Review: “Making Love” by Aidan Wayne

makinglove_500x750

This is another novella I’m reviewing for Asexual Fiction from Riptide Publishing Month.

What’s the story, Wishbone?

No, just no. Do not put that theme song in my head.

Fine, go ahead and write your own blurb, just like you typically do for these reviews.

Carla is a cupid working for Aphordite Agency. She has amazing aim for shooting her love arrows, but she is terrible at chemistry, which is why she kept on shooting arrows at an aromantic person. Then she sees a succubus, Leeta, come to the agency, looking for romantic love, and Carla’s boss is all like “No, you’re a succubus, we won’t help succubi find True Love because succubi just want easy meals, now GET OUT YOU SUCKY SUCCUBUS!!!!” This goes against Carla’s values – of course everyone deserves a chance at True Love. Thus, she makes it her mission to find True Love for Leeta.

What sexual and/or violent content is there in this story?

There is a sexual scene … whether it is a sex scene depends on how one defines such things. Also, one of the main characters is a succubus.

There is no violent content (unless a cupid shooting love arrows at people counts as violence).

Tell me more about this story.

It is, in a sense, a romantic comedy. At least, it follows some of the common rules of romantic comedies, such as when a matchmaker tries to make a match for someone else, and they keep on rejecting the matches, and the matchmaker actually feels relieved that the matches aren’t working out, you know what’s going to happen…

I actually don’t have much to say about the story.

Asexuality?

There are hints in the story that Carla is asexual, but it’s never stated explicitly, and even if Carla is asexual, well, I find the way this story presents aromanticism to be much more interesting.

Okay then, aromanticism?

On the aromantic content scale (1 = least aromantic content, 10 = most aromantic content), I rate this story as being a 3. Whereas the words ‘asexual’ and ‘ace’ are never used in the story, the word ‘aromantic’ is used multiple times. In fact, I am 80% certain that this is the first fiction story over 5,000 words I’ve read which uses the word ‘aromantic’ but does not use the words ‘asexual’ or ‘ace’.

At the beginning of the story, the anecdote of Carla futile usage of love arrows on an aromantic girl establishes that aromantic people exist.

In the story, succubi are stereotyped as all being aromantic, and this is why the agency does not even bother to try to find love matches for them. This is clearly the inverse of the situation of aromantic people – it is assumed that humans, as opposed to, say, robots or aliens from outer space, are alloromantic. At the end of the story, this comes out:

Yes! Yes, while it seems as though it’s a rarer phenomenon, what with them being an aromantic species on the whole, it looks as though romantic Sparks might be found in as many as one percent of all succubi and incubi. Statistically, that’s right around how many aromantic people exist in the world of the romantically inclined. Which is a pretty big number!

Now … is Carla aromantic? It is stated repeatedly throughout the story that Carla is bad at chemistry, and it’s hinted at that it is because she does not actually understand romance. Hmmm. And then there is this bit:

“Mm.” Leeta shifted on the couch, recrossing her legs and curling her tail. “Have you ever been in love?”

“Oh, me?” Carla laughed and waved a hand. “No, not yet. But that’s okay! A lot of cupids are late bloomers anyway.”

That bit made me think ‘hmmm’. The following passage makes it seem that Carla wants to want ‘love’ rather than simply want ‘love’.

And here we get to the mess that is discussions of ‘love’ in English. In contemporary English, ‘love’ is often assumed to mean ‘romantic love’ even when the context does not suggest that. And since this is a story about a cupid whose job is to spark romances, her culture is hyper-amantonormative.

But she does fall in love with Leeta, described thus:

Leeta was in love with her. And Carla could feel her own love pinging back to meet it. It made her feel very brave.

Is Carla romantically attracted to Leeta? Is the love she feels romantic? As a reader, I’m not sure. However, given the way Carla described her previous experience of never feeling ‘in love’ (romantic love?) for people, I suspect she is somewhere under the greyromantic umbrella.

Was this written by an asexual?

I don’t know.

Was this written by an aromantic?

I don’t know.

Hey Sara, do you like this story?

Yes, I do.

One may buy this from the Riptide Publishing Store or various eBook retailers.

The Most Different Kinds of Ace Characters I Can Think of

This is for the January Carnival of Aces – Many Ways to Be Ace.

