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50 Shades of #808080
July 30, 2012 6:46 PM   Subscribe

By late May, more than ten million copies of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy, an erotic romance series about the sexual exploits of a domineering billionaire and an inexperienced coed, had been sold in the United States, all within six weeks of the books’ publication here. This apparently unprecedented achievement occurred without the benefit of a publicity campaign, formal reviews, or Oprah’s blessing, owing to a reputation established, as one industry analyst put it, “totally through word of mouth.” [Grey Area: How ‘Fifty Shades’ Dominated the Market]
posted by vidur (101 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fun fact: It started off as fanfic.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:48 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


TWILIGHT fanfic.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:48 PM on July 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is both a blessing and a curse for all of us fanfic writers out there.
posted by duvatney at 6:50 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Word of facebook more like.
posted by ian1977 at 6:51 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Was going to come up with classic books that had started out as fanfic but I'm not witty enough. I got stuff like Old Man and The Sea: Jaws Fanfic. Someone witty please do this.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:54 PM on July 30, 2012


dunkadunc: "Fun fact: It started off as fanfic."

This is true. Here is an early draft kept alive through the magic of the internet.
posted by boo_radley at 6:55 PM on July 30, 2012 [7 favorites]




I am shocked that pornography is popular.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 6:59 PM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


TWILIGHT fanfic.

Heinously shitty Twilight fanfic.
posted by elizardbits at 7:04 PM on July 30, 2012 [19 favorites]


I first learned about it the way I learn about most things, via SNL.

I don't get this joke. Better Google it on my iPad.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 7:05 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Someone mentioned to me that they editing seemed to be comprised mainly of FIND->REPLACE Edward:Mr. Gray
posted by Slackermagee at 7:08 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I weep for the future of *good* smut.
posted by mrbill at 7:09 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not "seemed to be", IS.
posted by elizardbits at 7:09 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Twilight fanfic? That can't be right. I heard they found it in a cabbage patch.
posted by griphus at 7:09 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Someone mentioned to me that they editing seemed to be comprised mainly of FIND->REPLACE Edward:Mr. Gray

Thereby turning it into Dreamcatcher fanfic.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:11 PM on July 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


cheesiness
posted by irish01 at 7:12 PM on July 30, 2012


The thing is, the success of this is only because it is BDSM porn that is not published by a BDSM publishing house, and that people presumably don't know is BDSM porn, and it's also not "real" BDSM porn, because it's light and because Edward Mr. Grey eventually stops being all Dom except for a few fun things, because Twue Wuv has redeemed him.

I'd mark it for a spoiler, except no one actually cares.
posted by corb at 7:13 PM on July 30, 2012 [31 favorites]


Is this the vampire fanfic for those who don't want to have to keep flicking pages for the good stuff?

I mean, sure, it's fanfic. But it seems like there is a little bit of finger-wagging going here over ladies of a certain age wanting some hot reading.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:13 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ellen Fremedon had done some great writing about what she called the Id Vortex about fan fiction. It's worth reading in its entirety, and not just for the observation that in the fan fiction world, "Grammar has displaced sex as a locus of shame."

Was going to come up with classic books that had started out as fanfic but I'm not witty enough.

There was an AskMeFi thread a while back looking for good fanfic, but it's not like fanfic is some bizarrely transgressive thing and likely never has been. Once upon a time, a guy named Christoph Nicolai wrote "The Joys Of Young Werther", a bit of fan fiction derived from "The Sorrows Of Young Werther" that caused quite a bit of a stir in the literary scene of the day.

That day was in 1775; Goethe was quite annoyed by it, apparently. More recently, what are Shakespeare In Love or Rozencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, if not Shakespeare fanfic? How about Oz The Great And Powerful?

Fan fiction is much older, and much more pervasive in the world, than most people realize.
posted by mhoye at 7:13 PM on July 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


Heinously shitty Twilight fanfic.

Redundancy!
posted by mediated self at 7:15 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, sure, it's fanfic. But it seems like there is a little bit of finger-wagging going here over ladies of a certain age wanting some hot reading.

