Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fifty Shades of Hype

Last September I blogged about Fifty Shades of Grey's origins as Twilight fanfic. Since then, the trilogy has reached the top of the NYT eBook bestseller list. As a consequence, Fifty Shades of Grey is making national news. Last week, the book was discussed on the Today show. It was also the subject of a recent New York Times article.

I own the original fanfic version, called "Master of the Universe". I've read the first 60 pages (out of 600!). There are clear similarities between this story and Twilight. They both take place in rainy, cloudy Washington State. Early on, the hero saves the heroine from getting run over by a vehicle. The romantic plot is also fundamentally the same: both explore the inherent drama of trying to deny a forbidden, dangerous--and ultimately irresistible--attraction. The fanfic is not hard to read, though the overuse of ellipsis is annoying. So far, the pages are not a whole lot different than the first draft of a Harlequin contemporary. The couple meets cute. He's handsome and rich. She's spunky. They have the hots for each other the second they meet.

I believe that the mainstreaming of BDSM fiction is usually a good thing. I'm thrilled when I see a kink novel become a bestseller. According to readers who have read the novel, and are familiar with erotic romance, Fifty Shades has only mild BDSM elements. However, traditional media is in an uproar. The book has been variously described as "mommy porn", "disturbing", "XXX", and a "bodice ripper". That hasn't hurt sales at all.

The trilogy has snagged a new publisher (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group). “The people who are reading this are not only people who read romance," crows the publisher. "It’s gone much broader than that.”

Isn't that pretty much the same as saying Fifty Shades is a better kind of romance? Call me insulted.

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