At the risk of pissing off…the Internet…I really, really feel the need to speak up about the #AskELJames fiasco I witnessed on Twitter these past two days. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, to promote her newest release, E.L. James announced a Q&A for her fans on social media yesterday. The party quickly turned into merry hate-fest attacking her writing, her misrepresentation of the BDSM community, and her response to the haters (which was apparently to block them all). Tweets accused her of romanticizing abuse/abusive relationships, advocating stalking and controlling behaviors, and even setting the entire women’s rights movement back generations. Huh?
Ok…First, yes, 50 Shades is not an accurate portrayal of the BDSM community, and I believe anyone who might be into that sort of thing already knows that, and any horny housewives looking to spice things up in the bedroom don’t really need to know, do they? As for any newbies who might want to experiment after reading 50 Shades, I would truly hope they do more research into the scene, lifestyle…whatever…beyond reading a few erotic novels, before signing any contracts. While my husband swears a particular Tom Clancy novel DOES provide accurate instructions for piloting a submarine, I know of no other work of fiction that anyone would pick up as a reference manual to real life. I mean…just…WTF?
Second, yes, 50 Shades was not a literary masterpiece, but it was entertaining enough to hold the attention of MILLIONS, many of whom did not even consider themselves readers before these books, so who cares? I did finish the first book of the series, which is a statement I cannot make about a dozen other erotic and a few urban fantasy novels on my Kindle app right now. I wonder how many people that claim they could write a better novel that E.L. have ever actually tried to do it?
Third, yes, it was originally fanfic. Do you know how much fanfic there is out there in the cloud at this very moment? I don’t get it, myself. Is it plagiarism, copyright infringement, flattery? Is Stephanie Meyer complaining? Nope; I looked it up. In an interview with MTV three freaking years ago, she gave her blessing with a gracious, “Good on her!” Exclamation point and everything. If she doesn’t care…why do we?
Fourth, yes, there is stalking, dubious consent, controlling behavior and a host of other big no-nos in the series, but you know what? Some of us like that kind of thing. In real life? Ha-ell, no! But in fiction? I don’t need a safe word. If a book hits my hard limits, I can stop reading. 50 Shades didn’t even come close. In fact, I was pissed Ana only took a six good licks in the Red Room of Pain (which she asked for) and then ran. My inner goddess wanted to see Ana’s ass tore the hell up. And, with or without consent, that would have been okay. You know why? Because she’s not a real person!
Last, authors are people! Yes, people in the public eye. People who put our work out in such a way that we invite criticism. Hell, you don’t even have to read our work to criticize it. But the truth is, nobody likes being criticized. And nobody in real life, no matter how public, is obligated to shut up and take it. It is usually the acceptable thing for an author to do, but if I was ever accosted by a rabid Twitter mob, I might start barring my doors and windows too.
I might be biased because I am an author. I too am out there for people to hate. And I just published a book that makes 50 Shades look pretty tame. Blood Toy has a lot less sex, but a lot more abuse. Do the dubious consent rules apply when the characters are not only fictional, but imaginary? Are supernatural characters allowed to be uber-possessive stalkers? Does the fact that my protagonist keep fighting cancel out the bad juju of getting turned on by him in the first place? Go ahead, read it and tell me;)