In Stillness: The Perception of Asexuality in Seanan McGuire’s “Every Heart a Doorway”

Posted February 1, 2018 by dove-author in Ace & Aro Studies, Essays / 0 Comments


It’s here! I’ve finally polished up the draft version of my In Stillness essay and am officially sharing it with the world. :O Prepare yourself because this is 4,970 words long minus quotations, end notes and works cited list. With, it’s about 5,837.

In Stillness:

The Perception of Asexuality in Seanan McGuire’s “Every Heart a Doorway”

Before August 2016, I had never read a story with a character who explicitly identified as asexual. It is tempting to say that, before that time, I had never read any character like me before. This is not true. I’d read several stories with asexually-coded (ace-coded) characters before then[1], but August 2016 marked the month when I first read a story featuring a character who explicitly used the label to describe herself.

That character was Nancy from Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and until I read that novella I did not truly understand why I too needed labels in fiction, why I too needed to see such blunt visibility and recognition. Every Heart a Doorway was published on May 10th, 2016 and has gone on to be nominated for (and sometimes winning) several major awards. To date, it has won the 2016 Nebulas, the 2017 Locus Awards, and the 2016 Hugo Awards, and it was one of the books named on the Tiptree Honors list in part for its portrayal of Nancy’s asexuality.

Being published by a respected traditional publisher, written by a well-known and popular queer SFF author and explicitly including a discussion of the definition of asexuality has seen Every Heart a Doorway rise to prominence as one of the major books included on recommendations lists featuring asexual characters. Arguably, it has gone on to become the poster recommendation for asexual representation within fiction.

As a reader on the asexual spectrum, I was initially delighted by the narrative that McGuire wrote. I was dazzled by the fact that here, for the first time that I could recall, there was a character written specifically and deliberately to mirror my experiences. It wasn’t a complete match, but it was close enough to hit home. It also, deliberately, called out some of the most harmful stereotypes regarding asexuality that I have seen and experienced. That, more than anything, is what I fell in love with the first time I read it.

When I reread it for the Hugo Award nominations in the spring of 2017, however, my experience was markedly different and I found the amisia[2] in the central premise almost unbearable. Nancy’s personal storyline revolves around her desire to return to the Halls of the Dead, the portal world that she visited, loved and wants to return to with all her heart. While the narrative is aware of its amisia on a surface level, this essay will show that once one looks below that surface the story actually perpetuates the very ideas that it so strongly attempts to deny.

What Is Asexuality?

Asexuality is commonly defined as ‘the experience of not being sexually attracted to others’[3], though the term also refers to a spectrum of sexual orientations along this ‘lack of attraction’ axis. It is regularly excluded from queer conversations (as, for example, in the numerous instances during Pride Month in 2017 and 2016 where people kept on insisting that the A stands for ‘ally’ rather than ‘asexual, aromantic, agender’) and so often forgotten by queer activists that asexuals jokingly call it the invisible orientation amongst themselves. It is estimated that roughly 1% of the world’s population identifies as asexual or on the asexual spectrum[4].

To describe someone who isn’t asexual, many in the community have adopted the word ‘allosexual’. It means little more than ‘someone who is not asexual’ and serves as a way for asexuals to attempt to word their own experiences and the way those experiences differ from what, it seems, the majority of (Western) society experiences when it comes to love, romance, and lust.

There are several well-known and anecdotal stereotypes regarding asexuality, such as the idea that asexuals are ‘frigid’ or ‘amoebas’. Asexuals may be assumed to be suffering from hormonal imbalances or other physical causes. They frequently hear that they just haven’t met the right person yet[5]. Asexuals are assumed to be lonely and to end up alone. Asexuals are seen as boring. Asexuals are seen as playing hard-to-get and leading people on. Within the asexual community, there are countless of anecdotes of how asexuals are considered abusive to their allosexual partners.

