Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fan Fiction

Was reading some article online about most read books of the year where Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was mentioned and then a review of a book called Wicked telling the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz and it seemed interesting to me (obviously) - people are publishing fan fiction and the reading world is devouring it!
It's always been the general opinion that fanfic is written by complete hobbyists-adolescents who are destined for and nothing more and yet here we are, with obvious derivative works being not only published but also marketed and receiving recognition and even fame. Is this a shift in the general outlook on writing of not-entirely-original material? I sure hope so! Here's why: while I think this is an odd thing to happen, unprecedented even, it's better than nothing at all. We could be living in a world where people didn't care enough about a classical work of literature to submerge themselves in it and resurface with a different interpretation. I also hope that this will be a gateway for people to create their own worlds and characters and wow us with them. Last but not least, I'm not against books like Wicked hitting the shelves because it means that for all us fanfic writers there's something out there besides the thrills of finishing a chapter and getting comments on the site from other writers like ourselves and the satisfaction of finishing a story. If we stick with it and become good enough our stories based on beloved characters can get published! We just have to be careful to fall in love with characters who are public-domain material, other than that it's a matter of quality and persistence. In short, Long Live Fanfic!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bitchy, whiny, pain-in-the-ass heroines

Watched Julie & Julia the other day and was pleased with the work of Norah Ephron as the script writer. She did a great job turning Julie Powell's character from a someone who makes one want to slap them with the book they wrote into a neurotic and at times annoying but still likable lady. I have read the book and more often than not I rooted for her husband to leave her for someone more pleasant. Love is blind and deaf, however, and he came back, so I just hope for his sake now that she doesn't have to kill lobsters she'll have fewer reasons to be unbearable. But I digress.
As I was reading J&J I couldn't stop feeling that a lot was a little too familiar. Then it hit me - The Devil Wears Prada. Andy Sachs and Julie Powell could be the same self-absorbed, bitchy woman in parallel universes. For them both everything is everyone else's fault, they hate their jobs but stay there and they both come out on top despite their unpleasantness. Kudos to Aline Brosh McKenna for that screenplay, by the way, I actually liked Andy while watching the movie.
Apparently in chick-lit the heroine has to be a complete nightmare for the books to fly off the shelves and get turned into movies. Then the script writer comes in and softens the angles, makes the nightmare simply a victim of the occasional circumstance or poor judgement but a nice enough person, the publisher releases another print of the book with the movie tie-in cover and they fly off the shelf once again. Then the reader is disappointed by how much the screen version differs from the book version but the damage's already done and all that remains is to watch the movie again to wash down the unpleasant aftertaste.
Julie & Julia is based on a true story, I'm reasonably sure The Devil Wears Prada isn't and that gives me some peace because, after all, it would be simply awful if to get somewhere in life all the nice girls had to turn into bitchy, whiny, pain-in-the-ass heroines.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man (Paperback)The epilogue of this little paperback roused more emotion in me than the book itself, which is not unusual for works written in the 19th century - authors of that time had a penchant for extensive exposition and Mr. Wells inserted quite a bit of it under the guise of Griffin telling his story to Dr. Kemp. This slowed down the narrative so much I had to force myself to not skip paragraphs for the fear of missing something important.
The author of the epilogue claims that while Griffin is an anti-hero Wells makes him sympathetic throughout the book and the reader roots for him despite his unpleasant nature. May be I'm highly desensitized but there was only one time when I felt anything mildly resembling sympathy for Griffin and that was when he was captured and killed by the policemen and good citizens of the small town he's chosen for his Terror. His body, beaten and broken, with his chest crushed, slowly becoming visible before the amazed eyes of his captors had more humanity in that moment of death than it ever did while still living and breathing.
I wondered what would make a man such an unlikable, selfish brute for it is highly doubtful that he was born with so little regard for others around him. Quite possibly he was shunned by first his childhood peers, then his school mates and possibly his colleagues because of his albino appearance. By the time he became independent he was so bitter that even if anyone showed any kindness to him he would take it as mockery and would suspect an ulterior motive. I wouldn't be surprised either if many of his ideas about the world and people around him were a result of paranoia.
Most frequently people want to possess or be something unusual for the fame and fortune it would bring. It does not appear, however, that Griffin ever wanted either, even as a byproduct of his research. He was much more concerned with preserving the secret as his own and when the formula was completed he only desired to descent deeper into the seclusion invisibility would provide, to not have to deal with the pesky people surrounding him. He also probably dreamed of revenge against those who he believed wronged him.
Is it possible that his life would have been different had he revealed his findings to the scientific community? Possibly. Could he have gone to his colleagues after becoming invisible and asked for their help? Also a possibility. Was he the kind of man to have done either? Most likely not. He's pushed everyone away, even those who were not turned off by his unusual appearance, with his temper, intolerance and general air of superiority and so even if he wanted to ask for help there wouldn't have been anyone for him to turn to.
Griffin's ultimate undoing however wasn't his alienation, his ego or even his temper. It was his choice of "helpers". A man with similar ideas and mental constitution would have been a good partner for him, but neither Kemp, a man of principles, nor Marvel, a plotting coward, were suitable for that role. Griffin failed to see that the latter was too afraid to stay by his side and the former wasn't convinced enough by his misguided ideas. He also failed to see that the world wouldn't just accept him in the role of a tyrant, that they would stand up for themselves and him believing in his own superiority and right wasn't enough.
The saddest part of it all is that Griffin appeared genuinely surprised that Kemp and the townsfolk stood up to him, that they had ideas of their own about how to live their lives, which brings about new questions: how does a man end up in a place where he does not even acknowledge the possibility that others might have a different opinion, let alone consider what that opinion might actually be? Are we all subject to such a delusion if we lock ourselves away from others for long enough? And finally, was Mr. Wells cautioning us to not confine ourselves within the limits of our own minds so much that we would lose touch with what the real world is all about? The last question we may never know the answer to but the other two are open for consideration.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Twilight. Part 2.