As anyone who has been following my blog for the past few months knows, I’ve been binge-reading ace fiction lately. So, in response to the prompt, I was thinking ‘which of these ace characters is the MOST different from the others?’

Of course, there are many ways characters can be different from each other. A 6000 year old elf who lives in Seattle in 2013 is really different from a human detective for hire who lives on a different planet in an age of interplanetary travel, but that’s not the kind of difference which I consider interesting for this kind of question.

Going through the list from the prompt – “ethnicity, religion, romantic orientation, gender, background, career, etc.”

1) Ethnicity – a plurality of the ace characters in the fiction I’ve been reading lately are white people from the United States who seem to identify more strongly with whiteness than ethnicity.
Now, here it’s tricky. I don’t want to imply that USA-white people who do not identify strongly with an ethnicity are a default, and that everyone else who deviates from that, whether they are white people who do identify with an ethnicity (Italian-American, for example), or who are not white, or who are not American, are some deviation from that default. On the other hand, there is a reason why lists such as ‘Murder Mystery Stories with POC protagonists’ are more useful than lists such as ‘Superhero Stories with white protagonists from the USA’.
So, to acknowledge that being white from the USA is not at all a default, I will throw in one story with a white-from-the-USA ace character: Crush.
Then, I offer a list of characters from stories who are either a) white yet non-American or b) are not white (note: this list is not exhaustive because characters’ ethnicities are not always clear OR I’ve forgotten):
Ball Caps and Khakis, ace character is Korean-American
Candy Land, ace character is from post-USA North America (i.e. the United States no longer exists as a nation)
Fourth World, ace characters are Martians, one of the Martians is of Mexican descent
Blank Spaces, ace character is white Canadian
The Painted Crown, ace character is from pseudo-medieval-Europe
We Go Forward, ace character is white Australian
To Terminator With Love, ace character is Asian-American (most likely Chinese-American, but it would not have made much of a difference to the story if the ace character were, say, Malagasy-American as opposed to Asian-American)
The Life and Death of Eli and Jay, ace character is Siksika (a First Nation ethnicity in Canada)
The Zhakieve Chronicles, both ace characters are from (and live in) pseudo-medieval-Eastern-Europe
Open Skies, ace character lives in space opera with fictional planets
Quicksilver, ace character is Canadian and, well, to say more would be spoilerish.

2) Religion – the religion for most of the ace characters in the fiction I’m reading is not defined. The only ace fiction story I’ve read in which religion is significant to the story is “Cold Ennaline”.

3) Romantic Orientation Aha! Jackpot! Most of the ace fiction stories I’ve been reading are published by LGBTQ+ presses which require or at least strongly encourage romance. Thus, it is no surprise that the most common romantic orientation in the stories I’ve been reading is homoromantic. Even though most of the LGBTQ+ presses would accept a M/F romance as long as the characters are not cishet (for example, an M/F romance featuring trans characters), they definitely publish way more same-sex romances, even for ace characters. In fact, I can’t think off hand of any fiction stories I’ve read with a heteromantic or biromantic ace character off-hand (though maybe I’ll remember something later). As far as, say, demiromantic, or quoiromantic … well, there are characters which arguably fit those labels, but none that I would feel confident putting on a list.
There have been a few stories with aromantic characters, which I will list here:
“Any Way the Wind Blows”
Open Skies
Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story
Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart
“The Galloway Road” (actually, I’m not sure, but IIRC, the character seemed aromantic)
We Go Forward

4) Gender – well, some ace characters are (cis) male and some are (cis) female. More male characters than female characters (probably because I’ve been mostly drawing from LGBTQ+ presses, and they publish so much more M/M than anything else it’s ridiculous), but still plenty of ace female characters to choose from. The only genderqueer ace character I’ve encountered in fiction so far is Blake in the Assassins series. I’ve only read the first book, in which Blake is just a minor character and SEEMS to be male, but the second book supposedly reveals that Blake is actually intersex, agender, and greysexual.

5) Background – this one is so broad I am not even going to try.

