My Slowly Increasing Seniority in the Ace Community

This is a submission to the July 2018 Carvnival of Aces “Then and Now”.

It’s the kind of change which can really creep up on someone, but looking back, I feel the effects of my increasing seniority in the ace community.

First, an analogy to something more concrete.

I attended a small high school. That meant there was a lot of interaction between all grade levels – freshman (first year), sophomore (second year), junior (third year), and senior (fourth year). Often different grade levels would be mixed into the same classes – for example, since there was only a single physics class offered during my junior year, it was open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and we were all in the same physics class (it was not open to freshmen because students had to request to be put into the physics, and practically none of the incoming freshmen even understood how the classes at my high school were organized, let alone consider putting in a request to be placed in that rare physics class). Though it was uncommon, there were occasionally classes which were all four years mixed together.

The fact that there was so much mixing of grade levels meant that people of different grade levels had a lot of social interaction with each other, and thus one’s grade level was socially important. Everything else being equal, the higher one’s grade level, the higher one’s social rank. It was rare that students in the higher years would pick on the students in the lower years – that was Very Uncool (and on the rare occasions when outright bullying of students in lower years happened, the school administration would land on the bullies like a ton of bricks). It was more of a frame of mind thing than anything explicitly enforced.

Mostly, freshmen were new to high school and insecure in their position relative to their peers and the school in general. Seniors had generally figured out their place in high school, understood the school very well, and they were going to leave soon anyway so they cared less about trivial social matters, and from the outside this looked a lot like that the seniors were confident and had their shit together. As a freshman, I looked up to the seniors as the Awesome Beings Who Were Really Capable. When I became a senior myself, I was far from being an Awesome Being Who Was Really Capable, but I could fake it, at least in front of freshmen. Sophomores and juniors were in between the extremes of ‘freshman’ and ‘senior’.

One of the most memorable moments of my high school years was when I was a junior, and I was dealing with a freshman just a few weeks after the beginning of the school year. I could see how vulnerable he was, and how he looked up to me as a sparkly idol of how to be a high school student. I recognized that feeling because I had felt the same way towards juniors and seniors when I was a very fresh freshman, and I also felt at that moment that I was unworthy of being his sparkly idol, that I was merely a teenager who was slightly less confused than him. And that was also the moment I realized that the juniors and seniors who had gone before me were not actually sparkly idols, but teenagers who had been slightly less confused than me. It was as if someone had ripped a veil off my face and I found myself staring into a mirror.

The ace community is not organized on lines anywhere nearly as clear-cut as high school. We do not divide ourselves into ‘people who have identified as ace for less than a year’ ‘people who have identified as as for two years’ ‘people who have identified as ace for seven years’ etc. At ace meetings, I won’t say ‘hey, are you a fourth-year ace?’ However, I feel that the ace community also has a dynamic where one’s seniority within the ace community – i.e. how long one has considered oneself to be a member of the ace community – affects how we relate to each other.

Once upon a time, I was a baby ace. I was insecure and vulnerable in my ace identity. All of my interaction with the ace community was strictly passive. I think there were both advantages and disadvantages to not having active interactions with the ace community at that time. A lot of that passive interaction was reading blogs (and if you’re curious what blogs those were, this post gives you a good idea). Back then, the options for interacting with the ace community were much more limited than they are now (it was basically AVEN with a few very, very small groups on the side), but the main reason I kept my distance was a lack of confidence.

Then, I had my moment of sophomore arrogance. I had settled just enough into my ace identity that I felt I could stand up for myself – which meant that I went to the other extreme for a little bit, and thought I could SHOW THEM ALL with my ace brilliance, like a sophomore drunk on the power that comes with being a returning student instead of an incoming student (except the transfers – since I wasn’t a transfer, I won’t speak to that). I briefly had the ambition of not just starting an ace blog, but starting THE BEST ACE BLOG EVARRRRRRR!!!!! Fortunately, this moment of sophomore arrogrance passed quickly, because that would have been a recipe for burnout. It did push me to finally start this blog, which I deliberately made a low-key endeavour, even if that meant it would not turn into the best ace blog ever, so that I could keep it running for the long haul (and also, this has always been more of a ‘I want to write about this now’ blog than an ace blog, which is a large part of why I don’t burn out).

