Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, Me Hating to Love it, and People Who Love to Hate It

For those of you living in caves (the entrances to which are buried under moss-covered rocks at the bottom of the deepest abyss in the ocean), Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight is huge. Four books, with a fifth on the way; one movie so far, with the second coming out in November and the rest of the books sure to hit the silver screen eventually.

What I Think of Twilight

I do believe that the Twilight books are badly written. I could go on about that in detail for a while, but I’m pretty sure the antiTwilites have all the problems with it covered, if you’re interested. Instead, I’ll sum it up through comparison to fan fiction.

About 95% of fan fiction is pure crap — the authors didn’t even care enough about their own work to put it through a spell check or ask someone to read and critique it or anything along those lines. Many of these are Mary Sue stories. Most of them involve sex. They have bad plots and little to no character development (or they develop the character in a way totally out of line with the original story). Anyone who knows what good writing is should avoid reading them. The authors should have kept these stories to themselves, for everyone else’s sakes.

About 4% of fan fiction is decent. The author used a spell cheque, through they probably didn’t bother going true their story to make share that the words it supplies were grammatically correction. (Yes, I’ve seen some that bad.) They did get a few people to read it, though most of the people who read it were probably other fan fiction writers whose writing¬† skills were on par with or below their own. These usually have better plots than their 95% counterparts, but still have little to no (or bad) character development. And while the writing isn’t horrible, it’s probably full of cliched phrases and fails to display a varied vocabulary on the author’s part. This class of fan fiction is less likely to contain explicit sex scenes, though they are not, of course, unheard of. They can be worth reading if you’re bored, but not if you have anything better to do.

If you can slog through the first 99% to the light at the end of the sewage, the last 1% is worth reading. The writing may not be on a professional level. There are likely some flaws. Overall, however, the story is good, the characters are interesting and unabused, and your life may actually be enriched in some fashion by reading it. Some are downright fantastic.

When I first read the Twilight series, it felt to me like it belonged in that decent 4% of fan fiction — or would have, if it had not been an original setting. I kept wondering how Meyer’s editor kept his or her job, what with letting the same exact descriptions be used throughout the entire series. How many times did Meyer get away with calling Edward’s face “perfect” without ever mentioning, say… the shape of his nose, or whether or not his lips were thin or full? I’m fairly certain the four books could have been cut down to two. And while the switch to Jacob’s perspective in the middle of Breaking Dawn was a nice storytelling element, it was kind of jarring. After all, the first three books were told entirely from Bella’s perspective.

All in all, they’re kind of like romance novels without any explicit sex scenes in them (and it occurs to me now that that might be how so many of the problems got past Meyer’s editor). So I can’t recommend them to most males. They’re not so horrible as to be unreadable, though they did inspire facepalms in me on multiple occasions.

But…

In spite of my objective belief that they’re poorly written, I really do like them. It may be Meyer’s Mary Sue fantasy, but as a friend of mine pointed out, it’s a nice escape. I found the books hard to put down once I started reading them, in spite of all the flaws. I have read them twice now, shameful as that is.

There is one thing I actively like about the Twilight series, from my objective point of view, which is the fact that Meyer took liberties with vampire lore.

For a while now I’ve been dissatisfied with the fact that everyone uses traditional fantasy elements the same way every time. Elves are always tall, delicate-looking, pointy-eared, forest-dwelling archers (unless they’re from the splinter race of evil elves); dwarves are short, stocky, bearded, drunken warriors who live under mountains; etcetera. Authors veer away from the standard path by a little bit to personalize their mythical creatures, but if you see the word “dwarf” in a book, you already have some idea of what you’re gonna get.

Now, there’s something to be said for this. Familiarity with the mythical creatures helps the reader comprehend the dynamics of the story faster because they have less new information to take in. And working creatively within limits is a good thing for an author to be able to do.

Take the book I Am Legend, for instance. Robert Neville, the main character,¬† spends a good chunk of his lonely existence trying to understand vampirism. Why do crosses drive them away, when vampirism is caused by a bacteria? Hey, it doesn’t work on this dude who was a Jew before he cauth the disease. Torah? Excellent, works like a charm. Must be psychological.

Meyer manipulated vampire lore by establishing the idea that human imagination and mistaken impressions had warped the truth about vampires. This is entirely plausible. For example, her vampires don’t have fangs… but since tales have a way of growing taller from telling to telling, it’s easy to believe that vampires acquired fangs in myth somewhere along the line. This friend of a neighbor of my brother in the town across the lake heard from his uncle that his grandfather got attacked by a blood-sucking creature with fangs… like THIS!

Now, not all of the changes she made were good ones. I still don’t think vampires shouldn’t glitter in sunlight, and the final result of all her manipulation is that the vampires are nigh invincible. Edward even comments to Bella at some point in the story that vampires are so overpowered it’s ridiculous. I’m glad she acknowledged it herself in that fashion, but still… she shouldn’t have to, ’cause it shouldn’t be that way.

The Movie, On the Other Hand

It sucks. I’ve never been sorrier to watch any film in my life. Even if I weren’t comparing it to the books, it’s just bad. Do yourself a favor and never watch it.

The Great Twilight Internet War

If you’re given to random browsing on the internet, you’ve surely encountered either the legions of gushing Twilight fan girls or the raging antiTwilite army. (Or both.) The former seem like pretty standard fan girls, immune to logic. The latter may as well be frothing at the mouth in their zealous denunciations.

Watching them throw words at each other is like watching two male goats butting heads over a female goat which will be dead by the time there’s a victor to claim her. So much ferocity and expenditure of energy to so little purpose. I used to moderate some video game forums; I’ve seen enough fan boy arguments to know that true fans (or haters) cannot be swayed by logic. Both sides are too emotionally invested in their positions. This is true of the Twilight lovers and the antiTwilites alike, and they go to ridiculous extremes to try to conscript people to join their side of the argument.

Take, for example, this list of 100 Reasons Twilight Sucks. Some of them are completely valid. Some of the reasons are duplicates. Some of the reasons aren’t necessarily bad — in my experience, Stephen King tends to use established names. And the original Star Wars trilogy, a set of sci-fi classics, uses cliches right and left. The writer of this list tried too hard; the list is unimpressive, and he looks like a fool. He should’ve kept it to twenty or fewer.

The Twilight fans, on the other hand, seeking a way to exalt their beloved series, have dubbed it better than the Harry Potter series. I don’t know what they’re smoking, and I don’t want any. Harry Potter goes through everything from puberty to torture on his epic quest to save the world. Rowling introduces new and useful things (and spells) in every book and sees to it that every new and useful thing gets used and then used again three books later — and not always by the good guys. The main character isn’t the only one to get development, and no one is invincible (which is a plus, really).

In short, their whole war is retarded. Give it up, people, seriously. Enjoy it or don’t, and quit polluting our internets.