Hallo, Aro: Pressure, Side One – K. A. Cook

Cover image for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aromantic Flash Fiction. Cover features dark pink handwritten type on a mottled green background with a large line-drawn peacock feather, several sketch-style leaves and swirly text dividers. Green arrows sit underneath each line of text. A translucent overlay of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold alloaro flag sits underneath the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: Reflections on the West’s culture of sexualisation and the ways this makes and shapes a world hostile to aromantic allosexuality.

Content Advisory: This piece describes several shapes of antagonism directed at women, sex workers, bisexuals/multisexuals and queer people. Please also expect references to Christianity and Catholicism, frequent use of “queer” as a plural noun, uses of the misogynistic/sex-worker antagonistic slurs “slut” and “whore”, casual references to sex acts, and many references to the expectation that idealised/acceptable sex takes place in the context of (romantic) love.

Links: PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 997 words / 5 PDF pages.

Note: This is the first in a series describing the different angles of pressure allo-aros endure from family, society, the queer/LGBTQIA+ community and, yes, the a-spec and aromantic communities. We need to better acknowledge the way Western society’s sexualisation and sexual demonisation create a world inherently toxic to allo-aros–especially when we are also subject to misogyny and monosexism.

The new rule seared into hir skin: hide the sex that taints the queer fight for straight acceptance.

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Pressure, Side One – K. A. Cook”

Fiction: The Mundane Progression of Premortem Colloquy, Part Two

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

After a night of revelations to her dead aunt Rosie and her living brother Esher, Mara Hill must dare another with Benjamin Lisbet. If she’s truly the woman Mara hopes, surely Benjamin will be receptive to a conversation of the “I love you and want to be with you, just not romantically” sort? Surely this afternoon won’t stray beyond Mara’s preparations of a picnic basket, chives, rehearsed speeches and less-rumpled clothing?

Yet her months of searching for magic to refresh her fading love means there’s too much she doesn’t know about Benjamin. Too much Mara needs to know to hold this conversation without losing Benjamin’s friendship.

Mara thought speaking of her fading love under cover of dark difficult enough … but speaking of romance in daylight is another challenge entirely.

Contains: A sapphic, lithromantic trans witch making a misstep in the quest to build a love that honours her nature; an autistic, idemromantic schoolmarm with coeliac revealing her struggles in building romantic relationships with allistic women; and a conversation concluding in utterances of the word “when”.

Setting: Marchverse. Please don’t read this without having first perused The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query (available on WordPress, Patreon and in the When Quiver Meets Quill collection).

Content Advisory: This story contains non-explicit references to sex and sex acts by two allosexual aromantic-spectrum women. These references are more integral to the story and their relationship than in my other pieces, in that I’m not relying on mentions of sex as something these characters have or desire to convey their allosexuality.

It should be noted that this piece contains discussions about romance, romantic relationships and sexual relationships, along with the ways these intersect with autistic-targeted ableism and reflections on ways to navigate sexual non-romantic relationships. I don’t recommend this story for people who experience severe sexual and/or romantic repulsion.

Length: 3, 918 words (part two of two).

Does the world understand what upon it sets so great a value? 

Continue reading “Fiction: The Mundane Progression of Premortem Colloquy, Part Two”

Fiction: The Mundane Progression of Premortem Colloquy, Part One

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

After a night of revelations to her dead aunt Rosie and her living brother Esher, Mara Hill must dare another with Benjamin Lisbet. If she’s truly the woman Mara hopes, surely Benjamin will be receptive to a conversation of the “I love you and want to be with you, just not romantically” sort? Surely this afternoon won’t stray beyond Mara’s preparations of a picnic basket, chives, rehearsed speeches and less-rumpled clothing?

Yet her months of searching for magic to refresh her fading love means there’s too much she doesn’t know about Benjamin. Too much Mara needs to know to hold this conversation without losing Benjamin’s friendship.