There are four books in the series and as a fan I've got a lot to say. So, critics, here's more for you.

To those who say that Bella is a spine-less coward:
Show me where. You're going to have to give me page numbers 'cause I'm not seeing it. I do see however a girl with extreme confidence in herself who pursues what she wants despite everything her family and friends tell her and who, while experiencing fear like any other normal human being whose life is in danger, presses on regardless. You want examples? I'll give you examples.
Twilight - Bella decides to move to Forks so her mother can have a life she wants with her husband; she goes to the ballet studio all alone to meet a vampire who can kill her with a flick of a finger because she thinks she can save her mother; she maintains that she wants to be with Edward even though he clearly doesn't think it's a good idea for her.
New Moon - she faces Jacob when he begins avoiding her; when Alice tells her Edward is in trouble she does not hesitate, she is ready to go to Voltera on a moment's notice to protect him, even if it means risking her own life; she goes to the Cullens and asks for a vote on her humanity and becoming part of the family; she defies both Jacob and her father by staying with Edward.
Eclipse - she maintains her friendship with Jacob despite Edward being against it; she continues her relationship with Edward even though her father and Jake would clearly rather she didn't; she wants to go to the face-off with the newborns and doesn't only because Edward won't have it; she risks herself during the Edward vs. Victoria fight.
Breaking Dawn - she joins forces with Rosalie of all people to protect the child she wants to keep; she goes alone to establish an escape route for her daughter and Jacob and protect the secret from the Volturi.

To those who are outraged by these books spitting in the face of feminism by portraying a heroine who "can't stand on her own and always needs a man" and is accepting of a guy who'll disable her car so she wouldn't be able to go see her friend:
We all look for love. We all look for a mate, a soul mate if we're lucky, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with looking for that and hanging on with all your might when you find it and know without a shadow of a doubt that this is it. Bella is female, a heterosexual one, so yes, she looks for the mate among the opposite sex. That is still the prevalent tendency in any society, last time I checked.
Now, let me ask all you "feminists" who are crossing your arms and digging in your heels right now. Have you ever had your heart broken? Was that person the one and did that breakup crush all your hopes and dreams in one swoop? If you answered yes, remember it. Remember the pain and how the days seemed grey regardless of what the sky looked like and there was no more happiness in the world to be found anywhere. Never felt that? May be you haven't loved that much. (Hold the screaming until I find my earmuffs, please. Ok, got 'em. Go ahead, let it loose.) If you loved and felt and remember - is it really that unreasonable for Bella to be heartbroken? I don't think so. In fact I think if she just shook it off and moved on I would've been disappointed.
On to the "unhealthily controlling boyfriend" part. On one hand, granted, it can be perceived as creepy and can call for a break up and a restraining order. On the other hand we're not dealing with any kind of usual situation here. There's real danger there. As in life and death. So yes, I think extreme measures are warranted. Oh, I can hear the screamers "But she's letting him get away with it! Unhealthy patterns!! Red flags!!!" Yes, she's letting him get away with it. I wondered why myself and decided that the reason is that finally someone is taking care of her, as opposed to her taking care of everything and everyone and making sure people have food in the fridge and their driver's licenses don't expire. She grew up being the responsible one, now Edward, the Cullens and Jake are taking care of her and I imagine it felt good for someone else to be in charge for a change. She could relax and not have to be in control of everything any more.
We all want to be taken care of and if you believe otherwise you're just kidding yourself. Deep down inside we all want to curl up on the couch once in a while and not have to worry about anything other than our own ideas and selves. For most of us that's what we get during our childhood. Bella had no childhood and this is her second chance at it. Besides, it's easy to forget, but at 17 she's still a kid. She needs someone to look after her and she's found that someone in Edward. For that, among other things, she'll let it slide.

