July 30th - August 1st, 2004
Imperial Palace Hotel - Las Vegas, NV

Jane Espenson: Mutant Enemy Writer (BtVS/AtS/Firefly)
Glenn Yeffeth: Author of The Seven Seasons of Buffy
David Lavery: Buffy scholar and critic
Don DeBrandt: SFWA member and author of Angel tie-in #5 Shakedown
Nan Dibble: SFWA member and author of Plot - Elements of Fiction Writing
Jacqueline Lichtenberg: SFWA member and featured in Seven Seasons of Buffy

Jane Espenson's Q&A:

I want to say that the Q&A was definitely the best part of the Con portion of the Con experience. Which is not to slight anything else, but it was simply that wonderful the time simply flew by. Unfortunately, even when I knew the person asking the question, it's slipped my mind who asked what, so please forgive me on that front. This won't be in the order that the questions were asked, but simply in however my brain processes the information, and sometimes my brain moves faster than my fingers. While I tend to be very accurate, I also didn't take any kind of notes (and damn, I wish I had) so if anybody else who attended has things to add, please feel free!

Jane Espenson is totally a girl after my own heart - she's willing to pretty much ship just about anybody together just to see what happens, and she likes seeing the undercurrents in relationships. And she's totally game for both slash and het relationships and was enthusiastic about the ideas for any. She made it very clear that not only did she see a lot of subtext different relationships, she had it firmly in mind when she wrote scripts. She didn't watch Season 5 of Angel - she said that she thought it would be painful to watch Spike and not know what he was going to be saying. But that based on some of the questions/comments about season 5 Spike/Angel subtext and relationship, she now very much has the urge to. On the Ethan and Giles front - Jane wrote two of the four Ethan episodes, Band Candy and A New Man. Somebody asked what exactly Ethan's motivation was for turning Giles into a Fyarl demon in A New Man. Her response was that Ethan loves Giles more than Giles loves him, that she's envisioned a complex past for the two of them that includes public school and all that entails. That Ethan's motivation was a combination of being upset that he wasn't more to Giles and the fact that he's inherently a Trickster character, similar to the Tricker characters in Norse mythology (she didn't mention Loki by name, nor talk about the Tricker myths of other cultures, such as Native Americans, but the implication was there). Ethan likes to stir up trouble just because he can, and Giles is a good target because he's already the focus of a lot of Ethan's emotions.

She also said, in response to another question, that they do put in subtext on purpose, and that she in particular liked to put in more. During her writing of Rm with a Vu on Angel, she wrote a scene in which Doyle burned his hand and, while they were talking, Angel took his hand and started bandaging it, but that ultimately Joss nixed it and said it came off as "too gay". But on the other hand, she said she had a lot of fun doing the Andrew remarks during six and seven. Also when asked about why they didn't put a more explicit m/m relationship on the show, she thought it was fifty-fifty split - half that they didn't want to try to fight the battle with the network and half that Joss didn't particularly want to go there. Although she was very aware of the Spike/Xander subtext during the basement scenes and enjoyed it, particularly with Xander wanting to know why Spike wouldn't want to bite him. I get the impression she pretty much wants to ship Spike with absolutely everybody and it'll make her happy!

