Your eyes do not deceive you. That is the book Fifty Shades of Grey on the cover of Entertainment Weekly.
So. I read most of this book and parts of the two sequels last weekend and all I can say is… what once was Twilight fanfiction (Was it really called Master of the Universe? Really?) still reads exactly like Twilight fanfiction to me. Like, in the sense that all this woman did was Ctrl + F and replace the Twilight names like Bella and Edward and Rosalie with Ana and Christian and Kate and expand scenes with a few sentences here and there (Dear Author took the text comparison to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL). I think I have all of the character parallels figured out:
Bella -> Anastasia
Edward -> Christian
Rosalie -> Kate
Emmet -> Elliot
Jasper -> Ethan
Alice -> Mia
Jacob -> Jose (I guess because he couldn’t be Native American, he had to be Latino? This was really bizarre to me.)
Esme -> Grace
Carlise -> Carrick
Charlie -> Ray
I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’m assuming that Christian’s Mrs. Robinson (otherwise known as the woman who introduced him to the BDSM lifestyle) was maybe supposed to align with Victoria originally? I don’t know. Most of the minor characters seem to be original, but the main characters align pretty well with their Twilight counterparts.
(By the way, changing all of the character names, the original setting, and the context of the story is legal. I think I would probably die a thousand deaths if this ever happened to me—it’d feel like that time in high school when someone stole my TI-83 calculator and filed off my name and the serial number to pass it off as theirs.)
Here’s the thing about fanfiction that makes it both fun and identifies it as such: it’s a great way to teach yourself to write or tell stories, because most of the work is already done for you. You have established characters, and while sometimes you shift said characters into different times/places/settings (this is what you’d call an AU fanfiction, which is what Shades of Grey definitely started out as), you get to skip most of the work of building the characters from the ground up. There’s very, very, very little character development outside of Christian—I’d say he probably has the biggest growth, and understandably so, but he’s still a super controlling asshole for all three books.
I grab my phone. Five missed calls and one voice message. Tentatively, I listen to the message. It’s Christian.
‘I think you need to learn to manage my expectations. I am not a patient man. If you say you are going to contact me when you finish work, then you should have the decency to do so. Otherwise, I worry, and it’s not an emotion I’m familiar with, and I don’t tolerate it very well. Call me.’
I mean, girls, seriously? He does have his moments and I can see the appeal of a super-romantic-only-two-people-in-the-world kind of passionate love, but even Ana admits several times over the course of the story that he has extreme stalker tendencies. Finding out what flights she’s on (only to upgrade her to First Class, of course!), where she works and lives, not letting her drive herself to work (did I mention he makes, supposedly, “$100,000 every minute” or something ridiculous like that?), buying out the publishing company** she works for, etc. Oh, but he can fly his own helicopter! And he has a really nice pair of jeans he wears in what Ana calls his “Red Room of Pain.” For all of his great moments, Christian is quick to jealousy, possessiveness, and anger that Ana can’t keep up with his temper and is constantly having to crawl into his lap*** and grovel. She can’t even roll her eyes! I get that it’s part of the whole dominant/submissive dynamic, but even when he agrees to try a “vanilla” relationship with her, he still gets pissed about the stupidest stuff. Good Lord, it’s like dealing with a toddler.
Another thing that kept distracting me was how many Britishisms existed in a story supposedly set in Seattle. “Laters, Baby”? I’ve heard that Random House, who acquired the rights to publish it here in the States, is going to do a very hearty copyedit on this, so I’m curious to see if a lot of these phrases get modified.
The pacing, too, reads like fanfiction—from the way that the scenes are arranged to the glossed-over explanations about settings to the up-down-up-down-up-down of the conflict that comes with a serial-style plot. Trust me, people. I’ve written and read a lot of fanfiction in my day. I can spot the storytelling style a mile away.
I don’t know what my feelings are on this, to be honest. Like I said above, it would irk me in unspeakable ways if this were to ever happen with one of my stories (I, like Christian, am possessive. Only I’m possessive of the original thoughts, ideas, and characters that come out of my brain, not other human beings who roll their eyeballs at my ridiculousness). I’ve always felt like there should be absolutely no monetary gain out of writing fanfiction, and the primary reason I wrote it was to further my writing and interact with other fans. Many authors start out with writing fanfiction (see: Cassandra Clare/Claire).
The Mary Sue has another, more positive take on the situation. The comments are a great read, too.
** I don’t know if the UK-based author is basing the publishing company off the way UK publishers work, but this… is not how publishing companies work. “Commissioning Editor”? You mean Acquiring Editor? A title that doesn’t even exist here anymore?
*** Oh my GOD. GIRL YOU ARE NOT A DOG OR AN INFANT. STOP CRAWLING INTO HIS LAP TO LET HIM CRADLE YOU. GOD. SERIOUSLY.