As Julie Sondra Decker notes in The Invisible Orientation, ‘it isn’t as if lack of sexual desire or sexual attraction is the same as lack of desires of any kind. Asexual people don’t automatically lack motivation and energy or any vital “juice.” People who look at asexual people as though they must be zombies or robots are probably looking at them as a concept rather than as people.’ (Decker Part 3)

This last sentence is especially important in the context of science fiction and fantasy and doubly so in the context of Every Heart a Doorway. Many of the anecdotes mentioned before discuss how often asexuals run into the notion that they aren’t alive at all. Not that they are amoebas (or plants), but actually in some way not alive, or dead.

The Link Between Asexuality and Death

Every Heart a Doorway takes this connection between asexuals and death and weaves a story around it. A story of an explicitly asexual character who visited a place known as the Halls of the Dead and who frequently and explicitly mentions wanting to return there. To a world which is explicitly linked with death.

In 2017, author Claudie Arseneault wrote a blog post[6] discussing the frequency with which asexual characters are associated with death in science fiction and fantasy. The post goes on to list five different asexual characters who have been associated specifically with death. Arseneault remarks that “[i]t never occurred to me I would run into so many [asexual] characters associated with death” and lists some of the imagery that, through this link with death, become associated with asexuality.

Darkness, death, stillness, sickness. The odd one, unreachable, beyond understanding. Things either forbidden or better changed. A huge DO NOT WANT in bold, red letters.

Not all of these sentiments are found within Every Heart a Doorway, but the most salient points of death, stillness and oddness are. To my knowledge there is no formal research done into the frequency with which asexuality and death are paired in fiction, but most asexuals who enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy can give you several ready examples of the trope that Arseneault describes[7]. Twitter user Laura_the_wise notes that the death trope associated with asexuals in science fiction and fantasy may be more accurately labelled as a stasis or exile trope[8], which would more accurately match up to the way that academic literature, such as “Toward an Asexual Narrative Structure” by Elizabeth Hanna Hanson, an essay published in Asexualities edited by Karli June Cerankowski and Megan Milks, discusses asexuality in fiction.

The most prominent asexual characters in science fiction and fantasy are all linked to death, however. Laura_the_wise continues the thread discussing the narratives of Clariel (Garth Nix), Every Heart a Doorway, and “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” (Alyssa Wong) and how the exile/stasis trope plays out in those narratives. Missing from the list are several fairly well-known indie publications with non-human asexual protagonists, such as RoAnna Sylver’s Chameleon Moon  which features two prominent asexual characters, one of whom is a lizard who can make himself invisible and one of whom is literally a zombie[9].

I call this trope the Death-Adjacent Ace trope. That is to say: “A narrative in which the asexual character is linked, either directly or indirectly, to the concepts of death or stasis”. Every Heart a Doorway is an example of a direct link, despite McGuire’s attempts to counter it. Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds is an example of an indirect link, as the demisexual protagonist, Darcy, is only associated by death because the book alternates between the story of Darcy’s new life as a novelist and the book she wrote about a girl exploring the afterlife.

Due to the relative prevalence[10] of this literal association with death in the depictions of asexuality in science fiction and fantasy, this essay will continue looking at the depiction as a straight death trope rather than one of stasis. Though discussing the narratives solely as dealing with an academic idea of stasis is appealing, approaching the concept as a solely intellectual exercise ignores how harmful the associations between asexuality and this imagery can be, especially when applied to a Western world view of death and the afterlife[11].

In science fiction and fantasy, the death-adjacent ace trope is an extension of the claims that asexuals are plants, frigid, cold fish or any other variant. The trope draws these stereotypes to their extremes to explore the ways in which asexuals are not an active part of our societies. All of the words that Arseneault mentioned in the quote above are words that many asexuals understand as being used against them to invalidate their experiences.

Asexuality in Every Heart a Doorway

The central conceit of Every Heart a Doorway is that of what happens after a person returns from an adventure to a portal fantasy. At several points the novella includes homage and even explicit references to classical portal fantasy stories such as Alice in Wonderland and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It differs from most portal fantasies in that the entire story is set in ‘our’ world, at a school designed to aid children in coming to terms with what has happened to them as well as mapping the various portal worlds that exist.