She thought they were lucky to get as explicit as they did (and at this point she's talking about not just the Willow/Tara relationship, but also the amount that they showed of the Spike and Buffy relationship) - that she didn't believe that if they tried to put those scenes on the air today, that the networks would allow it. She describes it as a battle that you only think you've won but that you can't really move on, that it comes in cycles. That the networks right now are more conservative again and a most of what they did in season 6 wouldn't be able to be shown now. She mentioned there's an old joke about the fact that networks don't have a problem with girls kissing once on television, but they don't like a second kiss - because a second kiss meant they'd kissed once and found that they'd liked it. Somebody asked if after Tara's death if there had been any consideration of putting her back in a male/female relationship, because they would have found a bi character more interesting than a gay character. Jane said that the problem with that is that generally, that's not what a television audience would see. That the bulk of viewers wouldn't have seen that as Willow saying she was bisexual but that she'd made a 'mistake' with the Tara/Willow relationship. She explained that on Ellen, very soon after Ellen came out of the closet they did an episode (and this is where I get muddled on if they actually showed the episode or if it got only drafted, maybe somebody can remind me) in which Ellen found herself attracted to a man - that the point was to try to get some of the conflictions to come across, but that the attitude it presented was 'ooh, I made a mistake." She also said that one of her biggest regrets was that she felt they did a real injustice to the character of Kennedy, that the writing staff as a whole did a bad job of writing her so that it would be clear what it was that Willow loved about her. oh, and while I'm talking about Willow - somebody asked her favorite Willow line (that she wrote) and it was during Gingerbread, when Buffy is confronting Willow about the arcane symbol and Willow says "A doodle. I do doodle. You, too. You do doodle, too." - that line always makes her crack up and she said she loved having Aly trying to say lines that were really tonguetwisters.

She mentioned that with Xander, his losing an eye was definitely to evoke memories of him wearing the pirate costume earlier, but that it wasn't something planned at the time of that episode, it came about later. Xander's loss was to show that there was a cost, for fighting for so long. Also that one reason they brought in the potentials (which she agrees didn't come across as intended) was because they were running out of people to put into danger - by this point, Xander and Dawn were the only two people that didn't have superpowers. That she thinks that Xander could have potentially been a great match for Buffy, although by Season 7 they definitely had no intention of going there, but she would like to see/write an alternative version of season 7 where they did. That Xander was just a regular guy but he continued to fight and the key was that, unlike Riley, he wasn't threatened by Buffy's superpowers. (I agree and disagree with that myself) And that a lot of her wishes she could have given Xander and Anya a happier ending together, Hell's Bells kills her. And that they knew before the season ever started that Anya was going to die at the end of it, but that it was to be set up so people thought Andrew would. *hugs Anya* I miss her :( She said Anya is one of her favorite people to write for, because you just KNOW an Anya line when you hear it. And that Emma is a fabulous actress. That Giles and Anya was never something that was considered, although she herself rather likes the idea, but that Joss didn't want Giles with any of the 'girls', despite the fact that Anya was technically 1100 years old.

In regards to the Spike and Buffy ship - her big regret was that they did their job too well in making it obscure about what Spike is looking for at the end of Season 6. She herself was against the Seeing Red attempted rape in the bathroom, although she understood why it was believed necessary to be the trigger for him wanting a soul, that at that moment he was to look at himself and really realize what he needs. But the fact that they made it so unclear tainted it. (My own two cents is that I don't believe that scene did a diservice to Spike's character, but I think it's a betrayal of Buffy's). In the end of Chosen, when Spike tells Buffy "I know you don't", somebody asked who was right. She said she believed that Buffy did love Spike, but that it still hurts her because she doesn't like to think that Spike's self esteem is so low at that point. Somebody suggested that maybe Spike knew Buffy loved him, but said it to 'let her off the hook' so she could leave. And she thought that was fascinating and said she'd have to think about it more - she'd never thought about it from that angle. But that if she had been Buffy and going through all these emotions and denying her feelings for so long and then finally come to the moment when she tells somebody she loves him and he says "no you don't" she would have been pissed and been like, "no, we're talking about this NOW" and wouldn't have left but instead stopped to argue with him. So she wants to play with that in her head to think about it.

There were several different kinds of questions about fan impact on the show, and on her feelings on fanfiction. She made it very clear that she thought fanfiction was fantastic (hee, pun intended by me) and a great compliment. That if a show has fanfiction written about it, it means that as writers, she's done her job in creating characters interesting enough that other people feel compelled to tell stories about them. And that she's full of admiration for fanfic writers, who are able to write on their own - that she always has the hand of Joss on her shoulder and screening the scripts and that fanfic writers do what they do without that crutch. She's signed on to work on Tru Calling this year and she said that if the show gets a following that includes a lot of fanfic writers, she'll know that it's a success (and that she thinks the two failings of Season 1 Tru was lack of rules on how things worked and, primarily, lack of characters people care about - which is what I've said since episode 1, so yay me). She's all for fanfic and thinks it's great.

