Pop Culture

Devoted ‘Twihards’ get their fix online

The Internet is truly an information highway that covers the globe. Al Gore claimed he invented it. Former Sen. Ted Stevens described it as “a series of tubes.” Jon Stewart once said of it, “The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom.”

However you feel about the Internet, it’s clear that fans of “Twilight” have taken it over.

Stephenie Meyer created a series of books about young romance and blood-sucking that have achieved “Harry Potter”-like success. Four books have been released so far, and a partial draft of a fifth was pilfered and placed on the Internet, much to the author’s dismay. One film, “Twilight,” was released last year, and a second, “New Moon,” opens on Friday.

While the books form the core of the “Twilight” phenomenon, and the films are spreading the stories and characters throughout Cineplex Nation, the online community is buzzing like an electric generator at peak capacity. Fans who can’t get enough of Edward and Bella and their cohorts, and can’t possibly wait another minute for the next book (if there is one) or movie, have congregated online to get their “Twilight” fixes and connect with like-minded devotees.

The passion between “Twihards,” as they have come to be known, and Meyer’s creations and offshoots thereof, might just exceed that of the main characters. Such a pronouncement might be considered blaspheme to those who consider the pure and unwavering love between Edward the vampire and Bella the innocent to be supreme, but just try prying a Twihard away from the computer screen and a rousing tweet or a lusty blog. You might come away badly wounded.

There are several ways in which Twihards express their preoccupation for the undying love of their favorite sweethearts, and also for actors Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan) and others in the cast.

Twitter makes difference
There are many “Twilight” fan sites on the Web that serve as a hub for information. Such net locales offer one-stop obsessing for the ardent pursuer of all things “Twilight.”

One of the more popular ones is twilightlexicon.com. Operated by Lori Joffs and Laura Byrne-Cristiano, it is loaded with information about “Twilight” and its universe, including pages on the books, the movies, the author, vampire and werewolf mythology, and lots more. Meyer herself dubbed it “the brightest star in the Twilight online universe.”

Byrne-Cristiano estimates that the site gets more than 50,000 to 70,000 unique viewers a day.

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    The hot vampire series is taking cinemas by storm, and its stars' off-screen romance only helps matters.

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    Family affair -

    In "Breaking Dawn Part 2," young Mackenzie Foy plays the half-human half-vampire child of Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson). Jacob (Taylor Lautner) also plays an important role in Renesmee's life.

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    Next generation -

    Mackenzie Foy, 11, plays Renesmee Cullen, whose name is a hybrid of her two grandmothers, Renee and Esme.

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    Super couple -

    While Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson's relationship progressed to marriage and a child onscreen, the actors' offscreen romance had a few bumps in the road.

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    Cullen clan -

    Plenty of vampires, including Edward's adoptive father Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), take sides in the war between the Volturi and the Cullens in "Breaking Dawn Part 2."

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    Love gives a lift -

    Pattinson as vampire Edward Cullen gives Bella Swan a lift in "Breaking Dawn, Part 1."

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    Ready for a fight -

    Taylor Lautner, as Jacob, gives a menacing glance as a blood-splattered Edward and his parents stand behind him in "Breaking Dawn Part 1."

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    Like picking up a toothpick -

    Kellan Lutz and Nikki Reed move some trees in "Breaking Dawn, Part 1." We assume they're making a clearing for Edward and Bella's wedding. Good thing vampires have that super-strength!

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    What lies ahead -

    Smile while you can, Edward and Bella. Things are about to get crazy.

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    Team Jacob -

    In between his "Twilight" duties, Taylor Lautner found time to shoot the action movie "Abduction."

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    If the shoe fits -

    Ashley Greene as Alice convinces Bella to try on some possible wedding shoes in "Breaking Dawn Part 1."

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    Awaiting the bride -

    Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Elizabeth Reaser and Peter Facinelli await the "Breaking Dawn" wedding.

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    Wedding night at last -

    Reportedly the wedding-night scene involves Edward biting through the pillows, with feathers flying. The sex scene itself, however, had to stay PG-13.

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    Hot honeymoon -

    Edward and Bella's honeymoon was shot in Brazil, which stands in for Edward's adoptive mother's own private island.

