Monday, June 11, 2012

Fifty Shades of Wuss Up?

This new breakout book by EL James, just acquired by Random House, has gone through a plethora of reactions from readers and writers alike. You can say it has drawn Good, Bad and Ugly comments and feelings from anyone who has been touched by it, or rather, clobbered over the head by it.

The Good:

Fifty Shades originated from a fan fiction site, and was more or less written as kind of a Twilight knockoff, with eventually, the character names and settings, changed to reflect an original work. In this capacity, it has worked very well, first drawing huge numbers of fan fic readers, who read only installment chapters. These teasers work great to hook the curious, and started a word-of-mouth campaign that snowballed into what it has become today. Three books were eventually written, following the relationship and sexual exploits of the main characters, Anastasia and Christian. Large offset print runs and a movie deal have resulted. The author has reached a milestone of fame and fortune. Not bad for an writing career.  It's currently # 1 on Amazon in all formats.

The word is that it has given a certain amount of legitimacy to the erotica market, drawing huge numbers of readers who were curious, familiar with, or actively engaged in the Dom/Sub genre and lifestyle. It defines a certain sect of society who have such sexual fantasies, and the arrival of the trilogy has filled those forbidden or controversial emotions and wants. The numbers indicate that the buying public is composed primarily of women, with about 65 percent of them being females in the 20 to 30 something age range. It can always be said that on the plus side, this book might re-ignite some tepid or worn-out sexual relationships amongst partners or married couples.  That's a decided plus.

More readers, no matter what the subject matter, is great for the industry. The publisher will benefit enormously and no doubt invest in other titles by offering contracts, after having made a huge chunk of change from this phenomenon. If this was a first-read for people who did not or have not read a great deal, it can only spur these readers on to investigate other similar titles or other unrelated books. Anything that can prompt someone to scroll or turn a page cannot be considered a bad thing at all. It's a win-win.

The Bad:

I haven't read the series or even a single book. I have read over 120 reviews and dozens of articles and forum comments. I did read the first free chapter. This book is horrendously crafted as far as grammar, even marginal proofreading, cliches, familiar tropes and structure problems. I cringed after the first paragraphs, where a mirror is used to describe a character's facial features. That's something that we are taught as writers is a big no-no. But the problems keep stacking up, and it would take a professional editor to categorize and list all of its faults. It's just a mess, inferior to the original Twilight, which had its own problems. There is the overwhelming opinion that it has no plot at all--no real conflict/s to support a worthwhile, believable goal. Although the sex starts off well and entices, it generally goes downhill from there and shows nothing new or progressive. It repeats over and over again, as well as the repetitive descriptive passages, emotions and over-the-top physical reactions.  

It seems we're living in a reading age where quality of craftsmanship is second or even third to titillation and raunchy fantasy. Either the readers forgive the lackluster writing ability, are ignoring it completely, or they can't tell the difference between good and bad prose. And that's sad. Straight up, this book would have never made it beyond the fan fic stage if not for its word-of-mouth popularity. Are we now down to an accepted third-grade reading level? Are future generations of new readers going to seek out this type of prose and stick to it, with no intent to up their quality reading level? That's bleak.

How many knockoffs can we expect to see from this knockoff? Are writers, or even people thinking about splashing ink for the first time, going to try their hand at this type of genre and story? Will Fifty Shades be a green light to start a whole new trend, and will it spur fan fic writers to clog the submission boxes of all in sundry in the publishing business? Will this type of writing and story eventually need or draw a literary awards or peer merit? If so, put a knife through my heart and trash my computer. Now. I couldn't bear it.

The Ugly

There's a big fuss about how the author portrayed the lifestyle of the dominant-submissive relationship. Some readers are outright condemning it, proclaiming that it is far off the mark--while others excuse it, or actually believe the explanations and definitions, which could possibly damage a healthy relationship. Personally, and for reasons that I wouldn't like to explain, I'm cringing when I see another book/s show and explore such mentally abusive and inhumane treatment of women. It greatly disturbs me that any woman would subject herself to a relationship that hinges solely upon the wishes of an arrogant, misguided, psychologically damaged male lead. The feminist revolution has just lost decades of advancement and equality for the female populace. "No weak female leads", say the big editors, or "No damsels in distress." they hearken. Yet what we have here are gals that have smothered their own hopes and dreams of constructing and pursuing a meaningful life, and latched onto uber alpha males, who seem destined to make all their lifestyle decisions and choices.

Goodbye strong girls and women. You're nothing without having a man to run your life entirely in every aspect and degree. I blame Twilight for planting this seed in the first place. We might be headed for a heck of a lot more it.


 Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars (Engage Science Fiction) (Illustrated)

Editorial Reviews


"Planet Janitor does deliver an interstellar romp that hearkens to the best of Robert Heinlein or Philip José Farmer... A rollicking plot-driven adventure... The dangers are intimidating, the wonders evocative and the thread that ties it all together is always just a little more tangled than it seems." --The Canadian Science Fiction Review, December 13, 2010

"An intriguing and exciting cross between Aliens and 10,000 Years B.C. - Stevenson shows us a future filled with proof that we should listen to Stephen Hawking's warnings about alien life forms and what they want to do to us." --Gini Koch, author of `Touched by an Alien' & `Alien Tango', December 1, 2010

"Stevenson's book considers the possibility of an elite industry of environmental cleanup specialists who take on all sorts of bizarre environmental jobs... Clearly, this is a timely topic that hits home in the wake of the Gulf oil spill." --SF-Fandom, September 21, 2010

From the Publisher

A great deal of care went into the quality of this book, with case laminate library binding, wrap around cover art, and 26 illustrations.   


  1. Great review of Fifty Shades:) I am newest follower via book blogs! check my site out as well-

  2. Thank you, Andrea. I'll check you out!