Don’t foam at the mouth yet. I can explain.
About a year and a half ago, around the time the first Twilight movie came out, I had to read the first of Stephenie Meyer’s novels for work. (Really—I had an editing job that required me to make sure my client wasn’t plagiarizing it.) I was unimpressed. I posted a blog entry on my MySpace page, titled something like “Why I don’t like Twilight (please don’t kill me),” explaining my principal objections to the books. Those objections still stand, and I’ll restate them here because the MySpace blog engine is quite buggy and I need them to explain my position here.
The odds that I’d like Twilight were always fairly low, because it’s basically a romance story in which nothing else happens--at least, not for the first 500 pages, which suggests the book has no other reason to exist. I don’t enjoy nothing-else-happens romances; call it a genre preference.
My other major objection was that while Bella was fairly low on personality, Edward seemed to have none whatsoever, and I really don’t enjoy stories that are supposed to have two main characters (like romances) and completely neglect the needs, wants, thoughts, or feelings of one of those characters. There are words for romantic relationships with only one character in them, but the only kind I feel comfortable mentioning on a blog read by minors is “narcissism.”
But I consider my objections to Twilight reasonable, intelligent—and personal.
But Twilight fandom is another story.
Last week, Yen Press (which publishes my current favorite manga, Nightschool) published a graphic-novel adaptation of Twilight, presumably to reach those last two teenage girls who hadn’t yet read it. The fan opprobrium has been memorable, especially among the members of the manga crowd who feel their territory is being invaded by uncouth barbarians sprinkling glitter all over the place. I will not print the comments here, as I have a strict PG-13 policy on this blog. Suffice it to say there are a lot of fans out there who find Twilight fans so repugnant as to threaten them with various forms of assault, sexual battery, and/or murder.
I pretty much ignored all this, as the next Nightschool volume isn’t out until April. Then I wandered across a blog entry by Melinda Beasi titled “Dear Fandom: Please Grow Up.” (You can find it at http://mangabookshelf.com/2010/03/17/dear-fandom-please-grow-up/.) Ms. Beasi makes an excellent point, which I feel I should restate here, partly because I’ve gotten some email from readers who feel the need to run down Twilight and its fans, perhaps to make Masks look better, and me feel better, by comparison.
Ms. Beasi points out that the symptoms of Twilight fandom are remarkably similar to the symptoms of most other obsessive fandoms (anime, manga, comic books, Harry Potter, SF and fantasy, Star Wars) … except that a large number of Twilight fans, statistically speaking, will grow up to be allegedly normal people who don’t read very much else. So combine all that obsessive energy, that passionate devotion to a first literary love, with a population whose members are not all heavy readers by nature, and you’re bound to get something silly. But not much sillier than existing fandoms get. Except for the fact that a lot of Twilight fans are, by definition, the kind of people who don’t hang out with the book nerds in school, and that can create sectarian conflicts of the kind usually associated with car bombings in the Middle East.
The essay really hit home with me. Suddenly I was 13 again, with my nose jammed into a copy of Edmond Hamilton’s Starwolf, scowling over my pages at the girls in my class who shrieked over the Backstreet Boys or Titanic. And while I don’t make a habit of running down Twilight fans in public, I certainly let others run on about how irritating they are. And yet I would like to think I’m more mature now than I was at 13.
So here’s the summing-up. Yes, Twilighters are annoying sometimes. So was I, and so were you, when we were 13, physically or emotionally, and obsessed with something. We mostly grew out of it. So, mostly, will they. And if you call yourself a reader, you should have the mature perspective to recognize that someone who doesn’t love your favorite books, or who loves books you don’t enjoy, is not necessarily the devil incarnate. Treat this as an opportunity. If you’re not on the Twilight side of the Great Fandom Divide, make friends with someone who is. Talk. Laugh. Share the books you love. Perhaps you’ll make a new convert, and perhaps you’ll just learn a little bit more about what it means to be a civilized being. Either result is well worth your time.
The more fans Masks collects, the more comments I get beginning with, “You’re SO much better than that [expletive deleted] Twilight.” Let’s save that vitriol for targets that deserve it. Child molesters. Nazis. People who talk on their cell phones while driving.
And hey, while you’re reaching across the barbed wire, see if you can pull a few of the Twilighters into Masks fandom. I’ve always wanted to endow a scholarship fund …