Friday, May 25, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story - The Review. SPOILERS!

Here we are finally with our second "stand alone" Star Wars movie. I feel it is only fair to preface this by saying that from the moment this movie was announced, I thought... WHY? First and most importantly, because nobody can or should replace Harrison Ford as Han Solo. Second, because I think it takes something away from the character if we know too much as far as specifics of his background. I don't NEED to know his back story, or why he is cynical. Like... I never watched ANH and wondered, gee, why so cynical, Han? Nope, I didn't wonder that any more than I wondered why Luke was so innocent or why Leia was so self assured. They just... are.

My fears only magnified as things progressed, and more new Star Wars movies kept coming out, because they only seem to know how to retroactively make things worse for all of our heroes, so my assumption was that this would be no different. Especially once I learned they were giving him a real love interest, rather than maybe a random girlfriend or two (or more), given how they have treated Han and Leia to this point, I only assumed that they would again somehow try to use this as a way to twist the knife in my back even more. So now that we know what I was thinking before, let's get to the review.

We begin on Corellia. Again it is so odd to have a Star Wars movie that begins without the infamous crawl, but instead there was an intro that just came across in the same font as the "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." which they also showed, they explained how Corellia is all full of crime and how all these children are forced to steal and whatever. They seemed to like borrowing some things from other versions of Han's back story while choosing to change others. So then we meet Han, who steals a speeder and drives it back to I guess the lair where all of the other children who are forced into crime are. Oh and right away we get our first sighting of the infamous dice, which for something that I, as a lifelong Star Wars fan who had seen the movies dozens of times over the course of my entire life have only consciously noticed in ANH maybe twice, are suddenly now like the most important thing in the universe to Han for some reason. I guess Han is supposed to be pretty young still here but it's sort of weird because he looks like an adult, and we see a bunch of little kids bringing in whatever they stole.

Han comes back with something that is apparently worth a whole lot of credits so that he and his girlfriend Qi'ra can buy a ship and finally get away from Corellia. How do we know she is his girlfriend? Because he kisses her within like a minute of them being on screen together. Right away I felt like I was tossed into the middle of a story, which I guess can kind of work sometimes, but I just didn't feel like it worked well here. I have no idea how long these two have been together or what kind of relationship they have aside from the fact that apparently they kiss and have talked about leaving.

So after they kiss a second time, just to make sure the audience knows that these two are boyfriend and girlfriend, Han is brought in before Lady Proxima, who is basically a giant lizard lady who lives in a small pool of water and for some reason is in charge of this crime syndicate of enslaving runaway children to steal for her. So like I guess that makes it different from the EU, because it's not Garris Shrike, it's a girl this time. And a lizard. But other than that it seems basically the same, and Han is beaten a little while Qi'ra watches for some reason (probably, again, to show the audience that she cares about him and doesn't like seeing him beaten) and they manage to escape into their speeder and there is a chase that we don't really care about that much as they head for this transport to get out.

As they are evading Imperials among the people walking around, Han hands Qi'ra those dice... for some reason. We don't really know why, she just kind of smiles at him. They get separated though as Qi'ra gets taken and Han can't get to her and he basically loses it, although, again, at this point we really have absolutely no idea how long these two have known each other and I didn't really feel much for Han when she was taken away. Han is understandably nervous as he still fears being apprehended but fortunately he spots where he can go and join the Imperial Academy because he wants to be a pilot, but also, mostly, because he just doesn't want to be captured. This was a change from Han's old back story where it is a more conscious decision for him to join up rather than a spur of the moment decision, and I'm not a fan of this change, but whatever.

Of course the more annoying thing that happens here is that when Han is giving the guy his name he just says his first name and the guy is like, "Who are your people?" And Han just stares at him blankly and the guy is like, ok, Solo. So that's how he gets his last name, in the dumbest fashion ever even though nobody really ever questioned why his last name was Solo. Not to mention the fact that it doesn't make any sense that he would keep such a name given to him by an Imperial officer. But at this point their "logic" is so faulty you are a lot more willing to just roll your eyes and let this stuff go. Because seriously, I never wondered about where his last name came from.

We immediately cut to 3 years later and Han is in some sort of ground war that resembles World War II, which is sort of weird because given the technology of Star Wars, it just seems odd that any of this fighting would happen as ground combat, but whatever. But it is here that we meet Woody Harrelson's character Beckett and his girlfriend Val. I should tell you right away, if you were excited for another female character, and finally a woman of color, do not get too attached to Val. They are in Imperial armor as well but Han realizes pretty quickly that something is off and they stole the armor, and for reasons I definitely do not understand this makes him assume that they would be a good choice to help him get off this planet and go be a pilot like he wants to. Before that though Han has to mouth off a bit to his lead officer after he says they need to take out the hostiles, and Han reminds him that this is their planet and the Imperials in this case are the hostiles. I guess it took him THREE YEARS of being an Imp to notice or say anything? I don't quite follow.

Anyway, Han proposes his idea to Beckett, who doesn't like that idea and instead gets Han turned over for desertion and he gets taken away so he can be fed to "the beast." Here is another predictable moment where I immediately guessed who the beast was probably going to be. So Han gets dropped down into this caged in pit and is attached at the ankle to whatever this beast is. The beast wanders out of the shadows and.... of course it is Chewie! Yay! Except maybe not so much yay, because as was mentioned, Han is down there to feed him since he apparently hasn't eaten in a few days. I should also note, I have no idea if Chewie had any other purpose than to remain chained up and occasionally eat insubordinate soldiers. So now of course Han and Chewie are battling, Han is trying not to get eaten, and just before Chewie drowns Han in mud Han says something to Chewie in Shriiwook. Because how convenient that he can already speak it for some unknown reason!

