20 Years of Buffy

1997 was a very important year in my life.

I started high school in 1997, bringing all the firsts along with it. First parties. First big crushes. The first time I let someone else read my fiction. The first time I performed on stage.

If you asked me which year was more important, 1997 or 2001—the year I started college weeks before the world caught on fire—I couldn’t give you a definitive answer.

I became an adult in 2001.

But, Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered in 1997.

You could write a book on the importance of BTVS. Several people have:

Heck, there are multiple BTVS self-help books.

All of this shows I’m not alone in seeing the importance of Buffy. The show changed the way I talk, the way I see the world, and the stories I tell. It is probably the most important cultural milestone for the urban fantasy genre.

The cover blurb on most Dresden Files books is even, “Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Phillip Marlowe.”

Since Friday is Buffy’s 20th anniversary, the internet is blowing up with blog posts and articles about the show. Most of them are focusing on Buffy as a feminist icon, nostalgia, or the show’s importance to the LGBT community.

All the important things worth discussing by people smarter than me.

I’ve been a fan of this show since the first episode. I’ve watched the entire series multiple times. I’ve listened to the DVD commentaries and read behind-the-scenes articles from writers on the show.

And I didn’t even consider the bigger metaphors at play until I discovered the Passion of the Nerd just before my last viewing. PotN pointed me to the Mark Field book, and I followed along as I worked my way through the series again.

This show has layers. No wonder it’s important.

Hidden depths and nuance are not tools I possess as a storyteller. I wish it came naturally, but when I’m writing it is all about the world and characters in the moment. A natural byproduct of my background in table top role playing games.

Speaking of which. Yes, I’ve played the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. Back when I lived in Springfield, MO, my regular gaming group stumbled on it (and later changed to playing the Angel RPG). We ran an “avatar” campaign—meaning we all played characters based on ourselves.

I ended up running that game as the game master (called the Director in this case). To keep us away from rehashing some of the show’s tropes and plots, I had to go a little off the rails.

More than a few pieces of those games served as fodder for the Seven Keys Saga. Probably the biggest being the importance of the Maple Park Cemetery Gazebo.

We used to get together, game for two hours and then go walking with a purpose.

Even indirectly, the show has a massive impact on me as a writer.

As I’m working on the first book in the new series, I am looking for those references and influences. For example, Vincent doesn’t use Buffy-speak, something Terry does constantly.

I also have to apply the lessons about depth and story. They might not be part of my personal talents, but they’re still important.

Those are the reason we’re still watching this low-budget, poorly acted television show about a cheerleader killing vampires 20 years later. They deserve some consideration.