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Call for Volunteers: Content Team Members

We’re looking for 2-3 new volunteers to join our Content Team!

Content Team Member

Content Team members keep GayYA going by formatting posts before they go up and scheduling promotional tweets on Twitter. Help broaden our readership base and enable our community members find posts relevant to them and their interests by promoting our content and making our posts look awesome!

Typically, 1-4 posts are sent to each Content Team member per month. (Exceptions include months without posts, and month-long blogathons.) Posts will be sent to Content Team members at least 72 hours before the post goes up; the post should be formatted and tweets should be scheduled at least 24 hours before the post goes up. Posts are formatted in alignment with GayYA’s posts standards. Between 6-12 tweets are scheduled for each post, in alignment with GayYA’s promotional guidelines.

Occasionally, we are unable to get posts to people before the 72 hours window. If that happens, requests for last minute help will be sent to the group chat, or will be discussed with volunteers individually.

Content Team members will be trained in how to format and promote posts, and will follow GayYA’s post and promo guidelines.

What we’re looking for:

  • Comfort with Twitter and/or Tumblr
  • Basic knowledge of WordPress
  • Dependability– if you are assigned a post, we expect you to format & promote it, or for you to tell us ASAP if you can’t!
  • Attention to detail– formatting posts can be pretty easy, but there’s some that can also take a long time. Maybe there’s a ton of pictures or links, or for some reason the paragraphs just aren’t spacing right. We love it when people put in the time to get things right!
  • Collaborative energy– a lot of this work ends up being two or three of us banging out possible tweets or sending each other feedback/encouragement. Working well with others is a huge plus!

To apply, please email vee@gayya.org with:

  • A little bit about yourself
  • Links to your website/social media
  • A summary of the experience you have in working with websites and social media
  • Why you are interested in becoming a Content Team member

DEADLINE EXTENDED: May 9th

By | May 5th, 2017|Categories: Archive, Updates and Announcements|0 Comments

Interview with Ashley Herring Blake

1464882366332-2When I read Ashley Herring Blake’s How To Make A Wish last year, I knew it would become one of my favorite contemporaries of 2017. It’s almost Sarah Dessen-ish in feel, with an openly bisexual protagonist named Grace you just can’t help but root for. Throw in messy, complicated family dynamics and a gorgeous setting and you’ve got an absolutely wonderful book.
I’m so thrilled we got to ask Ashley about How to Make a Wish, and I know you’ll enjoy her answers about this wonderful book. Be sure to get it when it comes out Tuesday!
What inspired you to write HTMAW? First and foremost, this book was born out of my desire to see more stories with bisexual main characters. There are a lot of pieces of me written into Grace’s story, but more than anything, I just wanted to write a book in which bisexual teens—or teens who feel they fall somewhere other than the binary—could see themselves. I wanted to show on-the-page sex between two girls, give teens hungry for those kinds of healthy interactions a place to start or a place to find comfort. I love Grace’s story, everything about her finding herself and breaking free from her mother, but before anything else, Grace is the bisexual character of my heart.
 
We all know writing is such an intensely personal process, particularly with regards to a character’s identity? How much of yours does Grace share, and what was it like putting that on the page? I envy Grace in many ways, mostly because she’s seventeen and already has a firm grip on who she is. I fully believe that sexuality is fluid, so I’m not saying that the way in which Grace identifies might not someday change, but during the course of this story, she’s all “I’m bisexual, deal with it,” and I absolutely love that. That was not me in high school. However, that is me now, but the way I saw girls was very confusing. You see a little bit of that in the book when Grace talks about how she realized she was bi, especially the part about how she thought the way she saw girls was the way all girls saw girls, when, in face, it wasn’t. That is so, so me. Also, I was religiously conservative in high school, so, for my personal experience, that inhibited me from really exploring the conflicting feelings I’d had about girls for years, which Grace doesn’t deal with. But, the ways in which Grace discovered her own identity are very similar to my own journey—I just went on mine seventeen years after she did.
 
One of my absolute favorite aspects of the book is the complicated relationship Grace has with her mother, Maggie. Were those parts difficult to write? They were. They took a lot of listening to people who have been through very complicated and, in some cases, traumatic relationships with a parent. I did not have such a tumultuous relationship with either parent, so there was a lot of blog-reading and asking friends questions. I would definitely say that all the parts during which I cried while writing were Grace and Maggie moments.
 