So instead of being eaten, the two escape together. This is maybe the back story change that I disliked the most, and the one that comes closest to actually making me mad. In the old version, Han frees Chewie from slavery because he finds slavery appalling, and that defiance is what gets him kicked out of the Academy. It is also what leads to Chewie's life debt to him and why he stays with him all those years. In this version he doesn't so much save him as use him as a means to not die himself and then kind of gets stuck with him, and then Chewie stays with him for pretty much no reason at all. It should also be noted that there is a moment in the trailer where Chewie affectionately leans in and presses his forehead to that of another Wookiee, which I think made most of us assume that it was maybe Chewie's wife or something. But turns out, nope, just a random Wookiee later on.

So Han and Chewie are still attached and Han tries to flag down the departing ship of Beckett and his crew because I guess they're friends now because they interacted for 10 seconds before Beckett turned Han in as a traitor. But John Favreau's wise-cracking alien pilot character Rio Durant seems to think it would be good to have some extra muscle, so they go back and pick them up. Which then leads us to the scene that we never thought we'd get to see, Han Solo naked in the shower. And then Chewie joins him. Ok, I admit, that was legitimately funny. And there were for sure a few moments in this movie I genuinely laughed, but it doesn't make up for the rest of it.

Eventually our new crew here has some quiet time and there is some talk about how Han is doing what he is doing for a girl, so he is still thinking about Qi'ra. But more importantly for now, they all need to go deal with this train heist thing for some reason that escapes me. So this leads us to a long action sequence of our new little band of criminals trying to steal stuff from a train. This scene is ok I guess, but I should note that at this point in the movie I was incredibly bored and had no idea what really we were supposed to want to see happen. This was an action sequence for the sake of having an action sequence. And like, cool train I guess, but ultimately, whatever.

The heist does not go exactly as planned because they are attacked by Enfys Nest and his crew. We know Enfys is a bad guy because his helmet/face mask are "evil" looking. I'm so glad that Star Wars makes everything so black and white for us in this regard. Other than that, I have no idea who these guys are or if it was ever explained. So this whole plan kind of goes to crap and Rio is trying to bring the ship in to help them but he gets shot and isn't doing so well. But hey, good news that Han finally gets to show off his pilot skills as he hops in to take over just before Rio dies. So, I hope you weren't too attached to Rio either. Val had been waiting to blow up a section of the bridge to take out the rest of the train and the ship was then going to take away the one train car that had the hyperfuel on it (apparently we're supposed to care a lot about hyperfuel - at least I think that was what was on it, honestly I'm not positive on that). Because the plan is going so badly she finally blows the bridge when she is still on it and she dies. I honestly am not sure what the successful version of this plan was supposed to look like.

Beckett and Chewie manage to get back on the ship with Han and they have their haul but Nest's team gets some cables on it and they try to steal it too. Beckett tells Han not to let go as they are heading toward a mountain, but Han finally lets it go before they crash, Nest's crew can't support the weight of the car themselves on their speeder-bike-like vehicles and they lose the cargo which then causes an incredible explosion that basically destroys the mountain. Beckett is none too thrilled with Han about that and is already in a pretty bad place because his girlfriend is dead. Conversations are had though and Han and Chewie decide to continue to stick with Beckett.

I should note that at this point in the movie, every scene so far just seems exceptionally dark. And I don't mean tone-wise, I mean like you want someone to turn up the lights because it's just plain hard to see. 

So now they have to go and confess that they did not complete their little mission and must visit Dryden Vos who is the leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. You will remember that name because I swear they say the words Crimson Dawn at least a dozen times throughout the movie. And I swear it sounds really familiar but the only thing I can think of that it might be reminding me of is that part in Die Hard when Hans Gruber is asking for random people to be released to meet his random demands and he mentions Asian Dawn. For real, I was like, we get it, you're Crimson Dawn. But that's not the most important thing here. No, the most important thing is what an unbelievable coincidence it is that when they go to meet him, who do they see at this party but Qi'ra! Seriously, the galaxy is practically infinite, and Han just happened to totally randomly connect with this dude who just happens to work for a guy who has been with Qi'ra for a while.

There whole reuniting here is just odd. Han is of course thrilled to see her since basically everything he has done recently has been so that he could go back to Corellia and get her. While she seems to be more like, "Oh, cool, hi." Uh... ok. Then they just start totally casually talking like nothing is weird at all about this. So then we go and meet Dryden Vos who really would rather just kill them for not completing their mission but instead decides to let them attempt to redeem themselves, but definitely for sure if they don't complete THIS mission he will totally kill them. Also during this it seems apparent that Dryden and Qi'ra are "together." But it's definitely a creepy sort of thing and you can tell that Qi'ra isn't really happy about it, but she has a marking on her wrist that matches the symbol on a ring that Vos wears. But also for some strange reason Vos sends Qi'ra with them.

So, they need to go to... Kessel! And in order to do so, they need a fast ship. Good news, because Qi'ra knows someone. If you guessed that someone is Lando, you're right. So this is one of the few bright spots of this whole thing. Donald Glover makes an excellent young Lando, and from the time he was announced I was like... ok, so maybe not EVERYTHING about this movie will be terrible. I think he manages to just slip into the Lando persona without just doing an awkward impersonation of Billy Dee Williams. He has the confidence and the charisma and I would probably sign up for more Lando movies. Han joins in on Lando's sabacc (which they say differently than I've been reading it in my head for over 20 years, but I'll get over it) although I was a little confused because I seem to recall that there was sort of a digital element to it that would change the cards in your hand, and now it just seems like regular cards. We get to the big hand at the end and are betting ships and, well, Han loses. And he loses a fake ship he never actually had. Oops.

