This is a Worldbuilders blog.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it's come to my attention that some of you out there might not know about Joss Whedon. This worries me.
Even more troubling is the thought that some of you might know of Whedon, but still haven't taken him into your heart or witnessed his glorious work.
I used to be like you. I used to live in darkness. Let me share my story with the hope that you might come to know him as I do....
It's 1999. Home from college, I go to a New Year's party with some old friends. Halfway through the evening, someone mentions Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
"Never seen it," I say.
Suddenly they're all bleating like sheep about how much they love the show. Everyone feels compelled to tell me their favorite line. Their favorite part. The time this character did this thing in this place.
"Yes yes," I said. "I've heard it all before. Honestly, it sounds pretty dumb to me."
Things get heated. It turns out I'm the only person there not actively following the show. They can't believe how ignorant I am. How can I not be watching it?
Finally I've had enough. I hold up a hand to get everyone's attention. "Listen," I say. "I'm a huge geek. I've written a fantasy trilogy that will never be published. I once dressed up as Pan for Halloween. I have LARPed." I looked at them all seriously. "And you people embarrass me. I am ashamed to be standing close to you right now. Kindly shut up about your stupid vampire cheerleader show."
It's 2002. I'm in grad school, covered in a thick, greasy layer of drudgery and helpless rage. I'm fighting as hard as I can, only to realize that academia is a tarbaby made out of bullshit and willful ignorance.
One of my friends buys the first season of Buffy on DVD and leaves it in my house. That's it. No sales pitch. I just come home from class and it's sitting on my coffee table.
And that's where it stays. I've made my feelings clear. I'm getting my Masters in English Literature. I'll be god-damned if I watch a show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
But, eventually, there's nothing else to watch in the house, so I plug it one evening while I eat my dinner.
And it's exactly what I expected. It's trash. It's heavy handed. The plot is predictable.
Worse of all, there's a showdown between the plucky blond eye-candy and the bad guy at the end of the first episode.
Buffy: Well you forgot about one thing!
Vampire: Whats that?
She breaks a window behind the vampire and rich amber light pours in, making the vampire howl in fear.
I roll my eyes. I've seen this cliche a dozen times before. I'd be bored if I wasn't so insulted. I reach for the remote.
But it isn't sunlight pouring through the window. It's just a lightbulb in the alleyway. The vampire looks out the window, confused.
Buffy: Its not for another 9 hours, moron.
I start to laugh, realizing whoever wrote this knows exactly what he's doing. This isn't cliche. This is whatever the opposite of cliche is.
I watch the second episode.
It's 2003. I'm out of grad school and teaching my own classes for the very first time.
I've made contact with a big-name New York literary agent. He's read my book and thinks it has potential. He says I'm a good writer, but my book has structural problems. There are plot issues. Am I willing to revise?
I am. But I have no idea where to start. I read a book called Writing the Blockbuster Novel and it makes no sense at all to me. I re-read my novel and realize I don't have the slightest fucking idea what I'm doing.
Fall semester ends, and the university tells me enrollment is down. Quick as that I'm unemployed.
So I go out and buy my very first home theater system. Bose speakers. Subwoofer. I fill up the credit card, figuring that if I'm going to be unemployed, I might as well enjoy my free time. Besides, it's not like I'm going to be able to get any writing done....
The first thing I watch is the second season Buffy.
It opens a window in my head. It changes the way I think about stories.
It's 2004. Despite the fact that I'm not really interested in space cowboys or whatever, I buy a copy of Firefly.
It's 6:00 AM when I sit down to watch it. After half an hour, one of my roommates wanders blearily into the living room.
"Wassis?" he asks.
"Firefly," I say. "First episode. I can start it over if you want..."
He lays down on the other couch and we re-start the episode.
Ten minutes later he looks at me. "They canceled this?" he asks.
He looks at the screen, then back at me. "I'm so fucking pissed!"
Six years later I'm still pissed. I'll probably be pissed about Firefly until the day I die.
It's 2006, and I'm attending one of my first conventions. I've sold my book, so now my job is to make friends in the fan community. Mingle. Rub elbows. Network.
I get invited to a party. I drink a drink. I end up talking with a beautiful young woman in a tight red dress.
"I don't know what all the fuss is about," she says. "I watched some Buffy, couldn't get into it. Firefly was boring. I just don't get what I'm supposed to be missing."
"Well..." I said thoughtfully. "Have you ever considered the fact that you might not actually have a soul?"
