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Originally published December 4, 2009 at 2:50 PM | Page modified December 4, 2009 at 5:01 PM

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Guest columnist

Don't let 'Twilight' suck the life out of Forks

The "Twilight" novel series and movies about vampires are all the rage, attracting a stream of tourists to Forks, the bucolic city where the stories are based. But guest columnist Emerson Richards fears the exquisite nature of the small town will be trampled by "Twilighters."

Special to The Times

VAMPIRES are sucking the character out of my favorite town. Forks, I fear, is losing its soul, while the lifeblood of capital pours in.

This infusion is provided by the daily influx of approximately 100 "Twilighters," fans of the "Twilight" novels and movies. Somehow that adds up to 60,000 tourists per year, sucked into a town with a permanent population of less than 3,200.

Upon my first visit to Forks in 2003, it was a nothing little town in the middle of absolutely nowhere. But it was the gateway to a beach that has become significant to me. I am gripped by existential dread when I think that someday, even though it may be thousands of years, these beaches will not exist. And it really gets to me that this destruction may come sooner than geological time predicts.

Upon my second visit last summer (pre-"Twilight" the movie), I found it largely unchanged. There was maybe one more small, coffee trailer that never seemed to be open. But Forks was still essential Americana. We got pulled over because a policeman did not recognize our rented van, and because he thought we looked sketchy while driving back from the only open place for dinner, the gas station. At this point, "twilight" was just something that happened before evening.

On the way back to Florida, an elderly couple asked where I had been in Washington. I told them of my love of Forks and they said, "Oh, you should read 'Twilight.' " It's set in Forks.

So I did. I was not impressed, but I understand differences in taste. But it was in this encounter that I knew Forks was in danger of becoming another kitschy tourist destination — Dollywood of the Northwest.

It is now my concern that this community is being changed irrevocably by a (hopefully) short-lived vampiric force propelled by teenage girls and by their parents, who do not understand what they are feeding.

Don't get me wrong — I absolutely love a good vampire. Give me Angel. Give me Carmilla, Bill and Erik, and Gary Oldman as Dracula. You could probably hold off on Lestat.

A few semesters ago, I took a course at the University of Florida, taught by Dr. Dragan Kujundzic, titled "Vampire Stories," during which I proclaimed myself the Slayer. Now, I wish I really were the Slayer, so I could slay this fad — a fad that is enough to drive tens of thousands of tourists well out of their way, four hours from Seattle, to the middle of nowhere in search of fictional vampires.

The tourists going to Forks are choosing to do so not for the real, natural beauty and sincere character of the town, but rather to try to relive or recreate or be a part of fictional vampire love affairs. This is yet another marker that our society is choosing escapism. Art as "Twilight" series author Stephanie Meyer has called her artistically and intellectually bankrupt pulp fiction — should inspire and beget more art, not the commercialization, and therefore, degradation of genuine America

Parents should not send their children to Forks until they can appreciate it for what it is. Do not let Forks become disingenuous. It is not the home of Edward and Bella. It is not a land protected by Native American werewolves. Do not turn this honest town into another Silver City, where the only remnants of the advertised Wild West past lay alongside the bones buried in the Comstock Cemetery in the desert outside of town.

Forks is purer than that. Forks has its own natural enchantments. Forks is what is left of true America. It is America without Starbucks, America without Disney and without superficiality.

Forks is all that is right with America set in beautiful landscapes of rock, tree and moss. And that is why Forks should be visited.

Please, do not let Forks suck!

Emerson Storm Fillman Richards is an undergraduate student of medieval studies, English literature and geography at the University of Florida.

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