Anyway, instead of taking the ship for themselves they just sign Lando onto their crew and promise him a percentage of the take. Well, that was an easy problem to fix as well. Then we meet Lando's droid L3-37, who is an outspoken droid, and a female voiced one, who wants equal rights for all droids. She added a fair bit of humor to this that certainly was enjoyable at times, I do admit. So then we finally go and see the Millennium Falcon for the first time. This was also the first time I actually kind of noticed the score since it hearkens back to the original Star Wars score. This happened maybe two more times and other than that, the score was remarkably underwhelming. Han, you can tell, is immediately in love. At some point on this trip over Han and Qi'ra share a moment in Lando's cape closet. She is trying some on, and they both decide that maybe Lando has too many capes. They kiss a couple of times, again to remind us that they should totally be together in spite of their staggering lack of chemistry. Han wants to know what has been happening with her all this time, and she says she doesn't want to tell him because he would never look at her the same way again. We never do find out what exactly she has been up to that whole time.

So, now to get to Kessel and steal these um... again I think hyperfuel, but it was expensive and explosive which is the most important thing to know. On the way there of course we learn about how to navigate it and whatever. We also get a brief moment between Qi'ra and L3-37 where the droid says how she can tell that Han is in love with her, and Qi'ra says how it won't work. And then L3 says she gets it, because she can tell that Lando totally loves her but she knows that won't work either. If any of you have seen the thing going around about how Lando wants to have sex with a droid, I assume this is where that comes from, but to me it just feels like a funny joke.

Oh and also on this trip Han and Lando share a brief exchange where Han mentions that his father used to build YT-1300s and Lando asks if he was close with his dad and Han says, "Not really." So, now we are adding more confusion because it seems maybe Han did have a family, and he remembers them, and something happened. So did he have a last name or what? Did he run away or was he taken or did his parents die? We have absolutely no idea.

So we arrive on Kessel and the plan is that Qi'ra pretends that Han and Chewie are new slaves to give to them and then they all try and take over the place. Little Easter egg here where Beckett is wearing the bounty hunter disguise that Lando wears in ROTJ. So I guess that outfit just lives in the Falcon forever for all those occasions you need to dress up as a bounty hunter. Qi'ra hands Han back those dice during this scene, which we are still not given any sort of context for. During this whole thing we have a few random moments. Han and Chewie escape and Han is now in disguise, Chewie gets distracted when he sees Wookiee slaves and decides he needs to go and free them. Han doesn't go with him, so again they are really kind of changing how Han feels about slavery in general here. He isn't sure if Chewie will be coming back. L3 also frees a droid from its restraining bolt, mostly to get it away from the control panel she wants to use and she kind of off-handedly tells it to go free everyone else, so mass chaos erupts as the droids basically revolt, and then they free the human slaves as well and everything is kind of a mess now.

Chewie manages to free the Wookiees and eventually they do make it back to the ship but not before Lando takes a blaster to the arm and L3 gets mortally wounded, so Lando is very sad about that and carries her upper half with him as Chewie carries him back to the ship and they escape. But hey, good news you guys, since Lando is wounded, that means Han gets to show off his piloting skills! It should be noted that at this point we don't really know if Han has spent much time at all actually piloting. But hey, it is the new thing in Star Wars that people are just innately talented at things and don't really have to practice or learn new skills. So these explosive canisters they have stolen are highly volatile and must be processed within a very short time of being taken, so they need to go to a nearby planet but of course time is very short. So short, in fact, that it is basically impossible for them to do it, because as Lando says here, "Nobody has ever made the Kessel run in less than 20 parsecs." So, you guys, Han makes his famed less than 12 parsecs Kessel run the very first time he flies the Falcon. Because we are probably two thirds of the way through this movie and we must explain every little thing so it has to happen now or never.

They make it out and to this planet to process this stuff so it doesn't explode. Han and Lando share a brief exchange where Lando says, "I hate you," and Han says, "I know." So, that was the only reference to that, and that I can deal with. Although because of the timing and stuff I don't think anyone picks up on the REAL joke there, because everyone just laughs immediately after Lando says he hates Han. But then Enfys Nest shows up again. How or why? No idea. Han seems to think that they can fool them into thinking that they have a bunch of backup on the Falcon, but just as Han finishes telling them about this, Lando and the Falcon take off and leave them behind.

Well, then we learn that Enfys is... a young girl. This is I guess supposed to be a pretty big reveal, because even as of now there is no actor listed on IMDB for that character. I don't really know why she is a young girl. But anyway, turns out she is basically trying to help the Rebellion and they all decide that they should work together and they devise a plan. Beckett decides that he doesn't really want a part of this anymore and he leaves, so Han and Qi'ra and Chewie go back to see Dryden Vos so that he can make good on that whole not killing them thing, and even pay them. They tell him that Beckett is dead. Vos though realizes that what they have brought him back is fake (we as an audience are not aware that their plan was to bring back a fake, we don't know until he points it out) and he is, well, REALLY mad. Han thinks that Qi'ra betrayed them, but Vos points out that it wasn't her, and he is especially unhappy that she was in on this because it means she was on Han's side. Nope, we find out Beckett had turned them in and he reminds him that he already told him never to trust anyone. I should also point out again that there is a moment here with Vos and Qi'ra that is just weird and creepy and you don't really know what is going on between them. Just the way he puts his hand on her neck in what in another context might be considered affectionate but considering the look on Qi'ra's face and how uncomfortable she is, it definitely does not come off as affectionate.

Of course massive fighting ensues and Qi'ra winds up killing Vos. Han and Qi'ra are so happy now and she says that he can go ahead and she will just stay behind and grab these expensive jewels that are conveniently strewn about the room so they can use those to pay for their new ship and leave. So Han leaves but instead of grabbing the jewels, Qi'ra contacts someone through holocall (is that what we call this?) and we don't really know who it is at first, we just know that he is evil because of the deep voice and the hood he is wearing. Except then he takes off the hood and we see it is... Darth Maul! And I swear people by this point are probably so far removed that they don't even remember that he was sliced in half at the end of TPM. It should also be noted that when discussing the movie afterward, my brother was also sort of confused on the timeline and thought that maybe this lined up with the prequels before he died, except for that to be true, Han would be older than Leia's father. So, no to that.