It's 2008. Dr. Horrible goes online. I'm giddy as a schoolgirl. I write a blog about it. I bring my friends over to watch. I leave it playing on my computer while I do work around the house, while I check my e-mail, while I eat lunch.
This continues for weeks.
Then one day while I'm singing "A Man's gotta Do..." in the shower, I have an idea for a short story. This is a rarity. I don't do short stories. Better yet, it's a short graphic novel.
So I sit down and start to write it out. It's fun. I've never written a script for a graphic novel, and it's tricky thinking in terms of page layouts, paneling, and dialogue placement. I break out my copy of Understanding Comics and start making notes for a friend who could do the illustrations.
Two hours later I realize I'm writing Dr. Horrible fanfiction.
Four hours later I'm still writing it.
It's 2009. While playing Guest of Honor at a convention, I end up on a panel about Joss Whedon.
Much to my surprise, I hear people nitpicking. They say, "Buffy was great until season four." "I got bored with Dollhouse after two episodes." "Angel was too dark." "Buffy got weird in season five...."
Finally I've had enough. I hold up a hand to get everyone's attention.
"Listen," I say unto them. "You're all a bunch of whiny little titbabies. Joss Whedon is a storyteller and you're upset because he isn't acting like a music box, playing you your favorite song again and again.
"Joss Whedon made me care about the X-men, even Cyclops. He sold me on space cowboys. He made me sing in the shower and write fanfiction for the first time in my life. He told me a subtle story with Dollhouse and gave me the best character arc I've ever seen with Wesley Wyndam-Pryce."
"Why don't you marry him?" someone shouts from the audience.
"Because of Proposition 8," I shot back. "And because he never returns my calls."
So that's the story of my conversion to Whedonism. I've pulled a Saul of Tarsus and these days I'm a full-blown missionary. In fact, Sarah has informed me my man-crush is about to step from being cute to creepy, so I'm trying to reign myself in a little bit here.
For example, I'm not going to post up any of my Whedon-tribute macaroni art. Neither will I trouble you with any of the sonnets I've composed.
Instead, I'll add some Whedon stuff to the Worldbuilders lottery. That means if you donate money to Heifer International before January 15th, you have a chance of winning this stuff in addition to all the other cool prizes.
- All seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the five seasons of Angel, and the first five graphic novels composing "Season Eight"of Buffy.
About a year ago, I went to talk to a bunch of high-schoolers as part of a book festival.
As per usual, I read a bit, then did some Q&A.
One of the kids asked a question about character building. I thought of the perfect example that would answer his question and said, "Have you seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer?"
I meant it to be a rhetorical question. I mean, everyone's seen Buffy, right?
He hadn't. I was a little surprised. So I asked the whole auditorium, "Who here has watched Buffy?"
Only about three hands went up.
I shouldn't have been surprised, I suppose. But I was. What's more, I was actually mad. I turned to the teacher that had arranged for me to come out and talk to the kids and demanded, "What the hell are you teaching these kids?"
- Both hardcover volumes of the Astonishing X-Men, containing the entire story arc written by Joss Whedon.
Even if you don't read comics, you will enjoy this. Even if you don't care about the X-Men, you will like this story. It's wonderfully self-contained, so you don't need to know the last 40 years of x-history to follow what's going on.
- The complete series of Firefly and the sequel movie Serenity.
If I ever get to teach a creative writing class, I'm assigning Firefly as a textbook. Everything you need to know about storytelling is right there in the pilot episode.
Side note: if you watch the movie before watching the series, I will magically appear and choke you.
- The first season of Dollhouse.
Some people I normally respect are all snarky about Dollhouse.
Fie, I say unto them. If you can't handle a subtle story, feel free to go watch MTV cribs. The rest of us will be right here, enjoying the awesome.
It's a different sort of story. That means, of necessity, it has a different tone. But it's still Whedon, and that's all that matters.
- Two copies of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
For concentrated cool, it's hard to beat this disk. Not only is DR. Horrible like a primer on how to create a realistic villain, but the commentary track is a musical too. I'm not even kidding.
God. Just looking at the cover makes me want to listen to it again....
That's all for now folks. Remember that the fundraiser is over on January 15th. So if you want to get in on the action, you better do so soon.
Money raised by Worldbuilders goes to Heifer International, which helps people all over the world raise themselves out of poverty and starvation. If you'd like to donate directly you can head over to my page at Team Heifer and I'll match your donation by 50%. Trust me. You'll feel great afterward.
Or, if you want more information about the Worldbuilders fundraiser itself, you can head to the main page HERE.
With thanks to our sponsor, Subterranean Press.