Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Why Joss Whedon Is Awesome and I Liebehassen Him
Okay, so we all know Joss is awesome. But let's dissect this for a moment. Forget about him inventing two whole new kinds of dialogue (Buffyspeak and Firefly), or reintroducing gunpowder and horses to space opera. Let's go almost all the way back, to when Buffy was a mid-season replacement that was supposed to flicker and vanish; instead it grabbed hold of people's eyeballs and wouldn't let go. Why? Metaphor, metaphor, metaphor.
I've riffed on metaphor before. One of the classic, unmentioned techniques of fantasy is to make magic a stand-in for some other aspect of the human experience: a scarce resource; or codependent love; or slavery; or addiction.
Joss glommed on to metaphor like a tick onto a pint of O-negative and then reversed the process. On those first episodes of Buffy, magic wasn't a stand-in for life; life stood in for magic. Magic was the X-factor that let Joss, David Greenwalt and the other writers juice up the hamster of life until it was a giant Sumatran rat that ate your brain. Magic turned peer pressure into a possessing hyena spirit; magic let a vicious stage mother literally live out her cheerleading dreams through her daughter; magic made an internet pen pal a horrifying demon and loaded the first possibility of sex with the certainty of death.
Whether magic operates as some other, more familiar process, or is the excuse to extend the human experience to the extreme, the connector is life. Human lives. Link the magic in your story to that, either as cause or effect, and you're on solid ground.