6) Career – hmmmm. I don’t want to list out all of the different careers I’ve seen ace characters have, so I’ll just select a few which jump out at me.
Blank Spaces – art gallery worker / painter
“Any Way the Wind Blows” – farming
Assassins: Discord – assassin (which is what one might expect from a novel called ‘ASSASSINS’)
To Terminator With Love – electrical engineering student at MIT
“Bender” – BDSM rent boy (notable mainly because rent boy is a rather unusual career for an asexual to pursue)

7) etc. – in here, I am going to put in Personality.
Ace characters in fiction tend to be intellectual, not be very social, not have many friends, be ‘introverts’, tend to be emotionally reserved, etc. To be fair, a lot of people who identify in real life as ‘ace’ are also like this. However, I like seeing ace characters … who are not like that. I’d like to see more ace characters who are loud, bold, brash, socially engaged, etc. – which I suppose I could sum up as being ‘extroverted’ (though I don’t particularly like the term).
Here is a list of stories where the ace character breaks out of the most common personality molds of ace characters in some sense:
How to Be a Normal Person (ace character is more sociable and socially engaged than the non-ace protagonist)
Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart (ace character thinks acting like a vigilante – including shooting people with his gun and interrogating witnesses even though he is not a law enforcement officer – is a good idea)
“As Autumn Leaves” – ace character used to be a cheerleader, and though she has a lack of friends, that is not due to her social inclinations

So, there you go. I hope that this is useful, or at least interesting, to somebody.

Review: Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story

The cover of Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story by Janine A. Southard

This review is part of my month of asexual fiction from Smashwords.

What is this story about?

Morena, a 40-year old Brazilian-American, lives in Seattle (year 2013) with her cocaine-using roommate Suzyn and works in logistics and distribution for Starbucks. Both Morena and Suzyn go to story-gaming meetups, where they hand out with Magic Guy, who they believe is a regular human, but is in fact a 6,000 year old elf. Morena gets an iPhone from her ex-boyfriend who had kept on fetishizing her Latin-ness and forgetting that she doesn’t speak Spanish (she speaks English and Portuguese). What Morena doesn’t know is that it is a magic iPhone which will compel her to keep on using dating apps to meet guys, even when it is clear that it is not good for her.

What the *****?

The story is called “Cracked”, okay? It is obviously an example of crackfic as original fiction (as opposed to fan fiction).

By the way, you put in five stars, not four, in your question.

I put in FIVE stars because it’s supposed to replace a FIVE letter word.

Well, I suppose there is no problem with using five letter swear words instead of four letter swear words. Assuming that what you are blocking out with stars is in fact a swear word.

What sexual and/or violent content is there in this story?

There is no sex in this story, and … not much discussion of sexual topics, actually. There are guys who try to hit on Morena in creepy ways, such as asking her to take a shower with them, and sometimes there is sexual innuendo in the jokes, but that’s what I can think of off hand. As far as violence, hmmmm, there is a prank which ends up killing a innocent woman in 19th century England.

I thought you said the story takes place in Seattle in the year 2013.

I also pointed out that this is essentially crackfic.

So tell me more about this crack-original-fic.

Contrary to the title, it’s really more about Seattle than iPhones (magic or otherwise). On the one hand, I have never been to Seattle, or anywhere in the western United States north of Eugene, Oregon. On the other hand, I was born on the West Coast of north America and have spent most of my life here (I am going to define ‘West Coast’ as everywhere between San Diego and Juneau, including coastal British Columbia). So in some ways, the culture of Seattle as presented in this story is familiar because I am from West Coast culture, and in some ways it is not familiar. So I found the ways it was familiar-yet-unfamiliar to be interesting.

A lot of the prose is like this:

There are few things in the world more relaxing than curling up with a mug of tea and watching horrible TV on Netflix while you fiddle with a smartphone or laptop and chat with a friend. Some people believe that’s too much to do all at once, but those people are all too old to have done collaborative homework over the phone (or, at least, don’t have as many attention issues as does the author of this book).

I recognize that this style is intentional, and that this novel wouldn’t be what it is without it. At the same time, I sometimes felt that it went too far for me, and that I would have preferred this aspect of the novel to have been pared down.

The major theme of this book is that friendship can be more valuable than romance. This point is hammered in when Morena, during a crisis, tells her friends that she needs a romantic partner because she needs someone who will always be there. She persists in believing that a romantic partner will be the one who will always be there, in spite of the fact that her friends are there to support her through her crisis, and her boyfriend is not. It’s ironic.

Asexuality?

I actually think this novel is more relevant to aromanticism than asexuality (especially since the moral of the story is ‘friendship can be more valuable than romance’). That said, on the asexuality scale (1 = least asexual content, 10 = most asexual content) I would rate this novel as a 2.

