The Trouble with The Trill – And How Discovery Fixed It.

SPOILERS FOR SEASON THREE OF STAR TREK DISCOVERY BELOW THE IMAGE!

So, by now, nearly everyone is aware that Star Trek: Discovery is introducing us to non-binary and trans characters this season. Even super spoiler-phobic me knows this, so I figure it’s fair game to address.

And address it I must.

For the most part, I’ve seen love and support from the world about this. There are, I’m sure, a few who don’t like the notion, but frankly, I don’t have time for those folks and their limited worldview. And I’m not here to talk about either of these groups. I’m here to discuss those who don’t understand what the big deal is. Those who think that this isn’t newsworthy. Those who argue that non-binary people and trans people have already been represented in Trek by such beings as the Trill or J’naii.

To those people, I would say: No. Just… no. The Trill and the J’naii were not representation of these marginalized groups. They were baby steps toward that, perhaps, but they were not representation. They were allegories that introduced the notion of people being more than what they seem in a way that would be (mostly) accepted by an early-nineties viewing audience. Yet they are in no way explicitly defined as non-binary or trans.

I could go on about the whys and wherefores of this in the Trek universe (mostly talking about how Trill take on the gender of the host and how Soren, a J’naii, is female and wants to be femme, but is forced into the androgyny her society requires), but we don’t have time for that. So, instead, I’d like to tell you a story.

A story I have told exactly two people on this planet – until now, when I’m essentially telling the whole planet.

*deep breath*

Here goes:

When I was in high school, I was big into Star Trek: The Next Generation. And when the Trill were introduced in “The Host,” I identified so much with them.

Because, see, I used to pretend I was an alien. And that for my species, males nursed the young. And that’s why I had breasts.

Not only that, but the cultural traditions of my planet meant that I couldn’t cut my hair. Thus my rationalization for growing my hair out so that teachers would no longer ask my sex in front of my classmates and embarrass me and so that my peers would stop calling me “it.” (Or later, “Pat,” though since I’d never seen Saturday Night Live, I didn’t understand that one until years later.)

So, the idea that a being could be inside me that didn’t match up with my body made perfect sense to me. “The Host”, in addition to asking important questions about the nature of love, also made the notion of two beings in one seem less strange. It was groundbreaking television, as Star Trek so often is.

But here’s the thing. I was not an alien. I was human as the next person.

I still am.

I’m not sure if I’m trans. I know I’m definitely genderqueer. I’m also asexual but panromantic. At least those are the labels I’m currently using – they’re subject to change, though, as myself and the times do.

But for now, those work. And labels are helpful. I’m glad I have them now. They didn’t exist when I was younger. I didn’t know there were others like me. I only thought there was something wrong with me.

But there wasn’t. There isn’t.

I’m just me – a human. And humans come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, abilities, sexual orientations, and genders.

And that’s why Star Trek Discovery’s introduction of non-binary and trans human* characters this season means the world. The Trill and the J’naii were good first steps, but it’s time to do more. I don’t know how they are going to handle these characters on the show, but I hope it is with great care. Because they already mean the world to me. I don’t want one more young person to have to pretend to be an alien to feel right in their own body. I don’t want one more person of any age to conform to something that feels wrong just because they feel that they have to. And representation of every type of human in media helps with this.

These characters matter. Because we matter.

Those of us who don’t line up exactly how society says we “should” are not another species. We’re not foreign. We’re not weird or strange or something to be feared.

We are just us.

And we’re only human.

——-

*EDIT (SPOILERS FOR SEASON THREE, EPISODE THREE): I wrote this before Adira was introduced on Discovery. When I thought the new characters were entirely human. I must confess I am a bit nervous about the fact that Adira carries a Trill symbiote (of all things, it had to be a Trill?). Even though Adria is human, and is noteworthy for being a human who carries a symbiont, having the Trill involved at all makes me a bit sad, for the reasons addressed in this blog. I hope it is made clear that Adira’s gender was in place before they were blended with the symbiont, but I so wanted a clear, absolutely unequivocal non-binary character, and now I fear that the waters may be muddied. I hope not, though. And for now, I trust in Trek to do the right thing, and like everyone else, I will wait and see.

SECOND EDIT (SPOILERS FOR ALL OF SEASON THREE): Adira is unequivocally non-binary, and just as human. They may carry a Trill host, but it was indeed made clear that that did not affect their gender. This makes me so very happy, and I’m completely okay with it. I am no longer worried about Trek hiding Adira’s identity behind the symbiont. Trek did, in fact, do us right. Non-binary and also non-alien is so much love. We of complicated genders are humans, plain and simple. Allegory is great, but true representation is even better. And we finally have it. We are even shown as being deserving of love and family (thank you Paul Stamets!). It feels so, so good, and I’m trying not to cry while I type this. And Gray, while Trill, is just a guy – who happens to be played by a trans actor. This is also love, as it’s great to see a trans actor just playing what they are (in this case, a dude) without it being a big deal. So, yeah. I’m good. Thanks, Star Trek. Again. Thanks for getting me through high school with a fantasy, and for letting me have some reality representation now. Keep boldly going, Star Trek. We’re with you all the way.