It's not bad because it was a fanfic. It's not bad if any human being of any age wants to fap to porn. It's not even bad because it's based on Twilight. It's bad because it is heinously shitty writing.
posted by elizardbits at 7:17 PM on July 30, 2012 [24 favorites]


And the finger-wagging is because people who know the first thing about hot reading know that there is literally an entire world of far better hot reading out there that other people hesitate to read because it's icky fanfiction, lolsomely unaware of the origins of the heinous shit they are exclaiming over ecstatically.
posted by elizardbits at 7:18 PM on July 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


now if you will excuse me, teen wolf is on
posted by elizardbits at 7:19 PM on July 30, 2012 [13 favorites]


Why buy a book (let alone 3) when you can download all the trashy fanfic porn from the web for free?
posted by crunchland at 7:19 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Um, there are spoilers in that article.
posted by desjardins at 7:20 PM on July 30, 2012


No no no, it's not true fanfic unless there's at least one gratuitous cut away scene with Kirk and Spock gazing longingly into each others eyes.
posted by sammyo at 7:20 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Um, there are spoilers in that article.

lol
posted by elizardbits at 7:21 PM on July 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


Um, there are spoilers in that article.
posted by desjardins at 4:20 PM on July 30 [+] [!]


But ...Mr Anderson ... how can you spoil it ... if it is already ... rotten...?
posted by Sebmojo at 7:22 PM on July 30, 2012 [20 favorites]


corb: "Mr. Grey eventually stops being all Dom except for a few fun things, because Twue Wuv has redeemed him. "

I honestly wonder if Twilight and 50 Shades are just make certain demographics of women feel like it's OK and actually raunchy to be in a relationship where their significant other is abusive.
Obviously there's a gulf of difference between S&M and abuse. but the quotes I've read from Twilight seem to skew toward the latter.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:23 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fan fiction is much older, and much more pervasive in the world, than most people realize.

I'm always fond of telling people my favorite piece of fanfiction is Dante's Divine Comedy. It's greek/christian mythology fanfiction, a story about the author himself (not even a Mary Sue!) hanging out with his favorite classical poet, interacting with all the cool mythological shit he likes, seeing people he hates getting punished in hell, and getting to be with some girl he only met twice in real life but was madly in love with nonetheless. In other words, not only is it like fanfic, it's like fanfic written by a nerdy teenaged boy.
posted by Ndwright at 7:23 PM on July 30, 2012 [135 favorites]


Ndwright: "I'm always fond of telling people my favorite piece of fanfiction is Dante's Divine Comedy. It's greek/christian mythology fanfiction, a story about the author himself (not even a Mary Sue!) hanging out with his favorite classical poet, interacting with all the cool mythological shit he likes, seeing people he hates getting punished in hell, and getting to be with some girl he only met twice in real life but was madly in love with nonetheless. In other words, not only is it like fanfic, it's like fanfic written by a nerdy teenaged boy."

Mods, please sidebar this.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:26 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dear Emily Eakin:
A "coed"? Seriously? I am checking my watch and it shows 2012, not 1965.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:28 PM on July 30, 2012


Can someone explain to me slowly and in cliched, torrid prose what the fanfic community's problem is with the books? As I understand it:

1. James posted her Twilight fanfic to some forum
2. moved it to her own site because it was too racy
3. changed the characters' names
4. published as an ebook
5. PROFIT!!!!!11

So what? Why do the people who enjoyed her fanfic want to deny her success? I mean, if I know a guy who likes playing his guitar for free at parties, and then he gets signed to a record label, good for him! Bravo! I might buy his album! It wouldn't occur to me to be upset that I once enjoyed hearing him play for free.
posted by desjardins at 7:32 PM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why buy a book (let alone 3) when you can download all the trashy fanfic porn from the web for free?

via jessamyn:
This is an awful book. Do not read this book. There is better smut on the Internet. Smut that is well written. Smut that portrays the BDSM lifestyle accurately. Smut that doesn't romanticise abusive relationships. And it's free. Google is your friend. Go forth and find good smut.
posted by zamboni at 7:33 PM on July 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


He cocked his head to one side.
posted by CharlesV42 at 7:33 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I know 50 Shades is not based on real person fic, but..) And people wonder why Kristen Stewart seems to have deliberately destroyed her entire Twilight fan base.
posted by acidic at 7:34 PM on July 30, 2012


Great, I am now picturing a 50-ft-tall Kristen Stewart making Godzilla noises and stomping around the New Moon premiere.
posted by griphus at 7:37 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fan fiction is much older, and much more pervasive in the world, than most people realize.

Oh, I mean like as a joke.

But yeah. I guess you could call what Stoppard does fanfic if your definition of fanfic is broad enough. You could, I suppose, call Ovid fanfic. What about alternate histories or fictitious explorations of actual people, is Libra fanfic?
posted by Ad hominem at 7:39 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


The constant (didn't Metafilter just do exactly this like two weeks ago?) gasping in shock!!!! about how this is based on Twilight fanfic and is terrible has the unfortunate side effect of making me want to buy dozens of copies.