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    Baby on the way -

    Bella and Edward didn't believe she could become pregnant with a half-vampire baby. Boy, were they wrong. Their daughter Renesmee enters the world in "Breaking Dawn Part 1," but the battle over her existence will mostly take place in the second film, due out in 2012.

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    I'm getting married in the morning -

    Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen) and Nikki Reed (Rosalie Hale) help Bella get ready to walk down the aisle in "Breaking Dawn."

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    Greeting the guests -

    Elizabeth Reaser, as Edward's adoptive mother, Esme, greets Denali coven guests Irina (Maggie Grace), Kate (Casey LaBow) and Tanya (MyAnna Buring) as they arrive for Edward and Bella's wedding in "Breaking Dawn."

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    Vegetarian vamps -

    Mia Maestro and Christian Camargo play Carmen and Eleazar, vegetarian vampires from Alaska's Denali coven who come south to attend Bella and Edward's wedding.

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    Not going to RSVP, then? -

    Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is furious when he receives the invitation to Bella and Edward's wedding.

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    Facing up to a star -

    A fan gets up close and personal with an image of "Twilight" star Robert Pattinson during the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on June 24, 2010, in Los Angeles.

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    The terrific threesome -

    Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson arrive at the premiere of the third movie in the series, "Eclipse," during the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on June 24, 2010, in Los Angeles.

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    A childhood pal grows up -- and fills out -

    While vampire Edward Cullen is Bella's true love, Taylor Lautner, as Jacob Black, who can phase into a giant wolf, is the true monster star of the third film, thanks in no small part to Lautner's abs and tendency to take his shirt off often.

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    Another vampire couple -

    Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) and Jasper Hale (Jackson Rathbone) are two of the vampires who are part of the Cullen coven. In "Eclipse," Jasper tells how he became a vampire, when, as a Confederate major in the Civil War, he was bitten by the bewitching Maria.

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    Shirts? We don't need no stinkin' shirts! -

    The "Twilight" wolfpack is allergic to chest coverings.

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    Murdered by her fiance -

    Rosalie Hale (Nikki Reed), shown here with partner Emmett Cullen (Kellan Lutz), is another of the Cullen coven with a tortured past. Her fiance was a drunk who orchestrated her gang rape and then left her for dead. As a vampire, she sought revenge and killed her rapists one by one.

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    You only hurt the one you love -

    Emily Young (Tinsel Korey) is permanently scarred from a wolf attack by her boyfriend, Sam Uley (Chaske Spencer). He lost control and didn't mean to hurt her, and forever feels guilty for her injuries.

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    A force to be reckoned with -

    Vampire Riley (played by Xavier Samuel, center) leads a group of newly undead planning to kill Bella and anyone who gets in their way -- including the Cullens and the werewolves.

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    Bella in the middle -

    In "Eclipse," Bella once again finds herself forced to choose between two men she loves dearly -- vampire Edward and her childhood pal, Jacob, who has secrets of his own.

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    The Cullen clan -

    Is it an ad for denim? No, just a meeting of the Cullen clan, vampires who have bonded together as a family and managed to hide in plain sight of the mortal world. Shown in a scene from "Eclipse," from left, are Ashley Greene as Alice, Nikki Reed as Rosalie, Elizabeth Reaser as Esme, Jackson Rathbone as Jasper and Peter Facinelli as family patriarch Carlisle.

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    Just friends? -

    Jacob grabs a rare moment alone with Bella in "Eclipse," the third film in the saga. There's one more book, "Breaking Dawn," which will be split into two films.

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    Cute couple -

    In the second film, "New Moon," Bella and Edward are inseparable until a major threat rips them apart.

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    Frail Bella -

    In "New Moon," the sequel to "Twilight," Bella starts off deliriously happy and in love with the vampire Edward Cullen, but falls apart and becomes a shell of herself after he leaves her. When she realizes that she hears Edward's voice and sees visions of him whenever her life is in danger, Bella engages in high-risk activities as a way to hang on to her memories of him.

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    Three's company -

    Edward watches on as Bella chats with her friend Jacob Black in "New Moon." Jake, who harbors a not-so-secret crush on Bella, brings her back to life after she is crushed from the breakup with Edward.