In the beginning, this blog was very obscure, and I was fine with that. It was only once I started participating in the Carnival of Aces – this very carnival I am submitting this post to – that this became noticed by the ace blogging community at large (yes, I know a few of you found this blog before that, and I appreciate you).

In the process of participating in the ace blogging community, I learned a LOT about asexuality as well as various other topics, and as I learned more, and became a little better known, I became even more confident, not strictly in my own personal identity, but also with my standing as a community member.

After I moved back to the United States, I also started participating in the ace community offline. By now, I’ve been going to local ace meetups for years.

There are two curious things I notice at this point in time.

To the extent I have status/rank/prestige in the ace blogging community, I believe it has more to do with the fact that I’ve been at this a long time than the quality of my posts. If you were to compare, say, my 5 best ace blog posts, and compare them to the 5 best ace blog posts of quite a few other ace bloggers past and present, my posts would look less impressive. But the quality of my posts is high enough to interest enough people, and I have been going at this for more than half a decade, and I don’t burn out (well, I sometimes get tired of writing about asexuality for a while, but then I write about something else, and then I get back to writing about asexuality) and I think that counts for a lot. All a high school freshman has to do to become a senior is pass the required classes and spend three years in high school.

The other curious thing is that, at offline meetups, I am often in the top fifth when it comes to people who have identified as ace the longest. I described in this post a bit of how I have become more secure as an ace over time. I feel that one of the disadvantages of that is that I am forgetting a bit of what it is like to be a ‘baby ace’ and I that I sometimes fail to show them enough consideration. There have been a few times in the past year when I have interacted with someone who has only recently been identifying as ace, and when I look back at those interactions in hindsight, I wish I had acted with a bit more sensitivity. This is a relatively new concern for me, and one I only became aware of once I started perceiving myself as someone who has been in the ace community longer than most members (though of course there are still many who have been participating in the ace community longer than I have).

I do not think seniority was nearly as big of a deal in the ace community ten years ago since back then there was hardly anybody who had been participating in the ace community more than a few years, if even that long. As the ace community continues to go one, I expect there will be more diversity in terms of how long someone has been in the community, and I expect the seniority dynamics will become more complex.

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I am bad at predicting my future, so I stopped trying

A recent theme for the Carnival of Aces was “All the birds but us…” which led to a lot of discussion in the ace blogging community about our expectations for our personal future. Of course during that month I was hiking, so my thoughts about the future were generally along the lines of ‘Maybe I will reach that campsite in two hours’ or ‘I think I will get to town in three days’ or ‘Tomorrow I am going to get water from that bad water source’ or, if I was thinking really far ahead, I would think ‘when I get back to San Francisco, I will do [x].’ To run with the bird metaphor, long-distance hikers in the middle of a long-distance hike are birds in the middle of a migration, so obviously there is no nesting.

But in a more general way, I do not have a good track record when it comes to guessing my own future more than a year or two out. True, when I was a kid, it was a safe guess that after I graduated from elementary school, I would go to middle school, and that after graduating middle school, I would attend high school, but I was bad at guessing anything less predictable than that.

If you had asked me when I was sixteen what I was going to do two years later, I would have told you ‘I’m going to be a student at one of the University of California campuses in southern California so that I can get as far away from San Francisco as possible while still benefiting from in-state tuition.’ Spoiler: I have never been a student at any campus of the University of California, nor did I go to southern California AT ALL during my years of higher education, not even for a brief visit.

If, during my third year in higher education, you had suggested that after graduation I would be moving to Taoyuan I would have responded ‘where the hell is that?’ and if you had explained that it is in Taiwan, my response would have been ‘why the heck would I visit Taiwan, let alone live there for years?’ In fact, someone did suggest towards the end of my third year of higher education that I could move to Taiwan, and I totally brushed him off at the time. Spoiler: after I graduated from college, I moved to Taiwan and stayed there for years.

