Aro-Spec Artist Profile: Sebastian

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.

Our next aro-spec creator is Sebastian, better known on Tumblr as @gloriousmonsters and @mangledmouth!

Sebastian is a bisexual, autistic, aromantic trans man who is single-handedly covering many literary bases in producing original aro and queer short stories, novels and poetry. Aside from his Tumblr blogs, you can find and support more of his work at his Patreon. If you have a dollar or two you’re wanting to invest in worthy aro-spec talent on a less-regular basis, please take a look at Sebastian’s Ko-Fi!

With us Sebastian talks about identifying with the role of villainy in narrative as an aro creative, aromantic characters and grand emotional gesture, the divide between representation and self-expression, and some spectacular-sounding work-in-progress book titles! His investment in aromantic characters and characterisation shapes every word, so please let’s give him all our love, encouragement, gratitude, kudos and follows for taking the time to explore what it is to be aromantic and creative.

Can you share with us your story in being aro-spec?

It took me a while to realize I was aromantic, but it was one of the things that made me go ‘oh, that makes … a lot of sense’ when I looked back at my childhood. I was a weird, isolated kid, so I didn’t learn from bouncing off other children; I learned through stories.

One of my strongest early memories is of watching a poorly made Red Riding Hood film over and over again, belting out the lyrics to the (poorly written) villain’s song, called ‘Man Without A Heart’. Cut to a year or so later, watching the Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderella (still the best Cinderella, IMO), I was utterly fascinated by the villainess singing: ‘Falling in love with love is falling for make-believe…’

I didn’t know, that early, that I didn’t feel romantic love. Not consciously. But there was something utterly, obsessively interesting about villains that sneered at love, who were called heartless, who challenged the narrative that there must always be a love story and it must come out right no matter what. I felt, on a deep level, that these people were like me somehow. The additional queercoding and common side-helping of mental illness helped – or didn’t help, depending on your perspective. I grew up knowing, deep down, what my part in life was: I was the villain.

When I hit my rebellious age, it first came out by my saying, ‘But being a villain doesn’t mean you have to be wrong or unhappy’. I began collecting villains like nobody’s business, and writing stories that more and more often centered people whose character types I’d only ever seen as villains. And from there we arrive at today!

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Aro-Spec Artist Profile: Shell

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.

Our next aro-spec creator is Shell, already known to the aro-spec community as @arosnowflake and the author of the awesome short story Seducing Trouble!

Shell is an autistic, ADHD, non-binary aro-ace person who writes short stories, original fiction, fanfiction and essays. You can find eir fanworks on AO3 under the username spitecentral, writing for the Voltron: Legendary Defender, Fullmetal Alchemist, DC Universe, Batman and Batgirl fandoms, and we’ll hope ey posts more pieces from eir original Coffeeshop Project!

With us Shell talks about how ey writes romance as an aro-ace, depicting relationships in fiction, the impact of amatonormativity on creativity and eir alienation from current aro-spec community conversations. Eir words bound with enthusiasm on authentic creativity and the growth of the aro-spec community, so please let’s give em all our love, encouragement, gratitude, kudos and follows for taking the time to explore what it is to be aromantic and creative.

Can you share with us your story in being aro-spec?

I never thought I was anything other than straight, although I did start noticing that I was different from other people when I was as young as twelve (for example, I remember being asked to pick the handsomest guy in a boy band, but to me, they all looked the same). However, I simply put this down to my autism, and since I was already desensitized to differences with peers, I pretty much ignored it. That is, until I repeatedly saw the word ‘asexual’ used online, and I began to wonder what it was, so I googled it. After reading the first paragraph on the Wikipedia page, I basically slammed my computer shut and did my very best to convince myself that no, I was overreacting, and also straight; after all, I was already autistic and ADHD, so any more diversity would be implausible.

Past me was so naive.

