The Guardian reports that the enormous success of Fifty Shades of Grey has pushed erotic fiction into the mainstream and is making even big publishers take notice. Well, I for one thought the success of the early erotic romance e-publishers like Ellora’s Cave and Samhain pushed erotic fiction into the mainstream and prompted mainstream publishers like Harlequin or Kensington start up their Spice or respectively Aphrodisia lines, though Harlequin and Kensington aren’t considered part of the so-called “Big Six” publishers, while Harper Collins is. And before there were Ellora’s Cave and Samhain, there was Black Lace, the erotic imprint of Virgin Books, back in the day when all Virgin Books published were Doctor Who tie-ins and erotica, sometimes written by the same authors under different pen names. The results must have been… interesting to say the least.
Black Lace went defunct just as erotica publishing was heating up in the US, even though I could actually get Black Lace books in German stores, unlike all of the American publishers. The central station bookshop always carried a few Black Lace books, before the revamped it and narrowed the selection down to nothing but a handful of bestsellers. And I once snagged a quite interesting Black Lace erotic gothic romance (cause if there’s two romance subgenres that don’t go together it’s gothic and erotic) from the bargain bin at a Weltbild store of all places, even though Weltbild is owned by the Catholic church and caught some flak over selling erotica (For more on the whole scandal, check this post at the Pegasus Pulp blog). However, it seems as if this latest erotica boom due to Fifty Shades of Grey has also brought Black Lace back from the land of the defunct.
Apart from “Why this book of all possible erotic novels?”, my main reaction to the whole Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon has always been along the lines of “So many women like to read about sex? And this is news?”, combined with “Could this article be anymore condescending? Mommy porn indeed.”
It seems Yvonne Roberts had the same reaction, for at the Guardian she asks what the big uproar is about Fifty Shades of Grey, since explicit novels by women for women are not exactly a new phenomenon. She also wonders why (male) critics are always so incredibly surprised that women are interested in reading about sex.
Talking of condescending articles about the whole Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, this self-proclaimed “field guide for the erotic lit virgin” courtesy of New York Magazine (found via Andrew Wheeler) really takes the cherry, since it manages to be incredibly condescending to the entire romance genre, while providing various info graphics about how well it sells, and somehow manages to combine both sex-free Christian and Amish romances and erotic/BDSM romances under the umbrella label “smut”.