Jane Espenson Is a Grown-Up Girl Geek

One of TV’s biggest science-fiction writers comes to EMP for GeekGirlCon.

By Allison Williams October 5, 2011

Who are you calling a geek? Oh, this lady. Cool.

If you’ve ever watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, or Game of Thrones, guess what: You’re probably a geek. It also means you’ve seen episodes penned by Jane Espenson, a prolific television writer and producer who’s also behind this fall’s drama Once Upon a Time and comedic web series Husbands (check out the Nathan Fillion cameo!).

With nerd cred like that, it’s no wonder she’s a featured guest at this weekend’s GeekGirlCon. Espenson will be at the EMP to talk about her career on Saturday at 1pm, then wax poetic on her Buffy years in a Whedonistas panel at 5:30pm. We caught up with the sci-fi celebrity to find out what’s so exciting about girls and geeks:

Would you call yourself a nerd?
Sure, absolutely. [Nerd] is used now to mean a fan, anyone who’s obsessively into anything. But it used to mean someone more academically advanced and socially disadvantaged. I definitely fit both of those.

What do you expect from the GeekGirlCon?
It’ll be good, as long as it’s not exclusive. I want boys to feel included. The whole emphasis should be that we’re not the cool kids, so we don’t exclude anyone.

Do you ever get tired of being a poster child for female geeks?
No, not at all! I love science-fiction fandom, because there’s no reason why anyone should know my name. But in science-fiction shows, people pay attention to who writes the show. They value writing and they value ideas. Writers get to be as revered as the actors, or more. And I love that, because I’m a writer.

Many sci-fi shows film in Vancouver, including your own upcoming Once Upon a Time. Is the Northwest naturally geeky?
I think there’s something about tax breaks [in Vancouver]. There are enormous financial incentives, and it makes it much more affordable. And with sci-fi, you’re wanting to spend some money on effects, so you’ll want to save money on other areas. And it’s part of the tax break, that you employ local hires, so you can hear the Canadian accents all over sci-fi.

What’s the geekiest piece of clothing you own?
Oh my gosh. On my first season at Buffy, the Christmas gift we got from [actor] Alexis Denisof was a fanny pack that says BUFFY. I wear it in Las Vegas when I go to there.

Are there still gender issues in the world of sci-fi and fantasy?
Yes, though maybe a little less acute than similar problems outside of science fiction and fantasy. I think they have a great history of inclusivity. There’s always been a pretty good presence in sci-fi for women…. People think sci-fi must be the worst boys’ club in TV. No, that’s sitcoms.

I try to make myself hyper-conscious of [gender portrayals]. I ask myself, what if I switched all my genders? I try to make sure that I’m writing something as enlightened as I’d like to think I am.

So your writing is genderless?
No, it’s not genderless portrayals… [but] I’m not sure I’m willing to say that men and women are different, that women are more romantic and men are more likely to fly off the handle. I would like to see things a little more genderless. Why do we assume that the female will fall in love and the man will, like, pick his nose? I know a lot of active women who pick their noses.

Hear Jane Espenson at GeekGirlCon on October 8.

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