Friday, April 1, 2011

Can Meyer Keep It Up?

by: Ceilidh of The Sparkle Project

With the impending release of the first part of the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn signalling the end of the wildly successful book and movie series, USA Today interviewed the creator of the incredibly divisive pop culture phenomenon (to say the least) for some on-set gossip and to ask what else she’s up to. She mentioned the sequels to her sci-fi book for people who hate sci-fi (and love casual sexism in their Animorphs rip-offs) “The Host” as well as the long rumored mermaid book which is “going to be 1000 pages” and a possible fantasy novel, described as thus:

"It's a fantasy that takes place in another world where people are using bows and arrows and swords. There's a little bit of magic, but it's a very limited form of magic. The characters are human, and some have the ability to use magic and some don't. It's pretty dark. People die. The main character is a 17-year-old girl, and she's kind of cool."

Meyer and Twilight mocking has turned into a professional art form over the past few years and I of all people am especially guilty of doing it. I maintain that, while Meyer is not the worst author ever and certainly not the worst writer of the sexist messages about teen relationships and a woman’s place in them in YA (many worse have followed in her footsteps), she is not a great writer and her messages are awful, even if she maintains that she doesn’t write messages in her books. But this isn’t a post about her skills, or lack of them, because that’s been done to death and there’s nothing new I can add to that discussion. Meyer’s work appeals to a huge amount of people so even if I find it distasteful and dull, she’s clearly got an appeal to a wide audience. But what fascinates me most, and raises the most questions, is whether or not she can continue this success post-Twilight.

J.K. Rowling published the final Harry Potter book in 2007 and, almost 4 years later, has announced nothing new or even hinted at what she is writing for the future, although she has stated that she’s still writing. Her place in the pop culture and literary pantheon is assured, no doubt about it, and there’s no way she, or Meyer, will ever replicate that phenomenon, but can they both continue it in some manner?

Meyer has published another book that, while not being all that dissimilar to the Twilight series in terms of structure, characters and relationships (and sexism, oh the sexism), was categorized as a sci-fi novel and shelved in the adult section of most bookshops, at least it was in UK. It sold and it sold well but nowhere near to the same level of success as Twilight. It was also released in between two Twilight books so much of that success could be seen as the fans gobbling up what she offered in anticipation for more Bella and Edward.

A lot of this is generalization, of course. It’s tough to completely dissect the phenomenon. But things are different now: the Twilight series is finished, the movies will be done soon (side note: two parts? Really? There was barely enough plot for one. Got to milk that cash cow somehow, I guess) and a lot of the teenage fans will be growing up and out of their love for the books. A lot of people did the same for Harry Potter but that’s a much wider established series with a more general appeal so it sticks around more. Personally, and I understand how completely biased my thoughts are on this subject, I don’t think Twilight has much staying power in terms of pop culture history. It’s just not good enough, although it is pretty representative of a more female driven entertainment that’s easy to condone and condemn.

Mental rambling aside, it’s difficult to judge whether or not Meyer has any staying power once Twilight is over, same for Rowling. It’s really easy to lump the two series together even though they have almost nothing in common but in this case I think it’s justified; two authors who came out of nowhere and gathered a huge fanbase, made millions and secured their place in the pop culture landscape. I think a lot of their future successes will have to do with displaying their talent. Both will need to show that they can move outside their box, although I think Meyer has a lot more work to do because, let’s be honest here, Twilight is just not as good, interesting or complex as Harry Potter. I grew up with Harry Potter and the books grew up with me, becoming more complex as I became a more complex reader.

Twilight’s success happened much more quickly and played to its core teenage audience, although it also had success within older age groups. At the end of the day, it’s tough to gauge how successful both women will be, but in the case of Ms Meyer, I don’t think she’s going to be as big a bestseller in the future. Of course she’ll never sell books like she did with Twilight again, few writers can do that, but she’ll have her niche. It won’t be as influential as her most famous/infamous series was and I don’t think it’ll be as feverishly anticipated as those books but if nothing else, I’m interested to see how the phenomenon evolves, especially after the uterus gets ripped open by the vampire teeth and Roger Ebert writes his review for that! Of course, Meyer also hints that she may return to the Twilight world with the story of Jacob and Renesmee, and if that happens you’d better prepare for blog post after blog post on why that’s a big heap of wrong!