There is an example where being aseuxal/aromantic is relevant. When I was middle school, I wasn’t attracted to anybody in a sexual or romantic way, but I assumed it would happen if I met the right person, so I was expecting to meet someone who I would find attractive in high school and he would become my boyfriend (because I expected this person to be male). Spoiler: it did not happen.

Nowadays, I accept that I am bad at predicting my own future, and I no longer try to imagine my long-term future very hard. I still have vague ideas of things I would like to do one day, I do have some multi-year goals (such as ‘see every Shakespeare play on stage live at least once), and I even prepare for the future in a non-specific way. For example, even if I don’t know what I will be doing in the future, I am guessing that having money will be useful, and ‘I will probably want money in the future’ definitely influences the financial decisions I make today.

Will I live in San Francisco for forty more years? Maybe. Will I move to New York in two years and never ever live in California again? Maybe. Will I discover that squash is the most awesome sport ever and suddenly immerse myself in the squash world? Maybe (as of now, I have never seen a squash match, nor do I even know the rules of squash). I am not trying to imagine any future more than a year or two out, and I’m okay with that.

Identity? What’s That?

This is a submission to the January 2018 Carnival of Aces.

If one is going to distinguish between ‘labels’ and ‘identity’ rather than conflate them, then I have this to say – I find labels a heck of a lot more useful than ‘identity’. Whatever that is.

Yes, I know, I sometimes speak of myself as ‘identifying as asexual’ or something along those lines. When I say that, I mean ‘self-label as asexual’.

Labels are communication tools. They are imperfect, but they also work, at least sometimes. When I ‘identify as’ something, or rather ‘self-label’ as something, I’m trying to communicate a message of some kind.

Alternatively, labels can also be useful as analytical tools, such as trying to understand other people’s behavior. I have found putting some people in the ‘allosexual’ category and some people in the ‘asexual’ category very useful.

Independent of an intention to communicate something, or to interpret other people’s behavior, I’m not sure I identify as anything beyond ‘I am what I am’.

Recently, I’ve come to think that this might be a reflection of my own personality.

I’ve recently taken a couple of online gender tests, such as this one. On both tests I got similar results – I am ‘undifferentiated’ and have low levels of both masculinity and femininity (if I had high levels of both masculinity and femininity I would be ‘androgynous’). I suspect these tests may not be compatible with my personality because of the way they are set up. For example, in the test I linked, one has the options of agreeing/disagreeing on a scale of five (with the center being neither agreeing nor disagreeing). Guess what? On most of the ‘questions’ I picked the center option. For example, one question asks whether I’m ‘likeable’? Ummm, how would I know that? That’s something other people know about me, not necessarily something I know about myself. I answered ‘neither agree or disagree’ but if there had been an option ‘wtf is this question?’ I would have selected that instead.

On the other hand, maybe these gender tests are spot on in measuring me. Maybe I have a more pronounced tendency toward not defining myself than most people. Maybe that even extends to my gender. Yes, I identify as ‘female’, but why? It is just because everyone tells me I’m female, and I don’t have a problem with that because my ‘true’ gender is undifferentiated, and I’m so used to it that it jars me whenever someone marks me as male. Or do I have some innate sense of femaleness that would exist independently of other people’s evaluations? I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care much because either way it would not make much difference in my life.

When I share travel photos with other people, one of the most common questions I get are ‘why aren’t there any pictures of you?’ (I rarely take photos of myself while travelling, and when I do, it’s sometimes just to please my family). Though I don’t say this aloud (or at least I don’t phrase it this way), my thoughts are ‘if you want to see me, I’m right here, but this waterfall isn’t here, so look at my photo.’

Waterfall on Delate Creek in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Central Washington

Some people say they take selfies because they want to ‘prove’ they were in a place. I’m generally uninterested in proving that I was in a particular place (though on the rare occasion I take photos of myself while travelling, it tends to be in places like the USA/Canada border, so maybe I do have a small ‘I was here’ impulse). For me, travel is about experiencing a place, not experiencing ~myself~ in a place. It’s about the waterfall, not me.

Anyway, how does this relate to asexuality?

