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.

Story Notes: The Long, Cold Dark

Are you reading The Venturess? You really should be. Go, do it now, it’s free and barely hurts at all. I want to take a second, though, and talk about this latest installment, The Long, Cold Dark.

I started it with a couple ideas that I really wanted to introduce/talk about- namely, Laurie’s backstory, and the Dead Corps (more on them in a second). When The Venturess started, it was kind of a happy-go-lucky thing. I viewed it as sort of a serious Futurama (the parallels are fairly obvious). In that vein, Laurie’s backstory is dark as hell. Aspects of it have been alluded to- as with Chip’s father in the beginning of the second series- but this week throws what she was into pretty stark relief. I’m curious to see the reaction, even with the small readership so far, that it elicits. There are big choices in this storyline, so I am curious to see how the vote goes.

Which brings us to the Dead Corps. If I could go back, there would be no Venturess, just these guys. Man, I love these guys. I need to talk about them from two perspectives, the story perspective, and the writing perspective.

Story-wise, I love these guys. Basically, the beings themselves are parasites. We’ll see that borne out no matter which way the vote goes (though the consequences are radically different). But they are awfully judgey parasites, and seek justice throughout the galaxy. They do this by attaching to their victims and seizing control of their body, which, at that point, is effectively dead. But the mind they leave alone, so the victim is trapped in a prison of their own memories, until the body falls apart entirely. I won’t say more, since that curtain will be pulled back in the next couple stories, but, as far as baddies go, I am pretty proud of them.

But let’s talk about writing them for a moment, for the writerly types among you. The problem was, essentially, that I had a locked room murder mystery on my hands, except in reverse. The only two characters I had available were Laurie and the Bartender. Both are worldly-(galactically?) wise, so having either of them be ignorant of such a threat would undermine their credibility. Also, I didn’t want 500 words of a 1,000 word story to be rambling exposition, either by me or by a character, so a combination was arrived upon. A flashback, slight incredulity from the Bartender, and some clarification from Laurie, and what needs to be revealed, is, along with its emotional ties to the character who is in the emotional center of the story.

So, please- head over to The Venturess, read it over, and vote on it!

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.