To discuss Every Heart a Doorway, one must start by acknowledging the various ways in which McGuire works with unreliable narrators and perspectives. When the novella opens, it does not immediately introduce Nancy to the reader. Instead, it eases the reader into the novella’s world-building and establishes a distinct line between what is perceived and what is true. Eleanor West, the headmistress of Nancy’s new school, is explicitly noted to lie to parents or guardians about what they can expect for the children they’re enrolling and what the boarding school is about in a variety of ways, only showing its true nature to the children once they have enrolled and the parents are no longer present to hear. Eleanor is shown to indulge the parents in their perception that they have of their children and then, when a new student arrives, demonstrates that it is all a façade and that there is truth to their experiences despite what everyone around them believes.

The reader’s first view of Nancy is through the eyes of Eleanor West, a perception which the narrative starts to dismantle as quickly as it creates it. In the same chapter it also introduces some of the misconceptions that Nancy’s parents have about their daughter, as they are shown to have deliberately repacked Nancy’s bag with brightly coloured clothing that she no longer likes wearing.

But this world was made for quick, hot, restless things; not like the quiet Halls of the Dead. With a sigh, Nancy abandoned her stillness and turned to open her suitcase. Then she froze again, this time out of shock and dismay. Her clothing—the diaphanous gowns and gauzy black shirts she had packed with such care—was gone, replaced by a welter of fabrics as colorful as the things strewn on Sumi’s side of the room. There was an envelope on top of the pile. With shaking fingers, Nancy picked it up and opened it.


We’re sorry to play such a mean trick on you, sweetheart, but you didn’t leave us much of a choice. You’re going to boarding school to get better, not to keep wallowing in what your kidnappers did to you. We want our real daughter back. These clothes were your favorites before you disappeared. You used to be our little rainbow! Do you remember that?

You’ve forgotten so much.

We love you. Your father and I, we love you more than anything, and we believe you can come back to us. Please forgive us for packing you a more suitable wardrobe, and know that we only did it because we want the best for you. We want you back.

Have a wonderful time at school, and we’ll be waiting for you when you’re ready to come home to stay.

The letter was signed in her mother’s looping, unsteady hand. Nancy barely saw it. Her eyes filled with hot, hateful tears, and her hands were shaking, fingers cramping until they had crumpled the paper into an unreadable labyrinth of creases and folds. She sank to the floor, sitting with her knees bent to her chest and her eyes fixed on the open suitcase. How could she wear any of those things? Those were daylight colors, meant for people who moved in the sun, who were hot, and fast, and unwelcome in the Halls of the Dead. (McGuire Chapter 1)

This instance serves several purposes other than establishing the idea that one’s perception of a person is not necessarily accurate. It also demonstrates the close links between death and stillness as well as the idea that Nancy, despite these associations, feels deeply. She is, after all, so hurt by her parents’ actions that she begins to cry, an action which immediately disproves and disputes the idea that asexuals are emotionless or uncaring. This passage sets much of the tone for the way McGuire attempts to undermine stereotypes throughout the rest of the narrative.

At first, the novella seems to follow Nancy as she adjusts to live at the boarding school and in the real world. However, more than half the novella is actually a murder mystery in which Nancy, as the latest student and one from an Underworld no less, finds herself the main suspect. Underworlds are traditionally high Wicked worlds. While no explicit definition of what many of the terms are is given, it is obvious that Wicked worlds are ones in which bad things routinely happen and Nancy is keenly aware of the fact that she is a suspect precisely because of these associations between her and death.

Belatedly, Nancy realized that it might look suspicious, her roommate dying when she had just arrived from the Underworld—maybe they would assume she preferred the dead to the living, or that Eleanor’s comments about them killing each other had been warnings. (McGuire Chapter 4)

Here, McGuire simultaneously links and undermines the idea that Nancy and death are associated. This passage is not a sign of the way that asexuality and death relate to one another, but it is a sign of how negatively the idea of death is portrayed within the novella as a whole. Nancy comes from an Underworld, so of course there is the possibility that she would prefer the stillness of death. It is an idea that McGuire has hinted at a few times in the course of Nancy’s interactions with Sumi, describing Sumi as too fast for Nancy to follow and Nancy reluctant to engage with the world around her as it might destroy some of the stillness that she values so dearly.

