Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2017 Call for Valentine's Day Stories

It's that time of year again. Ok, maybe it's a little early, but I actually waited longer this year than last year. Yes, I think we could all use a bunch of mushy, sweet Han and Leia stories to help us out right about now. I'd also encourage you to check out stories from this challenge in the past that are linked on the sidebar.

The guidelines for this particular "challenge" are pretty broad. Mushy is nice but not required. Same goes with sexy times as adult situations are permitted (if not encouraged) but also not required. Truthfully they don't even have to be "together" yet for your story to qualify. Just something that highlights their love and undying devotion to one another will be fine ;)  Also we're looking for one-shots here, nothing hugely long. No specific word count caps or anything, just use your best judgment.

I'd prefer it if whatever you submit hasn't yet been seen anywhere else. Also, I'd strongly recommend anything you have posted here you wait a few weeks or even more to post elsewhere. Since our readers tend to overlap, you'll get more comments in both places if you space it out a bit. You can email your stories to me and include whatever author name you want it published under. And please have someone beta read before you send it in. Hopefully we get some nice stories to make us all feel a little better!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy 2017

2016 was an incredibly challenging year for Star Wars fans, and Han and Leia fans especially. It began with us reeling from the death of Han Solo and the knowledge that for some reason it was decided that Han and Leia would have one child that became the root of all evil and aside from simply becoming a murderous, Dark-Side monster, also supplied his parents with enough emotional turmoil that they were no longer together. Our excitement about seeing Han and Leia on screen again was shattered by the content of said scenes and our hearts sank at the lack of opportunity, and then they shattered when Han was murdered in cold blood by his only child. Leia is left alone with nobody left in her family really, except Luke who is in hiding.

And then it ended with the unexpected and absolutely crushing news that Carrie Fisher had suffered cardiac arrest and then passed away a few days later. I, and I'm sure many of you, spent Christmas trying to subtly check for updates amidst the festivities. And then our worst fears came true, and she was gone. Really, I'm not sure how things could've been worse if you're a Star Wars/Han and Leia fan. Personally I shed a lot of tears over both of these events. It was like the horrible bookends that helped to tear another piece of my childhood away.

But, amidst it all, we do have each other. Whenever you wonder to yourself why you are so wrapped up in these fictional characters and their love story, or about an actress/writer who you likely never even met, you can come here and see that there are many of us who feel the same way. There are many of us who spent days checking for updates on Carrie's health, cried when we heard the news, and were utterly useless at work because it was too hard to concentrate.

We spent hours and days and weeks wondering why they would bring back our favorite characters only to utterly destroy them. We were watching all sorts of interviews trying to get some valid answers only to find out there weren't any. We had to accept that this was the end of what we had been looking forward to, and if we were lucky we could convince ourselves that the REAL Star Wars ended with Return of the Jedi, and that their lives afterward were so mundane and happy that they just weren't worthy of a movie.

And again, we had each other to talk about this with. To know that there were others who felt the exact same way, and reacted to it all on such a deep and personal level. Yes, it is probably silly to get so emotionally invested in something entirely fictional, but it's also comforting to learn that there are so many others who feel the same way, and we have someone to share it with.

Also, of course, we have everyone who is willing to write new stories for them. Happy stories that show the life we all know they really would've had together. Stories not involving death or Sith children or Luke running away. Stories that bring brightness and happiness rather than despair and hopelessness. Yes, perhaps it is only a small consolation in an otherwise gut-wrenching year. But it's something, and I'm grateful for it.

So thank you to all the readers who stick around and comment, and to all the writers who continue to give Han and Leia the life together they deserve. And to everyone who makes us feel a little less alone in our obsession.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rest in Peace Carrie Fisher 1956 - 2016




Carrie has left us. In a year so full of celebrity death, this one seems to hurt far more than the rest, and I've been trying to figure out why that is. Largely I'm sure it is because for many of us she, as Princess Leia, has been a part of our lives from as far back as we even have memories. I can recall seeing Return of the Jedi in the movie theater and the moment she took that mask off to reveal herself to Han Solo after she had freed him from the carbonite, and thinking, "Cool, Leia saved him!" Movies and books are full of princesses but nobody else defined a princess quite the way Carrie did.

