From Fanfiction to Publication

There was a discussion question posted in one of my writing communities recently that read something like, “Do you feel that 50 Shades of Gray being published is a victory for fanfiction?”

(In case you’ve been living under a–admittedly lovely–rock, you probably know that 50 Shades started out as Twilight fanfiction.)

Quite honestly? No. If anything, I think it may actually hurt fanfiction a bit. I admittedly have not read the books (and do not plan to), but when I hear other people talk about them, the conversation goes a little like this:

Person 1: Wow, this is terrible writing.
Person 2: Well, it was fanfiction.

(The latter said with a bit of a sneer.)

It’s not as if this is the first bit of fanfiction ever published. People make a living writing stories about other people’s characters, whether it’s Sherlock Holmes, Elizabeth and Darcy, or one of the many, many novels that go along with a multitude of television shows, movies, video games, and roleplaying games.

(I’ve read a lot of Trek novels. If those do not qualify as published fanfiction, nothing does.)

Ignoring those and focusing on thinly-veiled fanfiction, I find it hard to believe that none has ever been published before 50 Shades. I suspect most people just don’t bring it up. And then, there are authors like Cassandra Clare who were huge in fanfiction (I’m pretty sure you don’t get bigger in the fanfiction arena than Cassandra Clare, who wrote as Cassie Claire in the Harry Potter and LOTR fandoms) that have since moved on to have very successful original publishing careers.

So what is the publication of 50 Shades a victory for? Well, the author and the publisher. But fanfiction was fine on its own before it.

What do you think, Squiders? Have you delved into the infamous trilogy? Did you like it? Do you feel like it helps or hinders fanfiction as a whole?

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Christopher on 2013/01/17 at 1:27 PM

    I haven’t read any of 50 trilogy (and like you, don’t intend to), but I don’t really think it’s going to have an effect on fanfiction either way; fanfic lovers aren’t going to walk away because some bad fanfic got published, and I don’t think anyone likely to read fanfic in the first place will let something like that drive them away. (Unless, perhaps, they might otherwise have started reading “Twilight” fanfic, then I suppose it could happen.)

    No, I fear the other way; it’s going to hurt publishing, because everyone who ever wrote a fanfic that could be made [sarcasm] original [/sarcasm] by virtue of a little judicious editing and the “find & replace” function is going to think *they* can get published, now. Editors may go completely insane and walk away after the three hundredth or so “Original Order of the Phoenix” fanfic with all the names and locations changed hits their slush pile….

    I don’t read fanfic (though I write some, mostly in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” universe), but I don’t think that, if I did I’d let one bad fanfic with the names changed getting published would make me stop. It takes more than that to stop most members of most fandoms, I think.


  2. I worry more about what this says about the state of publishing. Based on what I’ve heard (and what excerpts I’ve read), 50 Shades should never have made it the trad publishing route. Its fanfic origins are irrelevant. Trad publishing, as the self-proclaimed ‘gatekeeper’ of quality, should never have let such terrible writing make it to print.

    Instead, someone saw the huge fanbase for the fic as a quick way to make money. Someone who, IMHO, should have been focused on finding quality work but wasn’t. And that particular cost is borne by the unpublished but talented authors who were ignored by that agency and publishing house.

    If 50 Shades publication hurts anything, it hurts traditional publishing.

    Though clearly the response to the original, fanfic version of 50 Shades doesn’t exactly scream the praises of the fandom.


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