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Wednesday, June 23,2010

’Twilight’s’ last gleaming?

Vampires still claim many young readers, but ’Games’ are gaining

by Bill Castanier

Is our lust for everything vampire sated, waiting for the spike, as popular media have suggested? Or is it just sleeping, ready to reawaken with a new passion when “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” the latest film based on reigning queen of vampire fiction Stephenie Meyer’s novels, is released June 30?


Since Meyer’s “Twilight” series hit bookstores in 2005, there has been a flood of movies, books and promotions jumping on the vampire bandwagon.


A recent item in the humor magazine The Onion suggested minotaurs were the next hot literary trend, along with “a badboy mummy, a bad-boy cyclops, and a badboy Mayan vision serpent.”


However, The New York Times bestseller rankings still attest to the popularity of vampires, with books by Meyer, Harris, Gena Showalter, Laurell K. Hamilton, Chris Freehan, Kerrelyn Sparks, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Keri Arthur appearing prominently on the list.


In a conversation with City Pulse in 2009, Garry Hoppenstand, professor of American studies and editor of The Journal of Popular Culture at Michigan State University, said the public should not be surprised by the popularity of vampires: “Legends of vampires have been around as long as human civilization, and there is an intrinsic human need for mythology, such as devils and angels. The vampire is another reinterpretation of the devil.”


Hoppenstand has written several books on pop culture and horror, including looks at Clive Barker and the “Queen of Vampires,” Anne Rice, who published “Interview with the Vampire,” the first of her 12 vampire novels, in 1976. According to Hoppenstand, “Rice created a highly sexualized and highly eroticized vampire.”


Becky Fermanich, Delta Township Library’s children’s librarian, still sees the demand for vampire-themed books continuing, for at least this summer.


She said all the young adult vampire books are checked out or on hold at the Delta Township Library and that all the original vampire authors are going strong. She has even seen adults slipping into the teen section to check out books.


“It has leveled off some,” Fermanich said. “The ‘True Blood’ series is still very popular, but Stephenie Meyer is the reigning author.”


In an unusual move, Meyer recently made the novella “The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner” available to download for free on her website (www.breetanner.com) for four weeks. “Bree” is about a relatively minor character in the “Twilight” saga, but Meyer has made a case for the character’s development — perhaps to keep the buzz alive for the upcoming “Eclipse” movie.


Jennifer Otto, Reading is Fundamental coordinator for the city of Lansing, says vampire books are still some of the most requested books by young adult readers (mostly young women). She likes to call the books in the genre D,U &W, or “the dead, the undead and werewolves.”


Otto said one of the things she finds interesting about D, U & W books is that they have a broader appeal than you might suspect.


“The fantasy/sci-fi audience at the teen level, at least in the Lansing schools, is pretty small,” Otto said. “Like a lot of books aimed for the teen audience, many of the D,U&W books are about relationships, coming-ofage, and figuring out who you are and where you fit in the world — or the unworld.”


Although D, U & W still has its following, it appears young adult readers may be gravitating more toward endof-the-world scenarios. Fermanich said she has seen an uptick in books like the “Hunger Games” series. According to a recent article in The New Yorker, apocalyptic or dystopian books are the fastest growing segment of the young adult market.


New Yorker writer Laura Miller describes “The Hunger Games” as “a trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, which take place at an unspecified time in North America’s future. Her heroine, Katniss Everdeen, lives in one of 12 numbered districts dominated by a decadent, exploitative central city called the Capitol. Every year, two children from each district are drafted by lottery to compete in a televised gladiatorial contest, the Hunger Games, which are held in a huge outdoor arena. The winner is the last child left alive. The fervently awaited third installment in the trilogy, ‘Mockingjay,’ will be published by Scholastic in August."


Miller notes ther are more than 2.3 million copies of the previous two books, "The Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire," in print.


Super agent Caryn Wiseman, writing in the online site Galley Cat, said she’s looking for “funny, middle-grade, horror, dystopian, steampunk, multicultural fiction. No more vampires, werewolves or zombies. I’d like to see a middle-grade or YA novel that explores a fresh, new paranormal category or a new twist on a dystopian world.”


OK. What about a steampunk vampire with a taste for oil?

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