Requiem: Carrie Fisher and 2016

will: Greetings from Chicago!

Here we are, two years roughly to the day, and roughly to the city (we spent last New Year’s in New Orleans, remember?), since Z buttonholed me and said “so we’re going to actually do this thing now, right?”

z: Only two years? But we did three books and some change… see, we’re going faster than your earlier estimates!

will: Eh. We’re still on rough track to run out of material–if that’s the word–some time in the late 2020s.

will: So there isn’t going to be a “real” post this week, for values of “real” equivalent to a book chapter or a movie analysis. Not only are we together busily killing brain and liver cells (seriously, I think I drink more here than any other time in the year not counting a convention, and frankly, this is how conventions start anyway so it’s an academic distinction)–

z: Hey, you’re… what’s the word… impugning me and my brain cells and my liver!

(I walked in only seven minutes ago, folks, my flight was delayed. So I didn’t start the festivities proper yet.)

will: That’s OK, I just handed her my drink. (Cinnamon whiskey, ginger beer, and hard cider. I’ve been here for like two hours now and I had 2016 to deal with. So did you all. And she said it was a bit too burny for her.)

Anyway.

What was I saying?

Right.

Not only are we together and drinking our way out of 2016 with a vengeance, we’re still in mourning.

Call it a proper wake.

Carrie Fisher, 1956-2016. Rest in peace

z: –lady who showed us the way.

will: What exactly can one say about her? She was the symbol of so much…and in her own right she was a talented actress, writer, script doctor, and an inspirational figure for millions who live with mental imbalance. To only call her Princess Leia is false on two axes: it reduces her and simultaneously sells short the power of the movies, because Leia will live (as Rogue One proves) while Carrie is gone.

My family watched When Harry Met Sally as a mourning movie the night she died, and followed it with watching her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, afterward. In which, I was gratified to see, she did a very good job of distinguishing the millions of Star Wars fans who were nothing (or at least, never said stupid shit on the topic) other than inspired by her from that creepy minority who did the really stupid shit.

2016 has been a difficult year for all of us, represented not least by the fact that the next day lost Carrie’s mother, the incredibly talented and admirable Debbie Reynolds. I won’t be at all sorry to see the year’s backside.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the next year (or next few years) are going to be sweetness and light. It’s going to be a rough time for so many of us. We all have work to do–and even though in the end I may only be able to be a follower of Saint Bluebell, come back every week for my–our–part in it.

z: I’m frozen, although I am going to have to repeat things that I have said and written before.

You have been following our reviews of the Thrawn Trilogy, so you have seen me talk about this many, many times by now: Leia, as Carrie Fisher played her, shaped me, shaped part of who I am. (And how Zahn wrote her, too; after all, one of the strongest suits of the Trilogy is how true to the movies they are.)

So here’s the thing, folks: I must have met sexism many times in my life, especially in my education and professional life. I have a doctorate in electrical engineering. I have always worked in the tech field and held positions where my intelligence and competence had to be presumed. I must have met sexism many times, but I noticed it only the very, very few times when it was most blatant. Partly that was because I’m lucky. Partly, however, it was because I lacked the mental framework to perceive it, to understand it was being directed to me.

“How can a girl be an engineer?” is a semantically empty statement when your mother taught you how to read resistor codes before you were ten, you see.

will: (For those of you who don’t know, electrical resistors have a coding of colored bands that represent their value. I had to learn that once. There’s a reason I’m a lawyer now.)

z: And very similarly, “How can a girl be a leader?” or “How can a girl be a fighter?” or “How can a girl be a hero?” is semantically empty when one of the first things you see, one of the first things you have always remembered once you had seen them for the first time, was someone defying who were obviously very powerful and scary men, then waking up and snarking at whom she had to think was someone taking her to her death, and fifteen seconds later yanking a blaster from someone else’s hand and shooting her own way out…

will: Twenty pounds of sass in a pint-size package, indeed. Truer of Carrie than it was of Leia.

z: Exactly. And the way she carried that courage–no wonder she was picked for the role in the first place; she has had that flame all along. Because that role almost destroyed her. It would have destroyed many, many people. She became a slayer, a Slayer of Stigmas, correctly knowing that that was her own way out and leading many others in the same place.

I have read so many stories in the last few days, folks. Many of them echo my own experience. And many of those then go on to say how that way out that she tore open helped them out as well. I have read from women who were struggling with the same mental disorders, with addiction, and with the question of aging gracefully as much as I have read from girls who had learned to look incredulous and say “Yes of course we can!” from watching her as the Princess and as the General. And even more, I have read from men who have learned to look incredulous and say “Yes of course they can!” as well.

This is going to be one of those losses that is going to sink in idiosyncratically. As has been the case with our losing Sir Terry Pratchett a year and a half ago, it is going to come up inside, again and again, twinge, never quite sink below the surface. I think that is what happens when you lose someone whose fingerprints you can point at on your psyche, on your being.

will: On your soul.

z: So.

And so.

will: That’s about all from us this week. We have a party–a wake and a sending, a celebration of survival and a remembrance of all those we have lost, and a strengthening of ourselves and our families and our friendships for the uncertain future to come–but check back next week for the beginning of The Truce at Bakura, and every week thereafter.

Love, strength, and perseverance to you and yours.

z: And may the Force be with you.

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