More importantly at this point, I need to talk about how I have no idea what is going on with Qi'ra. It's all incredibly unclear. She is clearly very uncomfortable with Vos, even though it is pointed out that she is "committed" to him because of the marking on her wrist/ ring thing. But I have absolutely no idea if this was a situation she was forced into, or if this was like, her long-term plan to just go along with him as a way to secure her place with Maul later on after she betrayed Vos. Really, it is incredibly confusing. She also seems to have very little personality other than the fact that she is the girl in the movie, which is also the only reason really that Han probably wants to be with her so badly.

Han has one more final confrontation with Beckett where he "shoots first" and kills him, because he for sure would've killed him if he had the chance. Han assumes at this point that he will now go back to Qi'ra but then he sees her take off on her ship and leave him as she looks at him sadly. Again, I'm very unclear on her feelings about him here. Mostly she doesn't seem that into him. But she's still kind of sad to be leaving. But again I don't know if this was her grand scheme or if she feels like she has to do this or what?

I should also note that at this point in the movie I was like... ok but what is the END? And when? First I believe there was one last conversation with Enfys where she asks if Han wants to come with her to join the Rebellion because they need leaders and heroes and Han is like, no thanks. And she says maybe someday he'll change his mind and he says, "Don't hold your breath." FINALLY though we go find Lando again and Han wants to play sabacc with him again. I forgot to mention earlier that Han noticed that Lando had cheated at their last game, but he never said anything about it. Well, this time he knows how he cheated and when he greets him he is able to steal Lando's cheat card and Han is the one who cheats and wins the Falcon and he and Chewie fly off into the sunset, with those stupid dice hanging up in the cockpit. Is this the "after what you pulled" that Lando is talking about in ESB? Maybe? Oh and Han is heading for Tatooine to start working for Jabba because Beckett had mentioned him earlier. And FINALLY the movie is over.

Phew, ok. So, my overall impression was that I was pretty bored much of the time. And there was sort of an underlying plot in there, but not really. It's like they had a checklist of things they wanted/needed to cram into this movie and contrived a plot to stick underneath it while making sure to hit the main points. The strange thing is, this movie "explained" a lot of things we never thought really needed explaining, (the name Solo, or the origin of the dice, which again hardly anyone knew existed until they decided to make them central to Han Solo's character to the point where I'm sure in any future releases of ESB and ROTJ they will digitally insert them because they were only actually in ANH) while at the same time not at all explaining the things that they said this movie would explain. Like... Han doesn't really change in this movie. To me, it doesn't in the slightest "explain" his cynicism in ANH. It's not like he was all that trusting early on in this movie. Qi'ra also at one point says how she is the only one who knows who he really is, which is "the good guy." Of course Han protests to this, but again, this is how ANH Han would've reacted as well.

It doesn't at all explain why Han might have dealt with Luke and Leia how he did when he met them. I don't know, it doesn't really give us much explanation at all for Han's personality. He already has it here when we meet him. The good news is that the thing I was most worried about, further undermining Han and Leia, is definitely not something I needed to be worried about. Their relationship here was forced and without chemistry. She doesn't even seem that into him. Yes, he seems to be doing everything he is doing basically FOR her, but I'm not sure how much that matters if she doesn't really reciprocate. I mean, I don't look at the guy and really think he's Han, but if I did, at some point I kind of wanted to hug him and be like, "It's ok, someday you're going to meet Leia and she is going to treat you right." They don't say I love you. There is for sure no implied sex in the movie, and they are ambiguously young when we meet them, and living in like, caves with a bunch of other kids so for all we know at this point, they never had sex in the first place and Han is still a virgin. We really have no idea.

I was really worried about the acting going in. Alden does... fine, I guess. I mean certainly there are times where it's like you can SEE him acting, and he doesn't seem to embody the character at all the way others do. Which is interesting to me because in the other movies so far, no matter how I felt with them, I have always felt like the casting was well done. But again this was an impossible task to start with, hard to embody a character that is totally someone else's persona already. Emilia Clarke, well, I don't know if it is her acting or just the lack of chemistry, but meh, I just didn't care about her that much. I did appreciate getting to see some different female outfits in the GFFA but that is about it there. Paul Bettany is kind of over the top as the villain here, and this is apparently going to be the summer of seeing Paul Bettany die a lot. Avengers: Infinity War spoiler: He dies TWICE in that. And once here. That is a lot of dying for one actor. But if you want creepy, well, he certainly gives you that.

Woody Harrelson, well, I have to say that I feel like he is the same in everything and no different here. Not very good. I don't get him. He felt out of place. Donald Glover as Lando, as I said, excellent.

I'm mostly just relieved that the things I thought would make me mad definitely did not. I spent a lot of time wondering when it was going to be over because they did not do a good job of making me care, and half the movie I couldn't even see because it was so dark. I definitely don't feel like this "romance" was portrayed in a way that made it seem like, more important than what Han has with Leia later. Although still, I don't know about the dice thing. Yes, they pass the dice back and forth. But I really don't know if we are supposed to be left thinking that to Han the dice represent Qi'ra or if they are just a random lucky charm that he happened to give her at one point and she gave back, or what.

This movie also reminded me how annoying it is that even though they have been given an infinite universe to play with, and infinite timelines, they choose to keep focusing on this very small part of it and fill in every little unnecessary gap for these people. This TYPE of movie probably could've been fun and interesting if they gave it its own story rather than just trying to stuff in all these references to things in Han's past. It's fun to get to see some new planets and some new costumes and some different environments. But it's all just lost in the fact that I just don't care that much what is going on.

