Quit beating on EL James (and leave JK Rowling alone as well)

50Shades

“Trash”

I’m starting to get uncomfortable with the way people, especially wannabe authors, beat on E.L. James.

Most of us write in a genre that somebody else holds in contempt.

How is it that “Mommy Porn” about erotic power and kinky sex is trash, but SF about political power and blowing shit up in space is not trash?

And that Lad Lit  about sex and wangsting over middle age is also not trash?

Honor

“Not trash”

And, how terrible to have chunks of your text taken out of context and snarked at by people who don’t get your genre! Especially if you’ve been writing in 1st person, so that odd metaphors etc are part of characterisation.

high-fidelity-cover

“Also, not trash”

Has anybody who enjoys criticizing EL James’s descriptions of… erm… intimacy actually read DH Lawrence?

And we get something similar with J.K. Rowling.

OMG somebody used similar concepts before! She must be a plagiarist!

They are tropes, moron! It’s what she did with them that mattered.

Harry Potter

“Bloated”

If you demand original tropes, then you can bin just about everything written in every genre. Hell, you can bin Shakespeare, who ripped off Boccaccio half the time.

“Eww. The books get big fat and bloated!”

Are you 12? 14?

Jordon

“Not bloated”

No? Then shut the hell up.

The intended readers, the ones the right age, read her, continue to read her. Many of the adults too,

Also, how come big fat fantasy  series count as not bloated?

Ugh. It’s just a re-skinned public school story.

First, Hogwarts is technically a state boarding school.

JK Rowling house

JK Rowling lived here for a while

Second, some people like school stories. You don’t have to — hell, many of us had such a shitty time at school we find such stories almost triggering — but don’t criticize a book because you don’t like its sub genre. In that light, the Culture books are “just modernized Flash Gordon stuff”, Pride and Prejudice is just a “pre-modern privilege pain narrative”.

Face it!

Both James and Rowling wrote bestsellers that broke out of their genre ghettos, gave people at minimum a few precious hours of escapism and at best inserted new excitement into their lives, sent moms off to explore fantasies, and teens off to find more Fantasy literature.

El James House

EL James now lives here

Surely the fairest test of a book is; “Do people read it, come back for more, and feel its influence later?”

By this measure, these two writers are literary giants.

They both wrote themselves out of obscurity and into rather nice houses, pretty much like Sir Walter Scott did back in the 19th century, and every 20th and 21st century bestselling Thriller and Crime writer has done since.

So is the real problem that women writers are only supposed to get rich by writing serious literature?

Are some people seeing them as letting the side down? And others just seeing them as uppity?

Oranges

“women writers are only supposed to get rich by writing serious literature”

I don’t know.

Me?

When I was a student in Edinburgh, we used to hang out in a coffee shop across the road, the now-defunct Nicolsons.

This was before it was trendy to fictioneer in coffee shops.

I remember a friend saying, “There’s that woman with the kid writing again” and I have this vague recollection of bottle-blond long hair, an untrendy mum-raincoat, a baby buggy and an excercise book.

I’ve been there, writing in the gaps in my life, hunched over a laptop on a train to Glasgow while broad shouldered morons decided to assert their space, or squirreled away in a biker bar at lunchtime, tapping frantically at my second hand keyboard while sipping bad coffee, or doing edits in the park while a child dozed in their pram.

JKR in Niccolsons

“It’s how most of us start. “

It’s how most of us start.  So, me? I wish JK Rowling and EL James all the best. May they enjoy the good fortune that they have earned.

Snark away if you want. Neither writer need care what you think. A mansion is a great comfort blanket.

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6 comments on “Quit beating on EL James (and leave JK Rowling alone as well)
  1. Rick Innis says:

    People don’t beat n EL James for creating mommy porn. They beat on her for creating _badly written_ mommy porn.

    Badly written mommy porn that describes unsafe practices which not if perpetrated by a billionaire would result in criminal charges, not the billionaire, being laid.

    I’ll quit beating on her when she says the safe word. Which in this case would be “sorry”.

    • mharoldpage says:

      We never see James Bond use condoms either.

      There are many many glass houses out there. I find it interesting that people have picked this one to throw stones at.

  2. AWAbooks says:

    Thanks for the insight,

    It does seem strange that most folks read fiction full of death and destruction, yet want to knock James for “mommy porn.” I’ve never read James, and I personally couldn’t get into Rowling, but I was thrilled to have my kids read Potter. I think there’s better things to do with one’s time.

    PS: Just bought Storyteller Tools…looking forward to it!

  3. Geoff Hart says:

    I agree with Rick, but with the caveat that I haven’t actually read 50 Shades (just had a bunch of lines quoted to me by friends): the problem is not the genre or gender of the author, but rather how badly written it was. I’m told that the movie actually improved on the book, and given how badly most directors adapt fiction, that seems an unpromising sign. YMMV, of course. It’s a fool’s game trying to please everyone; best you can do is be true to your own artistic goals for a story and hope that it finds an audience.

    JK Rowling is a whole other story. She doesn’t really do anything new in the Harry Potterverse imho, but she does it so well you don’t care. That’s the mark of a really good author. fwiw, I gave up on the series after the first book. It was an enjoyable read, but I generally don’t enjoy YA stories, and it didn’t rock my world. Given how limited my reading time was and is, I moved on to things that would give me more bang for my buck. My kids loved the stories, and good on her for inspiring them to do more genre reading.

  4. gregm says:

    I’m sure there are people who are slagging on a genre because they don’t like it. That’s closed-minded. A genre fan slagging on something from the genre that’s popular but not actually very good, that’s something to take a little more seriously.

    I compare many things in life to beer. In the States, we’re seeing a growth of craft and microbrew beers but in most restaurants you ask what they have on tap, they’ll tell you they have both kinds of beers, bud and bud light. If you can get a blue moon, that’s something to celebrate. Blue moon is a macro but the labeling and marketing tries to pass it off as a craft belgian wheat. Is it a great example of the style? It’s not the best beer I’ve ever had but it’s dependable, serviceable. It’s certainly not bud or any of that overhopped IPA nonsense.

    Blue moon is a nice alternative. It’s also a bit of a gateway beer. People who “don’t like beer” will dip their toe in with a sip of moon and may even order a whole pint. It can get them into the rarer and more expensive beers. They’ll have a good time with it.

    I tend to count who is making the criticism more importantly than the criticism being leveled. There’s always going to be haters who hate on things because that’s what they do. It’s not instructive. But criticisms from people coming from the same place I am, now that’s something I can work with. “Too much violence!” Not likely to faze me. “Violence written by someone who doesn’t understand it or what point it serves in his book, who is derivative of better books in the genre and who isn’t bringing enough to the table to differentiate himself from his influences,” now that might bear more consideration.

    This is getting long so I’ll wrap with this. You have Weber cited up there. I enjoyed the early HH books as space opera with a little meat. The later series fell to pieces with Honor becoming too Mary Sue, the conservative politics becoming too grating with her domestic opponents all being Frank Miller-style conniving liberals who have livers of lily and the hearts of cowards, and the stories became overblown and almost self-parody. That’s not coming from someone who never liked the series, it’s coming from someone who enjoyed where it started but not where it went.

    • mharoldpage says:

      Yes. I think there are probably legitimate criticisms of ELJ, and of JKR , but “Eww – look I found something out of context how does this crap get published?” is not.

      And yes, I agree re Honor Harrington, though my main issue was with bloat.

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