My Featured Author: Stephenie Meyer


Click on Stephenie‘s image to go to her Goodreads blog.

My encounters with Twilight

Back in 2008, I was sitting around with a group of friends, all mothers of daughters, and we were discussing stocking fillers for Xmas.  I wanted books for my daughter and their suggestion was to try out Twilight.  The movie had just been released but it really was pre-hype days.  However, all four of the books were on the market and reasonable prices so they seemed like a sensible idea.

I am not sure why I trusted the recommendation of the mother’s in question.  We’d been drinking.  We drank a lot.  And ate.  And crafted.  Sometimes all at the same time.  I think it is important to note that sequins, hot glue guns and alcohol don’t always mix. However, we did sometimes give each other good advice and they were right about the books.

My, then 12 year old, daughter devoured them.  The first two in two days, the third a week later and I made her wait for the fourth for a month.  When I read them she returned the favor by lending the fourth book to a friend.  I thought I was going to die until that book arrived back in our house.  I devoured them a further 4 or 5 times and spent at least six months pretending my car was an Audi while I drove around with the Twilight soundtrack blaring. Side note: Slug Boy’s ring tone is SuperMassive Black Hole.  Think about it.

According to popular mythology Stephenie had the story come to her in a dream.  I wanted to drink what she was drinking.  For the next couple of years I toyed with some paranormal ideas and read some other paranormal romances – that was how I discovered Felicity Heaton and Cynthia Eden.  Those angels, demons and other-worldly beings  made me want to walk on the wild side.  I’ve never really been a bad boy biker girl but they took me there.

Why people don’t like Twilight

Edward, the hero, was criticized  because he was the boyfriend that no parent wanted for their daughter.  However, for all his failings, Edward, stayed true to his core values.  Values that would have been significant to the era in which he had been born.  So, even though he was a stalker, he would protect Bella‘s life and innocence for as long as he could.  The old-fashioned other-worldliness of Edward enabled me to forgive Stephenie for making him sparkly. Oh, hell who am I kidding? I would have happily given him a liberal sprinkling of glitter myself (see previous note about crafting, sequins and hot glue guns).

And Bella was seen as … well …

For some reason Bella was seen as being incredibly weak and one dimensional.  She apparently let Eward make all the decisions and control the relationship.  But I would argue that there are a lot of teenage girls who are exactly like Bella, even when they don’t want to admit it.  Socially awkward, slightly isolated for no reason other than their lack of self-confidence, perhaps making not great choices in boyfriends. And there are a lot of teen boys who are slightly obsessed with their first loves to the point of some slightly unreasonable behaviors. I’m not sure that the people who criticized the relationship really read or understood it.

If they had read all of the books thoroughly – and let’s face it even if they had looked at the things Bella did to protect and save Edward in the first story – then they would have seen her as a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, working out how to be both true to herself and her relationship.   And Bella pretty much kicked ass all the way through the stories.  She just developed and evolved as time went on and her confidence grew.  Something that a Mary Sue character doesn’t get to do very much.

I’m pretty sure that those who have attacked the stories the most have been women who grew up in the age of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the ultimate Mary Sue.  The relationship was termed as being abusive and controlling.

I think they missed the point that she was a human dealing with a vampire, not a vampire slayer with superhuman powers.  She was right to be scared, he was right to set the boundaries until they could work out how they could be together.  She did, however, step into the vampire world, took on a few that seriously wanted to kill her, dealt with a gang of werewolves, rode motorbikes, cliff dived, fought to keep a fetus that was killing her and saved her family from being killed.  I’m fairly sure that is pretty damn proactive on the kickass heroine front.

There were also people who just hated Twilight because it was chick-lit or gay.  There were going to be haters no matter what.

