With a Short(ish) Commentary on the Both Original Series & the Fan Fiction Phenomenon
The Twilight series* – and the mass of fan fiction it’s spawned – are rather fascinating to me. The books themselves are quite compelling, even while I read them with feminist criticism firmly running through my head.
Culturally we are suckers for a ‘good’ romance. Romeo & Juliet is the classic romantic tragedy and is referenced several times in the saga. Bella loves it, Edward doesn’t get it – until suddenly he’s playing Romeo himself. He also can’t see the appeal to Bella of Heathcliff & Cathy’s tragic love (in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights), against a background of their – he thinks – irredeemable characters.
Bella, along I suppose with Stephanie Myers, thinks that is the point – their love *is* their sole redeeming feature.
Personally, I have more sympathy for Edward’s initial views. The love Edward & Bella share appears to be just as unhealthy as that of either of those more well-known couples (well, they used to be more well known!).
It is perhaps not unusual for a teenager to be melodramatic & despairing in their lost love, but frankly, Bella takes it to ridiculous lengths. And nothing in her previous temperament or behaviour suggests that she would (except, perhaps, her love of Wuthering Heights).
Much of the fan fiction written with canon couples and storylines justifies this by referring to a supernatural bond of ‘mates’, that Bella should not have been able to feel, as a human, but did. But I don’t think that the original books suggest that that is what is going on.
Yes, we are told that once a vampire falls in love, it is forever – but there is no suggestion that this is because they have found their soulmate and one touch creates an unbreakable bond – rather, it is that vampires are essentially unchanging, so while something like falling in love *can* change them, it is not something that can then easily be reversed.
Which is all just to say that however you might rationalise Edward’s obsessive & suicidal behaviour on the supernatural, Bella’s similar behaviour can really only be blamed on a psychotic break (I am using this term colloquially, not with any real psychological knowledge!).
And yet, we idealise their love, and the books individually, and series as a whole, do the same. Frankly, the idea that my teenage children might read these books and decide that this is the sort of love they should crave, is quite depressing. The way our culture idealises the limerence that exists at the start of a romantic relationship, celebrating it as though it is actually ‘true love’, is surely a big part of the reason for our high divorce rates.
I do think that is part of the appeal of the love stories in the series though, as well as in the fan fiction. Love – especially teenage love – is inherently uncertain. You can never truly know another person’s feelings, so to enter a serious relationship is to take a leap of faith. And we all know, sometimes that faith can be misplaced. So to through in a supernatural bond, or even just a never-changing vampire, provides certainty, where in real life there is none.
But to idealise that is, I think, risky. Real life requires the leap of faith, and real life romance – if it is to survive – also requires work and commitment. If we expect it to be like a supernatural vampire bond (or a disney princess one), we are heading for disappointment.
And I am not even going to discuss the ickyness that is Stalkerward and Bella’s blase reaction to him. Oh, you’ve been sneaking in my window to watch me sleep at night? No worries… Why would that bother me?
What fascinates me though, is that I can make these critiques as I read, but still find the story completely compelling. That I can be completely critical of the supposed emotions but still experience the highs & lows, the angst and devastation right along with the characters.
But this post was not supposed to be a review of the books, but a list of some of my favourite fanfictions.
Fan fiction – not just twilight based but all sorts – is another topic that fascinates me.
It shouldn’t be surprising really, that it exists. The ability of writers to capitalise on popular books by writing sequels and series with the same characters is well established. The tendency for the first book (or movie) in such series to often be the best one (the later books, we readers speculate, often being written in more of a hurry and with less of a passion, simply to fulfil a contract) is also commonly accepted. But for many of us, they are still worth reading (or watching) simply because we don’t want to let go of the characters.
Enter fan fiction. As a writer of fanfics, you can not only keep hold of the characters for as long as you have new plot ideas, you can change aspects of the original as you wish, whether to improve on aspects you disliked, or simply for the fun of asking ‘what if’.
