Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Finding Serenity, Jane Espenson

Finding Serenity
Jane Espenson

OK, admit it. Who watched the FOX TV show Firefly? That few of you, eh? Who's even heard of it? Which of you actually heard about it while it was on the air?

No, I didn't either. But I'm an odd case. I don't watch television. We don't get cable where I live, I'm too cheap to pay for satellite service, and the rabbit rabbit ears can pull in precisely two stations, (on a good day). As you might expect, neither of those stations is a FOX affiliate, but even if FOX was available, I simply don't watch TV. I'd rather read, work on the computer, carve stone, or any one of a jillion other things.

OK, so probably two years ago or so one of my stone carving students - knowing that I enjoy at least some science fiction - suggested that I see the movie Serenity. "What's it about?" I asked. "Well", said Dave, "it's about these people... "

And thus I was introduced to Firefly and Serenity at the same time. My next step was to visit Netflix where I added the TV series and the movie to my queue. When I watched them I was amazed, and I greatly enjoyed both the show and the movie. Firefly was a fun, intelligently written, and visually appealing series. It had a great cast of characters, lots of compelling back story, and was relationship driven. In short, it was very good. Serenity told much of the story that was missing from the TV series, which had been canceled way ahead of its time thanks to a slew of idiotic decisions at FOX.

If you haven't seen them, imagine a western set in space and you're halfway to the show. But instead of cardboard cutouts for characters put real people in the roles. Now you're closer to the real thing. It really is fun.

"But where's the book come in?" I hear you ask.

Well, as I dug into Joss Whedon's creation, I found some additional material. This book was one of those things, and I acquired a copy back over the holidays. Finding Serenity is a set of essays, written by various authors, about things of - and related to - Firefly. Some are intentionally humorous, and those are the best. Some are good sources of information, like the translations of the Chinese phrases used in the show. Others are more serious, scholarly articles discussing one or another aspect of the show, the universe it is set in, etc. The latter works vary a bit in quality.

So, should you read this book? If you're a serious Firefly fan, yes, you probably should. But then again, if you're that serious you've probably already read it. Remember, I got to this series very, very late, and the real fans (called "Browncoats" for reasons you can learn from the show) are way, way ahead of me.

For the rest of us, I'm not as sure you should bother. Start with the show itself. Then watch the movie. If, after that, you find yourself searching the net for for forums where Firefly is discussed, hunger for more information about the Alliance, and want to know exactly what Kaylee had to work with back in the engine room, sure, go ahead and read it. It's not bad, but it isn't the show itself, and it won't answer a lot of questions about the show specifically. So be sure your addiction is strong before you go there. Reading scholarly articles about a TV show can feel a bit odd.