Perhaps there is a market in weird erotica for extremely contrary people?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 7:42 PM on July 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


So what? Why do the people who enjoyed her fanfic want to deny her success?

I don't care that it's fanfiction, because I know someone who is hot stuff in the fanfiction world, and I would love it if she got a contract. I hate it because I flipped through the first one, restrained myself from gouging out my eyeballs, and read the last ten pages and epilogue of the third one. It was insanely boring. It made me long for my tween years of sneaking Jean Auel books home, which at least had interesting sex and also mammoths.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:44 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


This book is bad and if you like it you should feel bad.
posted by Justinian at 7:44 PM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


"He cocked his head to one side."

So good. It reminds me lines like "Before him, the road receded in both directions" or "In anticipation, John licked his own lips" from the Lyttle Lytton contest, a Bulwer-Lytton derivative with much better taste:

"She had the kind of face that made you want to say hey, look at your face." - Clara Weinstein

"Monica had exploded, and I had a mystery, and pieces of her pancreas, on my hands." - Bruce Otter

"A lone testicle lay in a barren field." - Jon Tando
posted by mhoye at 7:44 PM on July 30, 2012 [16 favorites]


We aren't expressing shock that it's Twilight fanfic. The proper term is LULZ.
posted by JHarris at 7:44 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Aeneid is basically Iliad fanfic.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:46 PM on July 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'd guess that the vast majority of people who have bought 50 Shades not only do not know or care that it started as fanfic, but are not even aware that such a thing as fanfic exists. Things transcend their origins, folks.

I will never in a million years read the books, but I am nevertheless completely excited about the change in business model this book represents. While the "end of gatekeepers" is overhyped, this is something real, and new. If an unknown and in-all-but-insane-popularity incompetent author can do this, why should any established author settle for 15% royalties from a traditional publishing house.

(When not on the first sitcom pilot, but first sitcom premier season is funded on Kickstarter and auctioned among networks on an highest-bidder-gets-it-and-shows-it-as-is, you'll know the revolution has come.)
posted by MattD at 7:48 PM on July 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


An interesting one is The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes a film directed and co-written by Billy Wilder which deals in part with Holmes' sexuality. Sherlock Holmes inspired a lot of strange re-explorations.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:50 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what? Why do the people who enjoyed her fanfic want to deny her success?

It's not so much denying her success as it is about being appalled that bad fanfic has become so hugely successful and famous. And to add insult to injury, it's really bad porn. If there's one thing modern media fandom can actually pride itself on writing-wise, it's that the good porny fanfic is really good, better than the majority of published erotica, and almost universally better than sex scenes in non-erotica books.
posted by yasaman at 8:01 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can someone explain to me... what the fanfic community's problem is with the books?

I don't know nothing bout no fanfic, or about this book. But from the linked article, it sounds like the problem is that:

a. when fanfic readers give constructive feedback, acting as free editors, they do so with the expectation that it's not a for-profit book, and they feel she has abused their time/goodwill on this score,
...and maybe also...

b. the fanfic boards (or fora or whatever) aren't supposed to serve as a marketing recruiting area, where you can build positive word of mouth to launch your for-profit book.

Both complaints seem a bit weird to me unless they think she was acting in bad faith posting it there in the first place -- that is, if they think she planned all along to publish it, and posted it with a fake Twilight fanfic veneer, to deliberately build word of mouth and get free editing help. But if there is evidence that she did that, the evidence isn't presented in the article.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:03 PM on July 30, 2012


It's sort of like living in a world where there are a million delicious tasty meals to be eaten but instead you decide to have a small, stale shit sandwich, and you think it's the best thing you've ever tasted.
posted by elizardbits at 8:04 PM on July 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


JUST SPIT THAT OUT AND EAT THIS DELICIOUS SEX BURRITO ALREADY
posted by elizardbits at 8:04 PM on July 30, 2012 [19 favorites]


( adds delicious sex burrito to the List Of Things To Ctually Put In Print)
posted by The Whelk at 8:10 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cassandra Claire must be spitting in fury that this took off more than her series.

I haven't read it, but it's not the end of the world if badly written erotica makes a ton of money. It's not the first trashy novel to make a fortune. And it won't be the last. It's not going to do any lasting harm and some people will probably have lots of fun reading it.

Perhaps there is a market in weird erotica for extremely contrary people?

If there is, I'm also part of it.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:13 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Word of facebook more like.

I read that as "World of Facebook" and thought "so that's what Blizzard's secret project is."
posted by Foosnark at 8:24 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Write your own: http://www.fiftyshadesgenerator.com/
posted by cjorgensen at 8:54 PM on July 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


All I l know is not only is out local sex toy retailer putting a lot of effort into selling 50 Shades (and whips, chains, nipple clamps and other BDSM bits and bobs that are edgy but not, you know... shocking) but you can get a copy of the 50 Shades books for $9.96 at K-mart.

