Check out my interview with Jonathan Mayberry for IAMTW!

Firefly Encyclopedia | Monica Valentinelli | Titan Books

Heya, I am happy (and ashamed) to report I was interviewed by Jonathan Mayberry for the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers I’m a member of! The interview is from November, and in Jonathan’s wisdom it went live when my new Firefly Encyclopedia from Titan Books debuted.

You can read my interview on the site, and check out tons of great interviews with other members. I’ll be cursing my In Box for burying my notifications for at least ten minutes…right before freezing my proverbial bum off. It’s cold out there so stay warm!

[New Release] Firefly TV Show Encyclopedia + Bonus Interview with Tony Lee!

Firefly Encyclopedia | Based on the TV Show by Joss Whedon

Today is the official U.S. release date for the Firefly Encyclopedia which is available wherever books are sold–including Target! This book is also a strange milestone for me, because this release marks the fifth year I’ve worked with this property. Thus far, I’ve also developed a line of tabletop roleplaying games and wrote The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Phrasebook in the ‘Verse, too, which features an analysis of the language as well as an interview and Mandarin Chinese translations with the incomparable Jenny Lynn.

The brand new Firefly Encyclopedia presents a narrative retelling of the story thus far, new interviews, an essay about the scientific plausibility of the ‘verse, an homage to Ron Glass, and much, much more.

To celebrate the Firefly Encyclopedia‘s release, I’ve sat down with Mandarin Chinese translator Tony Lee, who lent his talents to provide additional translations. Please enjoy this bonus interview with expert translator Tony Lee! If you’re interested in hiring Tony, I’m happy to forward your information to him so he can follow up. Just use my Contact Monica page and make sure it’s clear I need to pass your message along. Thanks for understanding! He’s not on social media and I don’t want to put his email address on blast.

Interview with Mandarin Chinese Translator Tony Lee

Tony Lee hailed from Taipei, Taiwan but lacked the common sense to go into any profitable fields (like computer or medical), and chose the tabletop gaming industry instead. Over the course of 15+ years, he’s freelanced for Wizards of the Coast/TSR, Pinnacle Entertainment, Margaret Weis Productions, Z-Man Games, and several companies for TTRPG lines ranging from Dungeons & Dragons to the Firefly RPG. Tony’s latest contribution is to the Firefly Encyclopedia. He now works as a Mandarin-to-English translator of mostly—what else?—MMO and cell phone games.

You’ve been a Mandarin Chinese translator working in games for years. What was your first (or favorite) project?

My first in tabletop gaming was the titles for Z-Man Games’ Shadowfist CCG expansions. In mobile/computer, it was an MMO that I had no idea what was called; it was a rush job and to be honest, I didn’t do well because I wasn’t familiar with the terminology at the time.

What was the strangest phrase you had to translate into Mandarin Chinese?

Not so much strange as… paradoxical. I have already translated a considerable block of dialogue when the main character suddenly busted out some English, whereupon the other person replied: “I don’t speak English!” Now, the problem is, of course, they have been conversing in English this whole time in my translation, so that wasn’t going to make sense if I translated the source exactly as it was! Took me a while to figure out a solution: I changed the English line into Japanese, spelling it out phonetically (thankfully that was something my very miniscule Japanese could handle, with some help from Google), then translated the reply as “I don’t speak Japanese!” (It worked extra well since the main character had Japanese heritage.)

You’ve translated English-to-Mandarin and back again. Which process is easier? Why?

I’d say Mandarin-to-English is easier for me now. Even though Mandarin is technically my first and native language, I’m much more accustomed to English now and actually have better command compared to Mandarin. I can read Mandarin, no problem, but I don’t always come up with the best and proper word or phrase going from English to Mandarin. Often enough that it’s on the tip of my tongue but just can’t grasp it quite enough to put down on paper.

What are some important things to consider when hiring a translator?

Anybody can transliterate; you can just use Google for that. You want someone who translate by meaning, not by individual words, otherwise you get a funny, nonsensical appliance instruction manual. What you look for is how well a translator “localizes”, using all conventions of the target language that you can’t tell it was a translation. This involves attention to details as well. For instance, in China they put the dollar sign behind the amount (“10$”) but it’s the other way around here in America (“$10”), so it’s simple to spot a “translator” vs. a “localizer” with little things like that.

What’s the one thing Browncoats may not know about the Chinese in Firefly?

It’s been mentioned that nobody speaks Chinese like that in real life (or something to that effect), but I think Firefly Chinese would be easier to learn since, ironically, it’s somewhat heavy on transliteration and very simple in sentence structure (which is why no one talks that way). I can see the language changing to fit the new Sino-American society of the universe.

