2019 Fiction Master Post

I finished two of the pieces mentioned in last year’s master post. I suppose that’s an accomplishment, if we ignore all the name-dropped works that didn’t eventuate?

On the positive side, I’ve been somewhat-regularly posting fiction through the second half of this year. My mental health has been a disaster, I’ve got another new chronic pain site, I’ve tried several new medications, I’ve spent much of this year struggling to sleep even on melatonin, and I’ve had to kiss farewell anything containing gluten … but I have posted a score of stories. That’s something worth celebrating, even as I hope that I never again endure a year imbued with 2019’s chronic sense of despondency.

(I’m hoping that coeliac turns out to be the missing key in the mystery that is my ongoing physical and mental health, because I’m beyond tired of enduring yet another treatment or medication change for no meaningful difference.)

I’ve posted or published a total of 82, 318 words of fiction alone in 2019. I’ve also gotten back into sewing in a major way, between making clothes for my 6 inch mini dolls and pride-flag cross-stitch patches. (There’s even more on Tumblr.) I also made an allo-aro information hub on Aro Worlds, I started a Patreon, and I created Aro Arrows, an archive for aromantic-pride stock images. Making different things (so there’s something I can do when various limbs object to what I mean to do) is how I survive my body and brain, so to talk only in terms of productivity obscures the real pain and struggle 2019 also brought me. But there is also a wondrous selection of things I can say that I made!

(I also changed my pronouns, about which I still haven’t had the time or spoons to write.)

I’m currently working on tutorials for said patches and the publication edition of Love is the Reckoning, but I am desperate to start writing a story (any story) in which I can provide representation for coeliac. Like autism, I have to wonder what my quality of life may have been now had I known earlier–if my doctors hadn’t brushed off the possibility. Diagnosis, again, brings that twinned combination of belated recognition and betrayal. If I can bring awareness to coeliac through my writing in 2020, perhaps I can build a world where people can sooner recognise their symptoms and push for testing.

Thank you, as always, to my supporters: you are in large measure the reason why there’s so many fiction pieces on this list!

I would like, in 2020, to be able to make enough income from my online work that I can afford domain registration and add-free plans for all my websites. If you want to help me with that not-so-lofty goal, please check out my ko-fi and (again) my patreon.

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: Friendship

Contains: A sapphic aromantic who wishes to partner a dragon’s handmaiden without the complications of a romantic relationship, but finds comfort in her friendship with her own dragon.

Length: 993 words / 4 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: There’s an aro-coded dragon…? I like the idea of aro characters finding support in platonic or non-romantic relationships, but I adore writing about aro characters finding support in platonic or non-romantic relationships with other aromantics.

Read after this: Attraction, where Elisa finds a girl and still has no intention of leaving her dragon.

Cover of A Gift of Naming by K. A. Cook. Cover shows cartoon-style tall-trunked trees growing on a green mountain slope with a high green canopy before a blue and grey clouded sky. Brushes and small green shrubs grow at the base of the trees in the foreground. Text is written in a white, handdrawn, fantasy-style type.A Gift of Naming

Contains: A genderless gardener wishing for a name that better describes hir and the trans mother who knows that such gifts should never become obligations.

Length: 1200 words / 4 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: In my real-life interactions with family members, I’ve been forced to compromise on my name because of their hurt at my rejecting something they chose for me. (That my deadname is culturally feminine in the West and a person who says ze isn’t a girl may prefer a less-gendered name is … irrelevant.) It hurts to feel like the name by which I’d prefer to be known is impossible until I am financially secure enough to separate from my family. I needed to write the conversation I wish I’d had–the conversation I deserve to have, the conversation I should have had. This story is trans and non-binary grief given word.

Read before this: This is a rare stand-alone Marchverse piece.

Cover of Love Spells, Rainbows and Rosie: A Marchverse Short Story by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a wooden door set into a wooden wall with a paper sign on the front reading Mara Hill, Witch. Stones, bones and feathers tied to string dangle over the top of the door, along with a creeping vine, and two potted plants sit on either side of a wooden doorstep--white daisies in a bag and orange roses in a brown pot. A straw broom rests propped against one side of the door and a piece of torn paper reading Absolutely No Love Spells sits on the step. Text is written in a white, handdrawn, fantasy-style type.Love Spells, Rainbows and Rosie

Contains: A sapphic, allosexual, lithromantic trans witch enduring the most amatonormative holiday extant–in a small town still in want of open conversations about aromanticism.