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    A crushing blow -

    After Edward breaks up with her, Bella lies in the forest in shock overnight until her police chief dad, Charlie (played by Billy Burke), scours the woods for her with his squad. When they find her, she is unresponsive and remains in a deep depression for months.

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    Boy no more -

    In "New Moon," Jake transforms from a lanky teen to a beefy hunk, thanks to his new werewolf status. To prepare for the physical change the role required, Taylor Lautner started hitting the gym and eating 3,200 calories a day to gain muscle so that his physique would better resemble Jacob's.

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    If you love them, let them go -

    Though it nearly kills him, Edward breaks up with his beloved Bella in "New Moon" in an attempt to keep her safe from the constant dangers of the vampire world.

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    Give me death -

    When Edward hears that Bella has died, he goes to Italy to see the Volturi, a powerful coven of vampires that governs the laws of their world. He asks that the Volturi will grant him his wish: to destroy him, as he has no desire to live in a world without Bella. Here, the Volturi tracker Demetri stands over him.

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    Team Edward! -

    A female fan kisses a poster showing the face of actor Robert Pattinson before the presentation of his new film, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" at an HVB youth event at the Olympic Hall in Munich, Germany, on Nov. 14.

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    Playing heroine -

    When Bella discovers that Edward plans to have the Volturi destroy him after coming to believe that she has died, she races to Italy to save him.

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    Finding love in the 'Twilight' -

    Though Edward finds Bella's scent intoxicating and dangerously irresistable, he can't help but be drawn to her in "Twilight."

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    Hunk with a hidden life -

    English actor Pattison moved from modeling to the role of Cedric Diggory in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" before taking on the role that would make him famous, that of hunky vampire Edward Cullen in "The Twilight Saga."

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    Muscling up but staying sweet -

    Kellan Lutz plays Emmett Cullen in the "Twilight" movies. He's considered Edward's brother in the film and books, but in reality, the young vampires aren't related -- they were brought together by an older vampire and present themselves as a family to the outer world. Lutz bulked up for the films, but insists it hasn't interfered with his addiction to gummy bears, gummy worms, chocolate and other sweet treats.

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    Leading the vampire clan -

    Peter Facinelli (husband of "90210's" Jennie Garth) and Elizabeth Reaser play the Cullen parents, Carlisle and Esme, in the "Twilight" movies. Carlisle, a doctor, managed to gather his small band together as a family and convince them to kill only animals to slake their bloodlust. They occasionally clash with other vamps who aren't quite as compassionate where humans are concerned.

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    So my daughter's in love with a vampire ... -

    Billy Burke plays Bella's father, Charlie, and serves as the chief of police in their small rainy town of Forks, Wash. The Cullen vampire clan resides in the damp town because it's low on the bright sunshine that would reveal their non-human identities. Vampires in the "Twilight" universe sparkle brightly in direct sunlight.

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    Hanging with the wolf pack -

    Bella's pal Jacob (far right) has a secret of his own, and it involves a wolfy transformation often associated with the full moon. His dad, Billy Black (Gil Birmingham, in wheelchair) is good friends with Bella's father, Charlie (Burke, in blue shirt). When Bella's relationship with Edward puts her father in danger, Billy and his community protect Charlie.

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    Bella, Bella -

    Beautiful Bella Swan leaves her mother in sunny Arizona and moves to the Pacific Northwest, where she stumbles upon Edward Cullen and his vampire clan. Instead of being horrified, she confesses her love for Edward, and wants him to change her into a vampire as well, something he tries to resist doing.

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    This sister's trouble -

    Nikki Reed plays Cullen sister Rosalie, a gorgeous vampire who resents her status and takes some of her anger out on Bella. She doesn't want her brother's human girlfriend to join her clan, leading to trouble in the second book of the series, "New Moon."

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    Look out for Laurent -

    Edi Gathegi, seen here with Peter Facinelli in a scene from "Twilight," plays Laurent, a vampire from a group of nomad vampires that does battle with the Cullen clan.

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    It's tough to be a bloodsucker -

    Jackson Rathbone plays Cullen brother Jasper. The newest vampire in their clan, he must constantly struggle to fight off his urges to kill humans, Bella included. His fascinating backstory includes a history as a Confederate soldier in the Civil War and years spent training newborn vamps to learn to control themselves. He has the power to feel and manipulate the emotions of others.

