Leia Organa: A Critical Obituary is soaring through six figures of views. I never expected this. In seventeen years of writing, this is the most widely-read thing I’ve ever produced. I guess I should use it to my advantage, so know this: I don’t have a regular job, I’m living off dwindling savings, and could use some work. I’m an experienced fiction writer and game designer. Contact me.
But thank you. I’m glad it resonated with so many of you. Thank you especially to friends who shared it, recognizing something special. I’ve never had anything go viral like this and don’t know what to do. It’s really about Carrie Fisher, and the feelings that hit me when she died. I didn’t expect them.
(I should note that unlike Leia Organa. Ms. Fisher died in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. This may have happened to General Organa, but her biographers probably wouldn’t report it.)
Leia brings up the challenge of being a nerd and confronting the problematic, off-putting and even dumb things we find in highly immersive media. Subtle and blatant discrimination. Blowhard protagonists. The fact that in Hellboy 2 they could have melted the parts of the crown at any time, dammit Guillermo. Nerds turn stories into universes, and nitpick those universes. At its worst, it’s a way to shear off anything that challenges our biases and helps us denigrate good work, but nobody should be blamed for watching a movie, playing a game, or reading a book with a smarmy commentary track in their head, or a constant rewrite flashing before their minds’ eyes. This makes fandom a form of criticism. Of course, this was Carrie Fisher’s job, as a professional “re-writer,” or script doctor. She dug up better lines and moments from where they were buried in implications, built them on top of what existed, or tore away what didn’t work and replaced it with her own cleverness. She was of course an incredible humourist and writer generally, and too complicated a person to really do justice to, so I’ll stop here.
I’m a gamer, a fantasy and SF fan, and a basic media zombie, and Star Wars has a probably-unhealthy degree of reality for me, to the point where a lot of this stuff was born but submerged when we played the Star Wars RPG (I was the son of an absent clone father, I liked swoop bikes, I thought Darth Vader must be a droid when he came up in Holonet propaganda, my R2 unit wore a tatty hat), read the spinoff media, argued online, all that stuff. And if you’re like me, you watch silent characters in the films and know there must be something going on while they grimace, listening to Luke and whoever wax about their problems.
So beyond a weird tribute to a very intelligent woman who eventually did as she damn well pleased, I guess I’m interested in that commentary track/rewrite in fans’ heads. That’s always criticism, and I hope the people who do it act as good critics, keeping it relevant but also, maybe nitpicking a bit, just for fun. I never wrote much fanfic, but I thank fanfic writers (noting that women founded this tradition, and do the most prominent work) for getting into it, along with gamers, daydreamers and friends. But today, I’d mainly like to thank Carrie Fisher.