Those who follow my reviews (Thanks for reading, by the way!) may be tired of hearing my constant praise for Smart Pop Books and their awesome publishing line, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I’m about to stop anytime soon! For those who are unaware, Smart Pop’s publishing line is sure to thrill any fan of geek culture, debate, and discussion and also features a number of brilliant and highly enjoyable essay anthologies focusing on popular culture subjects like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Hunger Games, Star Wars, Veronica Mars, and many, many more! It’s amazing offerings like these that make Smart Pop the go-to publisher for the intelligent and introspective geek.
Browncoats like myself have a mighty powerful reason to align themselves with Smart Pop, given that the publisher shares a fondness for the world of Firefly and Serenity, having traveled twice into the black in book form. While the first of these volumes (Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds, and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly – my review is available at the link at the end of this review.) featured essays written in a pre-Serenity world, Smart Pop’s second volume, Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon’s Firefly Universe, was compiled after the release of Whedon’s feature film. Again edited by Firefly writer and Whedon alum Jane Espenson, Serenity Found is another fantastic collection of essays that will help numb the bitterness and pain left over by the infamous cancellation.
The content of the essays in Serenity Found is wide and varied, touching on the visual effects of Firefly and Serenity, the presence of media and its effects in the ‘Verse, what Whedon’s space western has to say about “believers,” and much, much more. While all the essays included in the mix are definitely worth a read, here are a few specific entiresthat stood out to me:
– “I, Malcolm” by Nathan Fillion – Who doesn’t want to hear the Captain himself answer what it’s like to be Mal Reynolds? Mr. Fillion is just as charming and entertaining in his writing as he is on screen, and given how heartfelt his feelings are for Firefly, Serenity, and the character of Mal, it’s a special treat to have his voice included in the book.
– “River Tam and the Weaponized Women of the Whedonverse” by Michael Marano – In an intriguing and insightful examination of Whedon’s heroines, Marano explores the writer’s trend of female characters (from River, to Buffy, to Cloned Ripley) who are manipulated into objects of violence by outside forces, but eventually find self-actualization and freedom by overcoming the limitations of their “intended purpose.” An excellent piece that cuts to the core of Whedon’s themes and beliefs as a writer and storyteller.
– “Curse Your Sudden but Inevitable Betrayal” by Lani Diane Rich – As 50% of a geeky married couple myself, it was easy for me to appreciate this piece that described the experience of sharing the joy (and sometimes debate . . . and sometimes frustration . . .) of Firefly and Serenity with a significant other. It’s always interesting how differently we each interpret the same story. The essay also features an easily relatable reaction to Wash’s demise in Serenity and brings up the intriguing question of whether Whedon made a mistake in killing off the pilot of everyone’s favorite firefly.
– “The Virtual ‘Verse” by Corey Bridges – We geeks love our video games and RPGs, and MMOGs not only feed these needs but will provide a way for Firefly to live again (again)! Bridges’ essay is an interesting read, even for those who’ve never played a single game before, and it warms this Browncoat’s heart to know that Geekdom has found a new way to make sure no one can take the sky from them.
– “Catching up with the Future” by Orson Scott Card – As interesting as Card’s opinion of Firefly is, relating it to the best qualities of written sci-fi, I found this essay and Card’s love for Whedon’s series particularly interesting given Card’s more recent and outspoken beliefs regarding same sex marriage and marriage equality. The introduction of LGBT characters on television has been given a lot of credit in helping advance the marriage equality and gay rights movements in our nation, and Card’s essay is a great example of how science fiction can expose audiences to challenging and opposing values and beliefs. While it may not make sense to others how Card can have such volatile beliefs regarding same sex marriage, but still love a series that values equality and acceptance, it can’t hurt that Firefly is what he’s spending his time watching, right? It may sound cheesy, but exposure changes people’s opinions and opens their minds. It just takes time. Perhaps, in some cases, it also takes repeat viewings of Firefly and Serenity.
Final Verdict: This is a no brainer, my friends! Don’t leave this one off your cargo list! In fact, if you don’t already have a copy of Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon’s Firefly Universe, then you’re already lagging behind. I can’t give a stronger endorsement. Serenity Found is one book that aims to please!
You can learn more about Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon’s Firefly Universe 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).
You can also check out my review of Smart Pop’s first book in Whedon’s ‘Verse, Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds, and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, at the link below: