The most recent foray into the realm of popular fantasy has had a polarizing effect on fans of the genre. By now you’ve heard all the hubbub about the fancy-pants shiny vampires , shirtless werewolves, and their millions of ‘screamy-little-girl’ fans. You’ve probably also heard about the borderline-fascist propaganda that attempts to classify you into one of two “teams” that will forever bind you to these characters. Well my friends, I’m going to put an end to all that. The time has come to bring forth an ancient power dedicated to keeping the balance between good and evil … and also the search for some outstanding Old Toby. It’s my privilege to present to you the newest team up for choosing: Team Gandalf. You may ask, “How do I know that Team Gandalf is the right team for me?” To which I would reply, “Team Gandalf is for those of us that would stand against the atrocities associated with this newest strain of vampire oriented children’s books. Team Gandalf is for those of us that demand believable characters. Team Gandalf is for true fantasy fans that won’t stand for genre hybridizing, and the systematic destroying of our mythos. If you’re a reader of Unknown Hole in the Sky (and I know that you are) Team Gandalf, is for you!”
If you’ve found yourself swept up in these stories don’t worry, you’re still ok. The pickens of recent fantasy have been slim. It’s understandable that in these dark times the soothing glow of certain or two vampire could woo one into a false state security. Don’t be fooled. The biggest problem I’ve found with these attempted additions to the vampire canon is the fact that they care way too much about humans. A vampire needs a human for only one of two purposes (we’ll call them the two E’s): entertainment, or eating. (This was originally the two F’s … but you’ll have to figure those out on your own) Humans rarely have anything else to offer. At least Sookie Stackhouse can read minds (among other talents), that other girl just seems to get in the way and ends up as a flimsy macguffin. (Yes, it’s hyperlinked…No I won’t judge you for clicking it.) I understand that there has to be some kind of vampire-human interaction in these books, but c’mon an ancient vampire tries to commit suicide because he thinks a human is dead. This type of behavior seems Just Plain Crazy ™ and is not an acceptable contribution to the vampirical canon. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies may have been a huge hit, but the idea of Romeo and Juliet and Vampires and Werewolves seems boring and overdone. Team Gandalf: It shall not pass!
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that romance and fantasy are inherently linked. They have been from the beginning. Beowulf, Iliad, and Gilgamesh all start out with the concept of keeping, regaining, or protecting women. I mean really, what would be the use of arguing over whose is bigger if no one actually gets to put theirs to use. The problem comes when the genre and one of its most venerable recurring creatures are compromised to sell a story. When we crack a vampire book we expect certain things to happen (blood, sex, and the combination of the two) and for vampires to behave a certain way (awesomely). If those things are compromised, we stop expecting the things that moved us to buy the book in the first place and the whole vampire book-selling machine stops working in the long term. It’s a downward spiral and I hate that it’s already started. I’m not saying that it can’t be reversed, on the contrary, I’m saying that we should do something about it and protect the ideas that define the stories we enjoy so much.
It’s these concepts (creature continuity, genre integrity, and the healthy proliferation of fantasy) that comprise the core of what a member of Team Gandalf would uphold. As gamers and fantasy fans we’re all already purists at heart. We’ve quit (or we know someone who has quit) our beloved games because of the radical changes that have come and gone in the name of sales. Why not do the same for our literature, or at least take a very close look at what’s being printed and sold to the masses? Last year at DragonCon I loved seeing the shirts with stuff like, “…And then Buffy stakes Edward. The End.” and “Vampires Don’t Sparkle” It’s a big relief that people have realized that this isn’t good for anyone except Stephanie Meyer and her publishing company. It doesn’t contribute anything to the genre or to the creatures it portrays. In short, the Twilight series is using the concept of a Vampire and Werewolf to sell what would be an otherwise typical love triangle to new and unsuspecting readers of fantasy-based fiction. It’s for this reason I choose Team Gandalf.
The next time you see someone go all googly-eyed over the characters in this genre blemish of a series, help them to see that it tramples over many of the key concepts in good literature (…or if all else fails, just continue to make fun of them.) Better yet, hand them an Anne Rice novel or a copy of John Carpenter’s Vampires. Hopefully they’ll get over all this craziness and bloom into the full-fledged geek (or geek-lover) that they’re destined to become. What… not motivated enough yet? How about this: Stephanie Meyer herself admits to not having researched vampires before making the stories, and it’s clear from the books and movies that she didn’t start off with much knowledge. This author has no respect for the genre of fantasy, and shouldn’t be allowed to continue inserting elements of it into her love stories. Let’s rescue our vampires.
Next week I’ll be examining gamers.