Slayer Lit Feature
A Farewell to the Girl who became a Hero
by Shiai Mata & Various
What we would recognize as a “book” dates back to the Roman Empire as the codex... bound pages of papyrus, often between covers of wood, leather or hardened wax. The book really got swinging after 1450, when Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type press (of course, as in many things, the Chinese did it first... about four centuries before JG... but it never really caught on there). By 1500, it was estimated that an astonishing 8 million books had already been printed in Europe, and that was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg... or edge of the forest, if you will.
By the 1990s, books were a major industry the world over. Of course, they’d already been declared dead by those who felt that television and the nascent Internet would make actual paper books... the kind you hold in your hands to read... irrelevant. Despite that (or maybe because of it), the publishing business was still steadfastly on the lookout for new ways to get people to troop into bookstores to buy the darned things.
One of the ways they thought they could do that would be to put out books based on popular television shows. That wasn’t really a new idea (I can remember there being books based on The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family in spinner racks at the drug store when I was really, really young. And of course, the Star Trek literary franchise had proven to be a money-making machine for decades, as were the Doctor Who novels in the UK.), but it wasn’t necessarily one that the publishers had been aggressively pursuing.
Okay, that’s probably giving the Vampire Slayer a bit more credit than she’s due. But she was nevertheless a cornerstone of the modern growth of what is now officially labeled as the Media Tie-In.
And Simon & Schuster reaped the bounty very nearly by default.
You see, the publishing house had put out a novelization based on the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer film which, much like the movie itself, didn’t exactly set the world on fire. But when the television series debuted and proved to be an instant critical hit, another publisher began inquiring to Fox about securing the rights to do some books. That’s when they looked over the old contract with S&S and realized that someone... rather presciently, I might add... inserted a clause in there giving S&S first dibs on any subsequent BtVS license. I suppose that knowing that a rival house was interested in the property was possibly a big motivator for S&S to launch their own line, but for whatever reason, they did so with gusto. And their very first act in that direction was nothing short of genius: They put Lisa Clancy in charge.
Lisa was already a top editor at the company, having helmed a number of Young Adult books and series successfully, and she was the perfect choice for overseeing Buffy. For, like many television critics and a small but growing number of viewers, she was a big fan of the show. And once she was ensconced in her seat of Slayerage, S&S did what all publishing executives do best; they made impossible demands. The biggest was, simply, WE DON’T WANT THEM GOOD, WE WANT THEM FAST. Faced with an impossibly short publishing schedule, Lisa went and did what she did best; she turned them out fast (astonishingly, in an industry where the length of time from completing a manuscript to having it released can run 18 months or more, she had her first books in stores just a couple of months after they were green lit!), but she also made sure they were GOOD.
She turned to Richie Tankersley Cusick... already familiar with Buffy as the author who novelized the motion picture... to do the same with the first two episodes of the TV series, released as THE HARVEST. Simultaneously, she called in two up-and-coming writers, Nancy Holder and Christopher Golden, to collaborate on the first all-original BtVS novel, HALLOWEEN RAIN. This set the pattern for frequently employing top-flight fantasy and horror authors to write for the series, setting Buffy’s books apart from many of their media licensed brethren. Clancy set in motion machinery that would continue to run smoothly even years after she departed... a true testament to her skills as an editor, and those of the people who followed her.
Much like the network brass at the WB, the publisher seemed to initially think that Buffy would appeal mostly only to teenaged girls. Boy, were they wrong on that score.
The realization that the readership consisted of much more than the aforementioned teenaged girls resulted in a curious schizophrenia, with the titles veering between the Young Adult classification and actual Adult books (albeit usually of the PG-13 variety). A number were deemed important enough to be released first in hardcover editions, although only one earned the right to be done as an audio book as well.
And I’d like to say the series was a Big Bad-vanquishing sales triumph, but that wasn’t ever really so. Lisa once told me that a frothy ‘biography’ of a Flavor of the Month Band, Hanson, basically sold more copies than all of the Buffy books at that time combined.
But you know what? That Hanson book didn’t stay around very long (just try finding it now), whereas Buffy had genuine legs, running for a healthy decade... lasting, against all odds, nearly five years after the television series signed off the air!
And as of January the First, 2008 it all came to an end.
Oh, Buffy still survives; thrives, even. The current ‘8th Season’ comic book series is a huge hit, there are still action figures and calendars and T-shirts to be had, and new fans continually discover BtVS through DVDs and good old word-of-mouth. And she may even return to the world of books some day, if some other publishing house decides to rescue her. But nevertheless, something ends here that cannot be recreated.
But it can be relived, every time you open up one of the books to read it. Maybe for the second or third time.
When it was announced that Simon & Schuster would cease publishing the franchise, I was asked by more than one person if that would mean the end of SlayerLit. After all, this site was created to appreciate and promote the books, and some wondered if it had now lost its raison d'ętre.
But here’s the tricky part of these books: They may not be making any more of them... at least for now... but there’s still something worth celebrating in the ones we already have. Would you ask a site devoted to the Harry Potter books, or the works of Alexandre Dumas, to fold their tents just because there weren’t any new ones on the horizon? I wouldn’t, I’ll tell you that.