Mara thought speaking of her fading love under cover of dark difficult enough … but speaking of romance in daylight is another challenge entirely.

Contains: A sapphic, lithromantic trans witch making a misstep in the quest to build a love that honours her nature; an autistic, idemromantic schoolmarm with coeliac revealing her struggles in building romantic relationships with allistic women; and a conversation concluding in utterances of the word “when”.

Setting: Marchverse. Please don’t read this without having first perused The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query (available on WordPress, Patreon and in the When Quiver Meets Quill collection).

Content Advisory: This story contains non-explicit references to sex and sex acts by two allosexual aromantic-spectrum women. These references are more integral to the story and their relationship than in my other pieces, in that I’m not relying on mentions of sex as something these characters have or desire to convey their allosexuality.

It should be noted that this piece contains discussions about romance, romantic relationships and sexual relationships, along with the ways these intersect with autistic-targeted ableism and reflections on ways to navigate sexual non-romantic relationships. I don’t recommend this story for people who experience severe sexual and/or romantic repulsion.

Length: 3, 241 words (part one of two).

In so long fearing her inability to stay in love, she has donned fear’s cloaking veil of abstraction and self-obsession. 

Continue reading “Fiction: The Mundane Progression of Premortem Colloquy, Part One”

Fiction: What Makes Us Human, Part Two

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Moll of Sirenne needs prompts in their girdle book to navigate casual conversations, struggles to master facial expressions and feels safest weeding the monastery’s vegetable gardens. Following their call to service, however, means offering wanderers in need a priest’s support and guidance. A life free of social expectation to court, wed and befriend does outweigh their fear of causing harm—until forgetting the date of a holiday provokes a guest’s ire and three cutting words: lifeless and loveless.

A priest must expand a guest’s sense of human worth, but what do they do when their own comes under question? Can an autistic, aromantic priest ever expect to serve outside the garden? And what day is it…?

Contains: A middle-aged, agender priest set on defying social norms around love; an alloromantic guest with a journey to undergo in conquering her amatonormativity and ableism; and an elderly aromantic priest providing irascible reassurance.

Setting: Marchverse. This story obliquely nods at events referenced in Love is the Reckoning, but it can be read entirely on its own. No prior knowledge of my other stories is needed.

Content Advisory: Depictions and discussions of ableism, amatonormativity and dehumanisation, particularly with regards to autism and aromanticism. Please expect additional background references to partner abuse and dysfunctional relationships, along with a side mention of magic causing harm to animals. This piece also includes reflections on non-romantic love’s being pushed as a second-best “humanising” quality on non-partnerning, aplatonic and neurodiverse aros.

Length: 3, 116 words (part two of two).

Will you ignore their need of someone their own to reassure them that they are so wonderfully and deservedly human?

Continue reading “Fiction: What Makes Us Human, Part Two”

Fiction: What Makes Us Human, Part One

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Moll of Sirenne needs prompts in their girdle book to navigate casual conversations, struggles to master facial expressions and feels safest weeding the monastery’s vegetable gardens. Following their call to service, however, means offering wanderers in need a priest’s support and guidance. A life free of social expectation to court, wed and befriend does outweigh their fear of causing harm—until forgetting the date of a holiday provokes a guest’s ire and three cutting words: lifeless and loveless.

A priest must expand a guest’s sense of human worth, but what do they do when their own comes under question? Can an autistic, aromantic priest ever expect to serve outside the garden? And what day is it…?

Contains: A middle-aged, agender priest set on defying social norms around love; an alloromantic guest with a journey to undergo in conquering her amatonormativity and ableism; and an elderly aromantic priest providing irascible reassurance.

Setting: Marchverse. This story obliquely nods at events referenced in Love is the Reckoning, but it can be read entirely on its own. No prior knowledge of my other stories is needed.