And that sends my *click generator* "ladytown was trembling like a rat on acid".
posted by Mezentian at 9:38 PM on July 30, 2012


When he removed his disco stick from my mavis fritter, he was pleasantly surprised to see a corn-eyed butt snake staring back as him. He knew I couldn't wait to gobble the Mr. Hanky off his spam javelin. Now, I've seen more helmets than Hitler, but the sight of his cervix cigar made my minge monsoon haemorrhage like a jizz waterfall. The unrelenting orgasms from his pink tractor beam hammering my birth cannon made me come so hard, I began sweating like a dyslexic on Countdown. The seemingly never-ending streams of Da Vinci load emanating from his brie baton soon had me coated like a plasterer's radio. The fucking of my mud flap was so vigorous, he soon found his kids on a swing joining his tenderloin truncheon deep in my oxo orifice.

Okay. I will stop pressing now.
I will.
Stop.
Pressing.
posted by Mezentian at 9:42 PM on July 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy, an erotic romance series about the sexual exploits of a domineering billionaire and an inexperienced coed

Fun fact: It started off as fanfic.
TWILIGHT fanfic.


From vampire to vampire squid.

...Mr. Grey eventually stops being all Dom except for a few fun things, because Twue Wuv has redeemed him.

Extremely similar in plot, then, to Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded, often taught as the very first novel in English, in which the nobleman Mr. B
is infatuated with her [Pamela], first by her looks and then her innocence and intelligence, but his high rank hinders him from proposing marriage. He abducts her, locks her up in one of his estates, and attempts to seduce and rape her. She rejects him continually, but starts to realize that she is falling in love with him. He intercepts her letters to her parents; reading them, he becomes even more enamored by her innocence, intelligence, and continuous escape attempts. Her virtue is eventually rewarded when he sincerely proposes an equitable marriage to her.
Except, as I recall, that Richardson doesn't bother to pretend Mr. B is ever in love with Pamela.
posted by jamjam at 9:57 PM on July 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


The most unbelievable thing in these books was not the flat characters, or the overused phrases, or the not-really-that-torrid sex scenes, or anything like that.

The most unbelievable thing, the thing that ruined my suspension of disbelief, was that Our Innocent Protagonist, a 22-year old, English major, seemingly middle-class American in 2012, not only didn't have her own computer (Mr. Grey buys her one while wooing her), but he's set it up for her with an email account and she freaks out about having "her own email address".

....

She acts like a complete goon about HAVING AN EMAIL ADDRESS. Not just "lol, I never use email" but "OMG MY VERY OWN EMAIL ADDRESS, HOW POSH!" How has she never had an email address before?!
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:07 PM on July 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


The writer is British, their socialist government rations email addresses.
posted by desjardins at 10:15 PM on July 30, 2012 [12 favorites]


The Foundation Trilogy: lightly-rewritten Star Wars fanfic originally written by a time-travelling teenage girl named Arcadia Darryl, published under her Uncle Isaac's name.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:22 PM on July 30, 2012


That can't be right. I heard they found it in a cabbage patch.



Unlike real pornography, which we all know is found in the woods.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:38 PM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Except, as I recall, that Richardson doesn't bother to pretend Mr. B is ever in love with Pamela.

Pamela gave us Shamela, perhaps the greatest novel of the 18th century. That alone makes it awesome. (It also gave us Joseph Andrews, so it was doubly awesome.)

(I don't recall Pamela very well, but I do think that Mr. B. is in love with Pamela by the end. Of course, by that point any sensible woman would have run screaming, but she really doesn't have that option. Also, she is not very sensible. But very virtuous.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:45 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


50 Shades of Grey is the perfect book to add zombies to.
posted by Neale at 10:49 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I honestly wonder if Twilight and 50 Shades are just make certain demographics of women feel like it's OK and actually raunchy to be in a relationship where their significant other is abusive.
Obviously there's a gulf of difference between S&M and abuse. but the quotes I've read from Twilight seem to skew toward the latter.


Yes. Absolutely, yes.

Let me tell you. I read all three of these godawful books. I tried hard to give them a chance, even though I knew it was not going to get any better, because I wanted to judge them on their own merits rather than other people, who might just hate on BDSM porn. So I am speaking from a point of continuously wanting to stab out my eyes having read these books.

