2018 Fiction Master Post

Despite veering from periods of no writing to periods of all the writing, I have managed to end this year by posting or publishing twelve new fictional pieces. A master post collecting all pieces seems appropriate, both in the sense of allowing me to talk a little and making all these pieces easy for readers to find and access.

It seems to me that aromanticism has become an irrevocable presence in my fiction, as central to what I write as being trans and autistic: every single piece features an aromantic-spectrum protagonist (although some works don’t focus on this). For me this sense that I do not have to include something alien to me feels liberating and empowering. It’s frustrating, yes, to struggle to find my place in the literary canon; it’s disheartening to know that eschewing alloromantic experiences is a unrecognised barrier between me and a good many readers. Yet I have this year made an online space that is more receptive of my work, and I can only hope that this keeps on growing.

Thank you to all the folks who have supported me and my art in some way this year, be it through likes or reblogs, linking my work to others or sending me messages: I am truly grateful for your interaction and encouragement.

If you like what I do and have the ability to help me survive in doing it, I’ll remind you all that I have a ko-fi. All digital beverages are gratefully appreciated (although I am baffled by the thought of imbibing real coffee).

Please find below a variety of flash fiction pieces, short stories and novelettes, featuring a collection of queer, disabled, trans, non-binary, autistic and aromantic characters. All these works are free to read!

Cover image for Ringbound by K. A. Cook. Cover shows an eight-pane window set into a cream brick wall above a stone and wood table or bench, with various items sitting on the table--candles in vases, bottles, a large shell, a white vase filled with flowers, two gold rings propped against the vase. The text is written in brown fantasy-style handdrawn type. Through the window, scrubby green trees and a blue-green sky is visible. The subtitle "a marchverse short story" is written in white handdrawn type.Ringbound

Contains: An aromantic, gay, trans autistic lying in bed amidst the growing realisation that he just can’t marry the man who loves him.

Length: 1, 873 words / 6 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: This was the first piece after Old Fashioned, and the first brand-new piece, where I went all-out aromantic. Nothing I’ve written below (especially towards the end of this list) would have happened without this beginning. It was also wonderful to give voice to a feeling I’ve had while in romantic relationships myself–that restless, itchy certitude of this being wrong without the conceptualisation of why.

Read after this: The first chapter of The Crew of Esher Hill, if you want Kit to get the much-needed word aromantic.

Cover for "The Wind and the Stars" by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a night-time scene of black, silhouette-style tree branches against a cloudy sky with a full moon, a lighter halo of cloud surrounding it, in the top centre of the cover. The title text, in white serif and antique handdrawn-style type, is framed by three white curlicues, and a fourth curlicue borders the author credit at the bottom of the cover.The Wind and the Stars

Contains: A non-amorous agender aro-ace protagonist discovering that they can invent the fairy tales that describe their life.

Length: 1, 308 words / 4 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: It’s a fairy tale about the power of story in shaping identity. Communication as identity is always going to be an underlying meta-narrative in my work, speaking as someone who writes because I know what it means to never see myself as a fairy tale hero. I do enjoy those times when I don’t have to be subtle about it, though!

Read before/after this: It’s a blessed standalone piece, unconnected to anything else.

Cover image for The Adventurer King by K. A. Cook. Cover features a red leather-bound journal sitting on a wood panel background, like that of a tabletop or floor, with the text sitting on top of the book image in a gold fantasy-style handdrawn type. Objects sit on top of the book cover: a blue pen with a gold nib dripping ink, a screwed-up piece of white paper, a cream scroll with a green seal, a cream and silver compass, and a piece of rope. A grey single-edged sword blade sits underneath the book, and black handdrawn type atop the blade reads "an efe and darius story". The images have a cartoony, vectory feel.The Adventurer King

Contains: A trans, aromantic, autistic magician who isn’t clear on his sexuality besides complicated, thrust into a job involving a bisexual, allistic, cis royal who will prove beyond Darius’s ability to categorise and possess the irritating ability to flirt with a brick wall.

Length: 11, 322 words / 31 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: When I first drafted this, I didn’t yet know what I was writing about. Coming back to make this fit, now that I’d clued in to my writing Darius as unknowingly aromantic in Certain Eldritch Artefacts, was a rather enjoyable thing. At the time, I thought I wanted to not write Darius’s journey in recognising his aromanticism, so now that I’m more used to writing about being aro, I’m currently working on two stories that depict this. This story is essentially the last book in a trilogy that I’ve written backwards! One day I’ll do things normally, but today is not that day…

Read before this: Certain Eldritch Artefacts, because I can’t fathom reading this without first understanding the belt! Then wait for One Strange Man and Love in the House of the Ravens.