The aromantic asexual character is Magic Guy. Yep, it’s the non-human character. However, even the asexual readers who get annoyed with the frequency that asexual characters are non-human admit that the trope can be done well and that it’s not necessarily a bad depiction of asexuality. I would put this is the ‘not bad’ category.

The first mention of Magic Guy’s asexuality is in Chapter 2:

“Besides,” said Morena, “you’ve never tried to pick me up.”

Magic Guy laughed. “I wouldn’t. I’m asexual and aromantic, so it seems horribly unlikely.”

“Of course,” said Morena, oh-so-put-upon. “All the good ones are taken, gay, or ace.”

It is mentioned again in Chapter 14:

“I know.” She sat up and twisted to look at him, her eyebrows screwed together in confusion and slight derision. As if to say duh! Though he was pretty sure kids didn’t say that anymore. “You said you were ace.” Which was true, he had told both Suzyn and Morena that he identified as asexual way back in Chapter Two – Let You Tell Me a Story.

Magic Guy, at one point, is in a situation where a father has caught him with his daughter, and the father is angry at him because he believes that Magic Guy has stained his daughter’s honor, and it’s treated as humorous that an asexual aromantic guy is accused of disturbing a young woman’s sexual purity.

Oh, and there is also this:

He shrugged, and if it was more bravado than surety, no one had to know. “What’s the worst it can do to me? Make me go on a date?”

They both laughed at the idea of an asexual aromantic being forced to go on a date.

The writer herself has said here:

I like to think, though, that by adding characters who are ace-spectrum, more readers will see that as a normal state that coexists with the mainstream. I once had a reader tell me that he’d never heard the term “ace” for asexual before reading one of my books. (This one isn’t YA, but does have an explicitly asexual character: Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story.)

Was this written by an asexual?

Janine A. Southard is demisexual.

Hey Sara, do you like this novel?

I … suppose I do. The style did annoy me at times, and I wish that it were about 25% shorter, but I guess even with the aspects I didn’t like, I still like this novel overall.

One may buy this novel from Smashwords and various other book retailers.

I do not need more privacy as an asexual, but the privacy I want is a bit different

The call for submissions for this month’s Carnival of Aces with the theme of ‘privacy’ includes this prompt:

-Do you think privacy or the right to privacy is more important to you than it would be for another sexuality or for someone who identifies as straight?

My short answer is ‘no’. I think privacy would be just as important to me if I had a different sexuality, even if I were heterosexual. However, just because I don’t think asexuality affects how important privacy to me is, it does affect which kinds of privacy are more important to me.

For example, I don’t have sex, and I think the fact that I am asexual is a major reason for my lack of sexual activity. Most people, at least in my culture, strongly prefer to have sex in private, and generally seek much more privacy for their sexual activities than I do for my, say, reading activities. That includes finding spaces to actually do the deed (I am way more okay with reading in public than most people are with having sex in public) as well willingness to discuss in detail (I am way more okay with discuss my reading habits in detail than many people are with discussing their sexual activities in detail). There is a need for some level of privacy with reading habits – see this about the US Patriot Act and Libraries to learn a bit more about that – but generally, people consider privacy around sex to be more important than privacy around reading. One of the effects of this is that I have a higher tolerance of communal living than a lot of other adults (of course in much of East Asia, people tend to live communally yet pay for privacy for sexual activity by going to motels – even motels which don’t market themselves as ‘love’ motels often charge a separate rate for staying at the motel for just an hour or two than for staying overnight).

However, the fact that I am asexual, and in particular, because I am aromantic, I keep some things private which I might otherwise not keep private. I generally don’t mind if people know I am asexual or aromantic (with some exceptions) but I usually do not reveal that I am an aro/ace because I do not want to go through the tiresome Asexuality 101 / Aromanticism 101 when I don’t expect to have a close relationship with someone. Generally, if I do not volunteer information, people just assume that I am straight and don’t ask much about it. However, on some occasions, I will dodge certain questions because I want to avoid explaining that I am aromantic (for me, aromanticism tends to be the sticking point more than asexuality).

This is, of course, a reflection of my individual situation, not a representative portrait of asexual experiences with privacy.

In short, I don’t think asexuality affects how important privacy is to me, but it does influence what I keep private and what I do not.

