Overthinking fanfic devices

21 Aug

I’m using the Carnival of Aces as an excuse to post this odd thing I’ve had written up forever but always thought was too ridiculous to post. *cough*

Recently I read a fanfic where people start to glow blue if they like men, pink if they like women, and purple if they’re bi or pan. The plot device made me think for a far longer time than was probably intended.

For bi and pan people, there was no indication that people would be a redder or bluer purple if they leaned more heavily in one direction, especially if that direction was nonbinary. Could you be a purpler purple? If you were solely attracted to nonbinary individuals, or agender/genderless people, would you glow an entirely different color?

But, aside from that, I wondered mostly about how asexual spectrum people and/or aromantics would glow.

If it’s based on romantic attraction, it could map out for some asexuals, but that leaves aromantics with either no glow or maybe a colorless glow.

Would demiromantics and grey-romantics only glow a little? Would their glow be more transparent? Would it ebb and flow? I think it’s implied that it would show up regardless of whether they were currently attracted to someone, because I assume that romantically inclined sexual people do not walk around in a constant state of attraction, and also think about things like lunch or advanced mathematics. Also, if it’s based on romantic attraction, people aren’t always romantically attracted to someone.

If it’s based on sexual attraction, it still leaves the question of demisexuals and grey-sexuals, and also provides no answer for asexuals. I suppose the glow could ebb and flow for demi and greys, or be more transparent, or be weak (as posited above). Asexuals could have a colorless glow or no glow at all.

Really this storytelling device always just makes me think, besides worrying about how terribly it could actually go in reality, “Well, that could help out a lot of questioning people.” (If you knew whether it was romantic or sexual, which you’d need someone with mismatched but concretely identified orientations, plus the willingness to discuss it, to figure out.) Does the glow know more than the glower?

There’s also the possibility that it only works for people with matched orientations. In which case, there’s a significant section of the populace outta luck.

Overall it’s not a device I’m fond of — because it leaves too many questions that I would never be able to puzzle out to my satisfaction in order to actually write it, and because I think it oversimplifies things, and there’s the issue of questioning people — but was interested in picking apart. If I had been able to take an English class called “What fanfiction have you read this week and what did you think about it?” I would’ve been so happy.


7 Responses to “Overthinking fanfic devices”

  1. Sciatrix August 21, 2011 at 10:54 PM #

    Oh man, you are not the only person who has stayed up for ages trying to think about how asexuality fits into that plot. (It’s actually not originally a fanfiction thing–it comes from a Bruce Coville short story.) The original just had people who glowing blue to various degrees to approximate their relative gayness, which I suppose is even less of an improvement than the red/blue thing where everyone glows. I like to think that the episode of glowing is just for sexual orientation, mostly because that’s the only way I can conceptualize the whole thing without a giant headache.

    And yeah, that whole “the glow outs people to themselves!” thing is actually a concept pretty embedded into the original plot, which is kind of creepy and upsetting, really.

    • ace eccentric August 21, 2011 at 11:40 PM #

      I am so glad, because “recently” was like, two months ago, and every time I noticed this post sitting in my folder I got trapped thinking about the device for another hour.

      Having read Coville from your link, I have to admit that I really did not like that story. I hate the idea of outing people. At least in the story I read, it was an accident, and the main character was uncomfortable when he realized what was going on. (And the part where the Coville character asks someone he assumes to be straight, and therefore not glowing, to be turned blue, and that’s supposed to be a good wish? Uh…)

      I guess part of the reason I really didn’t like it was that I’ve had friends who have been criticized for not coming out because of the attitude that if everyone was out, it would solve everything, and that they’re being a detriment to their communities by not coming out. And I’m very protective of my friends and I hate seeing that attitude. The fanfic I read was basically, “oh, now character A and B know that they can date!”

      The glow in the Coville story does seem it’s just sexual orientation, though, I agree. (Or even, in some part, sexual experiences… which I guess most people link to orientation.)

  2. Ily August 31, 2011 at 6:00 PM #

    …aaand one more thing, I just wanted to make sure you got my message on Tumblr. I probably should’ve posted it over here.

    • ace eccentric August 31, 2011 at 6:22 PM #

      I did! Tumblr must’ve eaten my response. I’ll send it again.

  3. pip November 15, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

    *sticks nose in months later* Oh, hey, that’s probably my SGA fic Dayglow? If it makes you feel any better, I spent a long time (after posting it) overthinking it, too; I even have a half-written remix (of my own fic, yes) in which John’s ace. The remix goes a lot more into these sorts of thoughts. I’d put it aside as a combination of “oh, nobody cares, it’s just fic” and having other things to concentrate on, but I might pull it back out at some point.

    (if it was me, the prompt was to use coville’s plot device and run with it, basically. i was eager to do so because of the slight sketchiness of it (which i then decided i couldn’t really address in this version without getting ridiculously long and/or violating the original prompt) and also the odd fandom fluffiness of it. too many of my fics have thinky-thoughts in my head but not on paper.)

    Anyway. I’m terribly excited that someone was thinking the same things. Sorry for barging in randomly. *wanders away again*

    • ace eccentric November 28, 2011 at 1:25 PM #

      First off, sorry it took so long to reply to this. I’ve been really caught up with schoolwork and other various life things recently and haven’t had as much time for the blog as I’d like.

      I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’m not 100% positive it actually was your fic. I wasn’t really trying to criticize what I read, I was mainly curious about how the device could possibly be used if it was inclusive of a broader view of sexuality, so I didn’t want to link to it and I don’t actually remember the title or even where I read it. I do remember it was an SGA fic, though, so if you think it was yours it probably was.

      If you do ever pull the ace!John fic back out I would absolutely LOVE a link, though. I am very curious how the device could be adapted to include the asexual spectrum within a fic.


  1. Carnival of Aces 5: Round-Up Post « an asexual space - September 1, 2011

    […] I picked apart a plot device (which involved glowing based on your sexual/romantic orientation) and its many […]

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