Content Advisory: Depictions and discussions of ableism, amatonormativity and dehumanisation, particularly with regards to autism and aromanticism. Please expect additional background references to partner abuse and dysfunctional relationships, along with a side mention of magic causing harm to animals. This piece also includes reflections on non-romantic love’s being pushed as a second-best “humanising” quality on non-partnerning, aplatonic and neurodiverse aros.

Length: 4, 946 words (part one of two).

You think love is what makes us human, if you must choose one quality?

Continue reading “Fiction: What Makes Us Human, Part One”

Fiction: When Quiver Meets Quill, Part Two

Banner image for When Quiver Meets Quill. Banner features black handwritten type on a mottled green background with two green feathers and a black pencil. A translucent overlay of the dark green/light green/white/grey/black aromantic flag sits underneath the text. Text, feather and pencil images are boldly outlined in various shades of green and white.

Alida Quill is just fine spending hir holidays alone with a book if it means freedom from hir family’s continued expectation to court and wed. When hir co-worker Ede sets hir up with a friend and won’t take no for an answer, Alida plots an extravagant, public refusal scene to show everyone once and for all that ze will not date. Ever.

Ze doesn’t expect to meet Antonius Quiver, a man with his own abrupt, startling declarations on the subject of romance.

It isn’t courting if he schemes with hir to pay back Ede … is it?

Contains: One autistic, aromantic organiser extraordinaire armed with coloured ink; one autistic, aromantic officer a little too prone to interrupting; and an allistic friend in want of better ways to go about introductions.

Content Advisory: Aromantic characters pressed into dating along with casual references to general amatonormativity and ableism.

Links: PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 3, 335 words (part two of two).

I believe that Ede didn’t mention the other’s aromanticism to either of us?

Continue reading “Fiction: When Quiver Meets Quill, Part Two”

Fiction: When Quiver Meets Quill, Part One

Banner image for When Quiver Meets Quill. Banner features black handwritten type on a mottled green background with two green feathers and a black pencil. A translucent overlay of the dark green/light green/white/grey/black aromantic flag sits underneath the text. Text, feather and pencil images are boldly outlined in various shades of green and white.

Alida Quill is just fine spending hir holidays alone with a book if it means freedom from hir family’s continued expectation to court and wed. When hir co-worker Ede sets hir up with a friend and won’t take no for an answer, Alida plots an extravagant, public refusal scene to show everyone once and for all that ze will not date. Ever.

Ze doesn’t expect to meet Antonius Quiver, a man with his own abrupt, startling declarations on the subject of romance.

It isn’t courting if he schemes with hir to pay back Ede … is it?

Contains: One autistic, aromantic organiser extraordinaire armed with coloured ink; one autistic, aromantic officer a little too prone to interrupting; and an allistic friend in want of better ways to go about introductions.

Content Advisory: Aromantic characters pressed into dating along with casual references to general amatonormativity and ableism.

Links: PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 2, 261 words (part one of two).

I don’t date, court, woo or pay suit to anyone.

Continue reading “Fiction: When Quiver Meets Quill, Part One”

Aro: Language, Identity and Reflection

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

I’m K. A. Cook. I run several accounts with “aro” in the title: Aro Worlds on Patreon and WordPress, @aroworlds on Tumblr, @alloaroworlds on Tumblr, @aroflagarchive on Tumblr and Aro Arrows on WordPress.

Aro, the shortened version of aromantic, is a significant part of my creativity, my identity, my self-expression and my digital noms de plume.

After a few years of identifying only as aromantic, I now name myself arovague, idemromantic and nebularomantic. I need the specificity of these micro-identity terms, because a general word like aromantic doesn’t always fit my identity and these words better centre my autism in how I understand aromanticism, romance and attraction. Having the truth of these more-specific ways of identifying my aromanticism lets me again feel comfortable with “aro” and “aromantic”, even if I no longer define myself by an absence of romantic attraction instead of an absence of alloromantic understandings of romantic attraction.

