C4P: Lynn O’Connacht-Aromanticism, Asexuality, and the Illusion of New Narratives

Luna's fourth Call for Papers, Ties That Bind: Love in Fantasy and Science Fiction will be released on Saturday the 1st of August. Here is a chance to discover the 11 brilliant papers you will find in the book.

Today, we would like to introduce you to Lynn O’Connacht (Europe). Independent researcher of aromantic and asexuality studies and SFF author.

Presenting the paper: Aromanticism, Asexuality, and the Illusion of New Narratives

Lynn says:

The more fiction I read that has major asexual characters, the more I started to notice a pattern in how these characters and their relationships are represented, at least in those traditionally published stories that gain a wider public awareness, such as Clariel and Every Heart a Doorway. Asexuality and aromanticism are both orientations which are considered fairly new, even though they are – and I cannot stress this enough – not new concepts in the least. Yet, it is true that the terms we use for these concepts today were coined relatively recently. The modern use of asexuality is generally assumed to have appeared around the 2000s. Given that, it is remarkable that in 2019 there are already enough books with explicitly asexual characters to start analysing contemporary fiction through the lens of asexuality and aromanticism studies. I jumped on the opportunity as this representation is near and dear to my heart and I wanted to trace what these patterns do and how they work.


In recent years, SFF has made some powerful leaps when it comes to publishing and celebrating diversity, notably in its inclusion of queer characters. While SFF authors have always written such, it is only within the past decade or so that traditional publishing has started to make a concentrated effort to be more deliberately inclusive and diverse. When it comes to the inclusion of queer characters, however, publishing often seems to focus on queer romance (and implied sexual relationships), leaving other types of relationship behind. Nowhere is this more visible than with asexual or aromantic characters, whose experiences often differ. Collectively, aromantic and/or asexual characters frequently end the story alone, whereas a demisexual character is almost guaranteed to develop a romantic and sexual relationship. As such, broader trends in the depiction of asexual and aromantic characters in traditional publishing support and maintain the status quo suggesting that romantic (and to a lesser extent sexual) attraction is what makes us human and that non-romantic love continue to be seen as ‘lesser’ even in contexts that would seem to place it at its highest point. Yet asexual and especially aromantic narratives offer up a far more nuanced and grander exploration of what it means to be human. The success of Kickstarters focusing on asexual or aromantic relationships shows that the SFF community clearly sees value in the perspectives of these orientations. The purpose of this essay, then, is to explore the way these broader trends about asexuality and aromanticism in SFF inform our understanding of love in general. It is hoped that this paper will encourage people to think about the way aromantic and asexual representation allows us to expand our ideas of what humanity is and how to value love in all its forms. Lynn O’Connacht is an aroacespec indie SFF author, freelance editor and independent researcher in asexuality and aromanticism studies. Lynn holds an MA in creative writing and English Literature. Lynn’s fiction often centralises asexual and/or aromantic experiences within an SFF context and Lynn’s research focuses on analysing the ways in which (SFF) literature uses asexual and aromantic tropes. It is Lynn’s fervent hope that one day society will find a good way to tease apart the conflation of asexuality and aromanticism in earlier texts and settle on more nuanced language to discuss people’s many and varied experiences.

Ties That Bind: Love in Fantasy and Science Fiction

is now in pre-order!

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