In Praise of Leia

There’s a lot of talk these days about strong women in fiction, and rightly so. There is also a ton of talk about Rey being overpowered, and… not so rightly. It’s particularly idiotic when we accept at face value that literally any dude handed a gun in an action movie is automatically Rambo, including, ya know… Rambo. Hell, including Luke himself, which the puppy/GG crowd will fight to the death, but let’s talk about that original trilogy for a second.

Because while you can debate Luke’s Hero’s Journey all day long (Luke sucks), the fact of the matter is Lucas lucked into one of the bad-ass women of all time. I say lucked into, because I have zero confidence in Lucas’ ability to A) write a decent character in the first place and B) because his track record of treating race and gender with respect is… not good. And C) because all the things that makes Leia awesome, I am pretty sure he did by omission. Here is a non-exhaustive list of Awesome Shit Leia Does:

  • Fights tyranny, not just with guns, but through proper channels and peacefully
  • Also guns
  • Resists torture by a Sith Lord
  • Watches her home planet be destroyed rather than give up information
  • Still manages to get off a snappy line when she is rescued*
  • Realizes her rescuers are, uhhhhh, kinda idiots who have no plan, and takes over
  • Comforts Luke (who sucks) about his friend dying**
  • Coordinates and attack on the Death Star right after all that
  • Doesn’t leave anyone at Echo Base until she is literally dragged out
  • Watches the same Sith Lord torture her crush
  • Saves Luke’s stupid ass
  • Tries to save her BF by going undercover in a mob
  • Gets captured and shoved in a bikini (click that link, kids)
  • Chokes the guy/slug that shoved her in said bikini
  • Volunteers for super-dangerous mission
  • Finds out her dad is the Sith lord who tortured her and her BF
  • Saves her BF
  • Finishes super-dangerous mission
  • Completing super-dangerous mission leads directly to conception of Poe
  • Sorry I got distracted there
  • Son turns to the Dark Side
  • Husband peaces out
  • She leads a new Rebellion… thingy
  • POE
  • Sorry
  • Husband comes back!
  • Son doesn’t
  • Son kills husband
  • Makes sure Rey, who she just met, goes to Luke (why? HE SUCKS) to train

That’s just so far. Most of us would have curled up in a ball and cried from half of that.

I'llNeverTell.jpg

By Chris Trevas

Which brings us to the writing side of it, and the asterisk up there is why I say Lucas lucked out here- that line wasn’t in the script, it was all Carrie coming up with it on the spot. I think Lucas wrote Leia to be a damsel in distress through a lot of it. Because, and maybe this is just me, but if I write about someone getting tortured and watching their planet blow up, I would want to explore the effect it had on them. But Lucas just moves on, as most movies and books do when a woman goes through something traumatic. It’s a plot point, a thing to motivate the actual protagonist (Luke, who sucks) along.

 

Which brings us to the double asterisk up there- Luke loses a friend who has known for… two days? Ish? Leia watched her home go all ‘splodey. Granted, Luke lost his family and home too, and his pain would certainly be real, but… whole planet. And there she is, comforting him. Lucas & Co. just gloss over her pain, but in doing so, make her stronger. Because she, through all of, handles herself. The only person we see her vulnerable with is Han, and that makes their romance more compelling than the standard guy-gets-girl narrative.

I don’t have a super-huge point here, besides:

  1. Leia is bad ass
  2. Luke sucks
  3. Don’t talk shit about Rey, she is perfect

And, maybe, from the writing side of it, there is a good lesson in not over-thinking things. Let your characters be who they are, and maybe they will be stronger for it.

DESR

PS Seriously, don’t talk shit about Rey. I will cut you.

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Story Notes: The Venturess

In case you’re not familiar, The Venturess is my free, ongoing, crowdsourced science fiction story. What does that mean? Every Friday, a new story is posted. At the end is a poll. You vote for what you want to happen next. After a week, voting closes and yours truly writes the next installment. Rinse and repeat.

