Planetblue’s Fanfic Page: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/1886305/planetblue
Link to the story Badlands: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10011982/1/Badlands
I realize with a great deal of startling clarity that I’ve become what amounts to a modern-day participant in a personal Twi-version of an internal Gladiator showdown – the brute force of altering perceptions about right and wrong going head-to-head against the conventional, honorable sort of ideals I’ve maintained as a personal benchmark for my adult life.
For the first time in years, I’m being inspired by a story to question the grey areas that often shade over the erasure-smudged lines that often are produced when reading a piece of fiction. And in THIS case I seem to be channeling the Roman love of violence and the ambiguous reactionary discernments found within the ancient Greek mythos, where the celebrated Hero’s were also villains, and did terrible things.
Not since reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment have I felt such sympathy for the wayward protagonists, especially following some epically bad and self-defeating decisions made by the main characters in Badlands so far. While reading Crime and Punishment, I became submerged in Raskolnikov’s mind-set and sympathized with his justifications for the crimes he committed, darkening the grey areas that barely existed in my teenaged mind at the time. Circumstances and the unfolding of the motivations and apathetic unraveling of his mind kept me glued to that novel from the first paragraph, because, as a reader, I began to sense the dichotomy of warmth and chilling apathy of Raskolnikov, his alienation tangible and completely relatable, given the context.
THAT is how I feel while reading Badlands.
Because I think everyone should read this story, I won’t go into great detail about the fic itself, only touching upon the points that served as relevant benchmarks for me so far.
Planetblue introduces us to this dystopic-like high school existence through Bella Swan’s POV, a main character who becomes accustomed to mistreatment – a young woman who’s yet to discover her “voice,” subsisting in a sad existence without the validating experiences of recognition many would’ve experienced by her chronological age in the fic. Her voice has been muted by the disturbing and alienating truths of her life. She’s forced to carry the unfortunate tragedies of her mother and the father who remains (disturbingly!) abstracted until more recent chapters…a man who seems to have given life’s events crate-blanche precedence over the well-being of his silent-seething, disaffected child.
And then there is the brooding Edward, who is the one person who seems capable of reaching her in the ways no one else seems to be able to, a dark-figured rebel of a kindred spirit who ultimately becomes what she needs most … her means to escape her most dissatisfying and desolate, claustrophobic life.
But at what cost, and are their actions justifiable? What are our reactions supposed to be? This is where Planetblue invites us into that gladiator ring with a flourishing wave and seductive smile. We are faced with an indistinct type of battle against our preconceived notions, and by setting this dystopic stage, presenting characters and writing a story with this level of abstract values placed on things often held to higher standards in real life, Planetblue asks readers to take the fictional journey anyway.
And now this story is making me re-evaluate my own reactions to what’s happened in the plot so far.
I cheered when Bella finally gives Mike what I felt he deserved. And then Edward taints the evidence to protect her, which could devastate his own future – yet (much to my surprise) I find his actions noble and incredibly romantic, like something out of a tragic Greek myth. Then he begins to call the shots and she happily follows. They steal a car and he takes some dangerous things from his uncle’s home, and yet I feel excitement for their freedom and hope that they can get out of Florida, rejoicing happily when then succeed. Then we learn that Edward has sold drugs in the past, has stolen some from his uncle and is now carrying those drugs on him in order to fund their escape. If these were my children, I’d be distraught and staging every intervention I could to try to rescue them and place them on the healthy, safe and law-abiding path…yet in Badlands, I see his intentions as chivalrous, a tangible means to an end I hope they find – one of profound happiness with each other.
The beauty and the magic of Crime and Punishment, in my opinion, was that I never felt compelled to judge Raskolnikov. Instead I sympathized, felt a kinship with his burgeoning nihilism and almost cheered for his inner peace and outer happiness despite of what he was feeling and experiencing in the novel. Planetblue manages to invoke those exact same reactions in me with Badlands, increasing in strength as her protagonists move from one scene to the next.
And because it’s presented in fictional form, I experience the inexplicable elation that I am able to feel for these characters without remorse, without the sharp-edged judgments I probably would apply in a real life scenario.