Influence on the cultural landscape

Twilight spawned an entire fan fiction stream that seemed to have a life beyond anything anyone could possibly conceive.  While there have always been fan fictions that have made it to publication, the sheer number and breadth of what came out of and continues to emerge from the fanfiction.net and twcs Twilight communities was/is like none other.  Pulled to Publish seems to be a term that has been attributed to this fanfic community. Some paranormal authors (Anne Rice, JR Ward) have resisted fan fiction.  Stephenie has celebrated it.

Twilight has brought us such books as Fifty Shades of Grey, Wallbanger, Poughkeepsie, Beautiful Bastard and Gabriel’s Inferno among many others.  And of course, the movie brought us…

If you are here on my blog because of a love all things FSOG and you have never read Twilight then you really should check the books out.  I recognised Twilight in FSOG before I knew it was fan fiction or even what fan fiction was.

Stephenie has often courted controversy as an author, but love her or hate her, she has made an extraordinary contribution to the cultural landscape.  Find out more about her at her website.

http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/

Sasha’s Celebration Challenge #1


All good celebrations have a kick-ass cake and every piece of fan fiction has an original work to base itself on.  As you all know, my drug of choice is Fifty Shades of Grey. There is every likelihood that it will be the only fan fiction I ever write.  But not everyone who lowers themselves to read this blog has ever, or will ever, read FSOG.

So, to get this party started, tell me, have you actually read the book? Really? If you only skimmed the first few pages and gave up, you can admit it.  I don’t mind admitting to the world that I’ve read the books but I know that I have colleagues who will strip me of my post-structuralist feminist badge and membership if they knew just how much I loved them.  Maybe you didn’t read them but you have indulged in one of the many blogs that have parodied or ‘reviewed’ the books.  They’re great, aren’t they? They are so thorough that you might believe that you have read the books.  There are some really great ones out there but if you’ve never read one I recommend Fifty Shades of Dave (see blog roll).

Have you read ALL of the books? Yes, there are three!  Stop laughing! It’s true!  They’re a continuous story – you know, one follows the other.  No, really! I’m serious!  And they’re quite thick books with lots of words.  After a few false starts, I read them all in three days. I didn’t eat, I didn’t shower, I barely slept.  There is still a bum dent in the couch.  SuperGeek was overseas and my kids were not allowed to speak to me until I finished.  I think they may have chewed their own arms off in desperation.  There may have been pizza’s delivered.  I don’t know.  Now that I write fan fiction, things are not much better, I haven’t seen them in months.

Have you read the books multiple times? Go on, you can tell me.  Okay, I’ll go first.  I’ve read them four times.  Yep, count ’em Jim.  And you know what? There are people out there who have read them more than that. Yes! I may, in fact, not hold the record. I kid you not!  Since we’re confessing, I also read all the Twilight books four times and Little Women 10 times. I don’t know why.  Okay, I do. I’m obsessive when it comes to falling in love with stories and characters.  Now, I’m  thinking of reading the Black Dagger Brotherhood multiple times just to take the taste out of my mouth.  There are 12 books and counting in that series so I might be a while.

Did you try to read FSOG and fail? Or have you never had any desire to pick it up? It’s okay. As I said, I myself had three or four false starts. The ebooks sat for months on my iPad, taunting me. I’d spent all that money and I couldn’t get past the first couple of chapters.  That whole interview scene did nothing for me. Let’s face it, it is dreadful writing but (IMHO) good storytelling.  Finally, it was a radio show that encouraged me to push on and read the whole book.  The words ‘spontaneous orgasms’ might have been used.  It was enough to tempt me. I have no regrets. I might have had spontaneous orgasms – I’ll never tell.

So please. Tell me your story.  Even your stories of resistance and repulsion interest me.  You don’t have to agree with those of us who love it (yes, there are more just like me out there).  And you lot who love it, you don’t have to defend your love to the world.  No judgements, just love and acceptance and sharing the juicy bits.  Now, this is a party for goodness sake!

Grab a drink and mingle!

