What Am I Looking for in ‘Asexual Fiction’?

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.

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7 thoughts on “What Am I Looking for in ‘Asexual Fiction’?

  1. 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).

  2. 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.

  3. Pingback: Linkspam: December 2nd, 2016 | The Asexual Agenda

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