Ok, so, mostly boring. A lot of eye rolling things like the last name thing. A lot of confusing and unexplained things like Qi'ra's motivation. And the only kind of maddening thing to me was taking away Han's pretty noble moment of freeing Chewie from slavery because he thinks it's wrong, and not just because he doesn't want the Wookiee to eat him. Alden didn't make me mad or anything, but I didn't feel like he was Han Solo. There were some genuinely funny moments, and you kind of want to just watch Lando do his thing a lot longer. Mostly I'm relieved that it didn't upset me or anger me and now we're left with a movie that would be difficult to sit through again just due to boredom, although admittedly I'd probably watch this again before I'd watch TLJ again.

I think that is finally it, but let me know what you think or if you have any questions about it!

Friday, May 4, 2018

May the Fourth Be With You!

Obligatory May the Fourth post! Star Wars day has gotten way, way bigger since I first realized it was a thing, which was probably the first May 4th we had once we created the blog. Nobody ever said anything about it before, and then suddenly now just about everyone, everywhere is talking about it or wearing their Star Wars t-shirts.

Like a lot of people in this fandom (and by "this" I mean Han and Leia more than just like, general Star Wars... although the general Star Wars fandom is actually in a similar place now) it's becoming more than a little bittersweet. The new stuff is trying to force out the old stuff. They're trying to sell merchandise with stupid Fauxlo on it instead of actual Harrison Ford, as though anyone wants that.

But, then again, here we all still are. Still writing our fanfic that flies in the face of all the garbage they are trying to tell us happened to our favorite characters. And that, my friends, is a good thing. A very good thing. There has been more great fanfic over the last couple of years since this fiasco started than there has been in a very long time. It's challenging to even keep up with.

And in three weeks, we will have the Solo movie that nobody wanted. And let me tell you, I think people still don't want it. I will be going to see it. Yes, I know, I totally know that it is ridiculous for someone so vocally and adamantly against this to be going to see it. It's become a family tradition, and we know I'll see it eventually anyway, so we are in the process of getting our tickets as I type this. The cool thing is... it's really easy to get tickets. We have bought tickets in advance for all the recent releases, and it was stressful every time. Trying to find tickets in general, or in the theaters with assigned seats trying to get seats together was challenging, to say the least. Currently there are plenty of tickets available everywhere. This makes me happy. I really hope this movie sucks and flops bigtime.

Anyway, May the Fourth be with you!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Why We Should Never Publicly Bash Our Own Writing

I drafted this post quite a while ago, but felt it was important to finally put it up.

Ok, so I think almost every fanfic writer I've ever interacted with or read anything from has times of insecurity or feeling inadequate about their writing. We've all written something and been less than proud of it, or gone back to old stories and wondered how we could possibly have ever written something so terrible. Or we'll read something from another author and think, wow, my work is so vastly inferior to this that I should just quit writing right this minute and never return because I can't possibly compare to that. This happens to most of us. Seriously, probably even that person whose writing you think is on a level you could never comprehend. Yes, that one. The good news is that it can often help us with our desire to learn and grow as writers. But there can be a downside to that as well.

Now, here is one thing I've seen, and been guilty of myself, and it is to announce either in a summary or an author's note that your story isn't very good. Don't do that! How does that inspire anyone to read your story? Let the reader decide whether they like it or not, don't decide that for them. If they don't like it, that's their decision, and hopefully they just keep it to themselves and move on and read something else. But hey, maybe someone out there might like it!

Which brings me to another point. By saying that your story is terrible, you're kind of insulting anyone out there who might have read it and liked it. Look, I myself have stories of mine that I'm not that proud of. The ones I wrote a long time ago, the ones that I'd probably do a George Lucas Special Edition on if I had the patience or desire. I cringe at some characterizations or scenes that I've written. But the thing is, someone out there liked every single one of them. I will still get a new favorite here or there or maybe even a review. And yes, part of me kind of cringes like, wow, you liked THAT one? But the thing about fanfic is that there is something for everyone. And at the time I wrote some of those stories, they were the kind of stories I wanted to see, and clearly someone else was interested enough to read them too. So why should I tell them my story is terrible and make them feel bad about liking it?

Another big problem with bashing your own writing is that someone somewhere has probably read what you've written and not only really likes it, but compares their own writing to it. They see what you wrote, and think, well, I could never write something that good. So then how do you suppose that person feels if not only do they already think your writing is way better than yours, but then they see that you are telling them that it is terrible? At that point that person probably wouldn't dream of trying to publish something if they think your writing is vastly superior to theirs, and you're now telling them that your writing is terrible. So how bad must their stuff be if you are calling your own writing terrible? I think it only serves to further discourage people who were already worried about posting.

I get it, and like I said, I'm guilty of it as well. I know we all like to come across as humble and to not toot our own horns. That's ok, too, I'm not saying any of us have to walk around touting our writing as the next Shakespeare or JK Rowling. I'm just saying that we aren't doing ourselves or anyone else any favors when we walk around trying to convince everyone that our writing is crappy, or inferior to anyone else's. We're all different writers, and that is part of what makes it all more interesting. How boring would it be if we all wrote the same or could be easily ranked from best to worst? And why should anyone even be considered the best or the worst? It's all subjective, and there is room for all of us. Don't compare yourself to others, don't apologize for your own writing or tell people it's terrible. Nobody is obligated to read what you've written, just put it out there and let the reader decide what they think of it.

Keep in mind that most of your thoughts of inadequacy have been felt by every other writer who has ever posted a story around here. Most of us have the same anxieties and worries that our writing isn't as good as that person's, or this person's, or just good enough in general. Or that our story is boring or that nobody will want to read it, or that people will judge us as humans because we can't know what we're talking about because we've never experienced something we're writing about. It doesn't matter. We're all just writing, trying to come up with good stories and do the best we can. Don't stress about it, and don't make a habit of disparaging your own writing because more often than not you're not even just hurting yourself by saying these things, you're hurting others.

