Category: Essays

Asexuality in R.J. Anderson’s Quicksilver

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

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4,469 words of moar literary essayage, including quotes, end notes and works cited. I should probably stop calling them not-essays at some point.

Asexuality in R.J. Anderson’s Quicksilver

In 2013, shortly after I discovered asexuality, one book jumped out at me: Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson. Anderson spoke frequently and prominently about the asexual representation in the narrative during interviews and blog posts. At the time, though it stood out to me, I never picked it up because the first book, Ultraviolet, didn’t appeal to me at all and, in time, I forgot it existed.

Until recently when I decided to look more closely at asexual representation in traditionally published books. This brief essay will look at the way that Anderson included asexual representation in the narrative of Quicksilver and discuss the ways in which Anderson avoids or attempts to avoid certain common pitfalls when writers, especially those who are allosexual[1], include asexual representation.

First, a brief note: I highly, highly recommend readers interested in reading Quicksilver start with Ultraviolet. The narrative frequently alludes to events in Ultraviolet so it can be read as a standalone, but it takes about 3/4ths of the book before those events are truly clear to readers who haven’t read Ultraviolet.

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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

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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.

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Retrospective: A Year Reading Asexual Fiction

Posted January 28, 2018 by dove-author in Ace & Aro Rambling, Essays, Personal / 0 Comments

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Retrospective: A Year Reading Asexual Fiction

In 2017, I read over 40 books featuring characters on the asexual (ace) spectrum in an effort to read predominantly ace rep this year. Though I failed at that, 40 books containing asexual representation is nothing to sniff at, especially considering how prevalent the claims are that the representation just doesn’t exist. Clearly it does because I read almost one book with ace rep per week.

This was a personal challenge I set myself, just as the year before, I set myself the challenge of reading predominantly internationally[1]. This time, however, it was part of a concentrated effort to actually read the books with asexual characters that I’d been accumulating and to discuss the representation they contain.

After I discovered asexuality around 2013, I let that knowledge sit quietly and soak in this idea that I wasn’t just odd and that I wasn’t alone. Slowly, I explored the spectrum and discovered more about myself. Slowly I started to accumulate books that I was terrified of reading either because the author is allosexual and I was scared they’d get it wrong or because the author is, like me, ace spec and I was scared of invalidating their experience by discussing it because it wasn’t mine.

But the more books I bought, watching them be buried under other shinier and newer acquisitions, and the more I realised how hard it is to find good representation even though the internet should be a great boon in this[2], the more I wanted to sit myself down and read the books I had despite my fears.

After a year of reading asexual fiction, I’ve noticed a few things about the way asexuality is treated in fiction and represented in books that feature explicit and deliberate asexual representation.

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Hugo Award Nominations by Country

Posted September 18, 2015 by dove-author in Essays, Writing / 0 Comments

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This year, much has been said about the Hugo Awards. For those unaware (somehow?), the Hugo Awards are one of the most prestigious American awards for science fiction and fantasy published in English in the last year. They’re voted on by members of Worldcon, which is anyone from anywhere in the world as long as they pay. But most from the US. This post actually isn’t about what’s been said about and around the Hugos this year, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t influence this post. So, if you’ve missed it or want a refresher, here’s a quick round-up with links to more detailed discussion by The Mary Sue. Quicker version: People disagreed with the Hugo nominations of the last few years and decided to game the system using slate voting. It kind of backfired. (Or did it? This too is an ongoing, ah, debate. That I’m trying to stay far away from. Anyway!)

The Daily Dot mentions early on in their report on this year’s Hugo Awards, that 2015 was “a banner year for translated works”. Out of the four written fiction categories (best novel, best novella, best novelette and best short story), only two managed to have a story that beat out No Award. Both these stories were written by non-American men: Cixin Liu and Thomas Olde Heuvelt, a Chinese and a Dutch author respectively.

This year also, and this is much less widely reported, saw the decision to honour translators and both Ken Liu and Lia Belt were given a Hugo Rocket for their work in translating these winning stories. 2015 also marks the first year that the Hugos name the translator of a piece.

2015 is a win for diversity in SFF. We’ve seen articles discussing the rise of marginalised writers in SFF erroneously because we have always been there. What’s changed is our visibility within the SFF community. It’s not that marginalised people have never been here. It’s that we’re speaking up about our presence. (And that the internet allows us to be heard in the first place.)

So, initially, when the Hugos were announced I was thrilled along with everyone else. I am still thrilled because it is a great thing worthy of celebration. Diversity creates strength and fosters innovation. But something in the back of my mind was niggling at me. There was something about the celebration that felt off to me. Something about translated works and English-language awards and voting. Something that, as far as I can tell, no one has mentioned in any of their articles. Something that I expect most people wouldn’t even think to check. Either because they’re too thrilled that ‘one of their own’ won a prestigious foreign award or because they just don’t see that there might be something to look at.

It’s fairly common knowledge that, despite claims to the contrary, the Hugo Awards are a predominantly American award. But is it? After all, despite the slate voting this year saw a lot of diversity and it still won the awards. That’s what was niggling me: how completely different that focus is from my experience. Were the Hugos more nationally diverse than my gut was telling me? Was I wrong in thinking about the Hugos as an American award? Was I wrong to think of it as an award only native speakers of English stood a chance at winning?

To that end, I decided to look at the nationalities of the all the authors nominated for a Best Novel Hugo Award. I also looked at the language a book was originally published in. Then, because it is also a generally accepted truth that it’s easier to find non-native speakers of English publishing in short story venues, I looked at the other prose fiction categories (novella, novelette and short story) as well.

This post is a recording of what I found.

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Writing Dyscalculia

Posted October 16, 2014 by dove-author in Essays, Personal, Writing / 0 Comments

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I don’t know how old I was when I learned that my dad has dyslexia. It’s one of those things I’ve always kind of known. I’ve also always kind of known that he never got the support he needed to excel at school. For me it’s maths. Like my dad’s situation with dyslexia, when I was in primary and secondary school dyscalculia wasn’t a thing people paid attention to. My mum remains firmly convinced that I woke up one day, said “I don’t like maths” and decided to suck at it for the rest of my life. Because that’s a thing people with invisible disabilities do, you know, they decide that they have a problem. Please note the heavy use of sarcasm in that sentence because we do not, in fact, decide to have a problem and then it magically appears and if only we just decide not to have a problem then it will go away like it’s never been.

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