At some point in the three books, it is revealed that Mr. Grey just loves to beat "little brown-haired girls like his crack-whore mother." Ie, this isn't about healthy, fun sex that just happens to involve an S&M component, this is about this guy's horrifically fucked up Oedipal complex and hatred of "the crack whore," as he refers to her numerous times in the books. Multiple times in the books does he say, "I just did it to punish you, because I was so mad." At various points in the book, he punishes her for such sins as going sunbathing and going out for drinks with a female friend.

This is absolutely, absolutely, "I beat you because I love you" shit. It even includes, no shit, a lot of reinforcement about "I never actually commit to the whores I beat! Except for you, because You Are Special And I Love You." It is the vilest, vilest shit. I don't even have words for how fucking awful this shit is.
posted by corb at 10:51 PM on July 30, 2012 [29 favorites]


It made me long for my tween years of sneaking Jean Auel books home, which at least had interesting sex and also mammoths.

And so many unique, turgid instances of "NAME-POSSESSIVE GERUND PEENER-SYNONYM."

I think my favorite is "Jondalar's throbbing woman-maker."
posted by zippy at 11:06 PM on July 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


I mean, sure, it's fanfic. But it seems like there is a little bit of finger-wagging going here over ladies of a certain age wanting some hot reading.

If "Star Wars XXX: A Porn Parody" suddenly became the #1 selling DVD in the country, I doubt the outcry would be limited to "sheesh, men sure do like them some porn."
posted by ShutterBun at 11:45 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I honestly wonder if Twilight and 50 Shades are just make certain demographics of women feel like it's OK and actually raunchy to be in a relationship where their significant other is abusive

I have never personally known a woman in an abusive relationship to romanticize her abuse in this way?

Honestly though, I can't really get that mad. The memes about possession and machismo and femininity are already out there in the culture. I grew up on a mortifyingly steady diet of smutty fanfiction and agree that there are worlds better out there, but the stuff I read wasn't exactly politically correct (or whatever) either, it was actually pretty heinous. But it was fantasy and had almost nothing to do with my actual budding sex life. I actually think that women are pretty good at knowing how to take care of themselves, especially when they have the resources, and that economic and social pressures are infinitely more the problem than sexy fanfic.

"Star Wars XXX: A Porn Parody"

Not a good comparison, since I think the fanfic nature of this work is really only relevant in terms of the popularization of BDSM stuff that's grown out of Twilight fandom, it's not like it's just campy fun vampires and crazy alien worlds or something (in fact, it seems there are actually no vampires or supernatural elements). But yeah, can we agree that male and female sexual fantasy/escapism are treated massively differently in our popular culture, and not draw false parallels? I mean, 50 Shades of Grey is porny, but there is an endless list of stuff that's been accepted into the mainstream that directly and obviously panders to graphic male sexual and domination fantasies. (I think it's also rather obvious that media like 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Mike generate such buzz and popularity because it's extremely rare for these kinds of things to be admitted so blatantly in a culture that is really much more concerned with marketing to men, and which assumes women are very sexually mild.)

Plus I see a lot of people shitting on "women's" media not because it's actually bad (because most of the time they haven't read/seen it) but because it creeps them out that preteen girls/women over 30 like to masturbate. Why do people hate Justin Bieber? He seems like a nice, cute kid. And yet I see grown adults thrown into a homicidal rage over his appeal.

Also, funny how if Star Wars XXX suddenly became the top selling DVD, it would probably mimic most mainstream porn in not treating women particularly well, and when you read 50 Shades of Grey, which is meant to appeal to women... it doesn't treat women particularly well. It seems we're much more accepting of kink when it emulates the pre-existing order; I'm looking forward to the next big thing, straight female-oriented pornography about male sex slaves, or something. (The fact that this is all about and for heterosexuals goes without saying, I guess.)
posted by stoneandstar at 12:01 AM on July 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't think anyone really have a problem with the fanfic aspect. I think many people have a problem with
- it is so badly written, and for many many people this is their first foray in to erotica, so they think 'this is what erotica is like'.
- it's bad enough when badly written books become popular - but when they become such cultural talking points, it grates.
- it is held up as a BDSM novel but its descriptions of BDSM range from the truly laughable to the truly wrong; wrong as in it basically says people who 'enjoy' BDSM do because they are damaged, and wrong in that the practices it talks about (or more specifically the the interaction between those who are partaking) are ridiculous. And since many people will take this as being the final word on BDSM (and for some, probably all kink), it is not helping. Especially not helping anyone who has been thinking they have a feeling they might like certain BDSM practices and were thinking of perhaps exploring that, but now they are pretty much told you have to be fucked up to like this stuff.

