high school tv showdown

The Continual Resurrection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: How the Show Lives on in Fanfiction

Photo-Illustration: Vulture

It’s not surprising that Buffy the Vampire Slayer inspires a Hellmouth-size amount of fanfiction. After all, the television series has a rabid fan base and loads of mythology to unpack and expand upon. The show also gave its titular slayer two ill-fated romances — Angel and Spike — leaving fans to fulfill those relationship story lines in their own fictionalized worlds. (Sorry, not sorry, Riley.) To truly understand Buffy’s fanfic reach, though, consider the following: One site featured 351 Buffy-related fiction updates last month, even though the series ended its run more than a decade ago.

And that’s only one site. There are multiple online sources for Buffy fanfiction. Some, like Archive of Our Own and FanFiction.net, offer detailed tagging and filter options for those seeking out very specific Buffy experiences. (What would happen if Buffy and Giles took their slayer-watcher relationship to a new level?) Other fanfiction sites specialize in Buffy crossovers, for those who are curious how Buffy’s world would collide with Harry Potter’s or Luke Skywalker’s.

As part of our High-School-TV Showdown, Vulture rounded up a sampling of the most popular Buffy fanfictions from Archive of Our Own. (Popularity was determined by the amount of “kudos” — the site’s version of favorites — a completed, non-crossover story tagged with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” received.)

Category: Rated for Teen Audiences and Up
Title:Small and Scaly
Length: 26,857 words; 17 chapters
Vibe: Three Men and a Little Baby meets Brokeback Mountain
Buffy-era: Never explicitly stated, although the presence of the Magic Box and Xander’s construction gig suggests season five or six.
Plot: Xander finds a baby Moirui demon in a cemetery and takes her home. Despite the stink of demon diapers, he loves the little raw-meat-eating green thing. When Xander finds out Buffy unknowingly killed the baby’s demon mother, Xander decides to keep his little charge a secret. Unfortunately, Spike finds out about Xander’s secret and blackmails Xander into letting Spike move in with him. Spike and Xander bond over fatherhood and start to grow close — think lots of spooning — but their never-quite-defined relationship is strained when two fighting demon clans lay claim to the baby.
Most Whedon-esque Banter: “So, it was nice meeting you. Apart from the poop and raw meat thing …”
Cameos: Clem, the kitten-eating Loose Skinned demon; Willy the bartender.
Sample Excerpt: “The baby moved restlessly for a second, then rested her head against Xander’s shoulder and fell asleep. Xander looked down at her. She didn’t look dangerous. Her emerald scales shining as the water flowed over her skin, the small greenish locks of hair clinging to her nape and forehead.”
Slay Count: One demon; two vampires.
Lay Count: One.
Steamiest Lines: “‘Wanker,’” Spike laughed and turned his face so it was pressed against Xander’s neck. Xander turned his head, a big smile splitting his face in two, and stared at the vampire. Xander’s breathing slowed down and they just looked at each other for a few seconds.”
For Fans of: Season six’s “As You Were” and “Villains” and season three’s “The Zeppo.”
Why is it popular? Spike and Xander have always traded contemptuous-but-humorous barbs, so it makes sense that there’d be an underlying sexual tension between them. Plus, although not the center of the story, it’s interesting to explore the idea that Buffy’s slaying has moral consequences. What if every demon she killed had a child out there?

Category: Rated for General Audiences
Title:Wish You Were Here (Instead of Me)”
Length: 4,441 words; one chapter
Vibe: Big Chill meets The X-Files
Buffy-era: Post-series.
Plot: Frederick Iverson, former editor of the Sunnydale High newspaper and now NPR reporter, returns to Sunnydale for a story on his 15-year high-school reunion. Sunnydale — most of which collapsed into the ocean — is now a disaster tourist trap and subject to multiple conspiracy theories. The reunion is told through the eyes of Iverson as he attempts to explain the mysterious deaths of his youth to his 10-year-old son, Josh. At the reunion, Iverson runs into Willow, who now counsels at-risk girl refugees from war zones, and discovers Xander has a surprising new girlfriend.
Most Whedon-esque Banter: “Something weird is going on” is Amy Madison’s opinion. “But hey, that’s our school motto.”
Cameos: Musician and Willow’s ex, Oz Osbourne; witch and ex-rat, Amy Madison.
Sample Excerpt: “How do you explain evil to a kid? Even a smart, street-savvy kid like Josh? How do you explain cover-ups, and city hall corruption, and gang violence? How do you explain the swim team just going missing right after the coach died? How do you explain what you don’t understand yourself, not completely?”
Slay Count: N/A
Lay Count: N/A
Steamiest Line: N/A
For Fans of: Season three’s “Earshot” and “The Prom” and season seven’s “Chosen.”
Why is it popular? Like the Veronica Mars movie, it satisfies a certain where-are-they-now-curiosity. The story also tackles the burning question of what the world outside of Sunnydale made of the town’s supernatural havoc.

