Hey J: 2 questions for you:
1. Can I trade you an hour with Edward/Aengus, the Irish God of Love, for an hour with Garrett Marrs, the Roman God of War?
- H, I'll gladly trade an hour of Edward/Aengus for an hour of Garrett Marrs. Marrs is my new fanfic crush.
2. Spike or Angel?
- Ten years ago this week I drove down to Orlando, FL to see (read: stalk) James Marsters at Vulkon. But at this point in my life, I'm all about some Angel. You can have Spike.
- Hah! I'm a Riley girl. We are few and far between!
Ok, so we are being goofy, talking of mythic gods and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but we got your attention while kicking off part three of the Genre series. We've heard from BrattyVamp and JessieCheesie on the Horror Genre, and from GallantCorkscrews regarding Romance. We meld the two and tweak it here with our take on the genre that started this infatuation for us all - Fantasy/Supernatural.
Let's take the Twilight Series out of the equation for a moment, and talk big picture. Fantasy/Supernatural stories blur the line between the world we live in and the one we dream about. Whether we are talking about a truly mythical place or a splice of every day life, fantasy/supernatural stories provide an escape from the day to day, mundane facets of life while giving voice to some of our greatest fears, hopes, and desires.
Joss Whedon, the man, the myth, the legend, is a great example of the fantasy/supernatural genre in modern application. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and The Dollhouse are all brilliant examples of the melding of supernatural themes (vampires, immortality, space travel, cannibals, and mind control). Buffy and Angel were both critical and popular successes while managing to wrap some really out there concepts (demons, slayers, and alternate dimensions) together with the typical everyday life of a teenager/adult (dating, friendships, college). We all felt empathy for Buffy, who had to learn how to balance her commitments to the world with her commitments to herself and her friends. While the things she had to deal with were out there, the issues were real, and not that far off what we live with every day. If Buffy can do it, we can too, right?
Twitter poll #1 - when you hear supernatural or fantasy, what do you think of in lit, ff, tv, etc?
- Buffy /Angel
- Supernatural (TV show)
(Notice there is no Twilight in there? Hmmm.)
So why is it that we don't see more Fantasy or Supernatural in the Twilight Fan Fiction Universe? Granted, we have AU and Canon (vampires and werewolves), but of late, it seems like the AH world has taken over. A lot of it sources back to how people view the books. In a totally unscientific survey on live journal, I asked readers to classify Twilight into genre. The bulk of respondents chose romance with supernatural elements. The few that did classify it as Fantasy did so because they focused on the characters, not the relationships.
Not so surprising, those that did identify Twilight as a romance almost unanimously preferred AH. Hmm....
Oh - and for the record, both Amazon.com and Borders.com classify Twilight as Young Adult Fantasy. Yep, the genre that spawned the whole thing is probably one of the least read in the fandom.
I've often heard the Twilight series described as fantasy books for people who don't read fantasy (and Meyers' other novel, The Host, described as a science fiction book for people who don't like science fiction). Is it because the relationships between characters outshine the crazier/fantastical aspects of the plot for so many readers?
What is so compelling about Fantasy/Supernatural Genre?
"LOVE IT...that's why I read Twilight in the first place was because I heard the word vampire..."
I got hooked on genre fiction for the same reason I find fan fiction so much fun: because of the "what if" factor. What if the little bunny you bring home is really a vampire bunny? What if you walked through a wardrobe, and found yourself in a wholly different world? What if you could travel to the center of the Earth? What if a rhino escapes from the zoo and gobbles up your mum and dad? When I was younger, it was the stories that blended our reality with another--Bunnicula, Chronicles of Narnia, Journey to the Center of the Earth, James and the Giant Peach, etc., that got me going. From there I branched out to epic fantasies like The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, the DragonLance series, and The Wheel of Time. Let's not get into my love affair with the works of Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. Or my movie/tv addiction to films and shows of these categories.
