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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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