I realize some people may disagree, or feel like how other people feel about their own writing or inadequacy isn't your responsibility. And you're right to a point. The thing about fanfic writing though to me is that more than anything, it is a community. And it doesn't really work well if there isn't some community aspect to it. I mean, think about it: would it be anywhere near as fun or interesting if only one person wrote stories? Even if they were all fantastic stories, it's still fun to read things from lots of different people. And we can always use new writers, so it's important to create as encouraging an environment as possible to get more people to start writing and sharing their stuff. You never know where the next great story will come from, or what stories we've missed out on because someone felt like they weren't good enough to write or post.  

Saturday, March 24, 2018

From the Archives: Let's Not Overthink This

This post originally appeared HERE on August 4, 2011.

Often times there are certain story elements that we find very intimidating to tackle as writers. Some things flow easily and don't scare us at all, but others we feel a huge sense of responsibility to get perfect because they mark a significant moment or turning point in our characters.

Of course the easiest way to avoid this sort of anxiety is to give in to the intimidation and simply not write it. I think we can often spend so much time worrying about writing something that it makes it ten times worse than it could possibly be.

The most glaring example of this is the infamous first time. Whether you think it takes place on the way to Bespin, after he gets out of carbonite, after the battle of Endor, after their wedding or maybe even sometime before ESB, this is obviously a huge moment in their relationship, probably the most important moment. I had thought about writing it for years and was too intimidated to even try. And I'm not talking about being too intimidated to publish, I mean too intimidated to even sit down and write it for only myself with no intention of actually showing it to anyone else. I realize this sounds a bit crazy, but I have a feeling I'm not alone here.

Now that I finally decided to write it - which just occurred to me for no particular reason, I just finally felt inspired and like maybe I could write it and get it out there - I wonder why I made such a big deal out of it. Now that it's out there, I don't even think about it anymore. Not a whole lot of other people saw it as a big deal and I don't see why I made it out to be.  (2018 note: Yeah, it's been several years now since I wrote that, and I for sure don't think about it anymore or think of it as a big deal)

I feel that a lot of times as writers we can really overthink things to the point of stifling our own creativity. Han wouldn't waste time worrying about the consequences of his actions or what people might think, he'd just do it. And you know what? He doesn't really seem like he regrets much. Except maybe dumping Jabba's spice haul....

So stop overthinking things. Don't not write something because the subject matter intimidates you, just go ahead and do it. And sure, maybe after you write it you'll decide you're not happy with it and don't want to show it to anyone else and that's okay too. I think we tend to give our readers too much influence on how we feel about our own writing. And it's also funny how we can get twenty positive reviews but we will fixate on the one negative comment. It probably isn't even a mean-spirited comment, but we tend to put far more stock in the criticisms we receive than the praises. (2018 note: This is still true, and I still don't know what the right remedy for it is aside from somehow making it impossible for anyone to leave negative feedback.)

Here's the thing: nobody puts as much thought into your writing as you do. They are only going to see the writing itself and aren't going to be able to see how worried you were about getting it just right or how much anxiety you had when you finally hit the publish button and waited for a few reviews. I started writing fanfic almost ten years ago (only recently started publishing) (2018 note: Yikes, it's been WAY longer than that now!) and it took me until a month ago to finally write and publish this big moment that I had been too scared to write. The truth of it is, nobody really cares that much. They don't see it as such a huge thing. They just see it as another story to read. You agonize over writing something and then you get a couple of comments and that's the end of it and you wonder why you were so worried about it for so long. It's only been a month and I almost forgot I even published it.

So stop worrying so much about what other people are thinking and just write what you want to write. Don't be intimidated by stuff that you think is such a huge deal because most other people aren't going to see it that way. Leia always spends a lot of time thinking about the consequences of her actions. Be like Han instead, just write and put it out there. It's just writing. There aren't really any consequences anyway. 

2018 note: I decided to bring another old one up from the archives, and I think this subject will never stop being important, as most of us will never stop overthinking what we're doing and becoming paralyzed by our own worries about what we're writing. It's good to be reminded that we all feel like that, maybe MOST of the time, and you're not alone. Even the people who write things that you think are so amazing and flawless that surely you could never live up to what they write, and they couldn't possibly ever have these same feelings. Except they probably totally do, and they still write and publish anyway. Also maybe because I'm going through it yet again with my current WIP. Mostly though I just want people to be less afraid to get their writing out there!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Note to My Fellow Han and Leia Fans

So, how's everyone doing? Does anyone still check here for posts? I'd like to post more, my intention is not to let this disappear into internet obscurity. We'll see if we can help that. Anyway...

I'm sure most of you have seen the trailer for the new Solo movie. And with it of course is the onslaught of media that comes with it. And, of course, the inevitable discussions that are already beginning and will surely get worse as the movie approaches, and at their absolute worst after it happens. I have already seen a link to an article that said something like, "Seeing Han and Qi'ra in the Solo movie trailer will change your mind about Han and Leia." Ok, first, how does one trailer with a few brief moments tell us anything about his relationship with the woman? Second, I clicked on said article, and unless I missed something, all it did was recap the trailer in general, stating facts and offering no opinions. So, not sure what that was about except for clickbait. Oh, and third, are we serious here that Leia's first love was named Kier and Han's first love was named Kira - oh, sorry - I mean Qi'ra? Really?

I've been bracing myself for this since this movie was announced. I fully expect there to be a LOT of discussion about Han and this woman from his past, and how they were really meant to be together and she was his true soulmate and it's just too bad that later he had to settle for Leia, because look how that turned out? They will tell us that she knew him better than Leia ever would. And I also fully expect her to die tragically at the end of the movie, because that is just the easiest thing for them to do with her. It's going to be a total rehash of the whole Bria thing, except way worse because social media is WAY far beyond what it was when the old Han Solo trilogy books came out, and a lot more people are watching movies than reading books.