This is a running source of contention with a few RL friends. About the farthest I'll go into the fantasy realm is Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon or the old school legends (you should see my tattered copy of Bullfinch's Mythology from College). BUT if you are talking supernatural - sign me up. I love stories that mess with your head and make you wonder hmm...ghost stories, witches, vampires, post modern apocalyptic (which I guess starts to meld into fantasy) are all my kind of brain candy. To me, the genre dances just on the edge of what could be, and probably explains why I've read The Stand so many times I almost have it memorized. Supernatural pushes the envelope and challenges the status quo, often making you think about your own morals or treatment of social groups. Look at some of the classic works of Literature...The Picture of Dorian Grey, Frankenstein , Dracula; they are all supernatural stories with a morality tale hidden inside. The monster as a virtual boogeyman for narcisim, techonlogy, or sexuality. What a great way to play on the things that scare us in real life. I know I am mixing genres, but that is what sucked me into the remake of Battlestar Galactica on SyFy - it had science fiction, mythology and supernatural elements all swirled together acting as a proxy for religious and ethnic intolerance. It doesn't get more brilliant than that. And that's what sucked me into Wicked too (the book, not the musical).
I'm a die-hard geek when it comes to speculative fiction; I'll read or watch near about anything that isn't horror (and, heck, I love Lovecraft, and he's horror...so heh. I guess gore is what turns me off). I enjoy the epic fantasies but the stories/tv shows/movies that suck me in the most are just what you mention--the ones that dance on the edge of what could be. That's one of the reasons I love A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland, and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. As a segue into the "what makes a good fantasy/supernatural story?" question, I think the reason the tales we've just mentioned from the 19th & early 20th centuries have stayed with us for a century or more is because of the morality tale hidden inside; the message, the kernel of universal truth, speaks to us regardless of the time it was written.
What Makes a Good Fantasy/Supernatural Story?
We've talked a bit about the potential this genre has to encourage us to examine both ourselves and the society we live in. What do I mean by that? A few examples: The attempts of Dr. Frankenstein's monster to make his way in our world shines a bright light on our (very human) cruelty to outsiders. A brutal, murderous Mr. Hyde comes to dominate the seemingly virtuous Dr. Jekyll--what does that say about our own human nature? The Pevensies grow past pretty sibling rivalry and learn the power of faith. Alice discovers, on the other side of the mirror, that the solutions to problems we encounter are not always cut and dry. Ebenezer Scrooge epitomizes the opportunity we have at redemption. For youth and beauty, Dorian Gray sacrifices his soul--is that a sacrifice you or I would be wiling to make? What is Bella really willing to sacrifice (herself? her memories? her family?) to have her fairy-tale ending with Edward? Dr. Frankenstein's monster, Louis & Lestat, Buffy & Angel, the characters of Battlestar Galactica, and the Cullens all prompt us to ask: What makes us "human"--what we are, or who we are?
Of course, a good fantasy/supernatural story isn't all social commentary or questions of morality. For me, what makes a compelling speculative fiction--a term I'm using as an umbrella to cover science fiction, fantasy, mythology, and the supernatural--are the same elements that make any story of any genre compelling. Characters I care about. Character growth. A timeless message. Entertainment value. A plot I can't figure out in the first two chapters (or, if it's a nice stock plot, the characters are awesome enough to retain my interest). A world order that intrigues me. Creativity. Tension. These are the elements that keep me reading and re-reading the classics we mention above as well as more modern works like Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy , Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time, China Mi‚ville's Un Lun Dun (an EXCELLENT YA Fantasy novel, btw) and Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale.
Essential and somewhat unique to these genres: believability. Sounds crazy, no? We're talking unbelievable things: mythological beings like vampires, werewolves, gods and goddesses, creatures of faery, ghosts, robots, and whatever else an imagination can conceive of. Pop culture is full of us buying into unbelievable ideas because they are put together in such a way that yeah, we can buy what they're selling us. You can introduce supernatural or fantastical elements, or even entire worlds, if they have a grounding in things we understand, and adhere to rules that are, interally at least, consistent. Vampires living among us? Sure thing, as long as there is explanation as to how it happens and why the main population doesn't know about it (nevermind Sookie Stackhouse). Clark Kent really being an alien sent to Earth to escape the destruction of his home planet, and moonlighting as a costumed super hero? It's ok, as long as he remains someone we can relate to on a personal level, and his story is grounded in real life we "get" and understand. The more crazy the scenario, the more believable elements we need in the tale.
