Consider the BDSM novel Fifty Shades of Grey, which is currently #1 on Amazon's bestseller lists for romance and erotica novels. It's also the #1 Kindle erotica download and the #6 Kindle download overall.
Get this: Fifty started life as fan fiction.
Fifty tells the tale of a billionaire who meets a college student and eventually introduces her to his "red room of pain," where ... well, let's say the tie on the cover of the book is used for more than dressing up a man's suit.
|It suddenly seems a little menacing.|
When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind - until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time. Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.Need another clue? An MSNBC.com story offers this quote from the novel:
For all the trappings of success — his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving adoptive family — Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. ... [He's] attractive, very attractive [with] unruly dark-copper-colored hair.Still not sure? Here's a description of the heroine from a Slate.com article:
Our heroine is not one of Fabio’s ravishing redheads or raven beauties. She says things like “Holy crap” and writes witty e-mails. She has never really been kissed, or even tempted, preferring to spend her evenings in the library. She is pale and “scruffy,” and so uncoordinated that when she first meets Christian she trips and falls onto the floor, much as Bridget Jones would.Yep, you got it. Christian = Edward, and Anna = Bella. Fifty is based on the fan fic “Master of the Universe,” originally published online by an author using the pen name “Snowqueens Icedragon.” Turns out, the author is a British television executive named E. L. James, who was inspired by Twilight, then changed the names of her hero and heroine to publish it unencumbered by the Twilight mantle.
|"Oh, Edw- I mean, Christian!"|
Full disclosure: I haven't read the book or its two sequels, so I feel like my hands are tied as I try to write about it. (Did you see what I did there? Hands are tied? Are you laughing yet?) Because I haven't picked up the book, I can't vouch for how closely the characters hew to the ones that inspired them. However, the Slate.com article refers to Anna as driving an old VW Beetle and turning Christian on by biting her lower lip, and Christian is frequently described as a control freak. On that evidence alone, I'm going to assume the Bella and Edward characteristics will be somewhat recognizable to fans of the series.
Have we officially become the snake eating its tail? Book inspires fan fic, which morphs into new book. One can only assume Fifty Shades of Grey fan fic exists somewhere online; perhaps one of those works will be published someday, and it will tell of the exploits of "Randolph" and "Jenna."
What intrigues me is the thought that a fan-created, online-only story has become a runaway success. There's a snobbish, knee-jerk reaction that can occur when you hear this news: Quality fan fic? Read and enjoyed by a broad audience? Really?
Really. In fact — and I cannot believe I'm admitting this in public — I went through a phase several years ago when I read fan fic about The Office. (Go ahead and point and laugh. In my defense, it was during the long summer following the season 2 finale kiss and the season 3 premiere fallout.) The thing is, a handful of the Office-inspired stories were terrific. Lovely and sad, delicate and funny. Change the character names to anything other than Jim and Pam, and I do think a few of those stories would have been well-received as literature in their own right.
In short, there's no shame in finding inspiration in other creative works. And this non-traditional path to publishing success shouldn't surprise any of us, really, given the the shake-ups happening in the literary world with the advent of the internet, e-readers, tablets and smartphones.
So how about you, dear reader? Would you pick up a novel inspired by fan fic? Or would its origin hold you back?