Keep Calm: Read Twilight Fan Fiction


Today I read this post on Dear Author.com while searching for information on Twilight FanFic that has been published:

Nov 9 2012

Friday News: More Twilight fan fiction goes mainstream; Stanford introduces open source educational platform; Royal Society archives reveal more influential females in science

By Jane • Publishing News • • Tags: , , ,

‘Twilight’ Fanfiction Hit ‘The Office’ Gets Book Deal – Gallery has bought the Twilight fan fiction of Christina Hobbs (aka TBY789) and Lauren Billings (aka Lolashoes) called The Office. The story is Edward as the boss and Bella as his assistant. This will be published by Gallery in 2013 as “Beautiful Bastard” and “Beautiful Stranger”. Hollywood Reporter

It is also rumored that Tara Sue Me has a book deal for her trilogy, the BDSM version of Twilight that was written before 50 Shades was written by EL James.

Gallery and Atria have gone crazy buying self published and fan fiction work. Is this a gamble that will pay off?

Cyndy Aleo, an original critic of the P2P emailed me this:

I still think the ethics are the same. I haven’t changed my mind about my own fanfic, and have no intentions of shopping it. For us old-schoolers, the cardinal rule is “First, make no money.”

That being said, I think it’s pretty apparent that, at least for the Twilight fandom, there won’t be any legal action. Arguing about each successive big-name fic that gets published is like asking someone to shut the barn door after the barn’s been burned down. Fifty Shades of Grey pretty much burned down the barn.

The Twilight fandom was always referred to as a feral fandom — which I know was resented by the community — but its inability to follow fandom conventions has been made obvious here by the number of authors who have made quite a bit of money doing what those of us who came from other fandoms were taught was the ultimate fandom heresy: profiting off the work.

At this point, I think the culture has changed so significantly that fighting is the equivalent of sitting and yelling “Get off my lawn.” It’s happening. It will continue to happen unless the books stop selling. It’s easier for publishers to take a chance on authors who have an established fan base, like we are seeing with successful self-published novels. I think any new fandoms that sprout up will probably see the same thing happen; I mean we have already seen an RPF sell in the One Direction fandom, and that’s something based on real people. It’s not going to stop because hardliners disagree.

What I really think would be interesting to see at this point would be for a fic to sell from a fandom that’s been suppressed by the canon author — say, J.R. Ward or Diana Gabaldon. Stephenie Meyer was a fanfic author herself and was very supportive of her fandom. If a fic sold out of an unsupported fandom, would we see the legal issues finally brought to the table?

The discussion comments that followed were very interesting and yet somewhat inane. To the point where I wanted to ask:

Cos some of it is really good. But the argument continues that because it was done in the fanfic community, because it copies elements from the original, because the author should know better, suffer for their art, come up with something truly original, then it can’t be any good and you certainly shouldn’t buy it.

I think we have been living in a world of derivative creativity for a long, long time.  The internet has merely done what it always does and accelerates the process exponentially while simultaneously making it transparent but throughout history, there have always been master/apprentice relationships in every art form.

We learn from, mimic and then ultimately, if we have practiced and honed our skills enough, create something original. For the most part we replicate based on tried and true formulas hoping for an original edge. There will always be those who do it for love, those who aspire to fame, those who are motivated by money and might even make some. There will always be those who are paid by a benevolent patron or have their creativity sucked out of them by being locked into a corporate deal. It happens in all the arts. And every now and then there will be a moment of brilliance, often unrecognized – overshadowed by something that is poorly executed or worse mundane, that has found popular appeal and is being celebrated by the masses.  It is the old ‘high art v low art’ argument which brings with questions of ‘is it wrong to be popular’? Who defines ‘good’?  Is it ethical to make money off a derivative art work? Is there anything truly original?  Closely followed by who does this little upstart think he/she is – they didn’t follow the traditional pathway, stick to the rules, go to the right schools etc.

