Fiction: The Vampire Conundrum, Part One

Banner image for The Vampire Conundrum. 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.

When Rowan Ross is pressured into placing an aromantic pride mug on his desk, he doesn’t know how to react when his co-workers don’t notice it. Don’t they realise he spent a weekend rehearsing answers for questions unasked? Then again, if nobody knows what aromanticism is, can’t he display a growing collection of pride merch without a repeat of his coming out as trans? Be visible with impunity through their ignorance?

He can endure their thinking him a fan of archery, comic-book superheroes and glittery vampire movies. It’s not like anyone in the office is an archer. (Are they?) But when a patch on his bag results in a massive misconception, correcting it means doing the one thing he most fears: making a scene.

After all, his name isn’t Aro.

Contains: One trans, bisexual frayromantic alongside an office of well-meaning cis co-workers who think they’re being supportive and inclusive.

Content Advisory: This story hinges on the way most cishet alloromantic people know nothing about aromanticism and the ways many trans-accepting cis people fail to best communicate their acceptance. In other words, expect a series of queer, trans and aro microaggressions. There are no depictions or mentions of sexual attraction beyond the words “allosexual” and “bisexual”, but there are non-detailed references to Rowan’s previous experiences with romance.

Length: 2, 951 words (part one of two).

Note: Rowan’s pride patch exists in real life. I don’t usually write my crafting projects so directly into my stories, but I liked the thought of including it this way during a week (#aggressivelyarospectacular on Tumblr) of celebrating aros who create.

What is pride merch for if not petty passive-aggression in response to allo folks’ amatonormativity?

Continue reading “Fiction: The Vampire Conundrum, Part One”

Hallo, Aro: Monstrous – 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 world where sexual attraction sans alloromantic attraction takes on fangs and teeth–and a pansexual’s aro liberation means accepting monstrosity.

Content Advisory: Depictions of amatonormativity and allo-aro antagonism, along with romance and love mentions, attempted kissing/kissing mentions, physical intimacy and casual sexual attraction mentions.

This story uses the expectation of romantic attraction as a metaphor for what is seen to make one human to reflect and explore amatonormativity and the way allosexual aromanticism is feared as predatory. Please expect a piece that leans into this construct of allo-aro-as-monster and does not consider how this metaphor may apply to non-allosexual aros.

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

Length: 1, 000 words / 4 PDF pages.

Your days are depthless silhouettes of human puppetry.

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

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”

Allo-Aro Manifesto

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-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.

It’s easy to get caught up, in writing about allo-aro experiences with regards the a-spec and aromantic communities, in the same reactionary series of responses: don’t do this, stop doing this, this is why this is erasure, this is why this is sexualisation, this is why this is exclusion.

These conversations are necessary and needed to provoke change.

They’re also exhausting, an expression of frustration and anger that is less about my beliefs and philosophies as an allo-aro and more about challenging or correcting behaviours that harm or erase. They’re exhausting because they’re communications to, for and about the people that hurt me; they’re exhausting because even my feelings, in the end, are about asexuality. They’re beneficial to my allo-aro community in the sense that one allo-aro’s anger and frustration validates others, but they’re not communications that build understanding of what allo-aro is. Asexuality is so centred that even our activism focuses more on what asexuals do and less on what allo-aros are.

This manifesto is about, in part, the allo-aro relationship to the a-spec, aromantic, asexual and allosexual LGBTQIA+ communities. This post also outlines who I am as an allo-aro and what philosophies of identity and behaviour I bring to my dealings with other a-specs and allosexuals. It’s a blueprint, waiting for corrections and adjustments and scribbles in the margins, but it is a picture of something that will one day be.

In this post, I’m speaking to and for an audience often forgotten in allo-aro activism: my allo-aro kin.

Continue reading “Allo-Aro Manifesto”

Catch a Man (Have the Girl) – 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.

Yuissa is the only partner Adelin wants, but survival in Ihrne requires both girls to keep secret their truth. No matter: they’re only a year away from having coin enough to escape to a cottage in Greenstone, a paradise of vegetable gardens, rescued cats and unrestrained affection. They can survive anything until then, right? Yet when Adelin’s worried mother and grandmother plot to solve Adelin’s unwed state by forcing her to court a male acquaintance, Yuissa thinks a beard the only answer.

A queer-seeming bookseller called Nevolin ein Yinne may do, but the process of asking isn’t quite so simple…

Setting: Catch a Man (Have the Girl) takes place a couple of months before Booksellers Who Know Things. It isn’t necessary to have read any of my other works to read this one (although it’s slightly more amusing if you know that Nevo thinks Adelin is sincere about wishing to date him).

Content Advisory: References to and depictions of emotional abuse, amatonormativity, misogyny, heterosexism and ableism; casual references to sex and sexual attraction; and discussions about and depictions of romantic-coded behaviours like embracing, physical intimacy and marriage. It should be noted that this story focuses on the misogyny dealt to women by other women.

Length: 4, 021 words.

Author’s Essay Note: I wanted to post a bonus piece on Patreon for my birthday. So I … started writing six days before said birthday. As this story was meant to be a flash fiction piece and isn’t, editing became the needed sacrifice.

I should mention that I’m uncomfortable with an attitude in some parts of the aromantic community that an alloromantic’s valuing of marriage as important is emblematic of rampant amatonormativity and, therefore, scornful. Marriage is a civil right that has not always been possessed by, and is still not universally possessed by, LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people, people of colour and/or people in multiracial relationships. For many marginalised people, marriage can be symbolic of identity, freedom, equality and hope in ways that have less to do with romantic attraction or romance. While we must and should discuss the ways it enables amatonormativity, we must and should respect its significance for other marginalised people. So I wrote a story about a queer aromantic girl who wants to marry a queer disabled (autistic) girl and finds marriage to be a symbol of her freedom, her strength and her queerness.