Length: 3, 429 words / 10 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: It’s fun to take holidays and give them an aromantic twist, and it’s even more fun to see Mara taking her aromantic knowledge and doing in life for her community what the dead did for her. Plus Mara’s referring to Not-Valentine’s-Day as That Day feels like one of the most aromantic things possible, short of arrow puns and green.

Read before this: The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query, if you’d like to know about that night in the graveyard in which the dead gave speeches about aromantic identity (and Aunt Rosie).

Read after this: Love is the Reckoning, if you want to know why Mara spends a lot of time thinking about Esher.

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: Lucky

Contains: A gay aromantic man dealing with the casual amatonormativity of alloromantics who think they accept his aromanticism.

Length: 992 words / 4 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: I think many out aros have had well-meaning alloromantic allies talk about how “lucky” we are to avoid the trials and tribulations of romance and dating. Having aro characters turn microaggressions into a game feels like the real-life meme of making bingo boards for acts of antagonism or erasure, and there still aren’t too many stories about general aromantic experiences with allo-aro protagonists. I think it just hit a few different boxes of “things common to aro experiences but not yet common in aro fiction”. It was also fun to use a fairy-tale structure for a contemporary story!

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: Attraction

Contains: A sapphic aromantic who fears that her interest in another girl may be best explained by a word she doesn’t wish applied to her–romance.

Length: 989 words / 4 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: This is the beginning of my “what we consider romantic is really bloody arbitrary” revelation, something I find the aromantic community prefers to push aside in favour of narratives where the distinction between romantic and non-romantic is recognisable and uncomplicated. To have someone declare that romance is whatever the fuck I decide it is still feels empowering, as an allo-aro who struggles with the feeling that so much of my allosexuality renders me too romantic to be aro or write with accuracy and honesty about aromantic identity and experience.

Read before this: Friendship, if you want to know why Elisa reassures Azhra that she’ll stay in Tierre.

Love in the House of the Ravens

Contains: An unknowing aromantic who isn’t prepared for his friends’ conclusion about his identity; a verbose eldritch entity stuffed in a saddlebag; an alloromantic trans man who will always be there for his queerplatonic partner; lots of casual polyamory; and some of the many ways autism impacts conversation and connection.

Length: 10, 436 words / 29 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: The language–of touch, of gesture, of verbal shorthand–used between Darius, Akash and Ila in this and future stories is still something that thrills me. Darius has learnt something of Akash and Ila’s expressions; Akash and Ila have learnt something of Darius’s gestures. Allistics working to speak (Darius’s shape of) autism as much as Darius works to speak allism? Consent communicated in ways that don’t require verbal communication? Intimate relationships and demonstrations of physical intimacy that are profoundly non-romantic? This story is about Darius’s learning the word aromantic, but that’s far less interesting to me than the worldbuilding, language, communication and relationships I’ve been able to explore in the course of showing how he learns it.

Read before this: Certain Eldritch Artefacts, if you want to know why there’s references to a magical talking belt.

Read after this: One Strange Man and The Morning After, if you want more Darius, Akash and Ila.

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: Existence

Contains: A queer, pansexual, genderless person dealing with the historical inability to find recognition of hir aromanticism as separate from asexuality.

Length: 915 words / 4 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: This is a slightly-fictionalised depiction of the first half of my aromantic journey. Most narratives with allo-aro characters don’t include or reference our relationship to asexuality and the ways we can, rightly, feel let down by early understandings of aromanticism as not separate from asexuality. It’s important, I think, to express and grieve for that sense of time lost to ignorance, the needed knowledge I could have sooner possessed if only the people with the nascent language knew to speak it to me.

Cover of Bones, Belts and Bewitchments: A Marchverse Collection by K. A. Cook. Cover features a book open to a page on a wooden table, showing the title text written in antique black ink as if the book's own title page. The page is stained, inspotted and discoloured as if to show age.Kin of Mind (Patreon Exclusive)

Contains: A library in some disarray; a young magician on a quest; a dragon reflecting on hir past human attendants; and a mythology celebrating the similarities between dragons and autistics.

