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Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Deborah Stanish 

Mad Norwegian Press


200pp/$14.95/March 2011

Cover by Katy Shuttleworth

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Unlike Lynne M. Thomas’s previous essay collection, Chicks Dig Time Lords (edited with Tara O’Shea), which focused on a specific television series, Whedonistas, co-edited with Deborah Stanish, takes the varied works of auteur Joss Whedon as its subject.  This means that a reader may be familiar with only some of the works discussed, whether Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, or Doctor Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog.  However, despite the various essays which focus on one (or more) of those properties, what the book is really about is the experiences fandom brings to individuals and the way they coalesce into a community. From that point of view, Dae S. Low’s “The Browncoat Connection,” about finding a sense of worth amongst the Portland Browncoats captures the heart and soul of the experience.

Emma Bull’s essay dovetails neatly with the concept of building a community.  Again, looking at Firefly, Bull notes that Mal Reynolds is only looking for independence. At the same time, he doesn’t quite seem to realize that any freedom and independence he has comes with the cost of building a community that he is a part of, whether it is the community he has built on board Serenity or the community of the underworld with which he trades and makes his living. Mal Reynolds Independent Operator couldn’t exist without the community of Badger, Patience, and, to a certain extent, the Alliance.  But, just as Dae noted she needed a community in her essay, Joss Whedon’s works are also about building a community.

Community isn’t necessarily even about being with people and interacting with them.  Jaala Robinson and Jenn Reese discuss how the community they watched on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, and the very real personalities and interactions of the characters on those shows, gave them the strength they needed in their own lives. It doesn’t really matter what the overall show was about, or what Robinson, Reese, or even Whedon, thought Whedon’s shows were about.  Rather, the importance was the depiction of realistic characters, oftentimes outcasts from society, who managed to form their own society and support group, thereby helping people watching the show to do the same.

The kick-off essay, by Seanan McGuire, takes an interesting look at community.  McGuire acknowledges being a fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer from the days when she was portrayed by Kristy Swanson.  Somewhat against her will, she became hooked on the television series and watched as a fannish community grew up around it and then splintered into special interest groups.  Priscilla Spencer takes the fannish community, not just of Whedon, but also of various other television shows, and discusses how they formed a larger community to support a bigger cause during the writers strike that incidentally led to the creation of Doctor Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog.

Some of the essays look at what Whedon appears to be doing on his shows and tries to dissect them.  Those essays, not matter how well written, feel slightly out of place in Whedonistas. They seem like they should have been included in a book like Jane Espenson’s Finding Serenity, which was (generally) less of a personal explanation of the show and instead a more lit-crit sort of examination.  Espenson’s own appearance in Whedonistas, in the form of an interview, is a more behind-the-scenes look at Whedon’s various creations, which adds an interesting context for the essays, but veers away from the examination of how Joss Whedon’s work has become so personal in the lives of the fans.

Ostensibly about the works and worlds created by Joss Whedon, Whedonistas is really a look at community, belonging, and what can come when people work together (much as happens in many of Whedon’s own works).  Readers who are fans of all of Whedon’s work will be able to connect to all the essays, but even those who are only fans with Buffy or Angel or Firefly will enjoy the book. And because the focus is really more on the experience of belonging to a community rather than the specific shows, those who aren’t familiar with Whedon’s work can also enjoy and gain insight from the essays.

Seanan McGuire The Girls Next Door: Learning to Live with the Living Dead and Never Even Break a Nail
Nancy Holder Ramping Up a Decade with Joss Whedon
Sharon Shinn Outlaws and Desperados
Jane Espenson An Interview with Jane Espenson
Jeanne C. Stein My (Fantasy) Encounter with Joss Whedon (and What I've Learned from the Master)
Sigrid Ellis The Ages of Dollhouse: Autobiography Through Whedon
Heather Shaw A Couch Potato's Guide to Demon Slaying: Turning Strangers Into Family, Buffy-Style
Laurel Brown Smart is Sexy: An Appreciation of Firefly's Kaylee
Caroline Symcox Teething Troubles and Growing Up
NancyKay Shapiro Transgressing with Spike and Buffy
Priscilla Spencer Brand New Day: The Evolution of Doctor Horrible Fandom
Elizabeth Bear We're Here to Save You
Mariah Huehner Imperfectly Perfect: Why I Really Love Buffy for Being a Pill Sometimes
Kelly Hale My European Vacation: A Love Letter/Confession
Lyda Morehouse Romancing the Vampire and Other Shiny Bits
Juliet Landau An Interview with Juliet Landau
Maria Lima I Am Joss Whedon's Bitch
Jackie Kessler Going Dark
Jaala Robinson Joss Giveth
Sarah Monette The Kindness of Monsters
Jody Wurl Shelve Under Television, Young Adult
Dae S. Low The Browncoat Connection
Racheline Maltese Late to the Party" What Buffy Never Taught Me About Being a Girl
Meredith McGrath How and Atheist and his Demons Created a Shepherd
Jamie Craig Older and Far Away
Teresa Jusino Why Joss is More Important Than His 'Verse
Catherynne M. Valente Let's Go to Work
Jenn Reese Something to Sing About
Emma Bull Malcolm Reynolds, the Myth of the West, and Me

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