We Should Be More Outraged That Someone Is Publishing A Fifty Shades Of Grey Fanfic As An Original Novel

Fifty Shades of Grey The Darkest Shade Devil's Brand Casea Major Ana Christian Casea Major

A few months ago, we uncovered the Fifty Shades of Grey section on Fanfiction.net, which was soul-destroying enough: This Twilight fanfic had its own fanbase who wrote new adventures for Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele? It was like Inception with bad erotica. At the time, we joked about what if one of these fics reached the same notoriety as Fifty Shades, never guessing that we were actually predicting the bleak future of publishing.

One of my Twilight fandom tipsters directed me toward a new novel called Devil’s Brand, coming out in October of this year. At first glance, it seems to merely be inspired by E.L. James‘ bestseller with its questionable BDSM and lip-biting heroine. In fact, this protagonist Marci Lowe sounds like she might have some more agency than Anastasia since she’s a bankrupt heiress, so at one point in her old life she was maybe successful? Here’s the whole synopsis of what author Casea Major calls The Divine Portion Series:

When an old friend offers heiress on the run, Marci Lowe, a temp job working as the personal assistant to the reclusive banking magnate, Devon Brand, she jumps at the chance. At first, the opportunity seems like a dream come true, but Marci finds more than just mystery behind the locked doors of the charismatic man’s company.

Brand offers her a permanent position and, it seems, a place in his bed. But it soon becomes clear that what she first believed to be an indecent offer is something entirely different. He is something entirely different…

As his sinister nature is revealed, Marci’s life is sent into a tailspin and everything she believed about the world—and herself—is shaken to the foundations.

Now, she must unlock the secrets of her past and decide if she can align with the man she loves in an ancient war where they will stand in the coming battle between hell and all that is holy.

Here’s where I might be starting to lose you, where you think, So what if there’s a brooding businessman with a taste for BDSM? That’s not my Christian Grey. Wrong. Devil’s Brand began its life as The Darkest Shade, a Fifty Shades fanfic. Casea Major has of course deleted it from Fanfiction.net, but a quick Google search brings up this results page:

Fifty Shades of Grey The Darkest Shade Devil's Brand Casea Major Fanfiction.net Christian Anastasia

Click to enlarge. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t really cache anymore beyond a screenshot, but if you squint you can read the first few lines of The Darkest Shade Chapter 6, which matches up exactly with Devil’s Brand Chapter 6 on Casea’s blog (NSFW, as if I had to tell you by now). That’s right, she’s printed most of the book on her blog—and better yet, she’s actually tagged it as “Fifty Shades of Grey” and written in the headline “Welcome Fan Fic Friends”! Casea seems to have no qualms about acknowledging her novel’s origin as a piece of fanfiction. Making things even more confusing is that Casea also has the novel listed on her NaNoWriMo profile, presumably from National Novel Writing Month 2011 where she completed only 20,000 of the 50,000 words. But if she didn’t change any of the details from the fic, how are we to believe that she wrote anything new for Devil’s Brand?

Devil's Brand The Darkest Shade Fifty Shades of Grey Casea MajorThe worst part is, it sounds like Casea has really come full circle and gone back to invoking Twilight with this “ancient war” and battle between heaven and hell mentioned in the blurb. A major argument in Fifty Shades‘ favor is that it’s not really fanfiction since E.L. James excised all of the supernatural elements from Bella and Edward’s relationship. (Of course, my argument is always going to be that readers automatically knew to read Christian and Ana’s dom/sub affair as Edward’s unwillingness to have sex with Bella. But I digress.)

So, here’s where we get into the hairy stuff. From the excerpts I’ve skimmed — it’s pretty awful, and not hot — I can gather that sometime in the last year or so Casea Major wrote a Fifty Shades AU (alternate universe) fanfic reimagining Anastasia Steele as a disgraced heiress instead of a hapless college senior. Christian Grey is still a business mogul, but now it’s banking. (Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what he did in the original, and it’s not relevant since readers care about him with his snazzy suits off, not on.) Anastasia is still in a submissive position to Christian, but in this story she’s not his only partner. The excerpts start at Chapter 6, but my impression is that Christian asks Ana to join his little harem of women in the “Dark Room,” one of whom is named Louise and administers her own paddlings of other women. In the last chapter Casea has shared with us, Ana has a vibrating butt plug in but decides that it’s below her standards to let Louise paddle her.

