Sink your fangs into this…

There’s hope for everyone who was left feeling empty and aimless as the bitingly popular “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series wrapped up its final season last spring.

The newest unauthorized guide to the series, “The Girl’s Got Bite,” is now available for hardcore Slayer fans from Berkeley to Brattleboro and it’s more fun than rolling skulls off a log.

girls got bite

Written by Kathleen Tracy, this exhaustively researched volume catalogs 131 episodes of the eerie series from its humble beginnings in 1997 to its next-to-last season in 2002, providing crucial details about the life and times of Buffy Summers, a typical high school girl – and later college student – destined to stand alone against voracious vampires and their ilk in a quaint little California town called Sunnydale, which was, unfortunately, built over a Hellmouth. (You’re following all of this, right?)

“The Girl’s Got Bite” (2003, St. Martin’s Press, New York, N.Y., $14.95, 342 Pages) is, however, much more than a ho-hum catalog of dusty old television scripts.

Tracy’s unauthorized encyclopedia of Buffy lore includes cast lists, analyses of puzzling plots and detailed backgrounders on everything from little-known demons to appropriate vampire-slaying accouterments.

Can you slay a hellhound with a hunga munga? Not likely, but it helps if you’re a diminutive blonde high school girl who spends most of her spare time patrolling the local cemetery in search of wayward bloodsuckers.

“The Girl’s Got Bite” gives Buffy fans – and would-be Buffy fans – everything they need to fill in unfortunate gaps in their knowledge of Slayer lore.

For example, let’s just say that you’re enjoying a Bloody Mary at your favorite after-sundown thirst emporium when some loudmouth interrupts your beverage consumption with “Hey, betcha don’t know what happened on the ‘Inca Mummy Girl’ episode, Mr. Know-It-All.”

If you’ve studied “The Girl’s Got Bite,” you’ll be able to smoothly reply, “Oh, you mean the one in which a mystical seal is broken, letting a 500-year-old mummified Incan princess return to life as a toothsome 16-year-old who stays alive by sucking the life out of everyone who crosses her path? Is that, perhaps, the episode you’re referring to?”

Most likely, that loudmouth will slither right back into the shadows, thoroughly cowed by your commanding knowledge of Buffy’s complex world.

It’s important to remember that, although Buffy originally was destined to slay nothing more than vampires, the TV series added a score of otherworldly evildoers who had to be exterminated to save the world from perpetual darkness.

“The Girl’s Got Bite” will enable you to keep all these terrifying troublemakers in the proper order so you’ll never become the target of rude laughter if you somehow manage to confuse Eyghon with Mynhegon, or Drusilla with Dracula.

And if you had to ask “Who?” about any of the aforementioned characters, you really, really need “The Girl’s Got Bite.”

Pick it up before you’re branded hopelessly ignorant or find yourself dangerously uninformed when confronted by chaos demons.

Originally published September 28, 2003

Telephone solicitors? Keep ’em guessing…

I have the deepest sympathy for the harried Vacaville reader who recently wrote to complain about being badgered by as many as seven telephone solicitors a day.

Alas, I know of what he speaks. I’ve had that many telemarketers call me at dinnertime alone.

I used to try to be sympathetic. I’d listen to the spiel for awhile and politely decline a complimentary septic tank inspection. After all, everybody’s got to earn a living.

But do they have to do it in the middle of my reheated lasagna and spinach dip?

Eventually, my patience got on a bus for Reseda. One can only remain polite for so long, particularly after some nitwit has interrupted a good cigar and the latest episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and then has the audacity to cheerfully ask, “And how are you doing tonight?”

Hmmmmm. Exactly how am I supposed to be doing? I just dropped a burning cigar in my lap and don’t know if Buffy got sucked into the Void by a Chaos Demon.

No sale tonight, pal.

I used to try saying “No, thank you” and hanging up the minute I detected a sales call, but that just seemed to make the telephone solicitors more persistent.

I tried responding with long, meaningless jokes about the three drunk waiters from Minnedosa and the farmer’s daughter, but my dinner still got cold.

Finally, I decided to take the offensive the minute I picked up the telephone. No more Mr. Nice Guy. In fact, no more Mr. Anybody. I became an anonymous – and somewhat threatening – voice representing a nonexistent agency somewhere near air or water.

Feel free to try this yourself. Here’s how it works:

Answer the phone with an immediate and authoritative “Air-Sea Operations – are you reporting an emergency?”

The solicitor will probably fumble this one, come up with a lame “Uh, is this a business?” or ask to speak to someone with a last name vaguely similar to yours.

Don’t waver. Don’t let ’em get another word in edgewise.

“This is Region Eleven Air-Sea Rescue. ARE YOU REPORTING AN EMERGENCY?!”

(Try to imagine yourself as a unshaven, cigar-chewing chief petty officer who doesn’t suffer idiots – or salespersons – gladly.)

Keep repeating this in a menacing monotone until the caller realizes that he or she is going to be in big trouble if they ever tie up this line again with one of their silly sales routines.

They will be intimidated.

They will apologize.

They will go away.

And, with any luck, they’ll remove your telephone number from their call list forever because nobody wants to mess with an irritable bureaucrat from an agency they’ve never heard of.

Although this is an amusing way to bamboozle telephone solicitors, I have to admit it has some drawbacks.

Because your fictitious agency’s no-nonsense dispatcher has to answer immediately and in character, your friends and family are going to think you’re a little weird whenever they call.

And, no matter how fast you talk, your dinner’s still probably going to get cold…

Originally published March 25, 2001