I'm sorry? Was I supposed to chime in here? You said Clark Kent and I was off looking at Smallville cast pics. Yeah, the heroes and protagonists In Fantasy/Supernatural tend to be easy on the eyes too.
But all joking/drooling aside, there is something to be said about the romantic nature of Fantasy/Supernatural stories. So often, a huge part of the story conflict is woven around love or sexuality, even in YA fiction such as Twilight and Harry Potter. The villain, mysterious and sexy. The hero, golden and beautiful. The loner, enigmatic yet strangely alluring. I could go on and on about the visceral appeal that this genre that holds over us. Good guy or bad guy, there is something there for everyone. Part of the fun is seeing the redemption or fall from grace, and how the character will respond as that transformation occurs. To me, that was part of the appeal of Bram Stoker's Dracula; beautifully flawed characters placed in scenarios completely out of this world. Whether you empathized with Jonathan, Quincey, Mina or even Dr. Seward, there was something compelling to tie you to that character and their evolution. The end reward and pay off was great, a frenetic ride that played on your emotions, and gave you a tangible, dare I say it, realistic culmination of the character's story. That, at root, is what this genre is all about - giving you characters you can are about and the opportunity to grow or die as they find their way through the most magical and mystical of events.
Fantasy/Supernatural and Twilight
So why is it, then, that most of the people polled don't consider Twilight Fantasy?
As stated so eloquently above, The Twilight Series (short of Breaking Dawn) and The Host delve into fantastical worlds, yet not so deep that we feel our eyes roll back in our head at the mention of foreign languages (Elvish or Mermish anyone?) We get glimpses of the truly supernatural facets (being changed, Alice's ability to read minds, Edward's telepathy), but it never really does more than skim the surface. What we see of the vampire world via the Volturri is one of politics and personalities, not hierarchy determined by age, sire and progeny, etc. It truly is vampire lite. But it is vampire, nonetheless.
Bella comments to herself more than once in the series that she's somehow found herself surrounded by creatures straight out of myth. We have not only vampires but a version of werewolves as well. As an ickle little human being introduced to these creatures that aren't supposed to exist, she (and we, the readers) learn the rules these creatures operate by. The introduction goes slowly, first learning about Edward and his family, and how they came into their vampirism, and how they live with it. We discover that there other vampires out there in the world, but they follow slightly different rules when it comes to interacting with the human population (that is to say, they treat humans like food, not beings deserving of respect). And then we learn there is a ruling body, the Voluturi , that enforces the few laws that govern this secret world of vampires.
But wait, there's more! Come New Moon, Bella has to learn something else about this crazy world of ours: werewolves exist. Maybe not exactly as legend dictates, but people turn into wolves! Here again we're along on Bella's learning journey as the rules by which the werewolves operate come to light. There is a hierarchy. There are very defined times when the La Push tribal members with the wolf gene come into their wolfiness, and they have rules they adhere to in their own dealings with the normal human population.
The biggest complaint, and where the individuals polled shift from Romance to Fantasy is with Breaking Dawn. Regardless of how you feel about Nessie, the rules changes with the fourth book, taking us further into the realm of fantastic. The largest issue (and complaint) was that the rules established in the previous three books were ignored or reworked to accomodate the introduction of that lovely little bundle of joy, Renesmee (sorry Nessie fans, I couldn't resist).
Regardless of how you feel about the fourth book in the series, I think we can all agree, the tone and the rules did change in Breaking Dawn, and with it, the author broke a cardinal rule of the Fantasy/Supernatural genre: follow the rules you create.
Our Fantasy/Supernatural Recommendations
Yes, you knew we'd get here. There aren't a ton in the Twilight Fandom, but we dug deep and polled wide to generate this list. We did get some interesting commentary along the way.
Twitter poll #2 if someone rec'd you a fic that was supernatural or fantasy, would you read it? Laugh? Run the other way? Why?
