My thanks for romantic/erotic fiction author and sexual activist Cecilia Tan for picking up this trend, and putting together such a great gallery of it. Twice. Not, unfortunately, that it’s that hard to spot. Yes, it’s the Fifty Shades of Monochrome being inflicted on our bookshelves, real or virtual, as what used to be red-hot and steamy grays out.

Source: Cecilia Tan

“I am not in any way complaining that these books look so similar,” Tan says, tactfully. “I think it’s rather brilliant, actually, that without any actual discussion taking place from one publisher’s art department to another, a consensus has emerged around what this genre ‘looks like.’ Of course, now it perhaps is getting overdone.”

Copying becomes consensus? It’s hard to imagine that consensus emerging without the success of a certain bestsellerand its sequels, though. But you can pick up all the signs of the publishing industry on the trail of a phenomenon. Same styling. Same handful of handy tropes and memes that do duty for anything resembling actual content. Remember all the awful pseudo-Dan Brown tagalongs after the success of The Da Vinci Code? This time it’s in your bedroom. A little minimally transgressive S&M. A fatuous bodice ripper pseudonym. And above all, a nod to the great tradition of black-and-white “sensitive” erotic photography. And bingo: We’re in bestseller territory.

I hope the sales figures are holding up, because I find it hard to imagine anyone being excited by Yet-Another-Pantone-Variation-Of-Grey. I mean, what are all those cover designers being paid for? What are all those publishing marketing departments snarfing down their dollars for? A Grey goo apocalypse? Yes, this trend may yet eat the world. It certainly seems off to a good start.


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