Also, I don't think it is a 'word of mouth' sensation per se, at least not in the old sense of 'I read this great book, you have to read it!', but more people not wanting to be left out as their group of Mummies/people at work/social group talk about it.

Lastly - when I put in my online grocery order with Ocado yesterday, it gave me the option of including 50 Shades of Grey with my order.
posted by Megami at 12:30 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hilariously, there is now fanfic of Fifty Shades of Grey. I hope someone gets a book deal out of it.

Can someone explain to me slowly and in cliched, torrid prose what the fanfic community's problem is with the books?

I think a lot of the problem is that the fanfic community has spent so much time and effort into arguing that what they do is not plagiarism, but a labor of love, and they don't do it to profit off an author's work, but just to share their love of it.

You also get into issues of plagiarism both large and small. Is it plagiarism if you take the characterization of two characters, change the names, and profit by them? Ana is Bella in many, many ways deeper than the outward character points, and the conflicts, sans the sex, are much the same. Is it plagiarism when you use other people's ideas and edits, as routinely happens in fanfiction, and profit by it? Many authors are now having to deal with that issue - someone said something on the internet, and did the author steal it?

I think there is also some frustration, that some of the better, well-known fanfic names have not in fact betrayed the community rules, and so the one that did is the one that got rich and famous. A sense that the adulation and success really belong to others, perhaps more honest others.

Also, E.L. James is particularly known in the fandom community for shitting on fans.
posted by corb at 12:46 AM on July 31, 2012


Still a better love story than "Twilight".
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:36 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of problems that the fanfiction community has with 50SoG, and a lot of problems the BDSM community has with 50SoG--but the biggest issue for both is that the fastest-selling paperback of all time presents each community to an overwhelming majority of people who had never heard of/had no interest in the community beforehand, and it happens to be be FUCKING AWFUL. I mean, it's just terrible. It's wrong and actively harmful information about BDSM, and it's just about the worst* ambassador fanfiction could have had to the readers of the great wide world of professional popular fiction.

I mean, sure, it's fanfic. But it seems like there is a little bit of finger-wagging going here over ladies of a certain age wanting some hot reading.

Not. Even. A lot of the grar is coming from your "ladies of a certain age" who have been fanfiction readers since long before they were of a certain age, and still do now--because one of the myriad of problems those of us who fit your "certain age" have with Fifty Shades is that we are big proponents of women (of all ages, thank you) getting themselves some hot reading... and this is what they get? Nthing the photo of the wonderful 50SoG display signage that's been making the rounds on tumblr et al that jessamyn posted in another thread.


*Well, okay, to be fair, that's not even close to the truth. Speaking as someone who has been an active member of the fanfiction community for about thirty years, I can tell you that this dreck is one among thousands of bad pieces of fanfiction, and oh Lord there's so much worse out there. But that's a different conversation.
posted by tzikeh at 2:07 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, E.L. James is particularly known in the fandom community for shitting on fans

Looks at link. Looks at photo in link. Wonders if there is decent money to be made as a Joey Ramone impersonator.

Perhaps in Vegas, performing oldies with Faux Elvis.
posted by zippy at 2:08 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sometimes reading a book doesn't make you a reader of books.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:13 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wonders if there is decent money to be made as a Joey Ramone impersonator.

Fauxy Ramone?
posted by Mezentian at 3:34 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why buy a book (let alone 3) when you can download all the trashy fanfic porn from the web for free?

In theory I'd agree, but this book is selling millions of copies over in the UK as well. The audience for/of fanfiction isn't close to this number, I'd wager, particularly as it's gone mainstream. It's been heavily discussed at two social gatherings I've been at - one was derisory given the fanfiction origin, the other didn't mention it at all. I spend far too much time on the internet not to be aware of fanfiction (I could guess before I looked what the Mad Men ones mostly involved - and it's not Joan Holloway) but it's a minority interest and something of which most people aren't aware.

If FanFiction.net were smart they'd get an ad campaign going to point fans to trashy fanfic porn.
posted by mippy at 3:58 AM on July 31, 2012


Also, it's launched approx 40,000 articles about how BSDM is a) a naughty weird thing, but you can try it at home with some Ann Summers handcuffs! b) really bad because your boyfriend will end up beating you up.
posted by mippy at 4:00 AM on July 31, 2012


Maybe there needs to be an FPP highlighting good fanfiction that one can point 50SoG fans to. It's all very well saying 'there's better smut on the internet' but, honestly, last time I found a fanfic site online it had stories about Joey Barton and Cristiano Ronaldo getting it on in the shower, an image so unerotic my hymen almost grew back.
posted by mippy at 4:45 AM on July 31, 2012


50 Shades of Grey is the perfect book to add zombies vampires and werewolves to.

(I'd really like to see a 50SoG fanfic like that. Or know about, anyways.)
posted by jeather at 5:01 AM on July 31, 2012


Also, it's launched approx 40,000 articles about how BSDM is a) a naughty weird thing, but you can try it at home with some Ann Summers handcuffs! b) really bad because your boyfriend will end up beating you up.

