I lied a little in the comments this morning.
That’s what the comments section is for, right? Right??
Okay, no – I exaggerate. But one of my SFF Seven group-blogmates posted this morning about how much he loves the Star Trek franchise books, especially a particular set. We’re talking this week about books that people might be surprised we love. He certainly surprised me – and I commented that I’ve never gotten into reading any of the franchise books, meaning the books spun off movies and TV shows like Star Wars and Star Trek.
Which is largely true, but not precisely so.
See, I did try to read one, a long, long time ago, in a mall chain bookstore far, far away. It was not long after Star Wars Episode IV came out, which my parents took me to see on the big screen, dragging me along to their choice of movie as they always did, which then absolutely lit up my world. In the ensuing years – there were three years in real time between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back – I became addicted to Star Trek reruns on TV after school, discovered Anne McCaffrey wasn’t the only fantasy writer, and spent a lot of time and allowance money at that mall chain bookstore. Maybe it was a B. Dalton?
At any rate, I was dying to know What Happened Next in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back was YEARS away, and I spotted a Star Wars BOOK.
I tell you, angels wept.
I bought the slim paperback – I bet it wasn’t more than 200 pages – and eagerly began to read. What had happened to Leia, Luke and Han?? Well. The opening scene (or one of them) took place in some kind of pawn shop and culminated in a light saber (?) being thrust into a guy’s eye and bloody pulp flying everywhere. Then… I can’t even remember, but people were doing Wrong and Weird things. The characters weren’t like they were in the movie. It might have been that Leia, Luke and Han weren’t even IN it.
Angels were not amused.
This was long before I understood that a canon could be riffed upon. The book might have been written “in the world,” or – who knows? – might not even have been authorized. I have no idea now who wrote it or much more about it than the eye pulp flying everywhere.
Plus, that the story didn’t deliver anything like the movie had, and I was already well-aware that books are always better than the movie.
So, I never read another. That one book filled me with such loathing that I wrote off all franchise books as anathema. Now I’m wondering what I’ve missed…
What about all of you – do you read franchise books like this? Are there any you LOVE that I should check out???
Today is the release day of THE DEVIL’S DOORBELL! Very cool to see the excitement out there about it. Also, working with this group of amazing, high-caliber and professional authors has been one of the highlights of my career so far. You ladies rock!
So, I’ve been stewing on this post since I saw Star Wars: the Force Awakens. OBVIOUSLY this post will contain spoilers. You all have had six months to see the movie, so I figure any spoilerage is on you at this point *and* you’ve been warned. It does affect your experience of the movie. After all, my own mother spoiled it for me as I talked to her on the drive down to Albuquerque to see the movie with a friend – after I’d avoided spoilers for WEEKS!
(Also, I seem to have gotten quite worked up writing this post, so the F-bombs are flying. Be warned.)
Anyway, The Force Awakens (TFA) opens many years after The Return of the Jedi finishes. Luke has disappeared to parts unknown, Han and Leia consummated their love affair long enough to birth and raise (for an unspecified period of time) their son, Kylo Ren. He’s an emo dude who ran off at some point to take up Darth Vader’s megalomaniacal legacy. Because of some vague disagreement over their bad boy son, Han and Leia broke up and have lived apart for *years*. She’s been key in the ongoing rebellion leadership (which is super-cool; more of this, please; yes yes yes) and Han went off to … I dunno. Scavenge around the galaxy with Chewie? That part wasn’t terribly clear to me.)
I should caveat here that I am decidedly NOT a follower of the Star Wars overall canon. I’ve never read any of the books written around the franchise, or anything else. I’ve seen all the movies, but that’s it. I’m aware that people write about and discuss all kinds of story threads not in the movies, but I don’t know anything about them.
ANYWAY… this seriously stuck in my craw. Yes, it’s a great moment when the movie’s central heroine and hero run into Han and Chewie, and it’s a lovely moment of reunion when Han and Leia see each other again, but is it worth this backstory of their long separation?
No no no.
And you know why this annoys me so greatly?
Two reasons: because it’s facile storytelling and because it transmits SFF’s contempt for romance.
Allow me to unpack a little.
Why have Han and Leia be long-separated at the beginning of the movie? To add conflict. I can’t think of another reason. (Enlighten me if you have one.) To me this reads as screenwriting shorthand: separate the lovers so that you can have the tension of their old differences and the simmer of sexual tension renewed. Because Hollywood thinks you can’t have an established love affair AND sexual tension.
Also I think Hollywood believes that long-term relationships can’t last happily, which is part of their contempt for romance. In most movies with romance, the focus is entirely on the establishment of the early relationship – as with Han and Leia in Episodes IV-VI – and rarely on a long-term relationship. When a movie IS about later in the relationship, it’s nearly always about trouble. Conflict, doncha know.
So, I suspect the screenwriters didn’t give much thought to the possibility of having Han and Leia having been together all those intervening years. They just tossed out that, oh no! They separated acrimoniously because their son was a shit head. Because this does in so many marriages, right?
That annoyed me, too. Han and Leia are both strong-minded people who’ve endured great losses in their lives and emerged scarred but victorious. And we’re to believe they could not preserve their great passion for each other, that their love and loyalty that survived the worst pressures simply crumbled because they couldn’t agree on their grown son doing stupid, disappointing things?
Talk about undercutting two truly great characters. Which brings me around to the contempt for romance.
I could be wrong, but I doubt it occurred to anyone working on the movie how this change in trajectory affects our long-held feelings for Han and Leia. All these many years since Return of the Jedi, I’ve had them in my heart living Happily Ever After. Sure, fighting the Empire and various scourges of civilization, but TOGETHER. Side by side. Heroic partners in life. Enjoying at least that much joy, which is the WHOLE FUCKING POINT OF TRIUMPHING OVER AN EVIL EMPIRE IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Did I mention this annoyed me?
Basically this movie told us that there is no happiness. Even Han and Leia don’t get to have it.
Worst of all, Han dies, so they’ll never be together again. Even though they reconcile (and it IS a lovely scene), there’s not even a kiss. He dies. Leia soldiers bravely on, alone. (She’s an older woman now, so she wouldn’t be interested in having sex again anyway.)
Don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled to pieces that it looks like Carrie Fisher will be back to play Leia in perhaps an even greater role as a general in the rebellion in the next movies. (Which I wonder if the movie folks had planned on before they saw the *overwhelming* “Fuck-Yeah, General Leia” response.) However, I Am Not Pleased that she seems to be relegated to crone status.
But, hey, it’s SFF action/adventure and who cares about mushy stuff beyond the occasional dirty-hands, smexy kiss?
Oh yeah. We do.
And you know what? We can have both. Let’s get out there and write those damn stories.