I’d like to thank Tony Lee for his contributions to the Firefly Encyclopedia, and am happy his work has the ability to shine. Yay! For additional information about the language used in Firefly, you can also find a wonderful interview with Jenny Lynn in the The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Phrasebook in the ‘Verse. Shiny!

Announcing the Firefly Encyclopedia and Pre-Order

Firefly Encyclopedia | Valentinelli

The Firefly Encyclopedia is a lavish guide to Joss Whedon’s much-loved creation. The book includes a detailed timeline of events, in-depth character studies from Badger to Zoe, a guide to the science of the show, and sections of script with accompanying notes from the author. Alongside all of this are countless images of the characters, ships, weapons, props and sets. This is a must-have item for all fans of the ‘verse.

Included in this mighty tome is a narrative re-telling of the events thus far, a new interview with Serenity novelist Keith R.A. DeCandido, an essay about the science of Firefly written by Mike Brotherton, new Mandarin Chinese-to-English translations provided by Tony Lee and a whole lot more!

The Firefly Encyclopedia will be available wherever fine books are sold, and is now available for pre-order. The book is at press, and will debut late 2018–just in time for the holidays. Shiny!

My Schedule for CONvergence 2017!


I am happy to announce that my next convention will be CONvergence 2017 in sunny Minneapolis from July 6th through the 8th. This year, I have quite a few panels and am happy to announce my schedule today.

Thursday, July 6

3:30pm – 4:30pm DoubleTree Edina
Ready, Steady, Flash!
Four pro writers are given a phrase, around which they must each write a piece of flash fiction. Live, in front of the audience. They have 5 MINUTES in which to write it. At the end of each round the the audience votes on the best.
Panelists: Lee Harris, Paul Cornell, Joseph Scrimshaw, Monica Valentinelli, C. Robert Cargill

5:00pm – 6:00pm DoubleTree Atrium 4
It’s Been Written Before
Writing is hard. Many works fall back on the tropes and cliches that are common in the field. How do writers break out of those patterns, or at least freshen them up? Panelists: Emma Bull, John Seavey, Monica Valentinelli (mod), Jai Nitz, Lois McMaster Bujold

7:00pm – 8:00pm DoubleTree Plaza 1
Gaming as a Gateway Drug
How does gaming spur your interest in other topics? Did they get you into studying history, politics, technology or were you really going to pick up the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire for fun anyways?
Panelists: Kenneth Justiniano, Eric Zawadzki, Monica Valentinelli (mod)

Friday, July 7

2:00pm – 3:00pm DoubleTree Bloomington
Firefly At 15
Joss Whedon’s space western turns 15 this year. Is it shiny or would you toss it out an airlock? Come discuss the full canon: series, movie, and comics.
Panelists: Cetius d’Raven (mod), Mark Goldberg, Monica Valentinelli, Tex Thompson, Sean Berry

Saturday, July 8

2:00pm – 3:00pm DoubleTree Atrium 7
Why Dystopia is Not Dead
There is something about the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre that keeps readers, TV, and movie fans coming back for more. What is it about the end of the world fiction that keeps us coming back? Is there an end in sight?
Panelists: Anthony Eichenlaub, J. Boone Dryden, Monica Valentinelli, George Miller (mod), Seanan McGuire

5:00pm – 6:00pm DoubleTree Bloomington
The Great Beyond: Discussing Death in Popular Culture
Is death in pop culture becoming more prevalent? If so, what does it mean for modern TV and film? What does it say about our times? Is this Joss Whedon’s fault? When is death used to best effect? Will a Marvel character ever stay dead?
Panelists: Emma Bull, Monica Valentinelli (mod), Jonah Rees, Gabriela Santiago, Justine Mastin, Emilie Peck

A Bleary-Eyed (And Slightly Furious) Post World Con Recap

Galactic Starry Space

For me, the “p” in publishing is about people–the good, the bad, the garbage fires–and sometimes I need to center myself and remind myself of that, because while there is no replacement for simply sitting down and doing The WorkTM, I find that pursuing a career in writing is also about learning how to build, maintain, and strengthen relationships.

