Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why: Twilight Has Filled A Niche and No One Can Fill It

This is not a good thing, mind you. I don't want anyone to read this title and go, "Oh, wow, Jacob likes Twilight, now." I have not recently suffered a blow to the head or started huffing paint...not to say that Twilight fans do any of those things. They do worse, they read the books.

There's been a meteoric rise in book-to-movie adaptations of YA novels, Young Adult books for the uninitiated, over the last few years. There has been even more in the last year since the final Twilight movie slumped, still-born and repulsive, out of the box office. For those of you out there, shaking your fist at me for being so heartless and cruel, let me remind you that Dynasty had already done a similar trope in their final hours of fame, and, as poorly received as it was back then, it hasn't gotten better with age.

Where was I? You'll have to forgive me, I could go on for hours about how awful the series is, but I simply wanted to make a point. This is not a review to cast a light on the spectacle of Twilight, because honestly, bad reviews do more for bad books than good ones, and every time I say the name of the series I can hear Stephanie Meyers' pockets filling with more ill-gotten money than a Nazi during Blitzkrieg. The point is that the series created a fandom with marketing and influence that I haven't seen since Star Wars came out with the second trilogy, with fans more obsessed than the people on Trekkies. And why is that? Who knows, it was the wrong place at the wrong time, and once that sparkly vampire was out of the box, it just kept glowing no matter how deep I buried it.

But, why is it that with all the Twilight, (cha-ching, dammit Meyers!) off brand movies coming out, none of them have been able to match the success that their predecessors have made before. I always think of it like a flight of geese: Meyers was the brain dead goose that somehow got to the head of the flock and made it easier for all of its less popular geese-cousins to follow in it's wake. Now Meyers has gotten tired and moved off to the side, and rather than a smarter goose taking the lead and getting the rest where they need to go, they've flown into the arctic, had their wings frozen and exploded in mid-air. And then someone came around and made a nasty facebook post about them.

So what did the Twilight Series do that the others just aren't getting? Well for one thing, everyone else is writing with a plot. Look at a general plot like Game of Thrones. The plot was central to the story without being the majority of it. The characters of the story revolved around the plot, and character development and conflict revolve around the characters. A good climax to the story comes along and effects the majority of the characters if not all of them, and ends with the reader wanting more. Regardless of whether you like a story-driven or character-driven book, you can all agree that a plot is important to a book. I like to think of it as a galaxy: the plot is the sun, the characters are the planets, development are the moons and the climax is a set of meteors about to destroy everything. Goofy as it sounds, it's apt for the point I'm about to make.

For Twilight, they skewed the entire galaxy, making it seem like they have a plot, but in reality, in it's place is only conflict. Rather than a plot-sun, Twilight's galaxy model revolves around conflict and little "forbidden romance" tropes to draw in readers. Think about it, the characters are in school but do they ever actually talk about school beyond the Romeo and Juliet sections Meyers forces down your throat in an attempt to sound worldly? No, she's got vampires and werewolves and a forced love triangle so weak it makes people wearing "Team Jacob" t-shirts look like people who wear "Vote Gore" buttons. Around their conflict-sun, float little character planets with no real development. 200-year-old Vampires don't really develop,  and when you try to make them it is contrived, and "Dynasty-Level-Weak". In exchange of a climactic meteor shower, a plot-shower is in it's place, spitting at the planets, hitting some, but mostly just aiming wastefully aside like a group of children spitting at someone off a balcony. They're not likely to hit you, and it's somewhat amusing to watch them try.

And that is the reason, in my opinion, that all of these other YA book-to-movie adaptations are failing, or at least not cashing in as well on the waning popularity that Twilight got. Books like Beautiful Creatures and (shudder,) City of Bones, are trying for the otherworldly romance of a "normal" protagonist and a soft-core gooey supernatural love interest. They think that this is the source of the popularity, a plot about whether they can make it or not, but in reality, 90% of Twilight is just about how wrong their relationship is and how they can make it work anyway. That's not a plot, but that's what sold Twilight, and that's why others have been failing in its wake.

So, what do we do? I know we are all getting a little tired of the YA movies coming out, and to be honest, after Percy Jackson 2.0, I just want the Hunger Games movies to be over so that I can get back to avoiding the movie theaters for awhile, at least until X-Men: Days of Future Past comes out. And, to be honest, I think that's what movies need to do: wait. Wait for the next fad so they can cash in on something moderately original and not so embarrassing. Because to be perfectly honest, if I find out they're going to try Eragon again, I might just blow a fuse and start throwing paperback copies of The Hobbit from the nearest water-tower 'til they lock me up in the looney bin.

