This essay literally took me ALL DAY to write. I have no idea if it's good or terrible, but it is done and I'm in too much period-caused pain to care about anything else. (Sorry?)
On a somewhat related note, that's also where the livereactions went this week: the lead-up to shark week ate them. :(
Influences on The Ice Princess's Fair Illusion
CW: Discussion of anti-ace and anti-aro sentiments and a general discussion of sexual assault in fiction as it relates to asexuality.
The Ice Princess’s Fair Illusion is one of the angriest narratives I’ve ever written, though I’m sure not everyone would agree with that assessment. It is, after all, an aromance with a Happily Ever After and a lot of cute domestic scenes between its two protagonists as they tell the story of how they became partners.
At its core, though, The Ice Princess’s Fair Illusion is a giant Eff You to the idea that asexuality, aromanticism and identities along these spectrums are not, in and of themselves, queer (enough) or real and engages directly or indirectly with some of the microaggressions that suggest it.
As a demisexual especially that idea of not being queer enough or real is the sentiment that I’ve dealt with most often and it comes in a variety of different forms. I’ve seen it as “cisgender heterosexual/heteroromantic ace aren’t lgbt, and other aces are only part of the community because they’re also one of these four other letters”, as “asexuality is about the degree of your attraction, not who you’re attracted to, therefore asexuality and demisexuality are not queer”, as “asexuality/demisexuality isn’t real”, as “labels aren’t important so I reject my demisexuality, but also labels are massively important so I’M LOUD AND PROUD GAY” (this one is especially common in demisexual romance novels), as “being asexual means it’s impossible to experience assault or rape, therefore if this even happened to an asexual, which I don’t believe because asexuals can’t be assaulted/raped, it happened for some other reason (and no amount of context will convince me otherwise)”…
There’s undoubtedly more, but I’d recommend against looking it up. It’s pretty vile, especially on Tumblr. These are some of the sentiments that the narrative deals with, however, since they were so prominently visible when I wrote the bulk of the first draft during Pride Month, which is when anti-ace and anti-aro sentiments peak. The majority of this book, then, exists because I was hurt by these sentiments over and over again while I was writing it.
It’s not what I set out to write initially, but it was too important to me to consider reworking it. I’ve never read a book like The Ice Princess’s Fair Illusion before and I realised, in writing it, that it was a book I needed. I needed it before I knew what asexuality was. I needed it when I discovered what asexuality was. I needed it when I wrote it.
I needed a book that dealt frankly with assault and didn’t brush off the psychological and emotional effects of it because “it wasn’t bad enough to count”. I needed a book that didn’t imply that asexuals can’t be assaulted through its narrative. (For example: so far all the asexual YA that includes sexual assault brush it off in the narrative for some reason or another and the response is crickets.) I needed a book that called out the narrative trope that only certain queer identities matter and others can just be dismissed. I needed a book that wasn’t Gay For You pretending to be a demisexual narrative. I needed a book that didn’t just respect sex-repulsion, but that understood it and centred it. I needed a book that didn’t try to present its “You are a valid” narrative through a lens that erases aromanticism entire and part of the asexual spectrum. And I needed a book that did all that and still managed to acknowledge that asexuality and aromanticism are a spectrum (and people have different experiences).
I don’t think I’ve ever written a book as personal as The Ice Princess’s Fair Illusion before because I’ve never dared put so much of what I wanted and needed into the same narrative before and certainly not this blatantly. I’m not sure I ever will. It’s a narrative born of hurt and the desire to have one book, just one, that felt like it told me “All of these things people tell you about asexuality and aromanticism are bullshit”.
This is a book that I wrote for me first and foremost. It’s a book written by an aro-spec, ace-spec author for an aro-spec and ace-spec audience. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, of course. It’s no more perfect than the books that inspired me to write this one the way that I did. There are things I couldn’t figure out how to include and things that I didn’t address, for a start. There are things that I won’t have addressed strongly enough for other readers or things that readers think I handled poorly. But I hope that some part of it will resonate anyway and that it will be a worthy addition to the corpus of asexual and aromantic literature out there already.