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Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Validating Teens, a guest post by author Annie Cardi (The Sunnydale Project Year 3)

When I talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I talk about it as more than a show. I talk about it as a cultural and emotional touchstone in my life. I talk about it as the show that made me realize that growing up was going to be okay.
My middle school experience started with me spending a lot of time crying in the library, wearing formless JCPenney khakis, and feeling like I was the only one who was having a hard time with this whole ‘being a teenager’ thing while everyone else already had it mastered. Why were some friends suddenly popular? What exactly did boys and girls talk about when they were on the phone together? (“Homework?” I asked my mom.) How did everyone seem to have a chic new wardrobe? Did I forget to pick up my ‘How to Be a Successful Teenager’ manual at middle school orientation? Ideally it would be a manual based on Clueless or Beverly Hills 90210, both featuring popular teens with effortlessly cool wardrobes and good hair and hot boys fawning over them. That’s what I was supposed to have now that I was a teenager, right? So why did it seem so impossible?
Image from giphy.com
Then Buffy premiered. I remembered seeing commercials for the movie, but didn’t know much about it other than the girl-fights-vampires premise. They were making a TV show from that failed, silly movie? I turned on the premiere, pretending I just stumbled across it and told myself I’d change the channel in case my brother walked in the room and decided to make fun of me for checking it out.
But it wasn’t silly—it and witty and creepy and exciting, and it was so refreshing to see a teen girl literally save the world. Beyond that, it was a show about how a) high school is hell, and b) it’s okay to be an outsider.

Every week, Buffy and the Scoobies battled monsters and demons who reflected the awkwardness and pain of the teen experience. Parents can be domineering and abusive (“Witch”); your boyfriend could be sweet one day and a total dick the next (“Innocence”); kids get kicked out of their houses (“Becoming – Part 2”). Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the first show I’d seen that admitted that the teen years could, as Buffy herself would say “on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it.” Adults are quick to say that, “It’s not the end of the world, get over it,” but those are empty words when you’re dealing with soul-sucking pain. For Buffy and her friends, every week felt like the end of the world because it was. Even if I wasn’t dealing with a literal hellmouth opening up beneath me, it was validating to see a show that acknowledged that feeling.
And unlike my other middle school favorite, Clueless, Buffy isn’t about a perfect, popular girl’s struggles. Buffy is classically pretty and formerly popular, but where she really finds her place is among the weirdos. Even better, Buffy the Vampire Slayer never looked down on the kids who didn’t fit in. (Saved by the Bell, I love you, but you were seriously obnoxious when it came to depicting nerds.) The show fully recognized that being a nerd is powerful—Buffy could never save the world from apocalypse without the major research skills of Giles and magical/science abilities of Willow behind her. And friendships aren’t based on who has a chic wardrobe or a hot boyfriend—they’re formed by people who will stand by you, even at the end of the world. (Xander Harris and his broken crayon speech in “Grave” kills me.) The popular kids may win Prom King or Queen, but the weirdo hero wins Class Protector. Buffy showed me that it’s okay if you don’t fit in with the popular kids; your friends are the ones who will hang out with you at the library, cheer for your Snoopy dance and help you study for the hell of standardized tests.
Image from Giphy.com
 13-year-old me embraced this weird little show on the WB and all it showed me about the teen experience. And soon I found other people who loved the show and who occasionally felt like high school was hell. As Buffy went to prom, went to college, went to the afterlife and back, and ultimately found a place for herself, we were there with her. We stood at the edge of Sunnydale and looked back and smiled, and knew that we were stronger for having been a small part of this show.
In every generation, there are teens who need something that’s theirs. That reminds them that being a teen is painful and joyful and confusing and awesome and hellish. For some, it’s a YA novel like Twilight or The Hunger Gamesor Harry Potter or The Fault in Our Stars. For me, it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As a YA writer, I just want to pay this validation forward.
Bio: Annie Cardi holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in the Georgetown ReviewVestal ReviewJuked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become her debut young adult novel, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain. You can find her sharing funny gifs and pictures of corgis at:  Blog Facebook Twitter Tumblr.
About The Chance You Won’t Return:
When your mom thinks she’s Amelia Earhart, navigating high school, first love, and family secrets is like flying solo without a map.

Driver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school – and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight – the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her? (Publisher’s Description)

How I Learned to Love Sci Fi with Doctor Who, a guest post by author Annie Cardi

Warning: The following post contains minor Doctor Who spoilers
Until Doctor Who,I thought I hated sci-fi.
Not to say that I didn’t watch or enjoy sci-fi. It was just that I always found excuses for why the books I read and movies I enjoyed couldn’t possibly be considered true science-fiction. I plowed through The Hunger Games, but claimed that dystopian wasn’t exactly sci-fi. (“It’s only five minutes into the future!”) I bemoaned the fact that there was only one season of the brilliant Firefly. (“But that’s kind of a western.”) I was glued to Battlestar Galactica but even pretended that show, with its spaceships and futuristic robots, wasn’t really sci-fi. (“It’s more of a military show, really.”)
I determined not to like sci-fi. Whenever people brought it up, I claimed I didn’t like that it was all spaceships and aliens, which didn’t appeal to me. “It’s not about real people and real issues.”
Which is exactly what I thought Doctor Who would be—lots of aliens and spaceships, and no real people or issues or emotions.