What if Bella didn’t fall apart (or, no more than the average 18 year old would in such circumstance) when her boyfriend dumped her? What might happen when she ran into him again 5 years later? Or what if she didn’t forgive him – and his family, when they came back in New Moon, for leaving without (apparently) a backwards glance? What if Edward didn’t leave? Or what if he did, but couldn’t convince his family to go with him (and how he could even convince himself that would make her safer I don’t know)? What if Edward & Alice were actually a ‘mated’ couple, and it was Jasper who fell for Bella (oh yes, there is a LOT of Jasper-Bella fan fiction, though the majority of it takes the family’s departure in New Moon as its starting point)?
I haven’t read a lot of different fandoms’ fan fictions yet, concentrating on Twilight, Pride & Prejudice, and the occasional Harry Potter fic. I was quite astounded when I ran across fanfiction.net in a search and discovered how prolific some of the fandoms are.
At time of writing, on fanfiction.net alone, there are 763,000+ Harry Potter fics, 219,000+ Twilight fics and 71,400+ Percy Jackson fics. these are the top three fandoms. By contrast there are only 4,100+ Pride and Prejudice fics, 290 Romeo and Juliet fics, and 9 fics based on the Temperance Brennan Novels.
One reason for this may be that the top three fandoms are all multi-book series, with a wide variety of characters and jumping off points, but I suspect it is also that they are all popular with contemporary teens – and a very large proportion of fan fics seem to be written by teens and young adults – that is, people with time on their hands.
And there are also whole sites devoted to one fandom, eg The Meryton Assembly for Jane Austen Fan Fiction.
What’s impressive also is that some of the very best fics are written by 16- or 17-year-olds. Of course, there is a LOT of frankly terrible stuff out there. Badly plotted, badly written, badly edited junk. And there are also a LOT of pretty ordinary but not awful stories. Good plots, average writing. Good writing, average plotting. Good beginnings, rushed endings…
Sometimes you think ‘wow, this sounds like something a 14 year old would come up with’, then you check their bio and sure enough… That’s exactly what it is. But other times, you think, ‘wow, this is quite amazing’, and then the next author note mentions the writer is in her Junior year. In High School. What?
There are a whole lot of unfinished pieces too, some of which might have 50,000 or 100,000 words before they are abandoned, and in some cases, pretty good beginnings too.
Of course, based on the author notes, it is clear that many fan fictions are completely made up as they go along. Meaning, they don’t have a basic plot planned out before they start posting chapters. They just start with a scene, conversation, or question in their head, and explore from there, even, to some extent, allowing reviewer’s comments to influence how the plot progresses. So I guess it is no surprise that some plots get to a point where the writer simply doesn’t know what to do next.
But this post is supposed to be about the best fics, not a wide ranging critique.
To me, that means well plotted – ideally with some truly original content – well written and well edited, and if it fixed some of the things that bugged me about the originals, so much the better.
Now, I have read fan fictions on a few different sites, but I mostly read on fanfiction.net, simply because it has soooo many, and because it is mobile friendly. I tend to read when I have spare time and my phone is handy. If I’m in front of my computer, I’m working. Mostly. So I am going to start by listing and giving a brief review, some of my favourites that I have favorited on fanfiction. My intention is to come back to this list and post more as I have time to review them.
For now, I am starting with a few. I will add more as time permits (Edited to add – I have added more, and will keep doing so). Please take note of the rating. Those rated M often have hot and heavy – and very explicit – love scenes in them (and far more of them than would be allowed by a traditional book editor – this is one of the effects of the episodic nature of fan fiction) and/or other disturbing scenes sometimes including explicit violence.
So here goes:
Seducing Ms Swan by DQRC: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/4425217/1/Seducing-Ms-Swan (Rated: T(13+), English – Romance/Angst – Chapters: 22 – Words: 132,610 – Reviews: 5,889 – Favs: 6,169 – Follows: 4,836) (canon pairings) FF summary: “Teacher!Bella, Student!Edward; a struggle of wills, an attempt at seduction, a dark secret, a dash of UST, a gallon of attitude, antagonistic motorcycling, a hell of a lot of angst and one unforgettable scene in a snow storm.”