So yes, SlayerLit is here to stay. We’ll keep talking about the books we have, and about the comics, and maybe about a few more things of related interest. This being our fifth anniversary year, I've got a few surprises in mind for 2008.
But let’s still take a few moments to look back upon this last decade. And I can’t think of any people better suited to do so than those who helped make it possible. So please join me in welcoming many of the talented men and women who put the tales of Buffy and Angel and the Scooby Gang into black and white for these past ten years.
And above all, never forget...
BUFFY LIVES... IN THE BOOKS!
JEFF MARIOTTE: To me, the memorable thing about the Buffy book line--of which I was only an incremental part, with one novelization, and co-author credits on the WATCHER'S GUIDE, VOL. 2, and the Buffy/Angel UNSEEN crossover trilogy, but never an original Buffy novel -- are the friendships spawned through those books. I knew Chris Golden and Nancy Holder going into it, but met and became friends with many other Buffy (and Angel) authors over the years. Original Buffy novels editor Lisa Clancy became a friend (and also bought my first original novels, the Witch Season quartet). I got to hang out on the set and meet cast and crew from both shows who became friends. I got to go to parties and signings and Buffy conventions, where I met fans who have also become friends, on my own continent and others. Buffy fandom is really Buffy friend-dom, and it's global. Honestly, since the line began the licensed publishing business has changed in many ways, studios are cutting back their licensing efforts, and there may never be another licensed book line quite like this one. So being a part of it, and making the friends through it that I have, is an experience that will never be repeated, and will always be treasured.
CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN: Though it's been over for years, my love for the TV series hasn't diminished. I doubt my love for the books will, either. Not only did I have the opportunity to work with some of the best characters in the history of television, but it was work that provided me with a great many opportunities that have made a difference in my life and career. I'm sorry to see the book series come to an end. Just as we Buffy fans never give up hope that the series or some variation will return in some form, I'll always hope that new books will spring up eventually.
KIRSTEN BEYER: I keep thinking about the tag line you have on the website: BUFFY LIVES...IN THE BOOKS. Of course that's true. And while it may feel like the end of publication of further novels by Simon and Schuster is some kind of final nail in the coffin, I believe Buffy is one of those untouchable pieces of popular culture that will endure. I can't give you numbers, but I can tell you that everyone I know who has watched or read about Buffy has been left with an indelible impression of this amazing universe that Joss has created. Between the movie, the original series, its spin-off, the books and the comics, there is a veritable treasure trove of Buffy already in existence for anyone who might yet to have discovered it, and more than enough for current fans to re-watch and re-read in years to come. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if Joss continues to explore Buffy in new ways in the future. It's simply too rich of a mythos to ever completely disappear. Buffy does live, on TV, in the books, and most importantly, in the hearts and minds of the fans.
KEITH R.A. DeCANDIDO: The standard in tie-in publishing is that a tie-in line doesn't survive the end of the event. There are rare exceptions -- Star Trek and Star Wars being the most famous. Buffy has joined that august rank, having continued to have a thriving tie-in line for several years after the show came to an end on the screen.
It was a great joy to work on the Buffy novel program, from the novelization of three Xander-focused episodes -- Xander being my favorite character on the show -- to BLACKOUT -- the story of Nikki Wood, a story I'd been wanting to tell since "Fool for Love" first aired -- to THE DEATHLESS -- a fun novel that married Sunnydale to Russian folklore -- and I'm sorry to see it go. But I think there's a fine body of work there, one that all the authors can be proud of.
JOHN VORNHOLT: Writing Buffy novels was great fun, and it's amazing how long Buffy has been a phenomenon. In the beginning, they thought only teenage girls would like it, but when I saw how popular Buffy was with women of all ages, then men of all ages, I knew it was going to have a long run. Teen angst mixed with vampires and horror tropes is always a winner.
LAURA ANNE GILMAN: Getting the chance to write in the Buffy line was great fun, and a real learning experience -- not just for working with the people involved with the books, but for the chance to meet the folk hip-deep in the fandom. Some of the finest crazy people it's ever been my good fortune to shmooze with.
Do I regret the end of the line? Everything ends, eventually. We can look back and say "we done good, and we had fun." What more can you ask for?
YVONNE NAVARRO: It's a shame to hear that S&S isn't continuing the book line. I really enjoyed working on my Buffy books and stories, and I'd love to do more.
Buffy is one of those series where you catch an episode on television, and never mind that you've seen it three times (and you have the DVDs), you just can't help but stop and watch all over again. You never tired of pointing out, "Yeah, this where Willow says to Tara..." or "All right! This is where Buffy really kicks...!" And that is exactly why Buffy will always be with us, with a fan base just as strong as Star Trek or some of the other classic TV shows. If S&S doesn't change its mind, I hope another publisher picks up the book line. Dangling out there is a golden opportunity based on the final show in the series, and which I'm astounded S&S didn't grab: An unlimited number of tales about Slayers from all over the world, doing what they do best in their own environment but under the Buffyverse rules (and perhaps with an occasional helping hand from Buffy or any one of the Scooby Gang). Let the book line grow beyond Sunnydale or Los Angles. The whole world awaits!