Both Grace and Eva are involved with the arts—Grace with music, and Eva with dance (which I absolutely love.) Other than writing, do you do anything artsy? I do! I’ve sung for most of my life and even entered college as a voice major, but changed my mind before my first semester started. I wasn’t a fan of singing opera at the time and didn’t want to spend four years doing so. Instead, I sang my own stuff and joined a small singing group and taught myself guitar. After college, I was part of a duo—myself and another girl—and we both played guitar and wrote songs. We traveled around and avoided adulthood for a while doing this, made an album, and moved to Nashville, which is how I ended up in Tennessee. I still sing, but the singer/songwriter life was very much not for me, so I’m much happier pursuing writing than full-time singing. The love interest  in my 2018 book, Girl Made of Stars, Charlie, is a singer-songwriter, and I pulled on a lot of my experience to write her.
 
There’s such a need for books like this, that validate bisexual identity with representation on the page. What is the importance of books like this for teens? I’ve already heard from a lot of teen who claim this is the first book in which they’ve ever seen themselves. Mine isn’t the first with a bi main character, of course, but there aren’t a lot, so the chances of someone picking this one up and it being a first for them are pretty good. I hope that changes. I hope, in the future, there are a ton of bi books to choose from, as well as every letter on the queer spectrum, but we’re not there yet. So, every book that does exist bears the weight of being one of the few right now. The stakes are higher to provide good, helpful, comforting, empowering rep because there just aren’t that many books. If I had had a book like mine as as teen, or a book like Tess Sharpe’s Far From You, which was my first read of a bi main character, it could’ve been life-changing. I’m not saying my book has the same potential but…well, yes I am. It does have that potential and I think all books written by marginalized writers have the same potential. Kids are hungry to see themselves. To see they are okay. To see they are valid. To see they are not erased. To see they are not killed. To themselves empowered and kicking ass and loving and being loved and having sex or not having sex. We’re all hungry for that. The need to feel valid is ageless, but it’s particularly important for kids who have less power and less resources at their disposal.
 
Have you ever stolen someone’s garden gnomes? Ha, unfortunately not, but I have rolled many houses and snuck out of my house many a night.
 
What’s next from you? As I mentioned before, I have another YA coming out in 2018, Girl Made of Stars, which features a bisexual main character and a genderqueer love interest. It’s about a girl who’s twin brother is accused of rape, so it’s pretty heavy. I also have a middle grade book coming out in 2018, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, and I really think it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written. It’s about a twelve year-old girl whose house is destroyed by a tornado and, in the aftermath, she develops feelings for another girl at school. It’s so, so queer and I love it. More than that, I really hope it finds the right middle grade hands. 🙂
Buy How to Make a Wish on Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound | Amazon
By | April 28th, 2017|Categories: Archive|Comments Off on Interview with Ashley Herring Blake

Getting it Right on the Road: Positive Aro Representation in Travelogue

Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week Series: Day 5

by Ben “Books” Schwartz

Let’s be honest: there’s not a lot of aromantic representation out there in the world of fiction. Here and there, though, on the fringes, aro characters are starting to show up, and every time I encounter one, my soul does a little dance of joy. As aro characters do appear, hopefully they’ll be good ones, represented thoughtfully, in ways that reflect the fullness and complexity of what it’s like to be aromantic.

Aromantic representation is hugely, wildly important. I myself am agender and aromantic, but it took me a lot longer to figure out the latter than the former. The idea of being aromantic just never really crossed my mind as an option. I was lucky enough to encounter a few good agender and nonbinary characters as a young person who helped me figure myself out (shoutout to Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club), but romance is every bit as constant a presence in fiction as gender. Just about every adventure novel, movie, comic, or game includes a love interest of some kind, in ways that often bored or irritated me as a young reader.

But it was insistently a standard part of life, so I took it as assumed that I too would eventually have those romance feelings show up. I’d just grow into them! Well, a dozen failed attempts at romance later, I can tell you that they sure never did. If I had had even one good aromantic character to see in fiction, perhaps I would have realized earlier I had another option. Hopefully this next generation of young reader will have that chance, as aromantic characters begin to appear in YA books and comics.