To further strengthen the idea that death and wickedness (or evilness) are related, McGuire includes a discussion of what kind of worlds are Wicked early on in the book.

“Can’t go high Logic, high Wicked if you’re not innocent. The Wicked doesn’t want people it can’t spoil[,” Sumi said.]

“I don’t understand anything you people say,” said Nancy. “Logic? Nonsense? Wicked? What do those things even mean?”

“They’re directions, or the next best thing,” said Jack. She leaned forward, dragging her index finger through the wet ring left by the base of a glass and using the moisture to draw a cross on the table. “Here in the so-called ‘real world,’ you have north, south, east, and west, right? Those don’t work for most of the portal worlds we’ve been able to catalog. So we use other words. Nonsense, Logic, Wickedness, and Virtue. There are smaller subdirections, little branches that may or may not go anywhere, but those four are the big ones. Most worlds are either high Nonsense or high Logic, and then they have some degree of Wickedness or Virtue built into their foundations from there. A surprising number of Nonsense worlds are Virtuous. It’s like they can’t work up the attention span necessary for anything more vicious than a little mild naughtiness.” (McGuire Chapter 2)

Jack’s description of the way the world-building works in this chapter suggests that readers can take the words of the cardinal directions used in the novella at face value. As ‘wicked’ is synonymous with evil and immoral, a high Wicked world is one in which a lot of evil and viciousness is expected. This is further evidenced by everyone’s reaction to Seraphina, a tertiary character who is depicted and explicitly described as being as cruel on the inside as she is beautiful on the outside.

Nancy determines that the Underworld she went to was not Wicked because it was filled with kindness and caring. Yet the depiction that McGuire shows the reader of the Halls of the Dead, though brief, do not match up to Nancy’s fond and glowing description, marking another way in which McGuire highlights that a character’s perception does not automatically mean that this is how reality truly is and the fact that the novella is a murder mystery only further underscores the idea that the perceptions of the characters are flawed and should not be trusted.

So far, the examples mentioned are all smaller instances of how the novella plays with this idea of perception. Its most visible instance consists of the twins Jack and Jill. Both twins went to the same world and they have very different ideas of their time there[12]. Directly preceding Sumi’s remark in the quotation, Jill says “We went to a very nice place, where we met very nice people who loved us very much. But there was a little problem with the local constabulary, and we had to come back to this world for a while, for our own safety.” (McGuire Chapter 2) and throughout the novella it is made clear that Jill’s perception of what the world she and Jack went to was like is highly skewed.

Another main character, Kade, later remarks that for all that his world was marked as high Virtue, it tossed him out the moment it realised he is transgender. Again, we have an instance where what the characters perceive and expect is not, necessarily, the truth of what the world around them is like. Nancy’s perception of the Halls of the Dead falls squarely into this dichotomy as the reader is never truly shown much of the kindness and care that Nancy describes experiencing.

It is not that the reader learns absolutely nothing about the world that Nancy visited, but that the novella fails to convey why Nancy’s perception of the world is correct. Her life there, as shown in the book, consists of pretending to be a statue in order to ‘earn’ colour and movement, as she explains to Jill in chapter 4: “I’d like to join [the Lady of Shadows and her entourage] someday, if I can prove myself, but until then, I’m supposed to serve as a statue, and statues should blend in. Standing out is for people who’ve earned it.”

