Here at Set In Motion we love our fictional characters like nobody’s business. But, more importantly, we love the authors who created the characters out of their brains with no help whatsoever, and then presented to them packaged nicely for our imaginations.
However, on top of that, we also appreciate a little bit of naughty fanfiction. Seeing Edward being evil to Bella, because he has a bet to get her into bed? Hilarious. Probably not the most original stuff out there, but fun nonetheless. And of course, the whole point of fanfiction, is that fans appreciate the original novel so much that they want to continue, or change, the story.
Perfectly reasonable (cause we can’t get ourselves enough of Edward. Plus, when Bella isn’t being whiny and helpless, she’s so much more entertaining).
What we don’t like though?
When authors claim credit, money and fame off an idea that they essentially stole. And what’s worse, when the general public don’t even realise it because reporters are too idiotic to understand the point of proper research.
This is the case with “50 Shades of Grey” a novel about “dashing but disturbed” entrepreneur Christian Grey, and young student, Anastasia Steele. Basically, because Christian had a troubled upbringing he’s into erotic, sadistic sex. Fun times.
And because Christian is deliciously handsome and rich, Anastasia goes for it.
THIS is the description, in short, that major publications like The Age and The New York Times have given this book, which is now part of a trilogy. Ironically this book has also been described by both newspapers as “Twilight for Adults”.
Why ironic? Because this book IS Twilight. In fact, the author, E. L. James, must of liked Twilight so much that she essentially ripped off the characters and created her own storyline for them. And this isn’t just Edward and Bella we’re talking about here, it’s the whole Forks cast, down to James being pegged as the baddie from the start.
As you can tell, I, amongst others, have a real problem with this. For two main reasons. The first one is the terrible reporting that has been going on here. Clearly the journalists of both publications have not bothered to read the book, otherwise they might have noticed the similarities between the characters in Fifty Shades and in Twilight. (As one Twilight fan pointed out, Christian has chaotic, bronze-coloured hair. Who else do we know with strikingly unique hair like that? Um…) Instead they have just decided to go with the hysteria of the moment that has seemed to overtake women on the Upper-East Side and run with it.
On top of that, it’s ethically inappropriate journalism. In all honesty, I have read the books (the free, online version that is), the story isn’t that great. Fanfiction usually isn’t. Entertaining, yes. But well-written or thought-provoking? Definitely not. These articles being written aren’t book reviews, and they aren’t particularly news-worthy, but they are, in essence, bad PR for a book that honestly doesn’t need it.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is it OK to steal a person’s character for your own gain? While Christian Grey might not be called Edward Cullen in the published version, it is quite apparent who he is. So is it fair that E. L. James (who it should be noted, has made no effort to let people know that her book started off as fan fiction) has essentially stolen Stephenie Meyer’s work to make money herself? I don’t think so.
Sure, she didn’t rip off the storyline of Twilight, but that doesn’t necessarily give her the right to steal the characters. A well-known case happened a few years ago, when an unknown author tried to use J. D. Salinger’s famous character Holden Caulfield in his own spun-off series.
J. D. Salinger being the cranky bum he was, sued the guy’s pants off and won. Hells no did he have any right to steal his character after all.
However, a counter-argument could be that many books these days are quite similar if you start to blur the lines. Twilight, The Hunger Games, Vampire Diaries, The Time-Traveler’s Wife and now 50 Shades of Grey all have many similarities. But is there a difference between similar story lines, and stolen characters?
On top of that, E L James is making a fortune out of this book. When the original, Master of the Universe, is still free on the internet if you know where to look.
What do you think of this issue? Do you think its fair for E L James to get money for these books without acknowledging how the story started? Could Stephenie Meyer sue? Is it ethically right for journalists to write about a book when they know nothing about the book itself? Let me know!
PS. Here’s some articles that have been printed about 50 Shades of Grey. In particular, check out the video courtesy of KimTheFanGirl
The Age article (posted today-12/03/12)