As it happens, one of the few explicitly aromantic characters I have encountered provides a fantastic model of how to do it just right. Emerene, one of the main characters of Aatmaja Pandya’s delightful fantasy webcomic Travelogue, is established as aromantic from his first introduction in the comic. A close reading of that introductory page gives a whole ton of pointers on the hows and whys of handling aromantic characters. So buckle in, readers–we’re taking a journey through a Travelogue page.

A bit of background: Travelogue is a short-form meandering webcomic telling the stories of a trio of travelers as they go… somewhere. The destination isn’t important, nor is the reason for their journey. Each page, narrated by the childlike Nana (whose gender is never specified, but uses they/them pronouns), focuses on a single idyllic moment, like finding a particularly nice stick in the wood, or watching the sunrise over the hills. Pandya’s ability to capture the magic of discovery calls to mind Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&!, or Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic novels.

As an aside, it is perhaps not surprising that webcomics should be host to one of the first clearly and beautifully represented aromantic characters out there. Webcomics have long been far ahead of the curve on diversity representation, both in terms of characters and creators. Without the specter of mainstream publication to guide or limit their content, webcomics are free to include genuine representation in ways that even the most progressive major publishers would consider too radical for mainstream consumption. The print world is starting to catch up, but very slowly.

Travelogue1

The first three pages of the comic are each dedicated to introducing one of the traveling companions–Nana, Emerene, and Adi (plus Princess the Goat). Emerene’s introductory page shows him climbing a tree to bring down a nest full of eggs, which he and his companions eat for dinner. Nana is delighted with the eggs, and first says that Emerene is kind. Then they note that they “think he looks nice, too.” So okay, we’ve already established two things about Emerene–he’s a good dude, and he’s totally cute (and the artwork backs up Nana’s observation). Nana maybe has a bit of a crush going on here, and really, who can blame them. Emerene’s great.

Travelogue2

The fifth panel is a shot of Nana looking up at Emerene, with two separate narration boxes. “But he is not interested in romance,” reads the first, followed by, “in the very least.” There it is, laid out clear and simple. Emerene is not interested in romance. It is not something to be questioned, not something odd or curious. It’s just a simple statement of fact. There’s not a lot of room for ambiguity, either. The first box on its own could be taken several ways, sure. Emerene isn’t interested in romance, but maybe that just means not interested in romance with Nana! But no, the second box of narration makes it clear that Emerene flat-out isn’t interested in romance “in the very least.” This isn’t a coming out story, either, nor one of self-discovery. Emerene clearly already knows that they’re aromantic, and has already told Nana this. Coming out stories are well and good, but we’re so much more than that, and fiction about us should reflect that.

In just two narration boxes, Pandya makes all that look easy. A common idea that comes up both as a complaint from writers and a critique from readers in the fantasy genre is that it’s hard to have characters who aren’t cis and straight, because those fantasy settings don’t have those ideas or words. To be clear, this is an absurd argument–if you’re willing to accept dragons and magic, surely readers can accept the presence of queer people. But I’ll acknowledge that the word “aromantic” wouldn’t fit with Nana’s simplistic vocabulary and syntax. Pandya doesn’t need to use it, though, and the idea comes across clearly and unambiguously. Fantasy writers, take note!

Travelogue3

Pandya’s not done, though. There are still two more panels on the page, each very important! The penultimate panel focuses on the eggs cooking over a fire. Nana’s narration notes that Emerene “likes swords and cooking and sleeping.” The second block of narration leads into the last panel, of the trio eating together. Taken together, Nana’s narration ends, “It doesn’t bother me, though. I like all those things as well. So we are great friends.”

Ending on this note is hugely important, and serves two very distinct functions. First, it expands Emerene beyond his feelings on romance. He has hobbies and interests (and what excellent ones they are), even if they aren’t gone into in detail on this page. Pandya makes it clear to the readers that Emerene has a life beyond the page, and is more than just his lack of romantic interest. Second, the phrasing establishes Nana and Emerene’s friendship in a way that does not feel secondary, or like a consolation prize. Their friendship is not an abstract thing, either. It comes from their shared interests, and is shown through them happily sharing a meal together. In just these few panels, Pandya shows the reader just how and why Nana and Emerene are friends.

That foregrounding of friendship as not being lesser to romance is hugely important, and should be highlighted as a vital element of any aromantic representation that seeks to be positive and respectful. Many aro folk know the pain of being made to feel like our friendships are lesser than our friends’ romantic relationships. We get used to being set aside by friends when they find a romantic partner, or having our own non-romantic partnerships dismissed as not being “real” relationships. Pandya avoids that danger entirely, as Nana and Emerene’s friendship is emphasized immediately.

