Why I’ve Never Gotten into Fanfiction

I thought I’d have to skip the Carnival of Aces this month, but January’s theme gives me too good of an excuse to say something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

There have been times when I have been very involved in certain fandoms. Consistently, there was one big fannish activity that I mostly stayed out of: fanfiction.

At first, I thought the idea of fanfiction was awesome. I still think many aspects of fanfiction are fascinating from a meta-perspective, things such as how communities form around it, or the fuzziness of the line between fanfiction and original work. I even made multiple attempts to participate in it myself, as a reader and even (on rare occasion) as a writer. Yet it never really worked out.

Now, I think being aromantic/asexual is a big part why I could not get into fanfiction. When I first learned about online fanfiction, I imagined being able to explore many different aspects of stories I loved. When I discovered how the vast majority of fanfiction revolves around romance and sex, so much so that identifying the ‘ship is a standard part of categorization … I felt really disappointed.

I tried and I tried … and I just could not get much out of ship-py fanfiction. On the rare occasion I found a fic I genuinely enjoyed, it was almost always a) well-written AND b) a fic that was not about a specific ‘ship. Okay, there was one fanfic I really liked which technically was about a ‘ship’, but while the relationship was high on BDSM, it had nearly zero romantic and sexual content. (This is odd because BDSM is usually no more my thing than romance or sex). Yet finding fic which fits criteria (b) is so hard that it’s not worth it … especially when you are part of a community where you’re expected to at least read each other’s fics. I simply felt more comfortable just staying out of the fanfic arena.

I was also bothered by the tendency for all ‘ships between close relatives (siblings, parent-child, etc.) being interpreted as romantic and/or sexual, not so much because it’s incest (my incest squick factor is probably a little lower than average) but because it seemed like there was absolutely no space whatsoever for deep, non-sexual, non-romantic relationships. The fic writers could not even acknowledge the possibilities for profound and fascinating relationships between children, siblings, and parents without adding romance/sex.

This was well before I was identifying as aromantic, and most of it was before I started identifying as asexual.

I know that ace-spectrum fic is a thing, but if I go back into fandom, it will probably be a fandom with few openly aromantic/asexual people. That said, I have read very little ace-fic, so maybe I should check it out (when I have time – which is not now). I have yet to encounter any ace-fic in a fandom which interests me. However, I think I’d rather read fanfic about non-ace characters which are not about shipping than fanfic which ‘ships’ ace-characters, because unless it’s written by someone who understands asexuality very well, ‘shipping’ the ace characters would probably disturb me.

***

I’ve noted repeatedly that I actually like well-written romance fiction. However, it’s not hard to find original fiction focused on something other than romance, so when I choose to read romance-focused fiction it is a choice (not to mention that many ‘romance’ stories have a very broad focus). Thus, I feel less excluded by original fiction than fanfiction. That said, it’s very difficult to find original fiction which passes my test (and read this about aro female characters in fiction).


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12 thoughts on “Why I’ve Never Gotten into Fanfiction

  1. I do understand you. Though I read and write fanfic it’s hard for me to find stories that interest me for the specific reason you mention: everything’s about shipping and I’m not particularly interested in shipping. It’s also difficult to find readers for non-shippy fic which makes writing that much more frustrating.

    • Hmmm, I had not thought about the problem of getting readers for non-shippy fic (because I have hardly ever tried writing fic). It is like a self-reinforcing cycle – people into non-shippy fic get turned off by the fanfiction world, so when people write non-shippy fic, few people read it. I suspect the categorization system of most fanfic sites where things are sorted by `ship does not help.

    • I chose to write about this now because of the January Carnival of Aces was about overemphasis of romantic/sexual relationships, otherwise I would have probably chosen to write about this at a different time. I am very interested in communities around genfic, but right now I do not have time to explore this (especially since I do not have consistent internet access right now – I`m travelling without a computer/internet device). However, if there are any specific genfic communities you have in mind, I would appreciate it if you point me in the right direction so that I can look into it when I do have time/opportunity.

      • Alright, I’ll leave you some recs and you can look at your leisure.

        Gensplosions on Dreamwidth (you know how Dreamwidth urls are formed, right?) is a community for reccing genfic. There’s also asexual-fandom, but that’s not so much genfic as a place for stuff to do with asexuality in fanworks and fandom, and so there is romance.

        I do a lot of gen, and as I like to read it, I probably have genfic recs. If you like– now or at any point, whenever you’re ready– tell me your fandoms and some idea of what you like in fiction, and we’ll see if I have any recs. (I followed a link here from someone’s linkspam and haven’t read any of the rest of your blog yet, so I don’t know what your fandoms are or whether we share any.)

        You might know this already (but you did say you haven’t really gotten into fanfic, so maybe not), when you search AO3, you can select the Gen checkbox, although that doesn’t filter out all the romance. It does give you fics with plots outside of their ships. If you’re looking for recs, you can go through someone’s AO3 bookmarks; select gen on the sidebar.

      • Thank you for your suggestions.

        The fandoms which I have the most interest in now are wuxia (which is what I tend to discuss the most in this blog – but there is little fanfic in English), manga (particularly older shojo), and manhwa.

  2. Thank you for sharing your point of view.

    As a wtfromantic, I have complicated feelings about all of this. Because on some level, I relate to most of it!! I completely do. It’s frustrating to have to look past everything you don’t want to read to get to what you do, and I could see giving up.

    I have been a shipper & a fanvideo editor/involved in fandom for years, since I was 16 years old – and I didn’t start identifying as asexual until age 23 and didn’t realize I might be somewhat aromantic until age 24. Fanvideo editing is a different beast, and I was with it for 4 years before even beginning to delve into fanfiction. When I first started exploring the fanfiction side of things at age 20, I started off enjoying things classified as about certain romantic ships. I enjoyed them enough to keep exploring, because the best ship fics were more about the interesting characters or a really unique plot than actually about feelings of “being in love” or “sexual attraction'”. Because those fics generally included a lot of other stuff too beside the romance, including strong family bonds and friendships. Etc. And because I was mainly avoiding the M-Rated/X-rated stuff.

    I started off mainly in the Gilmore Girls fandom, which is, like I’ve also noticed in the Switched at Birth or Friday Night Lights fandoms, pretty much an AU-free zone. There is (practically) no slash, no shipping of family members with each other, etc. I was lucky to start off in a fandom that loves a good gen fic once in a while and didn’t care that much about exploring sexuality via fanfiction.

    Before long, I did find myself in many more fandoms, more diverse ones, both super popular ones like Teen Wolf, Glee, and even Harry Potter, and also super small ones. And over time I found myself gravitating more toward the non-romantic fics.

    I also write “gen” fics myself, mainly. I didn’t notice it at first, but usually the romances in my fics, if they exist, are in the background and the “Gen” stuff is in the forefront. And yes, it is a lot harder to get someone to click on (and read) a Gen fanfic you’ve written than it is to get someone to read something categorized on the fic archives as being about a specific ship, especially a popular one within the fandom.

  3. Pingback: An Aromantic Reader and Fictional Romances | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

  4. Pingback: My experiences with being ace in Vorkosiverse fandom | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

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