Anyway, I came to terms with being asexual at sixteen, and openly started identifying with it without adding ‘I think’ when I was seventeen. When I learned about the SAM, I initially dismissed the idea of being aro because I had a couple of crushes when I was a kid. However, after learning more about aromanticism and after some conversations with aromantic people, I decided to adopt the label since it really fit me. I mean, I was like nine when I had those crushes, and I don’t feel like they counted. I’m fairly sure now that I was just having them because it seemed like the Thing To Do, and, even then, all of my fantasies involved a more platonic ‘best friends forever but with shared pets’ lifestyle than a romantic thing. So while I may or may not have had crushes before, I don’t think I ever will again, and I don’t want to either, so I’ve adopted the aromantic label. I know it sounds weird, but oh well!

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Ask: Aromantic Characters Without the Word

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.

An anon asks on Tumblr:

Do you have any advice for writing aromantic characters without explicitly using the word “aromantic?” I’m personally an aro person, but I am writing a fictional story that uses language that does not yet have words for “aromantic” (furthermore, “bisexual” or “demiboy” or other LGBTQ+ labels that have been around for a while). I have tried a few different methods of getting orientation and identity across but I’m curious about your thoughts. I want my representation to be explicit as possible.

For me, anon, it boils down to showing. Getting a good handle on the difference between showing and telling is essential in my opinion, both for good writing generally and for good writing of marginalised characters. There are times when it is appropriate to tell the reader something while never showing it, of course–factual information and scene transitions, like the passing of time or quick observations, are often best told. Identity and identity-related experiences, though, should be shown as much if not more than they are told.

Done right, folks familiar with “aromantic” as a concept will label your characters themselves without your using the word in-text. If they don’t already know the word, your showing will still contextualize that experience when they happen across it. Readers, even some alloromantic readers, will go “oh, that’s that character in X-book!” in the same way aro-specs related to Keladry of Mindelan and Jughead long before anyone got to naming them as aro. If this happens with characters who are not intentionally written as aro, I promise you it will happen with your characters, anon. Readers are smart and you know what you’re writing about. You do not have to worry about this.

Remember that an alloromantic’s inability to see an aro character is amatonormativity, not a lack in authorial depiction.

With regards telling and the use of the word “aromantic”, the idea that we have to go to extremes to explain or clarify a character’s aromanticism for an unknowing audience is in itself an amatonormative one. (Consider, for contrast, how narratives treat heterosexuality!) While it is difficult for us to let go of the need to explain, especially when aromanticism is not well understood, it’s important to recognise that need to explain and label is another shade of marginalisation. Furthermore, a culture that doesn’t have such history of marginalisation might not have any need to label at all. In a setting absent amatonormativity, telling the reader within the narrative that your character is something that doesn’t need to be identified in-universe can feel intrusive, so it may be that telling as a tool for communicating aromanticism is not in your current toolbox, anon.

How much telling you require also means considering the needs of your audience, because your intended audience will determine the amount of telling, explanation and exposition required. You’ll label and explain aromanticism for a mainstream audience very differently than for an a-spec or aro-spec one. Decide who’ll get the best from your work and target your degree of explanation and exposition at that audience. The more exposition, the reduced chance of misinterpretation, yes, but too much can alienate an aro-spec readership who just wants to see an aro knight slay dragons over another 101 tutorial.

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The Wind and the Stars – K. A. Cook

Handdrawn illustration of a green meadow foreground with green and yellow pine trees growing against a mint-hued sky. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the 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.

Cover for "The Wind and the Stars" by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a night-time scene of black, silhouette-style tree branches against a cloudy sky with a full moon, a lighter halo of cloud surrounding it, in the top centre of the cover. The title text, in white serif and antique handdrawn-style type, is framed by three white curlicues, and a fourth curlicue borders the author credit at the bottom of the cover.True love’s kiss will break any spell. Always be kind to wizened crones. The youngest son is most favoured by wise foxes and crows. Princes save princesses from beastly dragons and towers overgrown with briar brambles. A happily ever after always involves a wedding…

The Wind and the Stars is a short aro-ace fairy tale about heroes, love, adulthood and the worlds we make in the stories we tell.

