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Sunday, October 11, 2015

OT (other topics): Gender Bender? Gimme A Break! #Twilight #BooksAndStuff

OT (other topics): Gender Bender? Gimme A Break! #Twilight #BooksAndStuff

All images related to Twilight series of novels and films created by Stephanie Meyer. All rights reserved for their respective owners.

If you're one of those few people in the world that actually do live under rocks or deep in the woods in little Middle-Earth hovels then you probably haven't heard the life-altering, earth-shattering news that Stephanie Meyer hit us with earlier this week (last week if you're really going to be technical about this). What news? She was releasing a new Twilight novel. Yay! Yes, that is a genuine "yay!" and not an ironic one and actually would have made an indelible print in the awesome-sphere that is cool stuff (you don't know what I'm talking about or think that last sentence is confusing? I ain't got time. Look it up!). Sadly, she wasn't releasing a brand new book in the twilight series. What does that mean?

These were my thoughts exactly until she whipped out the most ridiculous and money-grabby excuse of a book I've ever seen in my life (maybe outside of Grey, an erotic novel told from Christian Grey's viewpoint). She and her publisher decided to do a gender bender with the original twilight book making Bella into Beau and Edward into Edythe. While I like the name Beau I despise the hipster spelling of Edith and don't particularly care for the name but that's just my preference. The names, however, are not where I have my gripe. No, my disappointment in this lazy turn-for-profit is twofold.

The first problem I have is the reasoning behind switching the genders in the first place. Listen, a romance is a romance. There's tons of cheesiness in every romance whether it is good and life-changing or run-of-the-mill kissy-face stuff. It is one of the few genres in the world of which everyone seems to become jaded before the age of ten. The cute and popular guy who smiles at the dark and brooding girl; the two socially awkward teens who manage to discover themselves and each other; the domineering man with a soft side and weakness for the one woman who reminds him that he's human and imperfect and it's OK--all of these tropes, cliches, archetypes, etc. are overplayed and have been done to death so often both in fiction and real life that when someone gets hold of something that really enlivens them to believe in the magic of love, they generally obsess over it. This is what happened with Twilight. And you know what, great! It was fantastic that Meyer and her books had a huge fanbase but she shouldn't have forgotten just that: she had a huge fanbase!

Listen, was I a huge fan of the Twilight books? Not nearly as much as the movies (yes, I'm a guy and I liked the movies. Does that amuse you in some way? Do you think that's funny? Funny how?), but I could respect the fact that people liked and read the books. Most of the fans were female, many of them teenage girls though plenty were grown women (I'm lookin' at you E.L. James) with fantasies of their own. But that is one of the best parts of being an author. She had a fanbase large enough to get her books turned into movies, large enough for those movies to spawn a five-ilogy (I can't know every word for everything) and spawn the careers of a few future stars, large enough to spawn the biggest online fan fiction community probably ever and that is taking into account Harry Potter (Star Wars is a different animal entirely). She had fans. Fans that actually still wanted more ten years after the release of the first book. So, why then did she release a new book that isn't a sequel but rather a reboot (yeah, she rebooted her own novel. Like, I thought only movies could do that? When is that Stephen King It novel reboot coming) of the original? Optics.

In her interviews with... sources--it's late and I'm pretty lazy right now as I'm on a three day break between book projects. I don't wanna look it up--she implies that she felt hurt by the feminist criticism of the original books that said she made Bella into a weeping teen girl who could easily be controlled by Edward because of her obsession. "She makes women look weak!" apparently. Sigh. So, in order to give the story a more feminist twist, she puts the power into Edythe's hands and makes her the aggressor. Sigh. This way we're supposed to know and understand that love and obsession can be damning, and effect anyone in adverse ways regardless of sex (as if we didn't already know that; refer back to my jaded comment a few paragraphs up). Big sigh.

Look, I don't know how many seemingly anti-feminist posts I'm gonna have on my blog after the whole Grey's Anatomy/Ellen Pompeo thing, but I will say that again, I am not trying to be anti-feminist here. Rather, I am trying to stick up for an author who was either tired of doing it herself or just really wanted the money it could generate from catering to a certain clientele. My problem that I have with this is that this is not really in service to the fans--you know, the main and really only people you should be in service to. The majority of the criticism came from/comes from (present tense? Past tense? Uh, I'm not sure now) people who didn't particularly care for the book in the first place, many of which went along with the bandwagon because it was the in thing to do. Others who brought this up generally had a laundry list of gripes of which this was just one of the filthy things they wished they could wash from their memory. As an aside, who the hell makes a list for their laundry? Shouldn't you just clean it if it's dirty? Where the hell did that saying come from? Hmm, I don't know.

