Thursday, April 4, 2013

Strong Young Women Part 5: Buffy and Veronica

Have you heard about the wildly successful “Veronica Mars” Kickstarter project? Rob Thomas and his crew are rebooting the Veronica Mars franchise by crowdsourcing funding for a movie. So far they’ve raised about 4.5 million dollars, and they are committed to filming this summer. I sent them a few bucks, and I never do things like that. If you go to their Kickstarter page and take a few minutes to read through the pitch (be sure to watch the attached video), you will likely send them money too. The pitch is extraordinarily well done. You have eight days.

“Veronica Mars” ran for three seasons on UPN and CW from 2004-2007. It’s about a teenage girl trying to solve a murder mystery. That description does not, of course, do it justice. Just watch it if you haven’t. It’s good TV, and Veronica is an enormously appealing character. Once again, I have fallen for a spunky, young, tough, resourceful, smart young woman.

But as much as I love Veronica Mars, she is no Buffy.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the TV series) has been written about so extensively, I have little to add. Joss Whedon was the right smart, talented guy in the right place at the right time and he gave us Buffy, and I am grateful. Whedon is still smart and talented, and relatively young for a writer. Just about everything he touches is worth a look, but BtVS is likely to remain his single greatest work.

Buffy herself seems to me the most recent culmination of a literary evolution that started with Eve, that spunky young heroine who, choosing knowledge over obedience, ate of the fruit. Eve suffered a major beat-down for her impudence, and so have impudent young women ever since, from Joan of Arc to Emma Bovary. However, around the time of Madame Bovary’s unpleasant death-by-arsenic, a new type of literary figure began her march to prominence and respectability, leading from Becky Sharp to Anne Shirley to Nancy Drew to Wonder Woman to Sarah Connor to Hermione Granger to Buffy. With BtVS, the Strong Young Woman Who Kick Ass category became a “thing,” almost a subgenre, as distinct from the Twilight/50 Shades subgenre. For better or worse, Quentin Tarantino would not have made “Kill Bill” in a universe without BtVS, nor would The Hunger Games have been written. My character Lah Lia, who came into being around the same time I was watching season three of Buffy, would no doubt have been very different.

Every character and every story is a product of its time. I began writing The Klaatu Diskos trilogy back around 2001. In the first draft of the first chapter, I introduced the main character, Tucker Feye, to a small, mute, mystery girl named Lahlia. I wasn’t sure at the time who Lahlia was, or how large a role she would play in the story to come. It turned out to be a much larger role than I expected, and Lahlia evolved over the next few years into Lah Lia, a Pure Girl of the Lah Sept, a theocracy that rules over much of North America circa 2800 c.e.

Lah Lia’s character—like all fictional characters—is a construct built from bits and pieces of “real” people, and from the many fictional characters who preceded her. She is in some ways cartoonishly archetypical (though not so cartoonish as Uma Thurman’s “The Bride,” from the Kill Bill movies). In other ways she is Whedonesquely anti-typical. Joss Whedon built a career on taking clichés and turning them inside out and backwards—so much so that watching his recent work makes the anti-cliché a sort of cliché all on its own. This I embrace.

The Obsidian Blade, the first book in the Klaatu Diskos trilogy, will be available in paperback next week. The second book, The Cydonian Pyramid, as a publication date of May 14. You can download the first three chapters of Book Two on your e-reader for free on Sony, Kindle and Nook.

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