Friday, September 6, 2013


A woman sits down at her keyboard in England and writes a book.  In fact, she writes three volumes.  She is an experienced educated tv writer but this is her first book.  She writes about a sexual relation between a young man and a young woman.  The topic is fundamental to human life and all 7 billion humans and their ancestors for millions of years back came into being as a result of some version of such a relation.  It is not surprising that she is not the first person to write about this topic.

But this woman, in this time and place, faces a little different situation from other writers, in an important sense, ever in the history of time. As might be expected during this age, the new situation is a technical one but, as often happens, the technical change causes a social change.  People of both genders have tended to be shy about letting others know that they are interested in hot sex: bondage, S&M, etc.  E.L. James wrote about as gently on the subject as possible, to the point that she was later mocked for so much "amazement" and "shock" and generally adolescent reactions in a young beautiful college senior who seemed to have been both unaware of the male-female differences and to have never been asked on a date, even though she is a walking advertisement for sex.

Things fell into place for "50 Shades of Grey" and it very quickly outsold all other books, especially and notably in the format where customers can download the book to their computer or Kindle or Nook reader, quite privately, without having to face a bookstore clerk or nosy librarian.  The incredible sales of an ebook resulted in a special bonus for Random House employees that year and it got the attention of all book publishers.  As a comparison, the first Harry Potter book, which dominated publishing for many months, has 7700 reviews on Amazon while "Fifty Shades" has 21,000.

Now the news is full of fans all over the world who feel very close to Anastasia and Christian and who seek to influence which actors portray the pair in a movie through petitions, and political action.  I probably don't need to, but still, I feel sorry for Mr. and Mrs. James who once led a quiet life and are now the target of fan pressure.  Only a few years ago, Anastasia and Christian did not exist.  Now they do, in most of the languages and cultures of the world.  Mrs. James is reported to be working with the filmmakers and fans, too, but I can see how authors may feel little interest in fan opinions, which are likely to be diverse and contradictory.

When I write, I am writing what I want to write.  I try to make it comprehensible and reasonably interesting but that is about as far as I like to go.  With the number of blogs and web sites, online, digital and paper magazines and newsletters, ebooks free as well as hot recent sales, there are plenty of alternatives that the unsatisfied can switch to.  Besides, if they have ideas, let them write them out themselves.

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