Today I had a paradigm shift. I assumed that FSOG lovers, the true died in the wool fans that I encounter online, would also have at least engaged with Twilight in some way. Either have read it and then moved on to FSOG, or realized the connection and have looked into reading the books. Not everyone, or even I suspect most, have. And I find it interesting that we have all come at this from different perspectives.
There were some who had never, and declared they would never read Twilight; some who had dipped their toes in as concerned mothers or benevolent aunts and read one or two of the books or seen one of the movies but were not interested in pursuing it further; and the few, a largely silent few, who like me, were bordering on Twihards as well as Grey-sessed. The ‘tried to read it but couldn’t get into it’ comments are surprising for me since I think that Stephenie Meyer is a vastly superior writer (put that into perspective, Jane Austen, she ain’t). I almost had the same experience reading FSOG, having two false starts before I went into an FSOG binge one weekend.
I have picked up the book ‘Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey’ just to expand my perspective and I note that editor Lori Perkins has been through some paradigm shifts of her own. She calls herself, as a literary agent of some standing in erotica fiction, a ‘feminist pornographer’ but says as a young feminist she looked down on romance and the idea of submission, even though it is acknowledged ‘that the fantasy of complete surrender to an alpha male is the leading daydream of the majority of American women’. There are some blogs that I am linked into here that will be wanting to rip my arms off about now but remember I didn’t say it, she did. Doesn’t help to say that I believe that she could be right, does it?
Tiffany Reisz in her essay in this collection by Perkins, says that the writing and the reading of erotica is part of the dream. We long for the hero in the story we cannot and probably will never have. The beautiful, ‘damaged and distant’ man whose desires ‘inflame and terrify’ us. She was, of course, writing about EL James journey to being published as only Reisz can write, with her ear for lyrical and poetic phrasing. And we all know the story of how Edward came to Meyer in a dream, obviously a beautiful sparkly dream set in a meadow.
Are there any rights or wrongs to how we arrive at or consume these stories? As a teen I thought I hated erotica or anything as frivolous as romance literature. I was serious about story and theme and loved authors who had a different kind of voice. Then I read some Sidney Sheldon and Jacqui Collins and I knew I couldn’t hold on to the pretense. When I had devoured most of Stephen King’s books because I was in love with a boy who only read Stephen King, I also encountered the phrase, literary hamburgers. King has always said that his books are meant to be consumed, quickly and in vast quantities, they are not nutritious and he never intends them to be so.
For most of the past ten years I have immersed myself in historical romances and have a vast collection of works in my personal library. Like all genres, there are good and bad stories, well-written and carefully crafted language alongside some utter tripe. What I do know about the genre now that I didn’t know before is how difficult it is to write them. There are rules around the sub-genres that need to be learned and adhered to or it is likely you will never be read let alone sell. I see these protocols in the world of FanFic. While I think my writing is standing up okay to others in the FSOG Fanfic community – that is not to deny that there are some really terrific, funny and beautifully crafted that I couldn’t hope to emulate. However, there is also really bad storytelling, sloppy prose and editing that is worse than mine. In terms of a sheer numbers game (being reviewed and followed), I have done some things wrong. First I wrote out of the canon in many ways because the diehard fans want Christian and Ana stories and mine, as you can clearly see, are not. I am also irregular with my posts, no one knows when they are coming. I posted too much too early and then ran out of steam. I have faithful readers who are patient and kind but reading tourists might not hang around long enough to see the next chapter. I also don’t review anywhere near enough hence my desire to get the Wednesday Review happening this year. I know that is not reviewing Fan Fics but you never know, my Fan Fic buddies might publish something one day that I can review on Goodreads. The upshot is, I am a bad community member because I don’t contribute back. But I am learning and will continue to learn and develop.
Does it bother me that there are FSOG fans, great writers among them who don’t know and don’t care about the thematic links between FSOG and Twilight? Only in as much as they may be depriving themselves of that journey and enhanced understanding of the characters. It is a bit like having a favorite band but not knowing who their musical influences are. I think of this as learning genealogically. On the other hand, it doesn’t diminish the great work that they are doing extending the FSOG story. So no, it doesn’t bother me at all. After all, I have made almost no attempt to find out who Meyer was reading before she wrote Twilight – does anyone know?