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Fanpire more than screaming teens

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The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love It

By Tanya Erzen

Beacon Press, 134 pages, $29

TWI-HARDS, TwilightMoms, and Twigasm are just the tips of the fanpire iceberg (should we say twiceberg?), according to this cultural analysis of the Twilight Saga novels and their predominantly female fan base.

Author Tanya Erzen is an American religious studies professor in Seattle. She has published one previous book, Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement.

The Twilight Saga consists of four incredibly popular novels by American Stephenie Meyer (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn) published between 2005 and 2008 and about a human-vampire romance.

The series has been adapted into five movies, the latest of which, Breaking Dawn -- Part 2, came out in November.

To research Fanpire, Erzen says she conducted an online survey and attended many Twilight events where she interacted with and interviewed fans.

You can tell by the introduction that reading Fanpire is going to be different from reading the Twilight Saga. Instead of delivering an escapist, supernatural romance, it makes you think critically about the Twilight series and the millions of twilighters (fans) and twi-hards (die-hard fans) who make up the fanpire (the series' large fan subculture).

Erzen does a good job surveying why so many women are enchanted by the series. She also discusses topics beyond her immediate subject matter, like post-feminism and fan-culture analysis, a subject that has been around for two decades.

But some of Erzen's analysis leaves the reader wanting a few more solid conclusions or opinions about the fanpire.

Erzen's descriptions of twi-events are well-written and will probably remind the reader of their own fan experiences, like waiting in line for hours to buy the latest Harry Potter novel.

But the fanpire has its own unique world, which stretches from a semi-religious belief system called Cullenism to a sparkling vibrator called the Vamp.

Fanpire examines different aspects of Twilight fandom in five chapters. These discuss fans, like TwilightMoms, who are attracted to the family values in the series; fans who raise the maturity level of the series by creating sexually explicit versions of it on websites like Twigasm; how much money can be spent on Twilight goods; and, of course, women who see Edward or Jacob as romantic idols.

Between these sections, Erzen includes cheat sheets for each of the Twilight novels, helpful to those who have not read the books or seen the films, but for those who have, easily skipped.

Fanpire is most interesting when it discusses why this series appeals so strongly to women. It could be because klutzy, average Bella is a more relatable character than the perfectly put-together women that dominate pop culture, or it could be that Twilight provides a bonding space for fans to be free of self-consciousness and have fun with a shared obsession.

Overall, the book does not offer any mind-blowing conclusions or opinions on the rise of the fanpire. But it introduces you to an extensive twi-world that makes you think about this particular fan culture in different ways, rather than just as packs of screaming teenage girls. And that makes it worth the time.

Joanna Graham is a recent graduate from the University of Manitoba.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 15, 2012 J8

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