Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon's Firefly Universe - Leah Wilson, Jane Espenson Confession: I am an unabashed, flailing Firefly fangirl. I quote both the series and the movie on a regular basis—at length. I’ve made friends with coworkers at new jobs simply by wearing a Serenity t-shirt that led to hours of debate over lunch. I preemptively cry while watching the movie as it approaches that scene (you all know the one of which I speak), and it takes all my willpower not to bawl like a baby when it actually happens.

In short, I’m strangely emotionally invested in the ‘Verse in the way only the truly crazed can be. But in the land of Whedon, it’s not like I’m alone.

To balance all that out, I’m also a huge lover of culture studies and pop culture analysis, and being (somewhat) analytical myself, I can recognize when even my favorite fandoms have their failings. Like with this series of essays: some were fantastic, most were pretty good, and a couple were bad, boring, and/or out of place. Here’s my personal breakdown, and any pieces not specified by name are worth the read, not just the time to type out my opinions of them just to be ignored by the masses.

For me, there were three standouts. I, Malcolm, written by our dear Nathan Fillion, whose perspective on the show from the inside is priceless and whose sense of humor shines through excellently in his essay. Signal to Noise, analyzing the importance and potential of media (“Can’t stop the signal,” anyone?) by Jacob Clifton is a concise, brilliantly conceived piece of work. (Also, I knew the style seemed familiar as I was reading, but it wasn’t until the biographical note at the end that I realized this was the same Jacob from TWoP who wrote the Doctor Who recaps I so adored while I should have been working.) And then there was Mal Contents by Alex Bledsoe, examining Mal’s character arc in conjunction with his all-too-human flaws, because while Mal may be a hero, first and foremost he is a human being, with all the weaknesses and strengths that implies.

Scattered amidst the middle were pieces like Mars Needs Women (Maggie Burns), Girls, Guns, Gags (Natalie Haynes), and River Tam and the Weaponized Women of the Whedonverse (Michael Marano), which approached the ‘Verse from a more feminist standpoint, either blatantly like the first two or more subtly, perhaps even unintentionally, in the case of the last. Don’t get me wrong; all three of these pieces contained fantastic analysis of Firefly and science fiction overall. Unfortunately, I just didn’t care, because…I just didn’t care. I’m a woman, but I’m so sick of the feminist cries I could punch myself in the face. To each their own.

Earlier I said there were bad essays within these pages. In retrospect, that was a lie. The writing in all of these was of high quality, and I found most to be quite engaging. So there was nothing I curled my lip in disgust at, but I’ll admit to skipping the vast majority of The Virtual ‘Verse by Corey Bridges. I made it about a page and a half into this presentation of the Firefly MMORPG before skipping to the next essay. Not because it wasn’t good but because I just didn’t give a damn, not being a player (or even a casual gamer in other arenas) myself. Nothing against Bridges’ work; it just wasn’t my thing.

Curse Your Sudden but Inevitable Betrayal by Lani Diane Rich was well-written, amusing, and shared many of my feelings regarding the fate of poor, loveable Wash. On the other hand, she writes from a very personal perspective (the entire focus is on her and her husband as they maneuvered through their Whedon addictive), and in a book full of detailed, sci-fi geek analysis, it seemed very out of place. I liked it, but the entire time I was thinking, “One of these things is not like the other.” Don’t skip it, but it is a little jarring.

Overall, Serenity Found is a worthwhile read. I’d recommend it more for the hardcore Firefly/Serenity fans (you know, those of us still mourning Wash’s death every September) than the casual viewer, as it would probably start feeling pretty repetitive and/or ridiculous after a while.