Despite working in a bookstore, the release of a genderswapped Twilight rewrite titled Life and Death accompanying the 10th anniversary edition of the original story came as a surprise to me as well. (We weren’t even allowed to open the boxes it came in till last Tuesday morning, in fact.) While Stephenie Meyer claims she wrote it as a challenge to those who critiqued the stereotypical gender roles in Twilight, a quick perusal of the reimagining seems to show that they’ve just been reversed.
When you see the two versions of the same story compared to each other, the changes suggest that Meyer should’ve ignored complaints about Bella being a stereotype and maintained the value of what was undeniably a successful franchise. Instead, she ended up adding slight variations that feed into traditional gender stereotypes: Females receive more unnecessary physical description than their male counterparts did in Twilight and Bella almost cries where Beau doesn’t. (via Entertainment Weekly)
Thankfully, fandom is always there, and a group of dedicated fans have stepped in to create a reimagining that’s actually more progressive than either of these books. Twife or Death, originally titled the Twilight Lesbians Project, has sprung up in the last week on Tumblr, spearheaded by Tumblr user tallulademetriou.
As you might have guessed from the context clues, Twife or Death is a massive project that conspires to splice together Twilight and Life and Death to make one big ol’ gay love story. It lifts Bella from her book and Edythe from hers in order to make a book that actually does stick it to conventional gendering. It doesn’t stop there, either—the rest of the cast is selectively chosen from either book so that the cast is entirely female, and queer as well.
And while these changes are awesome in and of themselves, the editors aren’t stopping there. While it would be easy to simply splice together the two books and leave it at that, they’re also going above and beyond in other ways. First of all, they’re tweaking SMeyer’s somewhat terrible writing at a sentence-by-sentence level, fixing awkward phrasing and repetitive wording, and attempting to give Bella more of a character along the way. And, more importantly, they’re planning on making Twife or Death significantly more diverse and feminist than the source material was. They’ve eliminated the awkward, unpleasant jealousy and girl-hate that festered between Bella and her new schoolmates when she started at Forks High. They’re planning on making Bella dark-skinned, although what race they’re casting her as hasn’t been decided yet. And should the project go on past the first book in the series—Life and Death is meant to stand alone, but tallulademetriou hopes that editorial interest will carry on after the first book is done—there’s talk of making Leah a trans woman. This is entirely fan-run, too, so if you have a suggestion for an improvement to the story, the Twife or Death team is wide open to them.
tallulademetriou is crowdsourcing the story to volunteer editors, and so far they’ve gotten through the preface and the first chapter. While the splice hasn’t gotten very far yet, I’m finding that I’m actually intrigued by this one in a way that I never was by the source material. You can read what they’ve gotten so far here on the AO3, or volunteer to help with the editing process at the Twife or Death Tumblr page.