Alright, that’s a whole lot about a single page (and I feel like I could probably write that much about any single page of Travelogue). The big lessons to take away from Pandya’s elegant inclusion of Emerene are, in short:

  • Be explicit about your aro characters
  • Your stories about them don’t have to be coming out stories
  • You can make it clear without using the word aro!
  • Have them be more than just their identity
  • Highlight their friendships instead of diminishing them

Writers, if you keep these things in mind as you craft your aromantic characters, you should be off to a pretty great start. And if you’re not sure how you’re doing, ask an aromantic person for advice and sensitivity reading! It’ll make your story better, and make you happier. Trust me–it’s worth pushing through that awkwardness you have now so that you don’t wind up hurting people with your writing later. The world needs more aro characters like Emerene.

In conclusion, do yourself a favor and read Travelogue, and then find some friends and get pleasantly lost in the woods with them. Emerene, Nana, and Adi have the right idea of it, if you ask me.

HS1Ben “Books” Schwartz lies to children professionally. They work as a storyteller, larp designer, and summer camp director, and have a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children from Simmons College. You can check out their roleplaying summer camps for kids and teens in CaliforniaPennsylvania, and New York, or if you’re an adult, go explore space with them near San Francisco. When they’re not colonizing other worlds or teaching at wizard school, Books can be found on Twitter at @SunshineDuk, having a lot of feelings about webcomics.

By | February 26th, 2017|Categories: Archive|Comments Off on Getting it Right on the Road: Positive Aro Representation in Travelogue

Finding the other story: disentangling love from the narrative

Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week Series: Day 4

by Natalie Ritter

(i)

While considering all the ways I could approach writing something worthwhile about how being aro and reading stories intersect, I was reminded of an instance in a speculative fiction creative writing class I took in undergrad. When it came to sci-fi and fantasy, it quickly became clear that, in this entirely white and mostly male class, there were “rules” that my classmates expected (and almost demanded) of sci-fi and fantasy stories. In a sense, there was a “contract” that these readers brought to this genre, and they were quick to react negatively to stories that did not meet those “rules.” These rules became the inflexible framework that they used to tell their story.

In one case, a fantasy story was presented to the workshop that had two main settings: a ship at sea, and a tavern in port. Naturally, all the crew members and everyone in the tavern were male (except for a smattering of tavern wenches). Unconsciously, this writer was creating a world where the default was male. I suggested to him that it would not be difficult to change a few pronouns from “him” to “her,” to casually mention in passing that some of the crew members were female, that some of the captains drinking together in the tavern were women. It would be a superficial change that would significantly alter the world that he had created: one where women serve on ships, women are captains, women do the work, and send a quiet message that this is standard and unremarkable. With a few find-and-replaces, he could do a hell of a lot to show gender equality in his fantasy world full of Dark Lords and wraiths and orcs and dire beasts.

He didn’t like my suggestion. Something about “that’s not how it would be” in a fantasy world. As we continued to workshop his story, it continued to sound tired, overly familiar. Yet another iteration of the familiar Chosen One rising to fight the Dark Lord.

 

(ii)

We’re quick to call out cliches, in my experience. We’ve been taught that once original expressions become overused, they lose their evocative power and start becoming irritating or simply unnoticed. For an author who wants to resonate with their readers, this is the last thing they want to happen to their words. When these clichés are phrases or sentences, they’re easy to spot, and easy to cull with some targeted line edits. But these overused expressions happen on larger scales, too, and they stop becoming cliches so much as simply being part of the “woodwork” of a story. Someone reading the story may enjoy it, but feel as if the story lacks substance without being able to name why. The background features of the story become tired, afflicted by “sameness.” Any genre that you pick up will have its own themes and variations that get passed through successive releases of new books, and YA is no exception.

For people who do not fall into the specific, usually recognizable modes of being that are found in the vast majority of the current English language book market (and particularly in YA), this becomes a double-edged sword: the reader becomes at odds with the underlying narrative, and is denied an opportunity to recognize and give name to the difference that they experience. This difference can occur, for example, when people identify as part of a spectrum that is given almost no credence by mainstream media: aromanticism. And it becomes very difficult for those on the aro spectrum to see how they might fit in these fictional worlds when so many authors choose the lowest-hanging fruit of narrative conflict, resolution, and change: romance. This over-reliance on an often unnecessary story element not only creates a sense of alienation in an aromantic reader, but also contributes to weaker stories being published in general.

