Twilight: Linkin Park is the Soundtrack of Your Spirit Journey

Content Note: Disordered Eating, Self-Harm, March-Abelism-Sports-Term

Twilight Recap: Bella has heard from Jacob that the Cullens are vampires.  

Twilight, Chapter 7: Nightmare

Chapter 7 is a very important chapter in the Twilight novel. As some of you will remember from last week, Chapter 6 was the chapter in which Jacob Black told Bella Swan directly, no bones about it, that the Cullens are vampires. This was a very important chapter for the development of narrative tension because now Bella is faced with the challenge of researching what a vampire is.

This is riveting stuff, I must say.

   I TOLD CHARLIE I HAD A LOT OF HOMEWORK TO DO, AND that I didn't want anything to eat. There was a basketball game on that he was excited about, though of course I had no idea what was special about it, so he wasn't aware of anything unusual in my face or tone.

This is the third or fourth or possibly seventieth time in the novel that Bella has skipped food because she is anxious or nervous or distraught or interested in the Cullens. And this continues to bug me. In real life, people can and do healthily skip meals all the time -- people are unique, and the whole point of intuitive eating is that people can and should be trusted to eat when and how their body demands. That's why two main points of intuitive eating are "Honor Your Hunger" and "Respect Your Fullness": Hungry? Eat. Not hungry? Don't feel like you have to eat just because it's 'time'. Someone wants to get all up in your space about your choices? Feel free to tell them to address their concerns to the nearby brick wall.

But I don't think that intuitive eating is what we're meant to take from all these "oh, I didn't eat because Edward" reminders that are clogging up a novel that is otherwise short on detail and action. I feel strongly that these reminders are dog whistles to the reader, a reminder that Bella is pretty and desirable because she frequently skips meals. That Alice and Rosalie were described as a dancer and a swimsuit model respectively does not do much to dispel my suspicions.

And then there's the basketball. I don't like sports, and I don't like basketball, so on the one hand, I don't blame Bella for being aggressively uninterested in the game. But I'm annoyed by the "of course I had no idea", which is of course because... why? Has Bella mentioned that she doesn't enjoy watching basketball? I don't think she has. So it's just of course because... she's a girl? Because she doesn't care to know anything about her father's pastimes? And she doesn't even know why the game is special? Even I, sports-hater that I am, have a passing understanding of such vague terms as "Superbowl", "World Series", and "March Madness".

More than anything else, I'm irked at the lost opportunity. If Bella had taken a moment to confirm this was March Madness, we'd at least have a calendar date again. *sigh*

   Once in my room, I locked the door. I dug through my desk until I found my old headphones, and I plugged them into my little CD player. I picked up a CD that Phil had given to me for Christmas. It was one of his favorite bands, but they used a little too much bass and shrieking for my tastes. I popped it into place and lay down on my bed. I put on the headphones, hit Play, and turned up the volume until it hurt my ears. I closed my eyes, but the light still intruded, so I added a pillow over the top half of my face. [...]
   And it worked. The shattering beats made it impossible for me to think -- which was the whole purpose of the exercise. I listened to the CD again and again, until I was singing along with all the songs, until, finally, I fell asleep.

If anyone is curious, Bella is listening to Linkin Park, a band I've honestly never listened to, so feel free to educate me in the comments while I listen to Mercedes Lackey filk and Heather Alexander Arthurian ballads. (My point being I'm the last person on earth who should be judging other people's musical tastes.)

But I have issues with this scene. What Bella is doing is terribly unhealthy for her ears, yes, but it's distressing to me that one of the most pro-active things we've seen her do so far in the novel, in terms of real-time action is action that is essentially (a) harmful and (b) intended to keep herself from thinking. Bella isn't dealing with the implications of Jacob's story by journaling or solving crosswords or reading Varney the Vampire. She's not coping with the stress by joining her father for a mind-numbing game of basketball or composing a long-overdue letter to her mother or writing blog posts about a popular YA novel that really just bugs her.

No, she's dealing with the stress and anxiety by literally hurting herself. And in such a way that is designed to overwhelm her senses until she loses consciousness.

This sort of thing is a fine line when it's a non-fictional adult doing a meditation that they think will help them. I'm not here to tell mature individuals what they should and shouldn't do. But Bella is a fictional character and it... frustrates me that her "go-to" method for dealing with distressing news is to hurt herself like this: to fast when she is hungry, to hurt her ears, to block out her eyes, to wipe clear her mind, and to essentially self-induce an exhausted faint. She's not setting herself up for successfully dealing with this situation of her unrequited love possibly being a dangerous mythical creature; she's setting herself up to fail by hurting her body in a number of damaging ways.

Overreaction on my part? Maybe. But it's worth pointing out -- as Amarie has done so admirably in many of her wonderful comments -- that Bella's mode of action is almost always one of self-harm. And I think this is one of the first places we see that.

   I opened my eyes to a familiar place. Aware in some corner of my consciousness that I was dreaming, I recognized the green light of the forest. I could hear the waves crashing against the rocks somewhere nearby. And I knew that if I found the ocean, I'd be able to see the sun. I was trying to follow the sound, but then Jacob Black was there, tugging on my hand, pulling me back toward the blackest part of the forest.
   "Jacob? What's wrong?" I asked. His face was frightened as he yanked with all his strength against my resistance; I didn't want to go into the dark.
   "Run, Bella, you have to run!" he whispered, terrified.
   "This way, Bella!" I recognized Mike's voice calling out of the gloomy heart of the trees, but I couldn't see him.
   "Why?" I asked, still pulling against Jacob's grasp, desperate now to find the sun.

Bella is dreaming about her suitors, and about the relative danger each man presents to her -- at least if we agree that the danger presented by each man is a danger defined entirely by his nature: Human, Werewolf, Vampire.

Mike the Human calls from so deep within the 'safe' forest that Bella cannot even see him. Jacob the Werewolf is not so deep within the forest; he is close enough to Bella to yank on her arm and try to pull her into the safety of the forest. Edward the Vampire is approaching from the beach, sparkling in the sunlight.

I find this both interesting and contradictory. A parallel is being drawn between the sunlight Bella craves and the sparkly suitor that Bella craves, but it's a parallel that I strongly object to. Edward sparkles in the sunlight, yes, and that sparkling is presented as a source of attraction for Bella (because Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend, naturally), but despite all this, Edward is not a creature of the sun. Edward can't be: the sun exposes him for what he is and spells out a Volturi death sentence for him.

If Bella wants to be with Edward, she has to forsake the sun, the thing she misses most since coming to Forks. In order for Twilight to make any sense at all, Bella has to make a choice between Edward and the sun: stay in the sun, lose Edward (or be lost to him through age and death); stay with Edward, lose the sun and stick to the night and the cloudy places.

The beach is not a place of safety for Edward and Bella. It's a source of danger and fear, a place where they must be constantly on guard lest their secret be revealed.

   But Jacob let go of my hand and yelped, suddenly shaking, falling to the dim forest floor. He twitched on the ground as I watched in horror.
   "Jacob!" I screamed. But he was gone. In his place was a large red-brown wolf with black eyes. The wolf faced away from me, pointing toward the shore, the hair on the back of his shoulders bristling, low growls issuing from between his exposed fangs.
   "Bella, run!" Mike cried out again from behind me. But I didn't turn. I was watching a light coming toward me from the beach.
   And then Edward stepped out from the trees, his skin faintly glowing, his eyes black and dangerous. He held up one hand and beckoned me to come to him. The wolf growled at my feet.

And now is as good a time as any for me to complain that a major problem I have with Twilight is the lack of tension.

I don't mean sexual tension, as there's plenty of that. Unfortunately, angsty chaste tension doesn't really interest me, and there's not a whole lot left in Twilight once you remove the "will they, won't they" from the equation. And that's fine, you know, far be it from me to tell everyone what to read and write and enjoy.

But the thing is... we end up investing all this time and all these words into Bella being Edward's irresistible scent and then... nothing. He's never really tempted to kill her, and we know he won't even take a nibble because doing so would make Bella a vampire and then they could live happily ever after and the series would be over. But the sheer existence of several hundred more pages means we know that isn't going to happen.

And so you have scenes like this, where Edward has "dangerous" eyes and the wolf beside her is growling and Edward is beckoning like it's lunch time in China! and... it's just impossible for me to feel tension here. And on top of everything else, it's a dream. Which reminds me, here is a passage that cracked me up from "How Not To Write a Novel":

Early twentieth-century fiction was newly awash in Freudianism, and no respectable novelist would send his book out into the world without a layer of symbolism, dramatizing the unconscious fears and desires of his characters. This was often accomplished by presenting the character’s dreams, usually in a font called Stream-of-Consciousness Italic.

Science rushes onward, and it is now understood that reading page after page of characters’ dreams about building walls with bricks of anguish is about as interesting as, well, listening to an actual stranger tell you about his actual dreams.

A good approach is to allow one dream per novel. Then, in the final revision, go back and get rid of that, too.

Ha.

Okay, enough procrastinating. I just can't bear to deal with this next part.

   I took a step forward, toward Edward. He smiled then, and his teeth were sharp, pointed.
   "Trust me," he purred.

I have cats. I love my cats. I do. But I cannot now nor will I ever be able to understand the concept of a human "purring" whilst speaking, nor can I understand why such a thing would be considered sexy. I can't even imagine how you would do it: how does one "purr" the hard, sharp T in trust? You could trill it like a Transylvanian Dracula, but that would be so silly and overwrought. Help me understand this. 

   The wolf launched himself across the space between me and the vampire, fangs aiming for the jugular.
   "No!" I screamed, wrenching upright out of my bed.
   My sudden movement caused the headphones to pull the CD player off the bedside table, and it clattered to the wooden floor.
   My light was still on, and I was sitting fully dressed on the bed, with my shoes on. I glanced, disoriented, at the clock on my dresser. It was five-thirty in the morning.

Charlie Swan, readers, is the kind of father who will guard his daughter's hymen so carefully that he will sabotage her car engine nightly lest she sneak off into the night and do Very Naughty Things with her private parts. But he won't check on her to see if maybe she's working too hard, what with forsaking food, entertainment, and sleep for her homework, as evidenced by the stream of bright light coming from under her door all night long.

112 comments:

GeniusLemur said...

And how does the dream end? With Bella sitting bolt upright in bed and screaming "NO!" Which is yet another cliche that's been used to death.

As I think I mentioned in an earlier thread, the whole "vampire is supposedly just barely able to control their hunger, but is never actually bothered by it" thing has pretty standard to modern vampire stories, especially where the vampires are supposed to be the protagonists, heroes, or anti-heroes.

Yamikuronue said...

Hi, this is Yami, I've tried to post a comment about six times now. Has any of them gone through? I keep getting errors.

Is it because I included links?

Brin Bellway said...

how does one "purr" the hard, sharp T in trust?

Vampire thrall magic?

(Would also explain the suspiciously orchestrated dream.)

(Oh god, Inception with Edward Cullen.)

Yamikuronue said...

Warning: Emo song lyrics ahead. I had youtube links but I took them out so it'd post properly; however, all these songs are easily findable, I'd suggest listening to at least a minute or so of each to really feel my point.

