Friday, August 3, 2012

Can we talk about 50 Shades of Grey for a second?

For the past year or so, everyone who is anyone has been hearing about 50 Shades of Grey. Its mere publication is the ultimate success story with a twist -- based on a Twilight fan fiction and altered slightly for mass publication, the trilogy has gotten massive mainstream success, even leading to more fan fiction publishing deals. I haven't said much about the series, either online or off, because...well, up to this point, it just didn't interest me that much. I have no interest in reading erotica, and I heard the books themselves were pretty bad anyway. But whatever, no big deal. Bad is subjective, and there will always be books getting published that some (or even a lot) of people think are bad. There are also movies and TV shows and certain blonde country singers who I don't think are very good at what they do either. But clearly someone disagrees with me, because a lot of them do pretty well.

But do they do better than Harry Potter? No.

The big news in publishing today is that the 50 Shades of Grey books have outsold Harry Potter on the British Amazon website. Yes, that's the same Harry Potter series that has seven books, not three. The same Harry Potter series that has won the hearts of millions of fans of all ages around the world. The same Harry Potter that has spawned movies, action figures, and even an entire theme park. And it has been outsold by...50 Shades of Grey.

Just a few clarifications here: 1.) I actually liked Twilight. It was by no means perfect, but I refuse to jump on the "I hate Twilight" bandwagon and tune it out just because I feel that I should. 2.) I also have no problem with writers turning works of fan fiction into original stories for publication. I've done it myself in the past -- though the characters and story did eventually take on lives of their own, leaving no trace of any sort of fan fiction to anyone who hadn't read the original story. And 3.) While I have no intentions of reading 50 Shades myself, I'm not an elitist who looks down on anyone who has read it -- or anyone who enjoyed it. Obviously a lot of people do, or it wouldn't be as popular as it is. 

But what's the verdict here? Do writers have a right to be upset that a book they deem "bad" has been embraced by the mainstream? Or should they accept that the public wants something they aren't willing to give? Is the publishing industry -- and the music industry and movie industry and the TV industry -- really going downhill, or should we embrace anything that is popular because it clearly did something right if people liked it? Will the criticism that these fan-fictions-turned-original-works are getting eventually discourage authors, or will they continue to get six figure deals for their tales of Edward and Bella's BDSM romps?

And hey, at least the cover is kind of cool.

And so the questions continue.

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