People asked specifically if she felt that season 7, in particular, was written with too much - awareness, maybe - of online fans. That things were put in as intentional blinds because of leaks. She agreed that leaks were a real problem during the later seasons (apparently it had to do with inboxes outside doors that nobody ever thought of - correspondence would be put in them and anybody could access it, particularly after hours) - that they considered at different points writing out fake scripts/scenes but never had the time. But beyond that, they mostly don't think about that when they're writing the script. That online fans aren't any different from offline fans, but that after seven years the weight of mythology gets so heavy, it really can't bring in new viewers unless it's extremely episodic focused (like CSI, etc). She mentioned that one of the great things about the Joss shows is that writers were with it so long term - that when she wrote on Ellen, only ONE writer on the staff had written on the show the year before and they'd only written that year. Jane also talked about the main hinderances of the format - of needing to introduce the episode bad during the teaser or by the end of act 1, etc - that sometimes she wished she could have written more character centric episodes, or episodes that weren't so cleanly contained, where stories overlapped. (Which was interesting, since to me that's what Season 4 of Angel did). She said that one of the things she enjoyed about working on Gilmore Girls was that they had a unique approach to the way storylines ended. (But one which would discourage newer viewers? Not sure)

Oh and before I forget - spec scripts - she said it's not as important to have it completely up to date and with current canon as to be as good of a script that you can make it, in terms of characterization and the kind of plot/story it tells, that many spec scripts suffer as they're constantly rewritten in order to fit in with more recent episodes.

Her favorite episode that she wrote was Superstar - she's clearly in love with Jonathan's character. She said of any of the alternative universes, that's the one she loves the most and she likes to play with the idea that the spell never was ended, and how it could have gone. When asked about Andrew versus Jonathan in terms of who would die, she said that everybody thought she'd be really upset about Jonathan's death, because she's so attached to his character. But that in reality, her response was "Ok, when do we have Danny back?". That the reason for Jonathan's death (instead of Andrew's) is that it would have a lot more emotional impact, Jonathan was the character that viewers would be most attached to and also the one who was most redeemable, and therefore his death would be more tragic. (She would also like to see an alt Season 7 with Jonathan alive and joining with the scoobies). Plus she said she knew in Jossverse death is pretty meaningless, that Mercedes worked a lot more after Harmony died than she did before! She talked a lot about what a great world it would be if Jonathan was a superhero.

People asked her about line delivery - were lines delivered in a way different than she pictured in her head and did it make it better or worse? She said that, yes, definitely. I think she had an example of one that just didn't ever work the way she wanted, but I can't recall what it was exactly. But she said that sometimes it was just different and sometimes it was incredibly better than she pictured. One example she gave was Anya's line about a world without shrimp, she said Emma's delivery was perfect, how matter of fact she was - that it was perfectly logical to have that kind of world and that a world without shrimp would be a nice place. (she herself wouldn't want to go there, she likes shellfish :p). But she said another perfect one was during Harsh Light of Day - that Harmony was supposed to come across as just annoying and whiny but that Mercedes did her scene with such pathos that it really made you feel for her at that moment and that it was so much better than she had imagined.

She talked a little bit about Firefly, about working on that episode. That she kind of wishes she had spoken up on Mal's dancing scene, that he danced better than she'd wanted him to in that scene, he fit in too well. People asked if, with that and with Rm (Cordy and Doyle) if she liked doing early episdoes that set up relationships and she said she did, but she hadn't thought of it particularly that way before (I think that's what it boiled down to).

People didn't ask much about it [Gilmore Girls], but she referenced it some in her answers - sadly I never watched the show, so those things didn't always cling to my brain or I'd give you more details.

She primarily talked about how on Gilmore Girls, they've moved to a writing style where it's not episode central - that stories begin and end anywhere in an episode, to provide more reality. That it was a great experience working on a show where that happened - sometimes she wished on Buffy that she had the option of not working on a big bad and just doing an episode that was about what was going on the character's daily lives. That so often that’s what fanfic is, about taking that moment and dealing with pure character development.