Links: PDF (read in browser) | Patreon | Smashwords | Gumroad

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

Length: 1, 309 words / 4 pages.

Content advisory: Please note that this story contains non-explicit sexual references. It’s also a story about storytelling, so it refers to common fairy tale structures that contain misogyny, heterosexism and amatonormativity, along with depicting society’s unquestioning reaction to these structures. There’s no romance beyond the mention of other characters in romantic relationships. It’s also written in second person.

Words, the right ones, can tell you who you are.

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Aro-Spec Artist Profile: Tylea

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.

Our next aro-spec creator is Tylea, already known to us here as @afroenby –one of the biggest likers and rebloggers of this account!

Tylea is a black, agender, neurodivergent, mentally ill, bi-alterous, aro-ace, enby author who specialises in dancing and narrative: microfiction, short stories, novels and poetry, particularly young adult/new adult speculative fiction.

You can find and support more of their work on a variety of platforms. Tylea also goes by @tylea-writes here on Tumblr and is known by afroenby on Twitter, WordPress and Patreon. They have multiple works available for purchase on Gumroad and for free reading on Wattpad. If you have a dollar or two you’re wanting to invest in worthy aro-spec talent on a less-regular basis, please check out their Ko-Fi!

With us Tylea talks about alterous attraction and their road towards aromantic identity, their passion for writing and dancing, their many aromantic characters, the challenges of writing relationships when neurodivergent and aromantic, and their difficulty in connecting with communities as a multiply-marginalised creative. Aside from producing some wonderfully diverse works, they are an unsung hero when it comes to boosting and promoting aro-spec talent here on Tumblr, so please let’s give them all our love, encouragement, gratitude, kudos and follows for taking the time to explore what it is to be aromantic and creative.

Artist Profile - Tylea

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Aro-Spec Artist Profile: Nate

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.

Our next aro-spec creator is Nate, better known on Tumblr as @astriiformes!

Nate is an asexual, aromantic, neurodivergent and mentally ill trans guy/person continuing the tradition of aro-spec creators demonstrating an impressive diversity of talent. He writes, cosplays, creates filk music and produces visual art–and that’s when he’s not playing D&D and attending conventions!

You can find him on Twitter as planar_ranger and on 8tracks as azhdarchidaen. He’s also found on AO3 as azhdarchidaen, with a prolific selection of works for the Gravity Falls, Doctor Who, Critical Role and Pacific Rim fandoms! If you have a dollar or two you’re wanting to invest in worthy aro-spec talent, please take a look at Nate’s Ko-Fi!

With us Nate talks about expressing emotions through creativity, the intersection of aromanticism and perfectionism, the importance of storytelling as self-expression and his passion for D&D as a way of giving voice to his aromantic experience. His love for fandom, creativity and storytelling shines through every word, so please let’s give him all our love, encouragement, gratitude, kudos and follows for taking the time to explore what it is to be aromantic and creative.

Artist Profile - Nate

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Aro-Spec Artist Profile: Gracie

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.

Our latest aro-spec creator is Gracie, known here on Tumblr as @mattdaddorkio, @gracietheshadowwriter and @abookishace!

Gracie is a prolific aromantic and asexual writer who writes the Magnus Bane/Alec Lightwood pairing from Shadowhunters, and her work can be found on AO3 under the username gracie_the_shadow_hunter.

With us Gracie talks about romance and shipping as an aro in fandom, her enjoyment of a good love story and the power of prompts as encouragement! It’s wonderful to see an aro creative’s take on and interest in romance, so please let’s give Gracie all our love, encouragement, gratitude, kudos and follows for taking the time to explore what it is to be aromantic and creative.

Please note that the last two images, under the cut, feature kissing. These images are underneath the answer to the question “How can the aro-spec community best help you as a creative?” if our romance-repulsed followers would like to use that as a stopping point.