Link Park is great for working out emotional turmoil because you get the feeling that they're singing because they can't hold the pain in one more f**ing second and if ONE more person hurts them they're going to start killing someone, dammit. The songs are full of pain and rage and generally great to sing along with at the top of your lungs until you feel spent enough to sleep.

"I want to heal, I want to feel like I'm close to something real, I want to let go of the pain I've felt so long; I want to heal, I want to feel what I thought was never real. I want to find something I've wanted all along: Somewhere I belong." (Somewhere I Belong)

"Without a sense of confidence and I'm convinced that it's just too much pressure to take; I've felt this way before, so insecure. Crawling in my skin, these wounds they will not heal; fear is how I fall, confusing what is real" (Crawling)

"I bleed it out, digging deeper just to throw it away! I've opened up these scars, I'll make you face this! I've pushed myself so hard, I'll make you face this now!" (Bleed it out)

But Bella doesn't have those feelings. Bella has passive, lonely, depressive feelings. I'd proscribe something more like Evanescence for her type of pain. Evanescence is more "The world sucks and everything hurts and I can't do anything about it but cry.":

"Frozen inside without your love, without your touch, darling, only you can bring the life among the dead" (Bring Me To Life)

"She never was and never will be, you don't know how you betrayed me" (Everybody's Fool)

"Has no-one told you she's not breathing? Hello, I am your mind, giving you someone to talk to. [...] Don't try to fix me, I'm not broken; hello, I'm still here, all that's left of yesterday." (Hello)


(And yes, everything above was typed from memory. I, too, was an emo teenager.)

Brin Bellway said...

"For those of you who asked, no I am not a Twilight hater. I just find it odd that people are talking about Twilight on an Evanescence video when the two aren't related at all."

*snort*

Antigone10 said...

I listened to Linkin Park as a teenager. Occasionally, it gets taken out of my iTunes mothballs and listened to again. They can't sing, their instrument playing is somewhat lackluster, but damn if they can't yell out all the shit that goes through your head sometimes.

I will not badmouth kids who are not the most well-adjusted in high school. How many of us were? Our world was smaller, so our emotions were bigger. Their emotions and problems are just as real to them as "adult problems" are to us.

Amaryllis said...

All I can say, if it was me: if my school-age daughter's light was still on when I went to bed, I'd have knocked, opened the door, seen her apparently asleep, made a mental note to talk to her the next day about not sleeping with earphones on, and turned out the light for the sake of the soundness of her sleep and the size of my electricity bill.

Not that this exact scenario ever happened in my house, of course. Purely hypothetical, here. Really.

chris the cynic said...

I can certainly understand the desire to make the world go away and shut down all thinking, though I've never tried to make that come about via loud music. I don't really understand why Bella wants that here.

Edward has been as nice as he's ever been (which, admittedly, is not that nice) and she has, for the first time, met someone who she thinks she'd like to be friends with. Overall this is probably the best her life has looked to her in quite some time. Why now, of all times, does she suddenly want to drown out her thoughts and let oblivion take her?

Also, the light confuses me. Bella's plan was to drown out the world and she took various steps in order to achieve that plan. She found her CD player. (Has she even used is since she got to Forks?) She had to dig through things to locate the headphones. She had to find the CD in question which is not something commonly uses. It was probably in the course of doing all of this that she turned on the light.

But if her plan was, as it appears to be, "I close my eyes and the world disappears," why not turn the light back off? She put thought into this. She gathered together things she doesn't commonly use, she came up with a plan that involved thinking outside of her usual box because it wasn't until the third time listening to the CD all the way through in this session that she decided she liked the music. Putting this CD on is not in her standard solution set, is what I'm saying. She actually thought this out and that makes leaving the light on strange for me.

I've absolutely had times when I ended up sleeping with the light on because the effort needed to turn it off was just too much or I had succeeded in partially doing what Bella is trying to do here and the prospect of reconnecting with sensation enough to get up and turn it off was not inviting, or both, or other reasons, but none of that is quite what happens here.

Bella gets everything ready to execute the "Close my eyes, assault my ears, think no thoughts," plan except she leaves the light on. The light that she just turned on. (Unless it was on all day while she was away at the reservation.)

Also, apparently Bella has her hair braided. (And she uses the term "rubber band" for what she's using to control her hair as well.) That took me by surprise. I've never pictured Bella with braided hair. *consults google* Maybe because this is one of only two times the word "braid" appears in Twilight and the other doesn't involve hair.

JonathanPelikan said...

I've got to say, Ana, I often have some impulse along the lines of 'maybe she's making too much out of this detail or line or whatever', which I guess is the header to this blog and your job. I'm also sure a lot of that comes from my privilege list, which is long and comfortable.

On this score, though? One hundred percent agreement. You've picked up on an absolutely insidious thread in this frakking series. Posts like these are why you're one of my favorite blogs to read, and I check my bookmark daily for new stuff.

Beguine said...

First time comment: I don't really have a problem with describing purring voices. I always interpreted it as having less to do with rolling rrrrrrs and more a short-hand for a voice that evokes the less pleasant qualities ascribed to felines: a smug, amused, cruel tone that conveys "Hello, little mousie. Shall I let you run a bit before I eat you?" You have to admit, that's a lot of imagery to pack into a two-syllable word, and I think it can be appropriate when the villain has the hero right where he/she wants him/her, though I don't think Edward is awesome enough to actually pull it off. (Note: I have cats, and I love them, but I don't let them anywhere near the outside to protect the native bird population, and I end up feeling sorry for the mice and roaches that have the misfortune to try to move from our neighbor's rowhouse to ours. They're great pets, but even as predators go they are mean SOBs.)

depizan said...

Maybe it's just because I don't care for music played loud enough to hurt my ears, or because I absolutely can't sleep if music is playing, but I spent some time when I read Twilight trying to fathom how anyone could enduce sleep with loud music they don't like. It still boggles me, but, people are different. The self-harm aspect is still disturbing, as is the fact that it feels like a non sequitur. Why is she doing this?

But motivations were always sketchy to me in Twilight.

On another note, I feel like I know the kind of voice we're supposed to hear in our mind when an author says someone "purred", but it really is a terrible word for it. Does anyone have a better suggestion? Granted, I mostly think of it as a word used by seductive villains (regardless of gender). (Or ths could be another case of Mac invents word meanings that have nothing to do with the real word. See also my long standing image of "swarthy" as big and muscular, thanks to reading Hardy Boys too much growing up.)

depizan said...

Yes! That's what I imagine, too.

Jenna Moran said...

I have been attempting to purr "Trust me" for like 8 minutes now dang you.

I sound like a novelty spy.

chris the cynic said...

Why is she doing this?

Upon waking up Bella takes off her boots, takes off her jeans, unbraids her hair, and puts the pillow back over her eyes, in an attempt to get back to sleep, I'm not sure I follow all of that. For example, she's clearly above her covers, so wouldn't ditching her shoes just make her feet cold and keep her up? Seems like it would be easier to leave them on. But the key point is that after all of that she finally explains why she's doing this:

It was all no use, of course. My subconscious had dredged up exactly the images I'd been trying so desperately to avoid. I was going to have to face them now.

So apparently she was desperately trying to avoid images of wolf-Jacob attacking glowing-Edward in verdant woods bordering on a beach when the sun was out. Because such images are so horrible and so likely to come up if one doesn't anesthetize themselves with painfully loud noise.

See, it all makes perfect sense.

chris the cynic said...

As someone who has been around cats my whole life, I have none of those associations with purring. Do your cats really purr in situations like that?

For every cat I've ever had dealing with mice was done in silence. The only time a cat I've known has ever made a noise when a mouse was involved was when the mouse was in her mouth and the noise was to indicate, "Let me in so I can show you this living creature I've captured." It was a strange not at all purr related noise that I initially mistook for her being injured. (I assume it's strangeness was because her mouth was full.) I have since learned to recognize it, not let her in, get her to drop the mouse, and then get her in while the mouse remains outside. Though it almost never comes up.

When she's in, "Hello, little mousie. Shall I let you run a bit before I eat you?" mode you only find that out by the scurry of her steps when she wishes to convey, "I said you could run a bit, I never intended to let you get away." There is no purring, there is no meowing. There is only the sound of a silent cat intimidating a poor creature with the specter of playful death.

That didn't come out right. Let me try again. Playful death. That's better.

Purring, in my experience, is when a cat is content. Maybe even happy. Possibly laying on top of you. Almost certainly wanting to be pet. Definitely not on the hunt.

If I were to try to apply the idea of purring not in terms of how it sounds, but in terms of connotations, I'd image that Edward was curled up on Bella's lap while she stroked his back.

I wouldn't ascribe smug, amused, or cruel to purring.

Beguine said...

First, if the villain is purring at you, he/she already has you, so he/she IS content for the moment. Villains purr when they're gloating, when they're trying to be seductive, or when they're feigning trying to be reassuring in a mocking manner. When a villain is purring they are either actually trying to be charming, or pretending to so that they can maximize the hero's discomfort.

Second, there isn't a single, commonly used word for that whining stacatto mew sound that cats make when they're looking out the window at a bird, and even if there was that would only be evocative for cat owners. EVERYONE knows that purring and meowing are the two sounds cats make, and that they generally mew or meow or whine when they WANT something, not when they already have it (see above). Yes, I know cats don't actually purr when they have a mouse (well, one of my cats does with one of the toy mice, but this is usually in the context of grooming it, and he's a bit weird even for a cat). However, the word is supposed to be evocative of archetypal cat-like qualities in general, not accurately describe what the villain would be doing if they were actually, in fact, a cat who's cornered you and is about to pounce. As saying that "the villain's butt wiggled in anticipation" would probably ruin the dramatic tension in the vast majority of stories, this is perhaps for the best.

Beguine said...

...and now I'm going to be mentally adding "his but wiggled in anticipation" to every description of Edward interacting with Bella. "And then Edward stepped out from the trees, his skin faintly glowing, his eyes black and dangerous. He held up one hand and beckoned me to come to him, his butt wiggling in anticipation. The wolf growled at my feet." I'm easily amused

Redwood Rhiadra said...

Regarding the March Madness thing - to be honest, I'd never heard of March Madness until about four years ago, mostly because the cafe near work runs a betting pool around it. It doesn't seem have nearly the cultural penetration that the Super Bowl and World Series do.

depizan said...

Because that's how fiction uses it. Now how it originally got linked, I haven't a clue. (Perhaps by someone like me who occasionally grabs onto something besides a word's actual meaning.) Clearly we do need a good word for that ominous charm that villains like to put on when they've got you right where they want you, or have just betrayed to you something horrible and are smug in their certainty that they're safe.

chris the cynic said...

I see what you're saying but, outside of villains being content (where a cat would actually purr), it still doesn't make a lot of sense to me because expecting people to know that purr=="catlike but in no way connected to anything you associate with purring" would seem like expecting the reader to know that, "'Trust me,' Edward barked," had nothing to do with his voice being loud or harsh or adversarial but really meant that Edward was being loyal and deferential and friendly because, hey, that's what dogs are like.

(Feel free to add Edward's tail wagging to the end of anything as well.)