Asexuality is relevant to me primarily in how it affects how I relate people, whether in direct interaction, or indirect interactions such as reading a book written by another person. When I’m in a cabin at least 10 miles away from the nearest human being, and I have no means of communicating with another human being (let’s say that remote cabin has no cell phone service and I didn’t bring any books with me) asexuality is not relevant to me. It’s still part of who I am, but in the absence of other people, I feel no need to differentiate my (a)sexuality from the general amorphous mass of ‘I am what I am’.

So, yeah. I am what I am. Which happens to be ace.

AAWFC 2017: Musings on “Ace Representation in General”

This is for Asexual Awareness Week Fandom Challenge 2017 (even though I am not on Tumblr – if you are on Tumblr, feel free to share a link to this post under the #AAWFC tag).

Sat 28th, Day 7: Post about asexual representation in general. What does it mean to see asexual/spectrum characters in the media you consume? Why is it important to you to see asexual/spectrum characters in the media you consume? What sort of stories/plotlines would you like to see about asexual/spectrum characters? What genre do you really want to see asexual/spectrum characters in? How would you like to see asexual/spectrum people represented?

Such a simple set of easy-to-answer questions, isn’t it? I don’t think I could give a full answer to this prompt in a single blog post, so I’m only going to answer the parts I want to answer right now.

For some reason, the vast majority of human beings want to see themselves in others. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s simply a trait we have because we evolved to be a social species who tends not to survive individually if we do not belong to a group of humans. Anyway, that is how almost all of us are.

I am no exception. I like being able to recognize myself in the fiction I read (or watch, but I read more than I watch). For example, I generally think it’s cool to see characters in fiction who grew up in San Francisco (unless it’s obvious that the writer did not do their research on San Francisco). Do I crave more of this? Maybe a little. Narratives about San Francisco tend to be dominated by people who moved to San Francisco, which is a bit different from being from San Francisco (though YA set in San Francisco does tend to focus on characters raised in San Francisco). But finding stories about people from San Francisco is a very low priority for me.

However, even though many people react like I’m some rare species of bird they were lucky enough to encounter in the wild when they find out I am from San Francisco, there is a general awareness that some people do grow up in San Francisco. There is no need to have a ‘People Who Come from San Francisco Awareness Week.’

Perhaps I want to see aces represented in fiction because that is an aspect of who I am who which I do not see in stories as often as I would like.

Except … in the past year, I HAVE read a lot of stories with ace characters. I don’t think I would want to read more stories with ace characters per month than I have. The thing is a) I had to specifically seek ace stories to pull that off and b) many of those stories would have had little interest for me without the ace character and c) many of those stories do not have ace representation which satisfies me. Obviously, I want more.

It would take a lot of words for me to say what kinds of stories/plotlines I would like for ace characters, so instead I will point out this old post and list the ace tropes which I particularly like and wish to see more often in fiction: The Ace Group, Not Having Words, Ace/Ace Romance, and When Do I Tell Them I’m Ace. One could also look at the ace fanfic (even though there are problems with the ace fanfic I’ve written, they do represent a lot of the things I want to see in ace fiction).

What genre do I really want to see ace characters in? I want ace representation in all genres because readers of all tastes could benefit from being exposed … blah blah blah, that’s all true, but who am I kidding, I especially want to see ace (and aro!) characters in the wuxia genre, which I’m sure is no surprise to anyone who follows this blog. I do not think it is a coincidence that I headcanon some wuxia characters as being ace but I currently do not have ace headcanons in any other genre.

AAWFC 2017: Canon Ace Characters Who I’d Want to See Meet Each Other

This is for Asexual Awareness Week Fandom Challenge 2017 (even though I am not on Tumblr – if you are on Tumblr, feel free to share a link to this post under the #AAWFC tag).

Fri 27th, Day 6: AU day! Post about what canon/headcanoned asexual/spectrum characters from different fandoms that you would like to see meet. What would their meeting would be like, why would you like to see them meet, what sort of relationship do you think they’d have, etc.?