Length: 4, 047 words / 12 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: Autistic dragons with a mythology that suggests autistic humans are autistic because they’re closer to the nature of the long-lost human gods, who once kept companionship with dragon gods before continuing on their wandering ways. I don’t mean this as the mere “differences explained by your descended from a non-human creature” trope, which is why I had Darius reference a more modern understanding of autism and no conclusion reached on the truth of each. I mean this as the creation of a fictional mythology in which the autistic neurotype is centred and normalised, a world where autistics have access to a mythological presence and resonance. Not to mention autistic dragons…

Read after this: Certain Eldritch Artefacts, albeit not without some pondering as to why Darius didn’t try harder to find a way to stay with Azhra.

Different in Other Ways: Booksellers Who Know Things (Patreon Exclusive)

Contains: A meet cute between a geeky bookseller and a mysterious boy wearing gloves, a girl trying to get Nevo’s attention for reasons he’s misreading, and hints that not all is right in Ihrne.

Length: 1, 783 words.

Why I liked writing it: Harper looks like … well, he looks like Nevo’s manic pixie trans boy, which isn’t a usual character type for me. (Harper isn’t one, but he’s going to great effort to appear this way.) Nevo is adorably awkward. And writing a series of stories (or interludes) that focus so much on working-class experiences and culture in Ihrne? Delightful.

Read after this: Men Bound by Blood and Jeile, and then the other Eagle Court books to realise how Nevo’s Ihrne differs from Paide’s.

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: Neuronormative

Contains: An autistic allosexual aromantic struggling to deal with the ways alloromanticism and aromanticism alike are binary, neuronormative ways of looking at the romantic attraction spectrum.

Length: 1, 000 words / 4 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: As an autistic with an autistic’s understanding of and relationship to aromanticism and romance, I feel as though I stand on one side of a gulf waving at the aromantic community on the other side. This story let me explore why I need more specific labels to explain my aromanticism and why some aromantic community assumptions about romance and romantic relationships feel, to me, utterly nonsensical.

Different in Other Ways: Men Bound by Blood (Patreon Exclusive)

Contains: An abroromantic trans man on the border of flirting, the first instance of a long-running joke, more Nevo awkwardness, the provision of backstory with regards Nevo’s father and uncle, and more-detailed examinations of Ihrne’s cissexism.

Length: 2, 736 words.

Why I liked writing it: This is foreshadowing for a surprising reveal in Harper and Nevo’s story, something I hope to be sharing with everyone in 2020. Nevo’s handling (or lack thereof) of Harper’s transness, and the resulting problems because even indifference of the why does the world expect me to care about the ways in which someone is a man sort become warped by Ihrne’s cultural cissexism, isn’t something I too often see in fiction. Plus I do enjoy Harper’s defying the shy-and-reclusive-from-fear-of-being-discovered-as-trans trope! It’s nice to be able to write someone with the glibness I’d have should I possess fewer problems in getting my thoughts to my mouth.

Read before this: Booksellers Who Know Things, if you want to know why Harper calls Nevo “Bookstore Man”. This piece does not stand on its own!

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: Loveless

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

Length: 1, 000 words / 4 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: There’s still a tendency in the aromantic community to regard love as what makes our humanity worth recognising: we don’t feel romantic attraction, but we still love! This is damaging to me on multiple levels, as someone who has come to find love a complicated concept I don’t know I wish to apply to myself. (I do believe that love is not and will never be the singular metric of anyone’s human worth.) I always intended Paide to reassess love’s worth in light of his people and his family, but feeling so disregarded by my own community had me decide to make this conversation its own story.

Read before this: Their Courts of Crows and A Prince of the Dead, the latter of which contains Thereva’s first utterance about love.

Read after this: The King of Gears and Bone, in which you might marvel at the length of what has been a trying day for Paide!

Different in Other Ways: Jeile (Patreon Exclusive)

Contains: Another mysterious person entering the bookshop, Nevo’s secret book stash, that moment of queer revelation, and a delightful indulgence of anxious-autistic behaviour and mannerisms.

Length: 3, 351 words.

