Author James Christie once made a remarkable journey from his home in Glasgow, travelling all the way across the States to Hollywood by Greyhound. The purpose of his journey was to meet Juliet Landau, one of the stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the reason the trip was so extraordinary is because for James, coping with new experiences feels ‘like smashing his head through a plate glass window’. James Christie is autistic.
You can read an account of James’s journey in his brilliant book, Dear Miss Landau. I interviewed James a few years ago (interview here), and he has very kindly come back today to talk about what happened after his epic trip, and about his new book, Differently Wired: Articles by an Autistic Blogger.
The author, differently wired; and his dear Miss Landau’s destiny…
by James Christie
Fitting, somehow, that it finished and began for me in the church where I was named Anthony over fifty years ago.
Dear Miss Landau was published six years ago by Chaplin Books. It was written a year or so after this adult Asperger crossed America overland to meet Juliet Rose Landau, stage actress and star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A trek so surreal (though thoroughly recorded) that my favourite review says:
“I read this constantly thinking ‘is this for real?’ An autistic Scottish man in his 40s has an obsession with a character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and writes a 250,000 word novel based on the character and ends up travelling to Hollywood and meeting the actress who plays her. You couldn’t make it up.”
Differently Wired, a new ebook compilation of virtually all my blogs and articles from 2012-2017, fleshes out the tale of these last ten years, which began in 2009 with the unexpected arrival on my doorstep of a virtual vampire flatmate (Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, played by Juliet) whose story desperately needed to be told. I did so with a fan-fiction novella called Drusilla’s Roses, which amazingly reached Juliet, knocked her socks off (even more amazingly) and (amazing beyond belief) led to an email correspondence between us. There was the once-in-a-lifetime trek across America to that faraway city on the edge of forever, Los Angeles. Then the publication of Dear Miss Landau (DML) itself and the creation of DML’s stage musical by music publisher/producer George Porter. Three sequels to the original Drusilla’s Roses were written, my Great Scottish Novel, The Legend of John Macnab (second sequel to John Buchan’s original work) was successfully published. I also wrote eighty-odd blogs and articles for the Huffington Post UK et al. and met Miss Landau seven times at comic-cons…
And there were other treks. In 2012, 2013 and 2016. Providing traces of answers to the questions some asked after I met Juliet that sunny Sunday on Sunset Boulevard in March 2010:
What happened next?
Or, as Hugh McIlvanney wrote after Muhammed Ali’s last inglorious fight:
“As was said after that Roman heavyweight was done in, when comes such another?”
(McIlvanney on Boxing, Stanley Paul, 1982)
Differently Wired is the nearest thing I have to a discreet, partial answer.
Meeting Miss Landau that morning on Sunset did indeed feel like the Alpha and Omega of it all. For geeks and Trekkers (of whom I am one), it really did seem like I’d stolen the Enterprise, much as Kirk did in Star Trek III, virtually run out the guns like a captain at sea and crossed a continent for my Helen of Troy like a knight of old.
If the crossings were a crusade, the comic-cons were an arena of friendly gladiatorial combat into which, despite my autism, I gladly strode (try to have a quiet personal chat up in front of two hundred people and see how you feel) and somehow, while it became public, it also stayed private. The impossible made possible.
And there was real redemption. In my case I’d failed badly in the past, decided my personal redemption could only be achieved by publication on merit and with this epic experience I’d actually achieved it.
As if I’d fallen from the path I was meant to follow and Drusilla had, quite roughly, jerked me back onto it.
I was named Anthony, after St. Anthony of Padua, in a church in Shifnal, Shropshire. He’s the saint of lost people, lost things and even lost spiritual goods.
And never was there a soul more lost than Drusilla.
I think Dear Miss Landau was our destiny, but it’s been my experience that destiny ain’t democratic and it don’t do debate…
So there are words written for Juliet that day on Sunset Boulevard (DML, p. 175) which she has never heard me speak, a good stage musical for that great stage actress, languishing, and the Dru quartet (as I call it) still unpublished. A second shot at stardom, fading away…
That’s what you’ll find in Differently Wired. Echoes of what should have come to pass and now may never be. Like the last blog written on that long road:
Welcome, Welcome to LA…
If, seven years ago, someone had told me that today I’d be in a coffee house in Needles, last leg on the road to LA, I’d have been a little sceptical.
My guide along the way is home on Avalon. If Drusilla found her chosen one, she’s satisfied, for what she wanted I have done.
Four tales of Dru:
‘Spike & Dru : the Graveyard of Empires’.
All written like Dear Miss Landau, the latter two concluding Joss Whedon’s story arc and well able to turn the Buffyverse on its head.
Joss has copies, delivered by me one February. Like a stick of literary dynamite, they’re probably sitting somewhere in a stack, the words on the page waiting for the light they lack.
Now they’ll know, those who read, who I was and where I went. A book is forever, a fact undreamed by many; made true only for the very few.
There may be a stage musical, too. I wonder who’d play me. James Marsters might well do.
Truth and reality can be cliché, and when a man is young tomorrow is another day. I will take the last train for the coast: Needles to Union Station in LA.
My cup is full. The last trek done, or nearly so.
I should feel like a teenage broncin’ buck. Full of luck, full of bull.
But I don’t think so.
Seven years, what did we do?
Oh my dear Miss Landau, whatever happened to you?
