The Case In Favor of SOLO

Word is quickly spreading that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a flop, but I’m here to show it some love.

I mean, it’s *really* about the ship…

When I say I loved Solothe latest addition to the endless stream of Star Wars films, I’m not ignoring its faults. There are a few (I’ll get to that in a minute) but I loved it anyway and highly recommend it.

River Song Spoilers
WRONG FRANCHISE…but you get the idea.

Let’s clear up a few things before I jump in. I’m not the kind of fangirl who sees only the good of these films. I might ultimately forgive George Lucas, Ron Howard or Disney for any transgressions, but that doesn’t mean I’ll give them a pass if they step in it:

  • Hayden Christensen wasn’t a good casting choice for Anakin Skywalker. (Zero charm. I mean, ZERO…and the man who ultimately becomes Darth Vader should have at least 15 charisma, know what I mean?)
  • Jar Jar Binks never should have happened. Hell, I’m still annoyed about the damned Ewoks.
  • Imaginary aliens are not people of color, and don’t count as representation no matter how colorful (or racist) you make their accents.
  • And the midi-chlorian count is utter bullshit. There. I said it.
Midichlorians are BS
You’ve ruined my childhood, George.

So here’s the bad:

(1) I am absolutely over the humanizing of droids, and having “good” droids who kill organics offends me. Perhaps I’m holding onto Asimov’s three laws of robotics too dearly, but it bugs me when the droids we’re supposed to like are allowed to kill bad guys.

(2) This movie does better than most in in the franchise in that there are at least three women (I refuse to count L3), but it’s 2018 and the Bechdel test should not still be a thing that’s actually necessary. For that matter, Thandie Newton and Woody Harrelson could have played each other’s characters and the movie would have been more interesting yet ultimately changed nothing in the script. See how easy that would be? To give female minor characters some depth?

I could find more of the movie’s weaker points, I’m sure, but I want to get to the good stuff.

Here’s why you should see this movie.

Let The Wookiee Win

Chewbacca gets some long overdue depth in Solo. For far too long, he’s been treated like an intelligent pet, but in this film we get to see him from a completely different – and extremely intelligent and capable – angle.

Frankly, I think Chewie’s the brains of the outfit, and Han is the bravado – er, brawn. (I’m not saying Han’s an idiot; I’m just saying Chewie is smarter than he is.) And I truly hope that we can see some of that in future adventures with Rey in Episode IX, as well as any future Solo movies.

Twelve Parsecs

This old debate (“parsec is a distance!”) was resolved gloriously to my immense satisfaction. And the fact that even that legend is part BS only adds to the awesome ego that is Han’s in this movie. (“Not if you round down.”)

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

This is not a good guys vs bad guys kind of movie. Hell, the good guys don’t even show up until the third act and the movie isn’t about them at all.

This movie is about slightly-less-bad guys trying to maneuver their way through the badlands of the truly evil, which makes it a more realistic film than many in the Star Wars universe. I loved that aspect of it, because Han and Lando are not good guys. They kill a bunch of people and steal stuff that’s not theirs, and all they care about is scoring enough to improve their own lives, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t root for them.

The Only Ship That Matters

I cannot impress upon you enough the emotional resonance experienced by seeing the Millennium Falcon in prime condition. In itself, that is worth at least a matinee ticket.

Wait, How’d I Get Homework?

I left the theater with a list of other Star Wars content I had to consume as soon as possible. *One cameo* showed me that I need to go watch any and all missed episodes of The Clone Wars and Rebels, that I need to read both Canto Bight and the latest Han and Lando adventure, Last Shot, and I have a stack of comics waiting for me.

In other words, Solo left me hungry for more.

This movie is a perfect Saturday matinee. Much like an Indiana Jones film, you know what’s going to happen overall (with a few surprises along the way) but it’s fun anyway. (Don’t forget that it was co-written by the same guy who co-penned Raiders of the Lost Ark, Silverado and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

It’s not entirely filler – every fan knows about some of the elements of Han Solo’s history, and would expect to see those explored, but the rest of the story is engaging and well-paced and fun. Even the “side trips” are well done. Compare the trip to Kessel in Solo with Rose and Finn’s bizarre trip to Canto Bight in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Both of these arcs are the-thing-you-have-to-do-before-we-get-back-to-the-other-thing, but the rebellious distraction in Solo flows much better.

