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Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly (Smart Pop) Paperback – 31 Mar 2005
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Top science fiction and fantasy writers profess their devotion, interrogate the show's complexity and speculate on what might have been if Firefly had been renewed.
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We are a family of Firefly fans and, although it wasn't quite what I expected, this book is just a great compliment to the series.
I thought I had bought a glossy, interesting puff-piece with cast and crew biogs thrown in for good measure. What I actually got was a series of excellent, insightful and intelligent articles on what really should become a major sci-fi classic, given time.
With analysis of Firefly's takes on gender roles, relationships and what might happen if Serenity met the Federation, this isn't just for hard-core fans. It could work as a media-studies resource for the sociological relevance (and shortcomings) of modern sci-fi - without being anywhere near as dull as your average text book!
It'll help stave off the cravings until the film is out, at the very least! :)
- Personally, I laughed my guts out when I read the "Mirror, Mirror" parody:
Based on the well-known "Star Trek Classic" episode "Mirror, Mirror", the "Firefly" Crew got stuck on the dustfree, antiseptic "Enterprise NX-01" while Archer & Co had been simultaneously transferred to the dusty and untidy "Serenity". While Mal and his folk manage this situation easily, the "Enterprise" Crew seems totally helpless - e.g. Hoshi panics to that extend that she even cannot translate basic chinese signs on "Serenity" anymore...
But I admit - humour is a very personal thing!
- And the chapter consisting of (imaginary) letters of a FOX executive to Joss Whedon, which explain why FOX had left this brillant series to die ... that was probably too close to the truth to be REALLY funny... ?!
- But the rest?!
OK, this product is not a glossy big format book with many nice photos of Serenity, Mal, Zoe or Inara in it. Considering that, it is indeed a bit pricy - hence 4/5 stars!
But the articles are extremely interesting (what is so bad about A-level essays???) and give the "common fan" a good insight of the psychology of how characters in a TV series are "built", how they "come to life" - and why it is that they eventually "work" so exceptionally well on "Firefly" ... and why "Firefly" nevertheless was eventually destined to die after only a few episodes!
And what`s so bad about a "mixed bag"?
It`s a bit like a box of chocolates... (but I will not get any further into this "Forrest Gump" quote) ... at least, if you didn`t like one of the essays, you`ve got a "whole bag" of other essays, which you might enjoy a lot more!
And I believe, Star Trek Fans would have to say something about that "little known sci-fi authors" remark, because one of the most celebrated Star Trek authors, David Gerrold ("Trouble with Tribbles", remember?!), had also made a (fine) contribution to this book!
Summary: A bit over-priced, but highly interesting and funny.
"Browncoats": You`ll love it... ;-)
The first essay, "The Reward, the Details, the Devils, the Due," in which artist Larry Dixon looks at how the "Firefly" universe was fleshed out in terms of set design, set dressing, and cinematography, gets the book off to a good start. Author Lawrence Watt-Evans critiques the Reavers from the perspective of an earth legend regarding cannibalism in "The Heirs of Sawney Beane." Leigh Adams Wright's "Asian Objects in Space" critiques the use of Asian culture with context in the series (i.e., what is the point of the curses in Chinese?). The title of "'Serenity' and Bobby McGee: Freedom and the Illusion of Freedom in Joss Whedon's 'Firefly'" gives away Mercedes Lackey's thesis in her look at the politics of the show. Philosophy professor Lyle Zynda explores the emotional truths of Whedon's show in "We're All Just Floating in Space," where Whedon gets treated on the same level as Camus, Nietzsche and Sartre.
In the humor department Glenn Yeffeth makes up a series of memos from Early "Nutcrusher" Jubal, Vice President of FOX Programming to explain, "The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of 'Firefly' (the behind-the-scenes story)." Ginjer Buchanan's "Who Killed 'Firefly'?" provides a more reasoned explanation for what happened. But Keith R.A. DeCandido makes a compelling case for why skipping the pilot was a big mistake in "'The Train Job' Didn't Do the Job: Poor Opening Contributed to 'Firefly''s Doom." Don Debrandt offers an analog between "'Firefly' vs. 'The Tick'," a comparison few people would make. Michelle Sagara West explores the Zoe-Wash marriage as "More Than a Marriage of Convenience." Other pieces look at single characters, with fantasy author Tanya Huff's "'Thanks for the reenactment, sir.' Zoe: Updating the Woman Warrior," and therapist Joy Davidson's "Whores and Goddesses: The Archetypal Domain of Inara Serra."
"The Captain May Wear the Tight Pants, but it's the Gals Who Make 'Serenity' Soar" by Robert B. Taylor explores gender roles on the series, while Nancy Holder talks about the hope that Whedon's fans brought to the show in "I Want Your Sex: Gender and Power in Joss Whedon's Dystopian Future World." Then there is retired attorney John C. Wright's "Just Shove Him in the Engine, or The Role of Chivalry in 'Firefly,'" which actually argues that Whedon does not have a feminist agenda and is merely being politically correct, included as proof that Espenson is a fair minded editor. "Mirror/Mirror: A Parody" is Roxanne Longstreet Conrad's comedic comparison of the worlds of "Firefly" and "Enterprise," which argues that only Phlox could take their "Serenity" counterpart. Then "Star Trek" writer David Gerrold's "Star Truck" speculates on what might have happened down the road in the "Firefly' universe. Gerrold is able to question the feasibility of the terraforming the universe assumptions of the series with the need to tell stories on a science fiction television series, which I found quite interesting.
At the end of the book the concern of the fans takes over, starting with "Kaylee Speaks: Jewel Staite on 'Firefly,'" in which the actress shares her five favorite moments from each episode of the series. For many readers it may well be that the best piece in the book appears last, which is where Kevin M. Sullivan provides the "Unofficial Glossary of 'Firefly' in Chinese." Being able to both pronounce and translate the phrase "Ta ma duh" (neutral tones apply) might be worth the cost of the book all by itself and it is why I decided to round up on the rating.. The curses are all arranged chronologically by episode, so keep this book handy as you watch the shows again on DVD so that you can finally find out what sort of obscenities Mal and his crew were getting away with on the show.
So there is a little bit of everything here, which I do not think is a bad thing since "Finding 'Serenity'" is likely to be one of the few books that will end up publishing either the fan humor or the academic speculations (although the number of reviews here would, to my mind, suggest it should not be and there are plenty more topics to explore, such as the religion of Shepherd Book and the decentralization of the Alliance). Espenson mixes and matches the pieces well, so you are never reading all of the heavy analytical pieces or the hit-and-miss humor ones all in a row. I think that if you pay special attention to the pieces Espenson picks to begin and end the collection, since these simply emphasize the fact that a lot of viewers loved this series and that one of the reasons is that Joss Whedon always provides depth to his creative endeavors. Basically anybody who watched "Firefly" will find food for thought here worth consuming, even if there are some courses you only pick at to get to the deserts at the end.