It's not just that she was Leia, though. In her openness with her struggles with mental illness and addiction, as a woman in Hollywood (or in life in general), what it was like to grow up as the child of two giant celebrities, she became our friend. She never hid from personal questions, she never pretended that she was not someone who had to deal with a lot of struggles in life. She made a lot of us feel much better in knowing, "Hey, she's like the rest of us. And it's ok to fall down sometimes and struggle, and we can still come back and be strong and funny and smart." Someone recently said to me she is like the most unlikely "everywoman." And I think that's true. How does a woman who is born into Hollywood royalty relate so much to the rest of us normal people? Yet she does. You feel as though you could walk up to her and have a normal conversation and she would actually care to hear what you had to say. I can't say I feel that way about any other celebrities.

She never took herself seriously. As she said, "If my life wasn't funny it would just be true and that' is unacceptable." I think we could all learn a lot from those words. I've read all of her books, and when you think about even a fraction of the things she has been through you can hardly imagine dealing with it, and yet she always picked herself up and kept on going. Her wit was practically beyond human capability, and her humor will be sorely missed. For anyone who has only seen her as Leia I would highly encourage you to read anything she has written, as she is one of the funniest people I've ever come across. She brought us into her life, she made it okay for people to admit they were suffering from mental illness. She gave us all permission to laugh at our problems and say, "You can't beat me, because tomorrow I'm going to wake up and just start making jokes about you."

Days before her death she was posting to Twitter articles about how she was too old to play the CGI version of her own likeness, and again pointed out how women are not allowed to age. I'm glad that only a month ago we got a few more talk show visits from her so we could see her crack just a few more jokes before she had to leave us. She was so like Princess Leia, and I can understand why she would be proud that that was her biggest legacy. I'm not sure how any of us are going to be able to get through Episode VIII. Even though I can't think of a more fitting final role.

My regret is that I never got a chance to meet her. Not that I was expecting us to hang out and go to dinner or something, but even fifteen seconds for a photo op would've been nice. I was fortunate enough to have seen her perform Wishful Drinking twice, and it was equally hilarious both times. 

This one really, really hurts. It's losing a little piece of our childhoods, but also the adult who could always trust her to make a wonderfully witty comment to put things in perspective. It hurts even more because she was taken from us far too soon. At only sixty she had a lot more years left of making us laugh. We'll get back to that eventually, with all she has left us with, but first we'll have to get past her making us cry.

Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia. The world will be a little worse off without your wit and humor to remind us that nothing can get to us if we remember to laugh at it.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Rogue One Review ***Filled With Spoilers***

Ok, guys. I just got back from seeing it and wanted to get a good review out while it is all still fresh in my head. I will say right away that I had pretty much no expectations going in, and it kind of lived up to that.

I don't know if I can sum it all up in just the right way, and like always with these things, I wonder if my opinion is going to change at all once I get a little further removed from it and take it in a bit more. There were so many things that I noticed about it. One thing for sure, I do not at all think that this movie could stand on its own really. Most of the truly enjoyable parts were callbacks or references to the old movies, which isn't really a good sign. It lacked a lot of the humor from the originals and even Episode VII had quite a few true laughs, and this one only had a tiny handful and mostly coming from the token one-liner droid that must be in each movie. It definitely could've used an extra dose of humor.

So we of course begin with Jyn Erso's back story, and because every Star Wars hero has to be an orphan or at the very least lose their family and be raised by someone else from a very young age, of course that is what we find out happens to her. Her mother is killed and her father is taken by the Empire because he is a brilliant engineer who had worked for them and they want him to build them the Death Star. Apparently they always expected this would happen because Jyn has a secret place to hide before she is taken in by family friend Saw Gerrara, who is played by Forest Whitaker. But the next thing we know, we jump to Jyn as an adult and she is a prisoner and being taken to some Imperial work camp. We have absolutely no idea how long she has been a prisoner, why she was a prisoner, or what she may have been doing for the last fifteen years.

I did forget to mention that this film does not begin with an opening crawl or the standard Star Wars theme. I think right from the get-go by doing that it already felt tremendously less like Star Wars to me. They also for some reason when introducing every planet they visited would tell you in words on the screen where they were. This just felt like an odd choice to me because it's not something that was ever done before, they just let the movie tell us where they were rather than having to show us in big letters.

