How Buffy the Vampire Slayer Changed My Life
Were it not for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I would not be the person or writer I am today. I discovered the show between my junior and senior years of high school, and almost immediately lost myself in the rich world of Buffy fanfic.
From 2002-2010, I committed more than 1 million words to telling stories using the Buffy characters and crafting romance after romance with my OTP (One True Pairing), Buffy & Spike.
I have always been a writer, as I’ve mentioned here and elsewhere. I started telling stories when I was a kid, first on the scratch pads my grandparents sacrificed for my artistic intent from the windows of their print shop, then in spiral notebooks. My first computer, which I received in the mid-to-late 90s, was a dinosaur. I don’t recall how it worked, but it did, somehow. Of course, the internet wouldn’t have survived on it and didn’t enter my life until much later. The screen on that computer was black and the text was orange, and I didn’t know that spaces needed to come after periods until my mother enlightened me. That computer outlived its expiration date until we upgraded to a Mac which had—gasp—a word processing program. On this, I wrote everything from horror stories to Star Wars fiction that I was certain would be published as part of the Extended Universe. But I didn’t share any of it with anyone out of embarrassment because even then, most of my fiction had a romantic story thread. I’ve always loved romance, but I didn’t always know that was what it was called.
It wasn’t until we finally got internet access—after begging my mother, who was worried, not needlessly, that I’d never go outside again—that I discovered a world of stories specifically crafted for fans of certain books, films, television shows, graphic novels, and so on even existed. And I sure as hell didn’t realize that it could be so sexually explicit. I thought my attraction to sexual material was an aberration that made me a bad person (for context, please keep in mind I was raised Church of Christ and have struggled with an anxiety disorder for more than 20 years).
I won’t read any more of these stories, I told myself after I first discovered them, being fourteen or fifteen at the time.
A little later, this graduated to, I’ll read them, but I won’t write them.
A little while later… What the hell?
The first fandom I posted fiction for was not Buffy; rather, being the twisted kid I was, I was somewhat in love with Hannibal Lecter (as portrayed by Anthony Hopkins). Something about being civil and courteous before ripping someone’s face off really spoke to the angsty teen within. But I wasn’t there for very long—just long enough to realize that posting stories anonymously online was not only freeing, but beneficial. By the time my friend introduced me to Buffy, I was in need of a new fandom. And goddamn, did I take to the vampire slayer. At first, Angel stole my heart, as I believe he did teenage girls everywhere. But then, Season 2, episode 3 (which was entitled “School Hard”), the love of my fanfic life crashed his Desoto into the Welcome to Sunnydale sign, and my writing world would never be the same.
I have always been a sucker for bad boys turned good. Han Solo was my first crush, and somewhat established my fictional romantic trope. I also loved relationships that started contentiously (Darcy and Elizabeth, for instance), but developed into something beautiful. In 2002, after I discovered Buffy, Season 6 had just wrapped up. I devoured everything I could about the show—the episodes, the episode guides, and more Spike/Buffy fanfic than I could feasibly read. By the time Season 7 debuted, I had started what would be the longest piece of fiction I’d penned to date (though not overall—future Buffy fics dismantled the crown). According to fanfiction.net, the word count on my inaugural Buffy fic is north of 250k.
Now, I understand that the Spike/Buffy pairing might seem weird for me given how vocal I am about feminist issues and consent. My feelings about a certain scene in Season 6 are complex for multiple reasons—character and storytelling issues being at the forefront. But I’m not going to launch into my defense of Spike here, or why I think the writers were insultingly sloppy (short version: We need to show that Spike is a bad guy! Let’s take the strongest woman in the show and obviously do the ONLY THING that could demonstrate evilness!). This is a total sidebar on how the only way they can show a woman as being victimized, or a man being evil, is with a sex crime…and really, I don’t want to get into that. But if you want to know how I feel, refer to this incredible article.
The takeaway from this tangent? I am still every bit a Spike/Buffy fangirl, and my Spuffy heart still dreams about making their relationship right.
As I mentioned above, I’ve been writing forever. I majored in creative writing in college. I’ve always—always—wanted to be an author. My ambition in the 7th grade was to be published before I got to high school. In the 8th grade, that was realized when I won 1st place in a fiction contest for a local literary magazine during a time when I was still incredibly shy about having my work read. Fanfiction stripped me of that shyness, and Spike/Buffy in particular made me want to share my work with more than just online strangers. I learned more about writing in the eight-plus years I spent actively writing, publishing, critiquing, and editing fanfiction than I did earning my degree. I became an editor because of the years I spent editing other authors’ fanfic. The years I spent at Samhain are due to fandom.
Lastly, fanfic enabled me to discover my sexual identity. My first graphic sex scenes, written when I was a 17-year-old virgin, served as both my way to explore sexuality safely, but also introduced me to what I knew I wanted to write. I didn’t start reading romance until a friend of mine sent me Lynsay Sands novels—I didn’t realize that romance wasn’t just closed-door scenes, that the stuff I liked to read was not limited to the fanfic world. It was revolutionary.
So as we celebrate twenty years of Buffy, I can’t help but take a look back at the world that made me who I am today.
Thank you, Buffy fandom. Thank you so much. Thank you to all the authors and readers who were and remain my friends and extended online family. Thank you for reading my work. For reviewing my work. For helping me grow into my author voice before I knew what an author voice was. Thank you sharing your lives with me, and for letting me share mine with you. Thank you for the fic challenges, the icons, and even, yes, fandom politics (which were truly spectacular and dramatic). Thank you for letting me share my stories, and for still—even though I’ve been gone now longer than I was there—emailing me when you stumble across my old work. Which, incidentally, can be found here and at the Elysian Fields Spuffy Archive, which I co-founded with some amazing women more than ten years ago. It's still going strong.
Most of all, thank you, Joss, for creating this world in the first place. You gave me something beautiful and life-changing. There’s a reason I list you as one of my writing influences. It wasn’t just what you wrote, but how what you wrote directly impacted my writing life in ways that I couldn’t have appreciated in the moment the way I do now.
Happy birthday, Buffy.
And though this is probably wishful thinking (knowing you), try to have a good one.
(that last bit was a fandom joke)