It’s like an all-star writing contest when Yvonne Navarro, Mel Odom, Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder get together to write four novellas for “Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 3” (November 2003). At this point in my reread, they are four of the five best Buffyverse writers (with Jeff Mariotte filling the other spot). Here are my rankings of their contributions in this third “Tales” volume:
Drawing a better overall crop of writers, “Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 2” (January 2003) makes a huge jump in quality from the first volume. The authors have a blast playing with our expectations of how Slayers, Watchers and vampires should behave while using familiar Buffyverse beats to teach us about societies throughout human history. Here are my rankings of the 10 stories:
It’d be cool to read an “Angel” book of 12 short stories that each take place in one hour on the longest night of the year. “The Longest Night” (December 2002), unfortunately, isn’t that book. It claims to be that book on the back cover blurb, but the editors never told the writers. So the gang can be beat up or covered in demon goo the end of one hour and healthy and clean at the start of the next, for example.
I remember when “Tales of the Slayer Vol. 1” (October 2001) came out, it felt to me like for first time the Buffyverse had a sprawling Expanded Universe similar to what “Star Wars” had developed. Starting here, a character need not be peripherally linked to Buffy in order to have their story told.
“How I Survived My Summer Vacation” (August 2000) is the only “Buffy” young-adult book that’s an essential read for all “Buffy” book fans, and it’s the first book that fits so nicely with the TV continuity that it can be considered unambiguously canonical. The full title includes “Volume 1” at the end, which suggests Pocket Books planned to delve into more summers between TV seasons. That didn’t happen, unfortunately (although the comics sometimes explored the summers), but at least this tome covers the summer between Seasons 1 and 2, which is a rich playground for fresh stories.
I’ll take my fix of new “X-Files” material where I can get it, but it’s irritating that in IDW’s third volume of “X-Files” short stories, “Secret Agendas,” Jonathan Maberry and his team (if there is one) still make too many errors. The line-editing gaffes, such as “peak” instead of “peek,” aren’t as numerous as in the first volume, but the number of continuity errors is inexcusable.
“The Truth is Out There,” the February follow-up to last year’s “Trust No One,” serves up another mixed bag of “X-Files” short stories that’s on par with the first collection. It’s not “The X-Files” at its finest, but it’s a fun assortment that will tide fans over between comic installments.
“The X-Files” returned to comics in 2013, it will return to the small-screen for six episodes starting on Jan. 24, and last year it returned to bookshelves with “Trust No One,” a collection of short stories published by IDW, which also produces the comics. With the exception of the “I Want to Believe” movie novelization in 2008, it marks the first “X-Files” book since a six-book run in during the show’s heyday in 1990s.
Because Lucasfilm is shifting its focus away from the Clone Wars era, we’re not likely to see a paperback anthology called “Tales from the Clone Wars” anytime soon. However, if you still have your back issues of Star Wars Insider, you can pretend you are reading a couple volumes’ worth of Clone Wars tales. The magazine published 20 short stories from issue 62-88 (2003-06); 12 were set during the Clone Wars, with two more shortly after that period. (Insider wouldn’t return to short fiction until issue 124, when it would once again become a staple of the magazine.)
Thematically, “Tales from the New Republic” (1999) isn’t all that different from “Tales from the Empire” — both collections chronicle the little guy, either amid the galactic war or amid everyday life in the galaxy far, far away. It’s also about the little guy in “Star Wars” publishing. West End Games’ Star Wars Adventure Journal was canceled in 1997, but a few lucky authors saw their stories get salvaged here (along with some of the best works that had already been printed in the journal) in the very last book of Bantam Spectra’s “Star Wars” license.