Why I liked writing it: Because it’s fun to work in clues about another character knowing that your observing protagonist lacks the knowledge to put it together. Not to mention that it would be a crime against my neurotype if I didn’t write an autistic character into this series! While this story is foreshadowing and explanation (or at least an attempt at justification) for events that take place further along the narrative track, it really exists because this was joy to write.

Read before this: You don’t need to have read any other Eagle Court piece for this, as it’s the earliest set of all pieces.

Read after this: Wait for Birds of a Feather!

 

Cover of One Strange Man: A Marchverse Short Story by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a wooden door, bolted shut, set into a stone wall, with dangling ivy and climbing roses obscuring the wall and part of the door. The ground in front of the door is brown earth and has a thin-bladed green bush growing in front of it. A glowing white marble sits on the earth by the base of one of the roses on the bottom left-hand side of cover. Text is written in a white, handdrawn, fantasy-style type.One Strange Man (Patreon Exclusive)

Contains: A trans, abrosexual, aromantic autistic breaking the rules for the friends he loves; a queer alloromantic trans man and a pansexual, aromantic genderqueer in a QPR; and an acceptance borne from a midnight flight through the streets of Rajad.

Length: 7, 673 words / 22 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: “Like” is a strong word, because I was terrified to share this. The aromantic community has a tendency to regard romance as irrational or absurd, often in judgemental bordering-on-dismissive ways. I recognise that this comes as a result of amatonormativity, a world where romance is held up as the human ideal, but this harms aromantics who experience some shape of romantic attraction as well as alloromantics. (Romance itself isn’t what’s harmful; amatonormativity is.) Do I think the aromantic community is ready for this viewpoint? That I’m unsure about, but I do believe that aromantic storytelling needs must encompass more perspectives than mere validation of aromantic identity. Sometimes, that means demonstrating our cruelty.

Read before this: Love in the House of the Ravens, if you want to know why Darius has been pondering the word “aromanticism” and why he needs must come to a reckoning with it.

Read after this: The Morning After, if you’re thinking that of course Halima will figure out that Akash is behind the theft!

Catch a Man (Have the Girl), Part One

Contains: A cis, sapphic, probably-demiromantic shopgirl defying restrictive notions of good; a cis, bisexual, autistic shopgirl defying restrictive notions of abled; two older cishet women enduring and perpetrating misogyny; and a promise of a future possessed of a goodly number of cats.

Length: 4, 021 words.

Why I liked writing it: Exploring the misogyny perpetuated by women on women isn’t something I’ve often put to fiction, despite experiencing it every time a family gathering includes one of my aunts. I will also never get enough of writing the affection and intimacy an allistic can have for an autistic, given that most fictional instances of this tend to have a self-congratulatory note. To write Adelin as though it’s unquestioningly normal that an allistic accommodate, respect and adore her autistic partner, without Adelin thinking it unusual or exceptional, is a wondrous, joyful thing.

Read before this: It isn’t necessary to read any other work to grasp the meaning, but Yuissa’s plan takes on a different tone if you’ve read Booksellers Who Know Things!

Cover of Bones, Belts and Bewitchments: A Marchverse Collection by K. A. Cook. Cover features a book open to a page on a wooden table, showing the title text written in antique black ink as if the book's own title page. The page is stained, inspotted and discoloured as if to show age.The Morning After (Patreon Exclusive)

Contains: A trans, abrosexual, aromantic autistic wishing that he’d left his shirt on before bed; an alloromantic trans man and his former lover racing to manipulate the other; an aromantic genderqueer who keeps getting stuck in the middle of everyone else’s chaos; and a détente that makes nobody completely happy.

Length: 9, 973 words / 28 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: Consequences! Fantasy has a strong tendency towards disregarding the impact of actions perpetrated by the designated protagonist. Smaller acts like the theft of cheap jewellery or the working of a spell get brushed aside by too many narratives as though it doesn’t matter that someone endured loss and violation. I want it to matter, and I want it to matter to Darius. It also helps that this story explains in part how a certain future Dark Lord manages to get hold of Darius’s heartname … because a few days spent working spells for Halima isn’t the ultimate price Darius pays for his theft.

Read before this: One Strange Man is required reading.

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: Monstrous

Contains: A world where sexual attraction sans alloromantic attraction takes on fangs and teeth–and a pansexual’s aro liberation means accepting monstrosity.