For those of us who aren’t represented in our media, we know it’s a big deal. Having the ability to live vicariously through representation in fiction is important. Fiction presents a place to gain answers without the vulnerability of having to ask them. Fiction can answer questions, concerns, and fears we never knew we had. Fiction is a place to be known, where we learn that those thoughts, experiences, and reactions that we have are represented in the human spectrum of existence, that someone who came before us has already walked that path and left us some bread crumbs. Many of us don’t find aro representation until we are pretty deep in Goodreads booklists, hunting for the whiff of something that looks like us. Certainly it seems that YA books that omit a romantic story thread between main characters are vanishingly small.

And as we’ve likely discovered after more failed hunts than not, there are default cultural assumptions that get ingrained in our stories, and subsequently, in our expectations of future stories. The narrative default assumes that as readers, we’re straight, we’re white, able-bodied, at least middle class, cis, and we want to get married and have children. These assumptions become the scaffolding in our stories (the “woodwork” I mentioned earlier). When authors want to explore what happens when the princess marches off to meet the dragon, for instance, they may take the effort to develop a unique dragon culture. But then, they may fall back on their own cultural expectations about what a princess is and how she’s supposed to act and be treated, based on our historically based expectations of European women born into tenuous positions of power tied to marriage treaties and the Christian church. This is in spite of the fact that a fantasy princess in a world full of dragons could very reasonably have different expectations associated with her position, and might never hear the dreaded words of “proper” and “chastity” in her life.

An author’s real-world expectations become the unexamined assumptions that they bring to their story, and use as the framework, the scaffolding, of that story. When unchecked – just like privilege – this scaffolding is one vector of (not to put too fine a point on it) perpetuated sexism, racism, cultural superiority, and homophobia in our media. Very often, authors don’t intend this. They just don’t realize what they’ve written into the margins of their stories. For those of us who know how to spot those asides, they can be crushingly obvious.

These tropes and unexamined scaffolding of our stories do have utility. We know, for instance, that tropes like the “Empire” or “the Corporation” or “the Leader” are usually the bad guy – likely authoritarian, likely corrupt, and so on. It’s a quick way to cut straight to the guts of the story that the author wants to tell. But using these background tropes and scaffolding can often lead to a bland story, one that relies on the reader having the same expectations and background.  So, where does that leave readers who don’t identify with this persistent narrative that finding love is a good and a right thing, that romance is something to long after? With the stories already published, we can recognize and name the issue. For the stories yet to be written, we can challenge authors to examine the stories that they tell.

 

(iii)

The problem with stories currently published is not that these stories contain romance, it is the expectation that stories are romance, that the pursuit of romantic love is a required part of the narrative. It’s easier to count movies and books without romance as a plot or subplot than it is to tally up the ones that do. It is indicative, I think, that I was so shocked and shyly pleased when major blockbuster Pacific Rim leaned more towards best bros between its lead characters and so neatly sidestepped the requisite onscreen kiss. To me, that was revolutionary.

The absence of that onscreen kiss, the ambiguity of what might be a deep friendship and nothing more, and how stark that absence of proof was: these all show the scaffolding we expected to find in that narrative. In this case, that romantic love is the conclusion. The conclusion of a story, of a life, of a character arc. The way in which romantic relationships play out can be a series of tropes (new kid on the block meets the girl next door, one of them is a fallen angel, and all of which is fantastic), but the presence of the romance is the unspoken expectation.  

I’ve mentioned both “scaffolding” and “trope” so far.  Scaffolding are the structures in our media that we don’t unpack and often don’t even see. In this particular case, “romantic love is the conclusion” supports and frames our stories so that the default becomes: happiness and fulfillment come when settled with a partner, or in pursuing romance and falling in love. On the other hand, tropes are often foregrounded, and tend to be used deliberately by an author. The parody Twitter account, @broodingYAhero, is an excellent example of the tropes that come out of these expectations.

To many people, finding that romantic connection with someone (and following the culturally approved steps of courtship headed towards appropriate milestones of meeting the parents and moving in, etc. etc.) is important. But to many stories, romance is beside the point. Irrelevant, even, to the narrative. This is why so many attempted romances often read as having no chemistry and as being “by-the-numbers.”

