Edited by Jane Espenson



238 pp/$17.95/April 2005

Finding Serenity
Cover by Todd Michael Bushman

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

For a brief period of time at the end of 2002, Joss Whedon, the man responsible for "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," had a science fiction series on FOX television called "Firefly."  Only eleven episodes aired before the show was unceremoniously cancelled, but the show lived on for its fans when all eleven episodes, plus three unaired shows, were released as a box set.  In this way, the show kept its original fans and gained many more.  The boxed set sold so well that Universal Studios acquired the rights to make a film based on "Firefly."

Jane Espenson, the "Firefly" writer who announced news of the film in 2003, has now edited Finding Serenity, a collection of essays about the television show, its universe, and characters.  These essays run the gamut from larks, such as Glenn Yeffeth's attack on the FOX executives who cancelled the show to Keith R.A. DeCandido's well reasoned explanation for why the pilot-as-aired did not manage to attract an audience, to Lyle Zynda's complex look at the existential philosophy found in the series.

Many of the essays tend to focus on the same topics, although from different points of view.  One of those topics is the strength and abilities of the women of the cast and crew.  However, even as Tanya Huff describes the abilities of the second-in-command, Zoe Warren, or Robert Taylor lauds the women as the stronger portion of the crew, Nancy Holder sees them as weak and stereotypical.

One of the strengths of "Firefly" is that in just over a dozen shows (including the un-aired episodes), Whedon was able to create enough hooks and mysteries that the twenty authors represented in Finding Serenity are able to tackle a wide variety of topics, from the aforementioned question of the strength of characters to the existence of the Reavers, a bogeyman who the crew of the spaceship Serenity meet up with.  Nevertheless, there are numerous other questions which are only touched upon in the essays, such as the mysterious history of Shepherd Book (played by Ron Glass) or the agenda of the equally mysterious Blue Sun corporation.

Several articles compare "Firefly" to other television shows, most notably Star Trek and its sequels, but also Don DeBrandt's comparison to the cult show "The Tick."  These articles rely, to some extent on familiarity with not only "Firefly" but also the other show.  "Mirror/Mirror:  A Parody" requires the reader to have some idea about the characters and situations of "Enterprise," as well as share Roxanne Longstreet Conrad's opinions of the two shows.

One of the high points of the anthology is the inclusion of an article by Jewel Staite, who portrayed the Serenity's mechanic Kaywinnet Lee Frye.  Staite's essay looks at her five favorite moments from each of the episodes of "Firefly" and provides an adjunct actor's commentary to the various commentaries available on the DVD sets.  It also serves to demonstrate that the actors, or at least one of them, is as big a fan of the show as the people who watched it.

While the essays in Finding Serenity can't provide a replacement for new episodes of the series or the upcoming film (scheduled for release in September, 2005), the book can help fans of the series scratch the itch to discuss the show and perhaps get a little more feeling for the various characters, secrets and subtexts, or at least the ideas of other fans of the show.

 Larry Dixon The Reward, the Details, the Devils, the Due
Lawrence Watt-Evans The Heirs of Sawney Beane
Leigh Adams Wright Asian Objects in Space
Glenn Yeffeth The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Firefly
Ginjer Buchanan Who Killed Firefly?
Keith R.A. DeCandido "The Train Job" Didn't Do the Job
Mercedes Lackey Serenity and Bobby McGee
Don DeBrandt Firefly vs. The Tick
Lyle Zynda We're All Just Floating in Space
Michelle Sagara West More Than a Marriage of Convenience
Tanya Huff "Thanks for the reenactment, sir"
Joy Davidson Whore and Goddesses
Robert B. Taylor The Captain My Wear the Tight Pants, But It's the Gals Who Make Serenity Soar
Nancy Holder I Want Your Sex
John C. Wright Just Shove Him in the Engine, or The Role of Chivalry in Joss Whedon's Firefly
Roxanne Logstreet Conrad Mirror/Mirror:  A Parody
David Gerrold Star Truck
Kevin M. Sullivan Chinese Words in the 'Verse
Jennifer Goltz Listening to Firefly
Jewel Staite Kaylee Speaks:  Jewel Staite on Firefly
Kevin M. Sullivan Unofficial Glossary of Firefly Chinese

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