ELIZABETH MASSIE: "All good things must come to pass." Such it is with the conclusion of the novel series. Yet Buffy's universe through these novels was so well fleshed-out, so enticing, thrilling, and downright fun, that I have a feeling it will live on...and a new generation will no doubt find the books, read them, and be hooked!
JOHN PASSARELLA: The dawn of the new year rings in a resounding end to the line of Buffy the Vampire Slayer books. As fans of the shows (lest we forget Angel), we can't say we didn't see this day coming. The writing (no pun intended) has been on the wall for some time now. My third, and last, original Whedonverse novel, ANGEL: MONOLITH, came out just before the Angel TV series ended its five-year run on the WB. It was the penultimate book in the Angel line. Though the show was still on the air, I saw the impact of its imminent cancellation reflected on the store shelves. The Buffy and Angel sections of the big chains were already drastically reduced by the time MONOLITH arrived. Though my Angel novel was the new release, I had a hard time finding copies on store shelves during the first month of publication. Many stores chose not to order the book at all. I suppose that was the first time I realized the end had begun. The Buffy book line was alive, but I wondered if it would endure. The cynic in me was less than optimistic.
One of my best experiences as an author lasted the two months I spent playing with the first set of toys in the Whedonverse, specifically the characters and settings and situations of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Season Three. Even knowing that I must ultimately set things back the way I found them, I reveled in my opportunity to write about these characters in a plot of my own design. Those moments where I knew I had nailed a character's voice and had, in effect, expanded the breadth of that character for the die-hard fans (myself included), were sheer authorial joy. I would later write ANGEL: AVATAR (set during Season One of Angel) and ANGEL: MONOLITH (set in Season Four) and though I enjoyed those experiences as well (despite suffering my first experience with sciatica during the writing of MONOLITH, days where I had to kneel in front of my desk to type because it was too painful to sit or stand), there was nothing to compare to that first time.
If I have a Whedonverse regret, it's that I never had the chance to write another Buffy novel. Time and circumstances denied me the opportunity. I toyed with some ideas before the Buffy line switched (for a time) to the "Stake Your Own Destiny" books. I had no desire to plot a choose-your-own-adventure novel: Those types of books never lined up with my own reading experiences, so I lacked an affinity for them. I let time pass and now, as 2007 winds down, I know I missed an opportunity to return to the Buffyverse one last time.
We saw this day coming, but that doesn't mean we have to celebrate its arrival. Instead we lament the times gone by, when we could expect a new release every month, an original celebration of the Whedonverse as told by authors who were fans of the shows every bit as much as all the other dedicated viewers. Fortunately, we have a timely balm, a new medium with which to experience the Whedonverse, the Eighth Season of Buffy and the Fifth Season of Angel, in graphic novel form, from the minds of the shows’ creators and writers. No, the comic books do not give us the same type of passion and creativity and artistry of the shows, nor are they as engrossing and in-depth as the novels, but they are a hybrid. They are related. The voices of these characters have not been silenced. And we can keep our memories alive by re-watching the DVDs. And, of course, by re-reading the books we’ve saved on our own shelves.
True, this is an ending, but maybe a new beginning awaits. Remember, into each generation a Slayer is born...
TOM SNIEGOSKI: The Buffy stuff will always have a really special place in my heart.
I can remember the night the first episode aired way back when. I was at Christopher Golden's house actually. I'd been over working on a comic book project that I can't remember the name of, and we'd just finished dinner. I was getting ready to pack up my stuff to get on home when Chris put on the TV and we watched the first couple of minutes. Hmmm, I remember saying, this doesn't look half bad.
I then rushed to my car and drove home as fast as I could so that I could catch the remainder of the episode.
And that was the beginning.
Sorry to see you leaving Simon & Schuster, Buffy old gal, but something tells me you won't be homeless for long.
NANCY HOLDER: It's been nearly eleven years since my first Buffy book, HALLOWEEN RAIN, which I wrote with Chris Golden. My daughter was not quite five months old. Now she's a level two junior black belt.
For Buffy (and Angel), I wrote romantic adventures, mysteries, horror novels, capers; short stories, novellas, and of course, the WATCHER'S GUIDES. I wrote trilogies and crossovers. I went on set; I went on location. I went to the PBP's and Wolfram and Hart's Annual Review. I made lifelong friends.
The most wonderful thing about writing and talking about Buffy is that it still hasn't stopped...I'm teaching my five-week class at UCSD again. It's called "Popular Culture in Critical Perspective: Buffy the Vampire Slayer," starting January 23. And I'm writing an article about writing tie-ins for cult TV for a British academic tome.
Buffy is the Slayer who keeps on giving, and I'm grateful from the toes on my feet to the stars in the sky to Joss from bringing her into the world (and to Gail Berman, for bringing her to the box.) And thanks for all the friendship, support, and camaraderie at SlayerLit.
Can't stop the signal!
Fangs always... .
And thanks to each of you, as well as to all of the other writers, for having helped give me a means of expressing my appreciation for Joss Whedon's toys. You truly did make Buffy live! - Shiai