There was a piece on Channel 4 about it last night or the night before in which one woman made me laugh by saying she doesn't know *any* women who spend their time fantasizing about getting anally fisted on a Friday night.


!!! --- SPOILER --- !!!!


I was very disappointed to learn that the anal fisting never actually happens in the book.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:12 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that people's disinclination to discuss their anal fisting fantasies in the pub is a good reason to imagine they aren't having them.

But back in the 40s the girls and I used to fist every Sunday afternoon...
posted by howfar at 5:21 AM on July 31, 2012


50 Shades of Grey is the perfect book to add zombies vampires and werewolves to.

Only of they are buffy-style vampires and are promptly staked into a poof of dust.

It really creeps me out that abuse and controlling behavioural is being normalized as "being dominant". firstly - that's super creepy, and secondly - it already sucks that romance books have way too many "I'm dark and brooding and I'm bossy and I like to tell you what you can and cannot do because I love you" heroes, let alone outright abusive (as this guy sounds). Straight Women who like equal relationships also like erotica and porn - and laughing, quirky, non-bossy guys are very sexy.
posted by jb at 5:33 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


True story: the other day in Barnes and Noble a woman approached the customer service counter with a copy of 50SoG and excitedly said, "Do you have anything else like this? It's the only book I've ever read and I love it!"

Did the book create a new reader here? Or just a new reader of garbage?
posted by Legomancer at 5:51 AM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


It really creeps me out that abuse and controlling behavioural is being normalized as "being dominant". firstly - that's super creepy, and secondly - it already sucks that romance books have way too many "I'm dark and brooding and I'm bossy and I like to tell you what you can and cannot do because I love you" heroes, let alone outright abusive (as this guy sounds).

I felt the same way about 9 1/2 Weeks.
posted by Gelatin at 6:28 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


...hey, I forgot Mickey Rourke's character is also named Grey. Hmm.
posted by Gelatin at 6:30 AM on July 31, 2012


I always thought Twilight was a Mormon-themed version of Harry Potter.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:37 AM on July 31, 2012


50 Shades of Grey is the perfect book to add zombies to.

Or, y'know, aliens. Then you could call it 50 Shades of Greys.
posted by kira at 6:45 AM on July 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


Really, 50 Shades of Gay can't be far away if it doesn't exist yet.
posted by idiopath at 6:53 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no opinion on 50 Shades one way or another, but I noticed that Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty trilogy earned new covers that are similar to the 50 Shades covers and are being displayed next to those books in Barnes & Noble.

If you want to laugh...picture your casual 50 Shades fan sashaying right into The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty.
posted by ladygypsy at 7:00 AM on July 31, 2012


Fauxy Ramone?

Zoey Ramone, Joey's gum-smacking, beehive-haired, tough-as-nails cousin. (Surely, I'm not the first to imagine a Ramones drag act?)

"Do you have anything else like this? It's the only book I've ever read and I love it!"

Fun With Dick and Jane was never more appropriate.

As far as I can tell, the main advantage to reading 50 Shades of Grey is that it's much shorter than any of Ayn Rand's novels.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:01 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fifty Shades of Gray is the Apple Computer of pornography. It's all about accidental external viral marketing. Media just can't help covering the phenomenon, even when it half-realises that the phenomenon is media's coverage of the phenomenon.

It's as simple as that, and Apple Computer and Fifty Shades of Gray will be long-forgotten footnotes before this phenomenon plays out.
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 7:37 AM on July 31, 2012


me? Again?
Metafilter: I was very disappointed to learn that the anal fisting never actually happens.
posted by Mezentian at 7:38 AM on July 31, 2012


If there's one thing modern media fandom can actually pride itself on writing-wise, it's that the good porny fanfic is really good, better than the majority of published erotica, and almost universally better than sex scenes in non-erotica books.

I think the problem is that most buyers of 50SOG aren't aware of this and even if they are dimly aware of it, don't know where to go to find it, and furthermore don't know or aren't interested in sorting out the good fanfic-erotica from the really terrible stuff that you will inevitably find if you start searching.