Fifty Shades of Grey The Darkest Shade Devil's Brand Casea Major Ana Christian

Oh, maybe at this point I should start using the characters’ new names, Marci and Devon. But seriously, she hasn’t changed a word from the original fanfic. So now readers know to read Marci/Devon in the context of Ana/Christian, which is itself Bella/Edward. SIGH. I just don’t understand why writers can’t take the extra effort to craft original characters instead of just changing the names over and over. And it’s not like Casea is inexperienced! Her Amazon page reveals that she’s published three erotic novels in the last year.

I love fanfiction. I think it’s a vital tool for any writer too shy or intimidated to write wholly original characters and plot on his/her first go. But eventually you have to take off the training wheels. To try and generate profit and/or a fanbase from someone else’s characters is lazy and dishonest. Even if it doesn’t make any money, fanfiction should stay online and not be printed like a real book.

No comment yet from E.L. James.

Photos: someecards

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    • OtotheA

      “I love fanfiction. I think it’s a vital tool for any writer too shy or
      intimidated to write wholly original characters and plot on his/her
      first go. But eventually you have to take off the training wheels. To
      try and generate profit and/or a fanbase from someone else’s characters
      is lazy and dishonest. Even if it doesn’t make any money, fanfiction
      should stay online and not be printed like a real book.”

      Quoted for absolute truth. This is basic ethics and decency 101. I can’t believe so many people are lacking it.

      And the myopic people who can’t see the similarities between Twilight and FSoG beyond “lyke oMG there are NO VAMPYRES!!!11!! IT’S SO NOT THE SAME!1!” make me want to harm kittens. All it takes is a tiny bit of active reading.

      • Lo

        I partly disagree. Some people do use fanfiction as a writing exercise, but it’s not all ‘training wheels’. Some fanfic comes from authors who are already published. Some of it comes from writers who have skill to rival the original author’s. Just about all of it can be put down to people looking at a story and wondering, “What if?”

        That’s the draw of fanfiction: it gives readers the opportunity to explore the potential of a story in whichever way they want. It can be bone-chillingly awful, or a quality expansion of the source material.

        None of this means that it’s right to profit from plagiarism, or that Fifty Shades has any redeeming qualities beyond unintentional humour. I’m writing this reply mostly because Fifty Shades is as good a representation of fanfic as Twilight is of original writing.

      • OtotheA

        I agree with that part. I have read fan fiction that is so much better than the source material I want to cry at the injustice. No, not everyone goes into writing fanfic simply for honing their craft. I know too many people to count right now who are working on original fiction as well as writing fan fiction because they enjoy it so much.

        But in terms of parlaying fan fiction into an actual career in writing it should be no more than practice. Write original fiction and publish that but it is absolutely not okay to publish and charge money for one’s fan fiction. Even if it’s “rewritten”. Someone else’s IP was used and it is the very rare instance that a fic is completely divorced from the source material but in name only. I’m tired of people using that as an excuse because it’s just not true. They haven’t paid attention to what they’re reading. “To try and generate profit and/or a fanbase from someone else’s characters is lazy and dishonest.” Regardless of intention or quality, this will always be 100% true of *any* fanfic.

      • Lo

        Yeah, that’s what I was saying re: plagiarism. Fifty Shades is such obvious fanwork that I’d be livid if it were making money on the back of anything but Twilight. (As it is, I’m rather annoyed that it kept the Twilight stuff in the public eye). If it had stayed non-profit, no problem.

      • Kara

        Some books ARE fanfiction — just look at all the Star Trek novels! But the difference is that they still carry the real names of the characters, and have been sanctioned by the people who own Star Trek. If E.L. James had given her permission for this to be published as an Ana/Grey book it would be entirely different. Of course, she would never, because this fanfic really has NO canon at all with the original 50 Shades plot.

      • Kimmie

        I tried reading Twilight – hated it. So I don’t see any similarities between 50 and Twilight. I know the characters share similar looks and personaility characteristics – but so what? Even some of the peripheral characters are the same. But the story is vastly different, IMO – there is nothing supernatural abuot it, the characters are older and the issues facing them are different and while it is crappy writing, it is not written for teens as Twilight was. I was surprised how much I liked 50, crappy writing and all – seems to me like she used Twilight as a springboard to her own story – nothing unethical about it. Believe it or not, most people, before this came out, had never heard of Fan Fiction (most still have no idea what it is or where to find it). And even if what she did might be construed as wrong – she’s probably Mea Culpa-ing it all the way to the bank.