Another question that people asked Jane was – “were there stories you couldn't tell and wanted to?” And she said that production determines a lot of the story you can tell, they're limited as to special effects, etc at times. That she really wanted to do a story in which Buffy began to shrink and became progressively smaller as the episode continued. That for the cartoon Buffy, that is one of the stories they used and she's still hoping that one day that'll see the light of day. It was something she’d really wanted to do but the sheer cost of blue screens and building scale sets would have made it impossible to do. And she described a scene in which Buffy slips behind a sofa cushion and Joyce sits on her. And another one in which she’d want to have Buffy fight tiny demons.

Her other wish was (and I think I mentioned this slightly earlier) that she could do stories on just the characters without a big bad. That that's one of the triggers for fanfic, if you care enough about on a character to see what they do when they're not fighting demons except within themselves, and without the outer metaphor. Which actually brought up the question about Firefly - Firefly is a show without a metaphor, according to Joss and the last she heard he still felt that was the case. That the external plot was in no way driven by Mal's internal demons, that it was a very different story for that reason. That she (as somebody with Star Trek roots) kept expecting there to be aliens, but Joss was insistent there wouldn't be. She said she's not sure if it would have continued that way (without external metaphor for internal conflict) if the show had gone beyond the aired episodes, but that it was to be a very different show on purpose.

I mentioned previously that her favorite of her own episodes was Superstar. Her favorite episode that somebody else wrote - her first reaction was to say Fool for Love but then she said - how can you pick and choose when there are episodes like Hush and the musical? That lead into questions of how far back they'd made the decision on Spike's past and she said they went into the brainstorming session on FFL with the idea that Spike was who he presented himself as, William the Bloody, etc. And when it was brought up that he could be a poet, a mama’s boy, they were all "But this is what he's said" - and the response was "yes, but what if he was lying?" - and she said it all fell into place and explained so much about Spike. Also somebody asked about the Sire/Grandsire question from School Hard. She said that yes, Joss has said that the Angelus-> Drusilla-> Spike-> was what he'd always intended and envisioned, but that he just didn't see the need to put Grand in front of it, that it sounded awkward. It's a sire of my sire is my sire thing for him.

Somebody asked how hard it was to write jokes during episodes like Hush, when it had to be silent. She said she fortunately didn't have to come up with it on Hush, since she didn't write it, but she did an episode of Ellen (I am pretty sure it was Ellen) that was silent and she actually found the physical comedy pretty easy to write, that you go to a different place and she loved it.

Oh, and miggy pointed out that the line that was never delivered quite right was a line that Buffy says to Anya - she's supposed to say "Good on you" - but it always came out "Good on ya" - which sounds exactly like "Good Anya" and Jane said it had a lot less humor value there because, yes, she's speaking to Anya, what’s your point? But no matter how hard they tried, the “you” wouldn’t be strong enough to make up for it.

In elaboration on her views of fanfic, she said she saw a great similarity between that and show writing. That the emotions and feelings when you get things 'just right' are the same, and she has a lot of respect for fanfic writers and what they do. She continued to emphasize that fanfic writing takes as much creativity and imagination as script writing. People joked if she was willing to make up an alias, they'd host the fic for her when she's ready...

One of the things ros_fod mentions in her BRILLIANT recap is that the writers love fans and are aware of them, but try not to let them unduly influence the story they had to tell. Everybody should go and read my Fod’s analysis of some of Jane's answers because it is extraordinarily rich and insightful.

The example Jane gave was Riley - they knew that most people didn't like Riley. They'd accepted it as a given that the first relationship that Buffy entered into after Angel's departure wouldn't be embraced by the fans. But they felt that it was an important part of her journey and development. So while they were aware of some fans wanting nothing more than the demise of Buffy and Riley - or even them not to get together at all - they didn't let that change how the story developed. That the important thing is that fans care enough that they have such fierce opinions, not that the opinions are used to guide what the show will become.