One thing I found quite interesting with this compared to Episode VII is that at points it moved fairly slowly, and for some reason its run time is actually longer. Where Episode VII lacked any time to catch your breath and seemed to completely zip through important plot points or skip them entirely, this one lagged quite a bit and left me a lot of time to think about things like, where are they going and what is even happening? About two thirds through the movie I realized that other than Jyn, I hadn't actually absorbed a single other character's name. I don't think that is a good sign.

There were some expected cameos along with some unexpected ones. I knew Grand Moff Tarkin was going to be in it, although I definitely didn't expect him to be in it nearly as much as he was. It seems really strange to me that the man credited with playing him was some random actor when his entire part was CGI'd to look like Peter Cushing. At times it was quite impressive to see, and the voice was mostly spot-on, but then at other times I had flashes of watching Dobby the house elf from Harry Potter. That's not really meant to be an insult, I know this is for now the absolute best they can do with this, but still there is no denying you're looking at a cartoon version of what we saw in 1977. And yeah, it's definitely kind of weird. And also seems odd that they went that direction with Tarkin, but then just recast Mon Mothma and General Dadonna. Although I suppose any random dude with a big white beard is enough there, when Tarkin is such a unique look that couldn't be replicated by any actual living human.

Speaking of cameos, I'm realizing as I write this that I'm not sure they ever really called out Bail Organa by name. I could be wrong on that, but again, I feel like they need to do a better job with these movies of letting them stand at least a little more on their own without relying on everyone to "just know" certain things or characters. Other unexpected characters included those two trouble-makers at the Cantina in ANH who didn't like Luke and Obi Wan had to cut one of their arms off. That was a clever little addition that got a good audience laugh. And then a very brief moment with R2-D2 and C-3PO and for some reason it hadn't occurred to me that it would be easy to get them in there. They also included some Rebel pilots from the original during the battle scene and it was almost unsettling because they just used actual footage from then, not CGI. It was like, whoa, that's the real Gold Leader.

And then there's Darth Vader. I mean, honestly, even as primarily a Han and Leia fan I can't help but think it's pretty amazing to get to see Darth Vader on screen again being his dark and sinister self. He kind of saved it for me because at one point when the movie was really losing me, because people were just kind of, traveling and then fighting pointless battles and I was thinking about how I didn't really know who anyone was in the movie, they suddenly brought us Vader in all his glory, and I literally sat up in my chair. Hearing James Earl Jones do the voice booming through that sound system was just plain cool. Oddly they used him less than Tarkin, which didn't make that much sense to me, but oh well. We do get to see what I assume is like, Darth Vader's house which is basically like a big scary castle surrounded by lava, which I guess makes sense for him.

Now, as for the rest of the movie.... I mean, I think the main thing I noticed when it comes down to it is that it has no heart. It has no soul. It has all the pieces but it just doesn't quite come together. They give us this back story of Jyn and her parents and being raised by this guy, and yet later when we see her with him again for the first time in quite a few years, we see no connection between those two characters. Jyn finds her father for the first time in fifteen years and holds him as he dies and yet, again, we just don't feel a whole lot for those characters. We have this ragtag group of people who come together and must work as a team to accomplish something huge, and yet to me there just wasn't any chemistry there. I didn't see it as a flaw in the acting performances as the acting was fine, it was just more that sort of intangible chemistry that you can't fake and it's either there or it isn't. You know how it was like there was an immediate bond between Luke and Han and Leia? And you truly cared about those characters? You just don't get much of that here. It's more like, ok, here's this girl and that guy and that guy and that other guy (because PS: if you cast a female as your lead it's still ok to have 99% of the rest of your cast be male) and they're doing stuff together but I see no connection between any of their characters. And there is an Asian guy who even in a universe as huge and diverse as this, and with cultures and planets totally different from our own, still somehow feels like an Asian stereotype.

I do suppose part of it was that it felt like none of them ever had any sort of different look on their faces. Everyone always looked the same. And nobody truly seemed to have any clearly defined role in the situation. I mean they had their technical "jobs" like one was the pilot, another was a random Jedi they picked up along the way, but they didn't really have any character traits. Han and Luke and Leia all had clearly defined character traits. This one had like, the girl and the main guy and the other guys and the funny droid. I didn't care that much for any of them or get any sense of their relationships to one another. Leia meets Luke and then like two minutes later she is already scared for him when he gets pulled under in the garbage masher, and a couple of minutes after that she is hugging Han when they find out they won't be crushed to death. There was just absolutely none of that here.