      • http://twitter.com/HowAboutICutYou Residuum

        That’s because you have the reading comprehension of a 6 year old.

      • Kara

        I also don’t see the similary between Twilight and 50 Shades regarding 50 Shades being a fanfiction of Twilight… of course, I never could bear to read the Twilight novels themselves because they’re so godawful. At least E.L. James can write slightly better.

      • Norah Black

        It’s called Alternate Universe for a reason. AU is just a part of fanfiction. There is really nothing wrong with wanting to make money or lacking originality, but you don’t feed off other people’s success. A truly creative person, whether a writer or an artist, someone true to themselves should feel *disgusted* when they find themselves doing what E.L. did. I know I would, and I know other people who would too. And that’s how I know James isn’t a true writer. There’s a nice thick visible line between fanfiction/paying homage to this fucked upness

    • Lo

      Maybe in a couple of books’ time we can plagiarize our way back to Twilight, and then all the shitty writing will be contained in a neat little loop.

    • http://twitter.com/VanessaELeigh Vanessa Leigh

      As an author and former fanfic author, i can tell you I am disgusted by EL James. she is not a real author and she should be shunned from the publishing world. If I was Meyer I would sue EL James, then I would sue the publishers and make them give me every penny they made of those books. E.L James deserves this, she stole from Stephenie Meyer and now someone stole from her. KARMA!

      I used fanfiction as writing practice and it helped me in writing my own stories and English books so much, the improvement is significantly. After what James has done it’s no wonder authors are suddenly revoking their permission of fanfiction, and why others won’t allow it I wouldn’t blame them. At this point I feel like one of those authors who won’t allow fanfiction after what’s she’s done. i agree with what someone said, if i was stephenie meyer i’d be like b****** get your own freaking characters and stories

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    • Guest

      The Twilight fanfiction story wasn’t anything like Twilight. I read some of it and soon lost interest because I like the Twilight fanfiction, not fanfiction that’s obviously a story with the names of the Twilight characters plugged in. I won’t be buying and reading
      50 Shades of Grey. This storywriter just used the popularity of Twilight to get an audience for her nonTwilight genre. I don’t think it’s that much different than luring me here to Crushable with essays about Twilight related events and people.

      If I were an author, I wouldn’t be ok with people using my work to write derivative fanfiction, unless I had no intention of writing anything else like that particular work. I wonder how it will play out now, with fanfiction authors claiming copyright to their “original plots” but not to the Twilight characters or to Twilight plots. This seems to be a cloudy area in copyright law. So, for instance, if there were to be a Twilight TV series, how would the copyrights work out if the writers used a plot already used in fanfiction? Since there are thousands of fanfiction stories that are really Twilight fanfiction, not just character names plugged in, I guess the copyright lawyers will have to read them all just to find out what’s already been written.

    • Oh the LULZ

      Karma. That is all.

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    • fang

      i hate everything oh my fricking god

    • quix

      Huh. So someone took a book, tweaked it, and created a new series. So an idea or character was copied from a pre-existing piece of fiction! So a major fictional relationship has roots in another work!?

      How dare EL James do something so blatantly original as stealing!

      Oh wait… no, this is happening every day, every way. Take a class and discover that there is nothing original out there any more. This isn’t news to the majority of readers – it is a very known issue.

      I should rather think we give congrats to EL James for being successful where millions of others are unsuccessful. Doesn’t matter if you don’t like it, it’s still a feat.

      • taylor

        Didn’t see this before I posted. Amen, sister!

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    • Taylor

      I disagree. Writers are ‘inspired’ by other writers all the time. Shakespeare borrowed other people’s stories, so did Homer; they just wrote them better than anybody else. Musicians cover and sample and outright steal chord changes and riffs all the time and most people are too clueless to notice. Just because somebody chooses to publicise something as fan fiction first, for whatever reason, does not mean it’s not their work. I don’t understand why people get so pressed over someone wanting to get paid to write.

      Stephanie Meyers did not write Fifty Shades of Grey and its pretty obvious that the reason she won’t sue is because the stories are significantly disparate.

      I love fan fiction. I don’t really read it anymore, but I do think this Fifty Shades fic is quite witty and beautifully written:

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