ICoS questions, mostly related to sex + ace things – SPOILERS FOR FADE/AFTERIMAGE

On tumblr, boydbaeulieu had some questions about ICoS, mostly related to Afterimage and Fade. The questions/answers are SPOILERS for people who haven’t read at least midway through Fade. So I’m putting everything behind a cut, just in case. Also because, as usual, I wrote THE LONGEST ANSWERS EVER.

If you want to read bae’s whole question post, you can here: http://boydbaeulieu.tumblr.com/post/131304627515/all-right-ais-thanks-for-giving-me-the-green 🙂 For this post, I tried to summarize the questions in order for my answer to make sense to other people, but definitely read her whole post if you want the full context 🙂 Especially in case I accidentally misrepresented anything. I am directly addressing bae in a lot of this when answering so that’s what all the “you”s are for the most part, unless it’s a generic ‘you’ anywhere.

I ended up putting this only on my blog instead of tumblr because the answer became SO LONG that it felt like it would just look utterly insane on tumblr 😄 Plus this way I got to use pretty colors and various sizes 😀

FIRST, A NOTE FROM ME 🙂

First, I wanted to say it’s awesome that you care so much about the series and also put so much thought into everything! 😀 I know you worried you might sound angry in your post but you didn’t–you sounded passionate and frustrated by not understanding. There’s nothing bad about that 🙂

Just to be super clear, I’m also not angry at all! I love it when people ask questions and I love answering those questions and I’m super wordy inherently. So please don’t at all think the length of this (or the choice of any words, in case I somehow choose weird words somewhere) is in any way me feeling negatively about anything. It’s more like me getting interested in having an academic discussion about this 🙂

Also, wherever I talk about my own opinions or feelings on a topic, it should be super clear from the start: my opinion is not going to match everyone else’s opinion and that’s totally cool. I’m only explaining my viewpoint on things but no one should feel like my opinion or view somehow discounts theirs. Whatever you feel or think, it’s perfectly valid and my view on it shouldn’t overcome yours 🙂 It doesn’t matter that I co-wrote the book you’re talking about, because an experience of a story is very personal and important and I am NEVER going to tell people how they have to feel when reading something I wrote. But since you were wondering about all this, I’m answering to the best of my ability from my perspective 🙂

Second, for both questions I wanted to mention something ahead of time that might give better context for my answers 🙂 I personally think it’s very important to acknowledge the difference between what a writer thinks, and what is going on in a character’s head/the context of the story.

In my opinion, a good story has nothing of the Authorial God Voice in it. Reading it, a reader should have no idea what the author’s view is on a specific topic, because the story should solely focus on what the characters think, or what the situation is in the world, and more.

As a reader, I feel like nothing ruins a story faster than when I get into a world and then the fourth wall is broken when I start to feel the author pressing down on me, speaking to me out of the narration or dialogue; forcing situations where they can be on a soapbox talking about this or that topic/theme, which oftentimes also ends up making it feel really OOC for the characters/plot/story world in general. Same with actions; if a character wouldn’t normally take a certain action but the author wants to force some sort of morality or theme or whatever into the series, if they force a character to do something that they wouldn’t normally do it feels really wrong to me as a reader and it really upsets me. Way more than if they’d left things fucked up and broken from the start.

I can think of several series offhand that didn’t start out with the authorial god forcing things but ended that way, and it sort of ruins the series for me. I can still love the beginning of the series, but I always feel like there’s a pall over the end of it, and as a result it will never be a favorite series for me. Because all I can remember is how angry or upset I was as a reader, feeling betrayed by the change in story tone just for the sake of the author’s edification.

So, from my view, a good story could very easily have disturbing content which isn’t lambasted in the narration or dialogue or actions by characters unless that’s what those characters would say/do. If they wouldn’t say that or think that, then it shouldn’t be added because that’s the author speaking, not the character. So, in some cases, it’s the reader who understands on their own term how fucked up things are, and that should help inform them even more how skewed the view is of the characters or organizations in a world– without the book having to spell it out saying it as well, unless that is something that naturally fits in the book. I can think of a couple of examples of series that are written this way, and unsurprisingly they are some of my favorite books.

In ICoS, there are multiple characters who reference/experience topics that are objectively fucked up, but which they discuss/reference in ways where it shows the situation is totally okay to them. This doesn’t mean it should be okay to readers or okay in real life. The book isn’t telling readers what to think. It’s only saying what the characters think. What readers think should be something they determine on their own based on the information from all the skewed and biased views.

In this way, ICoS is filled with unreliable narrators.

Of course, someone could argue that a book shouldn’t be written this way; that if an author has an issue with a topic then they should make sure they make it clear in the story that this topic is an issue. But since as a reader I really appreciate being able to come to my own conclusions rather than having conclusions forced on me (because I’m different than mainstream a lot of times so the conclusions that would likely be forced on me are ones I would find to be alienating and frustrating)– and since I only started writing because as a reader I couldn’t find the stories I wanted to read– then as a writer, I know I for sure (and I think Sonny too) write a story with the top priority being that it should be natural for the character, no matter which twists or turns that may lead to; that the characters should lead the plot, and never the plot leading the characters.

In that way, in ICoS nothing that happens should be seen as us authors “making” it happen; it was more like, we knew generally how the series would end but the characters/plot had a life of their own (as cliche as that sounds) and we went along with tangents to see where it would lead. In some places there were some unexpected things we realized the characters would do or say, but we weren’t going to stop it because that would be silencing the character and it would very quickly make the series and characters feel inauthentic.

As a reader (and as a writer), nothing bugs me more in stories than when I see a plot or topic be brought up in the story only for the author to apparently be too cautious to deal with it properly, and then just letting it drop as soon as it gets inconvenient or not PC enough. I feel like if you’re going to add something in a story, then take that seriously and go with it 100%, no matter where that leads; otherwise don’t have it there at all because adding and dropping is obnoxious and makes the story feel really superficial to me. And, again, gives me a feeling of Authorial God.

That’s how I feel as a reader, so that informs how I feel as a writer.

As a result, no matter what I write, it never has anything at all to do with what I personally think about something. What I believe or think as an individual human being is 100% irrelevant, in my opinion. The only relevance is what is accurate for the character, the setting, and the world. I go solely based on what makes sense to me psychologically speaking for the characters, and not at all what I would psychologically think or do in their situation. If I ever consider my own feelings on it and extraneously add that to the story, then I fail completely as a writer. But along with that, I also don’t believe in adding things for shock value without taking the topic seriously and really considering the context of it and integrating it into the story so it has a greater meaning. Otherwise, it’s doing a disservice to that topic, to the story, and to the readers.

That’s just how I feel. Probably not everybody would agree 🙂

Also, it’s always possible that in places we haven’t edited as hardcore, there is something that’s remained in the wording of narration or dialogue that gives a certain impression we didn’t mean to give, that I have completely forgotten is there because it’s been years since we wrote it. So some of those things would be fixed in editing. The point I’m coming from in my answer is the psychological points of the characters that should have gotten across, and if it didn’t then that was possibly a failure on our part as writers at that time (or something we just accidentally missed/overlooked) and which should ideally be addressed in editing. So, if anything I’m talking about doesn’t match with what you read, that could be why.

Ok that’s an overview of one aspect I wanted to explain first so that the rest of this makes a little more sense.


QUESTION ONE FROM BAE: Afterimage spoilers primarily

1) Why did Ann and Hsin sleep together in Afterimage, when you consider how disturbing the context of the situation was with her being his psychiatrist, and why did no one call it out as sexual abuse in the story other than, briefly, Carhart who was dismissed because he’d “done worse”? (She also talked about how upsetting it was to her to see that plot in the book, especially given Hsin’s history of being sexually abused by others, including by Ann’s own twin– and to be clear she was not having a problem with Hsin sleeping with someone else or it being seen as betrayal etc, it was solely related to the concept of psychiatrist/patient and how people responded in story)

This actually really confused me and I’m still SUPER CONFUSED. Probably not for the reason you’re thinking, though. I’ll explain in a bit 🙂

First, if you’re asking me, personally–not as one of the writers of ICoS but me, personally, as Ais– if I see that whole situation with Ann/Hsin as being disturbing, very dubious morally, and a level of sexual abuse or dub-con– then yep, I agree with you completely. As my own person (not as a writer but as me), I think it’s wrong. I know that Hsin was okay with it but he was in a vulnerable state of mind, and frankly no matter what the situation is, no psychiatrist should ever sleep with their patient. Ever. In my personal view there is absolutely no way for that to be 100% consensual because inherent to their relationship is a power differential which makes the patient feel beholden to, or dependent on, the psychiatrist. No truly good psychiatrist should ever do anything like that. It should be grounds for some serious consequences, and I personally think they should lose their license if they ever do that.

If there is any sort of legitimate and mutual attraction between a patient and psychiatrist then I believe that they should only ever act on it when the psychiatrist has dropped the other person as their patient and they take a break from each other for a long enough time period to be able to really contemplate the situation and identify whether their feelings remain as real outside of that one-sided relationship. If they both feel exactly the same as they did before, then it may be a mutual and consensual relationship and at that point I personally don’t see a problem with anything they do because they are no longer in a power differential situation.

That’s how I feel as my own person, regarding this topic in context of the real world.

But your question is related to something else entirely, because of the fact that what happened with Ann and Hsin is not in the real world. It isn’t in a normal context. It’s set in the Agency which is morally grey at best (and very twisted at worst), told from the viewpoint of unreliable narrators who, themselves, have very skewed views on what is acceptable and what makes sense to do and what is okay once it happens.

As I said before, the thing about ICoS is it’s a series told by unreliable narrators. And when your narrators are people with some really traumatic or messed up backgrounds, with a skewed view of the world compared to the “normal” civilian’s, there are a lot of things that may seem like it’s perfectly a-okay to them that isn’t a-okay in reality. But since the POVs are told from their perspective, the topic will be presented however it seems to them. It has nothing to do with us as authors saying this or that is okay– one of the things that I find to be most upsetting is sex/human trafficking, as well as sexual abuse/rape, but as you saw it happened in the series. That’s because that’s what would have happened realistically based on the way the story would have unfolded and based on various characters’ actions and more. Not because we approve of it or I was like “Heck yeah I wanna get some psychologically torturous gangrape in! :D” …just saying that as sort of a joking line right there is super disturbing to me.

From the Agency’s perspective, Ann was useful for Hsin because she got him more stable mentally; she was the first one to get him to cooperate and take his meds and all that. So even though from anyone else’s (more normal) view that whole thing really should seem fucked up, in the context of the Agency and the unreliable narrators who populated it, they wouldn’t question it.

The only person who would have been truly horrified was Boyd, because of his love for psychiatry/psychology (he probably would have become a psychiatrist if he’d never joined the Agency), and his love for (and over-protectiveness of) Hsin, and because he’s still very much of a civilian background, and civilian mindset, compared to pretty much everyone else in the Agency. And Carhart but as you saw, Carhart had spent so much time at the Agency that he becomes kind of shut down on its BS sometimes.

Which gets me to why I’m SO CONFUSED RIGHT NOW. Does it SERIOUSLY not say ANYWHERE in the series that Boyd was horrified/bothered by that????? wtf! How did we manage to edit that out completely from Afterimage and Interludes???? I don’t understand. I swear it used to be mentioned in Boyd’s narration, repeatedly, which is this:

Boyd would agree with you 100%. The BIGGEST reason he was so angry and upset and horrified by the whole thing was that it was Ann of all people that Hsin slept with. I mean, he would have been upset no matter who it was with so a huge part was that he realized they were completely at odds with each other in terms of their view of the relationship and how co-dependent they were and etc etc. But the fact that it was Ann made it even worse to him than it would have been with pretty much anyone else.