16 comments:

  1. I agree. One hit series doesn't mean everything you touch will always be golden, especially when the novelty wears off. I also think Rowling has more staying power. :)

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  2. "It's a fantasy that takes place in another world where people are using bows and arrows and swords. There's a little bit of magic, but it's a very limited form of magic. The characters are human, and some have the ability to use magic and some don't. It's pretty dark. People die. The main character is a 17-year-old girl, and she's kind of cool."

    Ugh, well I hope I get my (hopefully creative) fantasy novel out before she does hers, otherwise the genre will be ruined for years (well, more ruined then it is now, anyway). Also, what is it with authors telling readers that "omg ppl will die just like in Harry Potter do you care yet???"

    I don't hate Meyer on a personal level. I do hate that her books are so overrated. Although I strongly object to the messages in her books, I didn't hate Twilight or New Moon because they were entertaining. However, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn and The Host I really disliked as wholes. I didn't read The Host until this year, when I checked it out from the library, and so far it has been my worst read of 2011 (those scenes in the desert killed me with boredom).

    I do think that Meyer has some staying power based on her name and fanbase alone, but it isn't what it used to be and with all the anti-Twilight sentiment being fairly mainstream these days, I don't think she'll ever see success like she did with Twilight. The Host sold well but I don't see many people who are nuts over it.

    Whether Rowling has staying power depends on if she writes another book, and if it is as catchy as Harry Potter. I think she mentioned maybe trying to write something under a pseudonym, but I don't know if she will. I think it's probably harder to raise the bar when you've seen this sort of success, but who knows? I do think Rowling has more talent and potential as a writer than Meyer.

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  3. I really enjoyed The Host and have been dying for the sequel- The Soul for 3 years! It's up at Goodreads with a release date of 2012, but I don't see her meeting that since she has barely started it.

    I can see her waiting longer to publisher her next book or series and wait for the whole Twilight craze to die down.

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  4. "I was thinking of writing a book where stuff happens. There will be characters, plot development, conflict... I haven't really punched out all the details... But I do know there will be a love triangle, anti-feminist messages, and explosions lots of explosions. It's gonna be cool."-stephenie Meyer

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  5. I don't really want Rowling to write more; what if it's awful? It might leave a bad taste. As for Meyer, that description she gave made me want to gag. I'm with Ladyfelldew on this one. There might be a similar outbreak of fantasy rip-offs after.

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  6. I am skeptical about declaring that Meyer will have a harder time following up the success of Twilight than JKR will with Harry Potter. Both series seem to me like two sides of the same patriarchal coin: where men have adventures and plot while women sit and wait for them. Harry Potter had its own share of sexism issues (different from Twilight's, but not completely absent). Neither can it be ignored that the size of their appeal (Harry Potter having the broader audience) is related to how one book features a male protagonist, and the other a female.

    I grew up with Harry Potter too and while I think it did become a bit more complex between book 1 and say book 4, its complexity plateau'd and it doesn't hold up to stringent analysis. (In contrast, Twilight was first written as one book and it shows.)

    There's a lot of untold variables here: whether JKR will choose to ever publish again, whether they will play on the same themes from their earlier books or different ones, what people's expectations are. Meyer has published in two different genres (by technical definitions) whereas JKR has only done fantasy-- that might be a factor too. In this case, I'll wait until the books are out and its numbers are available to make a decision.

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  7. Great Essay!!! I'm a HUGE fan of Harry Potter even do is a series of witches there is a message about loyalty, friendship, love among others. Twilight is another thing I still can't understand the fact that someone can risk her soul because a HOT guy. About Jacob and Renesmee I'm speechless is so NO NO NO. What Renesmee will talk to Mommy about HOW good Jacob kiss. NO NO NO.

