Twilight bites back, with a gender-swopping rewrite for its 10th anniversary

First a bestselling book and then a billion-dollar movie franchise, Twilight made a generation of teens swoon even as critics gnashed their teeth over the damsel-in-distress heroine in love with a deadly vampire.

But author Stephenie Meyer is biting back 10 years after the young adult novel was first published in 2005. The Twilight 10th Anniversary Edition, which goes on sale today, contains an entirely new novel printed back-to-back with the original story. The new novel, Life And Death, reimagines the narrative of Twilight by swopping the gender roles and turning it into the romance between human teen Beaufort Swan and vampire Edythe Cullen.

The Twilight 10th Anniversary Edition features Life and Death, a rewritten Twilight that has its characters gender-swapped. PHOTO: LITTLE BROWN

The hardcover book retails at $34.24 at major bookstores.

The fact that Meyer had written an entirely new novel was the best-kept secret in the publishing industry, says a spokesman for MPH Distributors, the only Singapore distributor bringing in the Twilight 10th Anniversary Edition. Mr Marcus Frois, senior sales manager, compares it with the hush-hush hype over the ending of J.K. Rowling's last Harry Potter book.

"We were not told of the actual contents or angle of this anniversary edition except that it will come with the original text and some bonus material. What the bonus material was was never specified. Even the fact that there was 'bonus material' was originally on a need-to-know basis. A signed affidavit was requested about not speaking to anyone about it," he says.

Only on Sept 30 when stocks arrived at the warehouse did Mr Frois realise that the initial order of 6,000 copies might not keep pace with demand once readers realised this was an entirely new novel in the Twilight universe. He has since ordered another 6,000 copies.

"It's not just an ordinary 10th Anniversary Edition with a new foreword, it's like reading a new book," he says. "Fans of Twilight are fortunate to be able to be given the opportunity to relive the experience in a whole new way with this twist in the saga."

In her foreword to Life And Death, Meyer writes: "Bella has always gotten a lot of censure for getting rescued on multiple occasions...She's also been criticised for being too consumed with her love interest, as if that's somehow just a girl thing. But I've always maintained that it would have made no difference if the human were male and the vampire female - it's still the same story. Gender and species aside, Twilight has always been a story about the magic and obsession and frenzy of first love."

Most of the characters in Twilight switch genders in Life And Death and are known by slightly different names, apart from Bella's parents. Meyer also writes that working on Life And Death allowed her "to fix almost every word that has bothered me since the book (Twilight) was printed, and it was glorious".

Regardless of its flaws, Twilight and its sequels New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007) and Breaking Dawn (2008) have ridden bestseller charts around the world and sold in total around 400,000 copies in Singapore alone.

The books sparked a renaissance in the publishing industry, leading imprints around the world to push tales of fantasy and romance, making the careers of authors such as Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures, featuring magic-users) and Cassandra Clare (Infernal Devices series).

The Twilight series became a five-movie franchise between 2008 and 2012, grossing billions and making the careers of lead actors Kristen Steward, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner.

Twilight also inspired British author E.L. James to pen her bestselling kinky Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy, which sold about 100,000 copies in Singapore and spawned a recent movie based on the first book. Earlier this year, James released a new book in the series, Grey, retelling the first novel from the perspective of the male protagonist.

Meyer too has a much-anticipated rewrite of Twilight through the eyes of vampire lead Edward Cullen, but decided not to publish the book, Midnight Sun, after a draft was leaked online. In her foreward to Life And Death, she apologises to fans who might have been expecting Midnight Sun as part of the "bonus content".

"I hope you have fun with Beau and Edythe's story, even though it's not something you were waiting for," she says.

Her words are echoed in a comment by Books Kinokuniya's Jane Low, a merchandiser for English children's and YA titles. "The popularity of the series has dropped quite a bit over the years so hopefully this 10th anniversary edition with bonus content will help to revive it somewhat," she says.

Twilight 10th Anniversary Edition/ Life And Death by Stephenie Meyer retails at $34.24 at major bookstores.