The Spirals chapters are not individually annotated with trigger warnings. This is primarily because doing so would serve to spoil many of the stories, revealing key plot elements ahead of time. This page serves to collect the various warnings for the series into one place, so that readers who are unconcerned with the potential for triggering content need not be exposed to these spoilers.
Certain themes are common to all stories. Variably explicit sexuality and intimate relationships play a major part of most of the plots. Violence is sporadic, but graphic when it does occur. Virtually all of the major characters are dealing with some kind of mental illness. Drug use, primarily of opioids and cigarettes, is rampant.
However, while trauma is omnipresent, all the stories are ultimately about justice and healing. There are no downer endings.
“Sparrowhawk” deals with a number of sensitive themes. The main character herself suffers from PTSD from a violent assault that nearly claimed her life. Many of the characters, the main character included, exhibit extremely poor sexual ethics, and sexual assault is occasionally depicted outright. Violence is relatively uncommon in this series.
The Society series follows a rebellious young woman, her conflict with an extremely authoritarian state, and her relationships with her friends and partners. It involves depictions and recollections of suicidality, borderline personality disorder, and depression. Sexual violence occasionally occurs, primarily between Cassil and Lisuan (in both directions), as do minor physical altercations. Interpersonal conflict is a major theme.
The League series may be a particularly difficult one. It follows a number of variably traumatized survivors, both civilian and military, of a (successful) revolutionary war, and features a number of their PTSD flashbacks. It features many conversations about the war and associated traumas that involve details of extreme sexual violence, killing, loss of loved ones, survivor’s guilt, regular guilt, and war crimes. The main character’s conversations with her therapists and attempts to improve mental health care on her homeworld are significant plot points.
The Union series explores the relationships, sexuality, and experiences of a wide cast of posthuman characters. It involves consensual mind control and sadomasochism. One of the main characters is dealing with extreme guilt and grief over an apocalyptic mass murder she enabled a very long time ago, and is depressed and sporadically suicidal.
“Saravan” follows some of the cruelest and most unethical as well as some of the most abused characters in the Spirals setting. You don’t wind up on Saravan unless you’re broken in some pretty serious ways. Violence and torture is frequent, the slave trade is prominent, and nonconsensual intimacy and sexuality are a major theme. “Home” and related stories depict a character forced to reunite with her loving but controlling, psychologically and physically abusive ex in order to survive. “Cultural Exchange” and related stories prominently depict a severely borderline woman who is the partner of the protagonist. “Once a Junkie” is extremely heavy on drug abuse, power imbalance, helplessness, and nonconsent; it depicts a graphic rape by a teenage heiress to punish and control her partner, who is psychosexually addicted to both her love and her abuse, unable to cope without both in her life.
Arguably a villain-protagonist, evil-vs-evil storyline. The protagonist of the Frontier series is an utterly amoral slaver, pirate, and murderer whose only concern is for her crew’s profit.
By far the most violent series, “Scenes from the War” covers events of the galaxy-devastating Great War between the Three Powers. It depicts battle, war crimes, torture, rape, death, planetary annihilation, and all sorts of atrocities. “Prisoner of War” follows a Society soldier & rape survivor held captive in an Imperial death camp, and the story starts out with her brutal torture. Opiate addiction is referenced.
“Alone in the Cold” follows an Imperial domestic spy and her junkie girlfriend whose world is turned upside down after the Carnelian Genocide and the disintegration of the Empire. The main character is a rape survivor; the first story involves an encounter with her rapist and ends with a murder. She is somewhat psychologically abused by her controlling and manipulative new employer.
Rape and its aftermath are central to the storyline of “Strange Bedfellows,” which follows a single mother as she works to achieve justice for her severely traumatized daughter, and ends up changing the course of a war. Culture shock is a major theme.