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'The Host' will test loyalty of 'Twilight' fans

Published March 28, 2013 11:37 am

Vampires vs. aliens • Will Stephenie Meyer's admirers switch to science fiction?
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Stephenie Meyer never camped out to catch the latest work from her favorite authors.

"Most of the authors I really loved were already dead," Meyer said in an interview this week. Her faves included Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Mitchell and Jane Austen.

"There were no sequels at that point. … I learned to enjoy books in a finite way," she said.

This weekend, fans of Meyer's Twilight saga are faced with a choice: whether to embrace the movie based on Meyer's non-Twilight novel, the alien-invasion tale The Host.

The movie "The Host," opening nationwide Friday, March 29, depicts an Earth in which most of the human population has been taken over by alien "souls." It follows one teen girl, Melanie (played by Saoirse Ronan), who resists from within when an alien tries to control her.

"Some of [the fans] will [see it], and I think some of them won't," Meyer said matter-of-factly. "A lot of women say, 'Oh, it's science fiction,' like it's a negative to them."

One of Salt Lake City's most devoted Twilight fans said it's unlikely the movie version of The Host will draw the same affection that the "Twilight" movies did.

"It's kind of odd," said Kandi Prickett, who runs the Salt Lake City Twilight Fans Facebook page. She asked the page's 350-plus fans whether "The Host" would be as popular as the "Twilight" films, and "every one said it will not be as big as 'Twilight.' "

A Salt Lake City academic who has become the resident expert on all things Twilight also sees a difference in interest between Meyer's sparkly vampires and her pale-eyed aliens.

When Christine Seifert, associate professor of communication at Westminster College, recently looked on the message boards of a popular young-adult literary forum, she said, "what I found interesting is that people who didn't like Twilight like The Host, and people who liked Twilight didn't like The Host."

The difference is what's at the core of each story, Seifert said.

"At its heart, Twilight is a romance novel — and a very traditional romance novel," Seifert said, describing the ageless love story between the human Bella and the century-old vampire Edward Cullen. Later in the saga, werewolf Jacob Black also was mooning over Bella. To fans focused on the romance, Seifert said, "Edward didn't have to be a vampire."

On the other hand, Seifert said, The Host "is basically a science-fiction story." It has a Twilight-like love triangle, as Melanie still loves her boyfriend, Jared, while the alien "soul," named Wanda, develops feelings for Jared's best friend, Ian. "But, at its heart, it's imagining over this world," Seifert said.

Prickett, 42, said The Host "was more mature. You still have the triangle, but there's no sexual tension. It's not as mysterious, because aliens are way different than vampires."

The fans on Prickett's Facebook page stay engaged, she said, monitoring the careers and personal lives of the actors who appeared in the "Twilight" films. Last weekend, the two big items of interest were Kristen Stewart's award at the Kids' Choice Awards and a fire that hit actress Ashley Greene's condo and killed one of her dogs.

For some fans, Seifert said, the line between the actors and the characters they play can get blurred.

"To really hardcore fans, Kristen Stewart is Bella and Robert Pattinson is Edward," Seifert said. "That's part of the reason they were upset when Kristen Stewart was caught having an affair."

The affair, which happened last summer when Stewart was spotted with Rupert Sanders, the married director of Stewart's movie "Snow White and the Huntsman," "in some ways turned fans off," Seifert said. "That's when you saw more people who said they were over Edward and Bella. They couldn't pretend it was real anymore."

Meyer faces a similar challenge in not being continually defined by Twilight. "She's tied to Twilight in ways that fans will have difficulty being accepted as anything else," Seifert said.

Seifert compared Meyer's situation to that of Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, who last year published her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, a dark story of class division in an English village.

"I read it, I loved it and it's not Harry Potter," Seifert said. "There are people who saw J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter as inextricable. So a book that's full of sex and drugs and abortion and abuse was impossible for real Harry Potter fans to take."

Meyer, who is working on a sequel to The Host, said she tries to tune out such pressures.

"When I write, I really don't think about any audience," she said. "You can't worry about what somebody wants to see from you."


Twitter: @moviecricket







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