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  • Sione Aeschliman

the kind of work we want to publish

Updated: May 17

Over the last several years there’ve been some fantastic anthologies and collections of short speculative fiction centering queer, trans, and non-binary writers, such as Trans-Galactic Bike Ride edited by my co-editor Lydia Rogue and nominated for a Lambda Literary Award (WOOT!), these 13 books included in a Barnes & Noble post, and the forthcoming It Gets Even Better: Stories of Queer Possibility, which successfully crowdfunded in late 2020. As someone who is passionate about working toward equity and a gender-diverse future, I am thrilled and want to see even more of these kinds of collections.


One of the things I haven’t yet seen is one of the things that makes Inclusive Future Magazine different: an anthology of visionary epistolary fiction that centers historically marginalized voices.


Visionary fiction - a term developed by writer and scholar Walidah Imarisha to describe speculative fiction that helps us imagine futures and worlds that are socially just. Read more in this interview with her here.


Epistolary fiction - fiction that emulates non-fiction documents, such as letters, emails, diary entries, interview transcripts, grocery lists, historical texts, scientific reports, blog posts, newspaper clippings, and magazine articles, to name a few.


Visionary epistolary fiction is the combination of these two forms.


This concept appeals strongly to me because visionary epistolary fiction provides unique opportunities to imagine and present concrete, contextualized examples of the futures we want to inhabit.


A possible downside to taking such an unusual approach, however, is that it could be a bit harder for people to imagine what this anthology will be like. For this reason, I’ve drafted a couple of examples of the kind of work we have in mind. I make no claims that these are perfect; they’re just to give you a general idea of what we’re striving for. If this post sparks your curiosity about other types of work we're looking for, check out our submission guidelines.


This post is a long one, so here are some navigation tools to help you get where you want to go faster:

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“Top 5 Dating Apps for Ace- and Aro-Specs” (dating app review)

“Dear Alix…Your Loyal Reader” (relationship column)

“Dear Alix… Ashamed in Oklahoma” (relationship column)



The following is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events and incidents are the products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.


Top 5 Dating Apps for Ace- and Aro-Specs

By S.H. Aeschliman

12 July 2068 C.E.


Long gone are the bad ol’ days of dating sites and apps designed exclusively for cisgender heterosexuals. Gone too are the days when those apps and sites tried to become more inclusive by adding more options for sexuality and gender to their interfaces without making adaptive changes to the matching algorithms, resulting in some extremely awkward and sometimes downright dangerous matches, such as trans people being matched with transphobic people.


And yet it has taken the industry an inordinately long time to come around to creating dating apps that cater to asexual-spectrum and aromantic-spectrum people. It seems they didn’t realize there was actually a market for it. As Jad Tathlow, CEO of Matched 25X said in an interview in 2065, “Why would you date if you want neither sex nor romance?” (Cue rolling my eyes so hard I give myself a headache.) As a result, when ace- and aro-spec people wanted a little New Relationship Energy of our own, we’ve resorted to using dating apps that aren’t made with us in mind.


As someone who is demi-sexual and greyromantic, I’m open to either a sexual or romantic connection or both, but the chances of finding either through a dating app are slim. And yet I still enjoy meeting new people who also want to meet new people. Knowing I can meet up with a new person without the uncomfortable possibility of becoming their romantic or sexual object has always been my dream.


But using traditional dating apps to try to find people to connect with on non-sexual and non-romantic levels has always felt slightly disingenuous to me somehow, as if, by using a dating app, I was “leading people on.” The reality is, most people still associate dating with the search for a sexual or romantic companion, or both. And so even when my dating profile stated quite clearly that I am on the ace- and aro- spectrums, date after date tried to treat me like a romantic or sexual object, leaving me feeling dehumanized, betrayed, and guilty.


In reading about other ace- and aro-spectrum people’s experiences, it seems I was not alone. Despite the ability to state their lack of interest in sex in their profiles, many on the asexual spectrum have still experienced receiving messages from matches who don’t believe them or don’t understand what it means to be asexual.


Back in the day, Tinder was the place for sexual aromantics to find sexual partners, but again there was no way to filter out alloromantics from potential matches. Awkward doesn’t begin to do justice to the feeling when you realize your sexual partner has begun to develop romantic feelings that you at best don’t share and at worst feel repulsed by.


We aces and aros need our own spaces. Or at the very least, we need spaces that allow us to make it very clear what we are and are not looking for, and for that to be understood and believed in a way we never felt believed when using traditional dating apps. Luckily, the last few years has seen a surge of traditional apps racing to appeal to ace and aro spec people, as well as new apps cropping up like weeds to cater to us.


I’ve spent the last several months researching and narrowing my list down to what I consider to be the top 5 dating apps for ace- and aro-spec people. It should be noted that while my choices are influenced by what I myself would want in a dating app, I also took into consideration common factors that are important to other readers of Inclusive Future Magazine, such as regional availability of the app and the racial and ethnic diversity of its user population. These apps not only have the backing to stick around for a while, but they’re also either specifically targeted to aces or aros (or both), or they have a robust enough algorithm to create a little nook for ace and/or aro people within the larger app.


