I’m used to asexual and aromantic characters being the villains. Pegging down a lack of attraction or love as inhuman and evil is an old tradition still well alive in stories, especially SFF. We have for a long time painted villains as people unable to comprehend love and celebrated romance as a staple of humanity, in addition to describing a lack of interest in sex as robotic, cold, or lifeless. And it’s this last descriptive I’ve dwelled on recently, because I hadn’t realised how it would manifest in speculative fiction.
It never occurred to me I would run into so many ace characters associated with death. Let’s list a few, hm?
- Every Heart a Doorway’s protagonist, Nancy, comes from a portal that is an Underworld, where the Lord of the Dead dwelled, and she loves stillness.**
- Clariel’s eponymous ace character, is an Abhorsen, which means her entire bloodline is charged with maintaining the border between life and death. Oh and she becomes undead too, and a villain, unless I very much misunderstand what being part of “The Dead” means. In case you didn’t have enough reasons already not to recommend this series as good rep (if you don’t, maybe listen to the community more), this is one more!
- Ned from Pushing Daisies, is a necromancer (and gray-A as far as I can find on the interwebs)
- Zilch from Chameleon Moon is a zombie–sorta. They’re well and alive if you exclude the fact some of their organs aren’t in their body, and they’re a patchwork of people.*
- One sweet short story in Myriad Lands has an aro-ace character, and she’s a necromancer.**
A lot of folks can’t even name five asexual characters, and yet here I am, with five of them with that specific trait. It’s kind of pretty prevalent. Between running into two of those back to back and reading a story with upholded sex as a vital part of the character’s healing process, I suddenly got a pretty good view at the kind of imagery asexuality summons.
Darkness, death, stillness, sickness. The odd one, unreachable, beyond understanding. Things either forbidden or better changed. A huge DO NOT WANT in bold, red letters.
So maybe I’m getting pissy over nothing, or so my brain likes to tell me. But that lists starts with the two books most often placed on canon ace rec lists. Not only is this fairly frequent, but it’s where people keep sending aces!
“But that’s not what these stories mean,” I hear you say.
It’s still what they point at. I don’t think I need to go on about the power of narratives on this blog. Aces struggling with peace of mind and comfort and happiness will register the connotations here.
I am not pleased by how often this association seems to come up. If you (I am not talking to other aces here. Aces get to tell the story they want) have one ace or aro character in your story, and they’re any variant of dead, undead, necromancers, in love with stillness… maybe stop. Not maybe, actually. Stop. Think about what you’re saying here, and why that was your go-to for us. Unpack that shit and counter it. This is just another way of saying there’s something off about us—and yes, that includes stories where necromancy is well-perceived and normal. Just. Make that character something else, will you? The two best known examples of ace rep are already going there, and that’s way more than enough.
We’re a vibrant community, full of unique individuals, encompassing goth girls and bright-pink haired peeps, along with the full range in-between. Fuck these attempts to box us in to inhuman robots and stillness and death, to reduce us to less than full human beings.
*Chameleon Moon one actually gets a huge pass (as in, no problem here) from me, which won’t surprise anyone who knows how much I love the series, because a) #ownvoices, b) several other ace characters do not at all have any kind of association with death.
** (EDIT) Both of these are also ownvoices, for the record, and my point about ownvoices, leeway, and telling our own stories stands.