Espenson, Jane, editor. Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Smartpop 2005. ISBN 978-1932100433 256 pp. $19.95
A space western accented with Chinese culture and language and peopled with solid characters had a short-lived run on Fox networks in 2002, but it spawned a crazy loyal fan base of millions, that resulted in the concept being optioned for the big screen– watch for Serenity to debut September 30 at a theatre near you. This is truly an example of the Long Tail effect in action.
Whedon’s following tends to be highly educated, and this collection of scholarly essays deconstructs the 13 episodes of Firefly and examines the role of strong women, the ship as a character, the use of music, chivalry, the sacred feminine and goddess/whore, and the Chinese influence, complete with an episode-by-episode pronunciation guide and glossary. And other themes. Comparisons to other great SF engines are inevitable – Star Wars, Star Trek–but Don Debrandt’s essay comparing Firefly to another cult classic, the Tick, is an unexpected delight. Slamming of Fox network for canceling the series is mostly kept to a minimum. Contributors include science fiction and fantasy authors, actors, fans, and scholars such as Nancy Holder, Mercedes Lackey, Keith R. DeCandido and Joy Davidson.
This title isn’t full of glory though; writers raise questions about the role of the least explored characters on the ship, Shepard Book and River Tam; trash the pilot; take Whedon to task for his (perceived) lackluster commitment to feminism; and speculate about the unexplained Reavers. Hypotheses about what the show could have become (had it not been for it’s early demise) abound. Finally, actress Jewel Staite (“Kaylee”) shares her favorite moments from each episode, demonstrating the closeness of the cast and their love for what they helped make.
Everything is pulled together beautifully by editor and episode author Jane Espenson (Shindig”), who adds context to each entry. A must have for fans, and a great introduction for those who have yet to declare their Browncoat status.