In 2004, the Chicagoland Browncoats decided to hold a one-night banquet that was planned as a formal Sino-Western ball like the one in the Firefly episode “Shindig.” The event was such a hit that Browncoats decided not only that they would do it annually, but also that they would host it in a different city every year. This unique shindig, officially dubbed the “Browncoat Ball,” has moved from location to location, year after year, and has gradually evolved into a full weekend of social activities, sightseeing at local tourist attractions and celebrating all aspects of the Firefly and Serenity ‘verse.
Previous Browncoat Balls have been held in Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Austin, Portland, Charlotte, Warwick (RI), Albuquerque, Phoenix, Greenville (SC), Virginia Beach, Salt Lake City, and most recently Gettysburg, PA. This year’s Browncoat Ball will be held August 17-19 in Washington, DC.
I attended my first (but hopefully not only) Browncoat Ball last year, and after my weekend at the Gettysburg shindig, I am convinced that every serious fan of Firefly and Serenity should make it a point to attend this event at least once. While every ball is different, I hope that the following account of my time at last year’s ball might give you some idea of what to expect if you decide to go.
In the wake of this weekend’s successful Bangabandhu-1 mission, which featured the successful launch and landing of the new Block 5 Falcon 9, SpaceX is taking a full eight days off between launches. (Let that sink in for a minute. We now have a private space company that’s basically launching once a week… but I digress.) Since we have a little time before we have to discuss the specifics of the next mission, I figured I’d devote some space (yes, the pun is always intended) to a Browncoat-themed post.
Take Back the Sky
is not the only cause to which this Browncoat devotes his time and energy. Since 2013, I have also been the organizer of the annual Can’t Stop the Serenity
(CSTS) charity screenings of Serenity
(and occasionally Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
) for the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a CSTS organizer, I have access to the global CSTS message boards at www.cantstoptheserenity.com
, which really have a plethora of great information in their archives that any hardcore Browncoat would love to read through if he or she had the time. In fact, it was on these very message boards that Jeff first proposed the idea of lobbying SpaceX to name its first Crew Dragon after Serenity.
Since only the organizers or co-organizers (think captains and first mates) of local CSTS events have access to the boards’ archives, I think it’s a shame that a lot of Browncoats will never have the chance to read some of the interesting things that are contained there. So, seeing as how I’m an organizer who has that virtual all-access pass, I decided to share one of them with you.
The following is a chronological list of important dates in the history of Firefly and Serenity, presented in calendar format. It appears almost exactly as it was originally posted on the global CSTS message boards, though I have made a few minor modifications for the sake of clarity and ease of reading.
(Image: Sending a Wave)
On March 31, the UK Firefly and Serenity podcast Sending a Wave announced that it was coming to an end after twelve years of keeping Browncoats around the world up-to-date on all the latest conjurings in the Firefly fandom throughout the ‘verse. Sending a Wave will always be very special to all of us here at Take Back the Sky, because the podcast was the first media outlet to interview Jeff and me (way back in the 2012) about our efforts to convince Elon Musk and SpaceX to name their first Crew Dragon Serenity. Not only did our interview on Sending a Wave spread the news of what we were doing to a worldwide audience, it also gave our campaign a level of legitimacy in the Browncoat community that it hadn’t had previously. This was especially crucial to the success of our first online petition to SpaceX, which ended up with thousands of signatures from every continent except Antarctica, accompanied by comments in multiple languages.
About a year later we had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Scott, co-creator and host of Sending a Wave, in person at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con in June of 2013. At the con that weekend, Wendy interviewed me again about my work as the event coordinator of Pittsburgh’s Can’t Stop the Serenity charity screenings, and together we attended the Firefly panel that featured Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite and Gina Torres. Wendy is a lovely woman who is tremendously knowledgeable about science-fiction and the film industry and an absolutely fascinating person to talk to. One of my favorite things about Wendy, both as a podcast host and as a friend, is that her “BS-meter” is finely-tuned, and she’s not afraid to call anyone out if their story has the odor of a fabrication or a retcon. (If you don’t believe me, you can hear her give me a much-needed history lesson upon our first meeting in Sending a Wave Episode 93: The One with Dragons!)
When I heard about the end of Sending a Wave, I contacted Wendy to ask her if it would be okay if I achieved some closure of sorts by bringing things full circle and interviewing her about what had been great run of a groundbreaking Firefly and Serenity podcast. She graciously agreed, and on April 28 we spent nearly three hours on Skype talking about everything from the podcast itself to geek culture, science-fiction of all kinds, Joss Whedon, CSTS, the current state of the film industry and even American and European politics. As you can guess, that conversation meandered in many different directions. The following is a transcript of questions Wendy answered that were specific to Sending a Wave:
A couple of months ago AbbyShot, makers of fine clothing for many popular geek franchises, announced it was seeking Browncoats who would be interested in writing Firefly-related articles for their blog. One of the Browncoats who answered the call was Take Back the Sky co-founder Christopher Tobias, who is now moonlighting as a blogger over at abbyshot.com.
When Chris was asked to submit ideas for articles for the blog, it’s no surprise the first thing that came to mind was an overview of Take Back the Sky and its six-year campaign. The end result of that inspiration is now the latest entry on AbbyShot’s blog. It’s the first of many articles that Chris plans to write for them.
Chris (wearing AbbyShot’s Malcolm Reynolds browncoat and suspenders) with fellow Take Back the Sky volunteer Ed Sauerland at Pittsburgh’s 12th annual Can’t Stop the Serenity screening.