The reason for that was Boyd thought Ann was disgusting for taking advantage of Hsin that way. Even if it felt 100% consensual from Hsin’s mind, even if Hsin went into it making a choice on his own (which was very upsetting for Boyd in and of itself), either way Boyd felt that Ann was a failure of a psychiatrist for suggesting it or going with it or any of that. He was very upset about this because he wanted to be a psychiatrist in another life, and so he knows how important it is for the patient-doctor relationship to remain professional with very specific boundaries. So, no matter how Hsin was acting or no matter what Hsin said (because Boyd didn’t know the details of how things occurred) he felt like Ann should never have allowed anything to go further because she should know better.

And in going further, he felt she took advantage of Hsin. He was also annoyed that the Connors family kept fucking everything up for them; like, Hsin visiting Lydia was adding to his depression and all that, which is partially what caused Hsin to pull away from Boyd, which is what caused Boyd to not understand what was happening, which is what caused Hsin to sleep with Ann, which is what caused them to break up, which is what caused Boyd to be in a position to be with Kassian, which is what caused Hsin to attack Boyd, which is what caused Hsin to be in a bad situation, and so on. Like all of Afterimage and Interludes started with the Connors fucking things up in the Boyd and Hsin world. I mean it isn’t all direct causations but there’s definitely an aspect of some pieces leading to (or building with) other events.

Also, I don’t think he ever found out how Ann made Hsin cut up her husband but he would have been fucking furious with her if he had. He would have seen her as being a completely disgusting human being who mercilessly used other people and didn’t deserve the degree she had.

I swear it had that in narration in some version of Afterimage and Interludes, and I have no idea how that isn’t there anywhere at all anymore. We haven’t done a full edit of either Afterimage or Interludes… so the only thing I can guess is maybe, when we edited individual scenes along the way, we accidentally removed it from where it first was mentioned — and then any future spot-editing, we thought it had already been mentioned so in an effort to cut out repetition we removed it elsewhere as well? And didn’t realize it was taken out everywhere? I really don’t know.

But anyway, I’m glad you mentioned it because that honestly was in there originally for Boyd, because that was his genuine reaction to that happening specifically with Ann while she was Hsin’s psychiatrist. So when we edit I’ll keep an eye out to make sure that comes up somewhere.

Also I want to be really clear: I’m not saying that because I’m retroactively trying to claim this or that, or because you commented on it and I want to seem PC and agree with everything. I’m saying that because that is how Boyd would feel naturally as a character. If he naturally wouldn’t have felt that way, I would have left this answer at “Well, the Agency is fucked up so that’s why no one questions it” and not said anything about someone like Boyd being wtf over it. I just didn’t want that to seem like I was backtracking.

As I said, since ICoS is filled with unreliable narrators, everyone else didn’t see a problem with things because of the messed up context that the Agency represents. There’s a lot I could say about the Agency and the weird views people have there (in context to our real world) but I’ll leave it at that for now because this already got really long 🙂


QUESTION TWO FROM BAE: Fade spoilers included

2) Why was everyone so obsessed with sex in the series, with so many crappy things happening as a result of someone having sex; why couldn’t they just keep it in their pants sometimes? (She mentioned a number of examples, including Boyd/Kassian, Boyd/Emilio, Vivienne/Carhart — and also mentioned ace aspects like viewing Viv as one and feeling kind of betrayed/upset when V/C happened — and also mentioned how sex-normative ICoS felt and that it wasn’t as representative of all LGBT as it could be)

So, like you said– I’m also ace, like you are. As an ace, I totally get the general frustration of everything always having to be tied back to sex. Actually, I really hate it when stories force this boy + girl = LOVE + SEX AND/OR BABIES thing in general in any series — although that’s unrelated to this. But to me it’s all about if something is understandable in context or not; as in, if an author has to turn people OOC just to force characters into a particular endpoint just for them to have sex/babies, I get ALL THE RAGE. (There’s one series in particular where this happened with two of my favorite characters who were also killed as a result of that subplot and I can’t even when I think about it; I always end up ranting lol Like seriously, right now I had to stop myself from being like FOR EXAMPLE LET ME RANT ABOUT HOW ANGRY THIS MADE ME OMG)

So I totally get how you could feel really frustrated if you felt like things in ICoS were being forced solely for sex. And part of that will probably always feel subjective to the reader. So, just so you know, this answer isn’t me being like OH BUT YOU MISUNDERSTOOD THE STORY YOU’RE SO WRONG. I’m just explaining the background in case it helps 🙂 As I said earlier, whatever you feel is whatever you feel, and you shouldn’t ever be made to feel wrong or self-conscious for your natural, visceral reaction to something. You feel that way for a reason and nobody else can tell you that your personal reasons are less valid than theirs.

Oh by the way where I use quotation marks around words in this, that isn’t like a sarcastic/snarky/asshole usage trying to dismiss you lol It’s more like, differentiating concepts or for whatever other reason in context.

REPRESENTATION & ACE THINGS

Ok so about representation– it’s possible it didn’t feel like it was that “representative” because that wasn’t at all any sort of goal. We didn’t go into ICoS specifically making it LGBT, or trying to make it be super inclusive, or specifically doing any sort of political thing to make sure it’s perfectly representative/etc. We went into it like, “Hey we have these characters, who happen to be these things; let’s write about them! :D”

I actually, personally, think it’s extremely problematic when writers go into stories thinking, “And now I’m going to add a transgender person and then I should throw in a gay and then maybe an asexual because I keep seeing people use that term.” Someone could do that if they wanted to be really “representative” and “inclusive” and on the face of it, it would be– but I personally find it to be intensely problematic because populating a story based solely on boxes to check off a list makes it way too easy to stereotype characters into being a one-dimensional portrayal of the single thing that’s thought to make them “other.” And in doing so, it discounts the depth of the character as a human being, and reduces them to a joke or token bit.

When Sonny and I both make characters, we don’t start with the person’s sexuality or even race or gender identity or anything else and then specifically design a character to be that Token Something. Instead, we start with who they are as a person, inside, and then it builds from there. Why do they have this fear? Why do they have this attitude? What was it in their life that led them to this point? Those reasons may have something to do with their sexuality or gender identity or etc, because their interactions with other people on that point might have informed the way they interact with others. But we don’t start with that sexuality/gender identity/whatever; we start with the person and personality, realize they would naturally be whatever sexuality/identity/etc, and then go from there.

For example, with Boyd and Hsin, when they were first created we thought Boyd was gay and assumed Hsin was straight. (Because they were RPG characters from completely different RPGs and completely different worlds, and that was their sexualities in those contexts) They were never going to be a couple and weren’t even going to be the main characters in the story. But in the first interactions we wrote of them together, we realized they had chemistry and that they would totally have a thing for each other and fall in love.

So, rather than saying, “But no! Hsin can’t be bi because we had him as the straight one! Won’t happen! We’ll just force it so that doesn’t happen.” we went, “Oh, they have a thing for each other? Ok let’s start the story over taking that into account and see where it goes.”

Because that’s how we both operate, it means there’s a lot that happens that’s a little bit difficult to categorize or, at times, may seem unpredictable. It’s all related to what the individual characters would naturally do, and then when you add up all the individual things different people would do, one person’s actions could complicate another person’s story and repercussions can be felt on everyone and it could keep going from there.

In regards to who is/isn’t ace: I feel like I don’t even know the answer to that, including if Viv would be. Even though I can see why you saw her as that, I can say that I don’t think she would at all identify as ace. Whether or not outwardly she fits the parameters is different than how she sees herself. Sometimes people identify as things that they don’t always seemingly represent outwardly, and vice versa.

What I do want to mention is to keep in mind that even the ace spectrum is pretty wide. There’s a huge difference, for example, between someone who is sex-positive as an ace and someone who isn’t. There are some aces who have sex and others who never have sex. The actual act of having sex should never be seen as a reason of dismissing whether or not someone could be ace or even dismissing who they are as a person in their integrity, because that’s as unfair to them as it is to aces like us who can be dismissed for not being on board the sex train.

With Vivienne and Carhart, it wasn’t out of nowhere internally for Vivienne. But you never see her POV, and only see Carhart’s. Actually, to properly explain this I need to go into the next part of this answer.

(Oh, before I forget, someone else asked me before how there was so much sex in a story co-written by an ace, and I never thought before about how interesting or odd that might seem to people so it’s good you asked because other people might wonder similar things :))

BUT SERIOUSLY WHY ALL THE SEX

I know that you and I are ace, but most people aren’t. That’s just the truth of the matter. Also, I’m totally not trying to put any words in your mouth on this so please don’t see this as any sort of personal attack or anything like that–I’m just kind of talking/thinking aloud regarding a general topic. The idea of any complex story being labeled sex-normative because it includes a lot of sex (and that term having the connotation that it makes the story problematic) feels, to me, a little like saying sex is bad — which, to me personally, I don’t believe. I don’t personally assign any sort of negative connotations solely to people having sex. I simply am completely uninterested in the topic for my personal life. But to me, if it’s in someone else’s character to have sex for this or that reason, I see nothing wrong with it. I only see something wrong when it’s forced on some character in a super OOC way because then I get upset/angry. (As I mentioned before lol let’s once again not let me get started on THAT rantmobile XD) That’s just how I view things, and doesn’t mean it’s better/worse than anyone else. But that does affect a bit the way we viewed sex in ICoS.

The thing about sex in ICoS is that it’s basically all informed by what the characters would do. And the characters are largely people who are cool with sex. Some of them are people who have tied sex into their psychology– most notably Hsin, Boyd and Emilio. Actually, you could argue the same for Kassian. That’s four of the main characters in the series, so there’s going to inherently be sex involved in a number of the situations that occur.

In fact, I would argue that the reason there’s so much sex in ICoS is because it’s a legitimate part of the character arcs and development of various characters, because that’s how it naturally would have been for them as people and not because we were like, “What are we supposed to add in a story now? Oh, I guess sex. Let’s completely randomly add one to check it off a box.” Which would be intensely problematic, IMO, because at that point it’s making it solely a physical thing and divorcing it from the psychology of the characters involved. But in ICoS, every sex scene we added had a reason it was there, for character development, for the overall book plot or series plot, or for a variety of other reasons. If it didn’t have a legit reason to be there, it pretty much didn’t happen or it happened off screen.

Trust me, as an ace, I do have a problem with completely unnecessary, super OOC sex scenes that totally fuck up a character just to force sex in there. I would never want to write that because such a thing would annoy the hell out of me.

Getting back to the psychology of those characters…. Sonny may say I’m a bit off on this so you’d have to ask him to get the best answer, but in general I feel like this works as an okay overall comment: Hsin uses sex as a way to escape mental distress in some places. Kassian uses sex in place of commitment. Emilio uses sex as his default way to have fun/interact with people, and at times also uses it to escape.

With Boyd, I’ve talked WAY more in depth about it elsewhere (and let me know if you’re curious to read it because I can try to find it and link it to you :)) but from the Boyd side of what you mentioned as examples (Boyd/Kassian, Boyd/Emilio), you can never exempt Boyd’s mental state from the sex that he has. Boyd in and of himself is very monogamous, which may sound odd since you see him with different people in the series. But it’s always because of very specific reasons, and people he is close to who he completely trusts (or thinks he can trust), aside from things he has to do for his job. Any decision he made was influenced by that.

