Fiction: Love is the Reckoning

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

Esher Hill left his home and kin a crying wreck of a man, too depressed and dysphoric to care what his people make of him. If he’d had his way, that would have been the end of it.

His sister Mara, the village witch, made sure he didn’t.

Two and a half years later, Esher owns two dogs, a blade, a career and a new body—the shape of masculinity he always felt he should be. A miracle Mara refuses to explain. A miracle the Sojourner’s priests reject and fear. A miracle, say the Grey Mages, that cannot exist without something precious sacrificed in exchange: a soul.

Returning home in search of his sister and the truth isn’t just a matter of enduring stares, whispers, explanations and the condescending pity from those he left behind.

Love holds edges sharper than Esher’s sword, for nobody wins but demons in the sale of souls.

Yes, and that’s what scares him: his erasure writ in the words of love.

Continue reading “Fiction: Love is the Reckoning”

Fiction: The Pride Conspiracy, Part Two

Banner image for The Pride Conspiracy. Banner features black handwritten type on a mottled green background with two green feathers and a black pencil. A translucent overlay of the dark green/light green/white/grey/black aromantic flag sits underneath the text. Text, feather and pencil images are boldly outlined in various shades of green and white.

December isn’t the best time of year for a trans aromantic like Rowan Ross, although—unlike his relatives—his co-workers probably won’t give him gift cards to women’s clothing shops. How does he explain to cis people that while golf balls don’t trigger his dysphoria, he wants to be seen as more than a masculine stereotype? Nonetheless, he thinks he has this teeth-gritted endurance thing figured out: cissexism means he needn’t fear his relatives asking him about dating, and he has the perfect idea for Melanie in the office gift exchange. He can survive gifts and kin, right? Isn’t playing along with expectation better than enduring unexpected consequences?

Rowan, however, isn’t the only aromantic in the office planning to surprise a co-worker. To survive the onslaught of ribbon and cellophane, Rowan’s going to have to get comfortable with embracing the unknown.

I’ll have a pride coat! And nobody will have the least idea what it means!

Continue reading “Fiction: The Pride Conspiracy, Part Two”

Fiction: The Pride Conspiracy, Part One

Banner image for The Pride Conspiracy. Banner features black handwritten type on a mottled green background with two green feathers and a black pencil. A translucent overlay of the dark green/light green/white/grey/black aromantic flag sits underneath the text. Text, feather and pencil images are boldly outlined in various shades of green and white.

December isn’t the best time of year for a trans aromantic like Rowan Ross, although—unlike his relatives—his co-workers probably won’t give him gift cards to women’s clothing shops. How does he explain to cis people that while golf balls don’t trigger his dysphoria, he wants to be seen as more than a masculine stereotype? Nonetheless, he thinks he has this teeth-gritted endurance thing figured out: cissexism means he needn’t fear his relatives asking him about dating, and he has the perfect idea for Melanie in the office gift exchange. He can survive gifts and kin, right? Isn’t playing along with expectation better than enduring unexpected consequences?

Rowan, however, isn’t the only aromantic in the office planning to surprise a co-worker. To survive the onslaught of ribbon and cellophane, Rowan’s going to have to get comfortable with embracing the unknown.

They’re aromantic. How isn’t he obligated to help decorate her desk in as many pride-related ways as possible?

Continue reading “Fiction: The Pride Conspiracy, Part One”

Fiction: The Vampire Conundrum, Part Two

Banner image for The Vampire Conundrum. Banner features black handwritten type on a mottled green background with two green feathers and a black pencil. A translucent overlay of the dark green/light green/white/grey/black aromantic flag sits underneath the text. Text, feather and pencil images are boldly outlined in various shades of green and white.

When Rowan Ross is pressured into placing an aromantic pride mug on his desk, he doesn’t know how to react when his co-workers don’t notice it. Don’t they realise he spent a weekend rehearsing answers for questions unasked? Then again, if nobody knows what aromanticism is, can’t he display a growing collection of pride merch without a repeat of his coming out as trans? Be visible with impunity through their ignorance?