I know I'm talking about fictional characters as if they're real people. Contrary to popular belief not all Twilighters have trouble differentiating between fiction and real life. (I read the other day that people come to Forks, WA and ask if it's ok to go hiking considering the vampire situation. Really?) My theory is that in every work of fiction there's a little bit of fairy-tale, the rest is all true and it takes talent to merge the fantastical features with the truth to make them into one tale, solid and seemingly real. To me books with relationships that don't resemble day-time soaps are case studies in human behaviour, with names changed for privacy reasons and settings altered almost beyond recognition, but the core of it all is still there. There's a Bella in all of us, just like there's an Edward and a Jake and a Rose... you get my point.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Twilight. Part 1.

Yes, it was those four. Not very original of me, I know, but they hooked me and still haven't let go. So now, cuddled up in the warm embrace of the fandom and fangirling over every bit of news, I'm obsessed with a fictional world. Yes, I know. Not very original either. It could be worse. I could be on drugs or something. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
To those who are sighing, raising eyebrows, shaking heads and rolling eyes: feel free to stop, I've heard and seen it all and I'm not changing my ways. There's some more stuff I'd like to say, so here goes:

To those who's maintain that the writing isn't that great and that Stephenie Meyer seems to have gotten carried away with a thesaurus:

The writing may not be Pulitzer prose but how many books have you read that grabbed you inside and twisted? How many books have you read where the characters seemed real and you cared so much that when they cried you cried with them? How many books have made you feel anything more than mild amusement? How many books pulled you away from the TV?
To each his own of course but these books grabbed me. They made me feel and care and want to learn and explore and discover and do something with myself other than go with the flow. After reading them I stopped caring about whether my dreams were practical or not. They are mine and even if I fail at least I'll know I've tried. I'm not afraid to try something that in my gut I know is right for me, even if nobody else thinks so because if one doesn't believe in oneself nobody else will. How many books have woken you up like that?
So yes, I'm grateful to Stephenie Meyer for writing these books because I found them at the right time and they made a difference. Go read 'em. May be they'll do something for you too.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dipping toes

Imagine going to the beach for the first time after a long while, walking in the warm sand toward the water, wondering all the while whether it's warm or cold, remembering how it felt last time, anticipating that first swim in the new yet familiar waves. Imagine finally getting there, standing just an inch away from the surf, wet sand under your feet, and as the new wave comes you touching the water with just the tips of your toes.
It's everything you've expected and not at the same time. It's the invitation and promise and when the anticipation becomes too much you charge in, splashing and making waves of your own. Or you tread slowly and timidly, watching as inches of your legs disappear under the surface and feeling the chill all the way through. Eventually you're in deep and you take off swimming, savoring the sensation of water washing over you and making you feather-light.
This year was just that for me, the first thrilling moments of discovering books again. I haven't read since high school really and now cracking the tomes and smelling the paper and ink and watching a world come alive around me through the magic of a printed word was like going to the beach for the first time in years and remembering how much I love it and wondering why I ever left.
One book did that. Or four, actually. I stayed up nights reading. I looked up places and people. I sought out the music mentioned in them and played the melodies over and over again. Those sounds made me feel like I've been missing out on the world until then. And I was.
I'm in deep now and getting ready to swim. The waters are vast and I'm only now starting out. At least now I know where to look for me.