The Kindness of a Stranger

Dear Sir:

I don’t know your name. I never did. But you left a mark on me like few have. I’ve told a few close friends this story, but I’ve never tried to thank you, personally.

I thought I would remedy this now, because I think of you sometimes, and usually the memory of you makes me smile. Sometimes, I confess, when others have been mean to me, it makes me sad, because why can’t they have been as kind as you? But usually, you bring a smile.

Why?

Well, that’s simple. You were kind to me. You taught me something that until that point in my life, no one had. You taught me that it was OK to cry. And that if I was crying, there were people in the world who wouldn’t ridicule that, but would try to see if they could help me.

I was about twelve years old, see, and I had this dog. Her name was Molly – not that she knew that. Because Molly never came back when I called her. She was my first dog. A dog I’d desperately wanted all my life. And when I finally got her, I was overjoyed. I would have my Lassie! My Rin Tin Tin! My perfect companion. Yeah. Not so much. I didn’t know anything about dogs. I was a child. And I thought my dog would just do what I wanted because she was my dog. That’s what dogs did, right?

Again, not so much. Dogs don’t do what they “should” without a lot of effort and time being put into them. We all know this. Now. But I didn’t know that then. Neither did any adults I knew. And whenever I’d foolishly let my dog off leash, because THIS TIME WOULD BE DIFFERENT, she’d run away and chase squirrels and not come back, like dogs do.

This day, I’d let her off leash in the woods behind your house. It was a good walk from my house, but I’d been there many times. I had a small fort back there, too. I was playing in it, and I thought Molly would be OK this time. I let her loose, thinking she’d stay close by. But she ran away again. And I couldn’t find her. I called and called for her, but I couldn’t find her. I sat down on the ground and started to cry. I was near the edge of the woods by this time. You saw me from your house. You came out to see what was wrong. And you did the most miraculous thing.

You let me tell you. I cried and sobbed like the disappointed child I was, and you let me. You didn’t tell me to “shut up or I’ll give you something to cry about.” You didn’t make fun of me or say my dog was stupid and why did I even get her? You just let me cry. You gave me a hug. And then you helped me find my dog. When we did, you asked me if I’d be OK to get home. I said yes, and I was.

I walked home that day still a bit sad and mopey about my dog who wouldn’t behave, but I’d learned something. I’d learned that not everyone is mean to children who cry. Your actions were  first for me. I’d never experienced that – ever. And I’ll never forget it.

I don’t know your name, sir, but I know your actions, to me, were extraordinary that day. As an adult, I still think they were, because I know you were a man, showing compassion to a child, which is still far too rare, for so many complicated and mostly stupid reasons.

So, thank you, sir. Again.

I am in your debt.

Sincerely,

wabbit

Oh, and by the way, that dog turned out alright eventually. When I learned to calm myself and reward what I wanted and ignore what I didn’t. When I learned to help my dog like you helped me, rather than the way my parents tried. So, Molly thanks you too.

Molly and I, circa 1988 or so, with me holding on tight.

molly and me-mass

Molly, front and center in a group of service dog trainees more than a few years later.

Happy_Halloween

And off leash on the Continental Divide, on the greatest trip she and I ever took.

molly-snow

 

Mandalorian Sue*

I finished watching The Mandalorian the other day. And this was my immediate reaction. It flew out of my fingers faster than anything has in a long time. I wrote the entire thing in about fifteen minutes. And though I hesitated to post it, yet another Twitter kerfuffle regarding “real fans” of Star Wars has caused me to present it now, intentionally unedited and non-fact-checked, because that’s how it needs to be to make its point. Please note that I loved The Mandalorian and that this is a work of satire. I trust my audience to understand the point of this work, but I’ll put it bluntly here just in case: if any fan of The Mandalorian says one word about Rey or Leia being too good at anything or using the Force too well without adequate training, they can get right on out of here with their clear sexism. If they have issues with other aspects of the recent movies or whatever, that’s fine, as long as they’re not assholes about that. Heck, I have a few of my own. But that particular argument simply doesn’t hold up. Period. I have spoken.

And here is my proof…again, unedited and non-fact-checked, because authenticity:

Mandalorian Sue*

Ok. So. You know I love Star Wars as much as the next guy, but come on! This is getting ridiculous! One man taking down a TIE fighter? Without any type of heavy weaponry? Flying with a jet pack and managing to hit it with a cable when he just freely admitted he hadn’t used a jet pack since he was a child? And the person giving him said jet pack just said that it wouldn’t obey his commands until he, like, bonded with it? Oh, please. He had to time that jump just right to be in the right position and then hit the ship with the cable. No way! That’s insane. Overpowered much?

Oh! And then? He holds onto the ship with only his gloved hands while the pilot is trying to shake him off? Are you freaking kidding me? Like that could happen! But whatever, right? Guess we’re just throwing everything that makes any sense right out the window at this point. So he hangs on. Sure. And manages to attach a bomb to the ship that just so happens to take it out while he escapes. How convenient.