Set about 7 years after the Cullens leave in New Moon. What I love about this one: Bella has grown up. She hasn’t exactly moved on, but she has figured out what she needs, learned to stand up for herself and figured out what was unhealthy for her about the original relationship. She doesn’t just fall over backwards to take Edward back, but neither is she full of unnecessary anger. She takes the time to figure things out.
The plot is well thought out and not predictable (but makes sense). The writing is good and s/he shows more than tells. At time of writing it has over 6000 reviews (many of which are NOT happy with Bella’s backbone!) and almost 6000 “favs” (ie people who have “favourited” it).
The Fallout by OCDindeed https://www.fanfiction.net/s/4946176/1/The-Fallout (Rated: M (16+) – English – Angst/Romance – Chapters: 39 – Words: 325,178 – Reviews: 6,704 – Favs: 4,514 – Follows: 3,229 (canon pairings)) (also on Archive of Our Own) FF summary: “March 16/06 the world the Cullens knew ended. Faith, hope & love are powerful things. Edward finds out how powerful they are when he loses the one person who made his life worth living. Not just an E/B story. Entire Cullen clan is here, each with their own hardships. Set during a post-apocalyptic nuclear war. Try the Prologue before passing judgment. You might be surprised! NM/AU”
I have to say this one astounded me. It is completely original, aside from the fact that it uses Stephenie Meyer’s characters and world as a base, and follows from a canon version of Twilight. It is set in a future in which a nuclear war started after the Cullen’s left in New Moon and before they went back (and to complicate things, Bella left to live with her mother in that time, making her difficult to track down).
I am sure a professional editor would have reduced the word count, but aside from that, it would not be out of place on your bookshelf. If you like post apocalyptic vampire novels that is… Warning: There is violence and disturbing images the further the story goes along, as well as (important) secondary character death.
The Girl in the Meadow by Simaril https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11029458/1/The-Girl-In-The-Meadow (Rated: M (16+) – English – Romance/Drama – [Bella, Edward] – Chapters: 39 – Words: 150,252 – Reviews: 2,096 – Favs: 1,110 – Follows: 857 ) (canon pairings) FF summary: “Bella arrives in Forks with a lifetime of memories of Edward and their time together. The only problem is that Edward hasn’t met her yet. Time travel, love and forever share in a story of longing and waiting for the right moment to start their forever. Twilight/New Moon AU.”
I love this one. She says is was “strongly influenced by Audrey Niffenegger’s book, The Time Traveller’s Wife“, and like that book it has some definite tear-jerker moments, but perhaps not quite as bad! It switches point of view between Edward and Bella, present and past.
It seems to me that there are more all human stories than vampire stories out there, which I find kind of odd in a way, but… there it is.
Firefly in Summer by primarycolors https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6672297/1/Firefly-in-Summer (Rated: M (16+) – English – Angst/Romance – Edward, Bella – Chapters: 47 – Words: 188,377 – Reviews: 9,877 – Favs: 6,835 – Follows: 4,401) FF summary: “Edward finds himself back in the little beach town of his childhood when he inherits the local bar from his uncle. The elusive, pretty girl next door has killer legs, a sketchbook and secrets that are slowly eating her alive.”
This is my favourite all-human story, although it only has Edward and Bella as primary characters. It’s a bit angsty and definitely elicited some tears, but worth it in the end. Also, while being all human, it is not entirely without a supernatural element, though that doesn’t come into it until about 1/3 of the way through. The primary characters are well developed, the plot is surprising, and the writing is good.
What it is also though, is one of the many fan fictions that leaves me wondering – why not just use different names and call it original? It includes all the Cullens, but aside from Bella and Edward they are all bit parts, and they don’t have the same familial relationships as they do in the books (though Carlisle is Edward’s father, and the pairings are all canon).
Sometimes in the all human stories, using the Twilight characters and relationships sets the story up with a short of shorthand, allowing the author to skip a lot of the character set-up work that needs to be done in a traditional novel. And of course, we love the Twilight characters and want to hang out with them some more.
But in other cases – and this is one – the linking of the Twilight characters to their fan fiction alter egos is so minor as to be almost irrelevant. I suppose the big advantage is a ready made audience, happy to read and give feedback.