The cover of All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher

I would like Nate Albano from For a Good Tim, Call… to meet Brennan and Zafir from All the Wrong Places. Technically, they are already in the same fandom since they all appear in Bluewater Bay novel, but they were created by different writers, so they are at least from different corners of that particular fandom.

Why do I want them to meet? Because they live in the same (fictional) small town! Furthermore, Nate Albano meets characters from other Bluewater Bay novels (even novels by different writers), so why can’t he also meet Brennan and Zafir?

Where would they meet? Now, that is a bit tricky. Nate is a newcomer to Bluewater Bay, and he works on the TV series. He may not even stay in Bluewater Bay after the TV series stops filming. By contrast, Brennan and Zafir are locals who have little to do with the TV show. So it does make sense that they would not necessarily meet each other. But…

Nate gets together with a local guy. Maybe the local guy knows Brennan and Zafir? But that does not mean he would have a reason to introduce them to Nate (he knows Nate is ace, but he probably does not know that Brennan and Zafir are ace). On the other hand, since Nate is a guy who gets together with a dude, and Brennan and Zafir are another dude-with-dude couple, maybe the dude-with-dude couples in a small town would get to know each other? (Though there are a lot of dude-with-dude couples in Bluewater Bay, given that it’s a novel series published by an LGBTQ+ publisher).

AHA! I know how Nate would meet Brennan and Zafir. Zafir goes to the Seattle ace meetup regularly. Maybe it would occur to Nate that he could also go to the Seattle ace meetup, and he could meet Brennan and Zafir there.

NATE: Hey, so this is my first time here. I came here from Bluewater Bay.

ZAFIR: No way! We live in Bluewater Bay too!

NATE: You SERIOUS??!!

BRENNAN: This is too much of a coincidence! Of all the places in western Washington another ace could come from, what are the odds that another ace would come from Bluewater Bay? It’s a fictional town for crying out loud!

ALICIA: To be fair, this meetup is also fictional. The real Seattle ace meetup isn’t a casual get-together at a hipster coffee shop in the university district, it takes place at a LGBT center and they create an agenda of asexual topics they are going to discuss at each meeting.

Then again, the novel All the Wrong Places mentions that there is also an ace group in Port Angeles, yet it is never depicted. Maybe Nate meets Brennan and Zafir in Port Angeles?

AAWFC 2017: Musings on Headcanon Ace Characters in Wuxia Novels

This is for Asexual Awareness Week Fandom Challenge 2017 (even though I am not on Tumblr – if you are on Tumblr, feel free to share a link to this post under the #AAWFC tag).

Sun 22nd, Day 1: Post about canon and headcanoned asexual/spectrum characters in books and comics.

In the past year – since a I read a bunch of ace fiction for Asexual Awareness Week last year in fact – I’ve written plenty about canon ace characters in books. So I’m going to talk about headcanon ace characters instead.

Yes, you guessed it (if you read my blog in a regular basis). I’m going to write about Yang Guo and Guo Jing from the Condor Trilogy (or more accurately, the Eagle-Shooting Trilogy, but whatever).

There is Yang Guo with Xiaolongnü, the most beautiful woman in the world. He is naked, she is naked, they sit together like this for a long time, yet he never thinks about sex at all (according to the novel – I don’t know how they would convey this in the TV adaptation).

I’ve already written plenty about these headcanons – in fact, my very first submission to the Carnival of Aces was a series about how I headcanon Yang Guo as being ace, and years later I wrote about how I headcanon Guo Jing as demisexual.

Actually, while I am talking about headcanons and wuxia, I might as well mention that I headcanon Fei Ruoran in The Valley of Life and Death as being an *aromantic ace* (finding a female protagonist from wuxia who I can headcanon as aromantic is incredible). And yes, even though I have read a lot of novels in 2017, so far, The Valley of Life and Death is still my favorite.

