Seven Seasons of Buffy
edited by Glenn Yeffeth
edited by Jane Espenson
Review by Ann Cecil
These two large trade paperback collections, both from the same publisher (Benbella, from Dallas, TX), are targeted primarily at the fan base built from the two TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Firefly) created by Joss Whedon. Primarily, I say, because they contain articles that range beyond that scope. There are 20 articles in Finding Serenity and 22 in the Seven Seasons of Buffy. Both books seem to be working from the same formula, and there is an overlap in authors: 5 authors contributed to both books, and the editor of one contributes an article to the other.
The formula is interesting: About a third of the pieces are straight fan articles, that could have come from any fanzine. They range from the standard How My Favorite Character Was The Best On The Show to Why I Hated That Particular Episode. The professionalism of the author doesn't seem to affect the result: several of these are written by 'name' authors. Charlaine Harris, in the Buffy book, complains in "A Reflection on Ugliness" that all the characters look like Californians -- thin, tanned, cool Californians. [Bad news, Charlaine: Californians really do look like that.]
Another third strive for higher meaning (not as in literature, but as in psychology). These look at concepts within the shows -- "The Power of Becoming" by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, for instance, and explain the deeper truths being revealed by what looked like just a successful piece of entertainment. Some of them are laughable; Lichtenberg's is interesting, if a bit too earnest.
And the last third? Those are the ones deconstructing the episodes, talking about why the shows work (or don't work), from a structural and creative aspect. In the Firefly book, Keith DeCandido has an essay entitled "The 'Train Job' Didn't Do the Job" that talks about the flaws in that episode, contrasted with other, better episodes. In Buffy, Scott Westerfield has a riveting and thoughtful essay entitled "A Slayer Comes to Town" that deconstructs most science-fiction as well as the series, and goes on to illustrate effectively what Joss Whedon did with dialogue and action to make his show work.
Oh yes: I should probably have said "30%" rather than a third, since there are a few odd leftovers, more so in the Firefly book, that are just fun, sometimes fiction: "Firefly vs The Tick" by Don DeBrandt is hysterically funny (well, maybe only funny if you've never seen The Tick). "Is That Your Final Answer?" by Roxanne Longstreet Conrad, in the Buffy book, is merely cute, but in an inoffensive way.
Altogether, the books manage to provide light reading, a few real insights, and some decent belly laughs. I thought them worth the (relatively low) price.
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