Marie Brennan said...

Not to analyze the purring thing to death, but I think of it as describing a certain tonal quality in the voice, rather than something about the enunciation (like rolling an R). It's more a thing some people's voices do, though, rather than a sound you can deliberately try to make. The only example I can think of right now is the guy who voices Fenris in Dragon Age 2; I know I've heard lots of others, though.

Anyway! Tension, and the complete lack thereof. It ties in with the other thing that drives me up the wall about Meyer (okay, I should say another thing, because there's really a lot more than two), which is that she wants to have angst without any reason for it. Edward is so very traumatized about being a vampire, which is standard-issue genre furniture -- but Meyer has taken away pretty much every reason to be traumatized by it. Sunlight doesn't hurt him, he doesn't have to feed off humans, he isn't actively being hunted by any Van Helsing types . . . the only downsides are that he has to live in a cloudy place and move on every decade or so, before somebody notices he doesn't seem to be hitting his thirties. And yet he aaaaaaaangsts.

(I once read a foe-fic -- fanfic of the "here, let me fix this for you" variety -- that took the way Meyer presents her supernaturals and very rationally concluded that vampirism = downside-free immortality, and that of course Bella, and everybody else for that matter, should want to be turned.)

Angst-without-reason is exactly what we have here, too. Bella needs to blot out her thoughts with loud, angry music. Why? Because somebody told her a story she has no real reason to believe. We don't actually get the emotion that would drive her to these actions -- at least not that you've quoted; maybe there's more I'm not seeing -- we just get the infodump followed by "insert standard vampire-trope NOOOOOO IT'S NOT TRUUUUUUUE reaction here." Bella ought to be laughing it off. She ought to be going on with her life as if nothing is wrong, while her subconscious starts whispering but wait, there was the truck thing and the Cullens never do seem to eat anything and other such connections. She should try to drive those whispers away with the counter-argument that vampires are supposed to burst into flame in sunlight, and okay it's usually cloudy in Forks, but that doesn't stop the UV rays or whatever sets them off, and also VAMPIRES AREN'T REAL -- until something happens to prove it to her.

And she should not, repeat, NOT have a dream that shows her all kinds of things she doesn't actually know yet.

Mind you, what I've described is a tired old cliche, and it wouldn't make for great writing, either. But at least there's some logic to it, unlike what we get here.

Kitwhitfield said...

In mild defence of the scene, listening to music to stop yourself thinking when you need to sleep is a slightly different thing from doing it during the day - though of course, the scene didn't have to be written at all. Then again, I've been struggling through the worst bug I've had in years recently by doing something similar, so I'm probably biased.

And in support of Ana's view that everyone can like what they please: my thought-lulling music is the Zingzillas, and I care not who knows it. Call it the first time I've taking a musical recommendation from my (currently one-year-old) son...

Beguine said...

Actually, bark would then have exactly the same problem. Dogs bark when they're excited, when they're scared, occasionally when they want petting or to go outside, or to warn when there's an intruder in the house. When we describe humans barking at someone we're trying to evoke 'loud and harsh' as you said, focusing on how barking sounds to us rather than on what it's actually used for. We picture a drill sergeant 'barking' at a cadet; something being said in a loud and sharp manner, generally to an underling. But pack alphas don't bark to indicate who's top dog, or to indicate anger or annoyance at being questioned (that'd be a growl). Still, I know the tone of voice I'm supposed to imagine when someone is described as barking orders, I don't have to wonder if it's a playful bark or a scared bark or if the drill sergeant really needs to go for walkies RIGHT NOW. If we're going to allow barking I don't see why we can't allow purring.

Marie Brennan said...

@Beguine -- I concur. Description relies on metaphor to function; interpret everything literally, and it all falls apart. (I used to know people who objected to the phrase "his eyes fell" because they imagined the eyeballs actually falling out of the head onto the floor . . . but they didn't have a problem with "give me a hand" or any one of a bazillion other phrases that become similarly weird as soon as you look at them that way.)

chris the cynic said...

If we're going to allow barking I don't see why we can't allow purring.

What you've described for purring requires us to ignore everything we know about purring, most of all how it sounds. What you've described for barking requires us to pay attention to what we know about barking, most of all how it sounds. Do you honestly not see a difference in how you are treating the words?

It's not as if people don't make sounds that resemble purring as much as 'barking' resembles barking.

Beguine said...

" The only example I can think of right now is the guy who voices Fenris in Dragon Age 2; I know I've heard lots of others, though."

Or, for those of you old and/or geeky enough to have watched Star Trek: TNG, probably about 80% of Q's lines, as a conservative estimate.

Beguine said...

"And she should not, repeat, NOT have a dream that shows her all kinds of things she doesn't actually know yet."

Yeah, that's a pretty painfully heavy-handed attempt at foreshadowing, unless it were going to turn out that Bella was clairvoyant.

chris the cynic said...

unless it were going to turn out that Bella was clairvoyant.

That does seem to be the most likely explanation. It's sort of odd that it wasn't used since Alice proves it's possible and Bella does demonstrate an impossible degree of rightness about things she couldn't possibly know.

c2t2 said...

I just want to throw my hat into the "purring" thing. When I hear "purr" used for human speech, I always think of it as a smooth, very tonal voice with slight lingering on the vowels. FWIW and YMMV and all that.

chris the cynic said...

It's good that you shared, because it seems to mean a different thing to everyone, or almost everyone.

Ana Mardoll said...

Or, for those of you old and/or geeky enough to have watched Star Trek: TNG, probably about 80% of Q's lines, as a conservative estimate.

Q's voice is a "purr"? Now I'm REALLY confused. I mean, don't get me wrong, I think John de Lancie is sexy -- he's kind of like the TV version of Tim Curry, who I also find very yummy -- but I've *never* considered either of those men to "purr".

Clearly I do not understand my mother tongue.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you!

Ana Mardoll said...

She should try to drive those whispers away with the counter-argument that vampires are supposed to burst into flame in sunlight, and okay it's usually cloudy in Forks, but that doesn't stop the UV rays or whatever sets them off, and also VAMPIRES AREN'T REAL -- until something happens to prove it to her.

I really would like that version of Twilight so much more...

Launcifer said...

I'd actually say that de Lancie's voice is closer to being vulpine (heh) than a purr. I don't really think it's deep enough for that but, as with everyone else so far, it would appear that the word "purr" means something completely different to me.

Also: why Linkin Park? I mean, I know they'd been big a few years prior to the writing of Twishite, but the choice doesn't quite seem to fit with the rest of Bella's personality. There's no real reason why it should *need* to fit, obviously - plus there's the fact that Linkin Park had a degree of crossover appeal with the club crowd (not that I'd expect SMeyer to know this) - but I still can't quite fathom this particular choice in the context of Bella's character as shown so far. It might be less jarring to me if I thought for a moment that she might show similarly divergent tastes further on down the line, but I'm willing to bet that's not going to happen.

That sounded far more coherent in my head, I think.

chris the cynic said...

I think it is probably worth remembering that it isn't something Bella chose for herself, and it isn't something she started to like until listening to the CD for three times in a loop as part of a brain numbing session. If character is revealed it's in that:
1 This not something she would choose.
2 She is actually capable of changing her opinions.

Ana Mardoll said...

And gratitude!

She means to thank Phil. I think that's nice. If she actually does and isn't distracted by sparkle thighs... ;)

Fluffy_goddess said...

I'm with Beguine and Marie Brennan -- a lot of the words we use as descriptors have much stronger connotative than denotative meanings. It causes trouble for english-as-a-second-language speakers and English Majors, but most people can figure out what is meant by context if nothing else, so the language stumbles along just fine.

(And if anyone would like to read that as Language, the anthropomorphized being, tripping over it's own feet whilst walking along the path of linguistic evolution, that's fine, but I really just chose that word because it sounded right in my head. Sometimes in writing / a metaphor can be found / in a single word.)

Launcifer said...

Aha! I appear to have missed that part. Yes, that makes a trifle more sense to me now, especially in light of Ana's reply. Thanks to you both.

depizan said...

Ah yes. It's all clear now. Sparkly, even.

Or maybe that's just the stars from headdesking.

chris the cynic said...

I'm with Beguine and Marie Brennan -- a lot of the words we use as descriptors have much stronger connotative than denotative meanings.

I don't think anyone here disagrees with that. (Though if someone has, I'm sorry for overlooking you.)

-

My principle point of disagreement, for example, is on which connotations it makes sense to consider. When something says, "Purr" do we consider the direct connotations of the word "purr", or do we use metonymy to say that purr means cat, then use the connotations of "(non-purring) cat" to figure out what is meant by "purr".

I personally think that if to get to a meaning of purr we need to say, "It means like a cat BUT NOT WHEN IT'S PURRING. BECAUSE IT'S NOTHING LIKE A PURRING CAT!" that's probably stretching things a bit too far since it explicitly excludes the direct connotations of the word purr.

But you're not going to hear me saying that connotative meanings should be dismissed.

Ana Mardoll said...

That's where I'm getting hung up, too, I think. It would help if I had a definitive example of this purring.

If I recall correctly, the movie cut this scene, I think. I need to re-watch to be sure, though.

Fluffy_goddess said...

Car engines are also said to purr, at least when well-tuned. According to Friendly Neighbourhood Mechanic, this refers to the engine making a smooth, slightly rumbly noise, low in tone. If you hear that, everything is properly insulated and your engine is turning over at a steady rate with no parts making extraneous noises they shouldn't be making. Another connotation, and one that's pretty easy to mimic in voice.

(I know no-one was saying connotative meanings should be dismissed; I was assuming people were frustrated by the cannot-talk-and-purr-like-a-cat-at-same-time thing because it's often the first line in dictionaries.)

GeniusLemur said...

A writer who's merely bad, instead of dreadful, at least knows which cliches' to use.

GeniusLemur said...

Like her immunity to telepathy and ability to get pregnant with a vampire in defiance of the word of god, it's probably a function of how special Mary Bella Sue is.

Marie Brennan said...

a smooth, slightly rumbly noise, low in tone

That's a good description of the kind of sound I'm thinking of. It's a kind of roughness in the voice, but actually describing it as "rough" gives the wrong sense, like you've been chain-smoking and gargling gravel your entire life (see: Tom Waits).

Jenna Moran said...

> As saying that "the villain's butt wiggled in anticipation" would
> probably ruin the dramatic tension in the vast majority of stories,
> this is perhaps for the best.

This is the best statement ever.

Marie Brennan said...

I think Bella's reaction -- and heck, the entire way she finds out -- is one of the two common failure modes for this kind of story, when the readers know that Of Course Edward's a Vampire, and are just waiting for you to get to it. It's the failure mode of spilling the beans too quickly, and having the character accept it too easily, such that their reaction feels implausible. I feel like it happens here because Meyer had already written the second half of the book, and wasn't very interested in what came before; this is nothing more than a set of necessary hoops to jump through before we get to the part she cared about.

Which is also an apt description of the flaw in most of the characterization, worldbuilding, etc. She doesn't seem interested in much of anything beyond the core image; everything else is like the backside of an old Hollywood set.

