My fascination with Whedon’s works began with Firefly. In 2005, I was volunteering quite heavily for Distributed Proofreaders (DP), a site that helps produce free, public domain ebooks for Project Gutenberg (PG). At the time, a number of people in the DP forums were excited about the pending release of Serenity, and through that conversation I learned about the TV series that led up to it. A short time after that, the DVD box set of Firefly went on sale on Amazon (probably in relation to the movie release), so I bought it along with the movie and I was immediately hooked.
However, it was a few years before I really started my introduction to the broader Whedonverse. Other than a few random episodes of Angel that I caught on syndication, I never watched any of his Buffyverse works. So in late 2008, another Amazon sale led me to buy the Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Chosen Collection box set. I watched the entire series rather quickly, and picked up seasons of Angel (individually, not as a box set) to watch afterward. At about the same time, watched Dollhouse as it began airing in February 2009, and I also discovered Whedon’s popular little side project, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog.
Having immersed myself in Whedon’s works, I didn’t quite know where my newfound fandom would take me. For the next couple years, I continued watching Dollhouse and rewatching Firefly, Buffy, and Angel. Then, in Fall 2011 I decided it was time to go back to school and get my master’s degree in Literature & Language, a decision that led me down the road to becoming a scholar, in addition to an appreciator, of Whedon’s works.
Although I did not know her then, Dr. Amy H. Sturgis – a professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University and a scholar of fantasy and science fiction works – became a professor at Mythgard in Spring 2012 with a course on Harry Potter. That fall, she offered the first of a two-part course on the history of science fiction literature, with the second part being offered in Spring 2013. During that class, she shared a notice of an upcoming conference called “Joss in June” and encouraged students to submit paper proposals. (Dr. Sturgis had herself published a chapter on frontier themes in Firefly and Serenity in The Philosophy of Joss Whedon.)
I immediately knew I wanted to go, but didn’t have any idea about what to write about. Although academics are infinitely capable of digging into infinitesimally smaller minutiae, I still had not seen some of Whedon’s lesser-known works, and I was largely ignorant of most Whedon scholarship. I felt that in order to find something worth saying, I needed to pick a topic that people had looked at very little. Fortunately for me, the movie The Cabin in the Woods, which Whedon co-wrote with director Drew Goddard, had just come out the year before. Not much had been written about the movie – academically, anyway – which meant it was pretty fresh fodder for study. After looking around some more, I thought that the best approach would be to take the movie’s premise as a horror film that subverts the horror genre itself and see what themes had been explored in previous Whedon works. The idea worked out, and I got a lot of great feedback on it at the conference, including a prompt by David Lavery to submit it to Slayage: The Official Journal of the Whedon Studies Association. I did so, and the paper appeared as part of the Joss in June double issue in 2014. (The paper had to be much revised between the initial presentation and the published version, as I learned quite a bit more about horror film genre theory and there was a double issue of Slayage on The Cabin in the Woods published after I first submitted the paper but before I received reviewer edits.) This was my first academic publication.
My second publication came shortly after that. In Fall 2014, PopMatters put out a call for papers to update Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion. Although I was much more familiar with Whedon studies at this point, I kind of liked the idea of breaking ground in new areas rather than trying to crowd myself into a space that had been worked over a lot. So I wrote up a proposal on In Your Eyes, a film based on a script that Whedon had written in the early 1990s (around the same time as the original Buffy movie came out) and which he had produced through his microbudget studio, Bellwether Pictures. That essay was accepted and appeared in the revised edition of JW:TCC, which came out on April 21, 2015.
Oh yeah, and I’ve been doing a weekly podcast on Buffy and Angel since Spring 2013.
Joss Whedon Scholarship
“Exploring Cabins in the Whedonverse Woods” in the Summer 2014 issue of Slayage
“‘I Never Met Anyone I Didn’t Disappoint’: In Your Eyes‘ Flaws and Fortes” in Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion (revised and updated edition)