There’s a key difference between fans and fanatics, and I’m no longer sure it has to do with intensity of feeling or devotion to the object of affection. It has to do with time. With time, a fan can make a favorite two line exchange of a television show into a meme-ready animated gif or fashion a homemade Halloween costume of her favorite character. With time, a fan can commune with other fans online about a week’s episode, pouring over details, asking questions of the characters and plotlines, wondering where the future episodes will path, and sharing online interviews and photos with each other.
That used to be me during my fanaticism over Firefly in 1999. But as a toddler mom, I just don’t have the time anymore. Heck, I rarely get to watch episodes of anything more than once, limiting my ability to appreciate much less deeply understand what the cast and crew have created.
When it comes to my Vampire Diaries fandom, I have found fanaticism in a bottle in the form of the book series Love You to Death: The Unofficial Guide to The Vampire Diaries. In the season 5 edition, due out October 14, writers/editors Crissy Calhoun and Heather Vee have constructed a fanatics’ episode guide with accessibility for forced-casual fans like myself. For each of the action-laden episodes, they have put together the key information and questions, including the episode’s primary crew and guest stars, the summary of events, the most compelling moment, explanation of references and allusions, added rules for the supernatural elements of the show, callbacks to previous episodes, and confusing moments or aspects that don’t seem to jive with previously established rules or tendencies of the show.
But while this is an unofficial guide, these two have an intimate relationship with the showrunners thanks to their long-time involvement with the fansite Vampire-Diaries.net. Kevin Williamson himself wrote the touching introduction. Interviews with cinematographers, writers, and directors pepper the episode guide, giving an insider’s view of significant aspects of the show’s craft. It’s impressive what some people who developed a fan forums site have grown into and the co-operative relationship they have with the show.
As a delicious bonus to all of this, the book also includes fun-for-fans info charts, like a collection of insult nicknames for various baddies or a list of how many times good characters have died and under what circumstances (Caroline only once, Alaric beats everyone with seven).
A book like this is especially useful to a show like The Vampire Diaries. Reading through the episodes, I was reminded that season 5 had the equivalent of three big bads. VD‘s plotlines move fast and furious. One major plot arc can start and end in a handful of episodes. Unlike a show that mixes mythology episodes with “monster of the week” episodes (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, or The X-Files), Vampire Diaries doesn’t have one-offs. It’s all mythology. Or as Williamson mentions in the intro to Love You to Death: it’s all epic.
So if you’re a fan of The Vampire Diaries and haven’t had the time to indulge in deep fanaticism but have had moments of wanting to, this is a book for you.