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 Free Stories with Asexual Characters
If you thought that all I had to offer was a list of books that are available in all eretailers and nothing more, I have a surprise for you! This week’s theme is “free stories”. These are all free online reads that feature characters on the asexual spectrum because oh yes there are more than three available for those as well!
Fair warning: I absolutely fail at talking about short fiction, so expect my comments to be shorter. Sorry about that, but you’re all here for the links to shinies anyway, right?
Nkásht íí by Darcie Little Badger
Great-grandmother taught me everything she knew about death before it took her.
Never sleep under a juniper tree. They grow between this world and the place below.
Bury the dead properly, lest their ghosts return.
A ghost is a terrible thing.
Someday, we will all be terrible things.
Great-grandmother, you were right.
This story falls at the very least adjacent to the death-association trope, though where exactly it falls is a case that depends on how you want to read it. It’s a powerful short story.
Antimatter and Stalwart Stan by Elizabeth Barrette
Stan Wood and Lawrence Cunningham are high-school classmates. They are also the superhero Stalwart Stan and the minor supervillain Antimatter respectively. This storyline tracks the evolution of their relationship from nemeses to frenemies to … maybe something more?
This is… more of a verse novel serial than anything else and there’s at least a long novel’s worth of material for you to read before counting Barrette’s extensive additional notes. Stan is demisexual and bisexual and his relationship with Lawrence is a veeeeeery slow burn. Stan is the most adorable puppy whereas Lawrence is far more a kitten and they’re absolutely adorable together. This is, to my knowledge, the only narrative I’ve seen that brings up or discusses the idea of “too many labels”, a… complaint often seen when queer identities other than the GLBT assert their queerness and ask for recognition. It also manages to do so pretty positively.
Always Be You by RoAnna Sylver
Eight years before the events of Chameleon Moon, Book 1, Regan was just beginning to feel secure in his new life. He doesn’t know many things for certain, even his place in Parole as it hangs in a fragile balance far above an ever-burning fire. But he has no doubts about how he feels about Rowan (who appears in the short story The Library Ghost in the collection Life Within Parole, and will again in Book 2: The Lifeline Signal).
Trust and intimacy like this is hard to find, and their connection quickly becomes one of the sweetest and most reassuring parts of his strange life. So far, sexuality hasn’t been part of it, not for either of them. But like many things in Parole and beyond, attraction/sexuality/sensuality are more complicated than they first appear.
This is a story about an asexual couple navigating consent, sorting out sometimes-confusing layers of attraction, and discovering new things about themselves and one another – like the fact that their orientations don’t entirely match up. But even if their sexualities are farther apart than they realized, it doesn’t mean they have to be anything but close.
Always Be You is a short story that is honestly the best story I’ve read for discussions of attraction and consent when asexual. Actually, it may also be the only story but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. It would still be the best if there were more. It’s sweet and adorable and so affirmative.
That said, it is best read after Chameleon Moon and The Lifeline Signal, even though it’s set before either of those narratives. It’s written for people who already know the characters and you’ll just get so much more out of it than you would if you went into it with no prior knowledge. (It’s possible! I just don’t recommend it.)
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