(The other failure mode is to drag the entire mess out forever, playing coy about something that is obvious to the reader, until we want to scream at the protagonist for being too stupid to see what's in front of her nose. If Meyer's vampires were more standard, and Bella had seen more evidence to point to their nature, we'd be looking at that scenario instead. But walking around in daylight, however cloudy, is a pretty good way to rule out the "vampire" possibility that might be lurking in my head, were I in her shoes.)

Kit Whitfield said...

Regarding 'purring'. I'd assume a voice that was slightly husky, or else with a slightly song-like tone that resonates on the ear; both would have a drawled quality that evokes the continuous musical note of a purr. In this context I'd also assume a degree of lilt, suggesting the elegant confidence of a cat.

I've long thought you'd like the animated series 'Avatar: the last airbender'; well, if you watch it, listen out for Mark Hamill voicing the villain, Fire Lord Ozai. He gives it a kind of silverback drawl that's very intimidating, and could well be described as a purr.

Basically I'd picture Edward's voice as lingering on the sounds in a way that suggests amused confidence; a kind of, 'I'm so sure of myself that I'm not in a hurry to talk, so I'm going to enjoy rolling the words around my mouth like candy.' A kind of sensuous, self-pleasuring speech.

Maartje said...

Quintessential purring voice for me: Antonio Banderas, aptly in 'Puss in Boots' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emhSjFTRuLo

It's most noticeable when he speaks softly, though 'angry' in 'You don't want to make the cat angry' is a louder example.

I like the sound, although I can't imagine anyone talking to me that way because it sounds heavily stylized. And it's not a sound I associate with young bodies, even eternally 17-year old Edward. I tried looking up clips of a younger Antonio Banderas to see if he did that as a teenager, but he was already 35 in the earliest clips I can find.

Ana Mardoll said...

A writer who's merely bad, instead of dreadful, at least knows which cliches to use.

This is a good point. I'm sure I've read "purr" before and not minded it, but here it's just beating me over the head with EDWARD IS TEH SEXY and it's a bit much.

If Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots is purring (how apt!) then I can understand it now. Although... I can't imagine Edward Cullen doing it. :P

Ana Mardoll said...

If Meyer's vampires were more standard, and Bella had seen more evidence to point to their nature, we'd be looking at that scenario instead. But walking around in daylight, however cloudy, is a pretty good way to rule out the "vampire" possibility that might be lurking in my head, were I in her shoes.

And this is what makes me SO SAD about Twilight because Bella's literary leanings are this Chekov's Gun that is never used. I would love, love, love to see a scene where Jacob is saying "...but, haha, they CAN'T be vampires, because vampires don't walk around in broad daylight, so it's just a silly legend," and Bella saying eagerly that, oh no, in many early vampire legends, the vampire COULD walk in daylight, they were just weaker then...

...which the Cullens kind of are in the "don't show off in broad daylight" sense. But not really. *sigh*

hapax said...

he's kind of like the TV version of Tim Curry, who I also find very yummy -- but I've *never* considered either of those men to "purr".

Tim Curry! Especially in that scene in LEGEND, when he's in the ridiculous devil suit trying to seduce whatshername, and he almost manages to pull it off.

That's EXACTLY what I hear, when I think of a human voice "purring."

I agree that it has nothing to do with what a cat does when it purrs. But then again, hapaxspouse's whiskers don't look or function or grow in the same place as a cat's whiskers either, and yet I feel no cognitive dissonance there.

Davrosinside said...

I think Shere Khan is another (obvious) example of purring done well. The quality notably vanishes when he drops his facade.

I sound more like Kaa ("Trrrussst in meeeee . . . "). Now Edward sounds like Kaa in my head.

hapax said...

Oooh. Or Jeremy Irons as Scar.

Curse you, Ana! Now my head is full of purring men. How am I going to get any work done today?

Amarie said...

Kit.

Please do NOT mention Mark Hamill's voicing of Fire Lord Ozai again. I'm trying to do my homework and think good, Christian thoughts. Not have sick fantasies about being Princess Ursa.

Shame on you. *throws a teddy bear at your head*

Ana Mardoll said...

Curse you, Ana! Now my head is full of purring men. How am I going to get any work done today?

You're making me cry laughter tears. :D

Funny story, I've always thought Jeremy Irons was sexy because THE VOICE, but recently Husband rented all the Die Hard movies (which I'd never seen before) and OH MY. o.O There is not a better example out there of a movie series made just for me, ha.

Brin Bellway said...

Dav: Now Edward sounds like Kaa in my head.

Oh god no. Edward Cullen being voiced by Winnie the Pooh is almost as bad as Kaa being voiced by Winnie the Pooh.

Ana: recently Husband rented all the Die Hard movies (which I'd never seen before)

You mean Die Hard with a Vengeance isn't one of your childhood-nostalgia comfort-food movies, right up there with The Princess Bride and The Fifth Element?
No? Just me?
(Okay, I suppose the timing's wrong for childhood nostalgia, especially for the first and third in the list (released 1995 and 1997), but still.)

Also, Jeremy Irons was in a Die Hard movie? *looks up* He was Simon Gruber?! I was just watching that yesterday! Why did nobody tell me?!

Lunch Meat said...

Just throwing my two cents in: When I read that someone is purring something, I think of it more as the face they're making than the sound: I picture narrowed or half-closed eyes, someone looking down their nose at the other character. The actual sound of the voice isn't more defined than "soft and smooth".

bekabot said...

Edward, being Edward, can't just purr, because (being Edward) he's incomplete without an extra dash of awesome sauce. What he must be doing is purring in a voice of velvet. No wonder Bella's startled enough to push her CD player out of bed and onto the floor. And no wonder subconsciousness-Jacob wants to shut Edward up fast. (In my mind's eye I picture this as the exact moment when Charlie decides that since the fishes are usually hungry early in the morning it's time he packed up his tackle and left for the day.)

That having been said, I've thought for a while that some English words are not only not denotative, they're not even connotative: what they are is evocative. They neither describe nor suggest; instead, they summon up a gestalt of what the reader is assumed to feel about or experience in the presence of the thing/being/entity to which they refer. Thus Edward does not literally purr, because it's hard to purr in words and impossible to purr in words which contain hard consonants, nor does he virtually purr, that is, pronounce words in a voice that sounds like a purr (or like the kind of purr generated by a cat). What he does is speak in such a manner as to awaken in Bella sensations analogous to those she might feel when faced with a creature which is purring for reasons which, to her, are unclear. The purr might be an expression of pleasure, or an effort to project reassurance, or proof of satisfaction at digesting a good meal (when Edward says "Trust me" I think of this song). Bella doesn't know, and it might cost her too much to find out.

That makes sense to me. My Mom once had a cat who was a scratcher and a snapper but who had long, silky, charcoal-black fur which was glorious to look upon and a decadent pleasure to the touch. Once after I had finished petting this cat she caught my wrist in her jaws, without breaking the skin, and treated me to a gutteral little growly-purr which I could translate plainly: "If only I were bigger I would eat you all up because you look tasty to me and because your feet smell nice." Those are Edward's feelings for Bella exactly (minus the feet; at least so I assume). It's still sloppy writing, I know, but it's not writing which is so sloppy as to be impenetrable.

Silver Adept said...

This comment thread is completely full of awesome - and you've all picked out each of the male examples I would use for a "purring" sound coming from a male voice.

Also, based on last thread, I think we have a new entry for the shorthand guide: Forks is (at least partially) The Farm (based on Bill Willingham's excellent graphic novel series Fables): This interpretation of Twilight suggests that all the residents of Forks are cryptids, half-humans, and the things that you read about in your stories (yes, even the Lovecraftian ones) all trying to pass as human to everyone else. Bella becomes the most desired object in Forks because she's actually human, and all of the cryptids are trying to figure out which of them she is...or they know she's actually human and are trying to get as close as they can to study her.

So I'm going to have to talk about the rest of the source material.

I agree with Yamikuronue upthread that Bella's an Evanescence girl rather than a Linkin Park girl. (For much the same reasons - Linkin Park is screamo a lot of the time, so not the kind of music one uses to shut out the world and then fall asleep. Evanescence is more melodic, even as it covers the same topics - much easier to fall asleep to and shut the world out.)

The fact that Charlie is watching basketball and not making attempts to converse with his daughter or talk with her about what might be upsetting her so much that she's not hungry so routinely makes me wonder a lot about what Charlie is feeling toward Bella - it sounds like he doesn't want her there, really. Perhaps the Painful Reminder of Renee is part of things there. And that might be contributing to Bella's first course of action being self-harm - if she tried to talk to Charlie about it, there might be a lot of Uncomfortable Silence and halfhearted fatherly advice. And since this is self-imposed exile and Bella can seem to only be able to make women jealous and men lustful, it's not like she has any friends to talk things through with.

And then the dream sequence, where, foreshadowing-be-damned, Isabella Swan manages to dream everything important about the next few books all at once. Because...Jasper and Alice were experimenting to see whether he could project someone else's powers onto an unsuspecting human?

It's another missed opportunity for us to see how brilliant Bella supposedly is - why force a research montage when you can just have the protagonist magically know through dreaming? And if this is supposed to be a nightmare based on what Jacob told her about everything, then it needs to be scarier...and actually involve danger to her.

(Oh, and Mark Hamill? Best villain role is still the Joker. I think his role in Jay and Silent Bob Strikes back runs a close second. When I'm not watching Dogma, anyway.)

Marie Brennan said...

If X critter is at least as good at humanity at everything with no major drawbacks, and people can be turned into X, there better be a damn good reason why everyone isn't X or being Xed right now.

In the fic, it's because Bella knows that a) they need to take out the Volturi first and b) if you don't come up with a blood substitute, then you're going to have a hard time making sure everybody stays "vegetarian" instead of eating remaining humans who haven't been, or don't want to be, converted. (I have no idea if this is Meyer-canon, but in the fic, animal blood tastes nasty to vampires. It'll keep you alive, but it isn't fun to eat.) However, her (entirely rational) respnose is that the Cullens should put their efforts toward solving these problems . . . then then promptly offer to turn everybody who wants it into a vampire.

If those works didn't become a major thing, that's all well and good, but I'd like a Thursday Next-ish "This is an AU" hint.

Yeah, it's like the zombie movies in which (apparently) nobody in that world has ever seen a zombie movie. It annoys me, too. More evidence that Meyer plugs in tropes without actually thinking about them.

I forgot to mention, on the Linkin Park end of things: my understanding is that Bella listens to them because Meyer listens to them. At least, I've always heard that Linkin Park and Muse were the two bands she took inspiration from while writing.

Kit Whitfield said...

@Amarie - nothing wrong with liking a nice bass voice. :-) I'm more of a tenor-fancier myself, mind; I have quite a voice-crush on Gary Jordan, who sings Tang the orangutan in Zingzillas, so I can't judge. (Apparently most mums who watch CBeebies have a crush on Mr Bloom of Mr Bloom's Nursery, but Tang just has such a lovely clear tenor!)

Brin Bellway said...

Rikalous: You can be too young to have watched TNG? That's a thing that can happen now? I feel old.