Unless otherwise noted, all of these apps are available wherever there is Internet, translated into all modern languages, and allow the user to filter potential matches by the following criteria: sexual orientation, romantic orientation, languages spoken, geographical location, race, ethnicity, religion or lack thereof, gender, do/don’t want kids, income, political affiliation, school of ethics, environmental stewardship, ancestral cultures, education, diet, relationship model (often with options that let users get specific about their brands of polyamory), alcohol and drug use, body type, height, hair and eye color. These apps’ usership’s racial and ethnic demographics also closely align with the actual global population’s demographics, as per the 2067 Global Census data.


Most importantly, all matches are cross-referenced, which means a user only sees matches if they also meet the match’s criteria. No more trans and non-binary people matched with transphobes, no more aros matched with alloromantics, no more monogamous aces matched with allosexual people. Rejoice!


#1 ACES & ARROWS

Distinguishing features: A pre-set menu for gender is limited to only a dozen options and therefore does not cover all the bases, but this app is top of my list because it boasts a relatively large usership considering the demographic (150 million profiles at the time of publication), was specifically designed by and for ace- and aro-spec people, and is pleasant to use.


#2 BESPOKE

Distinguishing features: A newer app released just earlier this year, it’s high on my list because it was created by and for ace- and aro-spec people and it has the friendliest interface I’ve ever encountered. I can’t explain it; it’s like getting a hug every time I log in. However, while this app is available worldwide, at the time this article is being published, there is a relatively small usership (600,000), 98% of whom are English-speakers located in Australia and the Northwestern United States. Due to this, the usership's racial and ethnic demographics don't reflect global demographics, but they do reflect the regional demographics of the usership. Let’s hope it catches on in other parts of the world soon!


#3 COLERIDGE & KEATS

Distinguishing features: Target audience is ace-spectrum alloromantics. Coleridge & Keats is the English-language version, and the name of the app changes to the names of Romantic poets who wrote in the user’s chosen language. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a gimmick. This app has the opposite problem as Aces & Arrows in that fill-in-the-blank gender and pronoun fields ensure we get to use the terms that best fit us, but there’s no way to filter for gender. If gender matters in your matching criteria, this might not be the best choice for you. Usership is at 51 million profiles at the time of publication.


#4 THE GREY ZONE

Distinguishing features: Although its usership is still relatively small at roughly 3 million profiles, this one has a special place in my heart because it’s designed by and for grey/demi-romantic and grey/demi-sexual people. The interface can feel a bit clunky at times, but the company continues to refine it in yearly updates in response to user feedback.


#5 PRIME CONNECTION

Distinguishing features: One of the oldest and biggest dating apps, this one primarily caters to allosexual and alloromantic people, but because you can now filter by sexual and romantic orientation - and the filters are cross-referenced against potential matches’ criteria - it’s become an excellent option for ace- and aro-spectrum people, too. Total usership is at 6 billion at the time of publication. The company did not respond to requests for data on how many of those users are on the asexual or aromantic spectrums.


If you’re on the asexual and/or aromantic spectrums and looking to date, I hope this little list helps you choose an app or two that’s right for you. And stay tuned to our website for more reviews of dating apps designed for ace- and aro-specs coming soon; according to Tech Wave’s June 2068 post, there are five more due for release over the next 18 months, and we plan to review each of them as they come out!


Back to top

“Top 5 Dating Apps for Ace- and Aro-Specs” (dating app review)

“Dear Alix…Your Loyal Reader” (relationship column)

“Dear Alix… Ashamed in Oklahoma” (relationship column)


The following is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events and incidents are the products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.


Dear Alix...Your Loyal Reader (relationship column)


Dear Alix,


Long-time reader, first time writing in. My spouses and I want your advice about our youngest child. A month ago, our eldest turned thirteen and had her gender reveal party. Now the youngest, who’s eight, wants to have a gender reveal party. The eight-year-old has also been dropping hints that they want to declare Girl, just like their elder sister and many of their friends at school. I have two concerns about this: first, that they want to have a party just to have a party and be the center of attention (you know how younger siblings are); and second, that they want to declare Girl because it seems to be the popular thing to do these days.


As I write this, I realize there is also a third reason I hesitate, which is that they seem so young. When I was growing up, I wasn’t even allowed to get my ears pierced until I was thirteen, and we were required by law to wait until the age of 26 and had fully developed brains before declaring a gender. I’m glad that the law has changed, but honestly eight seems so young, not even pre-pubescent yet in my child’s case. Are they trying to grow up too quickly because they want to keep up with their big sister? What if they change their mind later?


My instinct is to tell our child to wait until they reach their sister’s age before declaring a gender, but my spouses say I’m being old-fashioned. Can you help us reach a consensus?


- Your Loyal Reader in the Free Socialist Democracy of Portlandia



Dear Loyal Reader,


This sounds like a time of great growth and change for your family, and I’m glad to know there’s an open line of communication between you and your spouses around it.


