Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Asexuality in Wildflowers

Sometimes I worry about how my characters are perceived - specifically due to a few factors. While I'd like to be able to say "I am completely confident that my writing has gotten my point across clearly", the problem is that sometimes points in a story that seem clear to me don't seem clear to others. Sometimes personal experience creates a bias which colors those perceptions, and I don't want to be misconstrued on a few points.

So, to begin with, I am asexual. As such, the main character of my first novel - Allaha - is also asexual. Unlike me, however, Allaha is also aromantic.

The main thing that concerns me is that Allaha is a very stoic, reserved character - and this is not due to her sexuality or romantic orientation, but I am concerned that people will think it is. Spoilers ahead as I try to make things more clear, just for fair warning.

Allaha, as a Knight of the Mountain, suffered severe psychological trauma. An excerpt from the story expanding on this:

In order to prepare us for facing demons and their like, second year recruits are taken to a series of caves in the side of the mountain. We are isolated from one another, left in dark cells scarcely big enough to lie down in. We are subjected to toxins, and physical torture. On occasion, we were starved. Much of that time is a blur in my memory. Sometimes we were forced to fight each other, or wild animals. There was a reward for the winner; usually food. I could not tell night from day, nor the passage of time. It was a lesson in base survival. Horrors expounded so that nothing we experienced after would ever compare.
With this, and other examples in the same passage, I hope that it is clear that Allaha's stoicism is due to her trauma, and not her orientation.

To further try and clarify that I do not think that asexuality or aromanticism make someone stoic or seemingly unemotional, I have other asexual or aromantic characters (no other aro/ace characters in this book, though I do have more planned for the series).

Hibu is asexual, and the only character I come close to getting asexual on page with this exchange:

Hibu blinked rapidly in surprise, then looked over at the girl. “He is… pleasant, I suppose.”
The Menori girl smiled gently. “Only pleasant? He is quite attractive, is he not?”
“I suppose. I would not really know.”
“You cannot tell when someone is attractive?”
“In Jeongwon, we all wear veils. The only person’s face I saw before meeting Allaha was Prince Ji. To me, all people have fascinating faces; but I do not think that is what you mean when you say attractive.”

And, while I didn't get it on page in the first book, Goric is also aromantic - which will be on page in the second book. (He may or may not be squishing for someone.)

The main problem I have is that in the time period of this story, they didn't necessarily have words to articulate concepts like asexuality or aromanticism. While I am attempting to get as many characters with different sexualities on page as possible, I don't want to shoehorn in any explanations just to have it there.

However, I also don't want to end up in the same situation as some other authors - such as J. K. Rowling, who often gets push back and criticism for saying things were in her book that were not on page. Such as when a fan asked if there were Jewish characters in Harry Potter (after her boyfriend said there were not), and Rowling replied with "yes, this one specific character, but also others that are other students". And people claimed she was only doing it to get a pat on the head - but why? She didn't come out like "hey guys, bt dubs, there are totes Jewish characters in Harry Potter, aren't I so inclusive and progressive lol". No, a fan asked her, and she replied. And what was gained? Jewish Harry Potter fans now have it on the author's authority that there are Jewish characters, so no one can tell them they aren't represented.

I have a lot of the mindset of "show don't tell" when I write, but I still want to make sure I'm coming across clearly in some respects - so this is a message to say the orientations of my characters before it becomes an issue, so no one can say I only made their sexualities what they are just to get kudos for being inclusive, while also making it clear that Allaha is not stoic due to being asexual and aromantic.

You don't have to believe me, but I wanted to make sure it was said.

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