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‘Vampire’ mania

By Pam Pastor
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Last updated 17:03:00 07/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines?This is one scene you will not read in any J.K. Rowling book?how a young vampire sank his teeth into Harry Potter?s neck.

But it happened, and the young vampire?s name is Edward Cullen, the creation of Stephenie Meyer, author of ?The Twilight Saga.?

The vampire-wizard face-off did not take place in the grounds of Hogwarts. It happened on the American book charts, two and a half weeks after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, when Eclipse, the third book in The Twilight Saga, went straight to number one, knocking Harry off the top spot.

Meyer has since sold over seven million copies of her books, has stayed on the New York Times Best Seller list for 143 weeks in total, has had her work translated into 20 languages and has been given countless honors, from an American Library Association?s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults to Publisher?s Weekly Best Book of the Year and Amazon.com?s Best Book of the Decade.

Dream

It is hard to believe this literary phenomenon just started with a dream.

In 2003, Meyer had a dream about a girl and a vampire talking in a meadow. This dream, which, according to her Amazon.com Q&A, she faithfully transcribed, became chapter 13 of her first book.

But Meyer did not set out to write a book. She wasn?t even a writer, she was a housewife and a mother of three kids. She said she just wanted to see what happened next.

When Meyer started writing, she couldn?t stop. Encouraged by her sister who read the book chapter by chapter as Meyer wrote it, she soon had 130,000 words which she sent off to literary agents.

Twilight hit the shelves in 2005 and instantly became a huge hit. Its sequels, New Moon and Eclipse, released in yearly intervals, have had the same success. And there is no doubt that the final book in the saga, Breaking Dawn, which will arrive in bookstores this August, will enjoy the same heated reception from fans.

The book hasn?t been released yet, but it?s already number two on Amazon.com?s best-seller list, where it is available for pre-order. (Twilight is number 5, Eclipse is number 9 and New Moon is number 14)

In the Philippines, Fully Booked?s Fort Bonifacio branch will keep its doors open on the evening of Sunday, August 3 so they can start selling copies of ?Breaking Dawn? at the stroke of midnight on August 4.

Vegetarian vampires

The Twilight Saga spins the tale of Bella Swan, a 17-year-old girl from Phoenix, Arizona who moves to the dark rainy town of Forks, Washington to be with her father. There, in her new school, she meets the unbelievably beautiful and equally mysterious Edward Cullen.

The two are instantly attracted to each other, but there is one big hurdle: Edward is a vampire and he wants Bella?s blood. The first book explores Edward and Bella?s developing romance and introduces the idea of ?vegetarian? vampires who live among humans. It?s definitely not your typical high school romance. Predator meets prey, predator and prey fall in love.

People who think the vampire plot is too gruesome have nothing to fear. Meyer is a Mormon who hates horror and who says she has never even seen an R-rated film.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the saga?s success is the fact that Meyer writes vampires like we?ve never seen them before. Breaking the Dracula stereotype, her books offer no coffins, no fangs, and the vampires aren?t averse to sunlight?in fact, they sparkle under its glow.

This can be chalked up to the fact that Meyer hasn?t really been exposed to vampires in pop culture. She?s never seen an episode of Buffy or Angel, she?s never read Bram Stoker?s Dracula. She writes vampires like she imagines them?supernaturally beautiful and unbelievably strong.

Tween Anne Rice

Sometimes referred to as the tween Anne Rice, Meyer likes to say that her books aren?t just about vampires. Apart from showing Edward?s restraint in taking Bella?s life (which countless writers and Internet geeks have proclaimed as a metaphor for resisting the temptation of pre-marital sex), Meyer says her books are about making careful choices.

Ironic that Meyer, who says she skipped young adult books and started reading sci-fi and Jane Austen when she was young, has become a hero in the eyes of young adult readers.

But it?s not just them. Adults have started picking up the books as well, and the fansite Twilightmoms.com can attest to that. Not a big surprise, really. Because despite being PG, the books are sexy, delicious reads.

There are hordes of fans online, fans who build MySpace pages for every book character, female fans who leave ?bite me? messages on Edward Cullen?s MySpace page, fans who spend hours writing fan fiction and uploading them to the internet, fans who troll different online forums trying to connect with other fans and fans who act as leakage police, protecting Meyer?s new books from being leaked online.

But the Twilight love isn?t just felt online. Readers have started dressing up as their favorite characters (with some even wearing colored contact lenses), rock bands inspired by the books have been formed, the book characters? birthdays are celebrated and fans drive for hours (and even ride boats) to get to Meyer?s book readings.

And the town of Forks has started celebrating ?Stephenie Meyer Day? on the day of Bella Swan?s birthday?September 13.

Far from over

The fun is far from over for Twilight fans. There?s the series of concerts for Breaking Dawn in the US. The Twilight movie will be released this year. And other books will come. There?s Twilight: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion, The Twilight Saga: The Official Guide and the highly anticipated Midnight Sun, which will give Edward Cullen the chance to retell the story of Twilight from his perspective.

As early as now, people are wondering if her books? success will overtake that of Rowling?s.

But Meyer doesn?t want to be pitted against Rowling. In countless interviews, she has expressed gratitude to the Harry Potter author.

As Time Magazine?s Lev Grossman wrote, ?Meyer is quick to point out that her success is a direct result of the way Rowling changed the book industry: children are now willing to read 500-page novels, and adults are now willing to read books written for children.?

Truth is, there shouldn?t be any fight. The world?s bookshelves are big enough for both Quidditch-playing wizards and ridiculously beautiful vampires, and the authors who have created them for the reading world.

Stephenie Meyer?s books are available in Fully Booked and Powerbooks.

     


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