I don't think you can be too young to have watched any TNG, but you can be young enough that for several years when you were little you didn't realise TNG and Voyager were separate shows and thought the ship looked awfully crowded.

(Though now that I think about it, it kind of makes sense for a starship to have multiple captains, though probably with one having authority over the other(s). Who's running the place during the night shift? (And why does nothing interesting ever happen to them?))

Marie Brennan: In the fic, it's because Bella knows that a) they need to take out the Volturi first and b) if you don't come up with a blood substitute, then you're going to have a hard time making sure everybody stays "vegetarian" instead of eating remaining humans who haven't been, or don't want to be, converted.

You're thinking of Luminosity, right?

Anton_Mates said...

But I cannot now nor will I ever be able to understand the concept of a human "purring" whilst speaking, nor can I understand why such a thing would be considered sexy.

For my part, I imagine a human purr to be a voice with a lot of vocal fry (a creaking or rattling quality) in it. For instance, Mae West (""Why don't you come up some time and see me?") is often described as purring.

Will Wildman said...

it kind of makes sense for a starship to have multiple captains, though probably with one having authority over the other(s). Who's running the place during the night shift? (And why does nothing interesting ever happen to them?)

If I recall, Voyager eventually put Harry Kim in charge of a lot of night shift commands and, shockingly, stuff suddenly started happening during the night.

But either way, the sensible thing would be to have the 'day shift' and 'night shift' crews be as close to equal as possible, so that you're never at a disadvantage because all ten of your best engineers are napping and there's just one newbie ensign in charge of not tearing subspace open like a melon-baller through jello.

I forgot to mention, on the Linkin Park end of things: my understanding is that Bella listens to them because Meyer listens to them.

This is my understanding as well, from one of her interviews. The chosen band is intentionally vague (while still being oddly specific) because it was really just a bit of inside reference for Meyer's own amusement.

Yeah, it's like the zombie movies in which (apparently) nobody in that world has ever seen a zombie movie. It annoys me, too. More evidence that Meyer plugs in tropes without actually thinking about them.

Well, in the case of zombie movies (which are obviously AU because we haven't all been devoured yet) I'd find it rather bizarre if the universe where zombies are real also featured fictional movies that accurately describe how 'real' zombies function. If they are going to keep the media, which media is it? Is it all right to just have Dracula and Night of the Living Dead, or do you also have to have Anne Rice and Shaun of the Dead? How frequently should it get updated? Why doesn't anyone in Mission Impossible notice that their best agent looks exactly like Tom Cruise?

Unless one wants to do a meta-thing about how different their 'real' supernatural creatures are from the doubly-fictional kind, that's just going to be an irritating tangent from the important story, and I really don't blame any author for ignoring it outright.

Marie Brennan said...

@Brin Bellaway - yes, Luminosity. If I were less lazy, I'd dig up the link. :-) (Not the best fic I ever read, but it definitely poked some plausible holes in the Twilight-verse.)

@Anton_Mates - vocal fry! That's the term I was trying to remember. I don't think everything I'm pointing at when I talk about the "purring" thing technically fits under that label, but that's definitely part of it. And I think you're dead on about the flirting/threatening overlap.

@Will Wildman - the real-world movies don't have to be considered 100% accurate inside the fictional world. It's just that I roll my eyes when I see a zombie story where people have apparently never heard the concept of the dead getting up and devouring the living, nor considered what they would do if that occurred. Dude, something like 75% of my friends have "zombie survival plans" -- in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, of course, but they've thought about supplies and defensible locations and such. If zombies popped up for real, then whether they were Romero zombies or 28 Days Later fast zombies or whatever, those friends would not be standing around going "what on earth is happening?!" and then being shocked when a head injury proves to be the only thing that will kill the monsters.

(And for some reason, it's particularly a zombie thing. I can't remember the last time I saw a story with vampires in it where nobody had ever heard of Dracula or Anne Rice. They're probably out there, but it seems a lot less common.)

Lliira said...

it sounds like he doesn't want her there, really.

I don't know what Meyer intended, but what comes through clearly to me is that Charlie really, really does not want Bella there.

This is a man with twelve pictures of his daughter in one room, all school pictures. He still has a wedding picture up, though his wife left him nearly two decades ago. He has spent only two weeks a year with his daughter for her whole life, never tried for more, and only took her feelings into consideration about where to spend them when she put her foot down. His wife left him because she hated the place they lived and he refused to move.

Fantasy matters to Charlie, but reality doesn't. Now Bella is there, looking exactly like his wife, intruding on his fantasy world. He never acts like he's happy she's there, and ignores her as much as he can -- which is a lot, because Bella dislikes reality and interacting with actual people as much as he does.

Anton_Mates said...

Well, in the case of zombie movies (which are obviously AU because we haven't all been devoured yet) I'd find it rather bizarre if the universe where zombies are real also featured fictional movies that accurately describe how 'real' zombies function.

That's what usually happens with other famous monsters, though. When they reveal themselves in a modern setting, the average person does recognize them and can list some of their weaknesses, from the stories she's heard and the movies she's seen--she's just surprised to discover that those creatures actually exist. In such universes the monster legends are presumably based on true stories, so it's not surprising if the movies inspired by them get a lot of the "facts" right.

E.g., fictional people menaced by vampires immediately run off to find sunlight or a cross; people menaced by werewolves look for something silver and pointy. But when zombies show up everyone stands around going, "Wait wait wait...are they dead? But they're moving! Whoa, they're eating people now? Madness!"

Ana Mardoll said...

This. The problem with making this super static, absentee character is they come across as almost... hostile to the idea of change.

There's a certain amount of characterization here - he likes fishing! and sports! and working fourteen hour days! and never speaking to anyone! - that starts to make Charlie seem deeply resentful of Bella, though I doubt that was intended.

(Disclaimer: I don't really like Charlie, but that's partly because he gets so much worse.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I agree with the first part, and the second sounds reasonable.

I kind of want to write a zombie novel where this isn't repeated, but the main point would be to write something apocalyptic that doesn't have serious WIMMENS BACK IN THE KITCHEN vibes.

chris the cynic said...

I'm suddenly imagining that done with everything.

"He's a man... but he turns into a wolf... what would you even call that? How is it possible that people have been living on earth with creatures like these so long without so much as a single legend about them appearing?"

-

"Wait, so you've got wings."
"Yes."
"And they're wings with feathers even though as a mammal you'd expect them to be more bat-like."
"Well as a mammal you wouldn't expect me to have six limbs so..."
"And you say you're a messenger from god."
"Yes."
"I've never heard of one of those before. Why hasn't anyone told a story or drawn a picuture of one such as yourself?"

-

"It sucks blood and dislikes garlic and has a strange affinity for bats and came here from Transylvania and I have no idea what it is."

-

"Well it's was wrapped in cloth as part of what seems to have been a ritual embalming process, and we found it in a tomb in Egypt, and I've never seen anything like it."

-

With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound
He pulls the spitting high-tension wires down

Helpless people on subway trains
Scream, bug-eyed, as he looks in on them

He picks up a bus and he throws it back down
As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town

Oh no, they say hes got to go
Whatever the hell he is, I've never heard of anything like this before.


-

So someone dug up a bunch of corpses and put them together and then reanimated the amalgam into a living being? Wow, I'm totally amazed that no one has ever thought of using this as the premise for a story.

-

Ok, I'm being silly now. But if a flying biped with hooves in new Jersey were to start attacking people in a story and no one so much as considered "Jersey Devil" as a possibility it would be pretty damned absurd, and the never-heard-of-zombies fiction really just seems to take that to such an extreme level considering that you cannot exist in any of the places it is usually set without repeatedly being bombarded by the concept of zombies.

I'd make an allowance for something like Frankenstein's monster or Godzilla because they're specific individuals so if you're not making a sequel you have no choice but to pretend the previous story didn't exist (and if you are making a sequel you have to pass it off as a true story in-setting), but zombies... that's like never having heard of mermaids.

Lliira said...

I'm only forty-ish pages into the book, but I don't like Charlie at all now. I do know what happens later, but even not taking that into account, he comes across as an extremely creepy guy who will never do anything to make the women he supposedly loves feel a little less miserable, even when that fact breaks his marriage.

I don't know if this was intended; I've never seen anything Meyer said about Charlie. But I feel that it is one thing that works in the story, and helps flesh out Bella. Considering the ways in which her father is horrible, it makes sense that she'd invest her entire self in a certain kind of man when she's a teenager. I can also see why Meyer would think this was a good thing; by running to Edward, Bella's escaping Charlie, and Bella does make the choice to run to Edward against Charlie's wishes. Obviously, I don't think this is a healthy choice on Bella's part -- but if you're trying to escape a sick parent-child situation as a teen, with no adults helping you, you're not likely to be able to make the healthiest choice.

This saga could have been so much better if Meyer hadn't intended it to be a Disney fairy tale with a Disney fairy tale ending. (And if it were written by a competent writer.)

Kit Whitfield said...

Unless one wants to do a meta-thing about how different their 'real' supernatural creatures are from the doubly-fictional kind, that's just going to be an irritating tangent from the important story, and I really don't blame any author for ignoring it outright.

Agreed. The pleasure of comparing tropes appeals to some readers, but it's not the be-all and end-all, and if a writer isn't interested in it there's no reason why they should bother. Playing around with tropes is one way to make a book entertaining, but it's just not the kind of pleasure Meyer is going for. She's not appealing to the genre-savvy intellect; she's going straight for the raw id. Using vampires as a general archetype for aristocracy and sexuality without examining their logic too closely is an effective way to get a direct line there, and playing around with the history of the myth would be a distraction.

It'd undermine her main selling point. The book cannot cannot cannot be knowing: it depends for its success on its mood, and its mood depends on the obsessive, narcotic and humourless intensity of fantasised adolescent first love. It cannot afford to be self-aware; it's a book people read to forget themselves, to lose themselves, and for that, it has to be relentless in its suspension of disbelief. It cannot afford to call attention to the fictionality of its central conceit. A writer who's playing with the idea can do that and bounce back, but with Meyer, it would simply break the spell.

There are things about Meyer I'll willingly criticise - I can't defend her presentations of race, for instance - but I think it's unreasonable to blame her for not juggling tropes with appropriate knowingness or playfulness. That's just blaming an apple for not being an orange. She was never going to be an orange, and if she tried, she'd be a less effective apple.

Brin Bellway said...

Chris: But if a flying biped with hooves in new Jersey were to start attacking people in a story and no one so much as considered "Jersey Devil" as a possibility it would be pretty damned absurd

Is that what a Jersey Devil is then?

I remember being at Girl Scout camp and all the other girls were giggling to each other about how dangerous it was being in a cabin in the middle of the Pine Barrens because the Jersey Devil might get us. And none of the little bastards would tell me what the hell it was.

(Yes, I was seven. No, I am not over it.)

GeniusLemur said...

I think that Charlie's a victim of Meyer's attempt to do this as a fairy-tale romance. In the end, Bella has to leave her old life behind, and the fairy-tale romance idea here means that everything she leaves behind has to be something she's perfectly happy to leave. Hence Charlie is perpetually absent, a nonentity, or a jerk.

chris the cynic said...