He can endure their thinking him a fan of archery, comic-book superheroes and glittery vampire movies. It’s not like anyone in the office is an archer. (Are they?) But when a patch on his bag results in a massive misconception, correcting it means doing the one thing he most fears: making a scene.

After all, his name isn’t Aro.

Romance, too, feels like one of the mechanisms by which a dangerous trans body can be rendered more acceptable to cis folks.

Continue reading “Fiction: The Vampire Conundrum, Part Two”

Fiction: The Vampire Conundrum, Part One

Banner image for The Vampire Conundrum. Banner features black handwritten type on a mottled green background with two green feathers and a black pencil. A translucent overlay of the dark green/light green/white/grey/black aromantic flag sits underneath the text. Text, feather and pencil images are boldly outlined in various shades of green and white.

When Rowan Ross is pressured into placing an aromantic pride mug on his desk, he doesn’t know how to react when his co-workers don’t notice it. Don’t they realise he spent a weekend rehearsing answers for questions unasked? Then again, if nobody knows what aromanticism is, can’t he display a growing collection of pride merch without a repeat of his coming out as trans? Be visible with impunity through their ignorance?

He can endure their thinking him a fan of archery, comic-book superheroes and glittery vampire movies. It’s not like anyone in the office is an archer. (Are they?) But when a patch on his bag results in a massive misconception, correcting it means doing the one thing he most fears: making a scene.

After all, his name isn’t Aro.

What is pride merch for if not petty passive-aggression in response to allo folks’ amatonormativity?

Continue reading “Fiction: The Vampire Conundrum, Part One”

DiOW: Jeile

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

A risky disclosure at the bookstore allows Nevo to welcome another queer to the underground, but Jeile is more mystery than co-conspirator.

Setting: Two years before the beginning of the war referenced in Their Courts of Crows and Maybe When the Bones CrumbleDifferent in Other Ways introduces a brand-new set of characters and circumstances; readers don’t need any familiarity with my other works.

Jeile takes place several months before Booksellers Who Know Things, because I refuse to recognise the validity of something called chronological order.

Content Advisory: Casual swearing; references to classism; references to misogyny, allosexism, cissexism, and heterosexism; casual references to sex and sexual attraction; casual references to asexuality; and depictions of anxiety and avoidant personality disorder as shaped by autism.

Links: Series Master Post | Patreon

Previous: Booksellers Who Know Things | Men Bound by Blood

Length: 3, 351 words.

A quiet day leaves Nevo with a chance to sort, catalogue and price a new lot of books without interruptions from customers. He’ll never admit it, but he finds the work soothing despite its repetition. Take a book, study its condition, check his record books for the prices of similar volumes and notes on rarity, write it in and shelve—preferably, although not always, with other books on the subject. It’s the satisfaction, he supposes, in even small ways of conquering the shop’s tendency to unbridled chaos. He likes cleaning and tidying; he’s never understood, as a son living with his father, why these things are considered unmasculine. What’s unmanly about tolerating unnecessary clutter?

The bell rings as he moves the last of the atlases to their new bottom shelf. Nevo bites back a groan and straightens in time to see a fat person in a plain dress and shawl hesitate just inside the doorway.

“Good mor—noon! Good afternoon. How may I help you?”

Long, straight brown hair falls in a braid down her back; dark eyes rest on scuffed boots peeking out from under the hem of her russet dress and cream petticoats. The dress betrays brighter streaks of red at the bust and side seams where it’s been let out, but it fits her broad chest and heavy arms without bulging or straining, and he sighs in envy. He can darn and patch, salvaging stockings and trousers worn at the knee, but fitting a second-hand shirt large enough for his shoulders without sagging at the waist is a skill beyond him. Is she a seamstress? Something about her looks familiar, but when he thinks back on the tailors, drapers and weavers occupying Devotion Lane, he can’t place her face.