Cover image of The King of Gears and Bone by K. A. Cook. Cover has a waterstained paper background with grey line drawings of the bones of a human hand and wrist, a head of wheat, an acorn, a small dandelion head, a long-legged wire-haired dog and an arrow, with the title written in alternating serif and handdrawn type. The effect is something like a sketch in an antique journal.The King of Gears and Bone

Contains: An aro-ace genderflux autistic with chronic pain, dealing with the pressures of royalty, politics and necromancy. If his brother and his general support him in his becoming king, Ein may bring something new to a tired monarchy. At least before he dismantles it, anyway…

Length: 12, 495 words / 34 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: Confident characters, based on the feedback I’ve gotten in workshops, are desired by readers, which means I rarely see anxious, avoidant characters like myself in fiction. Characters who are trans and autistic and anxious and avoidant and a-spec and experience chronic pain rarely exist, so here’s Ein. This story is set-up for a character arc beginning in the sequel, Birds of a Feather, but seeing where Ein begins and knowing where he ends up pleases me. I want a happy ending for him where he’s always disabled but this can be accommodated, and endings ring happiest when contrasted with shadow.

Read before this: Their Courts of Crows and A Prince of the Dead. Neither are optional in terms of understanding … everything, honestly. Knowing the kind of necromancer Zaishne is helps explain why Ein feels the way he does.

Read after this: If you want a slightly different take on necromancy and the spiritual significance of Saluria and Sillemon, try The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query (set approximately forty-five years earlier). There’s a reason Ein is claimed by, and is currently struggling with, that brace of demons/angels.

Cover for "What If It Isn't" by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a colourful pastel fractal/dripping-glass style background, predominantly peach-orange and light blue. The title text, in black serif and antique handdrawn-style type, is framed by three black curlicues. A fourth curlicue borders the author credit at the bottom of the cover and a fifth forms a frame at the top.What if it Isn’t

Contains: An allosexual, sapphic, greyromantic autistic realising that the girl she’s pretending to date is in love with her.

Length: 2, 100 words / 6 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: This was written for fun over at @aroworlds, so there’s zero research, just snarky observations about ridiculous art and a fluffy happy ending. Writing a contemporary piece meant I got to include my favourite stim toy of all time, the Tangle Jr. I think many autistics understand the intensity of relationship we tend to develop with our Tangles–and who hasn’t wandered through an art gallery while stimming, I ask?

Read before/after this: Nothing, as it’s a stand alone piece.

Fletcher Ace:  Magic and Mermaids

Contains: An aro-ace, genderqueer witch, born and raised to a town of relationship-anarchist aro-aces, struggling to deal with the absurd-seeming solution to a magical drought … but a friendship without expectation of romance might help hir survive it.

Length: 7, 549 words.

Why I liked writing it: Puns. All the puns. I also got to write local sea-side landscapes from my home state and hometown into the setting for this story, something I don’t often get to explore for varying reasons. Additionally, writing a particular, slow, I’m going to keep you all waiting character describes me in so many ways, so I enjoyed giving these qualities to a protagonist who will become, eventually, a legend.

Read before/after this: Nothing. This is set in the Marchverse approximately a hundred years after everything else, meant to kick off a whole new narrative. Just keep in mind that this is the first part to a longer story, not a complete story in its own right.

Cover image for The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query: A Marchverse Short Story by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a cemetery at night, with various tombstones in the foreground, surrounded by grassy rises and green bushes, with a tumbledown stone fence and trees in the background. A lit candle sits on the ground at the front of the cover, showing a glow of orange light illuminating grass and part of a tree branch. Cover and author credit are written in a white, fantasy-style text, the type bright against the dark sky and shadowed leaves.The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query

Contains: A sapphic, allosexual, lithromantic trans woman asking questions of the dead in the hope of finding a solution for her shape of love–only to discover that her forebears are far more diversely aromantic than she or anyone else reckoned on.

Length: 8, 115 words.

Why I liked writing it: It’s hard to go past an “everybody’s on the aromantic spectrum and your shape of romantic attraction is just fine as it is” ending. I think most aro-spec folks have this yearning to find a shared sense of community and family, this sense of people’s having walked that road before us. If we can’t have it now in our offline lives, we can at least have it in fiction.

(Please note that this isn’t yet a proper book, but it will be.)

Read after this: Love is the Reckoning, if you want to understand why Mara’s worried about Esher, although you should keep in mind that Reckoning doesn’t have the same kind of happy ending. If you want a different take on necromancy, you can also read The Eagle Court books.

Cover image of Maybe When the Bones Crumble by K. A. Cook. Cover has a waterstained paper background with grey line drawings of a textured feather, a dandelion head, a spilled ink bottle, a broken pen and an arrow, with the title written in alternating serif and handdrawn type. The effect is something like a sketch in an antique journal.Maybe When the Bones Crumble

Contains: An aro-ace genderflux autistic with chronic pain subject to the dreaded question of “how is your pain?” made worse by the ableist expectations and obligations of politics and royalty.

Length: 4, 945 words / 14 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: I wrote this story for myself about an experience I’ve never seen in fiction. That question is a constant reiteration of am I now abled enough to fulfil the ableist, capitalist social assumptions that determine our self worth in the eyes of others. It’s cruel on its own, but when you’re also trans or autistic or aromantic, it’s an even more poignant reminder of something you can never be–“normal”.

