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Blockbuster 'Fifty Shades' books started as fan fiction, now have fanfic of their very own
NEW YORK (AP) ' Not all that long ago E L James was Snowqueens Icedragon, cranking out her sexed-up "Twilight" fan fiction online.
Well, faster than you can shriek your safe word, her kinky "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy has fanfic of its very own in the same place where she first serialized her story under a different title.
"I'm immensely flattered, and it's humbling to know my work is inspiring others to write," James said in a statement less than three months after "Fifty Shades" was published by Vintage Books and climbed to the top of best-seller lists.
The writings range from parody to otherworldy to crossovers into other book worlds like "Harry Potter." Some is barely discernible in style from James's three ' often the point in fanfic ' advancing time or pushing it back with new imaginings of her story and characters.
Fan fiction for "Twilight" remains among the most popular at FanFiction.net, James's former home, with nearly 200,000 contributions there, behind only Potter for books. The number for James's three is growing, but still well under 50.
The irony of all of that hasn't been lost on some of the writers and reviewers on FanFiction.net, the largest gathering place for largely anonymous fanfic writers. Asked one on the site: "How absurd is it to write fanfics OF fanfics?"
No more or less absurd than the concept of fan fiction, which stretches back at least to the early 1900s and the stories of Sherlock Holmes, said Anne Jamison, an English professor at the University of Utah who taught a unit on the "Twilight" fandom.
"There was fan fiction before you called it fan fiction," she said, "and before there was copyright it was called writing."
In more recent years but before the rise of the Internet, the early "Star Trek" series helped boost the popularity of fanfic. It exists today online for numerous TV shows, movies, comic books, plays and games, done in many genres and much of it with big fat disclaimers declaring it's all just for fun.
When James was still back in "Twilight" fandom toiling on her "Master of the Universe," beginning in mid-2009, she received anywhere from nearly 40,000 to nearly 60,000 comments on FanFiction.net. That's an immense number then and now, propelling her stardom.
The London mother and TV producer eventually moved the story to its own website, reworked it with non-"Twilight" names and signed on with a small Australian company known for plucking and publishing fan fiction for e-book and print-on-demand hard copy.
Vintage, a literary imprint of Random House, snatched up the rights after the buzz began building, paying seven figures for the bondage erotica and leading James to a movie deal with Universal Pictures and Focus Features.
Sales for the trilogy are at 10 million and counting across formats, Vintage said Tuesday.
Jamison dived into the "Twilight" fandom with her students in the summer of 2010 at a time of derision for James in the community, largely over her crossing from the "just for fun" part to the cashing in part.
While it's not unprecedented for writers to publish fanfic, "There is this whole network predicated on not having any sales," Jamison said. "It was a huge rift in the fandom."
To many fanfic writers, the point is to honor the original work, drawing on the existing characters and stories. It's unclear whether telling the "Fifty Shades" story from the point of view of a tampon, as one fic does, is tribute or a not-so-subtle message for James.
Other "Fifty Shades" undertakings are written by fans who already miss the stories or just wanted to provide a laugh. Lucia Paul, writing as Nancy O'Toole, falls into the latter category with her "Fifty Shades of Flannel."
The freelance writer in Minneapolis, a 49-year-old mom of two, has Anastasia Steele's mother as protagonist in a Lanz nightgown as she galavants with the young, rich and hunky Christian Grey, cutting her sleepwear into sexy outfits for his pleasure.
"This beguiling satyr of a man! He knows the ways of Lanz: the ballooning illusion of comfort that hides a roiling sea of passion. So few understand. So few will ever know."
Paul isn't much of a "Twilight" fan and read only the first of James's books. "Then I saw her on the 'Today' show and I liked her, but I still thought, 'Gosh, I've got to make fun of this.' I love writing humorous pieces."
The "Fifty Shades" books chronicle the hyperactive sex life and love story of the damaged Grey and the innocent Steele from her perspective, soon after they meet when she interviews him for her college newspaper.
"I'm learning how to write naughty. It's not so easy. You have to break down your own shield. You have to open yourself up to write naughty," said 60-something aspiring fiction writer Nancy Hartmann in Gillette, N.J. Her "50 plus 15" story has Grey seducing one of his teen daughter's teachers.
Some of the people reading and creating "Fifty Shades" fanfic haven't read the books, or have barely read the first one but appreciate the stories as an extension of their true love, the four-book "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer.
The rapid publication of all three "Fifty Shades" books has other fans in withdrawal and seeking more ' even if it's not the real deal.
Sara Eberhart, a 22-year-old college student in Athens, Ga., considers herself a "Fifty Shades" fan, with qualifications, and is also following a few of the stories on FanFiction.net.
"James's writing style is weak and pedestrian and there can be much improvement and I think that's what all of the fanfic writers are sensing and consequently writing their own version of," said Eberhart, who hopes to be a published author someday.
"But when I do start trying," she added, "it won't be my fanfic that I would be sending out to publishers."