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Friday, August 1, 2008

What the Heck Is This Twilight Thing, Anyway?

Typically, I pride myself on having my finger on the pulse of genre culture at all times. That's why I was caught pretty much off guard by a veritable phenomenon that seems to have taken form right under my very nose without my knowing it.

It all started when I walked into my local library to find a bizarre display. A mannequin dressed in gothic clothing, with an advertisement for a new book on the wall next to it. What was behind this gimmickry? Seems my library, joining forces with my local Borders just down the street, was organizing a special after-hours "release party" for the upcoming publication of Breaking Dawn, the latest volume in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series.

Okay. Just two questions, I thought. Who the heck is Stephenie Meyer, and what in blue blazes is the Twilight series? Apparently, I quickly discovered, there had been three books published in this best-selling series of vampire novels. Oh, and a forthcoming movie adaptation of the first book, Twilight.

Next thing I know, these books and their author are everywhere. On TV talk shows, news segments, the web, everywhere I turned. This new book Breaking Dawn approaches with a level of marketing hype unrivaled by anything but, well, Harry Potter. And Meyer is being hailed as "the next J.K. Rowling".

Now, I'll admit a deep, dark secret. Horror is not my favorite type of genre fiction. Horror maven I may be, but when it comes to my reading material, I'll take a good science-fiction novel any day. It all goes back to an interesting theory I've developed over the years. When it comes to movies, horror tends to get a better shake than sci-fi. It has a higher profile and is better regarded by the masses, tends to be more successful (barring a few aberrant summer blockbusters here and there), and can boast more cinematic classics (an inflammatory statement, to be sure.) But in the realm of fiction, sci-fi wins it hands down, being much more respected in both mainstream and literary circles, and of generally better quality than horror (with the exception of a handful of truly talented writers.)

So whether its my own personal bias or not, I really must not be as sharp as I used to be, because I never heard of any of this Twilight stuff before a few weeks ago. So what's the deal? Is this all just the product of a powerful marketing machine, or have I been blind to a burgeoning phenom in horror fiction? Are these books really all they're cracked up to be? Are they strictly for kids? Are they just overrated tripe? Fill me in, people.

10 comments:

The Headless Werewolf said...

While I think there's some contemporary horror fiction very much worth paying attention to--Michael Arnzen, Bentley Little, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Keene, Jack Ketchum, Sarah Langan, Gary Braunbeck, Joe Hill, and (I now kneel) Thomas Liggotti--Meyers books are really for the crowd that missed out on Buffy in the 90s. With that said, I pleased as blood punch that high schoolers are still reading, and the fact that it's dark fiction (written by a Mormon, figure that) delights me to no end. No doubt, at least some of those readers will go searching for more of those old fashioned print thingies once the phenomenon is over.

B-Sol said...

I feel the same way about teenagers reading. I often despair to see the popularity of reading among teens dropping. Teens that don't read grow into adults that don't read, and that's a depressing proposition. In my teens, I was all about Stephen King, Robert Heinlein, Clive Barker, Arthur C. Clarke, Dune and Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. So it pleases me whenever one of these teen book crazes hit, because I know those are the books I'd be all over if I was that age.

cinderelly said...

me too, i'm coming late to the party. i heard on the news about 'the next j.k rowlings' thing, and i saw something about the movie, but didn't put the two together...i have been buried in wedding tulle for the past few months though! it does sound interesting.

B-Sol said...

Would that be for your daughter's wedding? And thanks for providing me with the correct spelling of tulle by the way, I always wondered about that...

gord said...

I agree with werewolf. I'm not sure the novels are worth checking out, given your age (and mine, 21), and deeper knowledge of the genre, but if anything it's nice to see kids reading.

Though from what I've read and heard described to me, the books are embarrassing tripe. Anne Rice for pre-teen girls is what it boils down to. Not so much 'horror' as horror themed teen drama/romance.

You might want to pass on the series, unless you're looking to identify with the throngs of teen girls eating this stuff up.

B-Sol said...

Nah, I think I'm gonna pass, Gord. I'm still holding a grudge against teen girls from my high school days...

As for the horror-themed teen drama/romance bit, I guess that would put it in the same vague category as Dark Shadows, the vampire soap opera that was originally aimed at housewives.

gord said...

Funny you should mention Dark Shadows. Since I'm such a horror nut, my mom occasionally carries on at length about how she used to love that show when she was growing up.

B-Sol said...

See, I told you.

Sara said...

I am also late on the Twilight bandwagon, as both a horror fan and a children's literature obsessee/future young adult librarian. I started the book at the recommendation of my 13 year old cousin..and here's my official take on it:

1. Basically, it is a romance, with some vampire elements thrown in. The reason it's suspensful is BECAUSE it's a vampire...but I would put this definitely in the TEEN ROMANCE genre.

2. It's all right (quality wise) -- i can definitely see why 13 year old girls have gone gaga -- it features a VERY idealized pure love relationship...with the catch that one of them thirsts for the other's blood. It's pretty nicely slow paced and suspensful...but definitely kind of...teenage girly.

3. That being said...i feel like I should read the rest, just to see what all the craziness is about.

4. The movie trailer looks AWFUL. Like...godawful.

B-Sol said...

My mom has now started reading it. She was big into the first couple of Anne Rice vampire novels, and I don't think she's read any books since, so it's a big deal.

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