I can identify myself in relation to a larger group of people with whom I have similarities in not being wholly and permanently alloromantic: aro and aromantic. I can identify myself in relation to a smaller sub-group of people that more closely share my aromantic experiences: nebularomantic, arovague, idemromantic. One speaks to a broader coalition, a category of experiences; one speaks to specific ways of experiencing and understanding my aromanticism.

I’m not, in this post, speaking for any other aro. I’m giving voice to my fears and beliefs; I’m sharing and explaining the decisions I have made concerning language and identity. Just as no other aromantic has my relationships to my identities, neither have I seen another aromantic voice my exact experiences of alienation and connection. You don’t need to agree with my conclusions, but I do ask that you respect them.

So I’ll begin with this declaration: I am aro and aromantic.

I will no longer identify myself, my projects, my communication or my community with the term “aro-spec”.

Continue reading “Aro: Language, Identity and Reflection”

Hallo, Aro: Loveless – K. A. Cook

Cover image for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aromantic Flash Fiction. Cover features dark pink handwritten type on a mottled green background with a large line-drawn peacock feather, several sketch-style leaves and swirly text dividers. Green arrows sit underneath each line of text. A translucent overlay of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold alloaro flag sits underneath the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: A disabled, pansexual, aromantic cis man discussing the reasons why the phrase “I don’t love” encompasses his platonic and familial relationships.

Content Advisory: Non-detailed mentions of death, war, violence, abuse, cissexism and suicidal ideation. More detailed references to off-page ableism and abuse, including a parent’s breaking of an autistic child’s stim toy. Depictions of heterosexism and heterosexist slurs/sex negative language.

Links: PDF, EPUB and MOBI files are also available for download from Patreon.

Length: 1, 000 words / 4 PDF pages.

Note: This story takes place between The Eagle Court stories A Prince of the Dead and The King of Gears and Bone. I always planned to elaborate on Paide’s statement of love later in the series (and have done so in the drafts of the sequel novel, Birds of a Feather). The need for empowering, sympathetic fictional representation of loveless aros and aros with complicated relationships to love, however, provoked me to tell this story now.

It may help new readers to know that the narrator is a revenant, ensorcelled by the necromancer he fought.

Little does this world hate more than a loveless man, save perhaps a loveless woman.

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Loveless – K. A. Cook”

I Am Not Voldemort: An Essay on Love and Amatonormativity

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Content Advisory: Discussions of and references to love, amatonormativity, ableism, neurodiversity, autism, familial abuse and partner abuse.

This June, I saw an increasing number of positivity and support posts for the aromantic and a-spec communities discussing the amatonormativity of “everyone falls in love”. I agree: the idea that romantic love is something everyone experiences, and is therefore a marker of human worth, needs deconstruction.

Unfortunately, a majority of these posts are replacing the shackles of amatonormativity with restrictive lines like “everyone loves, just not always romantically”, referencing the importance of loving friends, QPPs, family members and pets. Sometimes it moves away from people to encompass love for hobbies, experiences, occupations and ourselves. The what and how tends to vary from post to post, but the idea that we do and must love someone or something, and this love redeems us as human and renders us undeserving of hatred, is being pushed to the point where I don’t feel safe or welcome in my own aromantic community. Even in the posts meant to be challenging the more obvious amatonormativity, it is presumed that aros must, in some way, love.

I’ve spent weeks watching my a-spec and aro communities throw neurodiverse and survivor aros under the bus in order to do what the aromantic community oft accuses alloromantic aces of doing: using their ability to love as a defence of their humanity. Because I love, they say, I also don’t deserve to be a target of hatred, aggression and abuse.

But what if I don’t love?

What if love itself has been the mechanism of the hatred and violence I have endured?

Why am I, an aro, neurodiverse survivor of abuse and bullying, still acceptable collateral damage?

Continue reading “I Am Not Voldemort: An Essay on Love and Amatonormativity”