Bryant Dillon, Fanboy Comics President: For those who may be unfamiliar with the website, how would you describe SlayerLit?
Shiai Mata: A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, with just a dollop of whimsy. Or, more precisely, a place for discussions and reviews of various Whedon works of literature, and interviews with authors and actors to boot.
BD: When did you become a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, and how did this lead to the birth of SlayerLit?
SM: I had been a fan of the film, flaws and all, so my interest was definitely piqued when the WB announced a series, and I was hooked from the very first year. In a lot of ways, Season 1 might just be my favorite.
But, it never dawned upon me to get involved in Buffy fandom to any great degree until a couple of years later, when I had discovered the novels, devoured them, and learned that not only did a lot of other fans not know anything about them, but there was precious little information about the books online. And, this despite the fact that the Buffy and Angel novels had some high-powered fantasy authors behind them, and one of the books had even won a prestigious Bram Stoker Award . . . basically the Pulitzer of the horror writing world.
I had a sudden epiphany, and SlayerLit was born. It was important to me that if I was going to devote any amount of time to something like this, it be a site that filled a particular void, and didn’t simply mirror what a dozen other websites were doing.
BD: What makes the fans such an important component of SlayerLit and the Whedon fandom as a whole?
SM: It sounds trite, but without the fans, Buffy is nothing. I say that simply because it’s true, because there are other television programs which have been very successful but, in the long run, seem to have left little impact on their viewership. People watch them, then the shows disappear, and they watch something else, with little passing thought to what had once been. A lot . . . an AWFUL LOT . . . of what passes as television entertainment is little more than chimera. But, every once in a while, something springs up that really speaks to a goodly number of human beings in ways profound. By and large, shows like that tend to be lucky to last thirteen weeks on the air, so for something to run for seven years, to enjoy a spin-off with a five-year tenure of its own, and to live on in print media years after the fact is on the side of a minor miracle. And, that is due entirely to the fans.
A fair amount of those fans have expressed interest in the books . . . both the novels as well as the academic works. Trust me, no one visits the website just to read my ramblings about the likes of “Here Be Monsters” and “The Evil That Men Do.” They come because they’re fans of Buffy and Angel, and they enjoy being part of that community.
BD: What has been the most difficult aspect of maintaining the website? Were there any major hurdles that you had to overcome?
SM: When it’s something you enjoy doing, it’s not a chore. Unfortunately, real life has intruded time and again, and I don’t have the opportunities to update the site with new material as much as I would like to. That will be changing in the weeks and months ahead, though.
BD: What would you say to fans of the Buffy TV show who have never read a Buffy novel in order to get them to pick up one of the books?
SM: Do you like Buffy? Do you like words? Well, there are these paper things that string whole bunches of words together, and they make up stories about Buffy!
Seriously, that’s really all that needs saying. If you’re a fan of the character and you enjoy reading, put the two of them together. There are some tremendously entertaining Buffy and Angel novels, many of them still in print, and many of those that currently aren’t can be found in your local library, or on eBay. And, the publisher, Simon & Schuster, puts out a trio of really nice omnibuses . . . omnibi? . . . two years ago, gathering nine different books, and those are still readily available in many fine brick ‘n mortar bookselling establishments.
BD: For our readers who may be interested in reading books within the Whedonverse, are there any that you would recommend?
SM: The three collections I mentioned are a good and easily obtainable place to start. Beyond those, I could run a very long list of excellent books worth pursuing. If you’re looking for suggestions, a good many of the novels have been reviewed at SlayerLit.
Also I’d really like to mention the incredible body of scholarship that’s been done regarding the Buffyverse. Just some of the many such books I would recommend include What Would Buffy Do by Jana Reiss, Why Buffy Matters by Rhonda Wilcox . . . and Rhonda is a Grand Poobah of the annual Slayage Conference, by the way, and if anyone is interested in the academic side of Buffydom, they most definitely need to check that out . . . Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy by James South, the Seven Seasons of Buffy collection of essays, and likewise the Whedonistas book of essays. Don MacNaughtan’s Buffyverse Catalog is also an invaluable bibliographic guide.
