The Washington Post

Sherlock Holmes is to thank for Fifty Shades of Grey?

The cover of "Fifty Shades of Grey," by E L James. (AP/AP)

A video from PBS’s Idea Channel outlines a connection between the world-famous fictional detective (at the heart of an increasingly popular BBC television show airing on — where else? — PBS) and the “Twilight”-series fan’s risque yet wildly popular novel.

It’s no secret that James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” was based on the fan fiction that she wrote about “Twilight” characters Bella and Edward. By changing the names and a few plot points, James created a new piece of work, avoiding lawsuits and, in the process, surpassing “Harry Potter” and “The DaVinci Code” as the fastest-selling book of all time.

Here’s the connection between Sherlock Holmes and Fifty Shades of Grey, at least as the PBS video oulines it: When Doyle killed off the detective, he left a number of fans with the opportunity to pick up where he left off, prompting them to write their own fan fiction — long before E.L. James started writing fictional “Twilight” tales. PBS explores a point that has been addressed by Washington Post blogger Dominic Basulto: Fan fiction is not new, but the ideas, scenarios and characters presented by widely distributed storytellers are rich soil for the seeds of others’ imaginations.

E L James, author of the "Shades of Grey" trilogy. (Michael Lionstar)

“If the book says anything, it’s life’s not a dress rehearsal,” she said. “Just go and do stuff. I’m trying to embrace that.”

So, when someone asks you why you’re wasting your time writing about other people’s characters, who knows, you may just be writing the next bestseller.

After all, “Fifty Shades of Sherlock” has a certain ring to it, right?

Oh, nevermind.

(Thanks to Explore for bringing this to my attention.)

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Emi Kolawole is the editor-in-residence at Stanford University's, where she works on media experimentation and design.



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