My first impression of Star Wars was less than…stellar.
My intro was a commercial about the movie “coming soon to a theater near you.” Did I experience a tingling sensation? A premonition of the claim Star Wars would have on my teenage years? No. My reaction was to look at my mom and snort, “You’ve got to be kidding me! What a stupid movie.”
Six months and 12 movie tickets later, I was bragging to my classmates that I could recite the entire movie. (I still can. “Goo ta doo da, Solo?” My family won’t let me within hearing distance when they watch A New Hope on TV because I can’t keep the lines from spewing forth automatically.)
This was my first indication that I had a glitch in my hardwiring: I am a mild-mannered, normal person, but when presented with a story that I love to that extent, I transform into a geeky, completely obsessed fanatic.
A few years later I heard the term “fan fiction” for the first time. Fan fiction was something read in a “fanzine” since there was no internet. There were also no laptops, no cell phones and no twitter. (I know! I don’t know how we survived either…) Were there prophetic tingles shooting up and down my spine at the mention of fan fiction? No. My reaction? “Wow, and I thought I was a geek! What losers.” I remember feeling vaguely embarrassed for them. Sort of like how geeks dressed in jeans and t-shirts at a Star Trek convention feel about geeks dressed as Klingons and Romulans at the same Star Trek convention. I may be geekily devoted to a story, but I have my limits. Writing fan fiction, like dressing up as a knobby-foreheaded alien, was crossing the line.
Flash forward to 1998: I’m a married mother of two with absolutely no clue that a computer programmer named Xing Li living in California is going to hugely impact my future life by creating a little thing called fanfiction.net.
Flash forward to 2003: A married mother of three living in Arizona with absolutely no clue of the impact she’s about to have on the world writes Twilight. Two years later, the book is released.
So what was my first impression of Twilight? Fear. Tingly fear. I had read and enjoyed every book my daughter ever recommended to me. When she recommended Twilight, I said no way. She pushed, relentlessly; I pushed back. My refusal frustrated her. She knew I would love it; why was I fighting her?
She couldn’t understand my fear: the fear of loving something so much you lose yourself. The fear of stepping through the looking glass and knowing there’s no way back to who you once were. Your world shifts and nothing is ever the same again. Some corner of my brain recognized Twilight had that kind of power, so I was afraid.
Naturally, I succumbed; I read it and discovered my fear was entirely justified. For the first time ever, my first impression had been right.
Here’s what I learned about fanfiction.net from that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia: (Let me know if you’re interested in learning about Twilighted.net. They don’t have a Wiki entry, and I’m no journalist, but I’ll see what I can do…)
The website fanfiction.net is the largest repository of fanfiction stories in the world. The first story, uploaded in 1998, was about Twilight’s second-cousin-once-removed Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Today there are nearly 2.2 million users of the site, reading and writing tales regarding 9 different genres in 30 different languages.
Almost from the beginning, Harry Potter fics were the most popular and they still are today with over 450,000 fanfics. The anime/manga story Naruto is second with over 230,000 fics and…you guessed it. Twilight is third with (as of April 2010) 142,577 fanfics and rapidly growing. (Makes my eyes water thinking of all those fics just sitting there, waiting to be read.)
Something else I learned from Wikipedia that should be obvious, but perhaps bears mentioning, is the number of famous authors who refuse to allow fanfiction of their creations. (One word from any story originator and every fanfic written in that world is deleted from fanfiction.net.) Thankfully, Stephenie Meyer is not one of them. The Twidom wouldn’t exist without A. her story, and B. her magnanimous spirit in allowing us to carry on. I think this fact gets lost sometimes and we don’t give SM the appreciation she deserves.
So, the next time your favorite fic author writes a chapter update that totally knocks your socks off, send the fanfic writer your thanks and gratitude of course. But don’t forget that without Stephenie, we all wouldn’t be here, playing our various roles in the Twidom.
Now that thought gives me tingles.