And, if you’re looking for books that provide good overviews of the show and phenomena of Buffy, hunt down the three Watcher’s Guides, Bite Me by Nikki Stafford, or the recently published Gentleviewer’s Obsessive Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Kathleen Mattson. And, this Christmastime we’ll see the release of Buffy: The Making of a Slayer from Nancy Holder. Nancy, of course, is one of the most prolific of the Buffy novelists . . . she and Christopher Golden collaborated on the very first original Buffy book back in 1997 . . . and I daresay there are few people in this world who know as much about Buffy Summers, or who loves her as much, as Nancy. This book promises to be pretty definitive in covering everything there is worth knowing about the Chosen One. (Truth in advertising time: I contributed a very small amount of research assistance to Nancy for this book, so if there are any mistakes in it, they are undoubtedly mine!)
Lastly, if you enjoy the Buffy comics from Dark Horse, they published Buffy: Panel to Panel, an exhaustive and fascinating look at their pre-Season 8 run of Buffy and Angel comics, with lots of great behind-the-scenes glimpses of the creative processes involved in producing an ongoing comic book based on a television program.
BD: What are your feelings on the recent jump by Buffy and Angel to comic book form?
SM: Anything that keeps Buffy and Angel going and growing, I’m all in favor of. That said, I was not always enamored with some of the choices made for Buffy Season 8 and the IDW Angel series; however, I’ve thought Buffy Season 9 has been terrific, and Angel & Faith even better than that. With Joss off squandering his talent toiling over little art house obscurities like The Avengers, it’s very nice to see other hands coming in and treating the characters with love and respect.
BD: Fanboy question time! What’s your favorite episode of Buffy? How about Angel?
SM: At this exact moment, I would say that my favorite BtVS episode is “Nightmares,” and for AtS, “In the Dark.” Ask me again tomorrow, and my answers will probably be different!
BD: The world is ending and only the sacrifice of a vampire with a soul can stop it. Who do you exterminate: Spike or Angel?
SM: Spike. He’s figured out a way to cheat the Reaper once, and he could do it again.
BD: The world is ending (again . . . this happens a lot around here) and only the sacrifice of one of the original Slayers can stop it. Who do you exterminate: Buffy or Faith?
SM: Well, Buffy can’t seem to stay dead, so she’d be the safe choice. But, I think Faith has kind of earned the right to a glorious self-sacrifice, so I’d give this one to her.
BD: You have been given the super ability to force Joss Whedon to write one novel regarding any of his projects or characters. Which story are you dying to hear from the Master?
SM: “Rhonda, the Immortal Waitress,” his original concept for what would become Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
BD: What can we expect next from SlayerLit and the Buffy book world? Are there any exciting tidbits that you can share with us?
SM: I’d love to take this opportunity to reveal that Simon & Schuster is about to launch a brand new line of original Buffy and Angel novels, but that would be fibbing. I will say that they pay attention to sales, and if the three recent omnibus collections do well enough, they will almost certainly consider releasing more, and that in turn could lead to the return of new novels.
Given the incredible success of the Dark Horse comics, coupled with the surge in mainstream readership of fantasy works, I think it’s nearly inevitable that a publisher . . . if not Simon & Schuster, then another house . . . will someday start producing new Buffy novels again.
Until then, we have the comic books, and we have a steady stream of academic scholarship. Even without a fresh batch of novels, Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains a publishing success story, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
BD: Where can our readers go to find out more about SlayerLit? Are you on Facebook and Twitter?
SM: Well, until Kanye West writes a song to hype SlayerLit, I guess the only place you can find out about it is at the source itself. SlayerLit.us is the website, and you can also locate us on FB at facebook.com/SlayerLit.