phrase. Can’t she now explain her feelings and choices in ways easier for Mama Lewis to accept? Shouldn’t her mothers now be easier to manage?

Yet one conversation leaves Suki feeling that she’ll never stop being the brittle, abrasive young woman who left Freehome … and presents her a problem only solvable by remembering priesthood’s first lesson.

Patience comes more easily when free of disregard and diminishment.

Continue reading “Fiction: If Absurd Works”

Fiction: The Complexity of Human Decency

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

When Mama Lewis continues to browbeat Suki into becoming the kind of girl who doesn’t tick off unwanted romantic suitors, she knows the best thing to do is leave. The port city of Malvade offers work enough to pay for her own room, but Suki’s freedom comes with long hours, a leaking roof, outhouse mould and a yearning for a world that offers her more than bare subsistence and continued disregard.

A red-robed priest of the Sojourner may hold answer and opportunity … if only she can endure a conversation with someone preaching a truth anathema to everything a proud woman of Freehome should believe.

Does freedom in one direction count if she still finds limitations in others?

Continue reading “Fiction: The Complexity of Human Decency”

I Am Not Voldemort: An Essay on Love and Amatonormativity

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Content Advisory: Discussions of and references to love, amatonormativity, ableism, neurodiversity, autism, familial abuse and partner abuse.

This June, I saw an increasing number of positivity and support posts for the aromantic and a-spec communities discussing the amatonormativity of “everyone falls in love”. I agree: the idea that romantic love is something everyone experiences, and is therefore a marker of human worth, needs deconstruction.

Unfortunately, a majority of these posts are replacing the shackles of amatonormativity with restrictive lines like “everyone loves, just not always romantically”, referencing the importance of loving friends, QPPs, family members and pets. Sometimes it moves away from people to encompass love for hobbies, experiences, occupations and ourselves. The what and how tends to vary from post to post, but the idea that we do and must love someone or something, and this love redeems us as human and renders us undeserving of hatred, is being pushed to the point where I don’t feel safe or welcome in my own aromantic community. Even in the posts meant to be challenging the more obvious amatonormativity, it is presumed that aros must, in some way, love.

I’ve spent weeks watching my a-spec and aro communities throw neurodiverse and survivor aros under the bus in order to do what the aromantic community oft accuses alloromantic aces of doing: using their ability to love as a defence of their humanity. Because I love, they say, I also don’t deserve to be a target of hatred, aggression and abuse.

But what if I don’t love?

What if love itself has been the mechanism of the hatred and violence I have endured?

Why am I, an aro, neurodiverse survivor of abuse and bullying, still acceptable collateral damage?

Continue reading “I Am Not Voldemort: An Essay on Love and Amatonormativity”

Love in the House of the Ravens – Part Four

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

After seven years in Rajad, Darius has fallen out of love with the unattainable and avoided falling in love with the companionate. If he lives at arm’s length from passion, isn’t that better than risking the abuse his fellow mercenaries so eagerly deliver to an autistic who can’t quite fit in? But when the right person suggests a romantic relationship, “yes” still won’t grace his tongue, and Darius hasn’t the least idea why. He likes Harlow. Shouldn’t he want to love her?

The only thing he can do is turn to his old friends and rescuers, the Ravens. They have an answer if he can stumble his way through asking the question … but it may upend every truth Darius thinks he knows about himself.

Content Advisory: Descriptions of wounds and blood, bullying and the ableism targeted at people who can’t conform to neuronormative modes of speech. This chapter begins increasing romance mentions and discussions between alloromantic (Akash) and aromantic (Ila, Darius) characters.

Length: 935 words.

Links: Beginning | Previous | Next

You never give a family heirloom to a romantic partner before you’ve formalised the relationship.

Continue reading “Love in the House of the Ravens – Part Four”

Love in the House of the Ravens – Part Three

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

After seven years in Rajad, Darius has fallen out of love with the unattainable and avoided falling in love with the companionate. If he lives at arm’s length from passion, isn’t that better than risking the abuse his fellow mercenaries so eagerly deliver to an autistic who can’t quite fit in? But when the right person suggests a romantic relationship, “yes” still won’t grace his tongue, and Darius hasn’t the least idea why. He likes Harlow. Shouldn’t he want to love her?