The super short overview of Boyd’s psychology is that he has always intensely wanted to be loved and accepted and desired and needed, but equally as intensely he’s always believed he doesn’t deserve it and he’s inherently incapable of being loved/accepted/desired/needed. So a lot of his instability or variations of responses come back to that. As a result, a lot of his life, a lot of his psychology, is all about control. His greatest fears are about losing that control and it being used against him. His greatest hope is to not have to always be in that constant state of control; to find a moment where he can be secure and not have to guard himself from a world that rejects him.

For someone like him, the reason he becomes so enamored of sex with Hsin is because that’s the only place he feels like he can completely let go. There, he’s in a vulnerable place, with a person who could destroy him in a second if he felt like it, but who doesn’t. Hsin constantly reinforces to Boyd over and over in their sex life that Hsin loves him, desires him, accepts him, needs him, and he doesn’t use that vulnerability against Boyd, he doesn’t hurt Boyd the way Boyd’s been hurt by his vulnerabilities before. So, sex is the place where all his tension can be released; where he can give his control over to someone else and completely let go, and he can trust that he won’t be taken advantage of for it, and he knows it will feel really good so he’ll also get endorphins, and in that way it makes him feel his reactions even more intensely. It’s hard to explain how important and intense that whole thing is for Boyd because of how different it is for him.

Boyd loves the everloving hell out of Hsin and has since the moment he fell for him. No matter their partnership status was at various points in the series he loved Hsin just as intensely; but it was all a question of how close he felt they could be based on how healthy their relationship was for them as individuals, or business partners, or as a couple.

So that’s about Hsin (which I know you didn’t ask about but I thought was important to establish ahead of time) — and now I’ll address your specific concerns 🙂

With Kassian, what should be taken into account is it was a freedom Boyd had never had before. It wasn’t like, “Oh let’s just throw them together for s&g and absolutely zero legitimacy for it in the characters.” In the context of Boyd’s life, not only did he always have to be guarded and in control, but he also always had to take everything in context. Think ahead. Constantly strive to do the best of everything, try his hardest at everything, be as good as he possibly could because anything less was failure, and anything less meant he as a person was meaningless and worthless. He put a lot of weight on the idea of achievement and success, and that’s a stressful place to constantly be in your life internally, especially since he was thrown into such a crazy ass world like the Agency, at a massive disadvantage by having no background whatsoever in anything, which put him constantly in a situation where it was more likely he would fail rather than succeed.

Kassian was someone who saw Boyd as his own person (not as Hsin’s partner or Vivienne’s son, but as Boyd himself), and saw him for all his flaws and merits, and had zero expectations of him. He didn’t want a thing out of Boyd. Even Hsin (for all that Boyd loves him SO MUCH) had expectations of Boyd; even Hsin unknowingly put a lot of weight on Boyd’s shoulders in order to be the relatively stable one in their relationship up until that point, always ready to forgive and forget and be “normal.” But Boyd isn’t a stable person, and he really didn’t have a “normal” childhood even though relative to Hsin it seemed he did, and he couldn’t live up to the responsibility of protecting someone else’s mind when that person was having legitimate mental illness issues and when he didn’t share any of the information with Boyd.

Having a friendship with Kassian was important to Boyd. If Kassian had never been interested in Boyd, that’s all it ever would have been. But Kassian was interested in Boyd, not to the exclusion of all else–just a curiosity in addition to friendship. And Boyd became curious about Kassian.

Them having sex wasn’t very often; they hung out platonically more often than not, even after they first had sex. But it was the first and only time Boyd was with anyone who had zero expectations of him, who he also knew wouldn’t hurt him, and who he didn’t have to worry about developing any feelings for at all. It was a sense of freedom he’d never had before, and at that moment in his life when he felt like he’d never had the chance to be his own person, make his own decisions, for his own life and his own body, without extra expectations or responsibilities or requirements involved, when he was dealing with a lot of stressful and intense things in training, and figuring out himself in the Agency out of context as Hsin’s partner and Hsin’s shadow… it was a freedom he really needed, psychologically.

With Emilio, I’m using your alternate example in this 🙂 In context of the story, in all honesty it would have been completely unrealistic to imagine that they would just cuddle (or something else) and that would be what happened — not when they were both completely emotionally devastated and vulnerable, and so drunk they were utterly out of their minds, and not when Boyd missed Hsin so intensely he lost all view of reality, not when Emilio looks pretty much exactly like Hsin, not when Boyd was still dealing with repercussions of the instability and addiction from the Aleixo mission, and not when Emilio uses sex as a way of forgetting the difficulties in his life. There was just no way for that scene to have anything other than sex in it, not unless we wanted to super OOCly force the characters into a situation that would otherwise not have happened.

I mean, truthfully it would have been the easier route to leave the sex out of it, because it wouldn’t later have felt like a betrayal to Hsin. But we couldn’t do a disservice to the massive fucking break of their minds mutually over the death of Hsin. That scene should be a way of showing just how devastated and fucked up they both felt– the extent to which Hsin’s absence changed them, and the poor decisions people can make in visceral moments of grief– and not seem like some random throwaway sex scene like we just felt like adding it because we were bored and wanted to spice it up.

I mean, we did joke about an Emilio/Boyd scene after the whole Vega Sandwich comment came up and amused us so much. But we never would have forced it into there just to have it there, especially not if it made no actual sense. I will never write a sex scene just for shock value or drama. It always has to have a reason psychologically for it to occur in the first place, even if it’s a fucked up psychological reason. If it doesn’t have a true place in that character’s heart, in their mind, in their story, then to me it will never be in there because it’s forcing something OOCly on them. So the reason that E/B did actually happen and wasn’t just a joke we mentioned, was because we realized something like that would occur as a result of how fucked they felt.

Now, in a total 180, back to Vivienne. The thing is, Vivienne isn’t anti-sex. She has zero problems with sex. She just has a problem with meaningless sex. She will never have sex with someone she has not first developed some sort of genuine emotional attraction to, which is why after Cedrick she spent 17 years not being interested in anyone at all. Most people (in world) completely dismiss her as a 3-dimensional person, and hate her for her personality.

In one way, Vivienne and Boyd are similar: they are all about control, and they see sex as a vulnerability which can be used against them because it inherently forces them to give up some portion of control by getting that close to someone in the first place. But where Boyd yearns for love and a connection and seeks release in the contrast of not being hurt despite being vulnerable, Vivienne gives precisely zero fucks whether or not anyone wants, likes, desires, or needs her. She’s the sort of person who could see the world burn to ash around her with every human being on the planet perishing, and she would be like, “Well, at least this makes my life a lot easier.”

If anything, she is highly suspicious of people who purport to like her/want to be around her, because she figures they must have some serious fucking ulterior motives going on for it to get to that point, based on her entire life of people seeing her like she’s some sort of monster (including her grandmother who raised her, who really reinforced to her that this is a harsh world full of assholes who will break her down if she doesn’t control them and herself first). Cedrick was the sole exception for most of her life; the one person who truly had no ulterior motives; who saw the harshness of her personality and loved her for it. Who truly, honestly wanted her, in all possible ways. He loved her, and she was unaccustomed to love except as a young child, and she loved him with everything she had in return because of that love and acceptance he showed her.

She never thought she would find anyone else like Cedrick, but in the many years she came to know Carhart she realized he, like Cedrick, was a good man at heart. He cared about other people (even though he had totally different reactions than Ced would have on some topics, but Ced was from a completely different context). Most importantly, Carhart was literally the only person after Cedrick who she felt had no ulterior motives with her; no expectations. Who seemed to honestly, truly, like her as a person. Who honestly, truly, was willing to see her as a 3-dimensional person. They had years of becoming accustomed to each other’s personality, and months of really getting to know each other better, but that all happens offscreen.

That is something we will probably look at in editing–expanding the lead up to that whole thing more because, with the pace of the plot, I can see how it might feel more throwaway to someone because we didn’t have a ton of time to spend on it. But just know that it wasn’t random internally, psychologically for Viv 🙂 And probably that will come up in her backstory book, Domino.

Incidentally, I forgot to say this earlier but it’s very interesting to me to think of Viv in an ace context. I never thought about it before. In considering it now, I think that if you wanted to view Vivienne as anything ace, she would probably be demisexual– someone who only is ever interested in sex if they first have developed a close relationship with the person. Which is exactly what happened with Carhart. So even if you wanted to see Vivienne as ace, her interaction with Carhart shouldn’t be seen as dismissive of any ace tendencies. That is literally the only person she slept with since Cedrick died.

If she should be lambasted for having sex a couple of times with one man, who she truly liked and who she knew very well and who she had a lot of psychological reasons to feel was special to her because literally every other person treats her like a pariah, and this is only the second time she’s been with someone in 17 years, then that’s actually really sad. And kind of gets at why, as an ace, I don’t like that people put SO much weight on sex– whether in the having of it, or the lack of having it– and especially for women.

It’s really interesting to me, though, because you’re the first person who was upset about Carhart/Vivienne more on Vivienne’s behalf, because of you seeing her as ace. Most people were upset because they hated Vivienne and thought she should die for daring to touch Carhart when they felt he should only be with Emilio. (Which is sort of funny, when you consider how highly NOT monogamous those two are with Emilio sleeping with everyone under the sun). Interestingly, Vivienne is the only one blamed in that context; not Carhart, who is the one who showed interest in her and sort of pursued her, and despite the fact that it was mutual for them.

Anyway I guess I just wanted to say– even with the Carhart thing, if you saw Viv as ace she’d still be ace. Outwardly she seems to decently fits the parameters/definition of the demisexual ace definition; especially considering the fact that the moment she realized she had the sort of feelings for Carhart that would develop into love eventually, and that Carhart would never be interested in an emotional/monogamous relationship with her, she completely stopped any physical/intimate part of their relationship.

It may seem confusing to say that, since she said that she was okay with sleeping with him because he saw her as a woman and at first she thought it could be a no strings attached thing — but in all honesty, whether or not she realized it internally, the ONLY way it could even get to a point like that was first for her to have a very close relationship with him, to already trust him completely, to already care about him as a person, and to feel reverberations within him of the only man she had ever loved so deeply, so resoundingly, that she gave up her entire life for him just so they could be together: Cedrick. Including giving up millions of dollars and status and a home and everything. She threw it all away for love, despite being someone who’s very logical/sort of cynical/a harsh realist on her own.

In a much smaller way than with Cedrick, with Carhart she was willing to take a much smaller leap– giving herself a chance, briefly, to see herself as a person who someone actually liked and not someone who was only reviled. And when it became clear to her that this was something that would lead to an imbalanced power between them in the future, she dropped it without question.

So, the tl;dr of all of the above is that these things happened because they were natural for the characters or made sense in some significant way for the series as a whole. And the majority of the characters happened to be people who experience or seek out sex for various reasons which are personal and/or important to them, which then informs what will happen in the story itself.


Future options?

Now, all that being said, if those are concerns of yours in general when reading a story then you may like some of the books I’m working on currently, because most of the worlds/characters are in such different settings that sex isn’t as central.

In one of the fantasy books I’m working on, there’s a wide range of sexualities (including possibly two asexuals, one of whom is agender); a police procedural I’m working on will have probably next to no sex in it or if it does it won’t be between the main characters (also that’s a lesbian book); another fantasy book I am working on may or may not have sex in it but it won’t be that central to the plot, and where it does show up will be significant for those characters… and so on.

