Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fifty Shades of Fanfic

The publication of fan fiction in fantasy and SF is nothing new. There are zillions of Star Trek books and short story collections, for example. Such fanfic stories are published with permission of the copyright owners.

But what about underground fanfic? A striking example would be "slash" fiction. Spock and Kirk become lovers. Seven of Nine hooks up with Captain Janeway. These stories are obviously not part of the Star Trek canon. But the Trek copyright holders will put up with slash fiction because the tales are intended for private, non-commercial purposes.

Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James is an interesting example of non-canonical fanfic being published for profit. This story has its origins in Twilight fanfic. The serial novel was then Master of the Universe, and the characters were named Edward and Bella. The chapters have since been collated and edited, and the names changed. Although the Kindle version is a whopping 9.95, it's selling very well.

I haven't read the Twilight books, nor have I read Fifty Shades, so I can't comment on the originality of the characters or plot. Clearly, fanfic can be so completely removed from the original characters and universe that the base story is merely a jumping off point. It goes without saying that Stephenie Meyer hasn't given permission for EL James to play in her universe. Stephenie never will. Because Fifty Shades is BDSM erotica.

Edward, now called Christian, is not a vampire. He's not a high school kid either, but a powerful business mogul. He's also a Dominant looking for a submissive. The vampire has been supplanted by the sadist. This is a valid replacement. Blood sucking in fiction has a lot in common with BDSM: pain and pleasure are combined, and offering blood can be considered the ultimate service.

Fifty Shades, irrespective of its origins, could well introduce a whole new set of readers to BDSM fiction. One reviewer says it's "an educational introduction to BDSM literature." I hope this book does kink justice.

Monday, September 19, 2011

This is the $7,683.96 Book You've Been Looking For

The $7,683.96 dollar reference book is titled Selected Nuclear Materials and Engineering Systems (Landolt-Börnstein: Numerical Data and Functional Relationships in Science and Technology - New Series / Physical Chemistry).

This 520 page hardcover is available from amazon. (Only one left in stock. More on the way!) For $7,683.96 you get a dry compilation of phase diagrams for radioactive alloys of uranium and plutonium: see the figure above right. Such phase diagrams are probably important for making atomic bombs. Perhaps a Kindle edition would be easier to read than the 3+ pound hardback, but sadly the ebook is no longer an option. Perhaps too many folks downloaded the ebook as a joke and then returned it. Or maybe the phase diagrams weren't visible as gray on gray.

In any case, the (fake) five star reviews are hilarious. Here's one of my favorites:
Transcending Stereotypes

I know what you're thinking : crystallographic and thermodynamic data of ternary alloy systems is a such a hackneyed plot device. But Landolt-Börnstein work their magic in such a subtle and layered way that at 3am when you are reading just one more page, you suddenly realise how they have completely turned everything on its head and produced the most breathtakingly original work. Not to mention the most spellbinding.

It is a little lightweight on the intellectual side and perhaps should be included in the tweens section, but overall well worth 5 stars. I got it before the 20% discount became available and am delighted. So it really is an absolute steal right now.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What is a Strong Submissive?

I've been thinking a bit about the definition of a "strong submissive", especially when it refers to the female in a D/s relationship. The phrase seems like an oxymoron: how can a submissive be strong?

In some circles, a strong submissive means the woman is long-suffering. She puts up with all manner of indignities. She is durable only in the sense that she survives. This type of strong submissive is pretty much the same thing as a martyr. Or, in more modern terms, she is a doormat.

Another definition of strong submissive is found in the fictional world. The archetype is a cheeky chick who challenges the Dom to "break her". Although resistant at first, this spunky woman is finally convinced by the Dominant to submit. And the D/s couple has way hot sex and they live happily ever after. This is a popular and fun theme. It's not terribly realistic, though. Most men would just find a more compatible submissive.

In idealized real-life BDSM, a strong submissive is an accomplished, secure woman who acknowledges one special man is worthy of being served. She is is not submissive to the outside world, just to him. The Dominant values his extraordinary woman, and supports her continued achievements and growth. This idealized version of BDSM easily allows for feminism.

D/s couples will often romanticize their relationship, claiming that the Dominant adores having a strong submissive. It's been my experience that it's rarely true. Few Dominant men are accomplished and secure enough to value an exceptional woman--even if she cedes her authority to him.

Photo attribution: From the cover of "Gang Girl" by Wenzell Brown.