Today we’re joined by Dylan Edwards. Dylan and I were both panelists on a panel about diverse creators at WisCon this past May, which was one of my favorite panel experiences to date. I’m very rarely placed on a panel with another ace I don’t personally know, so I was beyond ecstatic when Dylan approached me to ask about Asexual Artists. Dylan is a phenomenal artist who specializes in queer and trans comics. He has been part of some truly fantastic anthologies and has written just a ton of comics. He’s currently working on a scifi webcomic that features a number of ace characters. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m a comic artist whose work focuses primarily on queer and trans comics. I’m the author of Transposes, a non-fiction comic about queer-identified trans guys; and Politically InQueerect, which I like to describe as “a comic for people who wish Edmund Blackadder were gay.” I’ve also been in several notable anthologies: No Straight Lines (2013 Lambda Literary Award), QU33R (2014 Ignatz Award), and the Beyond Anthology (2016 Lambda Literary Award).
Right now my main project is a sci-fi webcomic called Valley of the Silk Sky, which features several asexual characters. While I do a lot of non-fic and autobio work, science fiction and fantasy are my first loves. Valley of the Silk Sky gives me a chance to have queer, ace, and trans characters in a story that’s much more focused on adventure than on identity issues.
I also do all-ages monster art and sculpture, called Feeping Creatures. The Feeps are asexual and agender.
What inspires you?
The strange and immense variety of earth biology. The truth is, you just can’t out-weird nature (I mean, there are photosynthetic slugs, okay?). My sci-fi stuff takes a number of things that actually exist and remixes them or cranks them up to 11. For example, spider silk is one of the strongest substances we know of, so I’ve got cow-sized spiders that put out silk which can be used as a primary building material. I stole a bunch of the biology for one of the non-human species from bees, so asexual, non-reproducing members are important to their social structure.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I had always been interested in comics to some degree, and as a kid cranked out several strips that were mostly ripoffs of Peanuts. I hadn’t necessarily always intended to go into comics specifically, but art was always a focus. I like telling stories, and comics merged my interests in drawing and writing.
As far as the Feeps are concerned, my grandmother was a ceramicist, so I grew up playing with clay. The Feep sculptures are made from polymer clay rather than ceramic clay, but a lot of the skills translate.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
I do sometimes include Tarot symbolism in my work. I don’t subscribe any mystical beliefs in Tarot, but I’ve used it as a means of giving myself new ways to think about life events. It’s a fascinating source of rich symbolic language, and one that’s available to me as an atheist in a way that religious symbolism isn’t.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Be nice to everyone as much as possible. Simply being pleasant and easy to work with can do a lot for you.
Be nice to yourself, too. Comics can be really hard on the body. Sitting in contorted positions for hours will catch up to you, and physical therapy is expensive (trust me). Get up, stretch, take breaks, recharge.
There is a tendency to promise too much for too little money when you’re a younger artist, but this really does feed into the cycle of underpayment and overwork. Don’t work for free. Exposure is not payment (and places that don’t pay rarely get you very many eyeballs).
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Homoromantic. Sometimes demisexual feels right, sometimes monastic levels of celibacy is more accurate. I definitely have to be romantically interested in someone for sex to seem even slightly appealing, and it’s very rare for me to be romantically interested in someone (though it does happen).
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Sure. Queer male culture is hypersexualized, I think to the point where people who aren’t even THAT horny all the time feel like they have to fake it to fit in. So working in queer comics I encounter a lot of false assumptions about my sexuality just because I identify as and present as male (I’m a trans guy). I get people offering weird speculations about what I must get up to sexually when I’ve never actually broached the subject with them at all.
I’ve seen some LGBT people say asexuality doesn’t get to count as a queer identity because queerness is solely defined by sexual activity. Which is a very limited viewpoint that leaves out a LOT of people, not just asexuals. For sure I think if you’re asexual you don’t HAVE to identify as queer if that doesn’t work for you (like, if you’re heteroromantic demisexual and don’t feel any particular connection to a queer identity). But coalition-building is how marginalized people get anywhere, and asexuals are a group who are marginalized based on their sexuality. Hence, queer.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Mostly people just seem not to believe it exists. Asexuality was never mentioned as a possible identity in high school health classes; doctors have given me really weird looks when I tell them; close friends have told me I must just be repressing myself and need to try harder to be a normal sexual person.
Also, there’s a conflation of aromanticism and asexuality, which is a trap I unfortunately fell into myself in my younger days. I remember meeting an aro ace guy in college, but since I didn’t identify with the aromantic part of his orientation I thought asexuality must not be the right descriptor for me.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Asexuality has a lot of different manifestations. Just as Kinsey 6s don’t represent all (or even the majority) of queer people, just as binary-gendered individuals don’t represent all trans people, an asexual person who never thinks about or engages in sex is only one possible iteration of asexuality.
So yes, you can have (and even enjoy!) sex sometimes and still be ace. It’s more to do with the level of importance you attach to sex. I’ve always been really confused by people who describe sex as one of the most important things in life. I wouldn’t put it in the top 20. But I also wouldn’t say it’s something I will absolutely never engage in.
Since this came up at the Asexual Lives panel at WisCon last month, you can look at porn and still be ace. Viewing sex on a screen or contemplating sex in your mind are both entirely different from getting naked with another human.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
The complete list of my books for sale, and where to buy, is here:
Valley of the Silk Sky is available to read online here:
Feeing Creatures are for sale here:
If you want to keep up with my goings on, Twitter is probably your best bet:
Thank you, Dylan, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.