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Name: Firefly
Creator: Joss Whedon
Date(s): 2002, 2005
Medium: Television series, Film, Comics
Country of Origin: United States
External Links: IMDB
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Firefly was broadcast in 2002, and although it attracted many pre-existing Joss Whedon fans, only 11 of the 14 episodes were aired during its original run in the United States. Many fans blamed the show's failure on Fox's habit of frequent rescheduling, and scheduling it in very challenging spots. After cancellation, DVD sales were high enough that a movie, Serenity, was able to be made, continuing the story. After the release of the movie, a comic series was also published that bridged the gap between the TV series and the movie and then continued beyond the events of the movie.

Firefly is part of the Jossverse. The phrase "I'll be in my bunk" originated in the fandom.


Firefly follows the adventures of the crew of the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity. It was commonly described as a space western. Costume, sets, and speech patterns took their inspiration both from an Old West aesthetic and Chinatown (See Controversy).

The ship is captained by Mal (Malcolm) Reynolds, with Zoë Washburne, his former Lieutenant in the war, as his second mate. She is married to Hoban "Wash" Washburne, the pilot. The ship's engineer is Kaylee Frye, and Jayne Cobb is the hired muscle. As well, the ship carries Inara Serra, "Companion", a sort of courtesan; Shepherd Book, a priest; and brother and sister Simon and River Tam as paying passengers.

Mal had been an officer on the losing side of a war against the Alliance. Partly as a result of that, the ship stays on the margins of civilised space, perpetually short of funds and running at best semi-legitimate jobs. Simon and River Tam are also keen to avoid the Alliance, since Simon stole River from an experiment designed to turn her into a weapon. The experiment has left her mentally unstable.


See also Race and Fandom.


Although Firefly used many elements of Chinese culture, and had characters swearing and speaking in Mandarin, it had, as the vid How Much Is That Geisha In the Window? noted, only one speaking part for Asian actor, who played a prostitute. Another vid, Secret Asian Man (Firefly- Secret Asian Man), focuses on the near-entire absence, except as background, of Asian characters in the show. The webcomic xkcd (whose artist, Randall Munroe, is a Firefly fan) lampshaded this in a comic featuring "The Uncomfortable Truth Well", which voiced the "uncomfortable truth" that "For a universe that's supposed to be half Chinese, Firefly sure doesn't have any Asians".[1]

Chinese and other Asian cultures also appear fetishized, and again, the most conspicuously "Asian" practices are displayed by Inara, who is a prostitute. This plays into racial stereotypes surrounding the depiction of Asian female characters, who are frequently characterised as hyper-sexualised "geishas".

Meta: Frustrations of an Asian American Whedonite (July 17, 2012)

Confederate Association

Joss wished to tell a story about the losers after a war, inspired by the post-American Civil War reconstruction period. In this analogy, then, Mal and Zoe would have been fighting for the Confederate cause, which, in the show, is generally presented as about seeking independence from over-reaching central authority. This is very similar to how the cause of the Confederates is often presented by those who wish to minimise the influence of slavery in that conflict. At one point, Malcolm says "I do believe we'll rise again,"[2] echoing a phrase often used by [insert polite phrase here].


Meta: Sex Worker Rights and Inara Serra by Lady Geek Girl (July 27, 2013)


Firefly fans called themselves Browncoats, a nickname for the Independents in the Firefly universe, and were extremely active in advocating for the show, to the extent that they acquired something of a reputation. They would host informal gatherings or "shindigs" across the world. A sample calendar of shindig events was provided in issue #1 of the Firefly e-zine Still Flying


Zoë/Wash are canonically married and monogamous, and Book is celibate. Fans typically respect this.