Did you go the way of Peggy Sue?
I remember how it was that day.
On Sunset Boulevard, it’s not so far away.
Your hair, raven black in the light.
I remember the hours and miles and years it took to see that sight.
I worry for you every day.
I do not know if, even now, you’ve found your way.
But for here, for now, there’s nothing left for me to say.
Except these words:
Welcome, welcome to LA…
(Written in Juicy’s Famous River Café, Needles, on 5th December 2013 and revised 11th May 2016; acknowledgement to the works of Don McLean)
They say life and love is circular, though they also say you can’t go home again; but I did face her one last time, just this year at a comic-con near Shifnal.
It was a Sunday, and I stopped by the church where I was christened before I set out on the road. I talked with the minister, and he spoke some words for Juliet before I took the field that final time.
So I faced her, and I told her Dear Miss Landau was her destiny.
And then I went away.
When comes another, who can say?
* * *
Thanks so much for your post, James. I enjoyed it immensely. Wishing you the best of luck with Differently Wired – and I hope ‘another’ comes your way one day soon.
If you’ve enjoyed James Christie’s post – or have any questions or comments at all – please let us know. We’d love to hear from you!
8 thoughts on “Differently wired: the unique perspective of autistic author James Christie”
oh I can totally relate to the obsession with Drusilla, but is it the same meeting the actress? I was totally in awe (love) with Angel, but David Boreanez in anything else doesn’t really ‘do it’ for me. James Master’s (Spike) is a totally different story. Oh, if I only I’d been into fan fiction so many years ago, the stories I would have written. Good Luck to James in whatever he decides to do next.
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Yes, if only fan fiction had been about when the series started, Raisie! That’s a great avenue for James to pursue now, though – especially as apparently they are bringing the show back. Thanks so much for dropping in, and for sharing on Talk of the Town! x
I’ve got severe doubts about the BUFFY reboot (admitting my own bias), but ROSES started directly as the original series finished, DEAR MISS LANDAU spilt over into real life (and, I firmly believe, would make a very good film) while the Dru novellas preserved continuity as per canon (pretty much anyway).
Again, it’s like somebody up there liked Dru and Julie and wanted to make sure they achieved their personal goals etc., but Dru co-operated and Juliet didn’t…
The fan reaction to the word reboot wasn’t very good. The new showrunner hurriedly rushed out a statement saying it was more of a continuation but I’ve heard she has a reputation for churning out bland pap so I fear the REAL continuation (mine?) will remain obscure and the official reboot/continuation will repeat the old “kids in high school” formula, the original version of which, I believe, cannot be bettered.
It wasn’t so much an obsession, more perhaps one of the rarest events in literature – where a character literally comes to life (or so it seems), grabs onto you for dear, er, life and won’t let go until you’ve written their story. Such seems to have been the case with Drusilla, as detailed in DEAR MISS LANDAU. She actually hung around for about five years, until I’d completed SPIKE & DRU : THE GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES, then ever so gently seemed to signal that the job was done and thanks very much. It all makes a weird sort of sense: of the four “Big Bads” (Dru, Darla, Angel and Spike), Drusilla was the only one whose story arc had not really been fully developed/completed, nor had she achieved redemption. And it really amazingly was as if she had been wandering around her fictional universe, lost, for years until she senses me picking up the storyline with DRUSILLA’S ROSES exactly the way she wanted and grabbed on to her one chance…
Even more mind-warping, I weas dealing with two women, one fictional, one human, who had the same face and I wasn’t even sure at first which one I liked better…
Please note that the first two Dru novellas – ROSES and REDEMPTION – are available, but the latter two are being held back in vain hope of publication. The twist – an unfinished story arc which would turn the Buffyverse upside down – is revealed in them, but I can’t get the Dru quartet published without the help of Juliet Landau, an extremely powerful literary agent, or both…
Sounds like a fascinating and interesting read!
I used to live in Shifnal – I wonder if it’s the same one ;)
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Dear Miss Landau is a great read, Lindsay. I highly recommend it. I expect it is the same Shifnal, too :) Thank you so much for dropping in, and for sharing!
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Well, the original DEAR MISS LANDAU was said by Tim Coates (former CEO of Waterstones & WH Smith) to be the best book he’d read for ten years, and I considered its adjunct, DRUSILLA’S ROSES, to be better than DEAR MISS LANDAU. Juliet liked ROSES, too. In fact, she was “blown away” by it. It’s available on Word via email but I’m otherwise stuck. Anyway, all this led to my own redemption and a multiplicity of articles reproduced in WIRED while I’m afraid Juliet went off in the wrong direction with a vampire documentary getting nowhere after five years production…
That’s why I faced her in Wrexham, because I truly felt she was (and is) going in the wrong direction and I had to be straight with her. In a word, it’s like things went wrong for her but somebody up there likes her and is trying to get things back on the right track with this tailormade package myself, Chaplin Books and George Porter have provided.
But Man has free will, so frankly Juliet keeps going her own way and getting pummeled!
And it must be the same Shifnal. Mum always liked to make the point that there IS only one. Many towns have a double or doppelganger, but there’s only one called Shifnal.
And I’m going home. I’ve even got a file in the Fire Station (town archive); but I’ll always be a bit unhappy unless Juliet wakes up and smells the coffee PDQ…