Because fiction allows for that dream-sliding embrace of a story’s unfolding in our minds, we can go places we might not in the flesh. We can venture to places and feel things that might not reflect well in the eyes of society. In the construction of the fantasy, Planetblue allows us to do that. Wrapped up in the desirable yet damaged package of our favorite Twilight couple and doused with a titillating amount of sexual tension and growing attraction between Bella and Edward, the symmetry between the grunge and the good becomes a balanced, tight-roped path the author walks with such care that, like the Honeybadger, I don’t give a shit about who they kill, what they steal, how much drugs are sold or how they use their beloved knives. I. Don’t. Care. Not in a fictional sense, which allows me a beautiful, unrestrained freedom to come to the place I am now … a place sun-lit by that broadening nihilism of Bella and Edward’s current situation, counter-balanced with a positivity that they deserve to feel happy after the lives they’ve been forced to live.
Bella has found her power to finally stand up for herself, and a voice she more readily uses with every chapter. The surface of the lusty type of passion between them has only been scratched, and as I reflect on Edward’s intensity, my pervy mind imagines what kind of lover he’d be to this Bella, who’s never felt a moment of sexual passion or gratification in her life. In a twisted way, Edward has thrown open the doors and windows of Bella’s prohibited life, the sunshine and freshness flooding in the moment he demands to “Get. Your. Shit.” And from there, they are literally free from their demographic limitations. Bella’s freedom is even more profound, something that I appreciate while reading this story.
And that brings me to an important realization on my part…why I choose to read the stories that I’ve been drawn to lately. I’ve gone through stages as a reader, moments where I desired La bohème-esque realism with no frills, pain-inflicting absoluteness, stories where very little emotional agility was offered … but I always seem to be drawn back to the stories that present a fantasy, something unlike what I must face in my day to day life. Just as many love playing video games where they can kill without the lasting nastiness of real life repercussions getting in the way, so too have I found my enjoyment in Badlands. I’m not looking at the absolute, and I don’t care about the black and white, the logical or the principles or lack-thereof.
In that way, I’ve embraced the direction of the nihilistic current that Planetblue inspires within her churning Fic-sea.
Right or wrong, realistic cause and effect … Bleh. My ambivalence about the “reality” of the repercussions of their actions/decisions is rooted in my desire for something greater for these characters without the constraints of moralistic and societal expectations. What I find myself caring about are these characters’ emotional needs being met, and their ability to finally find happiness within the framework of this unfolding fantasy of escape – of a delicious freedom with wings outstretched and fleeing the sad, tragically limited lives in the small town mentality that did nothing but ostracize them and pin them to the charring ideals of cruelty and small-minded judgments.
Badlands is a story that is shaping up to be a very compelling story, an update that I look forward to every Monday and Thursday with a great deal of excitement – because with every chapter, I feel their freedom manifest in ways that I can’t even fully describe. Wish-fulfillment? Absolutely, the beauty of fantasy. But this story is dreamlike and exciting. Just as Dorothy opens her eyes and witnesses the profound colors of Oz for the first time, so too does Bella when she goes on the run with the one person who’s ever tried to truly protect her and cherish her. The complexity and blending of those colors are yet to be defined for readers, but I look forward to watching that unveiling of spirit and voice as she goes on this dangerous yet exciting journey with the eye-lined, boot wearing God driving their stolen car. Is this shaping up to be a heartrending Greek Tragedy?
All I know is that I’m along for the ride, and beyond excited to see how it all plays out. For a story to make me question my beliefs and moral stances on things like this … I’m all in.
I’ll worry, pop a few Xanax, probably cry a little and maybe even throw some things at my screen along the way, but I do trust Planetblue to tell a story in the kickass way she does (Manchu, anyone?). I’ve never wanted a freedom so much as I do for this Bella and this Edward. Moonlight drives and sharpened knives … I’m in the backseat of that car and strapped in, waiting not-so patiently for my next fix, like the Badlands “Tweaker” I’ve clearly become.
I just can’t wait to see what happens next!
I hope you read and review this story, and support Planetblue, who continues to write and share her talents with us.