I don’t know, as a nebularomantic, if I’ve written a demiromantic or a demialterous/demiqueerplatonic aromantic character. Adelin feels a non-sexual attraction for Yuissa after the development of their close friendship, but the nature of said attraction isn’t something I can easily categorise in fiction or real life. As much as I believe it important to provide specific representation, all I can say here is read this as you will.

Lastly, I want to thank, from the bottom of my loveless aro heart, @the-rose-owl for being so generously encouraging of my writing aro stories that move outside of more standard aromantic themes. I couldn’t have posted this story without your most recent comment on Patreon.

Will Grandmam ever realise that bad girls have more reason than anyone to appear good?

Continue reading “Catch a Man (Have the Girl) – Part One”

Community Inclusion for Allo-Aros: A Guide

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-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.

Many a-specs have a tendency to regard gains in general aromantic inclusion as sufficient for allo-aros, and it’s true to say that decreased antagonism or amatonormativity benefits all aromantics.

Yet allo-aros endure the a-spec and aromantic communities’ ignorance of allo-aro erasure. We endure the unspoken assumption that there’s a clean division between our sexual attraction and our aromanticism, that our allosexuality is best pushed to the side. We endure the belief that there isn’t a problem in how the a-spec community centres asexuality or contextualises allo-aros as either a shape of asexuality or adjacent to it.

When we are told in ways implicit and explicit that our allosexuality doesn’t belong in a-spec spaces, our first fight is to be. How do we create a culture that allows allo-aros to exist without fear of erasure? How do we gain acceptance enough that we too can see our shared home as a shelter and a sanctuary?

Consider this my attempt to create the safety we need with a list of ways any a-spec or aromantic community can become more inclusive of and welcoming to allosexual aromantics.

Continue reading “Community Inclusion for Allo-Aros: A Guide”

DiOW: Jeile

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.

A risky disclosure at the bookstore allows Nevo to welcome another queer to the underground, but Jeile is more mystery than co-conspirator.

Setting: Two years before the beginning of the war referenced in Their Courts of Crows and Maybe When the Bones CrumbleDifferent in Other Ways introduces a brand-new set of characters and circumstances; readers don’t need any familiarity with my other works.

Jeile takes place several months before Booksellers Who Know Things, because I refuse to recognise the validity of something called chronological order.

Content Advisory: Casual swearing; references to classism; references to misogyny, allosexism, cissexism, and heterosexism; casual references to sex and sexual attraction; casual references to asexuality; and depictions of anxiety and avoidant personality disorder as shaped by autism.

Links: Series Master Post | Patreon

Previous: Booksellers Who Know Things | Men Bound by Blood

Length: 3, 351 words.

A quiet day leaves Nevo with a chance to sort, catalogue and price a new lot of books without interruptions from customers. He’ll never admit it, but he finds the work soothing despite its repetition. Take a book, study its condition, check his record books for the prices of similar volumes and notes on rarity, write it in and shelve—preferably, although not always, with other books on the subject. It’s the satisfaction, he supposes, in even small ways of conquering the shop’s tendency to unbridled chaos. He likes cleaning and tidying; he’s never understood, as a son living with his father, why these things are considered unmasculine. What’s unmanly about tolerating unnecessary clutter?

The bell rings as he moves the last of the atlases to their new bottom shelf. Nevo bites back a groan and straightens in time to see a fat person in a plain dress and shawl hesitate just inside the doorway.

“Good mor—noon! Good afternoon. How may I help you?”

Long, straight brown hair falls in a braid down her back; dark eyes rest on scuffed boots peeking out from under the hem of her russet dress and cream petticoats. The dress betrays brighter streaks of red at the bust and side seams where it’s been let out, but it fits her broad chest and heavy arms without bulging or straining, and he sighs in envy. He can darn and patch, salvaging stockings and trousers worn at the knee, but fitting a second-hand shirt large enough for his shoulders without sagging at the waist is a skill beyond him. Is she a seamstress? Something about her looks familiar, but when he thinks back on the tailors, drapers and weavers occupying Devotion Lane, he can’t place her face.

“Good noon.” She doesn’t look up from her boots. Skin midway between olive and sienna darkens at her cheeks and nose, and she clutches a battered leather satchel tight to her side. A braided cord hangs around her neck, damp at the front as though chewed on. Small nose, even teeth, fluttering eyelids, creased brow. Nervous? “I want … I have a list of books. Would you be able to tell me if you have them? Please?”

Her high, stuttering voice sounds a little too clipped for downwall folk, but the clothes are worn by every labouring woman in the Boneyard.

“I can do that, ma’am.” Nevo stays by the shelf, thinking it better if she comes to him, but she flinches as though he moved at her. “I can also take down a list and let you know should we get them in—particularly if you want anything from outside.”

She reaches into the satchel and pulls out a folded, crumpled piece of paper. Only then does she take three steps, moving just far enough that she can extend her hand and let Nevo reach for the sheet, her eyes now fixed on the shelf of atlases. “These ones. Please. It’s for … research. I’m … a student and I’m researching, the, the … the ways of the … their disregard of…”

Nevo takes the list from her fingers, draws his arm back to give her space, unfolds the sheet … and blinks.

Keep reading at Patreon: Jeile