'Family Don't End with Blood' Review
In my final year of university I was fortunate enough to collaborate with an established writer to aid in research towards my dissertation. But this lady was no ordinary author, oh no.
Lynn S. Zubernis is a Supernatural expert and has published multiple books on this subject. Now, being a fangirl of the show for nearly ten years, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven (though in the Supernatural verse, that may not be the a pleasant thing).
Autumn photography shoot, taken by Ioana Nicola
Ever since our work together we have kept in touch across the seas, and Lynn was kind enough to send me a copy of her latest work. The anthology book, Family Don’t End with Blood, which included chapters from some of the cast and crew of Supernatural such as Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Mark Sheppard and many more. It also featured chapters from fans of the show, detailing their stories within the fandom.
Before I delve deeper into the logistics, let me try and explain the overall arching theme behind this novel's inspiration. Supernatural originally started off as a series about two brothers who hunted monsters. Thirteen seasons later, and the show has evolved dramatically from its origins, dealing with characters and themes on a cosmic level. But it’s not just the contents of the show that has grown, it’s the fandom as well.
Coined as the 'SPNFamily', this group goes beyond simply showing affection for the show’s plot. The actors and fans alike have started networks and groups for members of the fandom to use in their everyday lives. They have created a community where fans can support one another through personal struggles, and express their true personalities and thoughts. This powerful fandom has even been the kickstarter to a new spin off of Supernatural, Wayward Sisters, starring Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster, which aims to represent all the female fans and audiences out there.
Stars of the show Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have been long standing supporters of Lynn's work
Family Don’t End with Blood provides personal anecdotes from across the fandom. Many stories from the authors are deeply personal. Lynn has encouraged each person to express their writing in their own free way, and include personal photography to accompany their stories. When you’re reading each chapter, it feels like that person has entered the room and is having a private conversation with you. That in my opinion, is one of the hardest things to achieve as a writer and they have all done a magnificent job.
I read the last third of this book on the London Underground. More specifically, on the District line, going from East London to West London. And believe me, nobody wants to be on the District line that long. It’s a disgrace. But luckily for me, this novel transported me away from the irate and smelly city-slickers, into an emotional journey.
One chapter stands out in particular, and it comes from Rob Benedict, the actor who played the role of ‘Chuck’ (our lord and saviour) in the show and is also the lead singer of the band, Louden Swain. In 2013, Rob suffered a stroke whilst at a convention. His chapter relives these memories in accurate detail, describing the night itself and the recovery process afterwards.
What is so remarkable about this story however, is that his best friend - Richard Speight, a fellow actor from the show - is the one that he owes his life to. Stroke signs are not always obvious, and it did not even cross Rob’s mind that this was what was happening at the time. But his best friend knew him well enough to recognise that something was wrong, even if he couldn’t put his finger on what. Rich told Misha, who’d had a family member suffer from the same illness, who asked to talk to Rob before advising that he go to hospital.
Rob states that had he not talked to Rich, he would have just gone straight to bed. But because of Rich's actions, Rob is now still with us, bright and alive.
When I read this chapter I had to put the book down for a moment, choke back my tears and put on my classic ‘London Underground stoic face’, so my fellow passengers didn’t think I was a crazy emotional wreck. For Rob to share something so private, and write in words the terrifying ordeal he went through was just so moving. I was honoured as a reader to hear his tale, and touched that he would share this experience with our fandom.
If you're a fan of the book and of Misha Collins (like myself), Lynn has a Society 6 shop, set up by the artist who produced the book's cover art. Available here
Equally, some of the other actors detail the struggles they went through. Depression, anxiety and losses have been some of the things that have affected the stars of the show. Reading their stories shows us that they are not just stars to be idolised over. They are human, they have felt pain and they can understand and empathise when fans are going through similar dark times.
And this is what makes the chapters from the fans all the more special. At times their stories are extremely sensitive and difficult to read, but they all echo the same statement. In some shape or form, whether it be a character they identify with, or an actor from the show who has inspired them, this fandom has been a way for them to cope and to help ease the pain.
The legacy that this show will leave behind goes beyond DVD’s and merchandise. Supernatural demonstrates how the actors, fans and surrounding community of this fan group have created a movement that has started relationships, that has brought people through dark times, and that has even at its most extreme, saved lives.
If it weren’t for documentation such as this book, we may not have known just how much of an impact that this community has had. Lynn is a devoted and talented researcher, and this book is a diary of the personalities who make this fandom special. The work that she has undertaken to collate all these words and then edit them into a wonderful anthology is astonishing. Her eloquence and articulation is something that I’ll be aspiring to for a very long time.
Perhaps you may be reading this and wonder whether I’m being dramatic, or over-hyping the work within this book. But I promise you, I’ve never read anything as raw and emotional as this piece of writing. It made me proud to be a part of the SPNFamily, and perhaps if you give it a read, you will see just how extraordinary this community is for yourself.