The Big Fictionhearted Essay


Otherhearted: an alterhuman label where your connection to a thing is an important part of your identity, but you do not literally identify as that thing.

A robot walks onto a spaceship. A fictional robot walks onto a fictional spaceship in a book you've never read before, and yet you are immediately struck with the feeling that you have found something - someone - you've been searching for all your life. Inexplicably, you feel like you should remember the spaceship AI. Not as a fictional character, but as someone who was once important to you.

This happened to me a little over a year ago. It was confusing. It's still confusing. A large part of my experience of being otherhearted has involved attempting (and largely failing) to make sense of something that, by all logic, shouldn't be happening and yet is.

Why do I label this character as a hearttype? Quite simply, because I don't know how to describe my connection to it any other way. It's important to me. I have a strong connection to it. As I read the series, every new piece of information I learnt about it felt familiar to me. I know it's not a kintype - I'm aspecies┬╣, and I have never felt like I am or should be this character. (I have wondered if I might have an as-yet-undiscovered kintype from the source material that might explain why I feel close to my hearttype, but that doesn't feel right either.) I know it's not just a special interest, or just relatable, or a character I just like, because that wouldn't explain the immediate familiarity I felt towards it. I've had many characters who have become special interests, who I've found relatable, or who I simply like, but none of them have felt like this.

I might speculate that it was someone very important to me in another life, except I don't believe in past lives and even if I did I don't think I'm the kind of being that would have had one. Nevertheless, I miss it - I want to tell it what I've been up to, I want its advice, I wish it was here, now, and not in a book. I don't have memories/noemata but I feel like I should. I feel like I should remember its personality, its experiences, even when those things haven't been revealed in its source. I feel like I should remember plot points from the upcoming book because it was there.

I'm active in my hearttype's source fandom, and that is in many ways a very strange experience. To me, it's this hugely important person, and to everyone else, it's just another character. I'm clearly far more emotionally affected by bad things happening to it than most people are, and I have learnt the hard way that I need to avoid angsty fanworks involving it. I also have yet to find (or write!) fic of it that feels right, that feels the same way canon did.

Trying to work out why I'm otherhearted has been a futile exercise. I can't think of any explanation that makes sense, whether psychological or spiritual, and honestly, I've kind of given up worrying about it. Currently, the only reason I can come up with for attempting to find a comprehensible origin story is to justify myself to people who otherwise wouldn't believe me - and why would I want to justify myself to those kinds of people? Whatever funky trick my brain is doing (or whatever spiritual experience happened) to make me feel this way, I'm here now, I have this experience now.

Did I have this hearttype before I picked up that book and found it waiting for me? Maybe, maybe not, I'll never know, but currently I find it useful to conceptualise it as something that has always been there. Will I always have this hearttype? Again, I'll never know, but I think, if I ever found myself losing this connection, I would lose some part of myself. I would try my best to prevent that, if possible.


┬╣ See this essay for more information on being aspecies