People will make up their own minds about the ethics and value of the thing. Make of it what you will.  There are those who say that artists in all forms and at all levels, these days are only after their 15 mins of fame. Everyone thinks they can be the next great [insert singer, dancer, author, artist, film maker here] from the comfort of their home computer and that this has detracted from great art. Well, yes there will be a lot of crap product but there will also be a few gems that will find both critical acclaim and wide popularity.

You could argue that a work of art, just like a house, will ultimately only be ‘worth’ what someone is willing to pay for it. How you feel about that will depend on a number of things, like whether you see art as a noun or a verb.  Is it a product or is it a process? If it is a product, then who gets to judge it? Should only the highly educated judge a thing’s value or does popular appeal account for something?  You could argue that a work should be judged on its own merits as the finest example of best practice.  But don’t the best innovations in arts come from those who understand the rules then break them? Or can you be innovative without knowing the rules?

Given that artistic merit might be accordingly defined as high subjective, should an artist always have their right to be called so, judged on the value or critique of their product?  Isn’t it that sort of judgement and critique that stops people in their tracks and sends potential artists running to their rooms to hide under their beds feeling like they aren’t good enough?  Ken Robinson talks about our education systems as ones which educate the creativity out of us.  That all children are born artists but the trick is believing that as you grow up.  I see art as a process that everyone should feel capable of taking part in. I refuse to believe that any person is not an artist, a musician, a dancer, a writer if that is what they want to call themselves. This is because I see these subjective constructs as verbs, ways of being, rather than objective nouns, an idea that I gleaned from Christopher Small’s theories of ‘musicking’.

I write therefore I am

I am not a ‘published’ fiction author but I have deliberately removed words like ‘aspiring’ or ’emergent’ from my bio because I don’t think that my right to call myself a writer or an author should rest on some corporatized ideal of the product I create.  Ask any musician, composer, author who has worked through the traditional channels of music or book publishing companies where the money goes and they will tell you that the publishers make their money first.  So I don’t judge myself as any sort of artist based on the idea that someone is buying my work – if we all did that then there would be almost no artists in the world. Fan Fic worlds might have been constructed for fans but they have become places where authors go to play and through their playing pay tribute.  The simmering debate on fanfic writers who are moving into publishing continues to position their published products in ways that seem a little pointless to me and which undermine the rights of the authors to call themselves such.

The ‘pull to publish’ culture may have been multiplied and magnified within the Twilight fandom but from what I have seen in my short time of living in the fan fic world is that fandoms are bizarre, slightly hormonal and wildly unpredictable spaces.  They can be the affinity spaces that James Gee wrote about but they are also demanding and all-consuming.  I have seen authors brought to their knees by the demands of the fans who want instant and constant updates on all stories.  Fans who will become quite feral when the fan fic author steps beyond some arbitrary boundary by daring to kill off a character or ‘ship characters in unorthodox ways.  Fans can be loyal and true (the saner ones) others will jump off a story and spin and kick you in the guts while they do it.  And that doesn’t even account for the trolls in fandom world who are just plain mean and stupid destructive forces of nature.

I am lucky as a writer of fan fic.  I don’t have a huge following on fanfic.net like some writers but I do get loyalty from my readers for which I am very grateful.  Even my worst reviews have been critiques that I felt I could learn from and respond to.  But that is not the case for a lot of writers in fanfic.  Now, I have little sympathy for the prolific writers who get 3000 reviews on every story and then focus on the one or two guest reviewers who slam them.  In most cases, there are other dynamics at work there that can be the topic of another blog topic. Let’s just say I’m not in a rush to turn my fanfic into something publishable.  Mostly because I have bills to pay so the rest of my life has to come first although it is amazing how quickly my writing has become an obsession through participation in the fanfic world.