I’m not going into these books with specific goals on anything other than to tell the stories of those characters, so it’s possible things will change in the process of writing everything. But definitely there will be at least one, if not multiple, books from me in the future that don’t have sex as such a central part of it, and every single one of the books I mentioned has LGBTQIA characters. So hopefully that will help in the future too, if you’re looking for more things like that with my writing style attached 🙂 (Obviously, you could check other awesome writers in the meantime; I just wanted to mention that for now in case it helps 🙂 )

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14 thoughts on “ICoS questions, mostly related to sex + ace things – SPOILERS FOR FADE/AFTERIMAGE

  1. Alice October 19, 2015 / 9:02 am

    First, thank you for taking so much of your precious time and answering my questions! (The length of this post is heaven.) You’re seriously the best, and I appreciate it. Thank you for putting up with me! ❤

    Okay, wow. You can’t know how afraid I was that you’d try to justify what Ann did. You have no idea how scared I was you’d be like ‘what do you mean it was non-consensual, Sin gave his consent!!!’ (which, he couldn’t have given, in my opinion, not in the state and position he was in). Anyways, I’m glad we cleared that up and that essentially we have the same view of what happened. And here’s where the problem lies, I think. Because of course I agree with what you had to say about the Authorial God Voice – I actually feel the same. I also understand the difference between the author’s view and the character’s view, no need to worry about it. I also understand the idea of an unreliable narrator and everything. And that’s not what I meant at all – sorry if I wasn’t clear enough about it. When I said that you, as the authors, didn’t make it clear that what Ann did was essentially sexual abuse, I mean you didn’t make it clear in the story. I didn’t expect the narrative voice to change suddenly, by book 2 I was used to the way the narrative was being led, so I didn’t expect it to be like *enter Ais and Sonny* SEE, CHILDREN, THAT WAS BAD. DON’T DO IT. *exit Ais and Sonny* (Okay, I made myself chuckle. That would be hilarious.) Because when it comes to things as dark as rape, you can’t leave it ‘up to interpretation’. And when you gave that argument that we’re in a different world, and the morals in ICoS are a little (hah) skewed, I get that. I get that literally no one in ICoS is without flaws. But rape is still rape, no matter in what world we are (for example, if we have an universe where rape is seen as something normal, it’s still kept clear in the overall narrative that it’s wrong, and no one would have any doubts about it.) And you gave that example of human trafficking and gangrape – and here, of course, it wasn’t necessary to add any Authoraial God commentary to make it clear that it’s wrong. And no one would accuse you, as the author, of seeing it as okay etc. You made it clear in Boyd’s reactions, in his mental state, in the damage it’d done to the people involved, etc. With Hsin and Ann, we got nothing like that. I only needed some kind of a reaction from other characters or Hsin himself – some commentary that would show ‘the true nature’ of what happened. (That’s why I brought up Carhart, as an example of the only character who saw anything wrong with the picture). And that’s why I said I was angry that it was made all about the cheating. And no, from what I can remember, Boyd never comments on how Ann sexually abused Hsin by sleeping with him. It’s all about Boyd’s jealousy and betrayal and hurt. When he asks Hsin why he slept with Ann of all people, it’s in a manner of “What is wrong with you?!” instead of “What is wrong with her?”. He doesn’t express concern for Hsin’s emotional well- being and completely omits the fact that his boyfriend was sexually abused AGAIN. That’s why I think I was so shaken up about it – because on top of all that, it didn’t happen once but three times from what I can remember, in the most casual way of “You used me, and I used you, but it was fun and felt good so let’s do this again”, and what confused me the most that Hsin actually seemed to get better because of that, which, if it was sexual abuse, obviously shouldn’t have occurred. You see what I mean? Nowhere, at any point, it says (or is shown) in the story that it was sexual abuse. That’s why I was so scared that I was the only one seeing anything wrong with it – because it’s not made clear. You can’t leave something like that ambiguous, or up to the reader – in case it turns out not clear enough. Because then it’s even more disturbing when I see people talk about the book and they’re like ‘ohh, Hsin cheated on Boyd, how could he, it was so heartbreaking!’ instead of ‘oh, Hsin was sexually abused again and no one noticed again HOW HEARTBREAKING.’

    (As you can probably see, it was actually a big deal for me. I felt like, if I wanted to keep my conscience clear, I couldn’t recommend the series to my friends. Not when book 2 had non-con sex which wasn’t acknowledged as non-con at all by the narrative. Now that I know where you, as an author, stand, perhaps it will be easier for me to get over it. I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it.)

    But yeah, it would be perfect if you’d pay attention to it next time you edit the story. It would be amazing and relieving to see it more acknowledged. Thank you so much for listening to what I had to say, it means a lot.

    2. Nah, I absolutely agree with what you said about representation, and planning ahead characters’ sexualities, etc. That’s not what I meant (perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word ‘representation’ in my original question). I only meant that to me, as an asexual person, it would make more sense if there were actual people in the story who weren’t interested in sex. It could be the smallest thing, like for example, during the training for level 10, they have this talk about who has a crush on whom/who would want to fuck whom etc., right? Ah, what a nice place to have someone there say ‘nah, I wouldn’t want to fuck anyone’. GASP WHY. So when I use the expression ‘sex-normative’, I mean exactly what it supposed to mean – that sex/having sex/wanting sex/feeling sexual attraction is THE NORM. (Same when you say something is heteronormative – means heterosexuality is THE NORM.) Basically what I’m trying to say is if you automatically assign any sexual agenda to a character, it’s sex-normative. If you say a sexual behaviour or a sexual reaction for a character is something ‘natural’ to them, it’s sex-normative. At least that’s how I understand it.

    So yeah, I do understand the backgrounds. I didn’t say it didn’t make sense to me, character-wise (expect for Vivienne, but that comes later – and you explained it nicely to me ;)). I just wanted to take it one step further behind the curtain, and see what was your reasoning, as an author. Because you said your characters have minds of their own and they make their own decisions, and I love that, at the same time I don’t believe that the creating of a character happens entirely outside of the author’s background. And like I said, I didn’t mind the Kassian/Boyd thing –I actually really loved it, because I love them both, and I want them to experience all the kindness and love they can get. I guess I just don’t get why sex had to come into the equation. I love that part: “Kassian was someone who saw Boyd as his own person (not as Hsin’s partner or Vivienne’s son, but as Boyd himself), and saw him for all his flaws and merits, and had zero expectations of him.” – and I think it could be easily shown without the sex part. Which, in turn, makes it look like them having sex was used to fuel up the further conflict with Hsin, and further heartbreak, and (my favourite :D) storyline in Interludes. Which, in turn, looks like you very often used sex as a plot-device to cause conflict, which I always find extremely tiring and unrelatable. But I guess it’s just my problem as an asexual reader, so I just have to suck it up.

    Now, about E/B. Well, okay, maybe they would not ‘cuddle’ (I’M SORRY I’M WEAK AND I’M A SUCKER FOR GENTLENESS AND KINDNESS and okay, what am I doing reading ICoS, who thought it was a good idea for me to read ICoS, what am I doing with my life) – but OK, I didn’t actually mean cuddle. I meant they were so drunk they would literally fell into the bed together, without having sex because they were too drunk. I guess what I was trying to say was that something less ‘sexual’ would feel more heart-breaking exactly because it was something they wouldn’t normally do. I don’t know. I guess it just didn’t work for me the way it was supposed to – I mean, I’m guessing I wasn’t supposed to just shrug and roll my eyes – because at this point I expected it to happen. (Again, back to the sex-normative thing. The sex, and using sex as a coping mechanism, and everything being always tied to sex and leading to sex became so predictable in the books, that it just didn’t have the power it was supposed to have, I think.)

    When it comes to Vivienne, yeah, I headcanon-ed her as demi (still on the ace spectrum, so I just said ace). And maybe I misread her character and relationship exactly because I thought it was casual. And whoa, “The actual act of having sex should never be seen as a reason of dismissing whether or not someone could be ace or even dismissing who they are as a person in their integrity, because that’s as unfair to them as it is to aces like us who can be dismissed for not being on board the sex train.” – I know that, no need to remind me of that 😉 I didn’t mean it like that. I read Carhart/Vivienne as another relationship that turned into casual sex in a completely unnecessary way. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, perhaps I missed something (I do admit I didn’t pay much attention to them, because I disliked the storyline, but that’s just vicious circle). And “Most people were upset because they hated Vivienne and thought she should die for daring to touch Carhart when they felt he should only be with Emilio.” – whoa, that made me laugh. I’m the last person on the planet who would think Carhart should only be with Emilio. Because I don’t like Emilio – which, again, probably makes me the only one on the planet, haha. And I absolutely hate Carhart/Emilio as a relationship – because it’s abusive, and not healthy, and… yeah, I’ll just stop talking.

    I’M SO PUMPED FOR YOUR FUTURE STORIES. I’m not against sex in the stories, not at all. I just dislike it when sex is the driven force behind the plot, behind the conflicts, behind the reasoning of the characters. (And I’m not saying that was the case with ICoS, although it felt like it at times.)

    Thank you so, so much for answering my questions. I was so nervous about it, and you’re the sweetest person for being so patient with me. Thank you! ❤

    • Ais October 19, 2015 / 7:11 pm

      Hey! 🙂 Ok so I think I was confusing in part of it, I’m sorry 😄 First of all– yeah so I think a lot of your concerns re: Afterimage will be addressed in editing. Someone else said that it DID say in the book somewhere Boyd was horrified by what Ann did re: Sin but that it wasn’t mentioned enough– either way I think the problem is that regardless of whether it was mentioned, it wasn’t mentioned in as loudly as the other aspects were and that’s what’s causing that reaction because it seemed like the other parts overshadowed that aspect.

      I think there’s still legitimacy to Hsin cheating on Boyd, even though it wasn’t on purpose or what he went into it realizing he was doing. This is unrelated to Ann/Hsin having sex, because there is of course also the issue with it not really technically being possible for Hsin TO consent to that. But if it hadn’t happened with Ann, probably it would have happened with someone else.

      Even though I agree that Ann adds a whole aspect of it that gives a different view, it’s still true that from Hsin’s standpoint he was willing to sleep with someone despite being in a relationship with Boyd. So I don’t think it’s totally correct to imply Hsin didn’t cheat at all. The issue is that the “cheating” he did was also dubious in the actual situation it was. But completely unrelated to Ann, like in terms of Hsin’s own decisions, that was something he was cool with doing. So there can definitely be arguments made that Hsin couldn’t technically consent in that specific situation because of the specifics OF that situation, but there also was a mindset Hsin had that was what felt like a betrayal to Boyd because it trivialized what they had.

      I say this because when we edit Afterimage, I do want to make sure it’s more clear that Boyd’s upset about that with Ann. But I doubt it will completely lose any aspects of Boyd feeling cheated on. Because I do think there’s truth to both those parts.

      Oh btw what I meant about Authorial God Voice wasn’t the HERE WE ARE, SONNY AND AIS, AND NOW WE GO PEACE OUT (your thing made me laugh too XD) but more like, if we forced outside morals into a story in order to appease our own beliefs about that topic then I consider that Authorial God Voice too. Even if it’s never some really dramatic and obvious I AM THE AUTHOR AND I SAY THIS THING but rather forcing a character to say or do something.