I wanted to respond by showing you a picture that had positively adorable pictures of various cyptids, but that picture seems to have disappeared from the internet. The thread it was in is still there, but the site the image was hosted on has gone dark. It's a shame.

Anyway, it's this thingy that lives in the Jersey woods that has hooves and wings. Things get somewhat less clear after that with varying descriptions, but if you want me to pick just one I'd say that it has the general appearance of a kangaroo, with exceptions including the previously mentioned hooves and wings, (the wings are like a bat's, but obviously much larger) and antlers like a deer. And, to be totally honest, if an antlered kangaroo with bat wings should show up, I'm not going to say it doesn't count for lack of hooves.

(Now unicorns, on the other hand, those I would check the hooves for because if it doesn't have cloven hooves it's not a unicorn. But that's another matter entirely.)

Legend has it* that it had a human mother and was born as an ordinary child** but almost immediately mutated into it's current form and is, apparently, immortal since that was a long time ago. It was banished from seeking human contact (though twice humans found it, which wasn't a problem because the barrier was one way) for 100 years, and when that ended it ate people's livestock because... why not? That was one hundred and seventy or so years ago and it's been being Jersey Devilish ever since.

Or something like that. Kangaroo with antlers and wings is the takeaway for me really.

* At this point I'm just looking things up on the internet because I never knew any of this, so you could go to your preferred reference place and get information there and it would likely have as much authority.

** Or not.

chris the cynic said...

So you know how every so often I'm completely confused about why someone said something? I'm lost right now.

The discussion about knowing about [creature] based on said [creature] being an inextricable part of our culture has nothing to do with Meyer, right?*

It started when Rikalous brought up a hypothetical type of vampire that does not appear in these stories and then, in a footnote, contrasted it with the way things are handled in Harry Potter and X-Men. Which is to say it had absolutely nothing to do with Twilight or Meyer.

Then Marie Brennan brought that not-Twilight not-Meyer line of thought to the field of zombies, and then Will picked up from there and the tangent spread. The non-Meyer non-Twilight tangent. Or so I thought. But now it seems like it's being treated as if it was brought up as criticism of Meyer.

Did I miss something? I'm confused. And tired. I'm going to sleep now, I'll be back tomorrow.

-

*I mean Meyer doesn't do the thing being criticized. She explicitly has Bella make use of the fact that vampires are known to the culture in order to allow Bella to google them. She avoids doing the thing people said they thought ought be avoided. Right?

Ana Mardoll said...

...no, but we CAN extrapolate to our larger culture and ask why Absentee Father and Controlling Lover resonated apparently so very well with such a large and varied audience...?

Lliira said...

I dunno. I don't think Charlie is this way by accident. Meyer has claimed that Bella is a feminist role model. When looking at Bella in relation to Charlie, I can understand why Meyer asserts this.

Charlie doesn't love his daughter, but he has a weird obsession with her. He particularly wants to control her sexuality. Bella doesn't let him. She chooses a man Charlie does not want her to be with. Charlie loses all power over her when she does this. He's not able to control over her sexuality, not even by handing her off to another man who will control her sexuality.

To most of us, that is how it should be. But just look at all the weird creepy "purity balls" to see that that's not the way it is for a lot of girls in the U.S. And less-extreme examples of the same idea are extremely common. Refusing to let our fathers have any say in whom we'd date was a very big deal to my friends and me in the 90s, no matter our religions or lack thereof.

Marie Brennan said...

@chris the cynic -- Yes, that's what I was going to say. We've wandered off on a tangent that doesn't have anything to do with Meyer at this point. I would ding the author if Bella's response to Jacob's story was "what's a vampire? I've never heard of that before" . . . but it isn't. Since there's very little to flag the Cullens as vampires, and Bella isn't the type of genre-savvy character who wanders around looking for that kind of thing to begin with, I don't expect her to guess it before Jacob infodumps the whole thing in her lap.

What I do ding Meyer for -- and this is, I think, what spawned the tangent in the first place -- is Bella's reaction after she's been told. It isn't a matter of genre-savviness or playing with tropes or anything like that; I just don't think her reaction makes sense. I can't believe a real human being would respond that way. She isn't surprised, she isn't disbelieving, she isn't . . . anything. She just goes and listens to angry music until she falls asleep, and I don't even know why.

@Lliira -- huh. Okay, I finally understand where the "but Bella is a Strong Female Character!" argument is coming from. I still think it's a bad argument (really? This is the bar you have to clear to be Strong, that you run off with a boy your daddy doesn't like? Good god, people, can't we set our sights a bit higher), but at least I see the logic underpinning it. So thank you for that.

But yes, I'd love to know why Absentee Father and Controlling Lover are such attractive tropes. The former, okay, maybe it's a thing the kids of divorced parents can sympathize with? (Mine just celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary, so I lack the grounds to evaluate that.) The latter is the whole alpha-male thing you see all over the romance genre, mostly (but not entirely) in older novels -- but, well, I can't help coming back to the sparklepires and saying, it lacks teeth. Yes, Edward hungers for Bella's blood. But he never tries to go for it -- he never seems to struggle at all -- and so the usual metaphor of "his passion for her is so strong, he can't restrain himself" has been, well, defanged. Like everything else in the book.

Silver Adept said...

@Will Wildman et al Re: Star Trek starship duties:

According to the Omnipedia that I looked at last, on board a starship, there are three duty shifts of eight hours each, with one group on shift, one group on ready, and one group asleep. Of course, if the duty officer calls Yellow or Red Alert, even if you're asleep, if you're one of the Command officers, you get woken up to a least standby if not fully awakened.

Anyway, they do divide the day, it just happens that nothing interesting happens on sleep shift or standby shift unless the plot demands it.

Re: Charlie - that's right, we haven't gotten to the part where he start taking an active interest in his daughter because she wants to date someone. (And when we get there, we should be reminded that at the beginning of Twilight, Charlie was a fan of Edward Cullen as a good boy.)

Lliira said...

The thing is, it's not "run off with a boy daddy doesn't like." It's "control my own sexuality and not allow my father to." This is a REALLY big deal. And if you're brought up in a right-wing religious climate, it's an absolutely central concern in your life, if you're a girl. In much of the world, it can get you killed.

Meyer doesn't write well, but she understands that this is a big deal. She doesn't scoff at it or wave it away. I can't think of another contemporary book that addresses this issue at all, let alone that comes down so hard on the side of the girl. This book asserts that a girl has the right to choose what to do with her own sexuality and life, with absolutely no reference to her father (or mother, but that's a lesser concern.) Even many non-right wing, non-religious men have big problems with the fact that they don't have the right to control their daughters' sexuality.

In the world Meyer grew up in, the bar for a girl of "don't let my father control me" is an incredibly high one. And it exists on some level for most teenage girls, and even adult women.

This isn't to say that I think Twilight is a good book by any means. Meyer's writing is atrocious, most of her morality is skewed, and Bella is intolerable. But this one thing is something that I can completely understand, and I am glad Bella doesn't allow Charlie to have the power he wants to have over her.

Anton_Mates said...

First off, was this added in the edit that I'm told took place? Because I swear I didn't see it before.

Yep. I'm always torn betwixt making a short postscript its own post and editing it into the previous post, if it's only been a few minutes.

You can have people not treat zombies as zombies provided there is a seemingly reasonable alternative

Oh, absolutely. But that requires putting some thought into the initial "disease outbreak" part of the story--as you did--and the average zombie movie wants to get to the "screaming people running from shambling hordes" part as quickly as possible. Hence they reveal the zombies as zombies fairly quickly, and the humans have to compensate with superhuman ignorance.

BTW, if you're going to have the first large-scale zombie rising occur in first-world urban hospital morgues, I think they'd better be the fast-moving sort. Hospitals are full of surveillance cameras and fit people who all carry cell phones and are very conscious of where the morgue is. If a bunch of homicidal dead people start lurching out of there and can't outrun a terrified human, there's going to be dozens of calls to the police and texts to friends and tweets and images/videos uploaded to Facebook within ten minutes. Two hours later, it'll be all over the net and "confirmed" by any official report of any disturbance whatsoever, and bored staff in every other hospital on the planet will be watching their morgues very carefully. It'll only take one more event like that before every hospital has an army of cops (who've seen zombie movies) in the basement hallway while they toss bodies into the incinerator.

...unless, of course, the zombies are fast-moving, or the first risings happen simultaneously all over the planet for some supernatural/technological reason, or the government's doing an incredibly competent coverup job, or the initial "rabies plague" phase has already killed enough people to cripple most public services. Personally, I'd go for the last option and just make the zombies the climax to a Spanish flu story.

I mean Meyer doesn't do the thing being criticized. She explicitly has Bella make use of the fact that vampires are known to the culture in order to allow Bella to google them.

Yep, she's fine on that front.

chris the cynic said...

For someone who has read more than I have, when does Charlie start to disapprove of Edward? With what we've read so far Charlie seems to be the biggest approver of the Cullens in town. The parts where I've looked ahead show Bella not yet telling Charlie (an example paraphrased from memory: Well I said I'd be going alone, and I don't want to tell him my plans have changed in the weeks since I said that, so let me do this thing to make sure he thinks I'm alone) but don't really indicate why.

When trying to get a handle on Bella's hair* I skipped ahead to Chapter 15. This is the chapter in which it is mentioned that Charlie disables Bella's truck. It is also mentioned that Charlie has no idea Bella and Edward are dating. So he doesn't seem to be doing it for Edward-related reasons.

Bella doesn't like "the thought of Charlie, Edward, and the word boyfriend all in the same room at the same time" but there isn't really an indication that it's because Charlie doesn't approve, it actually seems to be (I base this mostly on something three paragraphs previous) because Bella has never had to deal with anything dating related before, also for some unspecified reason she us suspicious of Edward for wanting to tell Charlie.

This is also a good chapter for remembering that Bella isn't the only lying liar who lies, since immediately after finishing talking about telling Charlie Bella asks if Edward will really stick with her and we get this:

"As long as you want me," he assured.

I was originally going to give a tiny bit of credit for this being first book Edward, thus when that was written it could have been that he was going to keep is word. But remember that while drafts were finished and the book picked up before New Moon was even considered, the final draft was made in light of New Moon. And it isn't as if there wasn't a willingness to change things because of New Moon. If you want to see how big the changes are, just remember that every appearance of Jacob outside of Chapter Six was apparently a result of that part of the process.

Edward, not being Alice, probably has no way to know that what he's saying is false here. But he definitely doesn't consider a promise made to be anything he ought to honor when he decides it's no longer convenient.

And then we get to the hair that I skipped ahead to see about. Bella puts her hair in a ponytail for her meeting with the Cullens. Which is where I stopped reading.

Anyway, from what I've seen so far I'm not getting a lot of indication that Charlie wouldn't approve of Bella and Edward (just that Bella wouldn't approve of talking about it) and I'm wondering when that changes.

-

* The fact that she had her hair in a braid for the whole thing with Jacob surprised me. (Probably in part because it wasn't mentioned until she wakes up the next morning) I tried to look for other references to hair. That is the only time the word braid is used, most of the time her hair seems to be free, two times a ponytail is mentioned by name (once it's what she wears around the house, the other it's what she wears to meet the Cullens) once she lets her hair down (meaning it was up) and a rubber band was involved, and once a barrette was mentioned. It is frequently wet.