Length: 1, 000 words / 4 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: To be allo-aro is to be regarded, explicitly and implicitly, as predatory in a world where romance is seen as the quality that renders safe, unthreatening and acceptable one’s sexuality (especially if one is female, trans, gay or lesbian, multisexual, a sex worker or a person of colour). It felt right to take another metaphor for monstrosity contaminating humanity–werewolves–and show that the real monstrosity, so often, is the attempt to contain and restrain what we believe as dangerous.

When Quiver Meets Quill CoverWhen Quiver Meets Quill

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.

Length: 5, 596 words / 17 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: This was one of those stories that came together without difficulty. Trans characters? Autistic aromantics bonding over stim toys? A narrative built over undercurrents of the ways the disabled and aromantics are pushed into meeting standard assumptions of how one is meant to adult? There’s still more for me to explore in looking at the intersection of amatonormativity and ableism when it comes to social expectation and social standing, but this is a beginning … and Alida and Antonius feel so natural to write. Perhaps because I, too, would rather read a book than talk to people

When Quiver Meets Quill CoverThe Vampire Conundrum

Contains: One trans, bisexual frayromantic alongside an office of well-meaning cis co-workers who think they’re being supportive and inclusive … in a bitter comedy of alloromantic assumptions and errors.

Length: 6, 688 words / 21 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: I don’t often get to write stories peppered with references to online LGBTQIA+ culture! I write fantasy to give people of my identities the sense of mythological, heroic identity we’ve been historically denied, but contemporary does allow for freer use of current language and tone. Plus Rowan’s narrative has a low-key snark of the “I will think it but I am far too afraid to ever say it in public” sort that, as a fellow slightly-judgemental anxious wreck, I can confirm as accurate. For all the grief the writing of this story gave me, I found a lot of joy in writing the tribulations of an aro trying to be out as aro (while trying to not be out as aro).

Read after this: The Pride Conspiracy, because one throw-away line here gave existence to an even longer story!

Cover of Bones, Belts and Bewitchments: A Marchverse Collection by K. A. Cook. Cover features a book open to a page on a wooden table, showing the title text written in antique black ink as if the book's own title page. The page is stained, inspotted and discoloured as if to show age.King’s Pawn (Patreon Exclusive)

Contains: A cis, allistic king ruminating on politics, Hamide Golzar and magic; his trans, allistic sister trying to navigate a brother and a lover who despise each other; and a non-binary, allistic employer who needs to learn better ways to discuss an autistic employee, even if he isn’t in the room to overhear it.

Length: 4, 794 words / 14 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: I didn’t. Writing a scene where allistics discuss an autistic character was uncomfortable to say the least! However, as I want to write a series of stories where Efe learns how to be a better ally, I thought it worth writing down the kind of scene that allistics think isn’t ableist but is burdened by obvious and subtle shapes of ableism. Sometimes things aren’t in the least bit enjoyable to write, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth doing.

Read after this: The Adventurer King, to get a sense of how Darius responds to the consequences of this discussion.

When Quiver Meets Quill CoverThe Pride Conspiracy

Contains: A trans allo-frayro trying to grit his teeth through the holidays, scheming aro co-workers, a whole lot of cross-stitch, another moment of aromantic discovery, and many, many mugs.

Length: 9, 702 words / 29 PDF pages.

Why I liked writing it: Giving voice to the pain of gift exchanges as a trans person in many ways made this Christmas easier for me; it felt like validation of something that my culture tells me shouldn’t be a problem. While this story is a straight-up found-family aromantic fantasy (in the “improbable” sense of the term, not the genre), it’s no more a fantasy than countless holiday romances. While many of we don’t yet live in the world we want, need and deserve, I like to think validating stories about the world that should exist help us hold on in our fight to build it. Trans aros, too, need our holiday stories!

And that’s it! Twenty-one pieces! So many pieces, in fact, that this post took nearly a week to write and I’m not certain I listed everything in correct chronological order. Thank you for reading this massive post all the way through!

I hope everyone has a safe and empowering 2020 ahead of them filled with art, representation and, for my fellow disabled folks, the best state of comfort our disabled bodies will allow us to attain.