What is Twilight? "It's classic storytelling, as imaginative as Bram Stoker," says Laura Cristiano, co-owner of the epicenter of its fan universe, the Twilight Lexicon blog. The hit series of novels occupies the crepuscular outskirts of horror and Young Adult fantasy, and the hype over December's film adaptation has only just begun. In my new column at AMC I examined whether someone who isn't an extreme fan (or "Twi-hard," even) has a prayer of enjoying this film and the PG-13-ification of a classic horror icon. “They’re vampires-- there’s no way of getting around it,” Cristiano says, "But the typical rules of the vampires don’t exist—they’re allowed out in daylight, they don’t have fangs, they’re super strong—basically nothing human can stop them. Someone asked, 'Couldn’t you kill them with a wooden stake?' and the author's response was, 'Try driving wood through granite, see how far you get.'"
TB: Do you think the deeper storytelling aspect will actually carry over into the movie?
LC: Absolutely. so many people have access to the movie, and what comes up time after time is that Catharine Hardwicke, the director, is a person that believes in the story and in seeking out the true elements-- doesn't just go for the cheap and the cheese. She really wants a compelling reality, as surreal as that may be. The fact that Harwicke is the director gives it supreme viability.
TB. Tell me a little about your personal relationship with the books.
LC: I don’t normally like vampire stories, when I was a kid I was terrified of vampires. True story: my mother actually found her garlic powder on my windowsill one night because I was terrified of them. But two years ago my best fried Lori had read Twilight, and got me hooked on it too; she went online for more information, but here was very little besides a rudimentary author site, stepheniemeyer.com, so she didn’t find much. Lori has also written fan-fiction every now and then, and she’d written a little something [based on Twilight], and one day she got a note on her fanfic site from Stephenie Meyer. I thought, wow, it's amazing that an author would respond to someone like that! So they struck up a correspondence; they both come from similar backgrounds, they’re about the same age, have the same number of kids, they are both Mormon. When Lori decided to make a fan site, she roped me into it. That was back in March in 2006, and it’s just grown so phenomenally over the last two years. I remember celebrating our 500th visitor; we now get about 30,000 unique hits a day.
TB: Do you consider yourself a horror fan per se?
LC: I can’t say that I’m a huge horror fan. I’ve watched the classics, and for me it just goes back to the storytelling. There’s gotta be more than just, “Hey look, there’s someone getting chopped up! There’s a helpless female screaming in the closet!” One of the awesome things about Twilight is that you don’t get a lot of simpering females screaming in the closet. There are people with guts, who will actually try and do something about what’s going on around them.
TB: Clearly Stephenie interacts with her fans more than most authors. How much does she interact with you about the site?
LC: She's incredibly involved. We have basically a friendship with Stepehnie Meyer. She emails us, she phones, we’ve met with her a couple of times. She’s very generous to her fans, a very real person, and a gifted conversationalist. The first time we met her, we parked the car and thought, “We’ll just run downstairs and put money in the meter." We actually got a parking ticket, we were talking so long! That’s just the kind of person she is, and I know not every author is like that. It can be risky sometimes, and a little frightening to be that exposed to your fans.
TB: The movie’s not coming out until December, and there’s so much news flying around about it already. Is over-exposure even possible at this point?
LC: I think it’s going to continue to build positively. I think people have simply underestimated these books and the movie as well. Book 3 was the first book to knock Harry Potter off the New York Times bestseller list. It just doesn’t get a lot of credit because a lot of people will just pooh-pooh horror and romance—they don’t realize how popular this one is. Also, people read these books again and again and again. There is going to be a real Titanic factor to the movie: people didn’t just see Titanic once, there were people out there seeing it three, four, five times, and the same thing is absolutely going to happen with Twilight. Until then it will be the best kept secret we all knew about [laughs].
TB: When a movie is promoted, fans don’t really have any control over how the material winds up being presented to the rest of the world. Do you think that’s going to lead to some hard feelings from fans as more glimpses of the film turn up online?
LC: I think if anything, fans are getting more supportive. Initially when the cast was announced, a lot of people went, “Yuck, I can’t believe so-and-so got cast in this role,” but if anything, seeing clips have made the film more real to fans than ever. People went nuts over it. They loved it. They even got glimpses of special effects that aren’t really written that way in the novel, and I can’t even tell you how crazy people went over it. They’re going to be really happy with how this is going.
TB: As widely as this veers from horror, does it strike you as odd to have Twilight news showing up on sites like Bloody-Disgusting?
LC: It’s a little weird. On our site that's not the usual crowd, but on our forums we get all kinds of people, we’ve got people who are more into the romance angle, and those who are really into vampires, and horror.
TB: When they meet in forums, do all these people get along?
LC: Yeah, pretty much! I can only speak to my forum, but in general they really do. Even at Twilight events like book signings. I credit Stephenie; as a Mormon mom who is really into Muse and Linkin Park, she’s not a person you can fit into just one category.
TB: Do you feel a lot of pressure as a moderator of this site, knowing that a lot of Mormon kids wind up interacting online with a very wide spectrum of people?
LC: We definitely make it clear that it’s not a “Mormon” site. Every forum has its rules, ours is basically “Look. The books are written at what you’d call a PG-13 rating—let’s just keep the language of the site at the same level as the language of the books." Mormons won’t say hell or damn, they’ll get out their hecks and dangs—but the next poster will get out a hell and a damn, and it’s all fine. It’s just a matter of mutual respect. If nothing else, everyone at least agrees that we all find netspeak lame. Otherwise it’s not that challenging.
TB: How would you present this movie to someone who’s not into the books—people who are just going to hear that there’s a new vampire movie opening—how would you convince the dubious, such as horror fans who are turned off by PG-13?
LC: I would get them to think about their favorite movie of all time, and ask them what it is about that movie that pulls them back to it again and again. Maybe you’re on your second copy of a certain DVD because you wore the first one out. It’s like that for us; the writing behind this is is so good, you just get sucked into it!