There's more variation than I expected, I figured Bella was the sort of person who would leave her hair the same way all the time.

Ana Mardoll said...

I *think* -- and this is going entirely off of my memory of the movies, as I've not read New Moon -- that Charlie starts to dislike Edward when two things happen:

1. Bella runs away from home because of her relationship with Edward (Twilight), Edward leaves Bella, Bella spirals into a suicidal depression, Bella runs away from home because of her relationship with Edward (New Moon), Bella and Edward get back together (New Moon / Eclipse).

2. Bella's hymen is endangered by the existence of her relationship with Edward.

#1 is rather understandable, but is downplayed by #2 as there's a line in the movie where Bella tells her father pointedly that she's still a virgin and he notes out loud that he likes Edward a lot better in that case.

chris the cynic said...

I can see why Edward first hospitalizing Bella (Twilight) then being the principle force behind her spiral into suicidal depression (New Moon) might make a parent think Edward wasn't the best choice. Especially given that the excuses given for Bella's hospitalization ("You fell down a stairwell then out a window?") are so very thin.

Ana Mardoll said...

[TW: Abusive Relationships]

Yeah, it's one of those things where I can see the *intent* but the implementation leaves me speechless.

re: #1, it makes perfect sense for a parent to say, "OK, I do not like this guy and I think this relationship is unhealthy." Agreed. And yet... Charlie (being a Standard YA Absentee Father) never really DOES anything to help. He briefly mentions (iirc) counseling or sending Bella to Phoenix for a change of scenery, but it never really goes anywhere and his concerns are immediately rebuffed by Bella saying, essentially, "no, really, I'm fine". This makes Charlie's concern seem a little shallow.

re: #2, I actually do think there are circumstances where this would be relevant to an informed opinion. (For instance, if he thought Edward was using Bella for sex. Or trying to deliberately get her pregnant to reinforce a co-dependency. Or any number of unhealthy things.) But Charlie doesn't really seem to reference any of this and is instead just relieved that his daughter is still a virgin while completely ignoring the many ways the men in her life are NON-sexually abusing her. Which, again, makes Charlie seem kind of shallow in his "concern".

So when he comes across as GRR HATE EDWARD it doesn't really ring clear because his Very Reasonable reasons for doing so are not reflected in any action OTHER than occasionally looking up from the TV long enough to growl at Edward for a second or two. He basically hates Edward with all the intensity of my cat for my Mom's new dog, but with none of the attention span. Or effectiveness.

Ana Mardoll said...

I did want to speak about the fascinating upthread conversation about feminism and choice.

I actually do agree that Twilight is "feminist" from that angle, in the sense that Bella (a) has a choice between suitors and (b) makes that choice herself despite (c) parental pressure to do otherwise. But I also agree that that is a VERY LOW BAR to set and that it's sad that this is the story that resonated so much with readers -- that this situation is either familiar or comfortable to consume.

It reminds me a bit of the discussion we have on the BRAVE trailer. Is it feminist to portray a young girl rebelling against a family where the father practices passive sexism and the mother practices active sexism? I honestly don't know. I know that many, many girls have been in that place, where the mother is the enforcer of the patriarchal values.

[TW: Rape, Cults]

(A lot of FLDS survivor stories that I've been re-reading lately have struck me with how instrumental the mother often is in pressuring the girls to submit to abusive marriages. Elissa Wall has a whole piece in her memoirs about how she doesn't blame her mother anymore, as her mother couldn't accept that what was happening to Elissa was abuse because that would mean that what happened in the past to HER was also abuse, BUT her mother was actively involved in the marriage ceremony that would lead to Elissa's rape and to Warren Jeffs' conviction.

And Flora Jessop actively calls out her mother in her memoirs after her mother tried to prevent Flora from intervening on behalf of the brutal rape of Flora's little sister, which occurred in her mother's hearing, lasted several hours, and was punctuated by the young girl screaming for hours. The mother told Flora that the girl's husband owned her and instructed Flora not to intervene.)

[/TW]

It's abundantly clear to me that some mothers do wield the patriarchy as a stick, but is a movie "feminist" if we're saddled with Yet Another Evil Female Villain? And we very much do live in a world where older men try to control the sexuality of younger women, but is a book "feminist" if it has a young girl ditch college (at least temporarily) and her family (since she is undead now and that has to stay a secret) in order to marry a hot-but-abusive boyfriend straight out of high school? I... don't know. To be genuinely honest.

Maybe we can say it has "elements of feminism"?

Nicole Resweber said...

"The other failure mode is to drag the entire mess out forever, playing coy about something that is obvious to the reader, until we want to scream at the protagonist for being too stupid to see what's in front of her nose."

Oddly enough, back in the day when I was reading these, that's exactly what I wanted to do. "Bella, he... he just TOLD you the Cullens are vampires! He even used the WORD 'vampire!' They never eat, they're deadly pale, they skip school when the weather's good... how are you missing this?"

After today though, I'm not sure she *should* be able to realize the truth, at least without being WAY more genre-savvy than any of SM's characters are.

Oh, also hi! Long-time lurker here. :)

Lliira said...

Charlie really isn't Standard Absentee Father, though. He's Incredibly Creepy Father.

I don't think we can just pare down stories to the facts of their plots to decide whether or not they're feminist. Bella rebels against her father, and ends up getting her own way in nearly everything. She single-handedly thwarts the evil coming for her and the people she cares about. Her fairy tale ending: having lots and lots of no-consequence, magical sex with the man she loves for the rest of eternity.

But I would never call Twilight feminist (except compared to stuff that's even worse, like Left Behind), because of the way Meyer writes the story.

hapax said...

Maybe we can say it has "elements of feminism"?

Or maybe feminism isn't a binary quality (either a work is "feminist" or it isn't) but a continuum. Or maybe there are several axes, involving comparison to contemporary social standards (e.g. Paul was more "feminist" than his contemporary Jewish culture, but less than minimal modern standards) ,the degree to which it promotes bodily autonomy, economic independence, full agency...

chris the cynic said...

Context definitely matters.

After reading an article some students commented that it had claimed it would look at things from a female perspective, and then didn't. It was explained that the article was 40ish years old and the field of classics wasn't exactly an early adopter of feminism, and so the fact that it acknowledged women existed in classical art and what's more were worth thinking about was a pretty big step and that was what the introduction of the article was talking about. The perspective wasn't that of the women being portrayed in art, it was simply the perspective that it was worth considering portrayals of women in the first place.

Back then it was kind of feminist, do the same thing now and it would be a major step back since it is a very low bar to clear.

Dav said...

As usual, you totally hit all the points I'd like to articulate, and throw in new ones as a bonus.

Kit Whitfield said...

@Amarie - the only one who can't defend Meyer's handling of race, or the only one who fancies a nice tenor? :-)

chris the cynic said...

So I was thinking about trying to do Snarky Twilight from the start. But I only ever made it as far as the bible quote before the preface. I didn't even make it to the preface which I had planned to finish before sharing the bible quote bit. Anyway, here is that for anyone interested.

I did also put some thought into the quote on the back of the book. Understand that this is just tentative:

Of three things I was certain.

First, Edward was a jackass.

Second, I was in a story that demanded -- and I wasn't sure how much force it could place behind that demand -- that I love him.

Third, there must be some way out of here.

Fourth, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Amarie said...

To Davrosinside:

Thank you! Glad you didn't mind the wall of text! :D

To Kit:

Oh goodness...that was kind of vague of me, wasn't it? LOL! I meant both! Although...I've been looking around other blogs and very, very, very few actually call out the racial issues. Or, if they *do*, then you have a thousand and one Twihards bashing him or her in the comments...-___-

To Chris:

Wow, that's pretty interesting and funny! I wonder if you'll publish that? Because I would *definitely* buy that book. :D :D :D

DavidCheatham said...

I ended up in a weird discussion about this once. I was talking to some people about how survivalists like to jokingly plan for a zombie apocalypse, because if you can make it through one of those you can make it through almost anything...

And I realized, about halfway through the discussion, that a zombie apocalypse makes _no sense_. It's why every zombie movie focuses on a tiny town, where the zombie infection is already underway before anyone realizes it. Or, alternately, they just handwave everything.

In the real world, people are not extras, and get noticed when they vanish, so the police would very rapidly get involved, and very rapidly figure out what's going on. Even if we assume no one escapes to call the police, and that zombies attack a person every 30 minutes, and start at night, they'll have managed to turn maybe 100 people before people start wondering why Ted didn't show up for work the next day, or neighbors stumbles across a zombie Jim. So the police will realize what is going on fairly quickly.

Within a day, whatever city it happened in would be cordoned off, with proper quarantine procedures for people exiting. Nearby cities would start some sort of behavior indicating they are not zombies (For example, yelling 'Not a zombie!', or waving a 'not a zombie' flag or skipping instead of walking.) and everyone who does _not_ respond to challenges would become shoot on sight. (Which I'm sure will, indeed, end up with with some innocents being killed, but that isn't really relevant to my point.)

I'm sure a lot of people would die, but by 'a lot of people', I mean '5% of the population of wherever city it happened in', not 'the apocalypse'.

DavidCheatham said...

If a bunch of homicidal dead people start lurching out of there and can't outrun a terrified human, there's going to be dozens of calls to the police and texts to friends and tweets and images/videos uploaded to Facebook within ten minutes. Two hours later, it'll be all over the net and "confirmed" by any official report of any disturbance whatsoever, and bored staff in every other hospital on the planet will be watching their morgues very carefully.

I started reading a book called 'Feed' once that had, as the premise, that traditional news was utterly abandoned when it persistently continued to deny that what was going was 'zombies'. So the blogs (Or vblogs) took over, and the news was now utterly decentralized. (Although I appear to have forgotten to finish that book, and have currently misplaced it, so I'm not sure where that story was going.)

To be fair to the genre, horror has always had trouble coping with the idea of cell phones or instant communications. This started back in the 90s, when mysteriously no one had cell phones, or the 00s, when mysteriously cell phones never worked. At some point the screenwriters are going to have to live with the fact that cell phones exist.

Modern fantasy has the same problem with the Masquerade. In 1992 you can have two wizards fight in the middle of the street, and reports of that dismissed as obviously bogus. In 2012, someone is going to streaming it live to Qik as five other people make phone calls and three other people tweet it. At that point, ignoring it requires pretending it's a very complicated hoax.

Adults can still suspend their disbelief by mentally ignoring the existence of those things, mentally superimposing the past on it, but that's going to stop working as kids who _grew up_ with that sort of thing become the audience.

chris the cynic said...

Magic and electronics don't mix. When wizards fight in the middle of the street everyone attempting to record it will be disappointed, the exception being if they're at a great distance with an impressive zoom. If they can be outside of the EM disruption field caused by the greater than normal release of magical energy but still have a line of sight, have a decent zoom and have a steady hand, then they can get it on tape. But when that happens you're unlikely to get more than a single recording, which means that it can still be dismissed as a hoax, especially if the way things look when wizards fight isn't too far from how we'd expect a hoaxer with access to computer effects software to fake them to look.