      Like you said, with the trafficking it ended up working out where it was still clear how fucked up that was, but that’s because of the way Boyd’s POV reads differently than Hsin’s. The problem with Hsin’s POV is things are so normalized to him that he isn’t going to question how fucked up things are the way Boyd did for himself. So that’s why in terms of Afterimage, it would have to be someone externally being like WHOA WAIT THAT’S MESSED UP because it’s not something naturally Hsin would think or realize. Since Hsin is Sonny’s character I’d have to leave that up to him in editing; maybe that would change, and I’m sure that would be awesome to readers like you if it did, but I don’t know if it WOULD and I kind of doubt it would given Hsin’s mentality, so that’s why someone externally would need to point it out since internally he will not even see it as abuse because abuse is so normalized to him. Which is a really sad thing to think about 😦 .

      So that’s all I meant by that — that if no one externally from Hsin would be like “wtf that’s fucked up!” then creating some character just to appear and be like “wtf that’s fucked up!” and then disappear would be really forcing that viewpoint into the story. (Luckily, that’s a moot point since in this case Boyd would be the “wait that’s fucked up!” person and that will be addressed in editing)

      But in general, I get what you’re saying, how in the absence of that “wtf how fucked up!” narration or dialogue or whatever it can give a particular impression vs having it there. So, again, in this specific situation it is a moot point.

      I actually think you and I maybe have different viewpoints on other pieces of this and I would actually disagree with something you said but I didn’t go into it here since the actual situation in ICoS is a moot point. But if you want me to talk about what I’m referencing I can if you would be interested. I just didn’t want to go into a long thing on it if it was an aside and where it isn’t directly related to this and may never be related to future stories.

      About the other parts — I get what you mean and thank you for the clarification, but I guess my answer is the same ^^; I’m sorry.

      I mean– I do agree that I think that there’s always some bit of the author’s experience or friends or SOMETHING in the characters created, but my sexuality is not who I am. Just because I’m ace doesn’t mean I think aces need to be everywhere, unless they make sense to be there. I guess, if you’re looking at ICoS characters, for me what bled into my characters more was my psychology/personality traits than anything. Like depression and feelings of alienation and feeling frustrated by women’s sexuality being tied into motherhood and etc. Although possibly a bit of my ace tendencies bled into Viv, who knows.

      But for the example you gave–the problem is, none of the people at that table were ace. So it would make no sense for one of them to react as an ace would in that situation because then it would be denying the sexuality of the people who WERE there. But if other people were at that table, it might have read differently because even in ICoS, there are people who never even mention or talk about sex or if they do it’s totally irrelevant to them. Owen’s never seen having/caring about sex in the book. Jeffrey isn’t. Ryan rarely mentions it.

      If Jeffrey or Vivienne had been at that table in that scene and people talked about having this or that crush they would’ve been like “*snort* PLEASE.” and thought it was a stupid conversation. But they weren’t there, so that wasn’t a reaction anyone had.

      I know you were just using that as an example, by the way, and weren’t hyper-focusing on it having to be in that single scene. But I just mean it as a general thing… if it didn’t naturally come into play somewhere, that’s where it gets into my Authorial God Voice feeling where I’m not going to force something into the story that isn’t central to the plot. Being all-inclusive to the point of making sure asexuality is blatantly there along with everything else wasn’t something that was the point of ICoS. The point of ICoS was to tell the particular stories of those particular people, the main characters of which don’t happen to be ace, and so sex did get involved. And people like Vivienne, who spent 1.6 million words of story having nothing to do with sex… I do think part of it is the lack of her POV, which limits the understanding, but in the long run whether or not it was casual (which she started out thinking it was), the point still remains that for her, “casual” has a COMPLETELY different meaning than anyone else. Her level of “casual” is like, first I trust the hell out of you and really admire/respect you as a person and etc. Emilio’s “casual” is probably like, “I saw you across the room and 5 seconds later we were out back getting it on.”

      So in the absence of her POV I can see how you might have been confused by that.

      But sex wasn’t used as some forced way of getting conflict in. I guess a person can agree or disagree with the idea of how psychological/coping mechanisms/etc can be tied into sex for people but it’s the truth that it is tied into those particular characters, and so that’s why it happened. Because that’s what they would have done. Their decisions are going to lead this or that way based on who they are as people and what their background is and so on. So a lot of them end up using sex as a way of dealing with something or it’s an easy step for them or this or that.

      Again, I totally get what you’re saying. Since I’m also ace, I know why you’re saying it, and I know why there can be a lot of frustrations about these things, and I can see why you might feel like MAN IF ONLY THIS SEX WEREN’T EVERYWHERE I COULD LIKE IT MORE or anything else.

      I totally get what you’re saying 🙂 But it’s just that from my perspective as both ace AND Ais (haha that was a joke, sorry 😄 Ais sounds like ace) I just, unfortunately, can’t answer you any better than I have because there honestly, legitimately is a lot of psychology for the characters tied into sex, and to not have sex in there in places where they would have done something related to that would be denying the psychology of the character. Which as a writer I just don’t agree with doing. That’s what I mean about the Authorial God Voice; the idea of doing something with the characters specifically because of the way I believe about things in my life.

      Like ok just let me give you an example so you can get why I totally understand your frustration but also why I can’t, as a writer, do otherwise or give a different answer. Remember where I was like “And there’s a thing in a book that I rant about every time!!111”? Ok so I touch on an aspect of it here — but FAIR WARNING THERE ARE MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE END OF HARRY POTTER IN THIS!!! But if you’ve read all of Harry Potter, then check this link: http://ais-n.tumblr.com/post/124716569476/femmechester-been-thinking-a-lot-lately-about

      I think a lot of what I said in that post reflects how you felt about ICoS in some fashion in regards to sex or the value placed on things like sex or other things. So that’s why I TOTALLY get the ace reader side of things.

      But at the same time, the reason why I am so stalwart about being like “But I won’t force it on characters” is precisely for that same post and other things like that which have happened to me as a reader. The thing about that character I was so upset about in that post is that the character didn’t appear to have family/sex AT ALL on the mind; it was NOT part of that character’s psychology as far as we know.

      What happened with that character was later all but verified by the author as being something that was done precisely in order to get family out of the character in order to really hit hard on a moral commentary the author wanted to make. But the fact that THAT character of all characters was chosen for this moral stance, as opposed to pretty much any other character where it would have felt more natural and normal to be as a reader, really made a huge difference to me as a reader because of the way that character had read previously. It was super upsetting to me and still, every time, I want to rant lol

      But that’s why it’s especially important to me as a writer to always be very true to the psychology of the character, as much as possible, BECAUSE I’ve been a reader (and an ace reader) who’s been like GOD DAMNIT WHY DID THEY DO THAT?!!!111 so many times on so many books that I’m super cognizant of it now.

      In the case of ICoS, psychology was very related to sex for a lot of the characters in various ways. So to NOT do things related to sex with those characters because I’m ace and sex is unimportant to me, would be doing to those characters what was done in the name of family + kids to the character I loved in that other story (because family + kids was important to that author).

      So I just wanted to explain that if I sound contradictory or odd in my reply, I’m totally not trying to be! But I’m very dedicated to the idea of trying to be as true to a character as possible, no matter how fucked up that may be, because to do otherwise will read as super false to the people who actually love that character. And that becomes very upsetting very fast.

      So in terms of Afterimage, if it reads as false to people that someone like Boyd who has a background in psychology isn’t upset by the psychiatrist-patient thing, it really should read as false because that was an accident on my part where somehow we edited out the number of times that was mentioned — so that’s an editing or writing failure and definitely will be fixed, and that makes sense that it really stood out to you that NO ONE was saying anything about it because the one person who was mostly likely to was seemingly silent.

      But in terms of Fade with sex, it would read more as false to people if someone like Emilio didn’t use sex as a coping mechanism when it had been repeatedly shown that it’s how he coped. And it would have read more as false to people if Boyd had not been so fucked up that such a thing happened.

      Like, I get the idea that they could have NOT had sex and just fell into bed next to each other but honestly neither of them would have cared about that. It would not have shown the depth of their psychological pain. That would’ve been like Boyd waking up and going, “Oh, didn’t realize I slept over. Alright. Bye.” and they wouldn’t have had a second thought about it and it would have read as a largely meaningless scene in the greater scheme of things because it was already established they were both upset about Hsin dying. So them hanging around drinking being like “Man, why Hsin gotta die like that??” is just rehashing the exact same thing that had been going on psychologically in the first few chapters.

      The fact that they seemingly had become more stable, seemed to have their shit together, but then something like them sleeping together happened which NEVER would have happened if they’d been in their right minds, showed exactly how messed up they still were psychologically speaking. If it was anything less than something that made people go, “Whoa wait what the fuck??” (even if they anticipated it happening, still the fact that it DID happen was something the characters wouldn’t have done normally) — if it didn’t have that ??? or !!! reaction then it wouldn’t be actually showing their mental instability or mental state. It SHOULD have been a surprising thing to occur (again, not like you couldn’t have anticipated it but more like that they actually did it), it SHOULD have felt atypical to an extent — not in the usage of sex as a coping mechanism but rather in it happening with those two in particular. It SHOULD have felt really odd or a bit wrong. Because that was the point of it — it was odd or a bit wrong. That was how fucked up they were still internally, even if externally they seemed fine.

      That’s why for them, it just wouldn’t have worked another way and had the same meaning to them emotionally and psychologically. Like, even if they’d maybe tried to have sex and couldn’t because they were too drunk, that would be maybe a slightly embarrassing thing to them internally but not a super upsetting thing. It needed to be something super upsetting to them because they were that upset.

      It’s more upsetting to think that they actually had sex, that this thing happened and there was a specific long time period during which this was occurring, and NEITHER of them that whole time was like “fuck wait I don’t want this.” Because they were that messed up. If it was something that was a very short interaction like they were drunk and just fell into bed next to each other, or even started to paw at each other but couldn’t get anywhere and then fell asleep, that’s a very short time period and ultimately they would have been able to tell themselves later, “Oh see? I stopped it because I didn’t want/mean it.” Which has a totally different internal feeling than, “Oh my God how the hell did that happen?? I wish it never had.”

      That’s why I said my answer is still sort of the same, despite totally getting what you’re saying, because the fact of the matter is that sex is not just a physical, meaningless thing in ICoS. It’s all tied into psychology or coping mechanisms or the plot (not as a plot device to start problems but rather as a natural reaction characters have at various points along the way which, yeah, ends up causing problems in some cases but so do a lot of their other actions that have nothing to do with sex).

      I made this so long again I’m so sorry! I hope I’m making sense because I totally could not be >_< But again, even if you totally disagree with my viewpoint on things, I don't want you feeling like I'm being all NO UR WRONG because I don't think anyone can really tell anyone else they're wrong for feeling how they feel about something. They feel that way for a reason 🙂

      It's possible that ICoS just isn't your jam in the long term, with how sex is so central to a number of characters' psychology and how fucked up a lot of things are in the context of the story. But I'm glad you sound excited about the other works! Maybe they'll be more interesting to you 🙂 (Not that I'm saying you disliked ICoS — I mean more like, maybe they won't give you as much internal debate as ICoS did, and maybe you'll be able to fully enjoy it and not have to question yourself of whether you feel comfortable recommending it or not :))

      Thanks again for reading and for being critical — I think being a critical reader is an awesome thing 🙂 Sometimes it does mean a story maybe just isn't totally in line with a person's views or preferences, but there's nothing wrong with that. It may just mean that's a book a person reads once and then doesn't read again. Or it may mean they always caveat their love of the story in their own mind because of this or that aspect. I do that with plenty of stories so I really don't think there's anything wrong with that, either. I think everyone needs to do what feels right to them. And regardless of anything else, I'm wishing you all the best and hope you have a lovely day! 😀

      • Alice October 20, 2015 / 9:33 am

        I didn’t think you were confusing! Seriously, I’m pretty sure I get everything you’re saying, so no worries 🙂 And I can’t stress enough, I appreciate that you’re willing to hear me out and you’re so nice about it. Seriously, ILY.

