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A BUFFY book has been accepted for publication by IB Tauris of London. Edited by Roz Kaveney and Lisa Brown, the essays in the collection have been commissioned and are due by June. Here's their pitch, as purchased:

Reading the Slayer - A Proposal

1. The theme music starts with low menacing organ chords and suddenly erupts into furiously active rock. The world of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' constantly opposes the world of the Gothic and uncanny with the California of teenage privilege,, and wittily juxtaposes them. A teenager dressed like a Catholic schoolgirl is a centuries-old predator; vampires bicker wittily in their nests about century-long emotional triangles; a classic car serves as both babe magnet and zombie killer. Buffy is a more-or-less airhead California high- school student who finds that she is the Chosen One, the protector of humanity against supernatural evil.

The show, one of the most interesting popular cultural phenomena of the last five years, is a mix of horror/adventure, situation comedy, supernatural investigation and teen-age soap opera. It is far more consistently conceived and thought through than would ever be expected of any of the genres to which it belongs.

The show has just started its fifth season on American television; its spin-off series 'Angel' has just begun its second. Both series are popular on UK terrestrial and satellite television; the videos sell sufficiently well that major supermarket chains discount them; the new videos and albums of rock featrured in the show are thought to be sufficiently appealing to young people to be used as major shopfloor and window displays by the major record and book retailers.. The usual franchised materials and associational literature aimed at young adults sells well, but never strays beyond a range of epidsode guides and young adult horror novels.

The show is well-written, well-acted and competently directed. It has created gradually, and to some extent improvisationally, an interestingly complex and coherent mythology, and constantly revisits and revises its own premises, questioning even the premise, embedded in the title, that vampires should neccessarily be slain. It combines inventive use of motifs from horror-comics, Gothic and Hong Kong martial arts movies with imaginative and perceptive discussion of social trends and issues; specifically, the lead character and several of her friends are icons of a sort of 'Girl Power' feminism while remaining three- dimensional and fallible.

In 'Angel' it has successfully generated a spin-off series - a noir exploration of the supernatural underbelly of LA, which combines the mixture of before with an attractive Chandlerian cynicism.

2. As well as its target teen and young adult audience, the show has gradually acquired a fandom among intellectuals and writers - various literary and queer theory conferences such as 'Consoling Passions' have taken to having at least one Buffy-related panel. It has generated many Internet conferences ranging from the ethical dilemmas of the characters to 'slash' fiction about imaginary offscreen interactions between them.

3. There is at least one other projected university press anthology of critical writing about the show in the US, but there is room for another anthology, intellectual in tone, but less entirely academic . 'Reading the Slayer' will include new material by some contributors to the other book The present book will aim itself at both an academic cultural studies audience and at the more thoughtful sort of fan such as the huge numbers who visit the Buffy Philosophy Discussion Board. Fans who are interested in why Cordelia and Faith are both Nietzcheans or in subjecting the extended dream sequences to close and psychoanalytic readings are a likely audience for this book.

4. Chapters already discussed with potential contributors include:

The series' reinvention of classic fantasy tropes - e.g. Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein, the Creature from the Black Lagoon - as ways of talking about topics such as abusive relationships, teenage male objectification of women, the cult of success in sports, as well as the even more complex reinvention of e.g vampirism, magic and lycanthropy.

The status of various characters as shadow doubles of aspects of other characters -. Cordelia is what Buffy used to be like before she discovered that she was the slayer; the slayer turned villain Faith is Buffy without friends and control. In particular, this essay will look at the episode where Faith and Buffy swap bodies in the light of feminist object-relations theory (rather than psycho-analysis). In the context of recent horror criticism, the swap emphasizes moral displacement over gender identification.

The show's portrayal of free-flowing eroticism, much of it homoerotic, as a bond between friends, and the complexities of audience response to this. 'Buffy' is that rare thing, a prime time show one of whose principal characters has reassessed her sexuality and come out as a lesbian in the course of the show's run The process of negotiation with the network over what can be shown and the wit with which the show's creators have subverted those limits are an interesting part of that story.

The show's constant reinvention of spirituality and religion - its cosmology has a complex relationship with Christianity, but it is ultimately a show in which the numinous is here and now, and people are redeemed by their own efforts and the good example of others rather more than by supernatural interventions of grace.

The complexity of response evoked by a physically tiny woman like Sarah Michelle Gellar engaged in constant life and death struggles with men twice her size; the extent to which heroism in the show is shared equally between women and men. Taking into consideration arguments of cross-gendered identification in 70s and 80s horror films, the sympathies of Buffy's audience can be read along gender lines, the young females identifying with the heroine and, more problematically, male viewers with Angel, who is often shown in masochistic relationships. The dynamic - female hero and male victim - undermines interestingly the cultural assumption that virtues are gendered; this theme is developed further at the point where Buffy melds briefly with her friends, and they are specifically identified as Heart- Xander, Spirit-Willow, Mind - Giles and Hand-Buffy, a line up in which both Buffy and the slightly bumbling youth Xander are noted as exemplars of qualities usually gendered otherwise.

The dialectic in the show around youth and innocence, age and wisdom, age and corruption, the appearance of youth and immortality gained at other's expense.

The use of verbal wit, music and complex popular culture references to convey aggression, emotional ambivalence and erotic tensions as examined through close reading of three particular episodes.

5. There will also be essays on topics that a purely cultural studies perspective might neglect e.g on the influence on the show of Hong Kong cinema in general and in particular of the films of Tsui Hark; on the development as a screenwriter of its principal creator Joss Whedon between the original film 'Buffy' and the infinitely superior TV spin- off; and on the importance of individual performances and the creation of an efficient stock company in the course of the show's run. It is hoped that it will be possible to include an extended interview with Whedon and some of the show's other main writers/creators about the writing process, the influence on the show of contingent factors like the availability of actors and the extent to which directions taken by the show have been planned. Twentieth Century Fox have been approached for cooperation, particularly in the matter of still photographs for illustration.

6,.'Reading the Slayer' will be edited by Roz Kaveney, well-known reviewer, contributing editor to The Encyclopaedia of Fantasy, and co- founder of Feminists against Censorship, and Lisa Brown, a PhD student at Cambridge University working on the formation of gender in C18 literature and the Gothic.

Probable contributors include Farah Mendlesohn of the University of Middlesex, Neil Norman, film critic of the Evening Standard, Ian Shuttleworth, theatre critic of the Financial Times, and Boyd Tonkin, literary editor of the Independent.

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