And that will be my explanation until I think of something better.

Ana Mardoll said...

Heh. "How Not to Write a Novel" has a whole SECTION on cell phones.

The horrible truth is that even if the crisis comes in the Tibetan Himalayas, the contemporary reader will tend to think “What, they don’t get reception there?” and the contemporary reader will have a point.

And then there are issues broken down by category:

* Forgetting of Phone
* Loss of Phone
* Destruction of Phone, by Villain
* Swallowing of Phone, by Shark
* Failure of Signal or Battery
* Usurpation of Technology by Demonic Possession, Teenage Hackers, or HAL-like Intelligence
* Quirk of Character
* Setting of Novel in Past

I do agree they need a section on "things that need people not to believe in them except for the problem that YouTube exists". :D

chris the cynic said...

For the record, I don't have a cell phone. There is one that I can borrow should the need arise. That phone is just a phone. On the other hand I do have a camera maybe about half the time. So if there were a need to contact other people to say, "Hey, there are unicorns here," I'd almost certainly be unable to for lack of phone. And if I could they'd have to take my word because I could not send them videos or pictures. If there were a need to take pictures so that I could later say, "I saw these awesome unicorns, take a look" then there's a chance I could do it.

-

Based on other people's experiences with cell phones it seems to me like any question of, "They don't get reception there? Really?" could be solved by answering, "They have Verizon."

"But it was there three seconds ago at full strength and now, suddenly, though no movement has taken place the signal is gone and will not return for hours or days," appears to be what Verizon shoots for, at least around here. Then again they did basically go out of their way to disrupt landline communications in this state (and apparently one or two other nearby states, which I didn't know until just now) so it's entirely possible that they just don't like us very much and service is better elsewhere.

Of course even if "They have Verizon," is the answer, then you have the question of why they just don't drop Verizon, which I have no idea why it seems to take people years on end to do that.

I bring this up not to excuse failure of signal as the plot demands, but rather to point out that if, for generations to come, the phrase "They have Verizon," is a synonym for, "Their phones do not actually function as phones," those bastards will still be getting off light. (Though apparently they did lose a billion and change when the company they tricked into buying their landline network went bankrupt, so that's something.)

Brin Bellway said...

For the record, I don't have a cell phone. There is one that I can borrow should the need arise. That phone is just a phone.

Same here, except I don't have a camera either. I do have an audio recorder, but due to ridiculously slow boot-up times I need roughly thirty-five seconds' notice that there's going to be something worth recording, which I probably wouldn't get.

(Unless I got very lucky and happened to be listening to music or podcasts about how awesome science is. Then I'd get to skip the booting.)

Ana Mardoll said...

As I am currently going through so much annoyance with AT&T at the moment, this comment fills me with unadulterated joy.

DavidCheatham said...

That's how it works in the Dresden Files. Wizards tend to break electronics just by being in the same room as them. Which has made it increasingly difficult for them to operate modern cars and anything else.

It's an plot point in one book when, in an attempt to hide something from wizards, someone puts it on a flash drive, hides the drive, and then writes down the GPS coords of that location. Most wizards don't know what either of those are, and even if they do it would require a non-wizard to actually find the drive and get the information from it. (In fact, to be safe, Dresden doesn't even want to come anywhere near the drive.)

Although, as time goes on, 'Breaking electronics' _itself_ will start commanding attention by others, so while that excuse works today, I doubt it will work forever. What happens in 2030 when all cars are required to have self-drive and all purchases are made using low-power RF 'credit cards'? Or, for an absurd example, what happens when all doors are automatic, and wizards end up making a fuss every single time they try to enter and leave a building because the door doesn't work.

At some point either the wizards all move to Amish country or something in that explanation has to give.

Dav said...

No cell phone for me, either. I just hate talking on the phone - for some reason, there are only two people I can talk comfortably with. Otherwise, it is awful in a way I can't fully articulate. I'd rather go pick up pizza than order it on the phone. I'd rather email a friend than talk on the phone. I'd rather walk a mile through a hailstorm than voluntarily call someone. Hate phones.

Zombies are a bit unworkable as classic one-bite, slow-rise creatures. But that can be solved easily enough by putting a fairly long lead-time on development of symptoms, especially if you're using a disease model. If it takes a month to develop aggression, and another month to become outright ferocious, then you have an enormous backlog of infected by the time anyone realizes what's going on - infected who, for the most part, are going to be frightened and go into hiding. Or you can have a latent infection, which can be a nasty bugger to detect, and only have the virus activated under certain conditions.

Very fast, very deadly diseases tend to kill themselves off, for exactly the reasons DavidCheathem outlines. A slower strain is very likely to take hold, because the survival/transmission rates are better.

Or, you can go classic, and have all the dead rise from their graves. Every city I've lived in has multiple large graveyards in the midst of them. (Extra fun: certain armed fundamentalists decide the zombies have been brought back by Jesus.)

Things would be very, very bad.

DavidCheatham said...

I had a rather strange thought about cell phones once, in a Masquerade context, but not about Muggle's cell phones, which present obvious issues.

No, it was about the phone of Clark Kent on Smallville. I first started thinking 'I wonder if that thing works at superspeed', although Clark never tried, so we'd never know. So later I looked it up, and they should not, as it takes a second to negotiate with each tower, which is why cell phones keep in contact with several close ones and gracefully switch over before getting out of range. So I thought that would be a funny gag, to have to him talking, superspeed somewhere, and then have to wait for the cell network to realize he moved before he could continue. Or, more likely, just have it disconnect him.

And then I realized that he gives away his secret when he runs halfway across the continent at superspeed, because that would show up disconnecting from somewhere and reconnecting elsewhere seconds later. (Although, alternately, the writers might think he'd connect to each tower as he went along, but that's even worse for his secret!)

Why? Because the phone companies _look for that_.

Well, not that specifically, but for a second he'd be connecting to the new tower, and the old one wouldn't realize he was gone, so it would look very close to what _cloned phones_ look like. The phone company will notice you are on tower X and on tower Y five hundred miles away at the 'same time'. He could probably get away smaller superspeeds, say 5-10 miles, as that can happen during air travel if you don't turn off your phone. But anything past that is going to probably going to have someone look at his account to make sure someone isn't cloning...and then, after staring in disbelieve a few seconds as Clark apparently _teleports_ around the country, remember those newspaper articles about the 'Red-Blue Blur' or whatever.

Granted, I presume the comics have some way to cope with this (It wouldn't be that hard, just leave the phone behind, or use burner phones as a superhero, or something that looks like a cell phone but is really a radio back to HQ that then connects to the phone network.) but Clark didn't bother to do this, and would often superspeed in his civilian identity and have his cell phone with him later.

Ana Mardoll said...

I like it!

I do think it's plausible that people will protect themselves and their loved ones in the hope for a cure.

I've been reading about Mary Boleyn lately and the mysterious English sweating sickness that was going around at that time. You basically got a fever and died within 24 hours.

While many powerful people fled the outbreaks, an awful lot of people chose (or were forced to, by circumstance) to tend the sick.

hapax said...

There's a certain amount of characterization here - he likes fishing! and sports! and working fourteen hour days! and never speaking to anyone! - that starts to make Charlie seem deeply resentful of Bella, though I doubt that was intended.

If I were the sort of person prone to psychoanalyzing authors through their books (which I'm not, but Meyer makes it so very very tempting), I'd wonder about the author's relationship with her own father.

Or, for that matter, with her husband, and why a possessive tool obsessed with controlling every minute aspect of his beloved's life is the sort of "ideal man" she dreams about.

But that would be extremely rude and presumptive of me, so I shan't.

Inquisitive Raven said...

I'd proscribe something more like Evanescence for her type of pain.

I think you mean "prescribe" here. To proscribe something is to forbid it which I think is the opposite of what you're trying to say here. It's a common mistake and it drives me up the wall because the two words make equal sense in a single sentence, but using the wrong one inverts the meaning.

Now having said that, I'm not familiar with either band, so I can't comment on their appropriateness.

chris the cynic said...

All I have to add to this is that a world in which no one has ever heard of the dead devouring the living is a world in which the Epic of Gilgamesh wasn't around.
If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,
I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,
And will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living.-Ishtar, Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet VI, Translated by Maureen Gallery Kovacs

Now if the epic was never written in the first place that's between 3 and 4 thousand years of divergent history, if it was never rediscovered then it's only around 160 years of divergent history.

Anyway, the point is, if zombie hordes are an unheard of idea in a world, you definitely cannot take for granted that the American Civil War happened in that world, and it might be a mistake to assume that places like Ancient Greece and Rome, as we know them, ever existed.

The name zombie, on the other hand, has not been associated with its present meaning for very long.

chris the cynic said...

All I have to add to this is that a world in which no one has ever heard of the dead devouring the living is a world in which the Epic of Gilgamesh wasn't around.
If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,
I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,
And will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living.-Ishtar, Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet VI, Translated by Maureen Gallery Kovacs

Now if the epic was never written in the first place that's between 3 and 4 thousand years of divergent history, if it was never rediscovered then it's only around 160 years of divergent history.

Anyway, the point is, if zombie hordes are an unheard of idea in a world, you definitely cannot take for granted that the American Civil War happened in that world, and it might be a mistake to assume that places like Ancient Greece and Rome, as we know them, ever existed.

The name zombie, on the other hand, has not been associated with its present meaning for very long.

JenL said...

Charlie Swan, readers, is the kind of father who will guard his daughter's hymen so carefully that he will sabotage her car engine nightly lest she sneak off into the night and do Very Naughty Things with her private parts. But he won't check on her to see if maybe she's working too hard, what with forsaking food, entertainment, and sleep for her homework, as evidenced by the stream of bright light coming from under her door all night long.

I understand the sentiment, and Bella would agree if she gave it a second's thought, but I'm not sure we can really assume that. Bella says she's not hungry, and he accepts that rather than urging her to eat. She goes upstairs, and immediately puts in headphones that block any sound Charlie might make. She covers her face as well. She also has a history of withdrawing and not talking to her dad.

Okay, so he watches his game. I'm not sure when that game was supposed to have started, or when it would end, but eventually Charlie wanders upstairs. He sees the light on in Bella's bedroom. It's entirely possible he wanders on, uninterested.

But it's also entirely possible that he listens at the door, doesn't hear anything. Maybe he says "you okay in there, Bella?" There's no answer. He knocks, no response. He cracks open the door, and takes a peek, then opens the door. What does he see? His daughter appears to be asleep. Maybe he can tell she has earbuds in, but he has no idea she's got Linkin Park cranked to an earsplitting volume (not with the earbuds in and the pillow over her head). Maybe she's playing some soothing white noise. Bella doesn't seem like she'd appreciate being woken up and told she ought to take off her shoes, get changed, and climb back into bed... Maybe Charlie wimped out. Maybe he thought he'd let her be and then talk to her about it the next time she seemed open to a conversation.

In another book, we might have been told what Charlie did or didn't do, or we could have made assumptions based on not being told. But here, if it doesn't involve Bella's attractiveness or desires, whether or not it happened apparently isn't worth telling us.

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