Single Handed: Finale

As promised, this is the final part to Single Handed, both parts. I know it's a bit long, but just keep in mind that it's wrapping up two sections of a story. Not much to say about it: nobody has really had anything good or bad to say about the story up til now, so I'm just assuming it's been well received. I'm funny like that. So, without further ado, the Finale to Single Handed by Jacob Moore.

I was woken from the blackness by whispered voices. I didn’t care where I was. I was
warm, and I didn’t have a rabid wolf on me anymore, and that was all that mattered. I just laid
there for a while, enjoying not doing anything until the voices got louder and I could no longer
ignore them.
 Opening my eyes, I saw that I was in a hospital, lying on a bed in a gown too small for me.
An I.V. hung next to the bed, and considering I couldn’t feel my fingers, I bet it was on the good
stuff. Or dead: dead people probably couldn’t feel their fingers either, right? Definitely the good
 The room wasn’t empty, of course. A female doctor was arguing with a cop who was, in
turn, waving emphatically for her to get out.
 “It’s not appropriate,” she hissed as he pushed her firmly towards the door.
 “And I told you, I don’t care. He should have a friend here when he wakes up, not some
quack!” I recognized the voice, and while I was annoyed, I couldn’t help but smile at his
presumption. “Tell me what?” I asked. The doctor zeroed in on me like a missile, but the cop took the
opportunity to give one last good shove that sent her flying through the opened door.
 Over the sound of metal and plastic crashing to the ground, Lt. Locke called out, “You
two, keeper out…or shoot her. I don’t really care which,” and he slammed the door, walking over
to the bedside. In a city full of blondes and ravens, Alex Locke was an anomaly with his flaming
red hair and freckles over his Asgard pale skin. He was friendly enough for having as touch a job
as he had, and was almost always smiling ear to ear, even now. My father had always said he’d
never be a good cop: he was too thin, frail, and friendly. I knew better. If anything, Alex was too
“Friend, huh?” I said, smiling up at him. “Stretching it a little, aren’t you?”
 “Suit yourself, boss,” Locke said, sketching out a little salute. “Don’t know why we can’t
be both.”
 “What happened, Locke?”
 Locke’s face clouded over, but he grimaced as he started. “From what we understand, the
Wolves knew your route somehow. That’s being looked into. They hijacked a snowplow and
knocked the transport van over. The plow backed out and the Wolves swarmed the area,
making it possible for Fenton to escape. One of the officers called in for backup shortly after
things started.
 “My unit was in the area. I coordinated with five others, and we circled the wagons. We
got every one of them: ten total, three injured. We had light casualties over all, but the officer
who called in for backup was killed.” “Did you get Fenton back to jail?” I asked. Locke stopped talking and frowned down at
me, “What?”
 “I just said that one of your men died and all you want to know is if some scumbag is
back in jail?”
 I scowled and attempted to straighten myself in the bed, “What was his name?”
 “How should I know?”
 “If you can tell me, I can tell you what his unit number was, how long he’s been with us,
even how often he came in with scuffed boots. I’ll know his parents, because I’ll have to call
them and arrange his funeral expenses. I have time to mourn my officer later, so don’t tell me
how to prioritize! Now answer my goddamn question, Lieutenant!”
 By the time I finished shouting, my stomach was hurting and I had to remind myself that
I’d been recently stabbed. Locke turned around for a few minutes, but recovered, angry, but
controlling himself.
 “We found Fenton in the snow plow without the keys to start it. He was half frozen and
bleeding. He’s got some new charges against him now…now what?”
I was staring at him, aghast, “How did he get in the plow? I had him cuffed to me. I
couldn’t let him get away again. What did he do?”
 Realization seemed to come to Locke, and it made his already pale skin lighter, “We
thought you knew…there was so much blood. We didn’t think anyone could go through it and
not know.”
 “I passed out when he tried filleting me, Locke. What did he do?”
 “He cut off your hand…” The words didn’t seem to register, spoken so matter-of-factly…so blunt. He was talking
again, but I couldn’t put the words together. I felt around, and sure enough, I realized that I
could feel one hand, but everything below the other wrist was numb. I pulled my arm out of the
sheets and looked. The stump was well rounded with bandages, clean linen encircling an arm
that used to be whole.
I gazed at it like a man trying to puzzle out some sort of abstract art, and hours seemed