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    On the prowl -

    Vampire James, played by Cam Gigandet, is considered a "tracker," and once he discovers Bella's human scent, plans to pursue her until her death. In "Twilight," he convinces her that her mother is in danger and thus forces her to sneak away from Edward and meet him in the Arizona ballet studio where she studied as a child.

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    The hunt continues -

    Fiery-haired Victoria makes up the third and final member of Laurent and James' coven. Her mate dominates the action in the first book, "Twilight," but by the third book, "Eclipse," Victoria takes center stage to try and wreak bloody revenge on Bella and the Cullens. Rachelle Lafevre, center, plays Victoria in the first two films, but when she needed time off for a movie, she was fired and replaced by actor Ron Howard's daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, right.

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    Team Jacob or Team Edward? -

    While Jacob Black is a Native American in the books and the films, actor Taylor Lautner himself is not. He was nearly replaced for the second film when moviemakers thought he couldn't convincingly pull off the bulk required for the role, but an impressive workout routine changed that.

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    Life with the vampire royals -

    Young actress Dakota Fanning plays Jane in the "Twilight" sequel "New Moon." Jane is a member of the Volturi guard, working with the royal family of vampires who reside in Italy. Jane has an especially cruel power that allows her to create the illusion of pain and thus torture others.

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    Waiting for 'Twilight' -

    "Twilight" fans are among some of the most devoted around, with numerous Web sites, fan clubs and conventions gathering groupies to discuss and debate both the books and the films. Here fans reach for free T-shirts at the Los Angeles premiere of the first movie, in November 2008. Stores such as Hot Topic offer plenty of "Twilight" merchandise, including "TEAM EDWARD" and "TEAM JACOB" shirts, allowing fans to declare their allegiance to one of Bella's suitors.

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But its Twitter activity might be what sets twilightlexicon.com apart. Joffs and Byrne-Cristiano estimate that it has more than 21,000 followers on Twitter. “Twitter in the last six months has just taken off,” Byrne-Cristiano said. “The single biggest difference between ‘Twilight’ and ‘New Moon’ media is the presence of Twitter.”

She said the Twitter following certainly helps fans keep track of all “Twilight” goings-on. But it does have its down side. “Whenever the actors are eating dinner and it’s suddenly broadcast to everyone in real time,” Byrne-Cristiano said, “and they end up with people staring at them. But the good side is how much stars have embraced it and used it to directly connect to their fans.”

She pointed out that actor Peter Facinelli, who plays Dr. Carlisle Cullen, the father of Edward, has really maximized Twitter to connect with fans. “He has really taken it to a whole new level,” she said. “He gained 500,000 followers in under a month. Now fans come out to meet and greet him at events that they wouldn’t have known (about) otherwise.

“Essentially — and there are probably some entertainment reporters who are upset about this — they’ve cut out the middleman. Who they are and what they represent is immediately evident to their fans.”

Many of those involved in “Twilight,” including cast members and fan fiction authors, have also used their positions online to raise money for charities, such as Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which helps fight childhood cancer.

Stephenie Meyer wannabes
Four books. Four measly books. Does anyone in their right mind think that four Stephenie Meyer books in the “Twilight” series is enough to satisfy the ravenous appetites of Twihards?

That’s where fan fiction comes in. Believe it or not, there are Stephenie Meyer wannabes out there who have taken her characters and expanded on them, and some of them are quite good.

One of them writes under the pen name AngstGoddess003. She penned a “Twilight” story called “Wide Awake” that some fans feel is better than anything Meyer has churned out. And the most remarkable part is that it represents her first attempt at writing.

“It’s kind of like training wheels,” she explained, “to be given the opportunity to explore writing styles and techniques using a template in which the relationships and logistics have already been decided and proven enjoyable to the fandom.”

She explained that there are niches among fan fiction: “Canon” is that which is true to the original “Twilight” books; “Alternate Universe” is more creative and loosely based on Meyer’s writings; and “All Human,” the most controversial, which usually consists of original fiction with “Twilight” names attached bearing little resemblance to the original works.

And whereas “Twilight” seemingly is geared toward a young audience, given the ages of the lovers at the center of the tales, the truth is that the online phenomenon has helped spread the word across generations.

