Confession time. I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey. I know, I’m the target market (according to the media reports) middle aged mother from middle America who has the guilty pleasure of romance novels and writing what others lovingly refer to as ‘smut.’ It should go without saying that I’d pick up the book and be a loyal fan like so many others I know.
But I went book snob on it.
I didn’t avoid it due to content (though from what I hear of it, I’m not sure I’d like it as much as some women I know) I avoided it because of the fact that EL James wrote it, originally, as a fan fiction of the popular Twilight series.
Its not fanfiction I have something against, in truth I’ve wrote more than my fair share of it and have read some amazing fanfiction; its that someone actually PUBLISHED fanfiction (names altered to protect the not-so-innocent and to avoid lawsuit.) And that’s my issue.
I’ve stewed on this topic for a long while and in the meantime, yet another author has landed a six-figure book deal for her fanfiction. I’m left stunned.
Since learning of this new author, whose name eludes me at the moment, I’ve spent the last few days trying to understand why it bothers me that these writers borrowed character’s and their characteristics (only changing names once they were taking their work to market) and it didn’t trouble the original authors or the publishing world at large. You’d think it would, right?
Yet I never heard a word about Twilight’s author suing EL James for millions… and I sincerely doubt this latest writer will ever be served legal papers either. So why does it bother me? Sour grapes? Was I being catty and refusing to enjoy a book simply because I didn’t ever think of taking my own fanfiction to market? Is this the future of books and I’m just the last to get on board due to snobbery?
And then it occurred to me – the truth of all writing that its sometimes very easy to forget: most every story you can dream up, has been told already. I know, we all like to think we’re original in some fashion but storytelling is as old a profession as time itself. Inspiration for new books and characters comes from other stories and experiences we’ve had in the course of life.
Chances are very good that every famous story you’ve ever read, or will read, draws off something else. We’re all guilty of it, even if unintentionally. These authors are just either unwilling (or unable due to the internet’s ability to keep everything put out there) to keep their inspiration silent. At the end of the day, I’m told, Mr. Grey doesn’t really resemble the character who inspired him (Edward Cullen.)
If a writer sits down at their keyboard and dreams up the story of a character’s further adventures, and then alters that character to be unrecognizable to the reader… have they really done anything different than any other author does at a keyboard?
I doubt this will change my desire to read 50 Shades… while my original reason no longer holds water in my mind, I just don’t think it would be my cup of tea. If it’s yours, good on you and good for EL James. However, I don’t think I’ll allow “previously fanfiction” be a reason to keep a book at arm’s length anymore.
How about you? Where do you stand on the “previously fanfiction” books that are starting to come out and be big earners? Do you think it’s a new frontier for writing or old hat that’s just now being dragged out for us all to acknowledge in the light of day? Or are they profiting from established and well known characters popularity and fan base? I’d love to hear your opinions and thoughts on the topic.