We’ve never met before, so I’m sorry that this is out of the blue. I read about you in Interview with the Vampire; I couldn’t sleep until I’d finished it, I loved it so much. It might be my new favorite thing, so I hurried out to get the next book right away — your book.
I know vampires aren’t real, before you ask. Plus it’s 2005. You’ve been around way longer than me. You know all that though, because you read minds. But when your book turns around and says that it sees me, I want to believe it. I want to be special and beautiful and chosen. Like most 15 year olds, I’m none of those things, but a girl can dream, right?
(I’m not, actually, a girl. But everyone calls me that, and I don’t know how to tell them to stop. I think your mom knows something about that? I really like her.)
Even when I know it’s stupid, I wind up wanting to lose myself in the fantasy you’re spinning. I want to see New Orleans and fancy houses and fly all over the world in one night. But everyone else is reading Twilight right now, so I don’t have anybody to talk to about it.
Yours (ha ha),
P.S. — Are you and Louis going to get back together?
I’m so happy for you! You and Louis make the cutest couple. I’m so glad he forgave you. Twilight doesn’t have anything like that. The boys in my Honors English class couldn’t even handle reading Kiss of the Spider Woman without moaning about how gay it is; they wouldn’t understand you.
Even knowing nobody will ever see this letter (because you’re not real, remember?) I’m scared to write it down. I’ve known for a long time that I’m different. I kind of hate that — it’s such a cliché, right? But I guess you always knew that you were different, and never seemed scared of those feelings. You ran away just to be with Nicki. I’m jealous of that confidence. Really jealous.
Sometimes I lurk on message boards and never say anything, in case anybody I know finds out. I know they won’t, but… like, what if I’m wrong? When I think about it too long I convince myself maybe I’m straight after all — but it never sticks. How could I know, since I’ve never kissed anybody?
What if they look and they know what a freak I am? I stay up all night and can’t move sometimes, thinking like that. About death, too, and how none of us will ever know what happens or what it’s like to just keep going forever. I know you know about that, too.
I think maybe we’re a little alike.
P.S. — Did you really mean it when you said all mortals are beautiful to you? Nobody’s ever said that to me. I’m not sure even you could find someone as fat and awkward as me attractive, but you’re welcome to try!
I don’t think I liked your next book very much (I almost wrote “new,” but this happened a long time ago, didn’t it?). I’m sorry. I know you worked hard on it. You and Louis seemed so happy after the concert! Why did you leave him? Why did you make David a vampire, even though he told you no? Why did you keep hurting that woman, when she told you no, too? You didn’t seem very sorry. You always said before that you only wanted people who were willing. You scared me a little. I’m going to try not to think about it.
Did I tell you? I met some other people online who like your stories, too. I told myself to be brave, like you. I said hello, and they were all so nice! It’s the first time I’d ever felt like someone listened to me when I talked about something I liked, instead of just tolerating me. I think they’re like me.
We made up a game where we all pretend to be the other vampires you know, or make up our own, even! We all wish we could meet you, deep down. I hope pretending to be you a little bit is an okay substitute. When I pretend to be a boy, a beautiful one like you, I feel something in my gut unclench a little. It’s better. You gave me that.
P.S. — There’s this one girl who’s like really new, so I’m going to help her feel welcome.
I think I’m “fatally in love”, too. I don’t know how to tell her. I’m not brave like you. I’m not.
I heard some other people who like you are getting sued? We didn’t mean any harm. We were just playing. We love you so much we wanted to spend more time with you. We aren’t taking any money for the stories, we would never. We know it’s not ours to profit from. But you know what? I think sometimes we did better than that time you wrote about the Body Thief!
(I’m sorry; I know you published that chapter in your new book — Blood Canticle? — yelling at people who didn’t like something you wrote. Please don’t be mad. I’m scared for my friends. I’m scared of them. In case they tell on me. In case I get in trouble for writing, and then they’ll tell my parents, and my parents will find out about how I feel about her and…)
I used to have fun. Now I’ve got this pit in my stomach.
I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody please don’t tell anyone.
I said I’d never talk to her again I’m so sorry.
It seems goofy to keep up that address after more than 10 years since I first wrote you. But I figure my younger self deserves that much kindness. I was always so afraid of being laughed at; I don’t need to prove that old fear right. I’m not going to treat those feelings like they were stupid, not when I remember clinging to them so I didn’t drown. And God help me, I still believe in you a little bit.
I needed you so much when I was young. I needed your confidence, your fearlessness. I needed to pretend I could have those things, too; that even though I wasn’t handsome or strong, I could get by on sheer force of will. It helped. I grew up. I became who I am. I started taking medication for the terror (you ever consider that? It works wonders).
