Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Interview with COMMON BONDS creator Claudie Arsenault!

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Good morning and happy Monday!

Hi, and welcome to this special edition of Queering Up Your Bookshelf to celebrate the Kickstarter of COMMON BONDS, an anthology featuring aromantic characters and focusing on platonic relationships. The anthology is scheduled to publish in early 2020 and centers aromantic voices. As of right now, their Kickstarter is less than $1,500 away from being funded, so let’s make this happen by March 31, 2019.

You can also follow COMMON BONDS on Twitter. All signal boosts are extremely appreciated.

Common Bonds is an upcoming anthology of speculative short stories and poetry featuring aromantic characters. At the heart of this collection are the bonds that impact our lives from beginning to end: platonic relationships. Whether with family, mentors, friends, colleagues, or found family, these links pepper our lives and their importance is often overlooked. We seek to highlight the various ways platonic relationships can enrich us. Furthermore, we want to explore the way aromantic people often redefine the relative importance of these platonic bonds, centering them in their lives over romantic ones. The details of our call to submissions can be found here.

Welcome, Claudie! Can you talk a little about how the idea for the project originated and what your goals are?

When I first thought of this idea, I’d already been craving a project by and for aros, rather than something that mixed aro and ace. At the time, I was talking a lot about platonic relationships in interviews leading up to my launch for City of Strife, and Aromantic Awareness Week rolled up. The concept was born. I don’t quite remember why or when B. R. Sanders tweeted something about an anthology of platonic relationships, but that pushed me to hit them up and make the idea go from vague concept to ‘assemble team and get working’.

Aromantic-only anthologies are still mostly uncharted waters, so we have a lot of goals we’re hoping to accomplish. One is to provide a fairly wide array of aromantic experiences, inclusive of the aro spectrum, of allosexual aros, of romance-repulsed one, etc. Another is to just … really enjoy having us as the heroes of stories about platonic relationships? We want to create an cohesive anthology of positive stories that center important non-romantic relationships and explores aromanticism within that context.

What are some aspects of platonic relationships, especially queerplatonic relationships, that resonate with you the most and how are they foundational for the queer community as a whole?

For me, personally, it’s the permission to be exactly who I want to be, and I think that extends to a lot of the community. I can discuss anything with my close friends and it’s such a great, essential feeling. I can’t really talk about queerplatonic relationships personally, as I don’t have one, but aros involved in them talk about that proximity and understanding quite a lot.

In general, I think found family is incredibly important to the queer community as a whole. It keeps coming up when you ask about platonic relationships, and I can see why: for a lot of us, found family is where we found support and unconditional love. Found family is the people who stand by us when we fight the world, who keep us true to ourselves. And yes, sometimes that’s the romantic partner, too, but in general it extends way beyond that.

What are some resources for people who want more platonic relationships in their fiction and are there ways for writers and readers to get involved in curating or contributing to these resources?

I may or may not have built an entire database of asexual and aromantic characters. It includes a column for “important relationships”, too, someone who’d want aro characters could filter every alloromantic one and then browse what’s left and the important relationships indicated for something that fits their mood.

I’m sure there are lists of things like “books focused on friendship” out there, too, though if anyone did those with aromantic characters… I haven’t been linked to them. It’s not something most readers tend to focus on, or most pub tend to market about, especially in queer lit.

What advice do you have for writers who want to include more platonic relationships in their work?

So all of what follows is meant first and foremost for alloromantic writers. Aro writers: write what you damn want. It’s good to question tropes you naturally reach for and to be aware of them, but some of us fit those harmful clichés and if you wanna write your own experience--write aros who are cold or whose aroness is tied to trauma or who want to be alone?--then go for it.

For aromantic characters, do your research. There’s no shortcut and so many pitfalls, so many ways in which we are dehumanized and erased. Some basics are don’t kill us, don’t ever imply we’d need romance to be happy, don’t use phrasings like ‘just friends’ which imply there’s a hierarchy in relationships, and one is more than others. Research the aromantic spectrum thoroughly and accept that it’s hard to explain, and sometimes confusing even to us, and you need to be kind and considerate and to listen.

