Another Fifty Shades of Grey Discussion

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”.

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7 Responses to Another Fifty Shades of Grey Discussion

  1. Estara says:

    And then a lot of the Black Lace authors have gone into e-publishing houses or into self-publishing. I think Emma Holly is the only one who went really successful to one of the big publishers (but she’s also rereleasing older titles on her own on the side – ARe has the Crimson City shared paranormal world – which previously came out from a print publisher – and quite a few authors are rereleasing their entries and adding short stories set there – I do miss my favourite – Marjorie M. Liu’s novel).
    I’ve come across Portia da Costa and Lisabet Sarai, but I bet other BL authors are out there, too.

    • Cora says:

      Portia da Costa is definitely self-publishing these days – I’ve seen her post in the writers’ area on the Kindleboards from time to time.

      There’s quite a few writers who started out with erotica publishers and went on to one of the big publishers, Cheyenne McCray and Mary Janice Davidson are two examples. But Emma Holly is the only Black Lace author to make the jump into big publishing that I know of.

      Thanks for the tip regarding the Crimson City series. I have the print editions of some of the books (Liz Maverick’s and Patti O’Shea’s entries), but I never had the whole series and since they were published by Dorchester, they’ve vanished into the ether by now.

  2. stfg says:

    ‘really takes the cherry’

    Did you mean that pun? 🙂

    I am someone who never read erotica, or even much romance. I’ve started reading fanfiction over the past several years though and enjoy it very much. It’s my impression that the easy availability of fanfiction has broadened the audience for erotica and that the publishing of Fifty Shades of Grey is just bringing that more mainstream.

    I have had two people this month independently ask me if I have read Fifty Shades of Grey, which never happens with regular erotica. One of those people is a friend who I would guess reads fewer than five books a year. She loved Twilight and The Hunger Games. She was reading Fifty Shades of Grey and couldn’t believe what she was reading. She says she was blushing so hard that her husband asked her what was wrong. She like the book very much and continued to read it, but it was clearly not typical of previous books she had read.

    • Cora says:

      Would you believe, that pun was entirely unintentional? 😉

      I definitely think that the easy availability of fanfiction has also contributed to the increasing mainstream acceptance of erotica. The popularity of m/m erotica is largely due to fanfiction – because if not for the popularity of slash very few people would have guessed that many women like to read about two men getting it on (though it’s really rather obvious). Besides, even my Mom knows what slash is these days and German TV crime dramas insert deliberately slashy moments into the script. And though the fanfiction origins of Fifty Shades of Grey have been downplayed by most of the mainstream news articles on the series, a people of people do know.

      Germany has been spared the Fifty Shades of Grey hype so far, probably because it takes a couple of months to translate a pretty thick book like that. But we already had our own massive erotica media phenomenon (sans fanfic link, unfortunately) with Charlotte Roche’s confessional erotica Feuchtgebiete/Wetlands and Schossgebete/Prayers from the crotch and again plenty of people read those books who mainly read bestsellers and those books everybody talks about and were consequently shocked, especially as Roche’s erotica is of the icky sort with lots of bodily fluids.

      Come to think of it, when I was a child, I remember my grandma all up in arms about Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, since it was such a dirty book. In fact, that’s probably why I never have any problems recalling author and title of that pioneering work of explicit literature – because kids always take note, when something is said to be dirty. There was another book that had my grandmother up in arms for its shocking dirtiness, a historical romance called Die Löwin von San Marco (The lioness of San Marco) by a German author.

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