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).