Artist Profile - Gracie

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What If It Isn’t – K. A. Cook

Handdrawn illustration of a green meadow foreground with green and yellow pine trees growing against a mint-hued sky. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the 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.

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.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 queer, allosexual, greyro autistic protagonist, stimming, unwanted commentary on capitalism and the trend of companies making expensive versions of disposable items, explicit use of the words “greyromantic” and “queerplatonic relationship”, heavy-handed metaphor, an observation on the matter of what is romantic anyway, and a happy ending … as long as nobody gets caught later on.

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

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

Length: 2, 097 words / 6 PDF pages.

Advisory: there’s a fair bit of cuddling and touching along with non-explicit/really vague sexual references. I don’t describe Tangles in too much detail, so here’s a link to the Tangle tag on my stim blog if you’re wandering what Jessie’s stim toy is. This piece is also light on things like polishing and any actual knowledge on how one might case an art gallery.

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?

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Aro-Spec Artist Profile: Techno

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.

Our next aro-spec creator is Techno or @techno-trashcan, better known to aro-spec Tumblr as @aro-soulmate-project​!

Techno is an aroace writer and musician who’s doing amazing work in reclaiming and reshaping amatonormative narratives. I can’t describe her craft better than how she’s put it herself, so I’ll quote her blog header: writing to redefine the concept of soulmates from an aromantic perspective.

She’s also found on Arocalypse under the same username, for folks who want to get to know her and her work outside of Tumblr!

With us Techno talks about aro narrative in an amatonormative world, her love for the aro-spec community, the isolation of being an aro creative and an amazing-sounding original work we should all be looking forward to. Her passion for aro storytelling is writ in every word, so please let’s give her all our love, encouragement, gratitude, kudos and follows for taking the time to explore what it is to be aromantic and creative.

Can you share with us your story in being aro-spec?

When I was growing up, for years I never even considered my orientation. I didn’t get crushes–there was at least one instance where I thought I did or pretended I did because I wanted to be friends with a boy, but that was when I was very, very young. I never really developed an interest in boys (or girls, or anyone else), even once I hit puberty, and I really never thought that was weird. It wasn’t until 9th grade that things changed; there was a guy at my school who apparently had a crush on me, although I, being aro and oblivious, did not realize it at the time. He asked me if I liked anyone, and I said I didn’t, and chalked it up to being because I’d grown up with the same boring boys for so many years, so how could I? But I really didn’t think it was weird until he told me that “everyone likes someone at some point” and I got highly defensive without even knowing why.

And when I brought this up to people around me, they were like, “yeah, well, it is kind of weird, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing,” and I’d learned what asexuality was, and by extension aromanticism, around that time. I don’t really know when the seed was planted in my brain or when I really embraced my orientation, but somewhere along the line it just became a part of my life. It’s been four years and nothing’s changed, so I guess I have that boy to thank for setting me on this path. And that’s my aro story, or the short version at least.

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Aro-Spec Artist Profile – Signe

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.

Today’s awesome aro-spec creator is Signe, better known to aro-spec Tumblr as @fluffyllamacorn!

Signe is a busy aroace writer, visual and textile artist! She writes for the Young Avengers, The Shadowhunter Chronicles/Shadowhunters, Hawkeye Comics and New X-Men: Academy fandoms in addition to developing diverse original fiction. You can find her growing collection of fanworks on AO3 under the name FluffyLlamacorn and her gorgeous art at @llamacorn-productions.

She also posts and reblogs fashion and accessories at @clothing-inspiration, and some of her cosplays can be seen throughout this post!

With us Signe talks about her passion for textile arts and how they allowed her to reclaim her femininity, the importance of non-romantic relationships in creative media, the difficulty of writing kissing scenes, and the need for works and discussions that celebrate our aromanticism. Her love of making, crafting and designing just shines through this post, so please let’s give her all our love, encouragement, gratitude, kudos and follows for taking the time to explore what it is to be aromantic and creative.

Artist Profile - Signe

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