Fifty Shades of Green: Interpreting Negative Reviews of “Fifty Shades of Grey”
Whatever we think of E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, let’s not forget that the author did something very courageous and subversive in the world of publishing: she spelled it g-r-e-y, in defiance of cheap spellcheck programs that default to g-r-a-y.
Or maybe that’s not a problem that Queen’s English spellcheckers have. Grey is a colour over there, after all, not a color.
Anyway, people have been reading and reacting, as they will on the internet, and I was struck by how many of those reactions are obsessed with punishing the book’s humble origins (re-written Twilight fanfic, released through a vanity publisher) rather than its admittedly mediocre prose.
I’ll admit that I’m having a hard time seeing most of the distaste as anything but a) sour grapes from fellow fanfic and pulp fiction writers or b) the expected flip-outs from people who weren’t prepared for internet-level kink, even fairly mild and badly-written examples.
Let’s unpack a few of the more scathing reviews, shall we?
This was a poorly written, utterly ridiculous, never ending mess as a fan fiction. The speed with which they “published” this indicates that they merely conducted a find and replace on the names and did not put in a good faith edit or rewrite the highly problematic storylines (read: the entire thing).
Well when you put “published” in quotes like that, we know you’re a Serious Author yourself. Haven’t had much luck finding an agent for your own steamy romance novel, I take it?
I only bought this on Kindle because I was curious to see whether a professional edit made it any better than the original fanfic (which I abandoned once I realized the plot wasn’t original enough for me to suffer through the cut-rate writing). Paging through this “published” version makes me more embarrassed for the author than I was when it was in the fanfic domain, and it DEFINITELY made me lose respect for [the vanity press that published it].
So we already know you read Twilight fanfic of your own volition, if you were familiar with this one before it became Fifty Shades of Grey. Do you like to think you can do better? Perhaps you have done better? Do you capture the magic that is Bella and Edward in a way this James hussy could never dream of?
I suspect you do. Link us and we’ll be the judge.
You also knew there would be disgusting sex scenes. Well, most of you knew, anyway, I certainly did. The infamous tampon scene (which I didn’t find particularly shocking, but maybe it’s because I was already brain dead by the time I got to it), the use of riding crops (!!!), ties, ropes and who knows what else make for a very, um, interesting experience.
Sweetie, if having to take a tampon out before sex or using a riding crop shocks, fanfic from the internet may not be for you.
Making money off of fanfiction is terrible. Create your own characters, create your own worlds. I have nothing against FF, and write some myself.
Ah! Well you’re obviously an expert on the subject, then. Clearly E. L. James should have sought your advice before publishing.
I could say something about how I feel about the fact that E L James basically just took her fanfic and changed the names and a few physical characteristics and now she’s making a zillion dollars while many people who write real, completely original books and pour their hearts and soul into the endeavor will never make any money off them and end up living in a van down by the river, drinking excessively to repress the memory of their shattered dreams… but I won’t.
1) You just did.
2) Maybe that sort of inconsistency is why your writing isn’t selling so well.
This is literally the worst book I have ever read, and I say that about many books.
Yeah, we’re done here.
It’s not that Fifty Shades of Grey was a good book. It wasn’t. But sour grapes do not become anyone, even on the internet.
Don’t be sad that your Twilight fanfic didn’t get you fabulously wealthy the way that James’s did! There are only two ways to get really actually big-house-with-multiple-cars wealthy as a fiction writer: get amazingly lucky with your first pulp novel, or write mediocre pulp novels for so long that a few of them make it big (and you can make a living in the off-years because you’re putting 3-4 novels out anyway).
E. L. James got lucky. Be happy for her. After all, in a world where re-purposed Twilight fanfic can make it big, there’s hope for all our writings, isn’t there?