An Imperfect Love by mistyhaze420 https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5080257/1/An-Imperfect-Love (Rated: M (16+) English – Angst/Romance – Jasper, Bella – Chapters: 35 – Words: 227,159 – Reviews: 3,078 – Favs: 2,817 – Follows: 1,015) FF summary: “After Edward leaves Bella & Alice leaves Jasper, their worlds collide. They have no one to turn to but each other for comfort and become good friends…but maybe more. But is it enough to mean forever? Graphic language, lemons in the future. J&B”
This is not actually my favourite of the many Bella-Jasper stories out there and frankly could use a good editor to cut it down a LOT (again, this is one of the effects of fan fiction being published chapter by chapter – each “episode” if you will, may be edited, but the text as a whole never is).
BUT, it’s FUNNY (without being straight humour), which I enjoyed AND I love that she succeeds in creating a believable and acceptable post-New Moon Bella-Jasper romance without making either Edward or Alice out to be arseholes OR killing them off. Which is pretty rare. It’s also a pretty out-there premise, though though strangeness doesn’t start to kick in until several chapters in. For the first few chapters it seems like a pretty typical New Moon AU, it’s not until about chapter 9 that we get the first hints of what’s to come. But eventually we do start to understand what’s happening, and it is quite an original idea!
I Wept Not by ArcadianMaggie https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5683212/1/I-Wept-Not (Rated: M (16+) – English – Angst/Romance – Jasper, Edward – Chapters: 25 – Words: 175,194 – Reviews: 2,071 – Favs: 1,087 – Follows: 675 FF Summary: “Jasper is a war weary soldier burdened by the weight of eternity. Edward is an uncomplicated high school student content to hide his sexuality. Together can Jasper find something to live for and Edward discover some things are worth dying for? J/E Slash”
Even more than the Bella-Jasper stories, I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved this one. I will say the M rating is VERY much earned, both for violence and bedroom scenes (and not always in the bedroom!).
This story deals sensitively with the difficulties facing a teenage boy handling his developing sexual identity in a small town, initially staying in the closet, and eventually dealing with being outed unexpectedly. And of course it combines that with some of the standard twilight angst (even though it is Jasper wrestling with his conscience not Edward). It also delves into Jasper’s past, and I don’t think the summary (above) does a very good job of describing just how “war weary” an empathic vampire working with Maria could be become.
Moonlight: A Twilight and Life and Death Retelling https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12355361/1/Moonlight-A-Twilight-and-Life-and-Death-Retelling by Rosalie Hale (Rated: M (16+) – English – Romance/Supernatural – Edward, Beau S. – Chapters: 36 – Words: 107,626 – Reviews: 140 – Favs: 76 – Follows: 57 – FF Summary: After over 100 years in the closet, Edward had all but given up the idea of finding a mate. He certainly didn’t think he would fall for his food. Beau wasn’t looking for love when he moved to Forks, Washington. Rural towns didn’t exactly have a welcoming reputation for people like him. Twilight re-imagined (again). Slashfic/lemons. Beau x Edward
Okay, so this is the first time I was willing to read a Beau story, but I loved it. It was only published this year, so it doesn’t have a lot of reviews yet, but it’s well worth a read if you like slash – but keep in mind it very much earns its M rating!! It’s quite explicit.
Okay, that’s all for now. I will keep adding more as I have time, maybe I will choose some more of my favourites that either have different pairings (okay, I admit it, I am a Jasper/Bella fan, although I am picky about how it’s done), and/or a focus on different characters. Some of the fan fic writers choose minor characters (in the Twilight saga there are a LOT of extras, from the people in the town of Forks and high school, to the vampires who gathered at the Cullen’s place in Breaking Dawn, the Volturi and their guards, or the Wolves and other Quileutes), to write almost completely original fics.
*Please note that I refer solely to the books here. The movies I think made some changes for the good and some for the bad, as far as the creepy stalkerish aspects of the series are concerned, but overall were a strange mix. The first movie, in particular, made me think of a poor attempt at recreating the Twin Peaks mood, and frankly, made me cringe in a whole different way to the books.
I will say, the Jasper of the Eclipse movie was pretty hot. And there is where my commentary on the movies starts and ends. (back)