So 50SOG is popular because it's a known quantity. It may be bad fanfic and worse erotica, but there's no effort involved in finding it on the part of the buyer. It's right there at the supermarket checkout counter, there's buzz about it, and it's supposedly hot. That's really all you need to make sales.

What I think 50SOG does, generally, is validate that a market exists for non-bodice-ripper women-targeted erotica. Even if only 1 in 10 readers of 50SOG decides "huh, this isn't great but I bet there's better stuff out there," or "I'd really like to read something like this that doesn't suck so much," that's potentially a lot of readers. I'd hope that fanfic (and traditional) authors are paying attention.

The one good thing you can say about 50SOG, like Twilight in general, is that it sets the bar for doing better really fucking low. There were a host of vampire books that came out post-Twilight, and nearly all of them (based on what I've heard, it's not really my genre of choice) are better than Twilight. Quite a few authors presumably made money off of that. There's no reason why someone can't do the same with nontraditional erotica.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:23 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's as simple as that, and Apple Computer and Fifty Shades of Gray will be long-forgotten footnotes before this phenomenon plays out.

It's pretty naive to think that this sort of marketing exercise is an accident.

Also, God help us all if 50 Shades Of Grey turns into the market-dominating, trillion-dollar monopsonist juggernaut that is modern Apple.
posted by mhoye at 8:41 AM on July 31, 2012


The future is pornographic.
posted by crunchland at 8:47 AM on July 31, 2012


MetaFilter: interesting sex and also mammoths.
posted by bakerina at 10:44 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what? Why do the people who enjoyed her fanfic want to deny her success? I mean, if I know a guy who likes playing his guitar for free at parties, and then he gets signed to a record label, good for him! Bravo! I might buy his album! It wouldn't occur to me to be upset that I once enjoyed hearing him play for free.


Fandom is, I think, really intent on enforcing its boundaries as a gift culture. (Seriously: Reading Lewis Hyde's book "The Gift," on gift cultures and art, made a lot of odd fandom stuff make sense to me.) So, publishing fanfic online is the moral equivalent of giving the community a gift; and unpublishing it in order to sell it for profit is the moral equivalent (in the eyes of the community) of demanding back the Christmas present you gave to someone so that you can sell it.

The community norms are tilted towards keeping commerce way the heck out of fandom, and part of that's probably a holdover from everyone being really concerned about media executives finding out about all this fanfic stuff, but I think part of that is that people really like having an economy that's built on something other than money; it strengthens community bonds, and so monetizing that becomes a very strong taboo.

There's a moral outrage that goes way beyond the book just being bad
posted by Jeanne at 11:11 AM on July 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


I always thought Twilight was a Mormon-themed version of Harry Potter.

I've gotten the impression that Twilight is a Mormon-themed version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I don't see a Harry Potter connection at all.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:59 AM on July 31, 2012


In the romance novel community, hatred of 50 Shades is strong. I've debated writing a review, but I'm not sure what I could say that hasn't been said before.

This review, by the way, is one of the funniest reviews I've read in a while-- complete with animated gifs!
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 12:55 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I honestly wonder if Twilight and 50 Shades are just make certain demographics of women feel like it's OK and actually raunchy to be in a relationship where their significant other is abusive.
Obviously there's a gulf of difference between S&M and abuse. but the quotes I've read from Twilight seem to skew toward the latter.


This.

Although, I must confess I haven't read either. When each came out, I picked it up, flipped through it, put it back and went to wash my hands. There was not an eye wash station in the bookstore, but I may suggest one.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:09 PM on July 31, 2012


Metafilter: seemingly never-ending streams of Da Vinci load.
posted by Twang at 2:30 PM on July 31, 2012


So, publishing fanfic online is the moral equivalent of giving the community a gift; and unpublishing it in order to sell it for profit is the moral equivalent (in the eyes of the community) of demanding back the Christmas present you gave to someone so that you can sell it.

It's also in a somewhat legally nebulous state, with some authors (Anne Rice comes to mind) coming down harder than others, ostensibly in order to protect their own intellectual property. A great many writers who have actually spoken about it (Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, J.K. Rowling) have sort of come to an agreement that fan fiction is OK with them as long as it includes disclaimers and isn't sold for a profit.

By simply changing the names of characters so that they no longer explicitly utilize Stephenie Meyer's intellectual property, than publishing her own derivative work, E.L. "Snowqueens Icedragon" James has arguably violated that agreement, which could conceivably bring down the wrath of other authors, publishers and their respective legal teams on other segments of the fan-fic community.

Meyer has said that she doesn't have a problem with what James has done, but she's rich enough by now to be magnanimous, and I can't imagine that every author would be so forgiving.
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:11 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


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