There are stories (such as the modern romance genre), where the relationship is the end goal of the story, and the events of the plot are designed to drive the story to that end goal. In other stories, the stakes of the story can be much higher. Our protagonists have to save the world, perhaps topple an authoritarian government. Romance is a usually a subplot, or the rewards for winning. Although these stories are attempting to achieve different things, the author is trying to make us react and respond to the story. We bring different expectations to different genres of stories, which also changes how much patience we have for various things. In other words, the presence of a romantic relationship in a romance novel would not cause a reader to blink an eye, whereas its presence in a dystopian story might feel unnecessary. What the romantic relationship has in common between both genres, however, is that the author is trying to hit some kind of emotional beats. The author is trying to convince us of something, and in a book that is not specifically focused on romance, the presence of a romantic plot may feel ham-fisted, trying to extract unearned emotional reactions from readers.

These romances often feel hollow and empty – at least in my readings. I’ve read romances that I’ve deeply rooted for, but have read significantly more that felt wooden and unnecessary. The nature of storytelling limits the dimensions of a life that can be portrayed, which leaves romance as the low-hanging fruit. It’s an easy chord to strike (or attempt to strike) as an author, an easy conflict to introduce to assist with character portrayal and motivation. Love and romance in fiction is often a writer’s shortcut, and this is often because it’s the easiest way to reduce the ensemble of characters and streamline motivation. If the character needs to make an important decision, let her feelings for her love interest factor significantly into that decision. Authors have to chose deliberately what to show and what to leave out.

Authors often write the stories that they read and loved when they were younger. This slowly, across generations of authors and readers, leads to stories that bleed out more and more around the edges, losing sharpness and detail, and retaining unexamined scaffolding. The stories become cliches as they’re written over and over again. When romantic love becomes a universal, convenient motivator, it becomes both unexamined and a silent expectation looming over us: it is a well that can always be drawn upon, even when there may be something else that would better suit a story.

But, aren’t writers supposed to write what they know? Aren’t they writing what makes them happy? Well, publishing is a complex ecosystem that is far larger than an author alone. But I suspect that most writers want to improve, to write better stories that touch their readers more deeply – stories that resonate with their readers in a way that affirms the author’s effort of putting the words to page. And for writers: I propose that taking a step back to really interrogate the scaffolding you use as a writer, to try and see how much is supported by your real-world environment, to subvert your tropes or exchange them for others, will allow you to write stronger stories that capture, engage, surprise, and please readers. Hopefully, this examination will also allow for more inclusive stories, stories that dismantle cultural assumptions, stories that teach us how to be more open to other modes of being. In light of events of late, this isn’t just a question about how increased aro representation can broaden the types of stories being told, but also that, for all these reasons, more types of stories with dismantled scaffolding must be told.

And that especially includes YA stories, which hit such a broad readership, which hit readers when they’re questioning and exploring. Once an author moves past default storylines that insist on teenage romance and/or love, other resonating story paths quickly open up. A consuming focus on another, a consummation of the self into others – these are things that the aromantic shies away from. We belong deeply to ourselves, but that does not mean we are without deep feelings for others, for institutions, for ideals. And those feelings make for powerful stories. So, I will leave this final thought, from the inestimable Ursula K. LeGuin: “No narrative of any complexity can be built on or reduced to a single element. Conflict is one kind of behavior. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing.”

Natalie Ritter is an aromantic reader of romance. She thinks it’s a fine genre, but has just written a long post about why she’s less than pleased when romance shows up in every genre. She sometimes hops into existence on Twitter under the handle @cited_by.

By | February 23rd, 2017|Categories: Guest Blogs, Readers on Reading, Writers on Writing|Tags: |Comments Off on Finding the other story: disentangling love from the narrative

Aromantic Headcanons and Making Room for Friend-shipping

Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week Series: Day 3

by Claudie Arseneault

You know how ships go. Two people interact and have great chemistry, and suddenly fandom is all over them. They have a ship name that’s a mash-up of their two names, your tumblr dash is filled with them kissing and holding hands and being cuties, and the wild headcanons and alternate universes just keep coming. And why not? Look at them get along. They’re just perfect for each other, right?

