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I randomly came across the best (by far) Twilight fan fiction I've ever read on Monday morning.
If you like Twilight fan fiction at all, you must read Ithaca Is Gorges by Giselle-lx.
I simply cannot recommend this fan fiction highly enough. I started reading it Monday morning. My Google Reader and e-mail have gone almost unnoticed. Work got put off. Dinner was late. I could not take my eyes off it for the past two days.
At 19 chapters and over 126,000 words, Ithaca Is Gorges is a book unto itself. It is arguably better written, thought out, and more emotionally powerful than any of the four Twilight books...and that's really saying something from a fan like me. It tells the story of New Moon from the time the Cullens leave Forks through the end of the book. The book alternates between Carlisle and Edward's points of view.
Carlisle is the star of this story despite the alternating viewpoints. We really don't know that much about him from the Twilight books. Giselle gives us insight to his thoughts and personality. We see his generous, caring nature but also see sadness, anger, and just how much he truly loves his family. Edward is, of course, very present in the story. But his tale is not such a revelation. Giselle does a wonderful job of expressing Edward's grief, guilt, and depression that we know occurred during New Moon.
Giselle's writing is marvelous. Not only does she write well, but the story is incredibly researched. The medical tidbits seem accurate, the historical references are perfect, and there are wonderful references to literature, art, and music. The story is solidly in the Teen rating with nothing more than the occasional swear word. It loyally sticks to canon; there are a few things that I don't think Carlisle or Edward would do but nothing that is out of line with Stephenie's works.
This leads me to a bigger question: Of what value is fan fiction?
On one hand, fan fiction is a great vessel for readers to continue their journey through the characters' lives and for writers to channel their creativity into already established backgrounds. So often I finish a book wanting to know more about these people I've grown to love. Fan fiction, when written well, gives me this opportunity. And for writers, fan fiction serves as a writing exercise. It makes writing easier because you already have a framework and a world from which to work. But it also makes writing more challenging. If you want to stick to canon, you have to create an interesting plot but not "color outside the lines." It's an exercise in discipline.
On the other hand, fan fiction is a distraction for readers who could be discovering other great books. Ithaca Is Gorges took me away from The Sky Is Everywhere, my current read. It's a waste of time because so much of it is truly awful; not only does it take time to read, it also takes time find something decent to read. Writers of fan fiction are throwing their talent away by taking off of someone else's copyrighted works. Their considerable skills could be better put to creating their own original works. For example, Giselle is so talented. She could write unbelievable original fiction, I'm sure. I almost feel deprived. (Thankfully I read in an interview with her on someone's blog that she does have several original pieces in the works).
Ultimately, I take a positive view of fan fiction. It should not be the forefront of a book-lover's reading or a writer's writing, but it's a fabulous way to toil away a day or two. As a writer, I can testify that writing Twilight fan-fiction was immensely helpful to me. The first piece of fiction I wrote in more than ten years was Twilight fan-fiction. If I hadn't written that, I don't know if my creative energy would have been opened to original pieces. And as a reader, it's like finding a long-lost letter from a friend. I treasure the opportunity to have new insight into people I love.