This is part of a series on tropes in fiction with ace characters. To link or follow this series, please use the “ace tropes” tag on this blog.
“I’m sure you’ve seen signs though. Animals naturally relax around you. Sometimes it almost feels like you know what they’re thinking. A longing to run free. One hell of a libido. Am I getting warm?”
Isis shifted her weight and Electra did the same. Neither sister noticed the other mirroring her movement. Well that’s just plain freaky, Jade thought as she repressed a shudder.
– Sere from the Green by Lauren Jankowski, old edition, Chapter Five
“I’m sure you’ve seen signs though. Animals relax around you. Sometimes it almost feels like you know what they’re thinking. A longing to run free. One hell of a libido. Am I getting warm?”
“Wrong on the libido thing. I’m on the ace spectrum, been Gray-A my whole life,” Isis stated, crossing her arms over her chest. “Very, very low libido. Pretty much non-existent.”
– Sere from the Green by Lauren Jankowski, new edition, Chapter Five
Sometimes, a writer will write a novel without explicit ace content, and then say that some character in the story is ace. Later on, they re-write the novel and make the character explicitly ace, whether it is merely on-page signs of their aceness or using words such as ‘ace’ or ‘asexual’. This is what I call a ‘revised ace’.
All of the examples of this trope which I am aware of were self-published for at least one of the two editions. This makes sense. It is a lot easier to take a self-published novel, change it, and re-release it, than to work with a publisher to put out a revised edition. Furthermore, most ace fiction (that I know of) is written in English, and Anglophone publishing culture is not inclined towards putting out revised editions of previously published novels at the writer’s request.
How much has the ace content changed between the original and revised editions of these novels? Since I do not have access to all of the original editions of these stories, I cannot be entirely certain. That said, I will go through them one-by-one.
The most straightforward example is Viral Airwaves by Claudie Arseneault. I could only find one half-paragraph which explicitly describes the protagonist, Henry Schmitt, as being ace. That half-paragraph is:
Henry couldn’t help but smile as they remained locked together. In a way, he envied the ease of their relationship and the obvious attraction between the two. It had never been that simple for him, that clear-cut. Tia had told him she was the same, that she’d never experienced sexual desire or attraction, and that seemed a good enough way to describe it to Henry.
Even though this is the only point at which aceness is directly addressed in the novel, there is nothing in the novel which signals that Henry is not ace. I have not seen the original edition of this novel, but it looks like this was just a minor change to make it clear that Henry is ace without impacting the plot or flow of the novel.
I could not find any mentions of asexuality in Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver, second edition, except for one scene. That scene is too long to quote in full, so here is just a tiny sample:
“Um,” his expression shifted to a near-perfect blank, though his eyes slowly widened. “I…really… this is gonna sound weird, and I swear I’m not messing with you… but… I don’t think I’m attracted to anyone. Not in the way you’re thinking.”
“Not weird,” she assured him. “Not weird at all.”
“I haven’t even thought about it,” he mumbled. “I mean, I’ve wondered, but like just in a vague ‘who am I, what was my life’ way. I haven’t really… felt anything about…Anyone.” He scowled for a moment, then let out a frustrated noise, neck frill flaring out. “But that’s not right either, because I know I have, all this means is that I don’t look at someone I don’t know or trust, like a stranger, and think they’re hot—I don’t think anyone’s hot when I first meet them! No offense,” he said hurriedly.
“None taken,” she said just as fast, then let him keep going, actually looking relieved to see him venting a little frustration.
When I read Chameleon Moon, this scene felt out of place to me. Up to this point, I could not recall seeing any clue that Regan had felt any distress because he did not have words for his aceness. Furthermore, the lead-up to this scene did not seem like it would lead to a discussion of Regan’s (a)sexuality. Both of these made this scene feel to me like it was an awkward insertion of an Asexuality Scene rather than a natural part of the story. Furthermore, even though discovering the word ‘asexual’ and that asexuals are not weird seems to be an earth-shattering revelation for Regan, after this scene, Regan’s asexuality is not addressed again.
When I later learned that this scene was not at all in the first edition, I was not at all surprised.
Finally, I have read both the old and the new edition of Sere from the Green by Lauren Jankowski. An example of the change between editions is at the top of this post. There are a few such asexuality-related changes in the new edition (as well as a lot of changes which have nothing to do with asexuality). It falls between Viral Airwaves and Chameleon Moon – it’s more than just a few sentences in just one instance, but no brand new ace scene or subplot.
This raises two questions:
1) Why did the writers choose not to put any explicit ace content in the first edition?
2) Why did the writers choose to add explicit ace content in the second edition?
Over time, the ace community has become more demanding about ace representation in fiction. When there was almost no explicit ace content available in fiction, it was a big deal when a creator would put out a Word of Ace on a character, even if there was no indication in the story itself that the character was ace. Now that there are more and more stories with explicit ace content, more aces (myself included) feel that Word of Ace is an insufficient form of ace representation, and some may even call it acebaiting.
The first editions were released in: February 2015; October 2014; March 2013. The second editions were released in: November 2016; October 2016; October 2017. In my opinion, the recent flood of ace fiction (though it’s only a flood in comparison to what there was before the flood) started in mid-2015, so the first editions are pre-flood, and the new editions are part of the flood.
These revised editions, intentionally or not, reflect the changing standards of what the ace community considers to be ‘ace fiction’.
1) How do you feel about writers putting explicit ace content in new editions of novels which did not have explicit ace content before?
2) If J.K. Rowling were to re-write the Harry Potter series, and in the new edition Dumbledore would be clearly gay on page, Harry and Hermione would marry each other, and Charlie Weasley would at some point says “I’m asexual” among other changes, what would you think?
3) Would you generally prefer minor changes which announce that one or more characters are ace, or would you prefer a major reworking of the story so that the aceness is more of a factor in the plot?