Thoughts on Relationship Anarchy

This is for the November 2016 Carnival of Aces.

Like many people in the asexual blogosphere, I was introduced to the concept of Relationship Anarchy via The Thinking Aro (which was then called The Thinking Asexual), and traced it from there back to Andie Nordgren. At the time, I thought it was interesting and cool theory.

However, it has the classic problem which Yogi Berra describes thus: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

The theory of relationship anarchy – at least as it is described in Andre Nordgren’s manifesto which I linked above – is vague enough that it is easy to project whatever one wants to project onto it. As an aromantic asexual who isn’t interested in coupled relationships, what I like to project onto it is a refusal to consider sexual-romantic coupled relationships the most important personal relationships. However, when getting into deeper discussions on relationship anarchy, it becomes clear that people interpret it in different ways. For example, in this post, Sciatrix says:

One of the things that bugs me about “relationship anarchy” is that you just can’t devote equal amounts of emotion and time to everybody in your life. I don’t have all that much free time, honestly, and I have even less that I really want to spend socializing. There are only so many relationships I am capable of maintaining at a time, and I’m going to invest more energy into the ones that are really super important to me. And that’s okay.

Thus, Sciatrix interprets relationship anarchy as being about devoting “equal amounts of emotion and time to everybody in your life”. It’s understandable that Sciatrix rejects that, but I think just about any proponent of ‘relationship anarchy’ rejects that too because it is utterly and obviously impractical.

However, in the comments to that post, we find:

I don’t think relationship anarchy requires spending equal time with everyone- in fact, I’d question why we judge a relationship’s value by how much time we spend with it. I think relationship anarchy is more about seeing your relationships as not comparable. A relationship where I go out once a month with philosophy friends and discuss papers is fundamentally different from this other relationship where I cuddle and watch a movie once a week with a person, and they (either because of the activities, or more likely the people in them) are too different for me to compare and rank in a meaningful way- even if I spend a lot more time in and maintaining the cuddle/movie relationship.

Thus, Captain Heartless interprets relationship anarchy as being about not comparing and ranking relationships. I am not sure how that concept of relationship anarchy is useful. After all, most people who value sexual-romantic relationships about all feel that it is natural, so if you tell them ‘don’t compare/rank relationships’ they’ll say ‘of course I don’t compare/rank relationships’ and then continue to ‘naturally’ treat sexual-romantic relationships as being more important that other kinds of relationships.

Another comment on that post is:

Also, my understanding of RA is it doesn’t rank significant relationships, not not ranking relationships at all. Granted, an acquaintance I’m on good terms with is less important to me than my SOs, and a common friend is somewhere in between. I think the spirit of RA is not ranking relationships based on arbitrary rules, e.g. “My husband’s needs always come first, because marriage should be the #1 priority.” However, if you just naturally click better with one person than another and see the former as more important, that’s totally okay.

So, according to Eponine, relationship anarchy still ranks relationships – it distinguishes between ‘significant’ and non-significant relationships. Eponine herself lists three categories – significant other, common friend, and acquaintance. She says that what distinguishes relationship anarchy from mainstream approaches is that it’s not based on ‘arbitrary rules’.

See what I mean about people interpreting relationship anarchy however they want, and ending up with such different interpretations of relationship anarchy that they are not talking about the same thing?

Anyway, how does relationship anarchy work out in practice? I do not have personal experience with putting ‘relationship anarchy’ into deliberate practice, but what I’ve read about people describing their own experiences with relationship anarchy tend to be negative. The most detailed writing I have found in this vein is Rotten Zucchini’s series, including this post.

In conclusion, I find ‘relationship anarchy’ to be too vague to be useful.

Some Thoughts on What I Like and Don’t Like in Fictional Romance

Generally, when writing all the reviews of asexual fiction I’ve been doing lately, I try to avoid reading reviews written by other people so that what I write reflects more purely what I think and feel about the story. I sometimes make exceptions (especially if I was on the fence about buying a story in the first place, and looked at reviews to make the final call). However, after I wrote this review of The Painted Crown, I decided to go to Goodreads and see what other people say.

