Friday, January 3, 2014

How to Invoke a Sparkly Vampire Curse

Geek.

I do fandom hardcore. From 2000 to 2007, I spent several hours daily reading, writing, and drawing things related to Harry Potter.  As sad as it may sound, it was a really amazing time in my life. I made so many great friends, friendships that have lasted beyond the end of the series. And to make it even better, the books generally went the way my friends and I had hoped.

In the world of fandom, shipping is not something done by FedEx or UPS. It's a term for a couple you root for, or in our case, predict will happen. It seems silly to boil your predictions for an entire epic series down to who will get together with who, but it ended up being a really good litmus test for a person's outlook on the books in general. Those of us with realistic expectations ended up clinging together in a vast sea of crazy.


In the summer of 2007, the final Harry Potter book came out. And it was so good, beyond anything I'd hoped. People slowly began to move on from the fandom, to find interest in new things. We had basically seen and experienced everything fandom had to offer.

Then Twilight came along.

The books were at once terrible, and brilliant. The plot centered around a ridiculously unhealthy teenage relationship. An editor was badly needed to trim the hundreds of descriptions of Edward Cullen's marble-Adonis-angel body and brooding-Heathcliff-amber gaze. The heroine was a dishtowel of a character, a girl so underwritten that anyone could project their own desires onto her...

Special Snowflake Syndrome.

And that was its brilliance.  Millions of teenage girls were Bella Swan, caught up in a fictional love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf.  Millions of teenage girls would have bought the next book in the series, even if it was a series of blank pages bound in hardcover.

The books were kind of awful. But seeing the same predictable patterns I'd encountered in Harry Potter fandom, played out over an inferior source, was actually quite entertaining.

In 2008, the final book of the series, Breaking Dawn, came out. To be more specific, it leaked over a 24-hour period, chapters appearing on the internet in groups of six or ten. Fandom-at-large christened it the Sparkledammerung.

It's not the real thing! the fangirls shrieked. Stephenie Meyer would never write a c-section by vampire! She would never have Jacob imprint on an infant! She would never name a half-vampire baby Renesmee!



Oh yes she freaking would, those of us who were older and wiser cackled to ourselves.

It was beautiful and hilarious to watch (I'm a terrible, terrible person) and I walked away with some genuine fondness for the series, for the LULZ if nothing else.

Then I visited Forks, Washington, and my delicious Schadenfruede Pie got run over by karma.

The first element of the plot, the Chekhov's gun, if you will, came into being the morning I went to pick up my rental car at SeaTac. The company with whom I had reserved an economy vehicle had gone out of business. Not to worry, as another company had picked up the slack and had a car for me! But it wasn't what I had expected.


Optimal Mustang weather.

Keys in hand, staring at the deep red Mustang convertible, I felt a bit giddy and a bit worried, as if someone, somewhere had made a mistake in giving me this car.

Had I rented in the past, I probably would have known - this is the last car you'd want in the snow. They are giving you the only car they can't rent out at the moment.

Seattle, one week earlier.

I signed the paperwork, made sure I was familiar with the lights, wipers, heat, and radio, and was off.

I spent the first and second night of my road trip in Port Angeles, a dangerous city where Bella is set upon by rapists and saved by her crush, Edward Cullen. Or, you know, a cozy little town with cute shops and restaurants.


I ate at Bella Italia, where Edward takes Bella on a date following her near-miss-murder. The waitress was super sweet - it was clear that they get loads of young, single women dining there. While Bella has a mushroom ravioli and coke, I went with the seasonal option of salmon ravioli and wine. It was pretty darn good.


The following day, I headed west on Rt 101, the loop around Olympic National Park. I passed through Forks, the setting for Stephenie Meyer's series. While the author had never been to the small town before writing about it, she'd found it listed as the rainiest place in America. She considered this the perfect hideout for a clan of vampires. Not because they turn to dust in the sunlight, but because they sparkle.

MTE, Edward.

I was on my way out to the beach instead. A beach owned by a tribe called the Quileutes, who can shape-shift into wolves to keep the vampires at bay. Or, you know, owned by the actual Quileute Nation, who have their own rich history and traditions which have nothing to do with werewolves.


No, seriously. She took an actual tribe and created a fake origin story for them.

I felt kind of bad pulling into the village of La Push, like I was there for all the wrong reasons. There were no other tourists (a good thing, maybe?) and only a few locals out and about. I walked along the beach, made even more dramatic by the wind and misty clouds rolling in from the sea. I snapped a few pics and almost died laughing when two dogs ran up the beach.


A selfie before selfies were selfies.

Fandom in-joke that isn't actually funny enough to explain.

I headed back into Forks for some lunch. Pulling up to the Chamber of Commerce, it became clear that the little lumber town had embraced its newfound status as a tourist destination for teens and Twimoms. Parked out front was Bella's old truck - the one her "perfect" boyfriend pulls the spark plug out of when she wants to go visit her (male) best friend. I bought a couple of bumper stickers for friends who were fans, both genuine and the snarky sort, like me.


On the main drag, I passed a Twilight gift shop. (I've read it's since burned down.) I stopped for gas at the Shell Station and bought a sandwich at Subway - the Twilight special, dripping with blood-red marinara. I was sitting in my parked car, eating my sandwich, when the first part of the curse took effect.


The Mustang lurched suddenly and I turned to see an old pickup, waaaay too close for comfort. The driver got out and we inspected the damage. It wasn't much, just a ding in the side, but it was a) my rental and b) his fault. We exchanged insurance information. I'd really appreciate it if you end up not having to use it, he said apologetically.

Little did either of us know...


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