Shine On: 6 Aspec SFF Books To Light Up The Future

The first time I heard “There are no books with characters like you”, I believed it. I believed it the second time too. And the third.

You can probably tell where this is going.

I wish I had a neat little story where I stumble across a book that has a character like me and I present you with the title and the author. I don’t. What I do have is that one day, despite being told that I don’t get to be in stories over and over again, I looked anyway.

And I found me. Well. At least characters close enough like me that I felt like I was seen for the first time.

The image shows the cover of Tamora Pierce's novel 'Protector of the Small'. In the forefront dominating the right handside of the cover is a human with a 'page-boy' hair cut of light brown hair and they have a black eye but are smiling gently. They are wearing a red embroidered tabard over a white billowing sleeved shirt. They are carrying a ginger kitten in their right hand. There is a sparrow perched on their left shoulder, another small bird rests on greenery close by. Behind them a landscape stretches to a castle.I looked and I found book upon book. To this day, many people are astounded when they ask for books with asexual representation and I tell them Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce has an aroace lead. They read it. It resonated with them. They didn’t know Kel was like them. For real.

We’re only visible to people if they look. Our books are like that too. It’s 2021 and there are enough books with asexual and aromantic (aspec) characters to keep even voracious readers like myself well-stocked for… Probably around a decade now. And yet we hear “Only this handful of books exist” constantly, when it’s not “Book with aspec rep don’t exist at all”. The truth is that aspec literature is thriving, especially within SFF. People just need to learn to look for them.

To that end, I’m grateful to Glasgow in 2024 to let me write a short (by my standards) post on SFF books with aspec characters. Below are some titles that I hope will introduce you to aspec books you didn’t know about and that help Glasgow in 2024 reflect all our futures.

The image shows the cover of R.J Anderson's novel 'Quicksilver'. The whole image is rendered in a blue tonal light, with high levels of light exposure. A figure stands in the centre with their arms outstretched, their long light hair obscures their face. There are trees thought which light filters in the background.One of the earliest sci-fi books we have with explicit asexual representation is R.J. Anderson’s Quicksilver in 2013. A sequel to Ultraviolet (2011), it works perfectly fine as a standalone and stars Tori, an asexual teen with a strong affinity for STEM, as she navigates keeping her abilities and herself hidden from the people hunting her while wanting to be her own self.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow (2020), meanwhile, is likely the first Black science fiction book with a demisexual lead, and one of the scant books where asexuality is used to say “We are the same” instead of “Asexuals are other”. Ellie loves books and music, but an alien invasion has outlawed all creative expression. Despite the risks, Ellie runs a secret library. When she’s found out by M0Rr1S (or Morris), one of the Ilori, the two of them are thrust together on a road trip that could save everyone. The image shows the cover of Alechia Dow's 'The Sound of Stars'. A city scape is in the far background, it reflects on to sill water. Shooting stars streak across the sky toward the city. Above the city the clouds are a vibrant clashing mix of magenta and cyan blue. They are also reflected in water. The book's title is laid out las if fluorescent lighting and overlaid on the water in the front and centre of the image.

The image shows the cover of RoAnna Sylver’s Chameleon Moon. 2 humanoid but alien looking figures dominate the centre of the image. The one on the right is rendered in more masculine style- they are wearing a brown vest and trousers, their arms are crossed across their chest. They have green scaled skin, pointed ears and a lizard like tongue that flicking out. The figure on the left is rendered in more feminine style, they are wearing a pink flounced dress, their pink hair is piled up in a pompadour threaded with pears on their head. Their skin slightly pink. They are catching a microphone in their hand. Like TSoS, music and communication play an important part in RoAnna Sylver’s Chameleon Moon (2016). With an all-queer cast, Sylver deliberately subverts tropes and stereotypes, turning asexuality’s invisibility in society into a literal superpower. Regan doesn’t remember anything about his past, but when he runs into Evelyn, he has a chance to rediscover himself and to discover the truth behind Parole, the city in which they’re all trapped.

The image shows the cover of Rosiee Thor's Tarnished Are the Stars. Cover is dark blue with lighter blues and white making up the face of a clock, it has roman numerals, it takes up the whole cover and resides in the background. In the foreground the title Tarnished Are the Stars is constructed of clockwork pieces across the centre of the book. Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor (2019) is a genre-blending science fantasy adventure with an aroace MC. On a planet where technology is illegal, Nathaniel is desperate for his father’s approval and hunts an outlaw who provides life-saving medical technology. But the more he learns about Anna and their intertwined lives, the more he questions everything, and the more he realises that found family is worth fighting for.

The image shows the cover of Polenth Blake's Werecockroach. There is a large drawing of a cockroach shaded in different colour browns across the whole cover. The work WERE runs along the top and COCKROACH down the right handside. Werecockroach by Polenth Blake (2018) is a novella, and a humorous take on an alien invasion/first contact story with an agender, aromantic and asexual lead. Rin’s first day in their new flat doesn’t go as planned at all, but in the process they discover that things aren’t always what they same, and sometimes they’re every bit as important as they sound.

 

The image shows the cover of Michelle Kan's 'East Flows the River'. The cover is a pale purple mauve, aligned in the background and left hand side half a symbol of what might be a line art sun is visible, it is rendered in paler mauve. The title East Flows the River is across the centre of the page in white flowing script, beneath that it is repeated in Chinese characters. At the bottom centre Michelle Kan's name is in white print, beneath it it is repeated in Chinese characters..

Lastly, East Flows the River by Michelle Kan (2020) is a short story, and part of their collection of Aromantic Chinese Fairytales. As the only fantasy piece on the list, this is a story about friendship between a maiden and a fox spirit as they journey together and discover what home means.

This list represents only a tiny selection of the asexual and aromantic SFF out there, and more is getting published every year. Some of these you may have heard of, some you may not. I wish you happy reading for all of them! If you’d like a place to start finding more aspec books, one of the best resources covering what’s available in general is The AroAce Database run by Claudie Arseneault. She also maintains curated lists of favourites on her author website if the database is a little overwhelming.

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This article was brought to you by S.L. Dove Cooper in association with Promotions.

S.L. Dove Cooper (She/they) is a bi demi queer indie SFF author and independent researcher who is terrible at bios. In her “copious spare time”, she is making a valiant attempt at reading all the aspec literature out there and convincing people that aspec SFF features far more actually human aspec characters than stereotyped non-humans. You can find more of their work via their website: https://dovelynnwriter.com/ and on twitter @dovelynnwriter

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