Thursday, July 5, 2012

Filing off the serial numbers

There's been plenty of conversation about Fifty Shades of Grey, the mega-selling book that had its origins in Twilight fanfic.  Now, I'm not going to knock on Fifty Shades here.  I haven't read it, and I probably won't, because it's not my kind of thing.  However, I don't begrudge its existence or its success.  It's really great as far as I'm concerned: in publishing, a rising tide raises all boats.

Because, here's the thing: on some level, we all start out writing fanfic.  Now, it might not be a conscious choice of, "I'm going to write Star Trek, except place it on a sailing ship of a fantasy world", or, "I'm going to write Heinlein-esque space opera, but with less incesty group sex".    But those influences can be really obvious.  When I wrote the trunked Fifty Year War, I had been reading plenty of David Weber, and those fingerprints are ALL OVER the manuscript*. 

However, sooner or later we get deft enough at filing off the serial numbers, or melding our influences into a distinct voice, and suddenly we have something fresh and unique. I think every writer has that moment.  Most of us don't have our original source as well documented as Fifty Shades-- which used its fanfic origins as a marketing tactic-- but most of us know what they are.

Though that is something that should be noted about Fifty Shades: no one should be looking at it as a viable marketing strategy.  It's lightning in a bottle.  You can't plan on catching it.

*- As in, lots of meetings where groups of politicians and military advisers sit around a table and talk about what's happening.  Yeah. FYW is trunked away for a reason.

1 comment:

Word Geek said...

When I was on vacation last month, I saw a lot of people reading books on the beach, which I thought was pretty cool, because how often do you see people reading in public these days? But then I discovered just how many of them were reading 50 Shades, and I felt a little less good about it.