        Well, there was a short paragraph about how Boyd couldn’t believe it was Ann of all people, but it was still more focused on the fact that a) she was a woman (as if it somehow made it worse, but I get that with Boyd’s low self-worth it could have been an issue), b) her sister sexually abused Hsin in the past (only her sister, not Ann herself). Unless we’re talking about something else that I missed because I couldn’t see through my tears (I’m so weak), which is entirely possible and I’m only half-joking heh. But yeah, if you just keep it in mind for the future, I’ll be happy, I’m just glad I managed to bring it to your attention.

        No, no, no, I didn’t mean to imply that Boyd’s feelings of betrayal and hurt weren’t valid! God, no. I was only disturbed that it was made ONLY about cheating. I agree entirely – Hsin’s mindset, him having no sense of monogamy etc totally implied that it would have happened anyway. I’m not denying that! And I didn’t expect it to change or anything, no, no! (Actually, it would cause a bit of a problem, since Hsin cheating was the final straw that made them break up… So, yeah. I’m aware how important it was to the plot.) Absolutely, I do understand Boyd’s feelings on that matter and I wouldn’t say he had no right to feel like that. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear about it. You weren’t confusing at all, but I’m afraid I was… :/

        Haha, I know, I was only joking! I know what you mean by the Authorial God Voice. And again, I didn’t expect you to put some random character in the story to be the voice of proper morals and then make them disappear – I was hoping for someone within the story already (and obviously not Hsin himself, since yeah, I 100% agree with what you said and yeah, I wouldn’t expect Sonny to change anything about that/him), and I realize how difficult it was/would be to achieve for the exact reasons you presented to me aka the ICoS universe and especially the Agency being totally fucked up and having a different understanding and scale of fucked up. I guess what I’m trying to say – yeah, I expected Boyd to be the one externally from Hsin saying the ‘wtf that’s fucked up!’. And you said he was essentially the one who was supposed to be that voice. So I think we cleared that up pretty nicely 🙂 (Again, seems like again I got what you mean properly but then had troubles confirming it… I’m really sorry, like I said, English is not my first language, but I’m doing my best. It’s sometimes hard when I’m emotional about the topic and try to say a million things at once and at the same time trying to control myself in order not to overwhelm you with my rambling. I’m sorry.)

        Please, do elaborate! (I’m talking about the “I think you and I maybe have different viewpoints…”) – I’m curious now! 🙂

        Whelp, no need to be sorry, I didn’t expect you to change your answer! Again, I totally get what you mean, where you stand, and where you’re coming from. We also have to remember that we both have different point of views – here, you’re the writer, the Creator (and I bow down before you), and I’m the reader, with my own interpretation. So I didn’t expect you to change your view, no way. But you did manage to change some of mine, and that’s pretty cool 🙂

        Okay, when I said that there’s always some sort of the author’s background bleeding through, I actually meant the exact opposite of what you said, I think. By ‘background’ I meant something entirely subconscious, something that the author almost doesn’t control – or is not aware of it, so can’t control. So I didn’t mean that if you’re ace, you’re going to put aces everywhere just because that’s your sexuality. (I don’t know how to explain it, I’m so frustrated with myself right now.) Perhaps, that no text exists outside of cultural/social background? So if I thought that ICoS was sex-normative, it’s probably because it was a result of a sex-normative society that we currently live in. And yeah, I know you don’t agree with me 🙂 But I guess my point of view is that if sexual behaviour is necessary for the character to make sense psychologically, it’s sex-normativity. Like, when you often see writers/producers/etc. always trying to justify the lack of queer characters in media by saying that the character’s sexuality isn’t relevant to the story. Ok then, then why is heterosexual a norm then? It’s not about being relevant or not, it just is. So when you say that something wouldn’t make sense in the story, or ‘none of the people at the table were ace’ – I’m asking, WHY?, in the first place? I have no idea if you know what I mean BECAUSE I SUCK AT EXPLAINING THIS, but yeah, that’s just my opinion, and I know you don’t agree. Like I said, you’re the author, and I’m a critical consumer 😉
        And yep, here at this point I might not be talking about any existing main characters with their agendas and plots etc. anymore, because I hear you, and I hear why you wouldn’t want to force anything onto the characters. (And in the example you gave me I think it’s a little different, because it seems like in HP it was about making a MORAL STATEMENT. Aka you’re not whole without a family etc. Whereas when we talk about sex, it’s not about morality – at least, it’s not for me. And it’s not even about forcing your own ‘beliefs’ onto the characters, because I would still totally ask those questions regardless of the author’s sexuality. But at the same time, I understand your point of view and your need to stay true to the characters.

        “Man, why Hsin gotta die like that?” – that made me laugh, I’m so sorry, I’m ashamed of myself 😀 Yeah, I loved your explanation here, about B and E, in a sense that anything else wouldn’t have the same effect on *them*. But that doesn’t equal the reader, which is, of course okay. It’s just, everything here suggest that OH MAN SEX IS THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN between them, which in turn makes sex into this super important super sort of a ‘big deal’ and – for some people, of course it is. I have no idea where I was going with this lmao @ myself. Anyways, I just had trouble relating to that, but that’s my problem.

        Okay. We can agree on never again apologizing for the length of our comments/posts/anything, because I basically went over the top in this one. Whoa. And no more worrying that you make no sense! I’m the only one who should worry.

        Ha, no, it’s too late to just say ‘ICoS isn’t my thing’. I’m in too deep. I devoted myself to those characters. There were some things that I found disturbing, yes, there were some things that I didn’t agree with (well, it would be a boring world if we only read stuff that were completely in line with our views, and internal debates aren’t a bad thing either, in my opinion), there were things that made me cry, in a good way as well as in a bad way. But I still love it. I love the story it tells, of growing up and becoming your own person and finding meaning in your life and not giving up, and I love the writing style, how you can breathe the air they breathe (and not die of radioactive poisoning because you’re not really there, ha!), and see the things they see, I love the world-building because it’s simply amazing, the post-apocalyptic scenario being one of my favourite scenes in fiction, and most of all, I love Boyd. He is so important to me. So there’s no ‘ICoS isn’t your jam in the long term’ nuh-huh, I’m gonna keep loving it, and I’m gonna re-read it many, many times (perhaps I’ll always have to skip Afterimage though ;)), and, Jesus. I didn’t mean to sound like I don’t love it. I do. But loving something (a piece of media) comes with being critical about it, even more than I’d be with something that was just ‘meh’ to me. So, yeah. I love the story, and I love the authors of the story (*blushes*) and I care about the characters so much, so that’s why I’m asking all those questions and being a pain in the ass 😉 So, I’m sorry for that, and thank you again.

    • Ais October 19, 2015 / 7:33 pm

      Oh also! I couldn’t go to your tumblr 😦 Something was weird and it was requiring a password 😦 So I couldn’t tell you on tumblr but I wanted to let you know about a post I did for Queer Romance Month which maybe will make you feel a little better? It’s basically about how I’ve always felt difference and I talk about asexuality things. I’m doing a terrible job of explaining it 😄 But go here:

      http://www.queerromancemonth.com/ais-lin-2015

      • Alice October 20, 2015 / 9:35 am

        OH NO I wonder if it was your tumblr acting weird or mine….. But thank you for letting me know, you’re a sweetheart! ♥

    • Ais October 20, 2015 / 9:58 pm

      For some bizarre reason, wordpress never gives the “reply” option past 2 replies on the same thread. So I had to go back to reply to your first comment, even though I’m actually reacting to your second comment after I already replied. I hope that makes sense!

      I laughed that you laughed about “WHY HSIN GOTTA DIE” — that would have made a hilarious scene 😄 I’m glad you were amused because I was amused in writing that.

      By the way, your English is awesome! Don’t apologize for it! You are doing nothing wrong in your replies! I honestly think we’re in agreement on a lot of things or at least totally get the other person’s explanation, and we’re both just being dorks who are talking past each other 😄 So, in order to stop doing that, I won’t reply to most of what you said because I think we both totally get what each other is saying, and the more we do long answers the more the other person will think they weren’t understood 😄 It’s getting pretty hilarious to me at this point 😄

      Also, I figured that you probably loved ICoS since your tumblr name showed you heart Boyd, but (as I always say) I’m secretly!Boyd so I also didn’t want you to feel beholden to loving ICoS. I know that sounds so weird but I didn’t want you to feel like you HAD to like ICoS so I didn’t want you to feel pressured to say you like/enjoy it even though some things really upset you, which is why I was like “oh it’s okay if it isn’t your thing.” It’s such a weird thing from my end, I know 😄 I just never want to be in anyone’s way of happiness, whether it’s me or a story I’m involved in, so I never want anyone to feel pressured into a feeling when around me because I would feel sad if they felt like they couldn’t be themselves. Which I know is not AT ALL what you were saying. It’s just my personality to add extra lines like OH ITS OKAY IF YOU HATED IT even if I don’t think they hated something, just so that if they DID hate it they don’t feel forced to act like they didn’t.

      So a lot of the things where you thought you wrote something poorly in English, probably were not you writing anything poorly at all. It was probably my personality trying to make sure I was covering all the bases of a topic lol

      But I did want to say that I agree with you that society at large is very sex-normative. It’s very frustrating. In a way, ICoS/the Agency is like an extreme form of society so if you want to consider ICoS as sex-normative, then perhaps that’s a way of contextualizing it. But in that one specific example we were using as a discussion point, where they sat around that table in Afterimage, and where you said you would ask WHY there weren’t any ace people around that table (as your example of why you were challenging the status quo/questioning things) — it’s kind of how I think about life at large. Why am I a lesbian and ace? idk, it’s just how I am. Why is Santino bisexual? Or you ace? Why is Vivienne a way that could be externally considered to be demisexual? Why is Boyd gay? It’s just how those people happen to be.

      So I know that the point you’re making is regarding the smaller percentage of certain viewpoints/sexualities compared to others and tying that back to the idea of everything being so sex-normative and going from there, and I think really that’s the sort of thing that to some extent will always be in the eye of the beholder. But from my perspective, it’s just that the characters who happened to be in that particular position at that particular time who happened to be interested in going forward for Level 10 who happened to be qualified enough for it, happened to be people who weren’t ace. Not because it’s impossible that someone who was ace could be in that position, but because the characters who we happened to create at that time happened to be more cool with sex. I get what you mean about the idea of heteronormativity and all that, and it’s definitely an interesting question people can debate about why is heterosexuality normative, but I would personally argue that it’s because that’s the majority of people. Same as the majority of people (vast majority, honestly) are not ace.