“I think the most notable aspect is the variety of ages we see,” she said. “With every generation, you see differing trends in what they enjoy and create with the characters. Niches notwithstanding, this also provides an opportunity for people to find something in common with one another.”

Fan fiction offers more ‘adult’ experienceOne fan of fan fiction, who went down the rabbit hole early on and only occasionally comes up for air, is a reader who goes by the moniker Vivian DeLongpaw. She is a grown-up professional with a master’s degree who can’t get enough of faux Meyer.

“A lot of readers — me included — were bereft at the end of the fourth book,” she said. “Reading fan fiction is a way of still being involved with the characters and not really letting them go. Seeing Edward and Bella in other situations with certain characteristics still in place keeps the fantasy going.

“To me, the fan fiction experience is just as gratifying as reading the original series, with the added bonus of sometimes getting to interact with the authors. In the original ‘Twilight’ series the interaction between the characters is mostly G rated, PG at best. There is just so much UST [shorthand for “Unresolved Sexual Tension”] you can take!

“Frankly, one of the appeals of fan fiction is that it doesn't target a young adult audience, so as a rule, the authors don't hold back on the passion, lust and lemons (sex). This aspect of fan fiction makes it overall a more ‘adult’ experience.”

Studio is ‘receptive to our needs’Summit Entertainment, which produced and released “Twilight” and is doing the same for “New Moon,” has an entire department devoted to the online populace for the series. Although no one from the studio would comment for this story, the site Twilight Examiner, while not an official arm of Summit, received the company’s blessing.

Twilight Examiner, a sub site of examiner.com, describes itself as discussion oriented. “I don’t really like to be antagonistic, but I also don’t prefer to patronize readers and draw conclusions for them,” said Amanda Bell, who operates the site. “If there’s something going on — be it with the books, films or personalities involved in the series — then I’ll just tend to let the readers and commentators bring their opinions to the table.”

Summit doesn’t work with every “Twilight” site out there because if it did, it wouldn’t have time to make any movies. But Twilight Examiner is one of the ones it confers with. “Summit is really receptive to our needs,” Bell explained, “and they’re also really open to communication and dialogue. They appreciate the fan site community, and their support helps everyone to return the favor and promote this franchise.”

‘Fan-girl crazy’There are sites that go from the lighthearted observant to the downright snarky. Letterstotwilight.com and its sub site cousin letterstorob.com are blog-heavy online destinations that probably fit into the former category, but they like to have lots of fun while they pay tribute to the “Twilight” gods.

The sites are run by two 20-something professional women who wish to remain anonymous. One is based in Los Angeles and nicknamed themoonisdown and one is in Philadelphia who goes by the handle Unintended Choice.

“My friend and I realized one day after talking online that we had this really odd obsession with this movie and book series,” said UnintendedChoice. “It was consuming us! We watched the same videos, read the same stuff, stalked the same blogs — and no one knew!

“We confessed to each other and started making fun of ourselves and other people in the fandom because it was just so ridiculous. How did two college-educated professional 20-somethings get to be so obsessed with something that’s for teenagers? So we decided to blog about it. And 11 months later, we still are.”

Their mission statement? “We really wanted a place to laugh at the fan girls we had become.”

“So many of the ‘Twilight’ blogs and communities out there were for kids, all ages, or people who were too afraid to be honest,” she added. “They weren’t saying what needed to be said: ‘Twilight’ isn’t really that great of a movie. The books aren’t always written so well. But that doesn’t mean it’s not great, amazing and captivating. That doesn’t mean we don’t love it and don’t go all fan-girl crazy over it.”

Unintended Choice reports that the site gets upward of 25,000 to 40,000 committed visitors a month, and upwards of 400,000 page views. About 40 percent of the site’s audience is outside the U.S., and more than half fall into the 18-to-34 age bracket. She estimates that 36 percent of the visitors are male, although most of them are loathe to comment.

UnintendedChoice said that one of the visitors was Stephenie Meyer herself. The author posted on her Web site, “Thanks for the laughs, LTT (Letterstotwilight).”

“It really made us respect Stephenie that much more that she can laugh along with us at the sillier aspects of her books, the movie, the fandom and the entire universe she created,” Unintended Choice said.

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