But here is the thing that I want to say. For those of us who have loved Han and Leia from the beginning, and have lot let what has happened in the new movies define them in any way, and have never wavered from feeling like they were just a wonderful couple that we love to follow and read about and write about, don't let this or any other movie change any of that. Don't let anyone try and change your opinion or tell you that this changes anything about the Han and Leia we all grew to love from the original trilogy. I admit that of course I've been one to overreact to a lot of what has been done to these two over the last few years since Disney took over, but I don't want to let it get to me anymore.

A few months after TFA came out, I asked you all what we had to look forward to as Han and Leia fans. Generally, I think most of us who still read here aren't really looking forward to anything in the official canon. They seem to be committed to making it all pretty terrible for our heroes. But the good news is that I've seen some awesome fanfic recently, and it's nice to see that so many Han and Leia fans are still treating them well and giving them the life together that they deserve.

I don't know what my real point in writing this post is. I think mostly it is that I know that a lot of us are going to once again feel kind of hurt and betrayed by whatever might happen in this new movie that will probably make things even worse for Han and Leia somehow, even without Leia being in it at all. There will absolutely also be a loud contingency of people who will be shouting about how Qi'ra is so much better for Han than Leia ever was. What I'm saying is that you don't have to listen to it, or pay attention to it. Or even argue with those people. It's not a contest that we need to win. If there are people who want to ship those two, let them. We don't have to read their stories or agree with them. And hopefully they can respect our different opinion on the subject and not turn it into an all out war over which couple is better. Because, well, it's not like there is a way to "win" that is there?

Just keep reading and writing about the couple you love and don't let any of it get to you. I know it is probably going to get difficult at times, but I think we can handle it!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

From the archives: Writing Your First Fanfic

This post originally appeared HERE on November 3, 2011.
2018 Note: I thought it might be good to get back to some of what we had originally wanted the blog to be about in the first place. 

 I'd like to thank amara z for the suggestion on writing this as a post. And it will get us back to posting more "topical" posts as according to the poll that seems to be what you all want more of!

So, you want to write a fanfic, but you aren't sure where to get started, huh? Well, there are probably at least a hundred different things you could do to start, but here I'll just give you some suggestions.

First, obviously, you need an idea. There are no set rules as to what this idea needs to entail other than it should probably have something to do with Star Wars and Han and Leia. I could tell you that you should start simple or with a short story, but there have been plenty of writers (*cough* Push *cough*) that have started right out of the gate with pretty epic story lines, so there's no reason your first story can only be five hundred words. But if you only want it to be that long, then that's okay, too.

Don't judge your ideas. Any idea is valid. Even if it's an idea that has been done before, I still believe that every author can bring their own unique perspective to it. Sure, there are dozens of trip to Bespin stories. And some are similar, but no two are exactly alike. If you think you have something to say on a subject that has been done before, write it.

So, you've got your idea. Now what? First, even if you don't have time to start writing the story, at least write down the idea somewhere so you don't forget it. You'd be amazed how quickly things can fly right out of your brain, never to be heard from again. Don't judge your idea. Don't analyze whether it's worth pursuing or not. If I only wrote things I thought would be the most amazing stories ever... well, I never would've written anything.

Find some quiet time and sit down and start typing. For those adults with children among us, this time is precious, so hopefully you can find some of it when there aren't a dozen other things weighing on your mind. Or hopefully you can at least tune out all of the other stresses in your life. It is preferable if it is either quiet or maybe some music in the background. I sometimes find that listening to the movie soundtracks provides inspiration. Although sometimes that can also be distracting because I'll recognize certain music cues and be like, "Oh, this was when they were in the garbage masher!"

And lastly, start typing. Don't have any rules to start with. Just write what you want to write. If the dialogue is what is clearest in your mind and you don't feel like filling in all of the other details in between, then just go with that. There is no reason you can't go back and add later. I know in the past I've always been sort of rigid in my writing, basically telling myself I couldn't move on until I completely finished a certain scene or whatever, but I don't do that anymore. I find it's best to write what I'm inspired to write at the time and to get typed up the things most clear in my head. It can be demoralizing when you're forcing yourself to write something you're not into at the moment just to get to the stuff you are. So just keep typing and blanks can be filled in later.

At any time during this process you can send it to a trusted friend to read. It is up to you at what point this should happen and I know for me it depends on the story. Sometimes I want Push to read it right away and sometimes I don't send it to her until it's halfway or even almost done. Sometimes I send it when it is more complete and sometimes I send it when I know there are some details missing but I want her to look at it anyway. You'll know when it's time. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. And by help I mean really almost anything you might need for the story. Whether it be spelling, grammar, even helping move the plot along if there are some details you just can't seem to get worked out. It can be tough at first, especially since sometimes it feels like giving up control or getting help in certain things means the story isn't entirely yours anymore. As long as you don't hand it to someone and say, "Here, you write this whole thing," then it's still yours.

You can work alone as long as you want, though. Eventually it helps to share it. But at first, write as though you are the only one who is going to see it. You can delete anything you later deem too embarrassing to share with another human being. I promise, the more you do this, the lower your standards become for that sort of thing. You need a combination of uninhibited writing that is just for you and then later it helps to have the motivation of someone reading it and telling you what they like about it. It is always more inspiring when someone tells you that what you're writing is worthwhile. Often it can be tough to push through to publishing without that sort of encouragement along the way. That's not to say it's impossible, because I think a lot of us (myself included) did it on our own to start with, but once you get to sharing it, it's tough to go back the other way.

All right, you've decided to share it with someone and they've read it. This can provide motivation and/or editing help. I don't care if you got straight A's in English. Everyone needs someone to read their stuff. I've not noticed in my own stories some of the sort of mistakes I correct for other people all the time. Sometimes you just need a fresh pair of eyes looking at it. It doesn't mean you're stupid or that under most circumstances you do, in fact, know that you were supposed to use their instead of there.