Think about how your aromantic character interacts with romance and romantic behaviour. Do they enjoy these things even without (or with limited) romantic attraction? What do they think of as romantic? Do they want a life partner akin to romantic relationships or do they prefer to stay single? There are so many facets to aromanticism, and they impact how we interact with others and juggle their expectations of what “”proper relationships”” are and our personal desires.  

What are some things you would like to see more of when it comes to fictional platonic relationships?

Let’s make a list!

  • Fictional friends whose friendship remain the most important relationship in their lives even after they get romantic partners.  Couples let friends drop to the background all the time, and I want to see the reverse.

  • Lovers to Friends that posit the second relationship status in the better one for this particular pair (or more, even). I don’ mean “diss the romance”, I mean that for some people, the constraints and expectations of romance are a Bad Idea.

  • Friends or mentors or other close platonic bond who fall in and out of (non-romantic) love with each other, who have a history and have dealt with break ups and fights and work through them to form better, even more solid bonds. Basically, all the complexity we often only allow romantic relationships, but on non-romantic ones

  • Found families that 1) label it as such, and 2) aren’t created through things like restrained space or other plot-induced reason they had to be together. Thinking of spaceships and adventurer groups here. Those are great, but also I feel that the sharing of space induces a specific dynamic and I’d like to see something else

On the flip side, are there any tropes or pitfalls you wish people would avoid?

CW Incest

I am ready to never, ever read about twins having sex again. It’s gross, stop this. But beyond that, I can’t think of anything that sends me big NOPE flag in itself. It’s usually the framing of the relationship and the subtle reinforced hierarchies that rile me up, so it’s hard to give very concrete advice. Critical thinking is something you acquire through practice and experience and a willingness to self-examine.

What are some struggles you face both in and outside of the queer writing community? What are ways in which alloromantic writers could better support you?

Dealing with people’s expectations of what relationships matter most and what mine should look like on a daily basis is exhausting. Outside of the queer community, most of the challenges I face tie into the idea that if you’re not in a cisheteronormative couple, you have a problem to fix.

Within it, well, that might take a lot longer to explain. To focus on queer literary communities… the focus on romance and sex shuts so many aros out, so hard. So many lists and resources are divided into m/m and f/f, but what do you do when your stories have little to no romance? LGBTQ publishers are almost all branded as romance publishers, even those who accept other stories, and the message imbedded here is that romance is what matters. Not to mention, a lot of listing will throw ace and aro together, and then you’re stuck filtering the alloromantic aces out. It’s always a little weird and off-putting to watch conversations about the importance of found family and queer friends, then turn around and witness the entire marketing structure built on romance only.

There’s a lot people could do to make the landscape more welcoming, but I’m gonna be cheeky and say that supporting and boosting our kickstarter would be a damn good first step.

What is your process in creating and curating content for the anthology?

One of the first things we did was invite writers we loved and trusted to submit ahead of the kickstarter. We wanted good content to promote and we wanted to give aromantic writers a lead time knowing about this project.

Now we have an open call. At this time, our first step is to check if a story meets the criterias: does it have a character which can reasonably be read as aromantic? Does it center a platonic relationship? Is it speculative fiction? Then we discuss together what we love about the story, what needs revision, which ones fit our goal best, etc. And we make joint decision about which ones we want to keep.

How can everyone best support COMMON BONDS, its creators, and contributing authors?

The first and obvious thing is to back our Kickstarter. We need the money to pay our contributors, and the e-version of the anthology is only $8 (Canadian! That’s like $5-6 US).

We know not everyone can pay, though, and there are lot of others way to support. You can RT our tweets or, even better, make your own about why the anthology matters to you. You can tag writers you know (or submit yourself!), especially aromantic writers, and let them know about the Kickstarter and the call for submissions. If you know accounts with large followings that routinely signal boost kickstarters (that last bit is important) or queer initiatives, hit them up. Basically, the best thing is to get the kickstarter in front of as many eyes as possible.


Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic spectrum writer hailing from Quebec City. Her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders centered on aromantic and asexual characters. Her high fantasy series, City of Spires, started in February 2017, and her latest book, Baker Thief, features a bigender aromantic baker and is full of delicious bread, French puns, and magic.

Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters, and her unending love of squids. She was long-listed for the 2018 BSFA Awards for her essay Constructing a Kinder Future in Strange Horizons. Find out more on her website!