However, to me it seems that the fan fic world exists more for the fans than for the writers.  If fan fic writers are doing all of this for love, to improve their skills and to celebrate a work that has touched their spirit in some way then the incessant rules around fan fic sites shouldn’t have to exist (and be consistently broken).   If this is the culture of the fandom then it is understandable that writers, who genuinely write to create something they themselves would like to read, but do so under the pressures of day jobs and real life responsibilities that mean their fan fic writing is snuck in at late hours, between paid gigs and under the radar of everyone they know lest they be criticized for even daring to write or be fans themselves, then can you blame them when they see the lure of publication and decide to take a bite. After all somebody should be paying them to take that shit!

The Fan-Fiction Roots of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and Other Best Sellers – WSJ.com


The Fan-Fiction Roots of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and Other Best Sellers – WSJ.com.

We are often maligned for what we do in fan fiction and there is a lot of debate around the legitimacy of EL James’ work as a Twilight Fan Fic. The reality is that it has been around for a long time and many best selling authors still indulge their love. As to the appropriated fanbase – this seems to be the way the publication game is played now.  Traditional methods of book promotion don’t quite cut it in this new environment.  That is not to say that face to face book tours will disappear but social media has changed the game.  Just as sites like FanFic.net changed the ways that writers hone their craft and develop their WIPs.

Academia is slowly getting on to this but they are slower and more conventional than the real world.  However, I could guarantee that more people have accessed my work as Dr J through open-source websites than they ever will by reading my book. Just saying!

 

Twihards v the Grey-sessed: does it matter?


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.

Read more here….

Chapter 20: Can’t Cry Hard Enough


Chapter 20: Can’t Cry Hard Enough….read more here


“So how are the plans for the wedding going? Do we have a date yet?” The little tight smile gives her away. Oh crap.

“Yeah, three weeks from Saturday.” Holy shit! Then the unthinkable enters my head. Why does anyone get married so fast? She’s fucking pregnant! And I feel the bile rise in my throat. I have to get out of here.

Read More…

SEXPO, FSOG and Twilight


In previous posts I have mused on why I have ended up writing FSOG FanFic.  I have also mused on the dilemmas and delights of living a double life as both Sasha and Dr J.  What I haven’t quite got to musing about is what is happening in my life alongside this addiction to all things FSOG.  Part of my resistance to writing this particular blog post is to do with the highly personal.  I am not sure that I am ready for y’all to become some kind of voyeuristic sexperts sitting on the sideline of my life, coaching me through every move the Sex Guru.   Nor do I particularly want to wind up like the poor teacher in North Ohio being punished in my work for writing FanFic of an erotic nature or for writing about FanFic.

However, I am encouraged by some of the research that goes on in and around the FanFic world and the ways in which we are learning about ourselves through this deep connection with erotic literature.  That is not to say that Twilight is erotic – as Stephen Snyder MD reminds us in the documentary Into the Twilight Haze – there are three books of foreplay in the Twilight before we get to the deed.  That is a hell of a lot of sexual tension.

 

Into the Twilight Haze: a documentary about the allure of Twilight (and how it can help your love, sex and relationships) created by Dr Niloo Dardashti is my latest find in terms of research around the impact of these novels.

She is currently turning her attentions on FSOG and I can see the reason why this would be necessary.  If Twilight can be considered as a serial foreplay novel based on the nostalgia of chivalry (with a whole heap of stalker tendency thrown in) then FSOG could be seen as a polar opposite with a heavy reliance on sexploits and dominance (throw in stalking and powerplays).  And for each of those lovely, informed and literate people (terms used loosely) who have found the negative, mundane or the ridiculous of FSOG (Becca, Jason, Dave – you know who you are) – there are millions of (mostly) women who have totally fallen under the FSOG spell, including yours truly.

So if the books are so badly written (yes, although the same could be said of a range of bestsellers – Dan Brown, you know who you are) and have such negative themes that set feminism back a hundred years or so, why are they responsible for making women feel empowered in the bedroom (and in their fiction writing if the number of FSOG related fanfics, blogs, digital curation sites are to be believed)?

