Non-fiction

Posted: September 1, 2011 in Carnival of Aces

This (slightly belated) post is for the Carnival of Aces, round 5, on literature and media representation.

I hear tons about asexuality and fiction, how to handle asexual characters, whether to interpret various characters as asexual, and so on and so forth. But I haven’t heard much about asexuals in non-fiction. I don’t mean documentaries or magazine articles explaining what asexuality is, but rather creative non-fiction, things like personal essays and memoirs, things specifically focusing on life as an asexual person. There’s Tim Gunn, sure, but the focus of his book isn’t on being asexual. I haven’t heard of any other asexual writer doing any kind of long creative non-fiction. There are some personal essays, but that’s all I’ve seen. Even those are sparse.

The thing is, I’m not really a fiction person. I do enjoy reading fiction, but it’s not what I like to create. I can do it, I have done it, but I don’t really want to be a novelist or anything like that. I want to write, but I don’t want to make things up. So while I find discussions of fiction interesting, I don’t usually have a whole lot to contribute. Even less when the discussion turns to fandom, because I left fandom behind quite a while ago; that sort of thing just doesn’t interest me anymore.

How do you make an asexual character believable to a world that doesn’t believe that asexuals exist? This is the big question, for me, and I think the answer is, you can’t. Until asexuals gain some level of acceptance, asexual characters are going to be seen as unbelievable. I would rather not bother with fiction about asexual characters, in that case. I would rather tell true stories, because it forces readers to grapple with the reality of it. I’ll certainly applaud any writer who wants to write fictional asexual characters, as long as they do it well. But I feel that fiction can only go so far. At this point, I think non-fiction will be better at getting through to people.

So I’m working on a memoir. I wasn’t planning to announce it so soon, as I’m only about twelve thousand words in, and it’s on the back burner for the moment while school is in session. But, I’m working on it, slowly. And… you know, it’s rather intimidating, to write a memoir. What if I’m not a good enough representation of an asexual person? What if people actually think I’m lying? What if people claim I’m not “really” asexual, or not asexual enough? What if I get so much bad press that it actually hurts the community more than it helps?

Part of the reason I want to write is to present an asexual perspective to people who are not asexual. In particular, I think the two other communities most likely to read it will be the feminist/womanist community, and the atheist community, because it will deal with both feminism and atheism. I’m not worried about the feminists, really. But I’m VERY nervous about the reception it would receive from atheists, especially after Elevatorgate (which, if you don’t know… oh, just google it). Most of it is going to focus on the treatment I received from an atheist guy who was very much an asshole. He systematically went through every single item on the list of common bad responses to finding out that someone is an asexual, and when he was done with that, he invented some more.

Names will have to be changed, of course, and that’s another sticky issue, particularly because names are somewhat significant. I’m not going to worry about that until I start to edit it though.

Probably the hardest part about writing a true story, though, is writing the embarrassing parts. But those are often the parts that people respond the best to. Showing that kind of vulnerability is risky, but my favorite writers are the ones who take those risks. So that’s what I’ll try to do.

For the moment, I’m not going to talk much about this. I’ve barely started, and it’s certainly going to take me a while to finish. But I thought that it was relevant, since we’ve been talking about literature and media representation this past month.

Comments
  1. [...] talks about asexuals in non-fiction, specifically creative non-fiction, and the beginning of a [...]

  2. Good luck, Elizabeth.

    The annoying trend I’ve noticed among atheists (a group in which I include myself) is that some of the more internet-raised sexual atheists (especially Siggy’s gaggle of trolls) tend to treat asexuality as a novel theory that they must immediately argue against, wheras a lot of sexuality models stress the fact that what a person says they experience is probably what they experience, and there’s really nowhere ‘evidence’ can fit into it. And that skepticism and rationalism becomes such a good defence against reconsidering your position, cf. Elevatorgate.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks. I’ve noticed that among atheists, too. At some point I intend to make a post about it, but I’ve been putting off for a while now. Much as I hate the stereotype, in cases like that, I think it is true that these particular atheists are being dogmatic in the name of skepticism, and in the process… well, doing it wrong. I’m glad not all atheists are like that.

  3. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    Wow. Kudos to you, because I certainly can’t consider writing a memoir at the moment. Despite my blog and my willingness to do visibility work, I’m pretty much a coward, and fiction does allow me to take one step back from my experience.

    That said, best of luck with the project.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks. I do find that somewhat tempting sometimes, but at the same time, I tend to think that it’d be too obvious that I’m trying to fictionalize my own experiences. I’m not really sure how to pull off writing about asexuality in a way that would be read as having some distance between author and subject, and since I think it wouldn’t be that great of an idea anyway, I’m just going to avoid it. Good luck with your own writing, too. :)

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