So this one is going to fall fairly low on the "rewatchability" scale. And it's sort of strange because like I said, they had the pieces, they gave Jyn a back story and some drama in losing her mother and later losing her father, but I just didn't feel for her the way I felt for Leia. Ok, at the very end they almost got to me. And I think a few months ago I had this thought, that it was actually probably pretty likely that none of the characters in this movie would make it out alive. Turns out I was correct about that. They all died. Every single one of the ones we follow on this mission dies in the final battle in one way or another. And at one point one of them has a sort of "moment" where he stands up and it all seems very profound, but the non-Star Wars fan in our group pointed out at the end of the movie that he didn't really do anything during his final stand before he died. He killed a couple of bad guys who probably weren't going to cause any more damage to anyone else, and then that was it.

Then of course the thing I was looking forward to the most at the very end was the Leia cameo. I was glad they kept it brief. I did however feel like they missed an opportunity there. I think it would've been amazing to have seen the last time Leia saw her father. There was a moment when Bail said he was going to send everything to Obi Wan and was told he had to send someone he could trust and of course he knew just the person. I just think it would've been a really sweet albeit I suppose possibly a cheap ploy for tears and emotions to have seen maybe him hug his daughter goodbye one last time. Honestly though, this movie could've used a cheap ploy for tears or any attempt to garner some emotion out of the audience. I was a little disappointed in the CGI of Leia, and maybe I'm being really picky here, but also her hand looked like a chubby man hand! And also maybe I need to go re-watch Ant-Man because the de-aging they did of Michael Douglas on that movie was incredible and to me did not look like a cartoon CGI face. It makes me wonder if they could've done something better if they'd actually used Carrie. She had one spoken word, and at least that part sounded like her. I don't know, maybe it would've been better to at least have shot her from a little further away. But still, I guess it's cool that they included her in it at all.

There isn't a whole lot else to say. I did think that Krennic was a cool bad guy and he did an excellent job. And they gave us one thing TFA didn't by at least spending a good amount of time on a planet that was quite different from any other planet on any of the other movies, this time with palm trees and beaches. Although the shield that surrounded the whole thing reminded me of the shield around Druidia in Spaceballs, but instead of a door that opens there is a base that acts as a sort of gate.

I almost forgot, one of the reasons I was not dreading this movie is because it felt safe, like they couldn't ruin anything for us. Well, they did kind of find a way to undermine ANH a bit. I knew about this before I saw it, but apparently that thermal exhaust port that Luke was able to shoot to destroy the Death Star? That was basically a self destruct button put their purposely by the engineer who designed it, so that the Rebels would later have a chance. That engineer of course was Jyn's father, who sacrificed himself to give them what they wanted, but with a "trap" of sorts, because otherwise they'd just have found someone else to build it and they'd have no chance. I rolled my eyes hard at that when I heard it, but I will say that in the post-movie analysis with my other movie-going people and lifelong Star Wars fans, the consensus among the rest of them was that they liked that idea, and considered it kind of a plot hole from ANH that it was so easy to blow up. I don't know, I think I need more time to decide. I'm still leaning toward, really? Did it really have to be a purposeful flaw? Other than that though, nothing else to screw things up for us. No visits with Obi Wan or Luke, no Han Solo cameo. No Chewie. Oh and another side note, for some reason even though it wasn't Admiral Ackbar, for some reason Mon Calamarians are always going to be Admirals for the big battles. I don't know why. Last random note: somehow AT-ATs seem WAY easier to take down in this movie than in ESB. Luke can't get through the armor with blasters on his snowspeeder but X-wings seem to cause them to crumble.

Ok, now I think I've covered most of what I wanted to say. Was it a BAD movie? I'm not sure I'm prepared to say that. Did it completely lack a heart and soul and fail to make the audience emotionally invested in the characters? Yes, absolutely. I suppose that probably means it's a bad movie, but again, I'm not prepared to say that quite yet. The acting was fine the dialog was actually decent and not clunky like a prequel, but yeah, I just didn't care about these characters. Even in TFA I very quickly cared about Poe and Finn and Rey. I empathized with Rey. Those characters all had chemistry with each other even if I didn't like the movie. That is one of the few things I truly liked in it. But this just has none of that. So, some fun cameos and stuff, but it certainly did not feel like a Star Wars movie really, except for the scenes with Imperials. Lastly, stormtroopers still have terrible aim.