Read before this: Their Courts of Crows and The King of Gears and Bone, as I spend few words on explaining Ein’s situation to new readers.

Cover of Love is the Reckoning: A Marchverse Novelette by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a cartoony-styled indoors tavern scene with a lot of different brown wood textures: wood panelling on the walls, wood floor, a square wood window frame, a crooked wooden table in the centre of the image and a wooden stool and a wooden barrel sitting in front of it. A candle stub sits on the window frame, looking out to dark green trees against a star-lit sky. The table bears beer glasses, a green wine bottle, a brown bottle of spirits, orange liquid in a glass, a plate of biscuits and a plate bearing a wedge of yellow cheese with red rind. A wooden log rests against one side of the window frame, an unsheathed longsword against the other, and a sack sits against the wall underneath the table. A cage bearing a twisted, vine-style plant sits in the top right-hand corner, above the table. Text is written in a white, handdrawn, fantasy-style type.Love is the Reckoning

Contains: A mentally ill, greysexual, aromantic trans man coming home only to discover that his kin’s unquestioned amatonormativity and their inability to support his illnesses are not his worst problems–but he has to survive the horrors of both to find that out.

Length: 11, 561 words.

Why I liked writing it: Aside from a desperate want for more characters shaped by suicide and the casual way of introducing Reggie as a fellow non-amorous a-spec, this story was a way for me to handle a loss of a relative this year. In real life, we don’t often have the chance of a magical solution to terminal illness; I suppose having it as an option here is about trying to remake a difficult situation into something more palatable. A fantasy, both metaphorically and literally.

(Please see above parenthetical on the subject of being an actual book!)

Read before this: The Sorcerous Compendium to Postmortem Query, if you wish to better understand the theme of doing it for Aunt Rosie.

Read after this: The Crew of Esher Hill, but only if you don’t want to slightly spoilered for the events of A Quest of Spheres and Phalanges, which depicts the making of Esher’s deal with the Grey Mages. I’m currently wrapping up the first draft of this beast of a story, but I think Faiza’s introduction will be worth it.

Cover of The Crew of Esher Hill: A Marchverse Serial by K. A. Cook. Cover shows cartoon-style vines, trees, mushrooms and plants in a swamp theme with lots of aqua and blue-green tones for the plants and leaves, and purple-brown tones for stumps and branches, giving everything an uncanny, unnatural feel. A clear, glowing sphere sits on a stump at the bottom right of the cover. Test written in a white, handdrawn, fantasy-style type.The Crew of Esher Hill: Absence of Language

Contains: A lost and bewildered aromantic, gay, trans autistic struggling to cope with abandoning his fiancé, only to find that a stranger has a long-wanted word for just this experience.

Length: 7, 209 words / 20 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: I started this as a happier-ending sequel to Ringbound, where Kit finds the word aromantic gifted to him by a swordsman (as narrated with a certain lack of truthfulness in Old Fashioned). Except I found myself with an new character–Esher, so fearless when it came to touch and physical intimacy, so unlike a-spec coding and cliché. I couldn’t leave Esher as a side character, and I’m so glad I didn’t. I’ll also say that I love writing young Kit: less wise, a little less stubborn, unknowing of so many things we take for granted later. It’s fun writing a character who’s so unformed now when I know the man he’s going to be (for good and ill) in forty-five years.

Read before this: Ringbound and Love is the Reckoning. They’re not required, but Crew will spoiler Reckoning, so read these in order if you care about such things.

Cover image for Hallo, Aro: Allosexual Aromantic Flash Fiction by K. A. Cook. 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.Hallo, Aro: Unspoken

Contains: A genderless allo-aro person contemplating the problem of how to tell hir best friend that ze wishes for a sexual queerplatonic relationship.

Length: 539 words / 2 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: So much aromantic communication happens online that few of us know how to pronounce these words to people in offline verbal conversations. It’s a fundamental aro-spec experience I hadn’t yet had the chance to put into fiction, so it was nice to have somewhere to at least mention this!

Cover image for Hallo, Aro: Allosexual Aromantic Flash Fiction by K. A. Cook. 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.Hallo, Aro: Leaving

Contains: A pansexual aromantic of undisclosed gender enduring alloromantic partners’ expectations of casual sexual relationships evolving into romance–at least until they find another aromantic.

Length: 767 words / 3 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: I said a few weeks ago that I don’t feel the aro-spec community to be particularly welcoming to discussions about sexual attraction and sexual experiences as shaped by aromanticism, so it’s important to me to start writing stories that do just that.

Read before/after this: The Hallo, Aro stories are also standalone pieces, unconnected to anything else.

The works I’d like to finish and publish earlier in 2019, aside from the pieces above awaiting final editions, include A Quest of Spheres and Phalanges, One Strange Man and Love in the House of the Ravens. After that, the long-waiting Truth of the Eyrie. Then, maybe Birds of a Feather. Now that I’ve written that, of course, you’ll get something else entirely, but that’s the plan. We’ll see what actually happens…