The women and sexperts in the documentary speak about how these books have tapped into a desire for women to ‘have everything’.  Apparently we are realistic enough to know that we can’t have everything (really? bugger!), but that doesn’t stop us from wanting.  We want (desire) romance, chivalry, dominance, complete focus on our desires, open communication, honesty, emotional security and trust all wrapped up in a hot bod preferably.  Of course, if we got all of that we would be exhausted and intimidated (which explains some of Bella and Ana’s characteristics and insecurities).  For those women who are feeling the benefits though, there are things that we are now requesting/demanding of our partners that we may not have been confident enough to request/demand before.  There are possibly more women sharing their fantasies in the bedroom and out of it. Claiming their right, not so much to have those fantasies fulfilled, but to simply have fantasies in the first place.

So where does SEXpo come into all of this?  SuperGeek fulfilled one of my fantasies by taking me to my first SEXpo a couple of weeks ago.  And while I was pleasantly surprised by what I encountered there, I think that sitting at the back of my mind ever since is this memory of how attentive and wonderful he was during the whole experience.  He was watching me a great deal – I think checking my discomfort levels on some occasions but also to see what interested me and what turned me on.

It wasn’t overly sexual in that sense but more a case of asking ‘is that something you have always wanted or might want for us’?  We did buy a few things and he would have been happy to buy a few more if I had wanted.  He was quite okay to stand and discuss sex toys with the vendors, asking pertinent questions about the benefits of different materials and features.

He sat through the seminar on BDSM with me – not that we want to go beyond anything more than sensory deprivation – but as a FSOG fan I was interested to hear someone who lives the lifestyle speak about it with some authority. 

He discussed the construction of lingerie, specifically corsets, with me, telling me what colours and styles he liked to see on me.  He sat through, and critiqued with me, the aerial hoop act that then became a feature of Creating Kate.


In short, we seem to be at a point where we have the most open communication about sex that we have ever had in our twenty plus years of marriage.

There were other things that SG did that were more directly related to my desire to read and write erotica.  Like trying to read FSOG even though the writing caused him physical pain.  However, he has dipped back in to some of the scenes to understand what Christian brings to the bedroom or simply because I highlighted the best bits on his kindle.

Then there was a long haul flight spent reading the first draft of Investing Elliot before I posted it to FanFic.net.  This is becoming a pattern for us since he has had to read drafts of academic papers and even my PhD thesis while sitting trapped on planes.  Hence his fear of flying.  He thought the PhD was a riveting read compared to IE but again this may just be a genre issue.

Of course, the benefits have gone the other way.  We recently had to replace his car and for reasons I cannot quite understand he had gone to a car show and fallen for (a relative term) the Skoda Superb.  A Skoda for God’s sake!!  Who falls for a Skoda!! I dutifully spend a weekend trekking around car yards looking at a range of cars, trying to talk him into another Ford Falcon because I didn’t think I could suffer the humiliation of owning a Skoda or the drive across town to go to the only dealership in Melbourne.  My tune soon changed when the nice man showed us the engine.  Now I don’t know much about car engines beyond the understanding that if you open the hood and one isn’t present then the car probably isn’t much good to you except as emergency housing.  But when the nice young man pointed to the badges lined up on the engine – Skoda, VW, Audi – my heart did a wee flip.  Christian and Edward both drove Audis.  While the body might say Skoda, the engine will say Audi and that was enough for me.  We are now the proud owners of an Audi/Skoda Superb.  And that is kind of a nice metaphor for SuperGeek himself.  All of this sexpertise that we have been gaining through, talking, playing, having new experiences, being open and honest about our fantasies  – oh, and the reading and writing of erotica/romance – have made him (and me) a lot braver in the bedroom.  My man might be a Skoda on the outside but on the inside he is all Audi.

Skoda Superb II

Skoda Superb II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Audi Driving Experience

Audi Driving Experience (Photo credit: Autoblog Uruguay)