So, what more do I have to say about these headcanons that I have not already said in previous posts? Let’s see…

If Yang Guo were explicitly a canon ace, then he would be the best example of the kind of ace character I want in fiction. Of course, he’s not a canon ace character, and I have to deduct a heck of a lot of points for that. However, while I have found much goodness during this past year as I’ve binged on fiction with canon ace characters, I still feel like I have not quite found what am I looking for. If I found a canon ace character who has all of the qualities which makes me like Yang Guo so much as a headcanon!ace character, would I then finally be satisfied? Probably not, because I would still want more aromantic representation, and Yang Guo very much is not aromantic.

Or is he? Okay, obviously, he’s not aromantic aromantic, but a case could be made that he is demiromantic. He only falls in love once in his life, and only after he had a close relationship with that person for years. That seems pretty demiromantic, and while Jin Yong rarely has characters fall in love with each other at first sight (unless they are supporting/minor characters, especially female characters), it generally takes something significantly less than living with a particular person for years to get a Jin Yong character to fall in love.

And there is Guo Jing who, at this point, feels to me that he is at the border between headcanon and canon demisexual. The way he is described in the novel fits the dictionary definition (or at least the wiktionary definition) perfectly. Is that enough to make him a canon demisexual, without writer confirmation or explicitly saying that he demisexual? How explicit is explicit enough? I feel that he is just one notch shy of being the kind of representation I could call ‘canon’ rather than ‘headcanon’.

And then there is Fei Ruoran, who is not from the Condor Trilogy at all, or even a Jin Yong novel. There is actually even less substantial evidence in the text that she is ace than for Yang Guo or Guo Jing. It’s mostly the total absence of any sign that she has sexual feelings. There is actually a tiny bit of evidence that she is aromantic – namely, the scene where she says that she does not even know what romance is. However, the mere fact that she is a female protagonist in a wuxia novel who doesn’t fall in love with anybody is enough to suggest aromanticism to me.

If you got this far, thank you for bearing with my meandering thoughts, and happy Ace Awareness Week!

My experiences with being ace in Vorkosiverse fandom

This is for the October 2017 Carnival of Aces: Asexuality in Fandom.

A few years back I wrote this, which is ironic, because about a year after that, I did actually develop an interest in fanfic, and two years later, I started writing fanfic.

There were a few stimuli, the most prominent being reading Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (GJatRQ). As a teenager, the Vorkosigan Saga was one of my most favorite series of books. GJatRQ was in some ways satisfying, and in some ways disappointing, and it was the latter which inspired me to write fanfic.

Another thing I wanted to play with was having an asexual character in the Vorkosiverse. As it so happens, I do not headcanon any of the canon Vorkosiverse characters as being ace (there are some potential ace headcanons there, it’s just that I don’t headcanon any of them that way), so that meant having original characters who were also ace.

For me, as a fan, the essence of the Vorkosigan Saga is that there is high levels of drama and chaos, and the characters have to grow and make a major change in themselves in order to earn their happy ending. The Vorkosigan Saga novels which best exemplify this, in my opinion, are Mirror Dance and A Civil Campaign, which are also my favorites in the series. Another trademark of the Vorkosgian Saga, IMNSHO, is mad cap adventure – mistaken identities, implausible plot twists which are too bold for the reader to reject, Miles spreading chaos, etc. GJatRQ went against all that, so I wanted to respond by writing fanfic in which there was tons of drama, chaos, plot twists, etc. On top of all that, I wanted the protagonist to be difficult to like (some readers ended up liking him anyway, but I did not make it easy for them to like him!) In fact, my favorite comment which I received was this was … I can’t find it write now, but this was the summary “this OC is so awful, he’s the opposite of a Gary Stu, I can’t keep reading this!”

(On that note: if you want to find these fanfics I wrote, you can, but I am warning you that a lot of readers find this particular series offputting. So if you find them, and come back to me and say “Sara, those fanfics are so horrible, I wish I had never read them” my response will be “I warned you.”)

So, I wanted to write fanfic which centered a particular type of antihero, and I wanted to throw in asexuality, so this antihero ended up being ace (and aromantic too).