to pass by at a time before something inside me seemed to click out of place. With a snarl, I
attacked the bandages with my remaining digits, pulling at the neat, clean, offensive linen,
ripping and tearing at it in rage.
Locke reached for me, and I shouted, pushing him backwards where he crashed into the
wall. The door opened and two uniformed cops looked in, obviously concerned. I ignored them
and finished unwrapping the bandages. The stump was well stitched, but red and angry as it
came into the light. I looked at it, and felt the piece I’d lost slip further away. I’d sacrificed my
hand…my flesh and my blood…the only thing I had in this world.
“Where’s my hand?” I asked to no one in particular.
Locke looked hurt but answered, avoiding looking at my arm, “Fenton didn’t have it, and
we couldn’t find it anywhere. I’m sorry.”
“’Sorry?” I said, glaring at the stump…my stump, refusing to look at anything else. I’d lost
my hand, and what did I have now? “Get out.”
“I don’t think you should be alone right now, Kris -” Locke started to say.
“That’s Chief Tyler, Lieutenant!” I shouted, feeling the stitches in my stomach pulling, but
I couldn’t bring myself to care. “Now get your ass out of here! Now!”Locke frowned and walked back to the door where the officers had disappeared.
Grabbing the door, Locke turned back to me and glared. “Suit yourself, boss,” he said, and
slammed the door, leaving me alone. Just me…and the price of my obsession.
“Let me get this straight,” Locke said, perched on the edge of my bed while I re-wrapped
my bandages, having thrown the bloody ones in the trash when I’d gotten home. “Some woman
off the street pulls a gun on you and demands you open your safe deposit box. You take her
there, give her a ring and pull a gun on her. The teller comes in to check on you, the woman
shoots her, making everyone in the bank think the one-handed guy with the gun did it,
effectively stopping your pursuit. You then attend to the teller’s wound ‘til the paramedics show
up. Did I miss anything?”
I finished wrapping the bandages and turned back to Locke. After the paramedics had
taken Anna to the hospital, cops came to question me. Recognizing me, they’d called up to
Locke who had ordered me taken home. He’d shown up ten minutes later, bright and shiny in
his uniform and not smiling at all.
“Nope, that pretty much covers it,” I said.
“Oh good, ‘cause I’m trying to get a baseline for the new and improved, retired
Kristopher Tyler, but it’s not like they make a litmus test for this.”
“Hey, I was just going to get a new coffee pot.”
Locke raised his eyebrow and looked at the mess of sludge and glass around the room,
then back at me. I shrugged. I hadn't had time to clean before he’d shown up.
“Why didn't you go after her?” Locke asked, bringing us back on topic.“You know, I remember a young punk Lieutenant getting mouthy with me after I asked a
similarly insensitive question,” I said, frowning down at him.
“That ‘punk’ is Chief now, and understands how to prioritize,” Locke said, getting off the
bed and walking towards the door.
“Then you missed the point I was trying to make,” I said. “If Fenton had escaped, he
would have killed more people, maybe even more cops. If I’d chased after that woman, the
teller, whose name is Anna, by the way, would have died, even if I had caught her. My
responsibility is always going to be towards the people I can help, Locke.”
Locke seemed to think it over for a minute before nodding and going for the doorknob.
Before he opened it, he snapped his fingers in an all too familiar manner that made me glad I no
longer had my gun in hand. “That ring she took,” Locke said, turning around. There was an eager
glint in his eyes, but otherwise, he appeared calm. “What did it look like?”
“It was a cheap knock off of my grandmother’s wedding ring,” I said. “My mother lost
the original and didn’t have the heart to tell my father. It was a plain gold band…almost man-ish.
“No reason,” Locke said, frowning. “Missing evidence from the Wagner murders, but it’s
not your problem.”
“Welcome to my life, Locke,” I said, as he turned his back to me, opened the door, and
started out. “Sometimes things just go that way.”
Locke nodded and closed the door. I walked over to the kitchen. Everything was
connected to the ring. Fenton and now Helena both wanted it. I watched out the small, dirty picture window above the sink until all the police units drove off then walked over to the phone
and picked it off its cradle. Digging my fingernail into the seam, I cracked it open like an oyster.
Inside, where I’d removed the ringer three months ago laid a small evidence bag.
Nestled in it was a small ring with a minuscule diamond setting…a ring familiar to me since I’d
seen its owner wearing it so proudly in his youth. Just visible on the inside, dull and faded in the
fluorescent kitchen lights, read: Alex Elias Locke.