This year, I went to World Con(1) with my Red Sofa Literary agent, Jennie Goloboy, who treated me like gold, my friend and fellow agent Laura Zats, and many of the authors from our agency including the illustrious Tex Thompson and Foz Meadows. This fine network of people was supported by my relationships with Apex Book Company and magazine, the publisher of the upcoming anthology Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, and many other fine and storied individuals including Catherine Lundoff, Carrie Patel, Gareth Michael-Skarka and his amazeballs wife Laura, Gary Kloster, Michi Trota, Maurice Broaddus, Lynne and Michael Damian Thomas, Lee Harris, David McDonald, Michael Underwood, Fonda Lee, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Martha Wells, Sunil Patel, Rachel Swirsky, Nick Mamatas(2), Ferrett Steinmetz, Karen Bovenmeyer, Brian Nisbet, and so, so, so many others whom I hope will forgive me if I have forgotten to mention you(3).

Part of the issue, however, with managing relationships is dealing with the fallout when they are strained or broken. Hurting people is what the Sad Puppies and Rapid Puppies and -gates and garbage fires do, especially online because they are attempting to push forth their perception of the universe as “The Only Solution” and make everyone else suffer for it. They actively hurt authors and artists and game designers and dealers and editors and anyone who is simply trying to make art and do the best they can, because now making a game or writing a story can include the fear of being doxed or the anxiety that comes from receiving multiple death threats for writing a story or creating a character which is, quite possible, “the” most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. World Con reinforced the notion that the loud, vocal minority who are threatened that their world is changing and they don’t like it are, in point of fact, a teeny tiny selection of individuals who do not, in any way shape or form, stop authors, artists, and game designers from continuing to make great art representative of the world that already exists.

As I said in my game development presentation, everyone deserves to see themselves as the hero, to play as the hero, to be the hero. And this, my friends and dear readers, is why the Hugos were so significant this year. It’s not just because love won, it’s because the garbage fires do not stop us from making the art we want to make, nor does it stop those who are making great art be recognized for their efforts. Is it harder? Yes. More complicated? Yes, especially when you toss in the fact that many publishers expect us to be online. But, as I’ve said multiple times before, ninety-five percent of the people I work with are not assholes–and this is true of everyone else, too. That doesn’t mean that personality conflicts don’t exist, because they do, but that’s not the same as someone specifically and intentionally harming total strangers because they don’t share the same views. That also does not mean that problematic five-to-ten percent does not, and should not, be dealt with. What this does translate to on a broader level, however, is that so many of us are doing the best we can to be welcoming, to be supportive of new and existing writers, to show support whenever possible and to build the future our readers and players would be honored to participate in.

Many of these “big picture” efforts can be challenging for the simple fact that different people go to different cons for different reasons and, at a show like World Con, there’s a heavy emphasis on readership and meetings for so many people. This is where I think Programming can fit within that niche, because panels can be representative of topics that people want to listen to and think about. They were for me (with the exception of one which I’ll get to here in a bit). I felt very comfortable being on programming this year, in part because I knew the folks behind-the-scenes and their efforts to keep on top of managing it. It is not easy to run a convention, especially on a volunteer basis, when there are 1,000 logistical nightmares that can and do happen. I had a great selection of panels, and I felt that readers and professionals of all stripes could have benefited from the advice of my fellow panelists. I did run Build-a-World with a smaller audience, due to being up against the Masquerade, Tor party, etc. but everyone had fun and we raised $200 for charities selected by Michi Trota and Rachel Swirsky–$100 of which was donated by World Con itself.

Of the programming I was on, I want to focus on a highlight before I get to the one issue I had. My game development panel was packed, and I was able to drop a lot of knowledge following on the heels of being an Origins University presenter, Gen Con Industry Insider, etc. Presenting on this topic, by myself, was easier because this is an area that I know very well, and I got the feedback from the audience that some standalone panels are necessary just because of the expertise of the speakers involved.(4) More than that, however, this is the first time I’ve been in a non-gaming convention environment, speaking about games. The reception was warm and positive, and I was able to get instant feedback, too, on how I approached the diversity and inclusion aspects–which was great for me(5). Here’s something I said which I feel might be useful for those of you working on games going forward. I said that if you are working on a game and you are queer, for example, and the developing aspects of a game make you feel uncomfortable, you should absolutely speak up and talk to your developer. Our job is to balance varying perspectives and make the best game possible, and we can’t always do that if we do not get feedback from the people we are working with.

