Sunday, March 1, 2009

Guest FicRec: In The Blink of an Eye


I love being an enabler.

There's nothing better than getting some poor, unsuspecting soul to write the story YOU want to read but don't have time to write. *grin* It's even better when you can help with the Evil Plotting (tm) so you know what's going to happen. And when that story turns out to be not just interesting, but bloody fantastic? Yeah. Nothing better than that.

I've known Katie (that_writr) a while; we met via Harry Potter fandom. She's no stranger to writing. She's a trained journalist, communications professor, and former newspaper editor. But she's new to writing fiction, and however much she may bemoan the horrors of plotting, In the Blink of an Eye is amazing for a right-out-of-the-gate piece.

Its maturity is what -- to my mind -- makes it stand out. There are no simple emotions here, no trite explanations, no shallow characterizations. Katie's taken the characters Meyer gave us -- characters often "2.5 D" at most -- and breathed complex life into them. These characters have grown up.

Like the original series, most of this novel is related from Bella's perspective. The now-twenty-seven-year-old Bella is pragmatic, phlegmatic and possesses a hard-won perspective. Her most appealing traits from the books have been mined and refined, the dross separated from gold. In Twilight, Bella was rather wooden, a puppet who too often did what others told her to do -- Edward, Alice, even Jacob. Eventually, she came into her own, but did so only by becoming inhuman. Meyer went so far as to imply, in Breaking Dawn,, that Bella was never meant to be human but is a "natural" vampire. What a sad message! In this story -- like Collodi's Pinocchio -- she's a real girl now. Grown up. Broken, older, with a few lines in her face and a few gray hairs -- but more beautiful and strong than vampire Bella could ever be in Meyer's books. For Meyer, humanness was a flaw (whatever lip service Edward might have given to keeping Bella human), or at least a weakness. For Katie, humanness is a gift, and the vampires are the ones "handicapped" by their vampirism.

Disability is a theme throughout. As a result of an accident during her cliff-diving stunt, Bella's been confined to a wheelchair, and that tragedy has given her perspective, and wisdom. While I know a paraplegic Bella will turn off some readers, I wish it wouldn't. This isn't a sob story about Bella's accident. By the time the story opens, her injury is well past and she's no longer adjusting. I really LIKE this nonchalant approach to what could have sunk into sad, operatic melodrama. Katie's sister is a paraplegic and her familiarity with what it's like to live with a disability is evident throughout -- without ever overwhelming the story. If Bella's disability is real -- and realistically portrayed -- disability itself acts as a metaphor, What does it mean to be "crippled"? How do we learn not just to exist with it, but to live with it? We are strongest at our broken places. The vampires, through Bella, are learning to be strong.

Another element I find unusual for a New Moon AU is that Bella didn't mope for years after Edward left. She moved on, met a nice guy, fell in love, and got married. Again, I know that may upset readers who are all about the true-love-forever-and-ever-soul-mates aspect of the original series, but real love takes nurturing. It's not magic. Furthermore, we can love more than one person in our lives -- and Bella does. Her love for her husband Mark is very real, and very touching. The novel begins with his death in a freak accident . . . and the unexpected return of Edward (and the Cullens) into Bella's life as a result.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot, as how Edward showed up right then (and why he stayed away for nine years before) is the chief mystery of the early chapters. Suffice to say it's NOT chance, nor is it sinister. The slow unveiling of Edward and Mark's relationship keeps one turning pages (virtually). Also, speaking as a former bereavement counselor, Katie's handling of Bella's grief is among the better treatments I've seen in Twilight fanfic. It's not truncated in favor of rushing the romance.

Things move slowly. I like that. Some readers may not -- but this story is about how people survive the hardball of life. To me, that's far more evocative. Regardless of its Undead characters, In the Blink of an Eye is REAL ... full of pain, and hope; anger, and love; blame, and forgiveness. It's faceted like that diamond heart Edward gave Bella. And it glitters.

Despite the slow pace, the story never drags, perhaps because it has two main plots, and -- knowledge gleaned in helping with the initial plotting -- they'll come together at the end in an EXPLOSIVE way. This story isn't just a romance, it's also a thriller, and if it turns out half as interesting as Katie's outline promises, readers will be on the edge of their seats by the end.

There's much more I could say, but in an effort to be brief, I'll just touch on three things that make In the Blink of an Eye, unusual or unique in the world of Twilight fanfic. First is the handling of two characters in particular ... and not Bella or Edward. My favorite characters in this novel are the secondary characters, Esme and Rosalie.

Bella isn't the only one who's grown up. The Cullens have as well -- Rosalie not least. They're no longer attending high school ad nauseum and Rose has become a domestic-violence lawyer working with battered women and rape victims. A goodly portion of the novel's first half involves the slow unveiling of what happened after the Cullens left Forks. And a joint project -- Rose's brainchild -- requires the expertises of (almost) all of them, especially the Cullen ladies. Katie's background in feminist studies is evident in the strong, complex women she draws, and their relationships to one another, not just to the men in their lives.

