Web personality Lindsay Ellis, best known as the Nostalgia Chick, and her sidekick Nella are on a mission. They want to write the next blockbuster awful romance science fiction novel, and they want you, the citizens of the internet, to help. Their search for ideas is the basis of their new Blip.tv web series “Fifty Shades of Green.” Inspired by the myriad of chick-lit fiction littering bookstores such as the “Twilight” series, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and the many vampire romance knockoffs, they are hoping that their crowdsourced novel will also find similar success.
We caught up with Ellis to get her thoughts on which fanfiction is the worst, why awful romance novels sell and what she and Nella hope for during the course of “Fifty Shades of Green.” Below is an NMR exclusive first look at the first episode of “Fifty Shades of Green”:
Since you and Nella are inspired by awful knockoffs of “Twilight” and “50 Shades of Grey,” what has been the worst fanfiction you have ever read?
Lindsay Ellis: Nella and I share a deep, abiding love of bad fanfiction. Hell we met through bad fanfiction when we were about fifteen and have remained close friends ever since. We’ve run across many over the years, although one of our personal favorites is an erotic take on the Persephone myth that starred the Disney version of Hades. You know, James Woods as Hades. And was also somehow a musical (despite being a fanfic). It was beautifully awkward, impossible to look away from.
Why do you think these types of romance novels are successful? How do you think these authors sell these books in “a bad way”?
We think that these books appeal to the very worst in women. You see in film and rom coms, they usually follow the “Pride and Prejudice” model; more and more, romance novels have been using the “Wuthering Heights” model with the brooding, borderline abusive male lead (or straight up abusive in the case of “50 Shades of Grey”). So we have an abusive male lead romanticized in a way that we’re supposed to find appealing, and the female leads are just awful, awful people with no self respect and no respect for anyone else. I’ve read many romance novels before that follow a similar rubric, but I feel like it really says something about us that “50 Shades” was the breakthrough erotica of the new millenium. Same for “Twilight” and paranormal romance, for that matter.
This of course doesn’t even begin to chip into the fact that more and more erotic fanfictions are being published as original fiction, to the point where it’s becoming a market in its own right. And while Nella and I have always been happy for fanfiction writers who made the transition, this certainly was not what we had in mind …
Tell us what every episode of “50 Shades of Green” will entail.
Basically every episode will be three parts; in one we’ll talk about some aspect of the modern erotic/paranormal/whatever romance novel (for instance, the self-hating female protagonist, the paper-thin supporting character, the possessive, abusive male lead, etc.), we’ll talk about some tweets or comments that people gave us that we thought were funny or good talking points, and then we’ll give the viewers the next talking points to respond to. Once the writing process starts (and we’ll hire some viewers to help us ghostwrite), we’ll share some of the fruits of our labor. Further down the road we’ll also go out of our little set and talk to some industry professionals to tell us what sells these days, and why.
Why are you documenting this crowdsourcing effort through Blip.com as opposed to just telling people on your website?
Video with Blip is our primary medium, and us actually sitting down and talking to each other we thought would make for good entertainment. The goal here is to create a comedy show, to satirize a trend by using the collective wit of our viewers to recreate it, and I think using the talk show setup and distributing it through Blip will be both the most entertaining and give us the greatest reach.
What is so romantic about making the next blockbuster paranormal erotic romance novel?
I’d say money is pretty romantic; I’m sure E. L. James would agree. But honestly, these books are endlessly fascinating to us as women with no interest in them save from an anthropological perspective. “50 Shades” especially, which is being heralded as the second coming of female sexuality, and we have a hard time seeing it as anything other than a “How Not To” guide for relationships. So due to that fascination, we feel like the best way to understand stories like these and the women who love them is to create one of our own.
Are you anticipating that this crowdsourced novel will have every genre imaginable you think of?
It very well could! Though I doubt it. I’m very partial to anything sci-fi, but it looks like the publishing industry is very, very over the whole paranormal romance thing, and part of the satirical element here is to create something we understand as “sellable.” Personally, I’m hoping for BDSM aliens. You know, with tortured souls or something. Brooding male leads are sexy!
How will you keep your fans connected throughout this journey?
I think people being able to watch the project take shape and know that they had a part in its creation will be good, entertaining incentive. Also, the internet just loves endlessly dissecting subjects like “Twilight” and “50 Shades” and fanfiction culture; though this series is meant to be finite, I could see us never running out of material given the changing nature of the industry.
When I did something similar on Twitter as a joke many months ago, people immediately got into it, and before hours had passed, a sort of organic romance novel had sprung up from the collective consciousness of Twitter. It made me realize not only just how formulaic these things are, but just how perceptive people are at seeing right through the holes, and it was really, really funny. I’d been wanting to do something with books for a long time, especially in the wake of “50 Shades,” but that little Twitter experiment taught me that the best way to go about it would be to involve our viewers in the process.