Fiction Round Up: April / May / June

The combination of changes to my medication and life under lockdown has made it difficult for me to put words to document, especially in the world of fiction.

I have long learnt, however, that it matters less what or how I create as long as I still create. Even if I’m not doing what I want to do, or feel I should be doing, I’m not losing the habit and discipline of creating. I’m still in touch with the faith that I can take a blank canvas and conclude with something new. I’m still developing skills, exploring ways to improve; my brain isn’t lying fallow. It’s just that I’ve shifted to an art easier for me to manage in present circumstances: cross stitch.

An assortment of cross stitch patches with wide hand-embroidered borders in rectangluar and square shapes. Patches include various aromantic-spectrum flags in straight and zigzag lines, text patches "alloaro" and "aroace", arrow patches, patches with pan/ply hearts atop the allo-aro flag, dragon patches in flag colours and a calligraphic style letter A in aro colours.These last few months have earnt me callused fingertips and an explosion in my cross stitch patch collection, along with a few handmade cards and kit projects. (Also chronic thumb pain. It’s like seeing an old disliked acquaintance, since I’ve spent the last year being annoyed by my left wrist, right shoulder, left hip and back. Hello again, my wonky right thumb!) I’ve finally figured out French knots! I’ve learnt a few more border stitches! I’ve fallen deep in like with a size 26 tapestry needle!

New tutorials include aro text patches, aro arrow patches and a variety of heart-shaped patches. I’m most proud of my arrows, but I’m delighted that I’ve figured out non-square/non-rectangular patches. I like the challenge of working within the pixel-like limitations of an even-weave cloth like aida to create simple shapes; it appeals to me, although I can’t contextualise why, more than freehand embroidery.

Around and between the cross stitch, I’m finding shorter pieces easier to manage and produce at the moment. Given that I once found the prospect of writing a two thousand word fiction assignment an exercise in cruel and unnatural restriction, this amuses me!

Hallo, Aro

Pressure, Sides One and Two: a series describing the different angles of pressure allo-aros endure from family, society, the queer/LGBTQIA+ community and, yes, the a-spec and aromantic communities.

The first story takes autobiographical snippets from interactions with family, friends and queer community, showing how these spaces’ misogyny, sex shaming, whoremisia, allonormativity, amatonormativity and monosexism create a culture hostile to allo-aro identity and expression. Progressive spaces are still horrifically prone to unconscious allo-aro antagonism or erasure (particularly in regards to demonising casual sex), but I also wanted to highlight how many other forms of hatred and oppression incidentally harm allo-aros, reinforce beliefs that deny or belittle our existence as well as that of the intended target, or make it difficult to recognise or feel accepted in our identity.

The second story, more allegorically, also refers to snippets from interactions with the aromantic community, showing how it has historically ignored and sidelined allosexual aromanticism in favour of a general assumption of aromantic asexuality or a requisite aromantic relationship to asexuality. I like the metaphor of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’s green-lens glasses because that describes what it felt like to first be aro: to find this new, safe home … and then realise that I wasn’t seeing the promise made by glittering green walls.

The nature of this series lets me experiment with short creative non-fiction, fictionalised autobiographical, and literary or referential pieces amongst my usual genre pieces. I find it very freeing!

I’ve also just posted another Hallo, Aro story, Abrasive, to Patreon. (Everyone else can access it next week!) Here I explore some of the background to the angry allo-aro stereotype, depict the way our family can support/reinforce a partner’s sense of romantic entitlement, and introduce a character we’ll meet again in forthcoming Marchverse pieces.

A Quest of Spheres and Phalanges: A Sufficient Level of Normal

A hallway conversation with a stranger brings to light something absent from Esher’s life, unexpected help from a pair of priests, revelations about the Grey Mages and a chance he may have already lost.

The bulk of this chapter concerns two neuroatypical people communing on their frustrations with the absurd social expectations held by neurotypicals. That’s still not a common scene in fiction, although it’s more common in my fiction. Esher, however, is in desperate want of a friend. So is Faiza. And they both need a friend who understands them! I had fun writing the synchronicity between the two of them despite their very different backgrounds and circumstances: this is what it feels like when I meet another autistic person. We know we sit at odd angles from the rest of the world, and it’s wonderful to find someone who not understands it but lives it.

(I also enjoy writing Faiza, full stop. They’re a lovely mingling of polite, direct, unsure, enthusiastic and nerdy as fuck.)

If you think that Esher isn’t going to go onto a quest with an injured hand and/or there won’t be scenes discussing needed accommodations and navigations before he does, you have really underestimated the depth of my commitment to heroic protagonists with hand-related disabilities (and mental illnesses).

Scholar’s Gambit

When Efe Kadri writes to Faiza Hiba Khalil for advice on how to work with an autistic mercenary-magician, it startles him to discover why Faiza is less than appreciative of his efforts.

I wrote this Patreon exclusive story as a break from Quest. (So I … write about ableism as a break from writing about ableism.) Is this a story where a somewhat-acidic autistic not only points out an allistic’s ableism but turns it right back on him? Yes. Is it a fantasy of all the things I’ve felt after an in-person interaction but can’t say in real life because I am a thousand times more eloquent in text than I’ll ever be with mouth-words? Yes. It’s still pleasing, though, to highlight the utter hypocrisy inherent in how some of the “better” (as in: not engaging in obvious abuse, bullying, torture, abandonment and murder) allistics, the ones who think they’re allies, regard us.

There’s too many stories where autistic characters are written as grateful for the condescension of an allistic who sees us as just human enough to be given a chance. This piece can be summarised by four words: fuck that ableist noise.

(Note: this piece is set many, many years after meeting the younger, less-confident Faiza in Quest.)

The Performance Magician Sneak Peak

In which Darius discovers that there’s a whole lot more going on with Efe and Aysun’s plans for managing a king’s absence from his throne than he ever imagined.

(Or: what I post when I don’t have anything more finished to post, because it took me two weeks to put together that cursed heart patch tutorial.)

No, there isn’t a real summary. This scene, taking place almost immediately after the end of The Adventurer King, was posted to Patreon because sewing patches and creating patch patterns in Photoshop left me with no time to prepare anything else. Do I know if this first draft will remain canon by the end? Possibly? Maybe? Darius’s ignorance in the aforementioned story means he makes a few assumptions that need correcting, followed by a lesson on why allistics shouldn’t keep vital information from their autistic guard-companion, so the bones of this chapter aren’t going anywhere.

(Probably.)

I like Efe at the end, having made himself at home on Ayako’s bed. It’s fun to write the casual moments of a man’s privilege-wrought confidence through the eyes of a character uninterested in accommodating said privilege.

Thank you for reading. I hope you are as well as can be in the situations we find ourselves in, and that you have an outlet for distraction and self-expression in these difficult times.

I need to renew my domain registration this month, so if you have a couple of dollars spare and you’d like to help an independent creative keep this archive going for my (mostly free!) queer-as-fuck, autistic fiction, would you consider buying me a ko-fi?