      So, as an LGBTQIA person, it honestly doesn’t bother me at all if there are a lot of straight people all over the place everywhere in media, because that’s how it is in real life too. I would honestly find it to be really unrealistic if everything was super heavily populated with LGBTQIA people and straight people were hard to find. But I do like there to be representation of LGBTQIA where it makes sense, and that “makes sense” of course means it SHOULD be just thrown in randomly as well. It bugs me when LGBTQIA things are turned into their own little genre like we don’t belong in straight media. But I feel that way about straight people not being allowed in LGBTQIA media as well. I don’t like it in either form. And it may sound odd but even though I’m ace, and even though the lack of representation of ace things has made it take me forever to realize there’s nothing wrong with me, it also doesn’t bother me at all that there aren’t a ton of ace representations everywhere simply because my life has shown me that asexuality, at least where I’ve been born and raised and lived, is not common at all and is a very odd thing. Not odd as in negative connotation, but odd as in different. It’s very uncommon and people still don’t really understand it and I’m still thought of as kind of weird because of it. So I would find it odd if every story had someone who was ace in it because that isn’t reality to me.

      I’m not saying you’re suggesting ALL ACE ALL THE TIME IN BOOKS although that thought totally makes me laugh and would be really pretty funny to read — I just mean, that’s where I’m coming from, and maybe why I might seem more unconcerned about things that you’re questioning. Because it may be tied to the reality I’ve always known.

      However, I did also want to mention– keep in mind also that Afterimage was written in 2008 – 2009. At that time, I had no idea asexuality even existed. I’d always understood there to be something inherently wrong with me because of how I was, but I also basically never knew of or saw other people LIKE me. So I had no idea that what I was, was normal to me. I thought I was messed up. And as you said, society itself definitely is sex-normative. So in the question of how an author’s subconscious can affect things, etc, who knows whether/how all that affected the characters. Is it possible that if we were to be writing Afterimage now, would one of the characters we created who would end up in that scene in that room happen to be asexual? I honestly have no idea. I can tell you that I didn’t think of a character who was ace back then and then go, “Oh no but I can’t write this, it isn’t realistic” and then change it to someone else. We created the characters who made sense to us for the context in which they lived/existed. So there was no conscious censoring of anything, at all.

      I honestly feel like even if we created that today, probably there wouldn’t have been someone who was ace in that particular scene still, simply because the personalities I think of for specifically making someone who is ace in ICoS, is a personality that I don’t know if it would have fit at that time in that context in that scene. Largely because my experience is that if you’re ace, at least the way it is for me, then you spend a lot of your life feeling different and kind of alienated by larger society and all this stuff, and I’m not sure offhand that I imagine someone who had to grow up to be so independent and stalwart in their differences, would make sense as someone who would be in that particular group of people specifically trying to become a level 10 at that particular time where level 10 training hadn’t been open (or expected to be open) for years. All the personalities I imagine right now for characters who I might right now create specifically to be ace in the ICoS world context, would be people who would either be in R&D where differences are more celebrated and accepted, or would be people who wouldn’t at that moment care about trying to become level 10 because they’re perfectly happy as rank 9 or whatever rank they are and they don’t feel like they need to prove themselves to someone externally like a lot of those rank 10 trainees did.

      Boyd was in rank 10 training in order to find himself, and to prove to himself and everyone else that he had to be taken seriously. I feel like if you’re ace, you have to find yourself a lot earlier because you’re going to get a lot of external pressure to change to fit society much earlier in your life, and you have to become a lot more confident in yourself because a hell of a lot of people will question you. So I feel like the sort of ace people who would be qualified to be in the really fucked up Agency world, would be people who are already super aware of who they are, who don’t need some number next to their name like rank 10 to feel like they can prove themselves, and who would question a lot more what comes along with that rank 10 label because they would have spent so much of their lives questioning everything around them because everything around them so infrequently matched up with who they were internally.

      That’s actually another reason I feel like there wouldn’t be necessarily a TON of ace people in the Agency, because I feel like they especially would have been extremely critical/questioning of everything from the start. Which is not to imply that people who aren’t ace are non-critical– not at all. I just mean, right now when I imagine any character I might create at this moment specifically for the ICoS world who specifically would be ace, I imagine someone who IS more critical and self-confident, and would therefore be more critical along the way, and might not make as good of a candidate for the Agency’s use as someone else who’s less critical and self-confident would be. Because when you think about it, the Agency really preys on the vulnerabilities of its people, in order to control them.

      And it’s not at all that aces are somehow invulnerable to that sort of thing (that would be nice, wouldn’t it? But yeah no, not true, since I can personally attest to a lot of depression/other mental/emotional issues just like all my non-ace friends) — it’s more like, because the Agency is the sort of society someone would have to specifically elect to join, as opposed to the society we are born into of which we have no choice, then it seems like if a person is already critical of their own society, and if there is this extremist-society which approaches them and is like OH HAI THAR WANNA JOIN? 😀 I GOT CANDIES 😀 😀 😀 BUT ITS PROBABLY LACED WITH CYANIDE ROFLCOPTER HOPE U DONT MIND 😀 then that person would be like “oh heeeeeeell no!”

      Now, obviously, there are a lot of situations where someone who’s ace might still join because of the propaganda which would hide the more extremist ways of the Agency or because of personal circumstances which would mean they would be interested in it or feel like they have to join or this or that. But ultimately that’s what I mean when I say how there just didn’t happen to be aces at that table. Not because it’s like OMG ACES SUCK (not that I’m saying you’re saying that I’M saying that btw lol I’m just being dramatic there as a joke) but because the sort of personality that would have had to have happened with the personal experiences that would have been needed with that context of the localized culture/society of the Agency and the timing of when it happened and all that, was such that the people who were created who made sense for that goal of “I wanna be level 10! I’m gonna be this higher rank in the Agency!” were people who just didn’t happen to be ace.

      But then if you compare that to the stories I’m working on now, why is it that there are ace people in there? Or more LGBTQIA in various places? Well the two people who are most likely ace in the fantasy story Incarnations I’m working on, are people who live in a society (and professions) where there isn’t any sort of external pressure to be any certain way. And where it just happens to make sense for their personalities and who they are and how they were raised and all that. They are because they are, because that’s who they are as people. But their personalities also have adapted to their surroundings so they’re fine with being ace in whatever form they are, because their society is cool with it and there isn’t any sort of pressure. But a lesbian character in the story feels a TON of pressure in her life– not for being lesbian (I don’t even know if she realizes she is yet), but rather because of something that happened in her past completely unrelated to sexuality, and because people have put a lot of pressure on her about this thing, and so she’s super resentful of it, and has a bad attitude in some form. Same with another character who has a horrible attitude about this other thing, because of discrimination that he and people like him in the past have dealt with.

      That gets into a bit of a tangent but I guess I’m just saying — why are there aces in stories I’m creating now but weren’t back in ICoS days? Is it because of a subconscious thing where I didn’t know I was ace back then so I didn’t have it higher on my mind when creating my characters for that world? Is it because of the differences in the societies of these different books and the context in which sexuality or sex is viewed? Is it because of the variation in my own society and the acceptance, or lack thereof, of asexuality or alternative sexualities? Or is it simply because the characters are the people they happen to be, and regardless of their setting or the timing of their creation they would always be that way, because that’s who they are and that’s their sexuality and that’s their history and that’s them as human beings?

      I know what I think about that but I’m not going to tell other people what to think, and it’s such a complicated topic that probably nobody knows the full answer– or there may not be a single “truth.” But I do think it’s a very interesting question to ask.

      And now I did what I said I wasn’t going to do and rambled forever lol As we agreed, I won’t apologize! I’ll just say– I hope it doesn’t read as me saying your wording was off or challenging you or anything. It’s more like, I thought it was an interesting thing you said which made me want to explore it more, so that’s what I did. I should probably reread what I wrote so I can make it not be confusing but…. yeah I’m just going to post because if I reread I’ll become obsessed with trying to word things JUST the right way and still will not be clear somewhere haha.

      I did want to say thanks for all the other messages! And I’m glad you like Boyd 🙂 And again, please do find humor in these answers because I have a lot of humor in writing it in places lol

      • Alice October 22, 2015 / 11:06 am

        “We’re both just being dorks who are talking past each other.” – Haha, I was just saying that to my friend! I was like “So Ais replied to me, and then we started talking, and I’m pretty sure we understand each other but we just both can’t seem to stop talking lmao”. So yeah, that’s hilarious 😉

        This is such an interesting point of view (on LGBTQIA representation in meda – I seriously haven’t thought about it like that before, and also on ace people in the Agency/their mindsets/motives etc.) That’s so cool, thanks so much for sharing. It got me thinking a lot. (But, just to shatter any expectations – if the Agency recruited me, I’d totally join and I’d totally start level 10 training just to get to spar with Boyd and be trained by Kassian and get to poke his abs, and tell them both they’re worthy and good people and to love each other. And then I’d help take the shithole down from the inside, ha!)
        OK, that’s enough, I’m shutting up right this instant.
        Once again, thank you so much for listening to me and talking to me and generally being the greatest author one could ever imagine. You’re awesome.
        (I also can’t promise I won’t have any more questions in the future, sorry.) ♥

      • Ais October 22, 2015 / 5:59 pm

        Ok Alice I’m replying off of my reply because it still won’t let me reply to you. Seriously, wordpress! What is your deal??

        Yeah our wordiness is seriously making me laugh 😄 It’s so funny. I’m not used to finding someone who talks as much as I do so hey! Good job us! 😄

        “if the Agency recruited me, I’d totally join and I’d totally start level 10 training just to get to spar with Boyd and be trained by Kassian and get to poke his abs, and tell them both they’re worthy and good people and to love each other. And then I’d help take the shithole down from the inside, ha!”

        LOL duly noted. We’ll get your Rank 10 gear ready ;P And make sure those two are in the right mindset to listen ^_~

        Myself, imma be in R&D with the geeks, having a tumblr war to see who can find the most ridiculous animated gifs fastest on a topic without cheating by using the gif search engine on posts. I have a sneaking suspicion Owen would win that one.. Despite not being as technologically obsessed as the others like Ryan, he is filled with such Random that I feel like the Random of the internet would be attracted to him like magnetic energy and he would stumble upon it all a lot faster than the rest of us.

        …and there’s a tangent I didn’t mean to go on but COME ON I totally would be R&D it sounds so fun ❤

        Man I just got sidetracked trying to think about what Archer is. Hmm. Well that's a thought process for another day.

        Anyway–

        "Once again, thank you so much for listening to me and talking to me and generally being the greatest author one could ever imagine. You’re awesome.
        (I also can’t promise I won’t have any more questions in the future, sorry.) ♥"

        lol actually I felt really bad that I may have seemed like, idk, too Something in my reply. I didn't want anyone to feel like they are wrong in their feelings, even if I'm taking 10,000 words to explain my viewpoint. So I actually want to thank you for not minding my replies! And for understanding what I was trying to say in places where I was like BLAHBLAH WORDS PROBABLY NOT THE RIGHT ONES OH WELL ROFLCOPTER

        Always feel free to ask questions. It won't bother me any time you do, seriously. Go for it, Domon W! If I don't know an answer I will either figure it out or figure out how to get you the answer. And if there isn't an answer because of whatever reason, then I'll tell you that and what the reason is.

        Hey btw did you read all the various Q&As we've done over the years? I forgot now if I linked them before. If I didn't and if you're interested, let me know and I can figure out where they are. I was just thinking that I should make sure they're all in one place. I think I put a number of them on my blog but not all and in retrospect maybe I should have….