- Probably not, just because I enjoy AH stories...
- Be more likely to read it. I think it's a great place to take fic, try new ideas.
- I love all kinds of fantasy stuff (books, tv, and movies), and would love to see more sup/fantasy fic out there!
Our request - dig into some of these great stories, and throw your preconceived notions out the window as you do. Counter to popular belief, there are some interesting, well written fantasy/supernatural stories out there. Depending on your level of comfort, the can vary from just a sprinkling of influence to full on fantasy worlds.
An entry in Jayeliwood's Sexy Eddie Contest! Bella goes abroad to do research for her upcoming novel. What will she discover while on her trip? All Human, lemon. Nominated at the Eddie Awards for Best Short Story.
Bella is sent to live with a father she barely knows in a town she hasn't seen in years. There she sees HIM and nothing is ever the same again. Suddenly she cannot breathe or think or BE without him. And she doesn't know why. AU/AH
Once upon a time, Edward is a faun, and Bella is a human girl. They meet in a magical meadow and fall in love. Bella must make a choice in order to be with him, and only she knows when the time is right to make that choice. Sexy Edward contest one shot.
Crossover with Harry Potter. Edward gets advice about Bella from a friend who went through a very similar situation.
Teddy's secret and magical childhood is lost when a family heirloom is destroyed, changing his life forever. Now an adult, can Edward open himself back up to magic and love when he meets a beautiful - and hauntingly familiar - woman in real life?
Edward and Bella thought they would have forever. Instead, Edward is teaching Bella a ghostly lesson in ars moriendi... "the art of dying." AU; mixed POV; lemons; MCD at onset. Some mild/dream-state DubCon.
In 2127, the Volterra Corporation has more control than the government over the Allied Colonies. The time has come for the people to strike and take back their lives. Edward Cullen, code name Echo, is a soldier in that fight. M for sexuality & violence
AU/AH: When the Swans return to their birthplace, Bella learns she is no ordinary teenager, and Forks is no ordinary town. Can she fulfill her destiny with the powerful Edward Cullen, or will the dark forces that threaten their families destroy them all?
The sequel to Aengus, by popular demand! When the love of your life is a god who holds grudges like no one you've ever met and is eyeballs deep in mythological intrigue, a fairytale ending can be hard to reach. All human.Rated M for a reason!
If you loved someone, how much would you be willing to sacrifice? Bella makes the most difficult decision of her life; now she has to live with the consequences. A Bella/Edward story.
March 16, 2006, the world the Cullens knew...ended. What if Edward never made it back in time, and failed to protect the one human that only mattered to him? Nuclear War? The Cullens? Nope...not a crackfic. Dark & Angsty. NM-AU
An age old feud. Lives hang in the balance. All may be fair in love & war, but it's the weaving together & taking apart of individual threads that creates the tapestry of Edward & Bella's life. An AUH tale from the team that created Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Bella is a girl with a tragic past.The mysterious Edward sweeps in and seems to be balancing out some of the bad in her life.But can love really heal wounds,and what is the real price of balance? Will they be able to pay it? AU - Edward is not human or vamp.
I have no idea how I survived that day. All I know is that no one ever touched my bare skin again for the next five years of my life." Bella befriends crazy Alice Brandon and meets Edward Masen, the guy living in her attic. Nothing will be the same. ExB.
I'll admit that this genre take evolved as we worked from point A to point Z. With the evolution of the fandom, and the view of the books, we felt that it was important to talk about the core tenants of the Fantasy/Supernatural Genre and what it could be when applied to Twilight, and to fan fiction as a whole. Whether you prefer it lite or hardcore, fantasy or supernatural, there are some great stories out there for you, both online and in bookstores. We encourage you to take the time, and give some new stories a chance. A number of you did it with Twilight (don't look at the summary on the back, just read it! Does that sound familiar?), why not give another story a chance?
HMonster is the author of Deconstructing Dracula and a regular here at the Ficster. Check out her Collab series with ProfMom72. Starshinedown is the author of Aengus and other fine fics. Check 'em out!