Earlier in the novella, the narration remarks that

[Nancy] would have thought her lack of sexual desire had been what had drawn her to the Underworld—so many people had called her a “cold fish” and said she was dead inside back when she’d been attending an ordinary high school, among ordinary teenagers, after all—except that none of the people she’d met in those gloriously haunted halls had shared her orientation. They lusted as hotly as the living did. The Lord of the Dead and the Lady of Shadows had spread their ardor throughout the palace, and all had been warmed by its light. (McGuire Chapter 2)

Yet Nancy’s life in the Underworld still matches up largely to the common tropes mentioned by Arseneault. Nancy’s ideal Underworld is one in which she serves as a statue, invisible until she has earned the right to stand out. How one earns this right is never explained within the novella and, as such, offers no counterpoint to the implication that Nancy was drawn to the Underworld because she is asexual or to the implication that asexuals are, or desire to be, invisible. It is a common enough feeling and assumption that when Julie Sondra Decker titled her non-fiction book about asexuality invisibility was a logical and recognisable choice, especially as, in 2014, there were only a handful of articles available in mainstream publications.

While the narrative may explicitly state that Nancy’s asexuality and her stay in the Halls of the Dead are not related, one of the central themes of the narratives as a whole is that perceptions are unreliable. It shows the reader how perceptions and statements are not to be trusted implicitly multiple times. As such, the narrative’s statement that asexuality is not linked to death is equally suspect and, as mentioned, ultimately disproved by the narrative.

The murder mystery too aids in McGuire’s interrogation of perceptions and their influence on social interactions. Though the identity of the murderer may be easy for the readers to guess, the tropes that lead readers to draw these conclusions are not obvious to the characters themselves. Combined with McGuire’s choice of an omniscient narrator, it allows the book to comment directly on characters’ perceptions and their influences on a small group of people.

From Eleanor West’s deliberate misleading behaviour to Jack and Jill’s differing experiences of their portal world to the Prism’s rejection of Kade once they discovered he is transgender, McGuire shows us worlds which reject reality and characters whose perception of reality is proven to be flawed.

At almost every step, the narrative undermines the perception of its main character and, through it, its own messages regarding asexuality. The novella rarely takes the chance to support what it claims with what it shows the reader. Nancy repeatedly thinks of herself and her sexuality as strange and weird throughout the novella, despite the novella’s attempt to also show us that she is comfortable with her sexual orientation until her romantic feelings for Kade confuse and fluster her. By having Nancy herself refer to her asexuality as making her strange, the narrative actually reinforces the idea that asexuality is something odd and unnatural. After all, even the sole asexual character in the narrative feels this way about herself.

Similarly, partway through the story the narrative introduces Christopher, a Latinx boy who, like Nancy, went to an Underworld. Unlike Nancy’s time in her Underworld, Christopher is said and shown to interact with the denizens of his.

“I went to a country of happy, dancing skeletons who said that one day I’d come back to them and marry their Skeleton Girl,” said Christopher. “So pretty sunshiny, but sort of sunshine by way of Día de los Muertos.” (McGuire Chapter 6)

The narrative never truly engages with the way Latinx cultures view death, but in light of the links between asexuality and death and, especially Laura_the_wise’s comments on Twitter, it is notable that Christopher’s Underworld, unlike Nancy’s, is described as happy and lively and, more importantly, that Christopher is described as having an active role and friendships within the realm he visited. Nancy’s sole interactions with the people in the Underworld, as described in the novella, are when the Lord of the Dead dances with her, turning her hair white, the torments inflicted upon statues, and the Lord of the Dead asking her to return to our world and make sure that she truly wishes to stay in the Halls of the Dead.

Further, Christopher is coded as allosexual due to the way he describes his initial interest in Jill.

“I remember when you got here,” said Christopher. “I thought your sister was hot, you know? So I offered to show her around the school, figured maybe I could get in good before one of the other guys showed up and started talking about his magic sword and how he’d saved the universe or whatever. I’m a dude with a flute no one can hear. I have to be persistent.” (McGuire Chapter 6)

One of the things that shows up repeatedly when asexuals describe their experiences is that they struggle to understand the concept of ‘hot’ in this context. As Decker notes, people on the asexual spectrum ‘see their peers finding movie stars and cute strangers hot and don’t relate to it at all, because they don’t experience it’ (Decker Part 2). While the section this comes from specifically refers to demisexuals rather than the whole asexual spectrum, looking around forums, Tumblr blogs or twitter threads shows that this is a sentiment frequently shared by people on the asexual spectrum. Christopher’s subconscious understanding of how attractive Jill is, especially coupled with his response to Jack’s innuendos and his interest in the Skeleton Girl, strongly suggests that he is allosexual. This idea is made even more likely when the narrative explicitly shows the reader that Nancy does not appear to pick on Jack’s innuendos in the same way that Christopher does.

