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Introduction to Whedonistas by Lynne M. Thomas and Deborah Stanish

Posted on April 4, 2011 by Flames

FlamesRising.com is pleased to present you with the introduction from Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them. This collection of essays was edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Deborah Stanish, and was recently published through Mad Norwegian Press.

Introduction

    Lynne’s Story:

      You may know me as a Chick Who Digs Time Lords, but I’m also an avowed Whedonista. Although Whedon fandom is not my primary active fandom (that belongs to the Doctor), the Whedonverse has been a part of my life for just about as long.

      I mentioned in Chicks Dig Time Lords that watching Doctor Who got me through much of my pregnancy; Buffy the Vampire Slayer got me through oh, I dunno, my whole adult life. As an ex-cheerleader who grew up to be a rare books librarian (no, really), it seemed, well, appropriate, even if the collections I’m responsible for aren’t located on a Hellmouth, and I don’t rock tweed quite as well as Giles. I landed my current job as a pop culture librarian/archivist through my knowledge of librarianship and Buffy in equal measure. Now if I can just get our subscription to the “Demons, Demons, Demons” database up and running…

      For me it’s less about the Big Bad, and more about the heart. As I struggled with my life’s challenges, like my mother’s death, and the hospitalizations of my daughter with special needs, I could hold on to Big Damn Heroes, folks who took on Alliances or demon armies with quips, determination, and a posse of their friends. And looked good doing it. There are worse role models. Joss, we love your work so much that we made you this book. I hope you like it.

      Deb’s Story:

        On a September morning in 2003 I nervously checked my hair in the rearview mirror, smoothed down my Gap sleeveless turtleneck, locked my car and walked into a hotel in downtown Philadelphia. Meeting an illicit lover would have made me less nervous but the truth is I was a suburban mom in my mid-30’s meeting “Internet people” for the very first time.

        I was going to my first fan convention.

        While working on this book I discovered two things: Everyone has a story to tell on how they found “their” Whedon show and, once discovered, that show helped them form a community, provided inspiration or tossed them a lifeline when they needed it most.

        Much like women who feel compelled to share their birth stories, Whedonistas feel compelled to share this wonderful and powerful thing that changed their lives.

        I know it changed mine.

        Through Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer I discovered online fandom. I learned Internet etiquette, found a community of smart, fierce women who argued with abandon, and created with joy.

        The thing with the Whedonverse, it’s about connections. Both on the screen and off. I’d made my online connection, and when I walked into that hotel in 2003 I made a real life connection. On the surface we had little in common, but a shared passion united us.

        I became a more knowledgeable and compassionate person. Issues of tolerance, racism and homophobia weren’t just concepts, they were real and affecting my friends. My complacent, soccer-mom life was shaken and I learned to question, to accept, and to embrace.

        In return for flipping my life upside down, the Whedonverse has been very generous. I traveled, met more fantastic “Internet people” and learned that while actors are nifty, writers are my heroes. I volunteered at cons, co-chaired a con and learned that sitting at a dais and talking to a roomful of people about the thing you love is the most terrifying, exhilarating experience in the world. (Other than sitting next to Catherynne M. Valente in a New York radio station at 5 a.m. and attempting to be witty and insightful about fandom.)

        The great thing about connections is that, with a little nurturing, they continue to grow. Whedonverse fans led me, kicking and screaming, to Doctor Who, which led to publishing opportunities, meeting yet more amazing “Internet people,” and drinking mojitos on New York’s Lower East Side after my first book-signing experience.

        So thank you, Joss Whedon, for creating the universe, to our contributors who shared their stories and to everyone who dared to make a connection to this wonderful and powerful thing called the Whedonverse.

        The Whedonistas Story:

          So what is a “Whedonista”, anyway?

          Beats us. We burned through a lot of titles when struggling to find one that accurately described this unique collection of essays by women writers, artists and fans, but nothing seemed quite right. Just like the worlds of Joss Whedon, this volume contains multitudes. Much like Joss Whedon the man, it’s nearly impossible to put in a neat box. Finally, Lynne came up with the word in the shower one day, and we knew we had a perfect fit.

          We’re not the first people to use the term, but we liked that the word has a distinctly feminine feel, perfect since this book turns the female gaze on Whedon’s work. He built a career on creating strong female characters and now we’re flipping the table and looking at the creator’s works through our own lenses.

