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on 20 January 2013
As an author of erotica, I admit that my first response to the phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey was envy. Not necessarily, "Why her and not me?" More along the lines of, "Why her and not one of us?" Because, believe it or not, erotica authors existed before E.L. James and her fanfic of Stephanie Myers Twilight Series gobsmacked the world and created a niche even more irritating than "chicklit." That niche is "mommyporn."

I read Fifty Shades of Grey It's the story of a naïve virgin who falls helplessly in love with a young, gorgeous, billionaire who somewhat inexplicably falls equally hard for her. But he's a Dominant and she isn't particularly attracted to the world of BDSM. She's just attracted to him. Christian Grey needs to Dominate because he was abused as a child, first by his crack whore Mom and then by an adult female friend of his Stepmother. Anastasia Steele has to submit to punishment because she's in love with Christian and the only way he knows how to have sex is to cause pain.

Here we have two situations that are considered no-no's in the world of erotica publishing. BDSM can be used to heal victims of abuse but it isn't (shall I say "wasn't"?) a popular plot line with editors. Similarly editors, in the main, prefer their submissive protagonists to be, if not eager, at least "horrified but thrilled" and not just plain horrified.

Finally, all the editors I've ever worked with like to buy well-written erotica, and Fifty Shades of Grey is not very well written.

So this collection of opinions on the Fifty Shades trilogy intrigued me. I was not disappointed. In the Introduction, editor Lori Perkins gets right to the point. "Some have wondered how a `classic' can be so 'poorly written.' But I contend that it is not poorly written, but rather written in an everywoman's voice, a necessary part of its success."

Holy Crap! Does this mean I should dumb down my writing to attract fans?

Perkins goes on to say, "I hope Fifty Shades will be the tip of a rather large iceberg of erotic empowerment. And I hope that these books will usher in a publishing tidal wave of female-centered, commercially successful erotica, giving women a new voice for sexual, political and financial choices. It's what we should've had all along."

But, I sputter, we have had it all along. My own novel, Sarah's Education, is about a naive virgin and an older Dominant man. Mind you he's not a billionaire and she's not surprisingly stupid, given that she's about to graduate from university . . . but still . . . it's not like E.L. James created anything new. Nor, I hasten to add, did I.

What about Story Of O? Happily, after a quick sexy set up by M.J. Rose, that very question is addressed by Tiffany Reisz, who compares the scandal in Paris in 1954, when O was published, to the 50 Shades scandal taking place right now. There is truth to this analogy and that means I have to stop and think.

Yes, Fifty Shades is nothing new but the fact that women everywhere are talking about a BDSM fantasy trilogy is.

And so Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey takes off.

It's taken me a long time to write this review, because while each piece is rather short, the rumination that follows is not.

M. Christian is the first erotica author to appear in the book and the first to address what all erotica authors are thinking about, even if most aren't willing to admit it: the money.

But this isn't a book for writers, or for readers who loved Fifty Shades of Grey, or for readers who hated it. This, like the trilogy it's about, is for everyone.

It's a fascinating, extremely well-organized, diverse and deeply thought provoking collection of non-fiction essays on the trilogy that has shaken the world of erotica like an earthquake. And the aftershocks just keep on coming. M. Christian calls Fifty Shades a "game changer" and he's right. The rules of the erotica genre have been toppled like so many knick knacks.

As Rachel Kramer Bussel points out, "Women are not simply `soaking up' this message, but analyzing it, debating it, discussing it, with their friends, family member and lovers."

This book is important, I think, to inform the debate.

I have to admit I was happy to see, among the Phds, historians, and Doctors the hilarious send-up I first read on Laura Antoniou's blog, a little piece she penned called Fifty Shades of Holy Crap!

It made me feel better to know that at least one other erotica author was willing to go on record as irritated by the runaway success of the trilogy, not because it isn't her success or even the success of one of her colleagues, but because the trilogy isn't that good. Somewhere in Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Gray is the comment that I've heard more than any other from women who are not writers: "I read all three, although after the first I didn't enjoy the story very much."

Why keep reading if the experience isn't enjoyable?

Maybe the answer can be found in Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey

As for me, I'm going to do what I announced on Laura Antoniou's blog: I'm going to write fanfic of Fifty Shades of Grey but I'm going to make Christian and Ana into vampires! Holy Double crap!! I'm gonna be famous!

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VINE VOICEon 1 January 2013
I have no desire to read Fifty Shades of Grey but it's in the media and social media so much at the moment that you can't escape it. I am really interested to see what people think of Fifty Shades of Grey and that's the reason I decided to read this book. Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey does exactly what it says on the tin. Fifty authors share their thoughts about the book. Some love it, some hate it, some are indifferent, but many people acknowledge that it's done a lot to bring sex into the public forum. A debate on whether or not it's done good things in bringing BDSM into the public forum is a different matter.

One thing that I really enjoyed about the book was that it really did showcase different opinions across a wide spectrum of people. Authors, counsellors, a lawyer, publishing insiders, sex industry insiders. This was a very comprehensive look at what has become the title on everyone's lips.

There are a couple of things that come up as clear concerns when reading this volume. One is that James has brought sex into the public forum. Not that we didn't talk about sex but it is now apparently acceptable to talk about being tied up while having your manicure. However, this book has also brought BDSM into that same forum and James comes under some considerable criticism for

1. Getting some technical details wrong that could actually make techniques dangerous if copied by beginners to BDSM

2. Inferring that the only reason Christian Grey is really interested in BDSM is because of a troubled past making him a damaged man, thereby making this seem unhealthy (great press for it!)

3. Equally inferring that if Ana is able to fix him his desire for BDSM will abate

I'm not here to do a critique of Fifty Shades of Grey. That would be unfair about a book I have not read. However, the fact that these criticisms came up more than once during the volume is concerning. Another concern which appears more than once is that somehow Christian Grey's stalkerish behaviour during the course of the novel is portrayed as sexy. Yes, we can argue that it is fictional and fantasy but there are concerns. Given how many copies of the book have now been sold, some people may come to think that this is acceptable behaviour, that this is a sign of love and not something more sinister and controlling.

However, another point repeatedly made is that without this book it may not have become so acceptable to buy erotic fiction, read erotic fiction, talk about erotic fiction and talk about sex. In that respect many people acknowledge that James has done a great thing with this genre, even if they don't all accept that the book is good or good writing, they accept that it has got people talking, buying and reading erotic fiction.

So has reading Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey made me inclined to read it myself? No. But it certainly was fascinating. Perhaps it would be fair to read Fifty Shades of Grey and then I could base my opinion on the book rather than this book but the words of fifty authors and countless others have yet to convince me. This volume, however, is an excellent read.

**Copy received from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.**
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on 3 July 2015
Interesting perspectives on vanilla BDSM. Dip in and out of it.
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