This is a concept I have always loved- and I think a lot of people have, growing up with the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books (which is a trademarked term, natch). I wanted to find a way to make that work online, with anyone who wanted being able to participate. I think this way works very well, and hopefully you do too. In the near future, I’d like to be posting more frequently, but more on that in a sec.

As to the story itself, I wanted a fun, open SciFi universe. Lasers and aliens and FTL travel and all that. I wanted engaging characters that readers would care enough to vote on their fates, and had to have them doing something that would allow them to see the sights in said universe. Package delivery worked for Futurama and Firefly, so The Venturess is a cargo ship.

venturessWhile it’s certainly lighter than a lot of what I write, I wanted the voting process to carry meaning. Which is to say, there is no fridge to hide in- Characters can die, and have. It’s not Game of Thrones, either, where every choice leads to a bloodbath. Sometimes the endings, such as they are, will be happy. Other times, not. It all depends on the votes.

About those endings: It’s in an episodic format, obviously, but think of it as a TV show with ‘seasons’: Each one contains a story arc. I don’t have a set number that it will take, because that would be too much planning- I’d rather let the votes play out as they need to. So some might be longer, some shorter.

The other thing I wanted was for this to be free- free to read, free to participate in. But, time being money and all that, if it’s something people enjoy and want to support, I want to give them (and myself) that opportunity. So I set up a Patreon for that purpose. If it gets to the point where it is something a lot of people are enjoying, and supporting, I will change to a weekly schedule (and if people really enjoy it, I will start a second story in a new universe, with new characters).

‘Season’ three started this week. It goes to a much darker place than the first two, so if you haven’t yet- come aboard! Read and vote for free, and if you like it, please consider chipping in!

DESR

If You Read One Blog Post…

…Read this one. Why? Because this is the one where I ask y’all for the something.

In case you didn’t know, I write a SciFi choose-your-own-adventure. I would really appreciate it if you read it, and voted on it. It’s a really fun thing to write and, hopefully, to read.

Yesterday, I opened a Patreon to support it. Basically, if you’re not familiar, it’s like an ongoing Kickstarter, in that instead of larger one-time pledge, every time a new post goes up (every other week, in this case), a small pledge is made. This way, I get to keep working of fun projects like The Venturess. So, if possible and you’d like to, please, go and back it. Thank you!

DESR

World Teasing

I don’t know if you all have heard or not, but the first teaser for Star Wars came out. You very well might have missed it, since it received only slightly less fanfare than the moon landing. It was 88 seconds long, showed exactly jack about the movie, and it has been examined in more detail than DNA. Reactions ranged from over-the-top excitement to over-the-top rage. Strike that, those were the only two reactions.

Blasphemy! Or, not what you imagined.

I like Star Wars as much as the next person, and am pretty firmly in the ‘excited’ camp, but I have often said I like the idea of Star Wars considerably more than Star Wars itself. Up until about a week ago, the best thing about an Episode VII trailer was that it didn’t exist. Everything we knew about it was open, paint splattered in patterns of our own making on the blank canvas of non-existence. Then, in 88 seconds, everything we imagined it to be was removed and cold reality took shape.

And that’s why the idea of Star Wars is so great. The world building is incredibly well done, but what it does best is world tease. In the original trilogy, we never saw massive population centers. The moon of Yavin, Tatooine, Hoth- those were place no one in the galaxy went. Even Cloud City, for all its romance, is a mining outpost. Yet we got glimpses, ideas of what the rest of the universe was like, and we play in it like the giant sandbox it is.

The oft-cursed prequels made that sandbox a little smaller. They made us look at the population centers and what a galaxy with more than a couple Jedi was like, and none of them were in hiding. The next trilogy will do the same- until now, what happened after the Ewok party was all in our heads, and a few mediocre books.

Bummer, right? We want it, but we don’t, and none of us were hired to write or direct, so it will be the vision of another.

But this rant really isn’t about Star Wars. It’s about what the glory of science fiction really is. You can build an awesome world and tell an awesome story, but is that it? I think the best ones are the ones that invite new stories, the stories that are never committed to paper. That when a reader puts the book down, they wonder what wasn’t told.