          It’s not only strong female characters that have built Whedon’s reputation, it’s also his delight in turning tropes on their head. Within the first two minutes of his breakout show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he made us re-examine our perceptions of what goes bump in the night. In Buffy, the innocent school girl was the monster we fear, the flighty cheerleader was the savior of the world, and a delicious bad boy hid just below the surface of the prim and proper male librarian. The trend followed in Whedon’s later offerings. From Kaylee to Zoe, Cordelia to Echo, Willow to Fred, we have strong women making their way through extraordinary circumstances with style, wit, and heart. They didn’t wait around for rescue. They strapped on a stake or sword; used a magic spell, science lab or database; and kicked some evil ass.

          We’re all for heroines who kick ass and take names. We’re also pretty fond of female engineers who can appreciate beauty in all its forms, deadly assassin teens, lady vampires who are off their rocker and computer nerds turned witches. And let’s not forget the menfolk – broody vampires with souls and badass vampires without them, The Evil League of Evil (helloo, application form!), space captains with tight pants and large… hearts, and so many other examples of characters that we would never see anywhere other than in the Whedonverse’s… tight embrace.

          Is it any wonder that female viewers fell in love with these worlds?

          We embraced the characters, the shows and their creator. More than simply thinking this was cool television, we wanted to talk about it. Online forums, fansites, conventions and academic conferences proliferated. These shows were important to us, and we wanted to turn them around and around, to examine their details and nuances, to analyze and revel in words and works that have affected us in ways that we’re still discovering. What makes this volume special is that it brings us back to the proverbial water cooler.

          That’s partly what Whedonistas is all about.

          Quite simply, it’s personal. Each of us has had our lives personally affected by our enthusiasm for these shows. And we aren’t alone. That deep personal connection with the shows, their fandoms and each other is what makes us Whedonistas.

          The essayists in this book – a unique combination of professional and amateur writers – have come together to talk about how Whedon’s shows, as well as the fandoms that they inspired, have changed lives for the better. We bring you stories that will break your heart, lift your spirits and make you think about how “just a television show” (or five) can have a huge impact on generations of viewers, merely by making “strong female characters” the default rather than the exception.

          To sum it up, Whedonistas is an eclectic and exciting collection of essays that touch on nearly all aspects of the shows, the fandoms and the people to whom they made a difference.

          Industry insiders have kindly given us insight into the production of the Whedonverse. SF/F authors take on some of their favorite tropes, series, stories and characters, and tie them to their lives and their work. (Hint:
          Spike is rather popular.)

          Other essayists outline the process and impact of shifting the Whedonverse from television to comics, the transition from fanfiction to professional publication, and what happens when you cheat on your muse with Spike (did we mention popular?). Our writers take on feminism in the Whedonverse, show us how Whedonista families and communities are made, discuss fandom across the pond in the UK and help us to understand Buffy’s calling. They also look at coming to a fandom late, and how they brought new fans into the fold.

          See? Multitudes.

          So join us. No matter how you choose to define “Whedonistas,” you’re on our crew.

          About Whedonistas: In Whedonistas, a host of award-winning female writers and fans come together to celebrate the works of Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog). By discussing the impact of Whedon’s work, their involvement with his shows fandoms and why they adore the worlds he’s created, these essayists aim to misbehave in Whedon’s rich, fantastical worlds. Essay topics include Sharon Shinn (Samaria series) and Emma Bull (Territory) elaborating on the perfection of Firefly, Jeanne Stein (the Anna Strong Chronicles) revealing Buffy’s influence on Anna Strong, and Nancy Holder (October Rain, The Watcher’s Guide) relating on-the-set tales of Spike menacing her baby daughter while Riley made her hot chocolate. Other contributors include Seanan McGuire (October Daye series), Elizabeth Bear (Chill), Catherynne M. Valente (Palimpsest), Maria Lima (Blood Lines), Jackie Kessler (Black and White), Mariah Huehner (IDW Comics), Sarah Monette (Corambis), and Lyda Morehouse (AngeLINK series). Also featured are exclusive interviews with television writer / producer Jane Espenson and actress Juliet Landau.

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