  2. sunny hills October 19, 2015 / 4:26 pm

    Hi ais! thanks again for answering bae’s questions ❤ as i already said i was quite curious myself about the topics she pointed out and couldn't wait to see your pov on them x3

    To be fair i think Boyd being horrified by what Ann did to Hsin was mentioned in the story at some point so you and sonny definitely didn't fail, be reassured ^-^ personally i can say i was just so struck by what was happening / happened between A x H that any reaction from Boyd (or anyone else) still didn't feel enough to me nor did it placate my raging outrage. In my emotional state i got it like Boyd ended up more focused on his (rightfully) hurted feelings than on Hsin's abuse & mental condition, but of course Boyd wasn't completely aware of the latter and i may have put too much pressure on his shoulders myself inadvertently. I realize now he had many concerning issues himself and it wasn't nice of me to expect so much of him (to be the controlled anchor and mentally / emotionally stronger one in their relationship) yet again. Maybe my feeling Hsin was treated as a cheater instead of a victim was just my panic getting in the way. 😄 I'll try to re-read those parts with a more unbiased mind (i skipped book#2 in my recent re-read, you know, that volume really killed me the first time, xD).
    Anyway i definitely agree that the breakup had to happen for them to get over their unhealthy co-dependency (tho in my naive heart i still rooted for them to find a way together 😄 *pleasedon'tmindme*), so at the very least that nightmare served a higher purpose.

    I totally see your point on Boyd x Emilio and, as much as my fangirl soul was hurting bad at that time (lol), the rational part of me accepted almost istantly what i was reading and very surprisingly even now i don't have any hard feeling about it. It was never about them, it was all about their love for Hsin and their desperate grief for losing him.

    Boyd x Kassian are honestly another kettle of fish to me. I really ship their bromance and adore thier moments together (ohmy, their friendship is precious ;O;) which is honestly the reason why i felt a bit disappointed by them starting to sleep together. I admit i'm not that big of a fan of the whole friends with benefits thing, so this might play a role in my opinion (and i feel so retro / oldstyle now *runs ashamed*), but to tell the true i don't feel that's entirely it. In fact, if the same thing had happened in a universe where Hsin didn't exist and thus Boyd wasn't in love with anyone yet, or maybe if i hadn't still felt a hard distress by what Ann did to Hsin and by people's poor (to me) reactions to that, i would have even approved of the whole B x K. But being things as they are, i think there will always be a part of me unable to fully enjoy it ^^

    Omg, that ulterior clarification is really making your future projects all the more enthralling, even Viv's book! *hoho*

    • Ais October 19, 2015 / 5:46 pm

      Oh good it was at least in there a little! But still, I think it probably wasn’t in there enough. Honestly I haven’t reread Afterimage in a while but I do feel like that book especially needs some editing to make things more clear, especially from Boyd’s side. I would have to check at that time what exactly Boyd would know but I do think there’s an opportunity for it to be more clear that part of why he’s so upset is on Hsin’s behalf, in addition to feeling a bit betrayed on his own. Because even though a person could argue (rightfully so) that the ability for Hsin to consent with Ann specifically was dubious considering their relationship, it’s still true that Hsin had zero qualms with sleeping with someone else. So even if it hadn’t been Ann, it could have happened with someone else. So Hsin still cheated on Boyd, and from Hsin’s perspective it was 100% consensual so from Hsin’s perspective he went into it willingly therefore the feelings of being cheated on from Boyd’s side are still legitimate — but it’s made even more complicated by the fact that in the real world, objectively, that whole situation with Ann would be seen as super messed up.

      So in editing I definitely want to make that more clear. I have also heard from people (and this may be what is affecting your K/B view) that they thought that it seemed like Boyd stopped loving Hsin in training and then with Kassian, which isn’t at all true. BUT that could be a failure on my part of writing it, not getting it across well enough that he DID still love Hsin all along. I think I just thought everyone would understand that; that it wouldn’t have to be overviewed because that’s Boyd’s basic state of mind. But I think (very understandably so) a lot of readers didn’t feel that way because it DIDN’T say these things in narration, and therefore they thought that was meaningful in a different direction (like that Boyd didn’t love him as much anymore).

      • Alice October 20, 2015 / 9:44 am

        OKAY, NO. I absolutely adore the way you write Boyd, the way you always put so much thought into his thought process, and the way he always over-thinks stuff and just!! No, there wasn’t anything wrong in that part. To me, it was clear that he still loved Hsin, but they needed that time apart. In Afterimage, Boyd was doing things for himself – and man, do I get enraged whenever I see someone saying “OH NO BOYD WAS SO SELFISH IN AFTERIMAGE, I WANTED TO SLAP HIM” – first of, back off and don’t touch my son, and second, yes, he was selfish, and yes, he got carried away, but that was a part of the process of him finding himself and finding what he likes and — why am I explaining those things to you, you wrote it xD. What I’m trying to say is, no, Ais, that was not a failure on your part. It was pretty clear – and even if it wasn’t, it didn’t necessarily have to be because a) it was a confusing time for both of them b) it kept the readers on their toes 😉 c) not everything has to be in text (expect for the – extremely problematic – stuff we talked about, obviously, aren’t I contradictory…), d) I was actually more afraid that Kassian would develop some romantic feelings for Boyd because let’s face it, Boyd is a bae and who wouldn’t fall in love with him, honestly.

        But then again, I love reading about Boyd’s thought process. So, I guess, do what you feel is right, and stay true to yourself – and your boy 🙂

      • sunny hills October 22, 2015 / 8:51 am

        Thank you for being so understanding! I would really appreciate it ❤ ('m sure for many other ICOS fans things were as clear as the water the way you and sonny put them already tho).

        Oh, i definitely see that and agree. Hsin could have slept with any random person because he really didn't have qualms about it, especially so early in the story and given where he comes from (among the other things, Emilio *coughs* –but i do love Emilio!), and as such Boyd's feelings of betrayal are totally legit (and really i would have reacted so much worse than he did °°).
        Probably the feeling i got that the cheating wasn't really the thing there (or better, that there were so many more relevant issues beyond the act I felt weren’t exposed enough) depends both on the delicate mental state Hsin was in at that time (in the specific case with Ann) which to me made a difference, and on my own opinion of Hsin himself (in the possible case of him sleeping with someone else) who gave me -at least during a half of the series- the vibe of someone very naïve as in lacking of the basic knowledge of emotions, relationships and expectations, which I’m not saying should make any wrong a right or even is entirely true (I’m aware that opinion is completely relative and biased to my perspective of life and thus anyone can very easily and rightfully disagree) but it definitely played a huge role in how I was affected by the cheating/ abuse episode and later even by the Boyd x Kassian thing. As I said I can see why you wrote that was still a cheating to you and really your input on that means the most 🙂

        Whoa I didn't know other people were upset by BxK, till now i've always met fellow fans who enjoyed their arc a lot (one of them even hoped for something more, you know xD) but actually i'm a bit baffled by their reasons because, personally, in no part of the series I ever got the idea Hsin and Boyd didn’t love each other anymore or as much as before, and in fact my main problem with BxK is exactly due to Boyd still being very much in love with Hsin while sleeping with Kassian. (Not that things like that don't happen all the times in real life too or that they aren't cool if consensual because they do and they are, but they are also very far away from my own approach to love, sex and friendship in general and so i often struggle a bit to understand them). To tell the true had i believed Boyd wasn't in love with Hsin anymore, Boyd x Kassian would have been better and easier to accept to me ^^

        Thank you again for taking your time to help me clear some doubts, you're precious, sometimes i don't even know how you manage all your fans's different positions without feeling the urge to strangle us, lol.

        P.S. this is completely random but I’ve just spent a good hour reading all the comments you and alice wrote before and apart from the fact that some of the topics you talked about ended up interesting me even more that the ICOS related ones, which is saying a lot lol, but also I’m just so smiling here because, omg, I can’t choose which one of you talks more xD

  3. Ais October 22, 2015 / 5:51 pm

    It won’t let me reply directly to you sunny so I’m having to do a separate reply. Seriously…. I even changed my theme in the hopes it would let me do more than three replies but it doesn’t >_< wtf wordpress?

    But anyway
    "but also I’m just so smiling here because, omg, I can’t choose which one of you talks more xD"

    LOL I know right? We were both like HEY LOOK AT ALL THE WORDS 😀 😀 😀 hahaha it's hilarious. I rarely meet anyone as talkative as me. It makes me laugh 😄

    For BXK– I get your response, since personally I'm the same way in terms of my personal life. Casual intimate things are just not gonna happen, whether with a friend or not. So I can understand anyone who has that reaction. I can also understand anyone who appreciated or liked the arc because of the way the characters themselves needed/appreciated/whatever the arc and the way it happened in story. I'll actually be very curious to see if the view of that book changes after some things are better explained in editing, or if the response will remain the same. I don't see anything wrong with either side of that– I really think everyone goes into a story from their own viewpoint and things will affect people different ways so there's no wrong way to experience or react to a book. It's all correct for the individuals. So I say I'm curious not because I'm placing any sort of value judgment on people changing/not changing their reactions; more like, from a psychology standpoint, I'm merely curious to see what happens.

    "Thank you again for taking your time to help me clear some doubts, you're precious, sometimes i don't even know how you manage all your fans's different positions without feeling the urge to strangle us, lol."

    LOL I actually think it's awesome there's such a variety 🙂 I mean, you can never make everyone 100% happy with everything. It's the fact that there's such variation that is so fascinating to me. I really love it. And I really love that people feel comfortable saying something about it, and I love that they're so passionate. Even if that passion were to be like OMFG I HATE THIS SERIES I CAN'T EVEN I'M SO ANGRY because of what's happening at that time in the story, I feel bad for them that they're upset but it's also really cool that words on a page have brought such life with them, that the reader has a genuine emotional reaction to it. I love books that give me emotional reactions in whatever form so it's a great thing when anyone has an emotional reaction or intellectual reaction in whatever way to ICoS or anything else I may write or co-write in the future 🙂

  4. Alice October 25, 2015 / 12:26 pm

    Okay Ais, it won’t let me reply to you directly… Anyways! You asked if I read all the various Q&A you and Sonny have done over the years – well, I did try to read anything I could find (be it on the goodreads group or on your tumblr or your blog etc.) before asking my own questions, just to make sure. (I did spend an unhealthy amount of time on your blog and tumblr just after I finished the series. I was like NOW I MUST KNOW EVERYTHING EXTRA ABOUT BOYD, BRING IT ON. And then I spent hours upon hours browsing through your blog and crying over how Boyd wouldn’t want to keep any animal in a cage, so instead he’d have a trained bird or something but he would also like a pet he could cuddle and I WAS LITERALLY CRYING I’M SO LAME BC I LOVE HIM SO MUCH. OK, I am calm.) But I can’t be certain I read absolutely everything – I’m sure I haven’t! So I think it would be pretty neat if you made a post or something that would link to all of them/put them in one place or something. It’d be cool to have something like that for future reference, and also would come in handy for new fans! 🙂 Once you have some free time, you could think of something like that, but just from my perspective, it’s nothing urgent. But thanks for thinking of it! 🙂

    “lol actually I felt really bad that I may have seemed like, idk, too Something in my reply. I didn’t want anyone to feel like they are wrong in their feelings, even if I’m taking 10,000 words to explain my viewpoint. So I actually want to thank you for not minding my replies!” – seriously, Ais. You’re one of the sweetest, kindest authors I’ve had a pleasure to talk to. You’re so understanding and patient and, just, you make it really easy for people to talk to you. (Well, that’s how you made me feel, at least.) Because I was really nervous about all the topics I wanted to ask about and yeah, no, I’m not usually that “talkative” (well, maybe I am, but I’m always too shy to let it go? Who knows.) So, thanks for making me comfortable and yeah. Thank you. It means a lot. ♥

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