Master of the Universe versus Fifty Shades by E.L James Comparison

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Title: Master of the Universe versus Fifty Shades by E.L James Comparison
Commentator: Jane Litte at Dear Author
Date(s): May 13, 2012
Medium: online
Fandom: Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey
External Links: Master of the Universe versus Fifty Shades by E.L. James Comparison, Archived version
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Master of the Universe versus Fifty Shades by E.L. James Comparison is a post by Jane Litte on the Dear Author blog. It compares the fanfic Master of the Universe with 50 Shades of Grey, the pro book it became.

In the post, Dear Author runs the text of the two stories through three comparison engines (Yoshikoder, Diff Doc, and Turnitin) to determine the amount of words they had in common, concluding that the published book was more similar to the original than the publisher was willing to admit.

The post includes many comments.

Topics Discussed


We processed 50 Shades as a student paper against another student paper (MoTU). According to Turnitin, the similarity index was 89%. There are whole swaths of text wherein just the names were changed from MoTU to 50 Shades.

Vintage says of MOTU and 50 Shades, “they were and are two distinctly separate pieces of work.” Turnitin says they are 89% the same.

With the success of Alternate Universe fan fiction and the successful leveraging of that fandom into seven figure economic rewards, the influx of fan fiction into professional publishing is likely to begin at greater levels than previous. Some publishers give public guides as to how to disguise one’s fan fiction. St. Martin’s Press is publishing books that are being marketed as an homage to the Brady Bunch. I think its important, if we go down this route, that provenance is stated. It’s no different than the “First Publication” markers on prolific authors like Nora Roberts. It’s an indicator to readers that they may have encountered this before and it gives the fandom that propelled the author to success a nod. At the very least its courteous. At the most, its truthful advertising.

DA will be presenting a series of posts on fan fiction as a creative form, the fan fiction community, and the legal and ethical issues involved in reworking fan fiction. We will be posting those in the coming days, and we would love for our readers to join the discussion. We’ll be hosting interviews with a legal scholar who has also written fan fiction and is committed to supporting the creative endeavors of the community, as well as with authors and other participants in the community.