Still flying: Firefly fans’ creativity transcends cancellation

Actor Nathan Fillion, who played Capt. Malcolm Reynolds in the 2002 television series Firefly and its sequel film, Serenity, said in a recent interview: “If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to Firefly, make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet.” Following this remark, Firefly fans swiftly moved into action, launching a Web site and Facebook page to gauge fan support for funding a buyout. Almost 12,000 fans responded, pledging more than one million U.S. dollars total.

Reactions to the movement were mixed. Some commentators speculated that a successful buyout could revolutionize the studio system of television production, while others expressed doubt that 20th Century Fox would be willing to part with the rights to Firefly regardless of how much money was pledged.

The project has now halted, but the momentum it gained in only two weeks demonstrates the passion, creativity, and capacity for swift mobilization that are hallmarks of fandom. Yet it bears pointing out that a revival of Firefly — or any other cancelled series — is not necessary for fannish creativity to thrive. Firefly fandom is clearly alive and well. Browncoats: Redemption, a fan-produced Firefly film with proceeds benefiting charity, premiered in 2010 amid great excitement from fans. There are nearly 1,700 Firefly fanworks in the Archive of Our Own, and many more elsewhere on the Web. Such fannish interpretations will continue to be produced, for fun and for free, regardless of who owns the series’ production rights or whether new episodes are being aired.

The passion and creativity of fans transcends the bounds of cancellation. To paraphrase Mal Reynolds in Serenity, love is what keeps fandom in the air, and that love can endure decades after its source texts.