Jayne Kaylee Mal Inara River Simon
Jayne Jayne/Kaylee Jayne/Mal Jayne/Inara Jayne/River Jayne/Simon
Kaylee Jayne/Kaylee Kaylee/Mal Kaylee/Inara Kaylee/River Kaylee/Simon
Mal Jayne/Mal Kaylee/Mal Malcolm/Inara Mal/River Malcolm/Simon
Inara Jayne/Inara Kaylee/Inara Mal/Inara Inara/River Inara/Simon
River Jayne/River Kaylee/River Mal/River Inara/River River/Simon
Simon Jayne/Simon Kaylee/Simon Mal/Simon Inara/Simon River/Simon

Crossovers and Fusions

Firefly crossovers are moderately common. On AO3 most crossovers are with Buffy, Supernatural, Angel and Doctor Who; crossovers with other SF series involving space travel seem comparatively rare. Fusions typically involve other roles played by the cast, especially in Joss Whedon productions.

Legal Threats to Fan Creators

In April 2013, it was reported[3] that Fox was sending cease and desist letters to Firefly fans who were using Etsy and other venues to sell self-made versions of character Jayne Cobb's orange knitted hat. Fans had been making copies of the iconic "cunning hat" for many years, but it appears Fox decided to crack down because licensed apparel firm Ripple Junction had acquired an official license to mass-produce and sell the hat. Fans organized an online protest action,[4] prompting Ripple Junction to respond that they had been the official licensee of Firefly apparel for years and had not ordered the wave of cease and desist letters.[5]











