ETA: One of the original books on this list has been replaced following severe misconduct by the author.
As is undoubtedly no surprise to anyone who’s heard of me, I really really love giving recommendations for books featuring asexual characters. As a reader and writer on the asexual spectrum, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. I’ve seen plenty of recommendations lists that are about asexual characters or that include asexual characters that repeat the same books over and over. Indeed, I’ve seen recommendations lists that explicitly stated that the handful of books the writer managed to find was all the asexual fiction out there. Considering it was missing several easy-to-find well-known and traditionally published books by respected authors… I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
But it is true that, for many readers, books with asexual characters in them are difficult to find. Many aren’t readily available in bookstores even when they’re pretty popular and well-respected. When I was in Cambridge, I saw displays of several books nominated for the Hugo Awards because they were nominated for the Hugo Awards, but Every Heart a Doorway? Couldn’t find a single copy anywhere. Not on display and not on the shelves. They didn’t stock it. And I wish I could say it was just one bookstore, but it was every major chain I visited. Likewise, in libraries you’ll have more luck finding books featuring asexual characters if you already know the titles before you enter. In both cases, you’ll probably have to ask the staff to order a copy specifically, so venturing into bookshops or libraries and hoping to find books featuring asexual characters just isn’t likely to happen.
Especially in combination with the way recommendation lists for books with asexual representation are usually styled, this difficulty to find books if you don’t already know they exist feeds into a negative spiral where recommendations lists repeat the same books over and over with the same note that this is all there is or this is all the writer could find. Yet there is so much more available to readers…
This is a series that aims to present small lists of books featuring asexual characters with some brief personal commentary on the books. Each list consists of 3 books centred around a single, relatively broad theme. While, sadly, I have had to restrict my recommendations lists to 3 books instead of the more usual 5 found in recommendations lists, each list does consist of 3 unique books. There are no repeats of titles in this series of recommendation posts. This series consists of 10 posts for a total of 30 books featuring asexual characters in various roles.
Unless otherwise noted, assume that books mentioned either seem to assume all asexuals are aromantic or that they’ll erase aromanticism altogether.
I hope you’ll find something terrific to read in these lists! Most all categories have more than three books I could put there, but as I mentioned I only had space for a handful of books or stories. If you’d like to see even more of then, check out Claudie Arseneault’s database of aromantic and asexual (speculative) fiction, which features many more books starring asexual characters!
This week’s theme is…
3 Science Fiction Books with Asexual Characters
This week, we’re looking at books that feature asexual characters in science fiction! One of these books has been making a pretty big splash over the course of 2017 from what I can tell and the other two are a bit older. Surprisingly, science fiction seems to be where one finds the least number of confirmed asexual characters. There’s a fair bit of headcanon discussing robots and A.I.s as asexual (and aromantic) characters.
But enough about all that. You’re here to get book recommendations, so let me present to you the books!
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.
Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.
Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.
The Sound of Stars is Alechia Dow’s debut novel featuring a Black, fat, bi demi main character. It’s a character-focused YA novel with a ton of social and political commentary. Reviewers seem to agree that this book’s major strength are its multifaceted characters, but it’s also garnered rave reviews for its worldbuilding and the writing style.
Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.
Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.
When the autopsy of Matilda‘s sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother’s suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother’s footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.
An Unkindness of Ghosts will appeal to a broad audience, including fans of books such as The Magicians by Lev Grossman, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Cold Magic by Kate Elliott, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.
An Unkindness of Ghosts is a book that has only recently come to my attention and, as of yet, there isn’t a lot of information available regarding it. Aster, the lead character in the book, doesn’t appear to be ace, but the woman who raised her is aroace. It sounds really, really good and interesting to me anyway and I’m looking forward to getting a chance to read it.
Once I was a girl who was special.
Now I am extraordinary.
And they will never stop hunting me.
The science fiction elements in Quicksilver are much lighter than they are in the other two books. Set in contemporary Canada, Quicksilver features Niki (or Tori as she used to be known) as she’s adjusting to living under a false name to avoid being recaptured by a sinister-sounding research lab.
Quicksilver is a sequel to Ultraviolet and while you’ll eventually gather the gist of what happens in Ultraviolet through flashbacks, I wouldn’t recommend reading it on its own. It’s possible, but it will definitely affect your ability to settle into the story and enjoy it. Tori spends a lot of time hinting at events and assuming the reader knows what they are.
That said: Anderson didn’t realise Tori was asexual until writing Quicksilver and set out to make Tori explicitly such in this book and does a pretty good job of writing Tori as asexual and Milo as her allosexual pretend-boyfriend without their relationship containing any hints of Allo Saviour. It even includes an explicit discussion of why “just friends” is a horrible phrase and a discussion that aesthetic attraction is not the same as sexual attraction.
Anyway, if you like your science fiction a little less out in space and a little more alien technology on contemporary Earth meets YA near-future thriller, you might really enjoy this one.
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