I did, however, have one problematic panel which I do need to follow up on with World Con itself. They are aware I had an issue, too, and multiple individuals recommended I give them feedback. If you had a problem at the show, please consider reporting it. Anyway, first I’d like to give you a little context. I was concerned about my Firefly panel, because I have had awful experiences before where I have not had to speak about the work myself and others have done to expand the ‘Verse, and the panel devolves into why fans love Firefly. To address that, I did three things: a) I raised the issue with World Con programming back in January talking about my concerns, and that if this could be addressed I would be happy to be on the panel b) I asked other friends and professionals for advice on how to deal with this situation, which included learning where I was falling down on the subject and the possibility of withdrawing from the panel and c) I exchanged e-mails with our moderator and fellow panelists ahead of the show. As far as I was concerned, I had done my due diligence and assumed that the panel’s topic “The Golden Age of Firefly” which specifically began to address the ancillary projects including the comics, games, etc. would help rein in the discussion and focus on the expansion of the ‘Verse.

Unfortunately, it did not and as all of this information is public knowledge, I have no problem talking about what happened. The academic on our panel, Dr. John Tibbets, became increasingly fixated on his points about how Firefly was so great and nothing else can compare. His behavior included laughing when the Mandarin Chinese was brought up, and while I was lauding the efforts of a great writer and human being Jenny Lynn, the show’s translator, he continued to laugh into his microphone while I was speaking. Jenny did an amazing job providing and presenting the translations, but she also offered a very candid interview where she discussed her role on the show and dived into the Mandarin Chinese spoken and presented in the episodes as well. Let me be blunt: it is not acceptable in any way shape or form to laugh at a fellow panelist or dismiss the work they are recommending, and I am honored that I got to include Jenny Lynn’s work in the Gorramn Shiniest Dictionary & Phrasebook in the ‘Verse. The panel continued to devolve from there, into a conversation about how modern day superheroes aren’t like they used to be, and ended with Tibbets saying: “No offense, but Firefly was perfect as a standalone season and nothing else should have been made.”

Here’s why I walked away from that panel angry, upset, and pissed beyond belief: I have worked on this property since 2012 with dozens of individuals, both new and experienced, balancing the needs, desires, and goals of the projects for Margaret Weis Productions, FOX TV studios, and Titan Books while carefully respecting, analyzing, and building upon Whedon’s work. I would not be working on Whedon’s Firefly and expanding the ‘Verse if I did not enjoy doing so, but this has not been my fandom in the sense that I admire or think about Firefly from afar, this has been my job. Firefly is not just about personal feelings for me, though I have many of them, it has been a significant portion of my career for the better part of the last four years–and Tibbets did not only disregard that, having been told this in an e-mail beforehand, he completely and wholly disrespected everyone I have ever worked with. This. Will. Not. Stand. Say what you want about me, and I can make a decision whether or not to respond, but do not–ever–attack, dismiss, or laugh at anyone else I’ve worked with in front of an audience. Awful, awful behavior and, as a result, watch for an upcoming post where I laud Jenny’s efforts and discuss how she made me a better human being.

To make matters worse? This panel, my dear readers, was also being recorded and I knew it, too. Imagine what would’ve happened if that panel would’ve turned hostile, especially since I wasn’t the moderator, or if I would have told Tibbets what I was actually thinking. Instead, I tried to do the best I could under the circumstances and attempted to directly include author Tex Thompson who wrote a series of her own because she was inspired by Firefly. Pro tip? Do not–under any circumstance–piss on fans, viewers, readers, etc. who do not share your personal loves and joys in front of me, especially on a panel. There is a difference between attacking someone’s emotions and thinking of a work critically, and this was not the latter. To put a pin in this: I expected a lot more from an academic. I hope those listeners out there who wanted that discussion got a few useful bits from the little I could offer given the circumstances.

To sum up the show: it was great to reconnect with everyone(6), programming (with the exception of that panel) was good for me, I was impressed with how the show was managed and handled, thrilled by the outcome of the Hugos and the many great speeches, and feel secure I have made the right decisions to build my career. I love you all! Now, please go write your assess off and tell us a kick ass story or design a great game. To me, that is the highest compliment you can give me. Go make some f-bombing art.

(1) I deeply apologize for not giving you a recap of Gen Con. As an Industry Insider, I had a different focus this year and had multiple meetings on top of networking and hanging out with friends. So sorry!

(2) Haikasoru is the publisher he works for. Check ’em out! They rock!

(3) Con crud. Oy.

(4) I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with Kij Johnson, for example. Highly, highly recommend her.

(5) I consider myself the perpetual student, because the day I “know everything” is the day my work stagnates and suffers.

(6) Karaoke was the highlight of my con, and I wish all Clarion West graduates and instructors the best in their oh-so-bright futures.

Next Posts

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Subscribe to Monica’s Newsletter

* indicates required


Back to Top