I recently published my first book, a young adult dystopian novel set in the near future. It has corrupt governments, emerging technologies, graphic descriptions of pancakes, and an explosion or two. It also has an asexual protagonist.
Pen Nowen’s father was the founder of Interface, a computer company bigger than any that came before it. Because it bought them all. Seven years after his death, Interface is releasing a new security webcam designed to lower the country’s rising crime rate. Better yet, they’re throwing a launch party at their flagship store in NYC. Pen is on her way to the airport when she gets kidnapped.
It’s the second time this year. She’s about to begin the ransom negotiations when the kidnapper says that he doesn’t want money. He wants something else from her. Before Pen can text 911, he says something even creepier. He knows the truth about her dad’s death.
Hashtags like #diversifyya and #weneeddiversebooks have been trending on Twitter, but most science fiction novels are more likely to have a self-augmented cyborg than a disabled person with a regular prosthetic. We do need diverse books, especially in young adult fiction. We need diverse books because all children should have stories in which they can see themselves as the hero. We need diverse books because the more we read about other cultures, the less they will seem like an “other.” I need diverse books, because I didn’t even hear of asexuality until I was in my twenties.
Asexuality is an invisible minority. On one hand, you literally cannot see it. I will never be attacked for not holding someone’s hand. I will never be attacked for not going to a club. On the other hand, coming out is hard enough when people have actually heard of your sexual orientation.
A lot of people, both straight and gay, believe that asexuals have no place in the queer community. They believe that the “A” in LGBTQA should stand for “Ally.” They believe that if you’re invisible, no one can oppress you, but invisibility is a kind of oppression. If it weren’t, then I wouldn’t have spent twenty years feeling like I was broken.
When you come out as asexual, people usually assume you have a hormone imbalance, a mental defect, or at least really bad breath. It’s difficult enough when straight people make those assumptions. When you’re rejected by the queer community as well, it can seem easier to just stay in the closet. For years, my family were the only people who knew I was asexual. I wasn’t exactly in the closet, but my “My sexual preference is nope” T-shirts definitely were.
Then I wrote Interface, and it was picked up by an international literary agency. My agent asked me to do a round of edits before she submitted the book to publishers. I was ready to make any changes she suggested, until she asked me to make Interface a romance. When I refused, the offer was withdrawn. I decided to try Kickstarter, where Interface was 122% funded.
The response from the asexual community was overwhelming. Somehow, it never occurred to me that other asexual people would be just as desperate for representation as I was. I ended up joining AVEN and my local meet-up group. I began writing articles about asexuality for local blogs and magazines. I also met many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people who welcome asexuals and aromantics in the queer community. I volunteered for Pride and found more acceptance (and glitter) than I’d ever expected.
When I started writing Interface, I wasn’t trying to make a political statement, or get famous, or get rich quick (well, we all kind of wish our book will make us rich, but science fiction writers generally don’t get rich unless they start their own religion). I just wanted to tell a story that might make someone happy. I still want that, but now I also want to tell a story that might make someone feel like maybe they aren’t broken after all.