Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Blackout
the Blackout cover

Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Blackout

by Keith R.A. DeCandido

on sale now from Pocket Books

In the second-season Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode that introduced the character of Spike, we learned that he killed two previous Slayers, one of whom was in China during the Boxer Rebellion. In the fifth-season episode "Fool for Love," flashbacks showed us both Slayers, and we learned who his second kill was: a black woman in New York City in 1977, whom Spike killed on a moving subway train, and from whom Spike got his cool leather coat. In the seventh season, we learned her name was Nikki Wood, and that she had a son, Robin Wood, who was four when Nikki was killed, and who grew up to become principal of Sunnydale High School (the third we saw on the show, and the first not to get eaten) and also a valued ally in the battle against the First Evil.

The so-called "Pam Grier Slayer," as some fans called her before her name was revealed, fascinated me from the moment we first saw her, mainly because I grew up in New York in the 1970s, which was, it seemed to me, the perfect place for a Slayer to work. The city was in bad shape in that decade, suffering from a horrible fiscal crisis, a skyrocketing crime rate, crippling poverty, and infrastructure collapse. The perfect place for vampires, ghost, ghouls, goblins, and creatures of the night to thrive, it seemed to me. What better place for a Slayer to operate?

But this Slayer was obviously different -- for one thing, she had a kid; for another, she seemed to be older than most Slayers tend to be. I was dying to tell this character's full story. To my glee, I was able to, giving me the chance to not only tell Nikki's story but also write Spike during his punk phase, which wasn't something I could pass up. In my previous Buffy book, The Xander Years Volume 1, I got to write one scene from Spike's perspective, and it was the most fun I had with the book. So being able to write multiple scenes in Spike's head -- Spike in CBGBs, Spike fighting Nikki, Spike going after Drusilla -- was a huge kick for me. (Oh yes, Drusilla's in the book, too. And we'll see Buffy, as well, in a framing sequence, and another familiar character or two....)

In the DVD commentary for "Fool for Love," the episode's writer, Doug Petrie, said that the character was intended as a tribute to the "blaxploitation" movies of the 1970s: Shaft, Foxy Brown, Cleopatra Jones, and the like. Prior to writing Blackout, I watched all three of those movies, plus Superfly, The Black Godfather, Hell Up in Harlem, Across 110th Street, Shaft's Big Score! and a bunch more. I did a ton of other research, from contemporary newspapers to contemporary comic books. Fans not only of the above-listed movies, but also of the Luke Cage, Hero for Hire comic book will recognize some references in the book.

Of course, a lot of it came straight from memory -- including those of the awful blackout of 13 July 1977, from whence derives the novel's title, and during which the city was subject to riots, looting, and fires. It was a particularly ugly night in the city's history, and the Slayer and Spike are in the middle of it.

I hope you all have as much fun reading the book as I did writing it. I tried to create a complete picture of what Nikki's life as a Slayer was like, and make her a character distinct from the Slayers we've known (Buffy, Kendra, Faith), but with many of the same issues to deal with as every Slayer.

You can order the book from the good folks at Amazon.com or find it at your local bookstore. Meanwhile, you can read an excerpt from the book.

NEW! I've done up some annotations for the novel, which help explain some of the references, in particular the historical ones.

And if you want to see a more traditional Buffy adventure, I'll be doing a third-season-era tale called The Deathless, which will be out in spring 2007.

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