Seeing this movie didn’t change my life – not like the first time I saw Episode IV: A New Hope or Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Yet Solo is a strong contribution to the franchise, and I’d love to see more of these characters.

Go see it twice.

Did you see SOLO? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what you thought!

Writing Soundtrack: Cher, Janelle Monae and Lesbian Fiction

While every one of my stories begins differently, each of them only reaches an end because of one action completely devoid of writing: every story has a soundtrack.

Sometimes, I can’t sink into the story enough to write it unless I’ve got the music firmly lodged in my head. Other times, the music calls me first – a particular song or melody will coalesce into a character, and I have to run to the nearest notepad or keyboard to get it all down before I forget.

Two fan fiction stories straight out of the “Lost Girl” series were an interesting dichotomy. “What You Want Now” was taken straight from “Here Comes The Night” (S5E07), which of course meant that Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is” played on a loop until the story posted.

That vignette (about 5000 words) was a deeper dive into Bo’s perspective and completely within canon, but her view only told one side of the story. The accompanying novella “What I Have To Do” had to be longer (over 60,000 words) because Lauren’s perspective on the series left way too much out of the story. Why on earth would Lauren choose the Dark? And since she did, how much of her story was left out? For weeks, I listened to Stabbing Westward’s “What Do I Have To Do” on a loop. (My daughter was not impressed.)

Which reminds me – when I’m writing, I play the associated mix all the damned time. While I’m writing. Driving in the car. Cooking in the kitchen. Playing in my head while I shower. The soundtrack is the story – when those characters walk through my head at all hours, the music plays along with them.

The original short story, “Grease Monkeys and Big City Blues” had four accompanying songs, but only one was the inspiration for the story itself.

“Meet Me In Montana” (Dan Seals and Marie Osmond) is one of those songs I hide that I love, but I know every word. That song is the starting place for both characters – Allison has a life she no longer wants, and Jane wants a life she’s never had. From the first moment at twilight in a small town, when Allison walks into a garage to the sound of a yodeling mechanic, until the final showdown in a small lakeside cabin, the story was about two people destined for a life together, but first they had to each acknowledge how much agency they needed to employ in their own lives.

The rest of the preliminary mix was filled out by “The Chain” (Fleetwood Mac), “Give In To Me” (Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester), and “Can’t Live Without Your Love” (Janelle Monae).

When I edited it for publication as BIG CITY BLUES, it acquired a fifth song. Jane’s lonely twilight on the ridge with a six-pack of beer where she sits trying to decide what to do next with her life was accompanied by Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home”. It was an homage of sorts to the final scenes of the film “Fandango” – the moment Kevin Costner’s character raises a beer to the sky to toast the sunset.

I wanted to capture the emptiness that yawned before Jane, her fear and indecision but also her hope that things could be better.

“Second Impression” had a more general soundtrack – ’70s and ’80s classic rock. The moment that Bo decides that she doesn’t know Lauren at all and feels compelled to fill in the blanks was against the backdrop of songs like “Jungle Love” by Steve Miller Band and “Stone In Love” by Journey.

My latest work-in-progress, “Nowhere Left To Run”, is a darker and more desolate tale of Bo’s origins and first meetings with Lauren and the Fae. While the mix includes artists like (believe it or not) Cher (“Young and Pretty”), the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff (Piano Concerto Number 2), Ivan Neville (“Why Can’t I Fall In Love”), Lone Justice (“Wheels”) and Ryan Adams (“Wonderwall”), the story’s soundtrack is dominated by Adam Hurst’s melancholy cello.

In fact, though not Hurst’s work, there’s a ten-hour “sad cello” mix on YouTube that is the most common backdrop when I’m working on this particular story.

One anomaly exists to date. “Season Finale” is a short story that was accepted for publication as part of Sapphire Books’ FANDOM TO FANTASY Anthology. I made no mix – I swear I was channeling the characters and they were able to speak for themselves instead of communicating through music.

My alter ego is a performing singer/songwriter. Perhaps this is what makes it possible for music to speak for my characters, and for the music to become the fabric of the stories themselves.

For the writers out there, do you do this as well? What music inspires or accompanies your writing? And readers – does this music match what you imagine when you read these stories? If not, what songs do you hear?

Be sure to include a valid email when you comment. I’ll pick one at random and send you a free copy of BIG CITY BLUES!