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  8. I wonder often how she can write these books, but not writing more. I have about ten book ideas and have to constantly journal them so I dont forget. I just wonder if it was all for money or if it was passion.

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  9. I think the fact she didnt finish "Midnight sun" means that she is kinda flakey!

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  10. It's funny that this post should appear just as I was wondering about J. K. Rowling and what she's up to. Both authors really are in a difficult situation, given that their readers are inevitably going to compare everything they write now to their previous series. And how goes an author break away from their own inevitable comparisons with their previous work? Do they try something new? Stick within the same genre? It can't be easy.

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  11. This is obviously just my viewpoint, but I almost feel like the very name "JK Rowling" is so entangled with the Harry Potter series that it will be almost impossible for her to ever write anything again using that name. I think she'd be smart to write any future books using a pseudonym and trying to keep her identity secret for as long as possible. Otherwise, she'll have to suffer infinite comparisons to the HP books and criticisms that the quality isn't there - how could it ever be? How do you ever follow after something as successful as HP?

    As for Meyer, my impression was always that she had one really good story, and she told it in Twilight. I never had a problem with her actual writing because I was always entertained enough by the story, nor did her underlying messages bother me per se. It was more how her underlying messages made her characters do stupid things (become an immortal vampire but resist marriage because she's too young? WTF?) I started Host but was never able to get past the first third. As such, I think Meyer will go on to be a moderately successful writer based on her connection with Twilight but that success will be of the tailcoat riding variety rather than based on real quality.

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  12. I feel like I would be able to notice JK rowlings work. I dont know tho.

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  13. I don't know about Jacob and Renesme, but if Meyer wrote about the future tales of Alice and Jasper as vampire space pirates in a ship called Tyler's Van, I'd totally read it.

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  14. I got maybe 2/3 of the way through The Host. It was just boring and irritating and I just wanted to be done with it and finally I reminded myself that I had no classes, that I was not assigned this book to read, I am not required to read it cover to cover even if I did make the mistake of buying it in hardcover. So I'll be selling it at a garage sale soon. :P

    The Twilight series was more like literary junk food. And I'm a fat kid. I burned through the whole series in the space of a week or so not long after Breaking Dawn came out. I even read the novelette published later about one of the minor characters from the main series. Not fine dining by any stretch, and--I agree--sexism out the wazoo, but I could identify with the warm-climate girl in the cold place and the despair of someone you obsess over leaving you, but I spent the whole series wondering what the hell Bella even had in common with Edward. Twu wuv, I suppose. :P

    J. K. Rowling, on the other hand, has only gotten better at world-building and characterization from one book to the next and I think that while there might be a "sophomore slump," I kinda doubt it. I'm hoping for a prequel series about the Marauders' time at Hogwarts, but that's probably too much to hope for.

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  15. I'd love a prequel too. I'm not really interested in finding out about
    Harry's kids.

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  16. J.K. Rowling has a firm place in the media/public not just because the success of her books and the movies following it, but because she's the first female million/billion/something-aire writer in history. Her creation is now a total franchise. I mean, they built a freakin' amusement park--well a themed land in an amusement park and are thinking of building another one at Universal Studios, Hollywood (Oh please God, please let that happen). Even if she never pumped out a book again, Harry Potter is here to stay and as long as he's here (I mean, they can't exactly get rid of him now do to the amusement park thing, right?), so is J.K. Rowling.

    Meyer, on the other hand, is no where near Rowling's position. Her books don't have the same wide birth of readers and the movies aren't...very...good. Maybe if she comes out with another successful series, one that isn't about a forbidden, dangerous love (Like Twilight and The Host) and is actually good, just maybe it would help her get a better footing. But after reading that description, all I did was laugh. Seriously? She just described more than half the fantasy novels existing. Anyways, she'll get readers due to recent success and fans, no problem.

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