Taken from "The Passive Voice" where the Passive Guy got it elsewhere:


“Fanfic is seen as the lowest point we’ve reached in the history of culture – it’s crass, sycophantic, celebrity-obsessed, naive, badly written, derivative, consumerist, unoriginal – anti-original. From this perspective it’s a disaster when a work of fanfic becomes the world’s number one bestseller and kickstarts a global trend.”

(And I didn’t write it, dang!)

Morrison certainly courts publicity to himself, but in a rather class-free way.

Link to the rest here:

In the beginning, there was fan fiction: from the four gospels to F...


That's Ewan Morrison, by the way.  I love the terminology.  So useful and so rarely on the tip of my tongue.  :)  It fits a lot of stuff that isn't fanfic.

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Not to mention the fact that it's undemocratic to look down on some writers.  :)

The problem is that the writing is terrible, and nobody cares.

Actually, a lot of people care. As of today, 5o SHADES has 3526 one-star customer reviews. And those are mostly from Joe Reader, not from English professors or other intellectuals with trained eyes.

But the book has 4305 five-star reviews, so it's obviously working for a lot of people as well. Are those people WRONG for enjoying something, just because it doesn't meet the litmus test for what some of us would call Literature? Of course not. They're having fun, reading with one hand or whatever, and it's not really affecting the rest of us in the slightest. If anything it's getting more people reading, and I don't really see the downside to that. Maybe some of those folks will buy one of my books someday.

I always like to quote James Patterson when the subject of popular writing vs Literature comes up: "Thousands of people hate my books. But millions of people love them."

Oh, those dastardly intellectual English professors, wrecking everyone's masturbatory fun!  No, the ten million people who've plunked down actual money to read 50 Shades are not wrong for mindlessly consuming whatever slop comes gurgling down the trough (I'm sticking with my pig metaphor here because it's so much fun)--they don't know any better.  It's a failure of the producer, not the consumer.  I do think it affects us, because it alters the trajectory of the culture a bit, as I said above.  Now everybody's looking to write or publish the next 50 Shades Of Some Goddam Thing Or Other, which means that for the foreseeable future the entire publishing industry will devote itself to producing terrible fanfic porn novels, until the next stupid fad comes along, which will probably be even worse.  So yes, the culture gets whittled a way, and quality matters less.  Maybe a lot less.  And even though it's straight up elitist to say so, as someone who takes pride in crafting a good story, I think that's a bad thing. 

On edit, I would amend this a bit and suggest that 50 Shades really represents a failure of the delivery system.  If readers are basically undiscerning, and if the only standard is money, and if there's no vetting of any kind, then publishing instantly becomes a race to the bottom.  Not that it wasn't heading that way already--but now the process is greatly accelerated.  And yeah--I find it disturbing, if not surprising. 

And yeah--I find it disturbing, if not surprising.

There have always been wildly popular works of literature that some people would like to see eradicated, works that are supposedly going to bring an end to life as we know it. The phenomenon is nothing new; from what I can tell it never really hurts anybody. There have been crappy writers selling crappy books by the ton since the invention of the printing press. Do most of the people reading 50 SHADES even remember THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY? I doubt it.

At any rate, it's not worth worrying about. 50 SHADES will fade away, and life will go on.

The only thing I have control over is my own writing. Will I ever sell in those kinds of numbers? Probably not, but that doesn't bother me either. Paraphrasing James Lee Burke, fame and fortune will come of their own accord. And if I ever do start selling in huge numbers, I'm sure there will be plenty of folks around to tell me how much I suck. But that's their problem, not mine. Taste is subjective; if certain people don't like my work, they should go find something they do like.

Fortunately we live in a society where we're not limited to consuming only what a certain segment of the populations deems to be good for us. There's something for everyone.

I can tell you for a fact that neither of us will ever sell those kinds of numbers.  We both care too much about character and scene and good dialogue.  We're dinosaurs.  It's the age of twitter.  The next big-selling book will be post-apocalyptic young adult vampire porn written completely in text-ese.

50 SHADES will fade away, and life will go on.

This is true. It will fade.

Easy come, easy go. 

 And then there will be "50 Shades of Puce. "  (I am really going to have to take a peek at this dreadful  phenomenon!)  :) 

I remember "The Bridges of M. County."  Not because I read it, but because the movie, which eventually came on TV,  wasn't as bad as I might have expected---at least it had Meryl Streep lending some credibility to the character. And bad novels can sometimes be transformed into decent movies.  Even "Interview with the Vampire."  I liked the part where the little girl vampire's curls sprang back as soon as she cut them off. (A Don't Try this at Home trick). 


My compliments on the pig shit geyser metaphor.  Lovely.  And yes, it should find a wider audience.  It's far more effective than all of our other complaints about the book.


One point, though, about the gatekeepers and the all-mighty big publishers:  if there is a geyser, they are the first there with their little buckets.


I also liked the comment about the one-handed readers.  :)

I don't think I knew until this minute what "fanfic" is, and I'll bet I'm never going to read any.

Jon said it very well, 

The difference between fanfic and a literary adaption like Ulysses, say, is that fanfic generally starts with something that's crap (Twilight) and turns it into something even worse (50 Shades), while a good adaptation starts with a familiar story and complicates, expands and reimagines it in a way that both creates a new story and alters our understanding of the old story. 

What is depressing about this thing called  fanfic is that a lot of the people who apparently think it's great reading simply don't know there's anything better to be had. Or don't care. The milk chocolate bar adulterated with wax goes down a lot more quickly than 80% dark chocolate, and you can eat the wholething in just a few seconds without really having to savor it or think about its origins. :)  

Many people don't read much anymore; their literary boundaries are stultifyingly  narrow. And maybe they don't care.   There's that anti-intellectual attitude that if you prefer really good literature, you must be a snob.  Now, why is that?  (Well, for one thing, if you weren't exposed to it early on, there's just not time enough to catch up). 

Yet, unless you are aiming only for this kind of reader,  why would any serious writer not want to experience everything?  And by serious, I suppose I mean anyone who wants to write anything worth reading., even if it is a best seller?  Even if it's just to learn how to write a proper sentence, a create a convincing character or setting, something believable.   

Great literature, history, the Bible, mythology, and everything in between.So that you have a standard of comparison? So there's the possibility of making a choice.  Of using all of it.   One of my   favorite mystery writers, Ruth Rendell, knows plenty about popular culture,  (she was, after all , a journalist)  and uses it very  effectively in her novels, in the creation of many of her characters. She is also extremely erudite--no stranger to Shakespeare. And it's the merging  of this combined knowledge that gives her work its depth. 

Also very well said!  Yes, good books are becoming increasingly linked to snobbery as something only fit for eggheads and nerds.  Remember when it was shameful to be an A student because the other students rejected you?  There it is again, the democratic leveling so that no one is better than anyone else.

I have long believed that the insistence on shortness (short books, short chapters, short paragraphs, short words) caters to semi-literates who don't like making an effort.  There seems to be no end to how far the dumbing-down process can be taken.


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