If you’ve been paying attention to this blog lately, you are aware that I have been posting a lot of reviews of ‘asexual fiction – you can get links to all of the reviews here and here (except this one, which isn’t on any list yet). This is way more asexual fiction than I have ever read before.
First of all, the explosion of asexual fiction in the past two years (2015/2016) blows my mind. I am pretty sure there is at least 10x more novels featuring explicitly asexual characters now than back when I started this blog in 2012.
For a long time, I would have been really happy with just a character coming out and saying ‘by the way, I am asexual’ without incorporating asexuality into the story in any deeper way. Part of this was just that there was just so little representation in fiction that I was ready to take what I could get (as long as it was not toxic).
Even now, I think I would still be happy for a character to come out and say ‘by the way, I am asexual’ if it is in a story which I do not expect to feature asexuality at all. Asexual representation is still so thin that, when I am not fiction specifically for asexual content, the chances of me finding it in the fiction I’m reading are slim. Thus, it’s a pleasant surprise (again, assuming it’s not handled in a bad way).
However, when I am reading something specifically because it is ‘asexual’ fiction, and then I find that asexuality is only once or twice and does not have much bearing on the story, I find it a bit disappointing. If it led me to read a good story I otherwise would not have given a chance, it is still a net positive, and I do want more “by the way, I’m asexual” stories to exist. It’s just not what I’m looking for in ‘asexual’ fiction.
I think my standards for ‘good’ asexual representation have gone higher. Even as recently as two or three years ago, I would evaluate how a story presents asexuality much less critically than I would now. That is partially because, now, I have read quite a bit of asexual fiction, so I’m not exactly starving for asexual content in fiction like I was before. It’s also an effect of having been involved in asexual blogging for years, which makes me think much more critically about asexual topics than I would have otherwise.
Does that mean I’m looking for stories which would hit a ’10’ on the asexuality content scale? Well, I would like to read such a story, since I have never read any original fiction which would hit a ’10’ on the scale and I’m curious. But curiosity aside, that’s not what I’m really looking for either.
I think, when I read something marked ‘asexual fiction’, I’m hoping for a story which is in the mid-rage of the asexual content scale – 4 to 6. I want stories which contain meaningful reflection on what being asexual is like, while still having a plot which is to a large extent being driven by something else.
I have not read so many books with asexual content, but I went through a bunch of webcomics to research for my tropes series. I’m with you on being disappointed when the asexual content is minimal (or entirely absent), but it’s not so bad when I find an otherwise decent webcomic in the process.
I am not really sure what I want in an asexual story. It seems strange to say when asexual fiction hasn’t existed long enough to truly form cliches, but I hunger for new paradigms. In the same way that coming out stories are a new paradigm highlighted by LGB fiction, I think there must be some uniquely asexual stories out there to tell, and so far we are only brushing the surface. TBH I am not sure I will ever be satisfied with asexual fiction, because it may be that the thing I want is impossible. But I’ll keep on reading.
It’s interesting that you are looking up new webcomics just for your tropes project.
At least all of the ‘asexual’ stories I’ve been reading since October at least have a content level of 1. I have yet to encounter any stories marked ‘asexual’ with an asexual content level of 0, so I guess the marking systems I’m using are fairly reliable.
I needed to look through a bunch of webcomics to find new examples of the tropes, rather than citing the same few webcomics over and over.
There are definitely several webcomics I read that I would rate 0 on an asexuality content scale. If I had to guess why such webcomics are in the tags, it’s that there was a Word of God at some point, which was lost to the wind. If books are different, it’s probably because these publishers are just more careful with their tags/advertising.
For this reason, I try not to read ace fiction unless it has some independent appeal. Often there’s just too little payoff.
And here I was being amazed that you had read so many ‘asexual’ webcomics…
Some publishers tag/advertise which stories are asexual, but … some don’t. Which is frustrating, and means I have to consult other sources, most notably the Ace Reads Tagpacker. The tagpacker is a very flawed source, but it does err on the side of excluding some ‘asexual’ stories (for example the story I reviewed most recently, “Bender” is not listed in the tagpacker – I had to look at reviews to figure out that it was ‘asexual’ fiction).
If you haven’t seen it, another place to look is Goodreads book lists. There are several for asexuality. But since they’re fan selected I expect they’d be less reliable.
Hello! The Ace Reads Tagpacker is mine and I would love to hear your suggestions. I think its biggest weaknesses is that it is just me and my own opinions, which was my response to crowd sourced lists like the goodreads ones that I found completely unreliable, but has its own issues… I do really like your system for the asexuality content scale.
I’ve caught a few of your reviews but really need to go back and read all of them! I haven’t worked on Ace Reads in a bit and they (and some of the new stories from the small publishers) have passed me by. I really wish tagpacker would allow me to link to reviews in the description of each item, I’d love to link to them.
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