It was interesting to see how the (mostly non-ace) readers reacted to this original character being an aro ace. Based on the comments, some of them seemed to find him more sympathetic after they found out he was aro ace since it helped explain some of his actions, especially since he helped another ace character. And yes, I put in a second original character who is ace because it’s a lot easier to bring asexual themes into a story if there is more than one ace character. And since the second ace character was much easier to like, readers generally had a favorable opinion of her (she was also more boring, which is why she was not the center of the series). However, while most readers thought that the antihero helping the other ace character was one of the most likeable things he did, there was one reader who felt that he was hurting her by telling her that it was okay for her to be ace.

A problem I had while writing was that I am a lot more interested in Asexuality 201 than Asexuality 101, so these fanfics had a lot of 201 and not much 101. This resulted in some readers being confused. When I read ace fiction, I’m sometimes frustrated by there being more Asexuality 101 than Asexuality 201, but having had this experience, I can understand why writers sometimes put in more Asexuality 101 and less Asexuality 201 than I would like.

There were a whole bunch of other problems with this series of fanfics, but they weren’t related to asexuality, so I’m not going to discuss them here.

Even after writing this set of original-character centric fanfics, I still had not worked GJatRQ out of my system, so I went on to write a point-of-departure AU of The Vor Game. I killed off one of the major characters in The Vor Game right at the beginning (that was the point of departure which separates the AU from canon), which, among other things, led to one of the key events of GJatRQ happening during the timeframe of The Vor Game (i.e. more than twenty years earlier). (By the way, if you insist on reading my fanfic, I would like you to read this one first because I feel better about how it turned out. I am proud of how many cliffhanger chapter endings I was able to think up. And the fact that I am more interesting in using fanfic for cliffhanging than for shipping may reflect my aro-aceness).

Though this AU fanfic did not have any explicit ace content whatsoever, I was aware of some subtle ways that ace discourse was affecting the way I wrote this fanfic. For example, there is a scene where a character is talking about how he has sexual agency and can consent to sex, which was definitely influenced by ace writing about how it is possible for aces to consent.

I also put in three original characters in this fanfic who *I* think are ace, and I was debating whether or not to make that asexuality explicit. Eventually, I decided not to do so, and there is no hint in the fanfic that they are ace. Why did I not make it explicit? The in-universe reason was that they were not POV characters, and it did not make sense for them to come out as ace to the POV character. However, if I had wanted to make their asexuality explicit, I could have made up a reason why they would want to come out as ace. The real reasons were that a) I had just written some fanfics with very explicit asexual themes, and I wanted a break from that and b) I didn’t just want it to be a ‘by the way I’m ace’ thing but I also did not want to address asexuality in more depth in that fanfic because I did not want it to distract from the other stuff which was going on in the story. Thus, they aren’t even word of ace ace characters since I’ve never put out the word that those specific characters are ace.

***

Finally, a few comments on being ace in the Vorkosiverse fandom.

The biggest disadvantage is that the Vorkosiverse fandom is a heck of a lot smaller than, say, the Harry Potter / Supernatural / Sherlock / Marvel Cinematic Universe / Homestuck / etc. fandoms. It’s not even as big as the Miraculous Ladybug fandom. That means there are a lot fewer fanworks out there, and consequently, a lot fewer people making ace fanworks. In fact, as far as I know, I’m the only person who has made any ace fanwork for the Vorkosiverse fandom.

The big advantage of the Vorkosiverse fandom is that it is a lot less focused on erotica and shipping than many other fandoms. There is still plenty of erotic fanfic and shipping in the fandom, but there are also a lot of plotty fanfics, as well as fanfics which explore the setting of the series without focusing on sex or romance. For example, one of the most common tropes in Vorkosiverse fandom is Somebody Finding Out the Truth about the Escobar Invasion (in the past month alone, there have been two fanfics with this trope – “The King’s Quarrel” and “A Man of the Right”). There is a fanfic in which Gregor figures out most of it but thinks that Aral, not Ezar, was the mastermind, there’s a fanfic in which Komarran terrorists capture Aral, use truth serum on him, and then broadcast the interrogation on the vid network, and various other variations on the trope. And this trope almost never has much to do with sex or romance. As an aro-ace, this greater abundance of fanfics focused on something other than shipping makes Vorkosiverse fandom more appealing to me than many other fandoms.