The Debt Women Owe Carrie Fisher by M. B. Weston

When Carrie Fisher passed away, I lost my childhood hero. This death marked the passing of a woman that had a profound effect on my life and the lives of countless women.

My parents took me to the theater to see Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back when it first opened. I was four. All I remember was watching Darth Vader Force-choking Captain Needa to death and the other characters dragging his body offstage. By the time I was six, however, I was begging my babysitter to let me watch Star Wars (my generation’s official name for A New Hope) on our new, high-tech VCR. I grew up watching and rewatching Han, Luke, and Leia save the galaxy, and Star Wars became my favorite movie series.

I never truly realized how Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Princess Leia shaped my generation’s view of women. I grew up thinking it was normal to watch a woman not only fighting in a rebellion but actually leading it. I watched Princess Leia wield both a blaster and authority. For me, this was how the world worked. I never thought twice about how my gender might affect my career. I was going to go to college and become a lawyer and then maybe even the Attorney General. It never occurred to me that my gender would get in my way, and Princess Leia’s character developed part of that belief. (I ended up choosing writing as a career instead of law and politics. I got to keep my soul, and that worked out well.)

The Force was strong in Luke and strong in Leia, and I never thought that odd. I wonder how many young girls of my generation grew up, as I did, believing in themselves without worrying about their gender because of the way Carrie Fisher played her role. I’m sure many boys my age grew up watching Star Wars and figured a woman in leadership was normal as well.

While I give most of the credit to George Lucas for creating the character and the storyline, I must also give Carrie Fisher credit for her portrayal of Leia. She made Leia feel real. She made Leia’s accomplishments seem normal. She yelled things like “Into the garbage chute, flyboy!” and “Will someone get this big, walking carpet out of my way?” and made us all think she was awesome. Very few actresses could have pulled that off, yet she did it with grace, dignity, and a blaster that fired red killer lasers.

I honestly believe none of my writing, especially my character Gabriella, would be anything like it is now without Star Wars or Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia. I also believe that the way she gave Leia’s character legitimacy helped pave the way for my generation of women.

We are indebted to Carrie. The best way to repay that debt is for each of us to finish Leia’s work and become whatever we want to be without a thought of our gender. May the Force be with you, your highness.

How “Rumpelstiltskin” Influenced the Development of Cragdern’s Gnomes by M. B. Weston

Part of using familiar archetypes in any novel is making them your own. When I began developing my gnomes and their culture, I wanted to give them a few weaknesses we didn’t often read about in fairytales and folklore but would still make sense.

The perfect opportunity came when I reread the classic fairytale, “Rumpelstiltskin.” I always wondered why Rumpelstiltskin made such a big deal about keeping his name secret. I also wondered why someone discovering his name would cause him to basically stomp the earth so hard he killed himself (depending on which version of the fairytale you read).

Then it hit me: What if speaking a gnome/dwarf’s name aloud gave you complete power over him (or her). That could explain why Rumpelstiltskin would keep his name so secret. It would also introduce an idea that by saying his name, the Queen’s servant had complete control of Rumpelstiltskin’s actions and actually commanded him to kill himself.

I decided to give my gnomes that weakness: being under complete control of whoever learns (and uses) their birth names, which can throw quite a twist into a story. Here’s an example from The Elysian Chronicles: Out of the Shadows.

Lorne and Theo dragged Klous into the room. He had bloodshot eyes, torn clothes, and unkempt hair. Several cuts and scratches lined his arms, and his jewelry was missing.

Klous struggled against the soldiers, yelling. “Don’t let me near him! Keep me away from Seraph. I’m not safe!”

Boronan trotted behind Klous, saying, “I searched his memory Davian. He’s innocent. I have no idea what he thinks he did.”

Davian flew to Klous, who shrieked. “Stay away from me! I’m not safe! I’m not safe!”

Davian held Klous’s head so he could stare into his eyes. “Klous, what’s wrong? What happened?”

Klous struggled against Davian’s grip, muttering, “Stay away; stay away.” He looked in every direction but Davian’s eyes. “Don’t you understand? They know my name.” Klous sank to the floor. “I betrayed you. Betrayed…”

How to Distract a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writer in Ten Easy Steps by M. B. Weston

In case you are wondering how a science fiction/fantasy writer can sit down at a computer for an hour without producing anything of value, check out this list:

1. I am really annoyed with this chapter. It’s not flowing…
2. I wonder how my blog did today? Let me check…
3. Oh! I think need some chamomile tea. :::makes tea:::
4. I should check my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram notifications.
5. I am getting so distracted! I need someone standing behind me with a whip.
6. :::breaks into song::: “Where there’s a whip, [crack] there’s a way…”
7. Why didn’t Peter Jackson do The Hobbit like Bass and Rankin? #headdesk
8. I should update my social media status about my pathetic ability to stay on target.
9. “He’s too close!” “Stay on target.” “I can’t shake him!” “Stay on target.”
10. Why did George Lucas insist on directing Episodes 1-3 himself? #doubleheaddesk.

Hmmmm. I think I need some chamomile tea….Well, enough distractions. Time to get back to the writing. I think the monster is about to appear.