The development of Esme is my favoritest of all. No longer June Cleaver With Fangs, she's become a beautiful, painfully flawed human being. She loves fiercely, but has resentments and weaknesses too -- the shadow side of that love. She lives with guilt, and overcompensates. She's a survivor who wants to save others -- sometimes too much. Katie's handling of Esme may best epitomize how she's fleshed out Meyer's more cardboard characters. Without telling secrets about forthcoming chapters, let me just conclude with: Esme + shotgun = awesome. *wink*

Second -- and related to the above -- Katie does something I've never seen in a Twilight story. Now to be sure, I haven't read tons of Twific, but I think this may be completely unique. SPOILER (please run your cursor over the text to highlight):

SHE BREAKS UP THE CULLENS. Yes, you read that right. She breaks up the perfect family. When the story starts, Rose and Emmett are in Nashville, Jasper and Alice are in Minnesota, Edward and Esme are living as brother and sister in Helen -- and Carlisle is overseas in Africa. Rose isn't talking to Edward, Edward isn't talking to Carlisle, Jasper is pissed at everybody, and Esme and Carlisle have separated to avoid a divorce. Edward's lies to Bella caused the tense undercurrents hinted at in the books to explode and fracture the family. They do come back together, but slowly, and in a more healthy way. That's what I love about this story. She pulls NO punches. Choices have consequences.

Third and last, I love that Katie gives the Cullens HISTORY. (Yes, yes, of course the history professor can be expected to praise that.) The discussions older Bella has with various family members about what they've seen and experienced is yet another place she's filled the potential Meyer created but never lived up to. We finally get a sense that these people have lived a long time. Jasper's theory of vampires and 'event horizons' is inspired.

A few minor points ... Edward finally gets to use his M.D.s, becoming a neurology resident. That's a bit of spoiler, but not a huge one. Also, much of the story is set in North Georgia, where Katie was born and raised. Some places named are fictional, some are real, but there's a sense of place here that I find missing in a lot of fanfic (not just for Twilight). It reminds me of Caligula's Irritable Grizzly Adams in the authenticity of description -- both of place and of the grad school experience. It's nice to find stories where academia is presented accurately. (More writers need to do their homework in this respect -- or pick a different setting. Write what you know ... or research like hell.)

In conclusion, I have some purely technical observations. The novel is written in third person, present tense. If present tense is unusual for a novel-length work, I understand she's had criticism for the fact it's not in first person. This baffles me. MOST published fiction is written in third person; it's not a failure of style. I'd suggest that Twilight fandom is too attached to first person and more than a few stories could benefit from being written in a different voice.

In the Blink of an Eye was recently nominated for "The S. Meyer Award for Most Excellent Grammar, Punctuation, & Spelling" in the Eddie and Bellies fanfic competition. If, by the time this review appears, voting will be over, this story most certainly deserves the nod, and even to win, should that be the case. There are very, VERY few stories in any fandom with so few errors of grammar, spelling or punctuation. The fact that Katie edits for herself makes this fact all the more remarkable. I wouldn't recommend that most authors -- even other professional editors -- fly without a net (e.g., a beta reader), and my opinions on that have been previously stated. But she's clearly proved to be the exception to that rule. One would be hard-pressed to find a cleaner fanfiction novel in Twilight.

Minisinoo is a noted author in the X-Men, Harry Potter and Twilight fandoms. She has more experience in her little pinky than a newbie like these blogsters running this circus here and we fall at her feet when she speaks ;D.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Min! That was so sweet!

  2. "Blink" is one of my favorite stories ever. There is such depth and detail to Katie's writing. I feel like she has so much respect for her readers and for the characters. Her story is definitely high on my list of 'Smartfics', and for good reason. I love the respect that the two of you have for one another, Min. She has spoken very highly of you many times.
    People, if you aren't already reading this story then shame on you. No more excuses- get started!

  3. I agree 100% regarding your comments on the maturity of that characters. I appreciate this story for that aspect almost more than any other. The Saga was so passion driven for every second of the four books that it's nice to have the outlet of this story to see what might have been if lives hadn't been in danger every second... or when they grew up. But on the flip side, the passion of the Saga was also what compelled me to read voraciously so it's also not such a bad thing either. As someone close to Bella's age in this story, it makes her character more relatable to me. It's nice to have fanfic to fill the cracks.

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  5. In The Blink of an Eye is one of my favorite stories in the Twilight fandom. Scratch that. In any fandom I read in.

    What Katies does with the characters, how she shows off the depth of character that Meyer only hinted at in the books, sucked me in from chapter one.

    Katie's vampires, werewolves, and humans are real, flawed, growing personalities. They are individuals first, creatures of mythology (or not) second.

    When I see an update alert for Blink appear in my inbox I know that what I am about to read will entertain me, yes, but it will also cause me to think about the human condition, about relationships, and about growth and what it means to love.

    So thanks, Katie, for sharing your writing talent! You're enriching our fandom with every chapter.


  6. As a relatively more mature reader in my 30's, Blink was the first fic I came upon that pointed out to some of the things I just couldn't understand in the Twilight series and making me feel like I had found a literary kindred. For example, Bella tells Edward in retrospect how creepy his stalking of her was. It's nice to see the role reversal, too. In Blink, Bella is the more clearly thinking, pragmatic of the two, and Edward has to strive to make himself worthy of her. Original Bella never felt like she was good enough for Edward, Blink Bella knows she might be too good for him. The best part of this fic is the pacing- it moves slower than ice flows in Anarctic. But remember, as those ice flows travel south, the water warms, and the flows are released until they melt into the tropic waters. At this point in Blink, Bella's iceberg is just starting it's southward journey. I'm enjoying watching her begin to melt around the edges.

  7. Bizarro thing to ask, but can my rec get a header? It looks very sad and plain when I scrolled down. :-D

    I'm glad people liked the story however. :-)


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