It’s funny: I think nowadays I need your weaknesses more. Being afraid the people you love will get tired of you and leave. Being afraid you’re not good but just selfish. The way your body felt like an alien being you were trapped in. Taking beating after beating from the ones you’re desperately clinging to and then taking out your frustrations on the people you know can’t leave you, feeling like a monster all the while. I saw those parts of you in me. I made peace with them a little, seeing you fight so hard to make good on all your fuck-ups.
Those panic attacks you had when you were still alive? I’m intimately familiar with them. I had my first one over you, in fact. When I was 15, and scared, and people I knew were being threatened by lawyers for writing some free, probably not-so-great fanfiction. I cut off ties with everyone I’d made friends with. I didn’t use the internet for six months, just in case. In case someone gave a damn about a poor queer teen scared to death of themselves. But hey, at least I take medication for that now.
I think that was the first time I saw through you to the person with the strings. You know authors exist when you’re that age, but you don’t think about them much. Being that scared gave me a lot of time to think about it. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop being angry, somewhere in a hard little part of me.
You do know what happened, don’t you? The woman who writes you, who talks about you like a jealous lover, she came for her fans. She gave you to us, then punished us for doing what fans do: wanting to spend more time with you, to look closer at the parts of you that spoke to us, even if they weren’t things she’d thought to put in her books. She had you open your own autobiography extolling the praises of the ‘80s; about how women wore pants and everything was great, even while you were reading the minds of society’s downtrodden outcasts. I… you knew about AIDS, right? I know your writer thinks AIDS didn’t exist while she was writing books in the ‘80s, but… but you’re psychic. You’re a queer man who drinks blood. You had to know, didn’t you?
Not everyone loved your — her — work unilaterally, in exactly the way she wanted them to. So she got rid of her editor. She sent lawyers after fanfic writers. She got in fights with Amazon reviewers about “interrogating the text from the wrong perspective.” Anyone who offered any kind of critique, even if they still loved the books, became persona non grata. She turned a blind eye when her followers doxxed people who said anything critical (and still does). She sent scared teens like me underground for doing the same thing that thousands of creators accept as harmless at worst and flattering at best. She did all that in the name of “protecting” you. You aren’t even real.
But she loves 50 Shades of Grey, the Twilight fanfiction that changed little more than a few names and went on to make millions off another author’s intellectual property — the very thing she was supposedly so scared of fans like me doing, when we wrote things for free and with a laundry list of disclosures.
You know the weirdest part? I still love you. Even seeing what you became after those three books I loved so much. The Tale of the Body Thief came out and suddenly you were a rapist, an abuser of those close to you. Once upon a time you had to spend two books atoning for the wrongs you did to Louis during your marriage; now your victims rush to reassure you that you were in the right all along. I even love you knowing Blood Canticle exists, and that the opening of that book has “you” berating readers for not appreciating Memnoch the Devil exactly the way we were supposed to. That was a neat trick she pulled, your maker. What better way to shame audiences learning to be critical readers than by pretending we’d personally wounded the character we’d come to love, as if he were real?
I guess there’s one thing I can say for the years I spent in the fandom and the anxiety it brought me. I have a boogeyman to measure myself against. Someone who gave me something I wouldn’t be the same without, who terrorized me and people I loved. Who I still look at as a sort of example of who not to be. You think that makes her my Magnus?
I don’t ever want my readers to be frightened of me, to live in terror because they love something I’ve made. Even as I type this, my stomach is tying itself in knots — I know the war stories. I don’t need any overzealous “real” fans taking pictures of my house or threatening to make necklaces with my teeth. But here I am anyway. I guess a bit of the Brat Prince rubbed off on me after all.
It’s okay, really. I don’t need authorial approval to love something anymore. No matter how many books keep on coming out (even now, into my adulthood), boasting to be about you while showing an ever more twisted and monstrous fake, I love you for who you were and are to me — queer, frightened, loving, idiotic, brave, foolish. I’m not scared of how much of myself I see in you, and how often they’re parts of me I’ve hidden. I’m okay. You taught me that. You’ll always be a cornerstone of who I became… even if your boyfriend had the best book.
At least a little yours, always,
P.S. — I’m wearing a ring from a woman I love more than anyone else in the world. She remembers the fandom purge too; thankfully, we didn’t meet back then. We spoke by chance, and something sparked when we realized that a long, long time ago, a certain set of books had meant more to us than anything. I’d never have gotten to know her if it weren’t for you. Whatever you took, you gave me the light of my life.
P.P.S. — She agrees with me about Louis. Sorry.