Firefly, for those who don’t know, was a short-lived TV series that was broadcast in 2002. Set in the future sometime after Earth had been abandoned, it takes place in another solar system where terraforming has made many planets and moons inhabitable. While the central planets maintain a high degree of technology, the outer planets are quite primitive, living in much the same way as the settlers of the old west. After a failed war of independence, Malcolm Reynolds assembles a team to crew his Firefly-class ship, Serenity, performing jobs for a variety of clients, some legal, some less so.

It’s generally agreed that the series, developed by Joss Whedon, was brilliantly conceived and executed, and its premature demise is a source of woe for its legions of admirers.

Here’s the thing about writing Firefly fanfics: The inhabitants of the outer planets have a particular style of dialect that’s hard to capture. Some call it Joss-speak. To sensibly write Firefly, you have to re-watch some episodes to get into the rhythm of Joss-speak. Some examples:

It’s gettin’ too ruttin’ hot in here.

It’s the gorram law!

I aim to misbehave.

We just need a small crew, them as feel the need to be free.

Once you get into the zone and feel like you’re able to create dialogue that fits into the Firefly ‘verse, it can be hard to find your way back, and Joss-speak starts to leak out into real life. For instance it’s tempting to tell your spouse,

My car don’t crash. She crashes, you crashed her.

Or, you might aim to give your employees a dose of Joss-speak when they misbehave.

What in the sphincter of hell are you playin’ at?

On finding your favourite show is on TV when you’re feelin’ a need for simple comfort, you might say,


And so it goes. In the acting world, they call it method acting when you live and breathe the role, even off set.

Is there such a thing as method writing?

3 thoughts on “Joss-speak

  1. An excellent post. As writers of Fan Fiction we here at the Trinity know that with a show like Firefly which has such a diverse language of its own it is difficult to replicate without having professional assistance. We have always recommended using wikia sites like Firefly.wikia who offer mandarin translations from the show to help give it that extra “feel” for when you want your characters to blurt a Chinese insult.

    1. Thanks, I neglected to mention the mix of Mandarin and English used by the Firefly gang. I’ve used sites like Firefly.wikia myself to add a splash of Mandarin to my fanfics. Would be lost otherwise.

      1. Its a testament to the power of fandom that people commit their time and efforts to these projects. With shows like Firefly it was really left to the fans to keep it alive. Me and a buddy of mine who run Order of Trinity have often talked about whether Firefly would have been as loved had it not been cancelled when it did. Part of the love of this show is that it was killed in its prime before it had a chance to make something of itself. I would like to think that it would have been just as loved.

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