Thursday, 17 May 2012

50 Shades of Controversy

I was planning to write a review of Fifty Shades of Grey, but that is going to have to wait a few days as I was distracted by the very entertaining controversy that is swirling around the story of its creation. Put simply, some very sad people are terribly upset because they feel hard done to by Erika Leonard, the authoress of the trilogy, who writes as SnowQueens-IceDragon and E.L. James.

Those sad people are based around the world of fan fiction, a genre that I did not even know existed until I began to look into the origins of 50 Shades. In a nutshell Erika Leonard wrote the whole 50 Shades trilogy in chapters which was then uploaded as a work called Master of the Universe to a fan fiction site, that was dedicated to the Twilight novels. The Twilight fans - and there are thousands of these people - then helped her edit each chapter until it became a far more readable commodity. For instance, the authoress is British and needed help to turn her English terminology into the curious colonial dialect spoken in the United States. The readership did that for her and generally acted as editors should with the evolving manuscript, the difference being that in this case they did it for free. That is the root of the controversy because these fans claim that they only dedicated long hours to the work because they thought that Erika Leonard, or SnowQueens-IceDragon which was the nickname she used, was as much a fan of Twilight as they were, and it is obvious that she is nothing of the kind.

What is fan fiction? As the name suggests it is the fiction written by fans of a particular book or series, using the same names as the original characters, but either putting  them in different scenarios or creating a whole new reality for them. Erika Leonard took the second path which is why her work is a homage to Twilight, and cannot be seen as plagiarism of it. She kept the names from Twilight, but her Edward is a fabulous wealthy businessman and not a vampire, and the BDSM element which is central to 50 Shades is missing from Twilight. Nevertheless, she kept enough of the Twilight personalities in her fiction to please the fans and they raved over her work as it was uploaded chapter by chapter.

What this authoress had done was upload a completely new novel to an existing consumer base. To attract attention from that base she used the names from the main characters in Twilight and some of their personality traits. What she got was a fan base of her own and Master of the Universe began to attract attention from some of the publishing houses who keep an eye on these fan fiction sites. One such outfit is The Writers' Coffee Shop who eventually bought out the work as the 50 Shades trilogy. Obviously the names had to be changed, but aside from that the two works are almost identical.

That was when Erika's chums became her enemies as they started to scream that she was betraying the fan fiction ethos, that she had used them shamelessly, and so on and so forth. To be candid it looks to me as if Erika did play these people as suckers, but as W.C. Fields used to say, we never give a sucker an even break, so they deserved all they got in my view. If they were stupid enough to work hard for nothing more than a pat on the head then that serves them right.

As 50 Shades till sits on top of the best seller lists the rest is history. If you want to read the pathetic whining of some of Erika's former friends, then you might want to start with this site, if you can stomach it, as the writer behind it is one of the major whiners in all of this. One writer who has criticised Erika without whining is Jami Gold and you can read her piece at this link.

There the matter rests. Obviously Erika Leonard has not crossed any legal lines as no writs have been issued, so the claim is that she engaged in ethical misbehaviour. I do not accept that, but I would be interested in hearing your views.


Anonymous said...

Wow, didn't know that or they that kind of stuff out there. I sure am in my own little world here in Florida.

Book 1, was ok but once a Master/Dom always as a Master/Dom. Not believable...Sucked.

Book 2. sucked
Book 3. i have to say was ok for 1 reason and i won't spoil it.

if you want real bdsm. Look up bdsm erotica, you'll probably get a better look at it.. lol

But for housewives, they'll be bringing out their vibes and asking to be spanked.. lol

yes i know you were gonna do a review of the book, but i couldn't help myself and yes i would probably be spanked allot.. lol


Uncle Nick said...

I haven't read either two or three, and based on what I have read of part one I doubt if I will do. I like the book as it has opened up BDSM to outsiders, but really there is a limit to the amount of turgid prose that I can stomach.

Anonymous said...

A very interesting post. Thank you.
Whilst not being a publisher or author, I would have thought that what she did was entirely legal.
Probably an acknowledgement of the help she received would have gong a long way to mollifying the individuals who helped her. It would have been the decent thing to do.
I suppose that when it became a global hit - and still for the life of me, I don't understand why - all the hangers on wanted a piece of the action. Always happens when big money is involved

Uncle Nick said...

It is 100% legal. Stephanie Meyers, the authoress of Twilight, has not even complained still less issued proceedings for breach of copyright. There is not suggestion that this is plagiarism.

I think the reason why it became such a hit is that it was built on the strong foundation of fan fiction. In other words the 20,000 or so people per day who were reading each chapter were actually Twilight fans who liked the premise of the new story. In other words when it was released as 50 Shades, the books had that incredible foundation to build on. Something which writers like me can only dream about.

Anonymous said...

Well, i have to say, i skimmed over book 2 and book 3..... I just cant see a Dom/Master being like him, just doesn't seem right..

I do agree with you on getting the lifestyle out there but no as something for housewives to use vibes with when their husbands are away... heheheh

Katerina said...

Interesting post. I didn't realize that the 50 Shades series started out as Twilight fan fiction. I didn't think Book 1 was too much of a Twilight rip off as the similarities from that book can be attributed to hundreds of other romance novels: innocent girl meets experienced, wealthy man and falls in love fast and hard. By book 3, the subtle references to the Twilight plotline were overwhelming and, quite frankly, annoying.

Uncle Nick said...

Hello Ladies, and let me answer both of you in turn:

Flower: I agree that the hero is far too young for his allotted role, but I suspect that he was created because the book was fan fiction first and foremost.

Katerina: We have to be careful, because although it was fan fiction, I reckon that what the authoress did was write an original story and use the names of the Twilight characters to get people interested. In other words I do not think that she is really a fan, but she is a clever marketer.

Anonymous said...

I only read these books to see what the big uproar was about. The author clearly did not research well. It's noted she did it all from Wikipedia and never had even visited Oregon or Washington. I live in Portland and its obvious she doesn't have a clue. Very poorly written. Slow moving. Americans do not talk like she writes. Knowing bdsm, ppl would be upset to have it connected to child abuse! And abused child doesn't become a sadist! This isn't a sexual awakening book. It's boring. Read eve Howard's series if u want to discover bdsm! More developed and quality writing. Sw

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