We’d like to thank AbbyShot for boosting our signal, and for giving one of our founding members another outlet with which he can express his love of all things Firefly and Serenity.
And when you head over to abbyshot.com to check out Chris’ blog post, be sure to take a look at the Firefly and Serenity merchandise they have for sale. They offer a very accurate replica of Malcolm Reynolds’ belt and holster rig, as well as a replica of his suspenders and replicas of his iconic browncoats from both the TV series and the motion picture. (If you’ve ever seen Chris’ Mal Reynolds costume at a con or a Can’t Stop the Serenity screening, then you’ve probably seen him modeling the AbbyShot suspenders and the Serenity variant of their browncoat.) If you’re looking for a holiday gift for that special Browncoat on your list, you aren’t likely to find finer Firefly or Serenity apparel anywhere in the ‘verse. We’re sure you’ll agree it’s very shiny.
Peace, love and rockets…
We are happy to announce that Take Back the Sky will be at the PA Browncoats table (booth #409) on the floor at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con this coming weekend, June 1-4 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Our fellow Browncoats Tequila Matt Black and Bob Averell and their crew will be at the con with a petition you can sign asking SpaceX to name the first of their manned Dragon space capsules Serenity. They’ll also have templates for form letters to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and President Gwynne Shotwell as well as special “Leaf on the Wind” sheets that you can mail to them, all to let them know you think naming SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon Serenity is a right shiny idea!
The PA Browncoats won’t just be there to promote Take Back the Sky though. They’ll also be spreading the word about this year’s Browncoat Ball, which will be held in Gettysburg, PA in August, as well as Pennsylvania’s Can’t Stop the Serenity charity events in Philadelphia (June 3 and June 24) and Pittsburgh (July 30). So don’t be shy about approaching them and asking about Take Back the Sky, especially if they’re busy talking up the other Browncoats events at the time. If you do, they’ll be happy to help you do your part to make sure we see a real US spaceship named Serenity. After all, Take Back the Sky originated with the PA Browncoats, and like most Browncoats, they are very shiny folk who are always willing to lend a helping hand.
So if you’re going to Wizard World Philly this weekend, don’t forget to stop by the PA Browncoats table to sign our petition and pick up a form letter and a “Leaf on the Wind” sheet. And while you’re at it, be sure to tell Bob and Tequila Matt we send our regards and thank them and their crew for boosting our signal.
With my friend Liz (who is a science teacher in real life) in the lobby of the Hollywood Theater at “a Steel City Celebration of Star Trek.”
(Note: This blog post was originally supposed to appear last month, but due to technical difficulties that were beyond our control, it couldn’t be salvaged until now. We hope you accept our apologies, and that you still find this updated version of the article relevant. — Chris)
Fifty years ago, Star Trek debuted on television screens across the United States. On September 9, I attended a special screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and For the Love of Spock at Pittsburgh’s historic Hollywood Theater (the very same theater that is featured prominently in the Rocky Horror scenes in the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower) in honor of that anniversary. The event was an opportunity for me to return to my sci-fi roots, because while there are few Browncoats whose coats are more of a brownish color than mine, I was a Trekkie long before Joss Whedon read a book about the Battle of Gettysburg and was inspired to create a space-western TV series called Firefly. So, when it was announced that geekpittsburgh.com was sponsoring “a Steel City Celebration of Star Trek” for the benefit of the Hollywood Theater and Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum (two organizations that have hosted Pittsburgh’s “Can’t Stop the Serenity” screenings in recent years), I was content to leave my browncoat in the closet for one evening in favor of the command gold of a Starfleet uniform (once a cap’n, always a cap’n) and boldly go where I had always so enthusiastically gone before.
In approximately 24 hours, we will close our second (and likely final) online petition to SpaceX asking them to name their first manned Dragon capsule after Joss Whedon’s fictional spaceship Serenity. Unlike our first online petition, this one was time-sensitive, since it asked SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk or president Gwynne Shotwell to announce the name of the ship at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, which is now less than two weeks away.
We tied this second petition to an announcement at Comic-Con for two simple reasons. The first is that SpaceX has had a presence at SDCC for the past several years, so it made sense that since they were already in attendance, they could take advantage of the massive media attention the con attracts these days without even having to go out of their way to call a press conference. The second is that it’s no secret that Elon Musk has a penchant for spectacle, and when it comes to pop culture, there are few spectacles in the ‘verse bigger than Comic-Con. It was our hope that those two factors would combine to make San Diego Comic-Con the perfect place for SpaceX to name the spaceship that represents the future of American spaceflight after a fictional spaceship that represents the best of American sci-fi television and film– and, if they saw fit to bring the cockpit mockup that they’ve been setting up at astronomy and engineering conferences, it’d also make for some awesome Instagram photos in the pilot’s seat for some lucky Firefly cosplayers!
As a rule we always have high hopes, but we also have to be honest with ourselves. It doesn’t look like it’s going to work out that way. Whereas our first petition accumulated a couple thousand signatures, this latest one has struggled to reach five hundred. I’m sure there are multiple reasons for that, but speculating about them here won’t do anyone any good. Instead, I’d like to focus on the fact that this petition still has the potential to be a success even though it never really “broke atmo” or went viral. Although any logical person would assume that there is next to no chance that SpaceX will actually name their Crew Dragon after Serenity with a surprise announcement at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I don’t think that means this petition can’t still play a role in convincing Elon Musk that his company’s first manned Dragon should bear that name. Here’s why…