Guest Post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Inspired by a similar post the Smart Pop team posted a couple months ago, we’ve asked some of our contributors’ to provide guest posts with their favorite Smart Pop essays selected. First up is the talented Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s picks.
When the kind folks at BenBella asked me to write a blog about my three favorite essays in the Smart Pop series, I said yes. Sounds easy, right? Three favorite. Sure, no problem.
Until I actually sat down to write the blog. Then I realized I had too many favorites. Three? Just three? Using what criteria? Mine? Really? Mine changes each and every day, depending on my mood. I’ve always had trouble picking favorites of anything. Ask me my favorite ice cream, and I’ll tell you it’s chocolate. Or French vanilla. Or strawberry with little crunchy frozen berries in it.
So I moved my assessment of the Smart Pop essays to the most memorable, and that made my task a little easier. It even changed my list. But it also included the essays that made me mad (I remembered that) or the ones I violently disagreed with (I guess they made me mad too). I thought of including them, then decided I’d rather write a rebuttal.
Which isn’t the point of this blog.
I looked at a few of the essays a second time. For some of them, you have to have seen and loved the show to understand the essay. For example, I like almost all of Neptune Noir, edited by Rob Thomas about his marvelous (and much missed) show, Veronica Mars. But sadly, not everyone has seen Veronica Mars (which is why it’s much missed) and even fewer people seem to be fans of noir literature and film. So I reluctantly let those essays go.
After considerable thought and a much longer weeding process than I expected, I settled on these three, which I will present to you in no particular order.
1. “An Englishman’s Word Is His Bond” by Adam Roberts in James Bond in the 21st Century: Why We Still Need 007, edited by Glenn Yeffeth. Honestly, the Bond book is one of my very favorites, and I had trouble choosing between this essay, Lawrence Watt-Evans’ “Chinks in the Armor,” a fictional performance review of our James, and Sarah Zettel’s “Covalent Bonds,” a lovely personal essay about the real Bond by a woman who feels she must let her “inner adolescent smack down” her “outer feminist” in order to enjoy Bond. Great writing, great fun, in both of those essays, but while they’re both good, they’re not surprising.
“An Englishman’s Word Is His Bond” is surprising. It’s written by an Englishman who has decided to examine whether James Bond is truly as English as he claims. Not British, mind you. Not a member of the United Kingdom. But an Englishman through and through. Witty. Fun. A bit head-shaking. But most of all, memorable. It’s the essay I talk about when I talk about this anthology.
2. “The Reality of CSI: Miami” by Detective Christine Kruse Feldstein, Investigating CSI, edited by Donn Cortez. I confess. I read this book cover to cover the day it arrived. That’s the mystery writer in me. I love true crime stuff, fictional crime stuff, any kind of crime stuff.
And this essay by a real CSI who happens to work in Miami is catnip for me. She explains the difference between the show and real life using graphic and sometimes gruesome detail. I read this essay in 2006 and I can still recite parts of it to you. If you have a weak stomach, stay away. But if you really want to know what crime scene investigators do after they rip off their dark glasses and make a pretentious remark, read this.
3. “Buffy vs. The Old-Fashioned Hero” by David Brin, Seven Seasons of Buffy, edited by Glenn Yeffeth. I almost skipped this Buffy essay because not everyone has seen Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. (I know, shocking.) But I decided to keep the essay in because everyone has heard of Buffy, and besides, she has become iconic. The opening episode of Covert Affairs, for example, would not have happened without Buffy. Not because of the female spy (where have we seen that before?) or even her kick-butt attitude, but because of the climactic fight scene at the end. The villain punches her repeatedly in the face, then chokes her and slams her head against the wall. This scene is violent, and ten years ago, some censor would have asked the writers to cut it. You couldn’t hit a woman in the face in those days, not on television, not if that woman was going to be the hero. You could only show that sequence to show how bad the villain is.
This scene wasn’t done to show how bad the villain is. Or to show how weak our heroine is. It was there to show danger (it does) and how something powerful can go very wrong. You can have Piper Perabo in the role or Tom Selleck in the role. It doesn’t matter. The fight would be the same.
We have Buffy to thank for that. She is a kick-butt heroine, but more than that, she’s a modern American hero. David Brin analyzes all of this in his short essay and makes that analysis interesting, not dry and dull. And fascinatingly, he wrote it years before Covert Affairs and Salt and all the other heirs to Buffy appeared on the screen.
So there’s my top three picks. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll have three different picks. Ask me next week and … well, you get the idea. Now I’m heading off to get some French vanilla from the fridge to accompany tonight’s television viewing. Or maybe I’ll go for some chocolate. Or maybe I’ll stand there with the door open, cooling the kitchen, while I try to decide. Thank heavens for DVRs. We indecisive people can eventually have our ice cream, and eat it too.
Thank you so much, Kristine. Wow, what a fun post!
Tell us, what’s your favorite Smart Pop essay?