“Good noon.” She doesn’t look up from her boots. Skin midway between olive and sienna darkens at her cheeks and nose, and she clutches a battered leather satchel tight to her side. A braided cord hangs around her neck, damp at the front as though chewed on. Small nose, even teeth, fluttering eyelids, creased brow. Nervous? “I want … I have a list of books. Would you be able to tell me if you have them? Please?”

Her high, stuttering voice sounds a little too clipped for downwall folk, but the clothes are worn by every labouring woman in the Boneyard.

“I can do that, ma’am.” Nevo stays by the shelf, thinking it better if she comes to him, but she flinches as though he moved at her. “I can also take down a list and let you know should we get them in—particularly if you want anything from outside.”

She reaches into the satchel and pulls out a folded, crumpled piece of paper. Only then does she take three steps, moving just far enough that she can extend her hand and let Nevo reach for the sheet, her eyes now fixed on the shelf of atlases. “These ones. Please. It’s for … research. I’m … a student and I’m researching, the, the … the ways of the … their disregard of…”

Nevo takes the list from her fingers, draws his arm back to give her space, unfolds the sheet … and blinks.

Keep reading at Patreon: Jeile

DiOW: Men Bound By Blood

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.

Nevo learns his mystery man’s name, but Harper’s slip of the tongue means that Nevo makes a promise to his father he may not be able to keep.

Setting: Two years before the beginning of the war referenced in Their Courts of Crows and Maybe When the Bones CrumbleDifferent in Other Ways introduces a brand-new set of characters and circumstances; readers don’t need any familiarity with my other works.

Content Advisory: Casual swearing, depictions of working-class anxiety and classism, alcoholism as an expression of trauma, references to casual fantasy-style violence. Many references to heterosexism and cissexism.

Links: Series Master Post | Patreon

Previous: Booksellers Who Know Things

Length: 2, 736 words.

“She gave me a list.” Nevo slams his empty mug onto the scratched table, wishing that he dared drink enough to distract himself from Lenlil. “Of everything I’m supposed to do around customers. But I’m also supposed to finish books quicker, and if I don’t she’ll hire someone else because there’s fifty people who want this job and I should be grateful.” He tries not to snarl and fails. “I have to stop what I’m doing and serve, but stopping means I can’t finish everything else she expects finished, and how can I do anything when there’s not enough space? And books get nicked when I can’t properly stack and sort…?” He ends with a strangled exclamation, too frustrated for words.

Da just gives an encouraging grunt.

Except for Nevo’s habit of hiding queer books from outside bulk lots and listing them as school readers when selling to folks in the underground, he’s done as right by Lenlil as anyone can. “And she knows … I think she knows that I need to work somewhere like a bookshop. Not why, exactly … you know?”

He looks across at Da’s craggy face, an older, sunbrowned version of Nevo’s broad forehead and wide-set brown eyes. Tangle-prone blond hair, white skin, thick brows, the kind of height and brawn that makes every bed and doorway in Ihrne a trial and suggests less gentleness than both men own. Nevo knows what he’ll look like at forty: Da.

Perhaps without the eyes oft bloodshot and watery or the tinge of sallowness lurking underneath flushed cheeks.

Perhaps.

“She doesn’t think…?”

Nevo shakes his head. He’s no actor, but thus far his build discourages the speculative whispers plaguing the men Ragen and his boot-lickers like to accuse. If he isn’t working on a build lot surrounded by men discussing women, his appearance undermined by his inability to respond to questions, jokes and attempts to set him up with everyone’s daughters, Nevo needs only avoid obvious displays of interest. Lenlil may be a trial, but Nevo doesn’t fail as badly at masculinity when he spends his days indoors. A bookseller is allowed more space for shyness and awkwardness than a labourer.