Source: http://letitflywiththebirds.wordpress.com/tag/the-ninth-doctor/page/2/
The first Doctor Whoepisode I watched was “Rose,” the first appearance of the Ninth Doctor and companion Rose Tyler. My husband had seen a few episodes and thought it would be a fun show to watch together, and I finally agreed to give it a try. With low production values and a gymnastics move that saves the day, I was underwhelmed. It confirmed every stereotype I had of sci-fi, and I insisted that I didn’t want to waste my time on a show that was silly and cheesy and didn’t connect with real people.
My husband insisted it got really good, and suggested we watch a couple of later episodes so I could see Doctor Who wasn’t just about cheesy robots and silly aliens.
We watched two episodes: “Blink” and “Midnight.”

Source: http://memewhore.tumblr.com/
Both were fascinating and creepy and well-crafted. “Blink” barely featured the Doctor, instead following around girl wannabe detective Sally Sparrow. (Who writers, if you’re reading, I want a Sally Sparrow spin-off series.) The alien villains, the Weeping Angels, were far from cheesy and silly—they perfectly expressed that fear of something moving just out of your line of vision. I loved following Sally as she tried to put together the strange disappearances happening around her. At the end, Sally sees the Doctor and realizes that she’s the one responsible for the paper trail that helped save her and her friends. I loved that Sally, a regular girl in London, got to save the day in the present, past, and future.
“Midnight” features more of the Doctor himself, fighting a terrifying, unseen alien villain while trapped in a broken shuttle van. It’s all mental creepiness and expectation. I remember watching that episode for the first time and seeing Skye huddled up in the corner and thinking “Oh my gosh, she’s not going to have a face or something.” But when you see her and she looks normal, somehow it’s even worse. The creepiness lies in that it’s almost real, and in not knowing exactly what was out there. And the only reason the Doctor survives is because someone sacrifices herself—some totally regular person and, as the Doctor says toward the end of the episode, they didn’t even know her name. I love that because it’s a reminder that you don’t need to be the Doctor and cleverer than anyone else to make a difference. We all have the potential to save the day.
“Okay,” I said to my husband, “I guess we can watch the series.”
Even with the promise of episodes like “Blink” and “Midnight” to come, I was still skeptical throughout the first season. There were farting aliens, and I didn’t understand how the Daleks were the most terrifying creatures in the universe. (What’s that plunger doing there?)
Slowly, I started seeing more of the human side to Doctor Who. I loved Rose trying to prevent her father from dying, even as it creates horrible consequences in “Father’s Day.” My heart broke for Nancy and Jamie as they try to find each other in “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances.” In “The Satan Pit,” got chills as the Doctor tells the alien embodiment of evil that, out of all the aliens and creatures and gods and demons he’s seen, he most believes in human Rose Tyler. But even then, I resisted admitting that I liked a sci-fi series.
Then I watched “Doomsday,” the series 2 finale and the last episode featuring Rose Tyler. When Rose and the Doctor say their good-byes, I was deeply touched. I didn’t want these characters to be separated by space and time, and I felt as connected to their relationship as I felt to any others in books or movies or TV shows.
“I think I need a break before we watch series 3,” I told my husband. “I miss Rose too much.”
That’s when I realized that I couldn’t deny it anymore—I loved a sci-fi show. I couldn’t pretend it was a western or a military show. It had aliens and time travel and spaceships, and was solidly sci-fi. But it also had characters I empathized with and relationships I cheered for and challenges that mirrored those I saw in my real life. Even though the Doctor is clever and charming and can save the universe, a lot of time it’s his human companions who make the difference. Robots and aliens are the fun and exciting elements surrounding sci-fi. But real sci-fi is about people and relationships and our places within the universe.
Doctor Who made me an official sci-fi fan. But a girl can’t live on Who alone. My suggestions for other sci-fi fans in waiting:

The Hunger Gamesby Suzanne Collins
Yes, I admit, it’s sci-fi. It’s also about the horrors of war and how we all try to survive and protect those we love.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another book I refused to admit was sci-fi, and one of my all-time favorite books. I love its examination of how we need to experience all kinds of emotions—even the ones that cause us pain.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
A quieter YA sci-fi novel than most, but compelling. What I liked most about this novel is how it’s about Jenna trying to discover what defines us as human.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card*
A friend gave this to me when I claimed I didn’t like sci-fi. Another powerful look at the horrors of war and how we all have to examine our potential for destruction.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro’s writing is excellent, and this book’s themes of love and what makes us human is heartbreaking. (Plus, it’s a boarding school book and I love those.)
*I have serious issues with Card’s personal views, so I recommend getting this book from the library as opposed to buying it.

Bio: Annie Cardi is a young adult writer whose debut novel, The Chance You Won’t Return, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press in April 2014. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in The Georgetown Review, Vestal Review, Juked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain.
Online at AnnieCardi.com 

Coming April 22, 2014 from Candlewick Press
 This post is part of TWO marvelous blogging events!

Sci-Fi Month is brought to you by Rinn Reads. Check out the full schedule of Sci-Fi Month posts! There are reviews, discussions, giveaways, and more!

Doctor Who Week is a joint venture between  Maria’s Melange and Teen Librarian Toolbox. We have a full week of fun posts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.