In the end, Nancy’s personal character arc sees her return to the Halls of the Dead. The story casts her decision as a moment of empowerment, a triumphant moment in which the main character learns that she determines the direction of her own life herself and that she is in charge of her own choices. It is, on the surface, a message telling young people, girls especially, that they are in control of their lives, that they decide where they will go rather than where society attempts to pressure them to go, to be who they are rather than what society wants them to be. It is an arc echoed by Jack’s return to the Moors, her portal world, where she can be the scientist she has always wanted to be without the misogyny present in the field in our world.

Yet look below that personal narrative and Nancy’s return to the Underworld undermines everything that the novella was attempting to say about asexuality. At the end of the novella, Nancy is getting ready to return home for the holidays at her parents’ insistence. Nancy pictures what her life here, at the school, could be like. It is a brief paragraph, noting that she will never be truly happy in our world, even though it shows her having a life with friends and a job that would give her satisfaction.

Moments later, Nancy finds a note from Sumi, the first student she had met at the start of the novella and the one whom she was supposed to be a room-mate to. It tells her that ‘[Nancy is] nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell [her] how [her] story ends is [Nancy]’ (McGuire Epilogue). After reading the note Nancy disappears through the door that appears without a thought or a care for the friends she’s made or for the family she is abandoning again. The vision she has just had of her life at the school and in the ‘real’ world becomes utterly irrelevant.

Throughout the novella, McGuire has taken great pains to show us that Nancy has feelings and experiences them deeply, a direct counter to the idea that asexuals are frigid, unfeeling and dead. When Sumi assumes Nancy dyes her hair white, Nancy gets angry and indignant and, as already discussed, when Nancy discovers that her parents repacked her suitcase, she breaks down into tears. Kade’s physical appearance causes her to blush as she is, potentially, romantically attracted to him[13]. Nancy’s reverence towards the dead bodies that have been found are a quieter, less obvious sign of her own inherent kindness and Nancy’s confusion at what is happening after being thrust into a world where everything she experienced is not dismissed as unreal also further shows readers that asexual people have feelings.

The ending of the novella too, echoes this sentiment, as Nancy is so overcome with emotions at returning home to the Halls of the Dead that she is shaking and even running towards where she longs to be. As stillness is such a strong and important characteristic of Nancy’s Underworld – she was, after all, required to pretend to be an invisible statue and is repeatedly shown to appreciate and prefer stillness over movement – these small notes are telling both about how strong Nancy’s emotions are as well as how much she has changed as a person.

None of it changes or addresses the fact that Nancy wilfully and deliberately returns to an Underworld known as the Halls of the Dead. As far as Nancy’s friends and family are concerned, the novella ends on a note designed to celebrate the Bury Your Gays or Tragic Queer trope[14]. The Tragic Queer trope is a common narrative in which queer characters are not allowed to have a happy ending, most frequently by having the queer character(s) die.

As TVTropes notes, the impact of this narrative trope is less if, like in the case of Every Heart a Doorway, there are several explicitly queer characters in the narrative. While Nancy is not the only queer character in the narrative and not the only queer person to ‘die’, she is the only asexual character in the narrative. Combined with the fact that asexuality is already tied to death as a narrative trope and that Nancy deliberately chooses her Underworld Halls of the Dead over the living ‘real’ world she spends the novella in, the dynamics of the Tragic Queer trope are in full effect rather than lessened by the presence of other queer characters.

The presence of the trope and the fact that Nancy actively chooses to return to the Halls of the Dead strengthen the links between asexuality and death in a way that the rest of the novella cannot break. The ending suggests that everything the novella has previously attempted to tell the reader about asexuality – all the ways in which the stereotypes and tropes are untrue and merely a case of a flawed perspective – is a lie. By showing the reader that Nancy deliberately and actively chooses to return to her Underworld, the novella directly links her to the Halls of the Dead and, as such, to the concepts of death, stillness and solitude.

