When it comes to my reviews of volumes put out by Smart Pop Books, I can’t help but start every article with a gushing endorsement of the publisher and their products. Smart Pop’s publishing line is a geeky reader’s dream come true, featuring a number of brilliant and highly enjoyable essay anthologies focusing on popular culture subjects like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Hunger Games, Veronica Mars, and many, many more. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Smart Pop Books established itself a long time ago as the go-to publisher for the intelligent and introspective geek.
My fellow Browncoats will be pleased to hear that they have not been abandoned when it comes to the world of Smart Pop and actually have two volumes they can enjoy from from the publisher that are devoted to the world of Firefly and Serenity.
Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly is the first of the two volumes and is edited by Firefly writer and Whedon alum Jane Espenson. Finding Serenity is an intriguing and unique examination of the sci-fi western series, given that (as Espenson explains in her introduction) the essays were compiled in the fandom purgatory that was taking place between the cancellation of the show and the production of the Serenity feature film. With the combination of Espenson, Smart Pop, and a Firefly-class vessel full of talented contributors, Finding Serenity is easily required reading for any true Browncoat, as well as a truly excellent and engaging read for fans of Firefly and Serenity.
The subjects of the essays that make up Finding Serenity are varied in subject matter, with focuses ranging from the portrayal of Asian culture in the series to a piece comparing the ‘Verse to the galaxies depicted in the popular sci-fi series Star Trek. While all the essays included are worth a read, here are a few selections and features that stood out to me:
– “The Heirs of Sawney Beane” by Lawrence Watt-Evans – A grisly and primal piece, the author educates readers on the legend of Sawney Beane and his cannibalistic, cave-dwelling brood. While the legend’s authenticity may be suspect, Watt-Evans uses the premise to make some startling and enlightening revelations regarding what causes a human to become a “reaver” and how the space cannibals might view and rationalize their own existence.
– “The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Firefly” by Glenn Yeffeth – Yeffeth gives readers a humorous set of emails sent from a fictitious Vice President of Fox Progamming going by the name of Early “Nutcrusher” Jubal to Josh (or, eventually, Joss) Whedon. Yeffeth’s tongue-in-cheek depiction of the legendary and hellacious struggles between Firefly’s creator and the FOX network will cause loyal Browncoats to laugh out loud, despite the tears they may also shed in regards to the feeling that the reality of the situation wasn’t exactly that far off from Yeffeth’s version.
– “More Than a Marriage of Convenience” by Michelle Sagara West – The unique depiction of marriage represented by Zoe and Wash has always been a feather in Firefly’s cap, making it stand out from other shows in simply one more additional brilliant and powerful way. West’s essay is a perceptive look at the relationship between two fan favorites and the bold, breakthrough strides made by Whedon’ s writing of the characters’ strong, happy, and stable union.
– The “Unofficial Gallery of Firefly Chinese” by Kevin M. Sullivan – Every want to swear in Chinese? Ever want to know what foul language is pouring out of the mouths of Mal and his crew when they sling out a phrase or two in Chinese? Sullivan has got your covered on both counts, so don’t delay! Turn to page 235 now and learn how to call your friends and loved ones “filthy fornicators of livestock,” Firefly style!
Final Verdict: If your coat is even vaguely brown, then don’t waste a gorram minute longer and get your hands on a copy of Finding Serenity! You won’t regret the decision, as Smart Pop has struck gold again and it is very, very shiny, my friends.
You can learn more about Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds, and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly by visiting Smart Pop Books at their official website. (Excerpts of many of the essays included in the book are available for your reading pleasure.) Also, be sure to stop by the Smart Pop Books Facebook page and follow them on Twitter (@SmartPopBooks).