So, hopefully some of you saw it and would care to comment, I'd love to hear some opinions. I'd be really surprised if anyone a few months ago was raving about this movie. But if you disagree and you really enjoyed it, please let us know that too. I feel absolutely none of the rage and hate I felt after TFA, so I don't intend for this to turn into a huge rant about how this was the worst movie ever. I really don't even know how they could've made it truly good. But if you liked it, I'd love to hear that side of it too.

Monday, December 12, 2016

It's Time for Rogue One **No Spoilers!!**

All right, I know this totally doesn't fall into the Han and Leia side of Star Wars, but I think most of us are general Star Wars fans and at least some of us will be seeing this movie, so I felt like I should do a post for it. Please refrain from posting spoilers here until maybe the weekend, or until I come back from seeing it and spilling everything. Whichever comes first.

How do you guys feel about this? Going to see it? Not going to see it? Waiting for DVD? I have tickets to see the first show on Thursday. I think if I didn't have other people wanting to go see it with me, as they are my official Star Wars movie watching people, I might not have gone the extra mile to make sure we saw it on night one. While I spent the whole lead-up to this movie being supremely underwhelmed and not at all excited, I will say that now that the week has arrived, I'm looking forward to it. Do I have any expectations? Nope. And because of that, I actually am starting to feel like I might enjoy it. As we have stated before, the best part about it is that the characters we know and love must be "safe" in this movie. They can't change them or ruin them. I think maybe I can just treat this as any other movie, really. I think. I hope.

Definitely sad to be thinking that a year ago we were all so, so excited for Episode VII. It was going to be great, and bring back all of our favorite characters and we were going to see them on screen together again. So much for that, but at least it has fixed me so that I am now immune to disappointment, because I will never have any level of hope going into one of these movies again.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Let's Talk About "Mature" Han and Leia fanfic

It seems we got sick of talking about Carrie's book once it finally came out, and there are quite a few people who had no interest in discussing the real people as it interferes with the fun of the characters, and I totally respect and understand that. Of course we are all here far more for Han and Leia than we are for the actors who played them (although we thank them for doing such a great job and giving them such good faces to go with the characters). Of course any of you still interested in discussing the book can go back to the previous post, though things had slowed down.

So, let's move on to talking about fanfic again, since that is a very large part of why we are all here. And as a side note let's also thank Amara Z for that lovely photoshop job she did on the above picture. More specifically, let's talk about "adult" Han and Leia stories. You know, the ones that go into the sex details, the ones that sometimes we all seek out specifically rather than being bothered by looking for a story with actual plot. Although of course there are plenty of stories with actual plot that also include some good sex scenes.

I think as far as our readers here go, we have a wide range of ages and also a lot of variations as far as how long we have all been reading fanfic. There are people who have been around for a few years, a lot of years, and probably even some who have been around since you couldn't even use the internet to find stories. For myself, I discovered fanfic right around the turn of the century (that sounds old). For anyone not familiar with things back then, there were several good sources for fanfic stories, and most of them no longer exist. I think fanfix was the main one I visited. Also these sites were not like ff.net where anyone can go and post a story, stories had to be submitted, so there wasn't quite the endless stream of content that there is now, and updates were not all that frequent. I do miss some of the Han and Leia specific sites we used to have. There were so many of them that there was even a Han and Leia webring, which some of you old timers may remember. I believe exactly zero of the sites that used to be in that webring still exist. Each of these sites had pictures and fanfic, and a few had forums. There were usually not a ton of stories, but most of them were good.

One thing many of you who were not around then may not realize, is that finding adult Han and Leia stories was like finding buried treasure. There weren't that many of them, and if you spent even a small amount of time in the fandom it didn't usually take you all that long to find all of them, and then remember specifically where to find each one. And let's face it, pretty much the first thing you do when you discover fanfic (especially if you are a teenager, like I was) is go and find all the smutty stories, because online fanfic is your only way to read about that with your favorite characters, because it certainly wasn't in any EU book.