Forgive me for being blunt, but my instincts are telling me that the questions you raised aren’t the real root of the issue. It is widely known that different people come into their genders at different ages and that some people’s gender changes over time (or even several times in one day). We have systems in place to make it easy for people to change their declared gender as often as they wish. And isn’t it possible that your youngest is drawn to their friends because they all share a similar sense of their gender?


I wonder: how much of your resistance to your youngest declaring their gender stems from a concern that they’re not ready, and how much of it is because you aren’t ready? Perhaps what you’re struggling with are the changes happening around you, including your children coming into knowledge of their genders, which, by your own admission, was something that signaled a leaving-behind of childhood in your time?


It’s totally understandable to want your kids to enjoy being kids as long as possible, without having to navigate the sometimes tricky dynamics of gender, and it must be hard for you to think of your youngest wanting to leave behind aspects of childhood so soon after their sibling has left it. But the worst case scenario, as you have framed it, is that your youngest is vying for attention. I urge you to weigh the harm that might be caused by letting them have the attention, against what harm might be caused by not believing them about their gender and readiness to declare.


It’s clear to me that you have a lot of affection for your children and want them to be safe and happy. Let that affection lead you and your spouses to an open dialogue with your youngest, as you must have had with their sister, based in trust and affirmation of your child’s experience.


I want you to have the support you need, too, so I encourage you to find a spouse, friend, support group, or therapist who can help you process your feelings as you adjust to the changes happening in your family.


- Alix


Back to top

“Top 5 Dating Apps for Ace- and Aro-Specs” (dating app review)

“Dear Alix…Your Loyal Reader” (relationship column)

“Dear Alix… Ashamed in Oklahoma” (relationship column)



The following is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events and incidents are the products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.


Dear Alix...Ashamed in Oklahoma (relationship column)


Dear Alix,


I’ve been in a romantic and sexual relationship with Z for about 6 months. During that time, our relationship has followed relationship anarchy and kitchen table polyamory norms. Z has a romantic, asexual partner of about three years, and Z and I have had sexual relationships with other people we’ve dated while seeing each other. Until meeting Z, I’d always thought of myself as solo poly. But as I’ve fallen deeper in love with Z these past couple of months, I’ve noticed stronger feelings of jealousy than what is usual for me, coupled with a strong desire for an intense period of pair-bonding. Z and I have talked about this of course, and she’s asked if changing the terms of our relationship to parallel polyamory, or even if a Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell arrangement might be more comfortable for me.


It’s only within the last couple of days that I realized what I really want is to have Z all to myself. At first the idea horrified me, but as I explored it more within myself, I’ve had to admit that I’ve never been able to get over my paranoia about the sexual health risks inherent in having multiple sexual partners. And although I’ve struggled with jealousy in the past from time to time, I find myself completely unequal to the task of managing my jealousy in this situation. I’ve been working with my therapist on it, and they observed that the feelings and wishes I describe are consistent with an orientation toward monogamy.


I’m afraid to tell Z any of this. What if it scares her off? What about her partner of 3 years? Am I just being possessive? Could I really be monogamous?


- Ashamed in Oklahoma


Dear Ashamed,


I know it’s not a popular view at this moment in history, but I truly believe that some people are wired for monogamy, just as others are wired for polyamory. So yes, I think it’s possible.


A few other possibilities: It might be that a polyamorous arrangement has worked well for you in some relationships, but you’re drawn to a monogamous arrangement in this one. Or that you want a temporary period of monogamy for pair-bonding with Z to explore and develop the strong feelings you have for each other and then, once the partnership feels more secure, would want a polyamorous arrangement with her again. It’s also possible that what you’re experiencing is the result of a perceived imbalance in affection in the relationship: perhaps you aren’t sure whether Z feels as strongly about you as you do about her, and the intense jealousy and desire to have her all to yourself would dissipate once you knew the strength of her feelings and commitment.


In cases like these, it’s common to assume that laying it all out on the table would spell doom for the relationship. While it’s possible that you and Z might not want the same things from this relationship, it’s not a certainty.


Which is why I believe the most important thing right now is to keep being open with Z about what you’re experiencing. Withholding information from Z not only presents a barrier to true emotional intimacy between you, it also means that neither of you have all the information you need in order to make informed decisions about what feels healthy for each of you and where you both want the relationship to go.


I think it says a lot that you’re exploring the important questions about this situation, and I anticipate you have a long road of self-discovery ahead of you. I am glad you have the support of a therapist, and I encourage you to keep talking to them - and to Z - about your observations, feelings, and needs.


- Alix


Back to top

“Top 5 Dating Apps for Ace- and Aro-Specs” (dating app review)

“Dear Alix…Your Loyal Reader” (relationship column)

“Dear Alix… Ashamed in Oklahoma” (relationship column)



Edits:

17 May 2021 - Changed "sexual" and "romantic" to "allosexual" and "alloromantic when referring to a person's sexuality or romantic orientation. Corrected typos.

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