The only thing he can do is turn to his old friends and rescuers, the Ravens. They have an answer if he can stumble his way through asking the question … but it may upend every truth Darius thinks he knows about himself.

Content Advisory: Descriptions of fantasy violence, wounds, bullying, the way neuronormative behaviours can enable bullying, and blood magic.

Length: 1, 089 words.

Links: Beginning | Previous | Next

Maybe he should have left this for another day. Tomorrow, overmorrow, next week. Never.

Continue reading “Love in the House of the Ravens – Part Three”

Love in the House of the Ravens – Part Two

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

After seven years in Rajad, Darius has fallen out of love with the unattainable and avoided falling in love with the companionate. If he lives at arm’s length from passion, isn’t that better than risking the abuse his fellow mercenaries so eagerly deliver to an autistic who can’t quite fit in? But when the right person suggests a romantic relationship, “yes” still won’t grace his tongue, and Darius hasn’t the least idea why. He likes Harlow. Shouldn’t he want to love her?

The only thing he can do is turn to his old friends and rescuers, the Ravens. They have an answer if he can stumble his way through asking the question … but it may upend every truth Darius thinks he knows about himself.

Content Advisory: Descriptions of fantasy violence, wounds and blood magic along with an exceedingly obvious metaphor for real-world capitalism.

Length: 879 words.

Links: Beginning | Next

Akash and Ila feel more like equals despite his awkwardnesses, less frighteningly parental in their provision of explanation

Continue reading “Love in the House of the Ravens – Part Two”

Love in the House of the Ravens – Part One

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

After seven years in Rajad, Darius has fallen out of love with the unattainable and avoided falling in love with the companionate. If he lives at arm’s length from passion, isn’t that better than risking the abuse his fellow mercenaries so eagerly deliver to an autistic who can’t quite fit in? But when the right person suggests a romantic relationship, “yes” still won’t grace his tongue, and Darius hasn’t the least idea why. He likes Harlow. Shouldn’t he want to love her?

The only thing he can do is turn to his old friends and rescuers, the Ravens. They have an answer if he can stumble his way through asking the question … but it may upend every truth Darius thinks he knows about himself.

As it’s Autism Acceptance Month, I’m going to spend April posting installments of a fantasy novelette about the ways autism and ableism can shape, colour and complicate the experience of discovering aromantic identity. Readers should note that this is a sequel to Certain Eldritch Artefacts, but you only need know that the protagonist, an autistic magician, found a talking sword belt and allowed it to convince him into becoming a mercenary.

Content Advisory: Aside from references to various acts of violence and combat common in fantasy, this story includes references to or depictions of bullying, abuse, assault and ableism, as well as the way these things shape and impact the people who survive them. Please expect references to sexual attraction, non-explicit sex mentions, amatonormativity, physical intimacy, kissing and romance. The protagonist also practices blood magic in a way that intentionally echoes self-harm.

Length: 814 words.

Links: Next

I want to ask them about something with … people.

Continue reading “Love in the House of the Ravens – Part One”

Aro-Spec Artist Profile – K. A. Cook

Handdrawn watercolour-style image of a sparse forest of redwood trees growing among grassy hills, with a white and orange fox sitting in the grass at the base of a tree on the viewer's right-hand side of the image. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Artist Profiles sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Hello! You all know me as the autistic, disabled, transgender, abrosexual, allo-aro Australian behind @aroworlds, @alloaroworlds and the Hallo, Aro short story series. I also have a Ko-fi you can support if so inclined, and you can find all my books on my personal website or collected by theme: allo-aro and aromantic.

Aside from the writing, I’ve worked as an editor and text designer on various community publications. When my hands allow, I like to sew, craft, bead and scrapbook. I’ve made everything from fidget toys for my @stimtoybox blog to dollhouse miniatures.

I’m here to talk about how disability separates me from my own aro-spec community, the importance of early recognition of aro-spec identity and my yearning for allo-aro autistic representation. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement as I attempt to kick-start more conversations on what it means to be aromantic and creative!

Four book covers, depicting cartoon-style fantasy images of a graveyard, a witch's front door, a taproom and a swamp, all with white type and author credit. The books are as follows: The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query; Love Spells, Rainbows and Rosie; Love is the Reckoning; and The Crew of Esher Hill, all by K. A. Cook.

Continue reading “Aro-Spec Artist Profile – K. A. Cook”