Now, aside from these stories being difficult to find, I would also say that they were probably pretty.... tame compared to what you see now. What I'm going to discuss now was actually more the point of this post, and you're going to see me kind of struggling to find the best way to say what I want to say about the differences I've noticed over the most recent years of things shifting.

Han and Leia stories with sex tended to follow a similar formula. Like, seriously, I think almost every single one was Han goes down on Leia, missionary sex, the end. I never really gave this much thought until quite a bit later when talking with other readers, but it really is kind of funny that they were all so similar. I probably have most of my "adult" stories follow this formula too. Please do not let this stop you from occasionally writing stories like that, because I'm sure they do it like that sometimes. It was just kind of amusing that that was pretty much the only way things went. But there usually wasn't much else going on, and it was incredibly rare that you would find a story where Leia would go down on Han. So rare, in fact, that for a long time you could probably count the stories on one hand and you would know exactly where all of them were located.

They also tended to not be overly explicit. Body parts were not referred to by much more than maybe something like "his manhood" or "her femininity" or something else like that. The thing is, I've noticed that there has been a general change in Han and Leia adult stories, and I was curious if I was the only one who noticed. One other thing you should know about me if you don't already is I am very monogamous in my fandom interests. I really only read about Han and Leia and Star Wars. I think some people are interested in other fandoms, and for those of you who are I'd be really interested to hear from you if there are similar tendencies within those fandoms, or similar shifts in how things are done or if maybe we are unique here in our Han and Leia corner of the universe. And also, please know that I am not calling any of these changes bad, or saying that there is anything wrong with the way these stories have evolved. It's just changed quite a bit and has become much more standard to be going in the complete opposite direction with it, and it is just interesting to me that it has become so much more normal when it used to be rare to non existent. Also I should note that I had never been a reader on AO3 because I find their tags frustrating and making it nearly impossible to sort and find a story you would actually want to read, so maybe this has all been around a lot longer than I would even realize.

So in like 2009 I started spending a lot more time reading Han and Leia fanfic again, and story updates on ff.net were fairly infrequent. I think there were literally like 4-5 pages of adult stories and that's it. And really even then there was very little just outright smut as most of the stories included sex within a much longer and more involved narrative. Sometime a few years ago there started to be more and more "mature" stories out there. And somewhere along the line I started noticing that they were a lot more explicit than the old ones had been, and it became more the norm than the exception.

This is really in terms of almost everything. Words that are used to describe body parts, positions, Leia finally more regularly going down on Han (I'm sure fictional Han is thrilled with this change in the dynamic) words the characters are using and such. Again, I'm by no means saying this is a bad thing, it is just something that has changed noticeably. Does anyone have any theories as to why this is? Part of it I think is just that one or two people "broke the mold" and started writing that way, and it was no longer this small niche of people writing stories that most everyone else was too shy to comment on or admit they liked. Also probably because the writing itself was of higher quality, where I can think of a few stories that went in that direction but the writing wasn't any good and it was done more purely for the shock value or just to be as graphic as possible. So once it became more "mainstream" and accepted, I think other people were less shy about being a little more explicit in writing those scenes.

One other theory I have is that this shift happened near the time that Fifty Shades came out. Of course the funny thing there is for anyone who read it, it actually isn't outrageously explicit, and the author especially shies away from using certain slang words to describe genitalia or anything, to the point that that, among other things, was largely criticized. So, maybe that made people less shy about holding back in writing those scenes? Again, these are all just theories that I have no way to know whether or not they are true. But seriously, a few years ago there were maybe one or two "dirty" stories you'd see the word cock in, and now it's pretty standard.

Again, don't get me wrong, it's been fun to see Han and Leia get a somewhat more adventurous sex life. I think they'd be far from boring. And it's also interesting that while there are certain things that once upon a time I'd have thought Leia might not say or do, seeing a lot of those things now in stories regularly makes me think more like, sure, why not? (although this does depend on what period in their relationship they are in). And again I'd be interested to hear from anyone especially who has been involved in other fandoms to see how these kinds of stories are handled there, and if there was a similar shift or if we were sort of behind the times here.

Anyway, hopefully this will be an interesting conversation!