So I rarely touch the third rail that is the cultural obsession with sparkly vampires, for several reasons. One, I live in a house with two, sometimes three females who have more than a passing fancy for the series. Two, I realize that – although I approached the genre from a very different perspective (namely, I began with an idea, and that idea fit best with a younger protagonist) – I am, right/wrong/indifferent, In The Genre now. And I will be, until I get one of my other book ideas out of the formative stage. So, by and large, I leave Bella and company at a respectful distance.
But I did run across a post I liked today, entitled It’s Time to Stop Being Angry at Twilight, and I read and agreed with many of its points. The most salient of which is that it’s an obsession like any other; some people play fantasy football (ahem), some people are far too into cosplay, some people collect fucking ceramic cats. And some people – a great many people, actually – like Stephanie Meyer’s vampire series. Odds are fairly high you’ve got an obsession of your own, and I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your obsession is not organically superior to anyone else’s. Regardless of whether you’re meticulously restoring a ’68 Camaro or tweaking your Kasumi costume for the next big ‘con, you’re just one of the many obsessed.
The article makes a fantastic secondary point, which is that Twilight is less a tale of vampires and werewolves than a story of young relationships with vampires and werewolves as convenient story scaffolding. That doesn’t make it any more egregious of a literary sin, in that light, than any other young adult relationship book. We’re not really getting down on Judy Blume for failing to develop a deep and resonating plot in many of her books. We don’t beat Bram Stoker to a pulp for failing to capture the essence of teenage female emo ennui. But put the two together and suddenly the series is a lightning rod. And yes, I’ve read the Stephen King quote, just for reference, and what I find is that, oddly, it seems to try and pit two things against each other, as if books go into some sort of Roman coliseum to decide which is greater. Tonight, George R.R. Martin takes on Iain Banks in a spectacle for all ages!
But beyond the article points, I’ve got at least one of my own, and it’s become substantially more important to me in the past few months. Namely, if you don’t like it, read something else. I owe this gestalt to (a) a significant amount of dumb-it-down-or-it-will-never-sell correspondence from Traditional Publishing on the subject of Reswyt, (b) grateful emails I’ve received from people thanking me for not dumbing it down, and (c) the experience I’ve had being interviewed and having much nervous shuffling of feet regarding the subject of Sabine’s intellect. What I’ve realized is that I don’t want to be marginalized for writing a smart character, and I can respect another author’s desire not to be denigrated for writing an average one. (Not that Stephanie Meyer needs a great deal of emotional balming; I imagine her rolling up great sheaves of shitty reviews and cheerfully ordering a minion to set them ablaze in her great stone fireplace with a thick wad of blazing $100 bills.) She wrote what she wanted to write, and stuck it out there. It took hold of the public imagination. So did a lot of other arguably better books, by the way – The Passage and Drood and Perdido Street Station. And I wrote what I wanted to write. Candidly, I want what she wants; that if people don’t care for the style, character, plot, setting, or prose, that they go read something else.
Is Twilight well-written? Is Bella an engaging protagonist? Does it matter? There are objective answers to those questions, much like there’s an answer to if a tree falls in the forest. But they’re all irrelevant. Nobody’s around to hear the tree, and no one is adjudicating Twilight on its mastery of the Oxford comma or Bella’s backbone (or lack thereof). You’re missing the point. You’re trying to measure velocity with a kitchen scale. It’s a cultural phenomenon. It’s having its moment. Step aside. It may be joining Clara Peller and All Your Base Are Belong To Us in time. Or it may become a fixture in fantasy literary canon. Who knows? Either way, the train has long since left the station. A metric shit-ton of people bought and enjoyed the Twilight series. It’s a fact.
What we seem to want, especially my intelligentsia associates, is a state in which we retroactively un-want Twilight. I can sort of appreciate that. There are a hundred authors who I wish had received the accolades and mega-mega-moneyhat that Ms. Meyer has been the beneficiary of; see the Twenty-Six Point Two post for three of them. But that’s not happening. As a nation, we apparently want Twilight, in much the same way as we want other puzzling things, like Lady Gaga and tuner Accords with pounding subwoofers and fucking KFC bowls. Wanting the populace to unwant what they want so they can want what you want them to want is a vainglorious exercise in windmill-tilting, never to be achieved, and the more you obsess over that, the more of yourself you’ve given over to irrational hatred. Walk the fuck on by. Skip the Lady Gaga track, buy a regular car, and eat food that – as Patton Oswalt famously said – doesn’t looks like “a failure pile in a sadness bowl.”
Noodles…don’t noodles, as Master Oogway said. Twilight. Don’t Twilight.
But move on.