At this point, it is really up to you how much back in forth is involved here. It can be a one and done thing or you can ask over and over again. And this is another thing that often depends on the story. Sometimes I send Push something once, and sometimes I'll bother her with it four or five times, it just depends on the scene. This is where you would go back and fill in those details you'd been avoiding, or whatever scenes you'd been putting off. Trust me, a lot of times they're easier to deal with when the rest of the story is almost done and it's the only thing holding you back. It's tougher to push through them when there's not much story there yet and you can just as easily give up on it.

So you've had your quiet writing time. You've shared with a friend for motivation and for editing. You've got what you think is a complete story, so what next? Time to publish! Most of us here are probably going through as I do. It's easy enough to set up an account over there and post. The only problem is that I find one of the hardest things to deal with are titles and summaries. I've literally had people tell me they avoided reading something of mine due to one or both of those. Fortunately, a friend had told them to read anyway and they were pleasantly surprised, so you can certainly do it wrong.

My advice here, although I'm not sure I'm qualified, is to keep it simple. I struggle sometimes with what might be too much plot to give away in the summary but you just do what you feel is right. And please, don't put "I suck at summaries" in your summary. Yes, maybe you do suck at summaries. But writing that within the summary doesn't really entice me to read it. Even a sucky summary without the commentary on its suckiness is going to make me want to read the story more than telling me you suck at summaries.

Once it's published, there's not much left to do but sit and wait for reviews. Wait, reviews? Where are my reviews? Perhaps the hardest thing about all of this is sometimes you're just not going to get many of them. Why? Because there are more readers than writers and I think the people who just read have no idea how much a simple acknowledgment that they read and enjoyed your story can mean to someone. I also think that the reviews tend to increase the more you write. This doesn't even have to do with you getting better (although you probably will) but I think seeing your name more often up there just gives you a better chance of people reading and reviewing your things.

It's definitely tough to sit back and wonder why you don't have more reviews and you have to try not to let that get to you. Don't let it stop you from writing. If you get ten reviews for a one-shot you are probably way ahead of the game. Another suggestion on the review front? Thank the reviewers! On it is very easy to send a little message back and tell someone you appreciated them taking the time to review. It takes thirty seconds. And I think that it is nice to let someone know that their efforts were appreciated and my instincts tell me that it makes them more likely to review later. And please, review other people's stuff, too. Remember the golden rule? You want reviews, you review other people's stuff. It gives the whole thing much more sense of community. Push and I never would've started talking if I didn't start reviewing her first story. You never know where friends might come from.

After that, just keep writing! Don't try and force stuff, but do write when you want to write. If you're having trouble coming up with any ideas, I'd suggest going over to Nerfherder's Playground and looking at some of the old challenges there. Maybe nothing will come of it, but it's good to keep writing anyway.

And I've said it before and I'll say it again. Don't delete anything you write! I think all of us probably at some point write something that the next day we feel embarrassed about for whatever reason. Whether the idea was too silly or you decide the reactions are too melodramatic or maybe you experimented with writing sex for the first time and you're afraid that someone you know might find it and you'd simply die if someone knew you wrote that. First of all, when you are on your friends' computers, do you snoop around their files? I know I don't, and I'd hope they wouldn't do that to me, either. That's not to say that you shouldn't at least close any documents you've left open with fanfic on them ;) You never know when you want to go back to something you wrote before for any number of reasons. Using it for a different story or even just laughing at yourself and seeing how far you've come. You don't have to publish everything.

All right, I think that's a good starting point but let me know if you want any other ideas on anything. Or if you want to disagree with anything I've written. Discussions make the blog more fun!

2018 note: A lot of this advice still stands. But I'd like to add a few things. One of the big ones is don't be intimidated. We have ALL been the new kid, showing up in what looks like this totally established fandom and wondering why anyone would ever read what we have to write when there are already so many Han and Leia writers, with such great stories, and everyone already "knows" everyone. Seriously, this fandom is old enough that NONE of us were around when it started, so we've all been the new kid at one time or another. We've all felt the same thing. There are readers for almost every story. And some of the newest contributors to the fandom quickly became quite popular, so there is no reason that your stories can't gain some traction and get read. 

Another big thing I'm surprised I didn't mention, don't judge yourself! Just write! You can scrutinize it more later, but to start, just get words out and write whatever comes to you, and do not spend any time thinking that what you're writing is dumb or not good or nobody will want to read it anyway. Generally we are all our own harshest critics, and that harsh critic prevents way too many of us from ever really doing what we want to do and sharing our writing with others. What's the worst that could happen? 

Getting readers certainly gains some patience. But it can be worth it. It's funny to me even looking back at this original blog post it only had 3 comments and 2 of them were me. So if we let number of comments determine whether or not we'd keep posting, the blog would've ended a LONG time ago. 

I hope this encourages some people to get writing! 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas

It feels somewhat wrong not to post and remember that it was this day one year ago that our dear Carrie suffered the cardiac event that would ultimately lead to her death a few days later. It has been a glaring loss especially now, knowing that if she were still with us we'd be watching her make witty remarks all over the place in these interviews. She is still greatly missed.

I also want to just thank those of you who still come around and comment on the blog. I know that posting here is far from ideal as far as formats go, but I appreciate all the discussion and will try to keep content coming as long as people keep commenting. Our little fanfic community is awesome and knows how to treat this wonderful couple and I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds reading about them strangely comforting. So, many thanks to those of you out there writing or commenting or participating in any way.

Now, just for fun, what do you think about Han and Leia and holiday traditions? I've decided that they tend to go kind of all out. Han is someone who never had any holiday traditions, and never celebrated anything. Leia has many happy memories of big holiday traditions with her family, and Han basically can't wait until they have their kids and can totally go all in with holiday stuff. Like it's just the greatest thing in the universe to him that he has this home and this amazing wife and they can have big celebrations that his kids will remember for the rest of their lives. That's my sap for today.

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate, and hope everyone enjoys the holidays!