Category: Mature-Rated Buffy/Spike Fiction
Title:Till the End of the World
Length: 29,123 words; one chapter
Vibe: Ordinary People meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Buffy-era: An alternate telling of season six.
Plot: Following Buffy’s sacrificial death in “The Gift,” a heartbroken Spike goes to Africa to retrieve his soul through a series of rituals. Now a changed man, Spike returns to Sunnydale to check on Dawn and discovers that Willow has resurrected Buffy — only it’s not the same Buffy as before. In an attempt to redeem his centuries of killing, Spike proceeds to help Buffy adjust to her new post-death life by looking out for her family and friends. Buffy’s heart responds accordingly.
Most Whedon-esque Banter: “She grimaced. ‘Me and pain, I think it’s time we see other people.’”
Cameos: Geeky big baddies Warren and Andrew.
Sample Excerpt: “The only thing he was sure of was that if he couldn’t find a way to get through to her, and soon, she’d find herself waiting too long to block an attack or not running quite as hard from a demon as she could have. And she’d get her death wish.”
Slay Count: Three vampires; two demons; two humans.
Lay Count: Implied only.
Steamiest Line: “Her fingernails dug into his shoulder blades as she tried to crawl inside his mouth.” 
For Fans of: The first half of season six.
Why is it popular? Season six was dark, but especially with respect to Buffy and Spike. (Late in the season, angry at Buffy’s rejection, Spike attempts to sexually assault her.) This rewrite of season six redeems fan-favorite Spike and that relationship. This version of Spike also helps the Scooby gang avoid other unhappy subplots from season six like the breakup of Tara and Willow.

Category: Crossover
Title:I Think You Need a Shotgun Blast” (an Elementary crossover)
Length: 2,969 words; one chapter
Vibe: The Maltese Falcon meets Cloverfield
Buffy-era: From pre-series to post-series.
Plot: Dr. Joan Watson works for the NYPD and is a “spare” slayer tasked with keeping New York City free of demons and vampires. After her first watcher, Edmund Holmes, abandons her, his son, Sherlock Homes, a struggling drug-addict warlock, arrives to be her replacement watcher. They battle the supernatural, but it’s not enough to save New York … or themselves.
Most Whedon-esque Banter: “Yeah, right, mate,” says the other, flopping down on Joan’s couch. “We come in peace, and all that wank.”
Cameos: Angel and Spike.
Sample Lines: “The city answers them with the hiss of demon tongue and vampire growls, and Joan grits her teeth, Holmes snarls, and it is probably too late, it is probably too late — but they were born to this, for this, and if New York isn’t theirs, it damn well isn’t going to be anybody else’s.”
Slay Count: 20 or 30 vampires a night.
Lay Count: N/A
Steamiest Lines: “’If we get out of this alive I’ll tie you to the bed with those chains you think I don’t know about,’ she says, and it’s not even a little bit of a lie, years of frustration and longing and delicate balance breaking inside of her, and Holmes smiles, the mirror that she never knew she needed, presses his nose into her hair, says, ‘No need, Watson. No need.’”
For Fans of: Season seven’s “The Chosen.”
Why is it popular? The ending is refreshingly dark for fanfiction and fits the story’s noirish tone. There might also just be a lot of Elementary fans out there.

Category: Mature-Rated Buffy/Angel Fiction
Title:Phoenix Rising
Length: 88,766 words; 24 chapters
Vibe: Hunger Games meets The Notebook
Plot: More than 350 years after Buffy perished in season five’s “The Gift,” Buffy and other top slayers of the past are brought back to life by the Watcher’s Council to help with the Council’s PR image problem in a dystopian London. Buffy is stunned, but thrilled, to see that Angel, now a member of the Watchers’ Council, is still alive. She is less thrilled with the tight leash the Council tries to keep her on.
Buffy-era: Post-series, but skipping seasons six and seven.
Most Whedon-esque Banter: “‘So McDonald’s is gone too?’ Buffy said. ‘Now I know it’s the apocalypse.’”
Cameos: Joyce, Dawn, Xander, and Willow. But, sniff, only in dream form.
Sample Lines: “‘That’s not true,’ Angel said as he sank into the seat next to her. ‘There are days you never forget, moments you remember. Even after three centuries.’”
Slay Count: Dozens of vampires; three demons; two slayers.
Lay Count: One and a half.
Steamiest Lines: “‘No, we can’t,’ he murmured. Angel kissed the hollow of her throat, the fragile skin between her breasts, the smoothness of her belly, as he slid down to kneel at the foot of the bed. ‘But you can.’”
For fans of: Season two’s “Surprise” and “Innocence”; season three’s “Helpless.”
Why is it popular? Buffy’s slaying methods were never quite orthodox even in her own time, and it’s fun to see her bristle at living in the Watchers’ world. And although a curse still prevents Angel from experiencing “true happiness,” the author doesn’t let that stop Buffy from finding hers.

The Continual Resurrection of Buffy in Fanfic