“You’re not going to get yourself fucking killed by having words at her?” Da speaks slowly despite the cursing.

Nevo still recollects the days when such words never passed Da’s lips.

“I try hard not to get myself killed, Da.”

Keep reading at Patreon: Men Bound by Blood

Warning and Advising: A Community Conversation, Part One

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.

Advisory: Discussions of cissexism, heterosexism, allosexism, allo-aro antagonism/erasure and amatonormativity; examples of sex negative language. This piece also uses the word queer and contains sex and sexual attraction mentions.

Or: why the aro community should discuss our use of content advisories, particularly in light of how they other, alienate and exclude allosexual aromantics.

Not even a decade ago, it was difficult to find queer works that didn’t warn for queerness. Stories (usually from indie presses or posted to LiveJournal, FictionPress or Fanfiction.net) that depicted people like me came burdened by warnings of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender characters who may, gasp, engage in sex that didn’t include one cishet character boning a cishet character of the other binary gender.

I’m not talking about genre tags, like labelling a work “lesbian romance”. I’m talking about lines like “readers should be advised that this fic contains sex scenes between two men” even though the story was posted to a community collating m/m fiction. I’m talking about lines like “this fic is about lesbians and hate comments will be deleted” even though the piece was tagged as “lesbian”. I’m talking about a culture where it was deemed vital and necessary to warn for queer people engaged in intimacy. By contrast, the sex in cishet relationships merited warnings for explicitness, not people.

Often these warnings were placed on the same line as advisories for violence, sexual assault, explicit sexual acts or other content society recognises as potentially distressing. When I left comments telling authors what it feels like to keep seeing this sexualisation as a queer and transgender reader and writer, I earnt rejection, denial, refusal and abuse. I don’t know how many hate messages I got; all I remember is that nearly everyone I spoke to told me that they would keep on warning.

Even if warning for queer were somehow a value-neutral advertisement, the lack of comparative warnings for heterosexuality positioned this otherwise.

Continue reading “Warning and Advising: A Community Conversation, Part One”

Fiction Collection: Aromantic and Autistic

Handdrawn illustration of a green meadow foreground with green and yellow pine trees growing against a mint-hued sky. Scene is overlaid with the aqua/yellow/red stripes of the autistic aromantic pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Fiction sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

This is a separate list of all my works featuring autistic and aromantic protagonists. My other aromantic works can be found on my fiction page.

It’s also worth noting that my protagonists are like to be various combinations of trans, non-binary, multisexual and otherwise-disabled.

Some of these stories do not focus on the aromantic, and one story, Certain Eldritch Artefacts, is more an example of an aromantic not yet knowing it than an aromantic narrative. (Do the alloromantic usually build a successful romantic relationship with an inappropriate crush by first spending a year travelling around another continent?) The sequel, Love in the House of the Ravens, depicts the beginning of Darius’s finding this out…

What if it Isn’t

Cover for "What If It Isn't" by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a colourful pastel fractal/dripping-glass style background, predominantly peach-orange and light blue. The title text, in black serif and antique handdrawn-style type, is framed by three black curlicues. A fourth curlicue borders the author credit at the bottom of the cover and a fifth forms a frame at the top.What if her love is a dull, flickering, rare thing, so insubstantial it makes better sense to disregard it as meaningful? What if her love is quiet and companionate at best while Keiko loves with fairytale passion, a woman who wants and needs to be wanted?

Pretending to be girlfriends while casing an art gallery with Keiko shouldn’t be a problem, but once Jessie realises things have gotten a little too real in the façade they’re showing to the world, the only thing to do is ask.

Contains: A stand-alone, fluffy, contemporary short story about a greyromantic autistic and the beginnings of a QPR.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | Patreon | WordPress | Tumblr

PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 2, 097 words / 6 PDF pages.

Continue reading “Fiction Collection: Aromantic and Autistic”