Saturday, 17 January 2009


For Chapter 4 of my dissertation I'm attempting to creatively explore faith within the 'verse by writing a fanfic. The three ideas that I am pursing at the moment are:

1.) During the pilot episode 'Serenity', the crew, with the exception of Mal, bow their heads and say grace silently - I'm going to attempt to write their prayers.

2.) I'm going to juxtapose the meal that the crew share in 'Out of Gas' and the subsequent experience that Mal goes through when he is left to die alone (and sheds much blood in the process) with the biblical story of Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper and in the Garden of Gethsemane.

3.) I intend to look at some of the characteristics that are begining to be named as being part of the Emerging Church (e.g. whilst asking the question 'what sort of church would Shepherd Book lead?' and let the answer take a narrative form.

Help please - anyone know of similar fanfics/stories? Any ideas will be gratefully received and acknowledged.


I'm still playing around with the overall title for the dissertation and with titles for each of the chapters, but these are some of the ideas I've had:

Re-imagining the Church in the ’Verse

Just Keep On Walking, Preacher Man

Faith in a Vacuum

The Search for Serenity

Give me some [sacred] space

Firefly: a small natural light in the darkness

Journey into the black

Why do you always assume I'm talking about God?

Comments and suggestions welcome ...


Other things that have fascinated me as I've alternated reading books about Firefly with theological/emerging church/spirituality texts are:

Thinking about 'Earth-that-was' (which had to be left behind) alongside inherited church or 'the-church-as-it-has-been' to quote John Pritchard (page 131 in 'The Life and Work of a Priest'.)

The way in which Whedon's version of the future incorporates ideas and images from so many different cultures and time periods alongside the 'ancient-future' nature of the emerging church.

River's words to Shepherd Book: 'Just keep on walking Preacher Man!' alongside Austin Farrer's image of the priest as a 'walking sacrament' (quoted in Pritchard, J, The Life and Work of a Priest, (London: SPCK, 2007) p.86.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


Right, this is the outline of my dissertation as it stands at the moment (just about ten weeks left until submission date) ...

Introduction 800 words
Outline of dissertation and of methodology used
i.e. how do you study popular culture theologically?

Chapter 1 2000 words
Description of the show
i.e. the characters & the ship, key storylines, the fans and Joss Whedon

Chapters 2 & 3 3700 words
Exploration of some of the spiritual themes that can be identified in the show
i.e. is the fact that there are no aliens (i.e. nothing supernatural) in Firefly, symbolic of a world in which there is no God? The nature of faith/belief and doubt as illustrated in the show. Darkness and silence in the 'verse. Brokenness and ways of trying to fix it.

Chapter 4 1700 words
The writing of a fanfic

Chapter 5 1700 words
How does this exercise challenge the Church in 2009?
I will explore this through the question: is Shepherd Book a missional character? From an emerging church/missional point of view how does he inspire/challenge/disappoint?

Chapter 6 1600 words
Reflection upon the usefulness of the above exercise

Conclusion 500 words

I've got about 20,000 words of notes and quotes. I'm still doing a lot of reading - alternating books about Firefly with theological/emerging church/spirituality texts which is proving very inspiring.

For instance I find myself reading about the 'dark dwelling place of God' in Rollins, P, How (Not) to Speak of God, (London: SPCK, 2006) p.82 and then coming across this statement about the episode 'Bushwacked' - 'What River sees when she gazes into the blackness of space is not the harsh emptiness of Mal, the psychotic insanity of the Reavers, or the absent God the (the) Book, but instead the divine Nothing of the mystics, a recognition of a void, an emptiness that is not good or bad, right or wrong, sacred or profane, upside down or right side up, but a possibility for creation, a tentative wandering path for the future.’ Erickson, G, ‘Humanity in a “Place of Nothin’” in Firefly’ in Wilcox, RV & Cochran, TR (editors), Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier, (London: I.B. Tauris, 2008) p.179