Here’s the thing: perfect for each other, for me, does not systematically mean romance. My experience of fandom (and most of the LGBTQIAP+ community), however, is that there is absolutely no room for it. Don’t even dare—you’ll be called homophobic if it’s a gay pairing, and you’ll be told no one cares if it’s m/f (I’ve yet to see what happens with nb characters, but probably option a). And listen, if you’re going “FRIENDSHIP” on pairings like Asami and Korra, or if you insist Pearl and Rose weren’t quite clearly romantically and sexually into each other, then yeah. Sit down and examine yourself. But that’s not what is going on.

What happens is that our desire for strong friendships or queerplatonic relationships in book and on screen is taken as us invading a space. Taking away from others. As if our headcanons can’t coexist! As if there isn’t room for everyone, and we just belong less. Ironic, considering queer people are friends with each other all the time. People actually clamour for that, then turn on us when we ask for aromantic representation and non-romantic dynamics, or when we see ourselves in already existing characters.

Romances are great. They’re necessary to a lot of the community, but while they bring huge contributions to normalizing and validating several queer identities and relationships, the overwhelming amount of romance (and sex, if you’re asexual to boot) in LGBTQIAP+ literature and television can really worsen our situation. It’s like the world doubling-down on telling us we’re broken and will never be happy.

The aromantic community needs room for its friend-shipping. I need to see people like me in relationships I crave–with friends, family, queerplatonic partners, mentors, name it! Heck, I’d love an aromantic character in a romantic relationship that acknowledges attraction does not equal behaviour, and that our community is a wide spectrum of identities. Or, if the characters are loners, then I need to see them happy with that, comfortable in the contacts they have, because it is their choice. I need people to acknowledge there’s no obligation of romance when two characters hit it off, and that their friendship isn’t “just” friendship. There is no just. There is only deep, beautiful, meaningful relationships which mean the world to me and my community.

I mean… have any of you read The Gentlemen Bastards series? Have you witnessed the depths of trust between Locke and Jean? These two know without the slightest doubt–with the tiniest bit of hesitation– that the other will always be there for him. Their friendship is one that bears no secrets because, really, they know each other too well for that shit. And if taking care of each other involves a long showdown of just how much of an ass you’re being? They’re here for that. And yes, I know how shippable Jean/Locke is. But the closeness of the pair, the perfect mix of friendship and brotherhood that binds them and drives so much of the plot–that has always been such a precious core of the series to me (beyond the amazing cloak & daggers, twisting plots I mean). This is the kind of friendship I aspire to: one that weathers to worst storms and emerges even truer, deeper, and more beautiful.

Which also brings me to another point. I do try to write this kind of relationship, and I think people should be especially careful when they project romances upon an aromantic writer’s friendships. I’ve experienced this a handful of times already and it leaves me deeply unsettled. It’s one thing to ship, another to insist it must be. Your enthusiasm and love for my characters warms my heart, but it leaves me with one impression: that you don’t think this friendship, whatever form it takes, is sufficient–that it isn’t good enough. And once again, I see where the priority goes.

So that’s my message. Value our narratives. Our community is the constant subject of ridicule, erasure, and dehumanization. When you support our headcanons and our friend-ships instead of considering them lesser than their romantic counterparts, you tell us we are real, you tell us we belong, and you tell us we matter.

Today is the release day of Claudie Arseneault’s newest book, City of Strife. You can buy a copy here!

Final Cover

Bickering merchant families vie for power through eccentric shows of wealth and brutal trading wars. Unspoken rules regulate their battles, but when an idealistic elven lord provokes the powerful Myrian Empire, all bets are off. They are outsiders, unbound by local customs, and no one knows how far they’ll take their magic to dominate the city. Nobles and commoners alike must fight to preserve their home, even if the struggle shatters friendships, destroys alliances, and changes them irrevocably.

City of Strife is the first installment of the City of Spires trilogy, a multi-layered political fantasy led by an all LGBTQIAP+ cast. Fans of complex storylines criss-crossing one another, strong friendships and found families will find everything they need within these pages.

Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Québec City. Her long studies in biochemistry and immunology often sneak back into her science-fiction, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. The most recent, City of Strife, comes out on February 22, 2017! Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro-ace characters in spec fic, and her unending love of octopi. Find out more on her website, or follow her on twitter!

By | February 22nd, 2017|Categories: Author Guest Blog, Readers on Reading, Writers on Writing|Comments Off on Aromantic Headcanons and Making Room for Friend-shipping