I'm running long so I'll cut through the BS here. Just because some people said that Bella was a weak character does not mean that you as an author should go back and change her. I get so tired of everyone wanting the same kind of character in a book, then hating the book for it. Guess what? Everyone in life is not some strong, heroic but flawed person. Some people really don't have redeeming qualities for a very long time. Some people do bad because that's what they want to do. Some people are boring. Some people need others more than we want them to. And some people don't consider every flaw they have a flaw. Characters should be the same. Authors should be able to stand by a character the way they wrote that character. God, for all the creative writing classes we have in high schools and colleges across the country, do we have to also have a creative reading class in order to teach people that not every novel needs to conform to your political standards and views and that not every character needs to be likable, sympathetic or strong. Didn't people used to read and tell stories to experience a life of someone else that they knew they'd probably never lead? Or even to learn about the differences in people? Since when did the anthem become: "I want to read a book with characters exactly like me or someone in my subset of friends and family or else it's just gonna piss me off!" No wonder the world is the way it is right now, because apparently we're even pushing diversity out of our literature (as in any readable content. Don't give me that face).

Growing up and still to this day I knew plenty of girls who were shy, who were strong and domineering, who were meek and gentle, who were intimidated by men and who intimidated men. Every one loved differently, not to say that they love me or that I was a lady's man... but I am implying that I may have carried favor with the ladies. Was that an eye roll? Hoo! I can feel your eyes rolling through the internet. Fine, it's not true, but it's my blog and I should be allowed to say what I want, how I want to say it. A-ha! Sneaky writing, right? Yeah, circled back around. And you thought it was just another parenthetical tangent minus the parentheses.

Some of you are mentioning right now or a few paragraphs ago that young girls were taking this romance as an example of how love works and that's bad. Listen, I got news for you just in case you've grown that out of touch with adolescence. Girls and boys not only get it wrong all the time when it comes to teen loves, they draw comparisons and standards for their own hearts from everything, chief among those things being their parents. Love during that time has always been difficult and confusing and teens drew from wherever they could before finally coming up with something of their own. The trick was to get them to that stage where they could be mentally ready for romance. And while Bella may have appeared obsessed and controlled by Edward, guess what? It's human. It happens. "But it shouldn't happen to children." Unfortunately, it does. It did before the book and will long after Twilight stops being popular. Plus, I don't remember an uproar about Katniss in Hunger Games pimping her heart out for the masses. Even though I love that book, she was basically Kim Kardashian with a bow and arrow. "Oh, but it was life and death and she had to do it." Right, because a fourteen-year-old girl who reads that and then grows up and ends up homeless and penniless is not going to remember how Katniss dressed up nice, painted her face, paraded in front of a crowd of gawkers just to put some food on her table (yes, homelessness is actually becoming a much bigger problem than we'd all care to talk about right now). If we're breaking it down, Twilight is to "weak women" what Hunger Games is to "gold diggers."

I'll try to make my second gripe quicker. The second big reason I didn't like this really stems from the struggle of self-publishing and being an author in general. Stephanie Meyer has a name, has a brand, has market recognition. As such, she can use those things to leverage more of her own works, more of her writings. This is why I don't like to write about writing on my blog because this next thing might hurt some would-be authors, but I have to say it. If you as an author are not thinking and developing new ideas and new projects at least every year, then this might not be a career for you. It can be a fad, something you do once and get out of your system, but plenty of authors have so many ideas wrestling around in their heads that they can't get them out fast enough. And no, that does not mean just with the same characters and amassing a stock pile of watery sequels. As I look on her website and wiki page, I count a total of three other works not related to Twilight. Where's the beef?

See, as a self-pub author I struggle to get people to read my stuff because they don't want to buy it or they don't know the name or they think it's crap (just being honest. Still, I just hurt myself a little) or a thousand other reasons. But for authors who have a cache of followers and people who want to read their books, I don't understand why they dwell only on what they've already written so much. I understand contracts and launching new properties is hard, but someone has to do it. Novels, just like TV is now, should be a place of crazy invention and vibrant imagination. This is from where new stuff should emanate. Don't get me wrong, I understand the allure of a series, but in-between a series, use your name to start another series or put out a stand alone book, capitalize on your success because there are so many others out there that would step into your shoes and knock it out of the park. I am one of the few people that enjoyed both book and film of The Host. There are two frontiers which still beg for exploration: space and the human mind. Even with all the mind's creativity seemingly plundered, there's still more. Give us more, because that is what the fans really want.

Sorry I went long, but I felt it had to be said. What do you all think? Am I blowing this out of the water and being ridiculous? I know it's a money grab and I'm definitely not against that but I was thinking that she should instead do an extended edition of each book or the final book or that short story she did on Bree, making the environment even more rich for the side characters, as I have made plans to do on some of my own books. Are you going to buy Life after Death or are you done with the series? And what do you like from your favorite author: new ideas or the same thing over and over and over and over again? Let me know in the comments below.

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Until next time, “I know what you are.” "Say it... out loud." "A vampire." "Are you afraid, Bella--or, Beau. I'm sorry am I Edward or Edythe right now? Either way I still wanna eat you and suck your blood, I mean... fall in love with you. Yeah, that's what I meant."

P.S. OK, so when are we going to get the fan fiction where Bella and Edward meet Beau and Edythe and they all realize just how awkward they are? Anyone?

P. P. S. I've learned that even Stephanie Meyer has said that this is not technically a real book. Glad somebody said.

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