Sometimes, the idea of a thing is better.

DESR

Short Fiction is Alive and Well

In case you haven’t heard, there isn’t much short fiction available online. WHAT, you say, ABOUT SUCH MARKETS AS TOR AND LIGHTSPEED AND STRANGE HORIZONS AND FIRESIDE AND BASTION AND PROBABLY A GAJILLION OTHERS I CAN’T NAME OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD.

Short Fiction, rising from the grave

Short Fiction, rising from the grave

A valid query, my friend, yet new market Terraform has informed us that there is a dearth of short fiction available online. And then they updated it when a large part of the internet informed that, oh yeah, there is a ton of short fiction out there. Now, I write short fiction, so anyone willing to pay me $0.20 a word is a welcome addition to the market, and another short fiction market in general is something I am happy about. And if you want to present your market as new-and-exciting, by all means, do so. But saying there aren’t other markets is tone-deaf, at best.

Because short fiction is kind of the lifeblood of the industry. Not in the sense that it rakes in the publishing dollars the way blockbuster novels that get turned into blockbuster movies do, but in that it is what injects new writing blood into the industry. As a writer, writing short fiction (that anyone buys or not) allows me to hone my craft, improve myself and flex muscles I otherwise wouldn’t. Each sale is a publishing credit to my name, which agents and editors look at, and/or directs new readers to my longer (and more profitable) works.

And perhaps, as their hasty retreat-statement implies, short fiction is for the geeks, not the common folk. To which I say, yeah, probably. But that’s the way of the world, really. There are levels of geek-dom, fandom in anything, and it only makes sense that the ‘harder’ fans of SciFi in general will be the ones who read short fiction, rather than the ones who lump all SciFi into a Star Wars and Star Trek shaped bucket. So, hey, if you can get more people to read it, more power to you. But if you expect a ton of new short-fiction-reading-Uber-geeks to turn out because they loved the don’t-think-to-hard-about-it style of the Avengers and Star Trek: Into Plotlessness Darkness, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. That’s not to say that those people aren’t out there, waiting to discover how awesome short fiction is- they are- but the more constructive way to go about  it is to embrace those who came before, and try to spread the Short Fiction Gospel* together.

 

DESR

*I am using this term somewhat facetiously.

Adaptation

I love movies. Old movies, in particular. I, along with the civilized world* think adaptations of books are, generally speaking, a terrible idea. There are, of course, notable exceptions, but, by and large, they suck. Even when they weren’t terrible, they fail to capture the essence of the book or piss off the author (see: Poppins, Mary).

Lately, I (along with every person on the planet**) have fallen in love with comic book movies. Oh, sure a few came along previously now and then, but the less said about Dick Tracy and Daredevil, the better. I attribute their recent success largely to the subject matter- A comic book does not contain nearly as much information as a book, and certainly even the most complex has far less ‘beats’ to it than the average novel. The pacing lends itself much better to a two-hour adaption than, say, The Hobbit (rot in the fires of hell for all eternity, Peter Jackson). So you end up with a much more entertaining product that adapts the subject matter more effectively.

Which, in a somewhat convoluted fashion, lead me to wonder why more movies aren’t based on short stories? It’s not like there is a lack of short fiction out there (and lord knows the film rights would probably be cheaper). But check out this list of feature films adapted from short stories. It’s… underwhelming. 3:10 to Yuma, Coraline, Enemy Mine, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, The Shawshank Redemption… Very little jumps out. Oh, god, Paycheck. How is Ben Affleck so terrible? But I digress. There is not a lot out there.

Short fiction should meet the criteria- generally, a story 5,000-10,000 words in length would translate very well to two or so hours. In fact, better, because it would often allow filmmakers to take liberties that they can’t visually with comic books, or will face backlash for in the detailed world of novels. So why isn’t there more?

I, unfortunately, don’t have a good answer. But if any Hollywood people think it’s a good idea, I know a guy***.

 

*I do not mean America. I mean people who hate movies adaptions of books.

**I do mean every person on the planet.

***Not why I wrote this post, but hey, why not.