It turns out, all of the other reviewers have very different opinions from mine. Now, that’s partially because this story was just released, and most of the people who would have read it this soon were probably already fans of Megan Derr’s writing. I, on the other hand, had never read anything by Megan Derr before, and I read this so quickly because a) I had pre-ordered it and b) I was excited about reading a 70,000+ word story about asexual characters. Over time, as more readers who are not fans of Megan Derr’s writing post reviews, the range of opinions may grow wider.

The comment which most struck me was this:

However, the slow burning love between them is very rewarding. I love how the tension between them drove me quite mad and I needed them to kiss so very, very bad.

As anyone who read my review knows, I found the ‘slow burning love’ the opposite of rewarding. And I cannot think of a single time I have ever “needed” fictional characters “to kiss so very, very bad” – not just in this novel, in *any* story.

So I was thinking about it. There are some fictional romances I have enjoyed a LOT, but I cannot think of a single example where I enjoyed watching characters develop romantic interest in each other. Sometimes, when characters are developing romantic interest in each other WHILE something really interesting is happening, it works for me, but it is due to the really interesting thing that is happening, not the ‘budding feelings’ of the characters.

The romance stories I do like are about characters who already *know* they have strong feelings for someone (even if they have not quite pinned down what those feelings are), and are trying to figure out what to do about those feelings. An example of a romance I like is Viola/Orsino from Twelfth Night, or What You Will. We never see Viola fall in love with Orsino, she simply declares (to the audience, not any other character in the play) at the end of Act I, Scene iv, that she wishes she could marry Orsino. Then, during the play, we watch her deal with those feelings. Also, I enjoy Viola/Oliva because that pairing is clearly doomed and inspires me to eat popcorn.

Oddly, I generally buy the ‘love at first sight’ trope. That may seem odd for an aromantic asexual like me, but the thing is, I sometimes have felt a strong personal connection to people as soon as I met them. It wasn’t a romantic connection, but it does not feel ridiculous to me that people could have a strong romantic connection to someone they’ve just met. And in practice, thinking about stories I like vs. stories I don’t like, I strongly prefer the “fall in love at first sight” trope than tales of “slow burning romance” – the “first sight” trope conveniently cuts out the part of romance stories which I am generally least interested in.

Maybe this is why I’ve never been able to finish reading Pride and Prejudice. I really don’t care whether Elizabeth continues to be prejudiced and Darcy continues to be proud.

Another kind of romance story I enjoy is where the protagonists have a relationship which would be interesting even if it were non-romantic. I can enjoy the interesting non-romantic relationship without needing it to be romantic at all, and if it turns romantic later in a way which fits the story, well, I can often continue to enjoy the ride (caveat: if it is going to turn into a romance, I’d like it to at least be heavily foreshadowed in advance – I don’t like getting 80% of the way through a story, thinking about how lovely it is that a woman and a man were able to work together without it being romantic, only for it to suddenly become romantic at the end). An example of this kind of romance story is – if you have been reading this blog for years, you can probably guess which example I am going to cite – Yang Guo and Xiaolongnü in Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ. They knew each other for years before they became lovers, but their relationship as teacher/student was interesting in it’s own right (and very abusive – at one point Xiaolongnü threatens to kill Yang Guo because she thinks that she is dying and does not want him to outlive her) and would have continued to be interesting even if their relationship had never become romantic.

Oh, and I also tend to enjoy trainwreck romances like Viola/Olivia mentioned above.

However, what most boggles me is the “I needed them to kiss so very, very bad” part. Why are people invested in whether characters who do not already have romantic feelings for each other develop romantic feelings for each other? I can understand being invested in whether two characters who are already in love with each other manage to have a happy romance – I can get invested in that too – but wanting people who don’t already have those feelings for each other to have a romance together? That does not compute for me.

Consider my experiences as an aromantic woman. I have never wanted to enter a romantic relationship. However, countless people have told me that I ought to have a romantic relationship, that it would make me happy, that it’s inevitable, blah blah blah. Therefore, I feel that telling any living person who they should have romantic feelings for is extremely rude, and even with fictional characters, I find it unpleasant. Just to be crystal clear: when dealing with fictional characters, rather than real living people, I do not think people who enjoy ‘shipping’ or whatever have to stop doing that. However, it is still something I do not enjoy.

So how does that tie back to my reaction to The Painted Crown? As always, I did not mind if the protagonists never had romantic feelings for each other indefinitely, therefore there was no ‘tension’ for me in that. Okay, I was invested in innocent children not getting hurt, however nobody objected to the marriage, and the protagonists did not seem to have any significant struggle with that, so that was boring.

