I don’t know about you, but a romantic subplot in my literature is always hit-or-miss. I’m more open to it if it’s queer; I may not even mind it if it’s a slow-burn between a couple of heterosexuals.
Growing up, my lack of interest in romance wasn’t odd enough to comment on—mostly because I wasn’t really vocal about it. I just knew I was different and figured I had different tastes. In hindsight I understand the foundation of my tastes is my own queerness, which falls on the asexual spectrum.
In honor of that, I’d like to provide some book series where I found asexual representation in the main characters. We don’t see a lot of asexual representation anywhere. This is to all my fellow aces.
Before I get to there, I’m sure there are people who don’t know what asexuality is, or even that it’s a spectrum. I’ll explain that in the next section. If you want to skip the explanation, skip to the last section.
The Asexual Spectrum, An Explanation
Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to any gender. While itself an orientation, asexuality is also considered a spectrum, with the terms grey-sexual and demisexual both falling under it. Greysexuality is defined as having occasional feelings of sexual attraction. Demisexuality is attraction to someone with whom there is an emotional bond.
Now, sexual attraction is different than romantic attraction. The way I see it, romantic attraction is governed by your emotions and sexual attraction is governed by your body. Because of this difference, some asexuals (or aces, as we are otherwise called) add a second definition to their orientation, such as someone who identifies as “demisexual biromantic.”
Asexuality in Speculative Literature
The amount of queer speculative fiction has been growing in the past decade or so, which is lovely to see. If I am attracted to anything, it is to strings of marketing copy along the lines of “lesbian necromancers in space.” You could even say that any phrase with the words “in space” and “lesbian” (not necessarily in that order) automatically has my attention.
Unfortunately, it’s still hard to find asexual representation in mainstream media in general, let alone speculative fiction. As diverse as the current speculative community is, there is room for improvement. One way to do that is by featuring characters with sexualities and orientations that are not often seen, such as asexuality, aromanticism, transgender characters, non-binary characters that are not robots, etc.
Which isn’t to say the market is completely sparse of representation. Not every novel featuring an asexual character will put that in their marketing. I found the following titles by reading them and realized their representation afterward. Which is why I am presenting them here.
Without further ado, three series that feature an asexual character in a leading role.
The Murderbot Diaries follows a security construct that calls itself Murderbot (it pronouns). Throughout the series, Murderbot expresses distaste for sex scenes in its media, a lot of discomfort in relation to comfort units (which it calls Sexbots), and hates being touched for any reason.
Throughout the novellas, Murderbot also expresses general displeasure at the representation of SecUnits in the media it consumes. For me, this adds an extra layer to its character and how it moves around the world. What do you do when all the representation you see of yourself is either negative, inaccurate, or both?
Titles in this series are (in order): All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy, Network Effect, with Fugitive Telemetry coming in April 2021.
Fun fact: In a virtual event hosted by N.K. Jemisin, Martha Wells admitted that the media mentioned in the Murderbot Diaries are based off real-life media. For example, The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon is based on How to Get Away with Murder.
The Imperial Radch Trilogy by Ann Leckie
Main character Breq is the artificial intelligence of a Justice-class spaceship reduced to a single human-bodied ancillary (she/her pronouns). As a space station, she was capable of falling in love with the human commanding officers (expressed in extreme attention to detail, among other actions) but does not feel physical attraction. Even as a single-bodied individual, Breq feels no attraction for another living being. In one of its sequels (I forget which), Breq explains to another character that she would satisfy sexual urges for her ancillaries, but treated that act as routine maintenance.
Titles in this series are (in order): Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy.
Ann Leckie writes more queer characters in her other books, all of which I recommend.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
The entirety of the Wayward Children series features characters across the queer spectrum. In this title, which is the first of the series, Nancy (she/her) explicitly tells another character that she is asexual. To this date, this is the only instance I have read where a literary character uses this word to describe themselves. Nancy’s arc does not revolve around romance, nor does it have a romantic subplot (to my knowledge; it’s been five years since I last read it).
Titles for the Wayward Children series are (in order): Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Beneath the Sugar Sky, In An Absent Dream, Come Tumbling Down, with Across the Green Grass Fields forthcoming in January 2021.
Seanan McGuire is known for writing queer characters into all of her work. I highly recommend checking out her giant bibliography.
This is my first post on Luna Station Quarterly. Nice to meet you! In the comments, let me know where you have encountered asexual representation, be it short story, graphic novel, video game, or another piece of media.