As the only explicitly asexual character in the narrative, seeing Nancy turn her back on her friends without a second thought to live alone and, effectively, commit suicide in terms of her connection with the other characters, it is a disappointing conclusion to a narrative that attempted to take one of the most commonly found stereotypes used against asexuals and prove them wrong. There are times and moments where McGuire succeeds marvellously in addressing these ideas, calling them out directly and immediately, but the background information the novella provides regarding Nancy’s time in the Halls of the Dead never quite offers enough to balance the fact that, in the end, she actively chooses a life of statuesque, inanimate stillness in a place largely devoid of colour that is literally known as the Halls of the Dead, a life in which McGuire has not shown Nancy to have any friends or social relations, over one in which the novella notes she could have all these things if she so chose.

End Notes

[1] The first ace-coded character I recall reading was Chandra from Tanya Huff’s The Fire’s Stone, who repeatedly and explicitly voices a lack of interest in sex.

[2] Due to the pathologising nature of the suffix -phobic and the fact that several people with mental illnesses have said they find it ableist, I have chosen the suffix -misia to correspond with terms such as ‘misogyny’ and ‘misanthropy’ to more accurately reflect that this is a stance of bigotry and hatred rather than fears resulting from mental illness and furthering the stigmatisation of mental health.

[3] Decker, Julie Sondra. The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality. Kindle ed., Carrel Books, September 2, 2014.

[4] “Research relating to asexuality.” AVENwiki, Accessed 10 July 2017,

[5] While there is arguably some truth to this for demisexuals, this is not a generalisation one should ever make and demisexuals are equally likely to be annoyed by the phrase and its implications that their lives are someone incomplete as other people along the asexual spectrum.

[6] Arseneault, Claudie. “Asexuality and Death and Other Associations” Claudie Arseneault, Accessed July 10 2017.

[7] Aside from Every Heart a Doorway, other examples include Garth Nix’ Clariel and Goldenhand, Alyssa Wong’s “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, RoAnna Sylver’s Chameleon Moon, the tv-show Pushing Daisies and Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments

[8] @Laura_the_wise. “a stasis and/or exile trope. Others have talked before about how aceness and stasis have been related in fiction as thematically linked.” Twitter, 6 July 2017, 4:00 a.m.,

[9] Sylver is ace-spec themself, has explicitly written both Regan and Zilch to undermine common stereotypes and tropes and also includes asexuals who are very clearly human and alive in their works.

[10] When looking at books with deliberately include asexual characters, this depiction is actually vastly outnumbered by books lacking these associations. However, this depiction is the common factor between all well-known narratives with asexual characters in these genres.

[11] While Western cultures have a particularly negative view of death, this is not a prevalent view in all cultures and discussions of the intersectionality between asexuality and death should take into account these cultural differences.

[12] These are explored in more depth in McGuire’s companion novella Down Among the Sticks and Bones.

[13] Nancy’s romantic orientation is confused and muddled, likely because many find it difficult to separate their romantic attractions from their sexual attractions.

[14]  “Bury Your Gays.” TvTropes, Accesssed 10 July 2017

Works Cited

Arseneault, Claudie. “Asexuality and Death and Other Associations” Claudie Arseneault, July 10 2017.

Decker, Julie Sondra. The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality. Kindle ed., Carrel Books, September 2, 2014.

Hanson, Elizabeth Hanna. “Toward an Asexual Narrative Structure. ” Asexualities, Kindle ed., edited by Karli June Cerankowski and Megan Milks, Routledge, 2014.

@Laura_the_wise. “a stasis and/or exile trope. Others have talked before about how aceness and stasis have been related in fiction as thematically linked.” Twitter, 6 July 2017, 4:00 a.m.,

McGuire, Seanan. Every Heart a Doorway., May 10, 2016.

“Bury Your Gays.” TvTropes, Accesssed 10 July 2017

“Research relating to asexuality.” AVENwiki, Accessed 10 July 2017,

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