That is not to say that such stories about people gradually falling in love with each other are bad or wrong or anything, it’s fine for the readers who do find it appealing. It is just something which is not appealing to me.

Review: We Go Forward by Alison Evans

The cover of We Go Forward by Alison Evans, which shows the blue silhouettes of various famous tall buildings.

This review is part of the series of reviews of asexual fiction published by LT3 press which I am doing for Asexual Awareness Week. Today is double-review day, and the review of Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart has already been posted. This is the second review of the day, We Go Forward.

So, What Is This Story About?

Rosalyn has never left Melbourne before. Naturally, this means she goes by herself all the way to to the other side of the world, Berlin. She has a hostel booked for a few days, and is going to return to Melbourne in about three months, but other than that, she has no plans.

Christie is also from Melbourne, but she’s been in Europe for about two years, ever since her father died and she inherited his money.

They happen meet each other in Berlin and hit it off.

What Kind of Sexual and/or Violent Content Does This Story Have, If Any?

Basically none. There are references to violence – for example, the protagonists visit Dachau (yes, the concentration camp), but nothing violent or sexual happens in the story itself.

Tell Me More about This Novel

Hmmmm, this is a novel about young women who spent most of their lives in a single English-speaking cosmopolitan city and then went to a different hemisphere for budget travel, and one of them stayed in that hemisphere, in non-English-speaking countries. And one of them is even aware that she is asexual and aromantic. Does this sound like something I’ve done? (For those of you who don’t know me, yes, I spent most of my life in a cosmopolitan English-speaking city, and yes, as a young woman I went to a different hemisphere – alone – and spent a few years living in a non-English-speaking country, and I did this while identifying as asexual and aromantic).

I could relate to a lot of the content of this novel, especially Christie’s POV because I have a lot more in common with her experiences than with Rosalyn’s experiences. Sometimes, that meant I was thinking ‘awww, it’s cute how inexperienced these protagonists are.’ Sometimes, that meant I was thinking ‘hey, this is a little like this thing that happened to me.’ On the one hand, I like the milieu, on the other hand, I am a bit jaded.

I admit that I felt that the ending is a bit … inconclusive. I cannot be more specific than that without getting into spoiler territory.

So, Asexuality?

On the asexuality content scale described in the introduction, I would rate this as a 3.

Asexuality first comes up in the story in this passage, written from Christie’s point of view:

“Sorry,” she says. “You’re not into girls?”

“I’m not into anyone.” I shrug. “I’m asexual, and aromantic.”

“Ohhhh.” She laughs once at herself. “Sorry, my bad. I’m not very good at reading situations.”

“S’fine. I’m actually surprised that I don’t have to explain it to you?”

Usually me coming out is followed by a barrage of weird questions and me leaving, or kicking people out. And the same things repeated: maybe you just haven’t found the blah, blah, blah. Ugh, spare me.

“I might not know a lot, but I know a lot about queer things.” She gives me a knowing look, then drinks more wine.

And I’ve been included in the queer umbrella. I definitely need to be friends with her. Or maybe I need to stop clinging to the first person who isn’t a complete jerk.

So there you have it – Christie is asexual and aromantic.

For the most part, this story is not about asexuality. I suspect that Christie’s loneliness issues have as much to do with her dad being dead as with her asexuality/aromanticism, though being asexual/aromantic is also a contributing factor (and also – this is mostly speculation on my part, since this is not really discussed in the story – maybe Christie’s non-fluency in German is also a factor, though maybe not if most of the Germans/Swiss she has encountered can speak decent English).

There is more to say about how asexuality is depicted in this novel, but as it often is, that’s in spoiler territory.

Was This Written by an Asexual?

I don’t know.

Hey Sara, Do You Like This Story?

Yes, I do. The fact that there are a lot of parallels between my life experiences and Christie’s life experiences definitely complicated my reaction to this story. There is a lot I recognize, which I like. At the same time, there are some major differences between me and Christie (for example, I have never been to the southern hemisphere, let alone Melbourne).

One may get the eBook here and at various other retailers of eBooks, and one may get the print edition here.

Tomorrow will be the final review for Asexual Awareness Week, and instead of reviewing a novel(la), I am going to review a series, The Zhakieve Chronicles by A.M. Valenza.