When Is It Okay To Be a Bully?

When it comes to “50 Shades of Grey” and EL James, apparently, anytime.

There seems to be a real phenomena of hatred for this book and the author’s skills. Honestly, I’m troubled by the amount of impassioned vitriol I’ve encountered for this woman and her work, but seeing this finally made me want to speak out:


Nothing against the tweeter–he seemed to be merely saying, “Wow, someone really went to a lot of trouble to dissuade folks from reading this book.” But EL James is a fellow author, and a human being, and this kind of note placed in front of her books is just plain bullying. If this was my book, I can’t imagine how hurtful this would be to see.

As an erotic romance author I feel like I have to keep it a secret that I loved 50 SOG, lest I be judged as having no skill or taste myself due to this outspoken criticism. (*Obviously*…I mean if I loved *that* book, then what does it say about me as a novelist? Right??)

I’m particularly troubled that a large portion of this criticism comes from people who’ve never read the book. To me that feels like rating a recipe as “It Sucked!!” based on only reading the list of ingredients and making a judgement. Totally not helpful.

Was it the best-written book I’ve ever read? No, but then 99.9% of them aren’t. Did that really matter to me in the end? No. I read books for the characters and the story, and when it came to this book, I truly, truly enjoyed it. At its heart 50 SOG is successful because it’s a tragic love story–star-crossed lovers who want to be together but can’t, for seemingly unfixable and hopeless reasons. It just so happens that Christian and Ana’s reasons are not their parents, or war, or social standing, or that he’s a vampire and she’s a human, or whatever other trope you could fill in here. In their case he’s a fucked up guy hooked on dominance and BDSM gear, and she’s…young, naïve, vanilla and really out of her element. They can’t accept each other, but neither of them can change their true nature either. Yet they are miserable without one another. That’s a good story.

I wish we could do better as a community of supporting her as a fellow author. I know it’s likely a very small, vocal minority that’s causing what seems to be a broad-sweeping message, but maybe if some of us simply said, “Hey, I liked the book(s),” maybe that would at least help even things out.

So here’s me admitting it. And I can’t wait for the movie!!!

Did you like 50 Shades of Grey? Admit it in the comments!


  1. Nope. Although my biggest issue with it isn’t the writing, or the unrealistic depiction of BDSM, it’s the intellectual property theft. 50SoG is Twilight fanfic with the serial numbers filed off, that EL James somehow managed to publish as her own work.

    I don’t think Twilight is the greatest work of literature under the sun either, but at least Stephanie Meyer wrote it herself.

    • Thanks for chiming in, CJ! So this whole theft of IP thing is something I hear a lot, and it particularly interests me because in real life I AM an intellectual property lawyer! And I don’t specialize in patents. I specialize in copyrights and trademarks, so this is right up my alley. And I can honestly say the reason 50SoG caught my attention in the first place is because it started as fanfic, and I, along with most everyone else, went, “Huh? How can she publish that??” So I looked into it and thought about it…

      Here’s where I came out on the issue: While I think it would have made a fascinating case and I kinda wish Stephanie would have sued just so we could see how it played out, because there are obviously good arguments from Stephanie’s side of things, I think it’s ultimately a losing case. And one of the reasons I’m so sure of that is that Stephanie did NOT sue. From a business standpoint, if she could have stood to claim a portion of the proceeds of 50SoG (or ALL of them) for herself because EL James built off Stephanie’s work to make those profits in the first place, then it would have made sense to pursue the case. But she didn’t. It’s not like she didn’t think of it–the whole world was screaming copyright infringement.

      The case was so unique because there was CLEAR evidence of the “inspiration” from Twilight–I mean the characters were originally named Bella and Edward! And in copyright law, if the infringement is done knowingly, you can collect triple damages by law! If it were a winning case, Stephanie could have been entitled to a hell of a lot of money. So the clear fanfic aspect is fascinating from a legal standpoint, but in the end, to win a copyright lawsuit you have to have infringed in some way that is very, very similar to the original work (that’s not the technical test, but in layman’s terms…) and ultimately, regardless of how it began its life, 50SoG in its published form bears almost NO RESEMBLANCE WHATSOEVER to Twilight, and that fact would have lost the case. And when I, as both a lawyer and an author, look at Twilight versus 50SoG, I see heavy inspiration but I honestly don’t see that it rises to the level of IP theft. At least, that’s my professional opinion. 🙂

      • Thanks for your response, Piper. I defer to your expert opinion as to what would have been winnable in court, but to me as a layman the whole thing still smells rather fishy.

        • So I jumped to the legal argument (my training kicking in) but if it *feels* like IP theft to you and that’s *why* you are anti-50SoG, then the legal argument doesn’t mean shit!

          I think what you’re saying is, it rubs you the wrong way, and you only like to be rubbed the right way…right? 😉

          • Yup. It frosts my ass that she was so lucratively rewarded for taking what feels like a cheaty short-cut, when there are so many authors out there busting their butts writing stories with original characters based in original worlds and not doing nearly as well from it.

            Write fanfic to hone your craft. Plenty of others have trod that path before. But don’t try to publish it.

            Oh, and I love being rubbed the right way. 🙂

          • I get it. You make some very good points!

            But most importantly, thank god we found a way to smut this blog post up!

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