Mailing Lists

  • Fireflys Glow archive link the mailing list was created September 2002, moved to Google Groups in 2005. It then disappeared. "Companion to JossFirefly (gen discussion only), this list is for fanfiction and discussion about Joss Whedon's Firefly, coming to Fox this fall 2002. All genres accepted, gen, het, slash. Set 500 years in Earth’s future, Firefly is an ensemble series about a small ragtag crew on an incredibly mobile spaceship named the Serenity. Led by Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, an officer on the losing side of a great war against The Alliance, the crew must struggle to keep themselves alive while searching for meaning in their lives within the dark fringes of their chaotic world under the rule of a new government."
  • Firefly Slash mailing list (archive link) which was founded in September 2002 "We're gathering here to discuss what promises to be a fun kind of show. As the title says, this list is a slash fiction list, so fiction first, chatter second, pics are welcome, post them to the shared files if you'd like to share. I'm gonna ask here that the authors remember to share with this list when you're sharing with others. We can only get pleasure from the sharing if something is posted to the list. And readers, play your part by feeding the authors. Its more important than you may realize. All the stories will be considered direct submissions to the multi-fandom/lists list archive, the WWOMB and as such be posted to the list archive unless they include a direct DO NOT ARCHIVE notation. Because this archive handles several hundred lists, I don't have time to notify each writer as their stories go up so I recommend you join the direct submissions/announcements list at if you want to be informed. Finally, if you spam the list I will remove it AND you without warning. We've got limited space and don't need spam in our files. I do however encourage chatter onlist. It tends to stimulate ficcies, and that's what we're here to inspire, aren't we. Oh yea, and its been requested that you include your couples in your posts, please do this. some readers would rather only read the pair they like and not wade through the rest. See ya on the flip, luvs..."
  • Firefly General Romance "Firefly General Romance". Archived from the original on 2006-03-12. Description: "The series Firefly is getting mixed reactions, but it has a growing fan base. Cuz I'm interested in the general and hetero fiction that seems to be trickling in, I've decided to create this arena. Discussion focusing on this show, is of course, welcome on the list. As well as photo and manipulated pics in the shared files. This list is a DIRECT SUBMISSIONS list to The Makebelieve Archive. BE AWARE, IF YOU POST A STORY WITH THE LIST, IT *WILL* BE CONSIDERED A SUBMISSION TO THE LIST ARCHIVE AND *WILL* BE POSTED THERE WITH OR WITHOUT NOTICE AS TIME ALLOWS UNLESS YOU INCLUDE A DO NOT ARCHIVE NOTATION. Authors, we encourage previously viewed and new release stories. If you can imagine it we want to host it.... Readers, play your part by feeding the authors. Its more important than you may realize...and the only pay an author of fanfic gets."
  • Firefly For Adults "Firefly For Adults". Archived from the original on 2003-12-18. Description: "Firefly combines the old world western and the out in space opera to create an interesting mix of action and old world quaitness. There is a feeling of stepping back in time to a gentler time in the dialoge, a slow paced build to climax in the action. All in all, a new POV on an old theme. Come discuss the show. Come share a story. This list is part of the WWOMB family of lists. All stories posted here will eventually be posted to that site unless you include a do not archive notice."
  • JossFirefly "JossFirefly". Archived from the original on 2002-08-02. Description: "Discussion about Joss Whedon's new show, Firefly, a Sci-Fi show from the creator of Buffy and Angel. The show will air on Fox on Friday nights at 8 pm eastern, starting in the fall, 2002. Set 500 years in Earth’s future, Firefly is an ensemble series about a small ragtag crew on an incredibly mobile spaceship named the Serenity. Led by Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, an officer on the losing side of a great war against The Alliance, the crew must struggle to keep themselves alive while searching for meaning in their lives within the dark fringes of their chaotic world under the rule of a new government. If you're interested in discussing Joss' other shows, Buffy or Angel, check out our sister list, JossBtVS." This list was also a companion list to Fireflys Glow.
  • CaptainTightpants "CaptainTightpants". Archived from the original on 2002-12-20. Description: "This is a discussion and fic list all about Captain Mal Reynolds from the FOX series Firefly, as well as his portrayer, Nathan Fillion. All fic is welcome - het, slash, gen - just no RPF. Adults only."
  • Firefly Leather And Roses "Firefly Leather And Roses". Archived from the original on 2003-08-12. Description: "The series Firefly, the twist, Leather and roses type fic, when you trust enough to offer a power exchange. Mal, Simon, Jayne, and all the rest take a dip into the ruff and tuff. If you see this side of the guys and dolls, lets discuss the possibilities. The stories posted to this list will eventually be included in the WWOMB archive unless you include a do not archive notation."
  • BuffyAngelFirefly "Buffy Angel Firefly". Archived from the original on 2003-06-11. Description: "Discussion list for Joss Whedon's wonderful creations: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly. Share news, reviews, images, and anything else pertaining to the shows. Share news, reviews, images, and anything else pertaining to these three great shows. We are "speculation" and "spoiler" friendly. So, please, use "Spoiler space". Please respect Group members. Trolls, flamers, racists and homophobes are not welcome here."
  • Firefly-Fiction "Firefly-Fiction". Archived from the original on 2006-07-07. Description: fiction-only sister list to Firefly's Glow discussion and fiction list, all stories posted are also archived at the Firefly's Glow archive.
  • Firefly-News "Firefly-News". Archived from the original on 2003-11-29. Description: An announcement list for news about Joss Whedon's Firefly and updates for Firefly, the Premiere Fansite at
  • Hate Joss Club "Hate Joss Club". Archived from the original on 2005-02-15. Description: "He killed off Tara, bumped Dark Angel from the screen for Firefly.... That's it, we are now officialy putting together a group against him. (Of course we hate him, but this is not a Kill-the-man-club, we just want a place to bitch about him, THIS IS IT!) (((I wanted a place to talk about what Joss is doing with the show, and to see if other people had an idea why he would do that. I don't hate Joss, and he has the right to do anything he wants with his shows and characters, but I DO 'hate' his actions on the show. He killed off Tara and yes, I'm upset. I'm not mad... alright, I am mad at Joss, but I don't hate him.))) Question? Comments? Mail me: [email protected]"

Meta/Further Reading



  1. ^ xkcd: Well
  2. ^ Firefly episode, The Train Job
  3. ^ Roth, Dan. Fox shuts down anyone selling a Jayne hat (and Firefly fans are furious). Last accessed 18/04/2013.
  4. ^ You Can't Take The Yarn From Me. Last accessed 18/04/2013
  5. ^ Ripple Junction Responds. Last accessed 18/04/2013