I first met Jim Shires in 2008 at a “Can't Stop The Serenity” charity screening in Raleigh, NC. I was glad to find out he was a local Raleigh resident—yay!—and we met afterward with other area fans at semi-regular meetings arranged through Yahoo Groups.
(Yahoo Groups. Remember those? Mind, this was back in the day when Facebook hadn't gained the traction it enjoys now.—M.)
At the time, he was busy running a popular local live-music venue in downtown Raleigh. When I say busy, I do mean busy, but he still managed to donate his time and energy to the show and the cause we all love. Though he is no longer working at the venue as when I first met him, he is still active in the music business and he graciously accommodated my request for an interview.
Thank you, Jim! You're a treasure!
(Note: This interview was conducted via email and aside from correcting a few punctuation and spelling errors for clarity's sake, Mr. Shires's responses are as he'd written them—M.)
1. When did you first encounter Firefly? How?
I did things in reverse. I quite literally went to a local theatre one night in 2005 and went to see Serenity based on the poster and brief description I had read about it earlier in the day in the newspaper. Yes, the newspaper. I did not know a thing about Firefly. I quickly took to the movie just a few minutes in watching Nathan and noticing the unique dialect he was using.
I really enjoyed the movie and walked out of it thinking, "Wow, I wish there was more of these guys." I'd like to see more of their adventures. A few days passed and I mentioned the movie to a friend and he said, "Hey you know the movie is based on a TV show, Firefly." I was pleased to hear this and hopped on the interwebs that night and researched it. It wasn't long before I had my very first trusty set of the DVD box set and started watching! I can still remember 2 things the most about my first viewing: Wondering if Jayne was a good guy or a bad guy. I also remember being so sad that I had reached the end that I held off watching "Objects in Space" for several days because I did not want it to "be over". I didn't know then that I would go on to watch it more times than I could ever count.
2. What quality or characteristic of the show did you come to like (or love!) immediately? What did you come to like (or love?) as time passed?
I immediately took to the eclectic collection of characters that eventually formed the complete "crew". I honestly can't think of show that melded together such a sorted group of folks in one show. I liked that right off the bat. The scene in the pilot with Inara consoling Shepherd Book when he wasn't sure if he should be there or not resonated with me. It was very powerful when she told him perhaps he was exactly where he was supposed to be. Also the theme of flying away from the "central" planets and flying freely till it was time to do a job [illustrated that a] theme in Firefly is freedom. At the root of it, that is what Mal and Zoe fought for and hold in high regard throughout the series: the want to be free and not under the thumb of a boss or government.
A quality I really appreciate and love about the show is the way that Joss & Tim made sure everyone on the crew had a day at least or two when it was their strength that played a huge part in the success of the crew, even if that success just meant surviving the day.
3. If you encountered someone who hasn't seen the show or the movie, what would you tell them to generate their interest?
This many years later, I am not quite as zealous as I once was about bombarding those that have not watched Firefly as I once was. There was a time when I literally kept a box set in my car and my work so I'd be ready to hand it over if a person took my pitch about having to see our beloved show. Now with it being so available with Netflix, YouTube, and such that's not needed.
In 2016, I only treat it more as a quiet treasure, only deciding to give the hard sell to folks that I really connect with that somehow have managed to not have watched the show. What I tell them is that the show is not just an awesome Sci-Fi western with horses but that is about so much more. I tell them the show may indeed just change their life. It has mine. The sense of community amongst Browncoats is something quite unique. I might end up discussing some of our great characters. Maybe it's Mal, Maybe it's River. Perhaps it might be Shepherd Book's wisdom, who knows? I will most likely tell them that at the root, Firefly is about freedom and who doesn't like that?
4. What about Firefly and/or Serenity encouraged you to become involved in the fan community and how did it influence your form(s) of participation?
At the very first Raleigh CSTS in 2006, I met then-local coordinator and founder Jen Hilton. We had interacted with e-mails, and I think at the time Myspace and Yahoo groups, about the possibility of an after party after the event. The CSTS itself was a great success but only myself, Jen, and one other attendee showed up at the after party. That's ok because it was during that time I really had a chance to connect with Jen and feel like I was a part of the local movement and group. Browncoats are at the very core good people. This is why when Jen decided after a few more years she needed a co-captain I was happy to help and when she ultimately was ready to step away I felt compelled to do what I could to keep the ship flying. I love our local Raleigh/NC Browncoats and am proud to be a part of the crew.
5. Would you say that Firefly and/or Serenity has had a positive influence in your life? If so, how?
In the year 2008 having been a Browncoat for 3 years now, I came to find out about a Convention or Con as we call them, being held in Burbank, California to celebrate Firefly and Serenity. I had never in my life been to a Con of any kind. Several of the cast were guests: Jewel, Sean, Summer, Adam, Ron. I tried to get a few folks from around here to go but for various reasons no one could take the trip. I decided that this kid (me) was gonna hop on a plane and go to California. My reasoning? Well, they were all Browncoats, this was a Con for Firefly fans. I figured this was a trip I had to take.
I am so glad I did. The Con was great. I got to meet the cast and interact with them. Much more importantly, though, I met people in the community and fandom. Four of them are some of my dearest friends to this day, folks from all over the world. That is when I realized that from that day forward I was and will always be in a great community of the very best fans around. It has been and will remain an extremely positive aspect of my life.
By Mary McKay-Eaton - A happily married geek mother of two, she's an ardent fan of Firefly/Serenity and all things Verse-related.