If I could roll my eyes any harder, I would.

Seriously. What has Star Wars come to that this is what we’re forced to believe? The franchise is dead, I tell you. I can’t even. But you know what? I will. Because this travesty only scrapes the surface of the pile of steaming bantha poodu that is The Mandalorian.

Don’t believe me? Let me give you a few more examples of the shit they’ve pulled.

First up, there’s The Child, as they so annoyingly insist on calling it. It used the Force and took down a grown mudhorn in an early episode! The Child is only fifty years old! Yoda trained for hundreds of years to be able to raise Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamp, and even with all that training, he still got his ass handed to him by the Emperor! And we’re supposed to just accept that this tiny baby can take out a beast like that? Whatever. Oh, sure, so he went to sleep afterward, but this is still just a pile of crap. And don’t even get me started on when the baby turns backs literal flames in the finale. Or force chokes someone. Or heals wounds. Talk about a juvenile Mary Sue. Geez! The thing might be cute, but it’s also an insult to everyone who calls themselves a Star Wars fan.

And then there’s more from the Mando himself. What’s this nonsense about not taking off the helmet? Where did that come from? Mandalorians take off their helmets all the time, you freak. I don’t know where you got your so-called “clan”, but they’re a bunch of rejects as far as I’m concerned. Oh, and OF COURSE this Mandalorian has beskar armor. Because that’s so commonplace in the galaxy. We’re supposed to believe this ONE GUY can get it when no one else can? Just because he’s a bad ass or something? Can you actually hear me rolling my eyes? Also, let’s not forget that this guy can take out whole legions of baddies on his own. Or that he can find the ONE GUY in the desert who can help him fix his ship when he’s stupid enough to let it get scavenged by Jawas. Or the fact that a simple spray of bacta can heal in a few minutes serious internal damage that would require anyone else to be in a bacta tank for days. Sigh. Again, I can’t even.

I could go on. There are so many examples of complete nonsense in this series. But I’ll leave it with just one more. The Darksaber. Yes. That Darksaber. The one from The Clone Wars and then from Rebels and now, sure enough, in this shitshow. Can the writers not come up with a single original idea? Do they have to rehash everything over and over again? Apparently not and apparently so, respectively.

That’s how much Disney hates us true fans. They can’t even be bothered anymore. I don’t care what they say or what all those fake geeks rave about, that’s how it is. This is the way indeed.


*A note on the title of this blog and the use of an offensive term therein. Mary Sue is an inherently sexist term. It is never applied to male characters, so much so that a masculine version doesn’t really exist (with the exception of Wesley Crusher and a few others being referred to as a “Marty Stu” at times). I use it here to make that point and because a non-sexist version really hasn’t come my way. I apologize. I know it’s a crappy phrase, because it’s applied only to women heroes and never to men. I know that the vast majority of heroes are overpowered and succeed against all odds with little training, regardless of their sex, but that only those with breasts get shit for that. I know that this is rooted in equality feeling like inequality to the privileged; in cishet white males throwing tantrums that they have to share the spotlight. That’s the point, see. So I use their phrase for our women. I apply it to a man they adore, to point out the ridiculousness of their stance. But again, I do apologize for using it at all. If someone can give me a good alternative, please share. Thank you.

May the Roarth Be With You

According to my computer, I wrote this in 2010. I personally think it was even longer ago. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’ve never published this, because it was supposed to be part of a memoir series that I was going to put together and publish. Well, that hasn’t happened (and likely won’t), and due to recent events, I feel like now is a good time to finally share this story publicly. Now, because we lost Peter Mayhew. Now, because exactly two years ago today, I had lunch with that giant of a man and his family because we were all hungry after visiting kids in a children’s hospital for a few hours. Now, because the inside jokes from that day are still funny, and I’ll miss Peter a lot.

And so, unedited minus a very important asterisk, here we go.

High Speed Trauma and Drama

Sometime, when I was much younger than I am now, I was riding in a car.

It’s true. Amazing, right? That an American child might be doing such a thing?

Actually, no. Of course not. Not at all. I rode in cars all the time as a kid, and I still do. Nothing special there. But this time, well, this time was indeed special.

The car was a Chevy Suburban, either our old tan and yellow 1977 model or the red and gray one we got later. I’m not sure on that.

However, I am pretty sure that we were traveling on Interstate 90*, and I’m absolutely certain that the back window of this vehicle was down about two inches. And I mean the very back window – the one on the bumper end of the car.

I know this because it’s very important in this story.

See, I was sitting in the middle seat of this car and we were on some sort of road trip.

To entertain myself, I had tied two Star Wars figures together with a piece of string and I was trying to break the string. The Star Wars characters were acting as my handles, and the string (orange yarn, if I remember correctly) was serving as my resistance in this homemade exercise machine.

I strained and I strained against the yarn, but to no avail.

My brother laughed at my efforts, but I would not give up. I kept at it for what seemed like ages.

And finally, I was rewarded!

I snapped that string right in the middle with my amazing display of juvenile strength.

Success!

And a moment later… epic failure.

When the string broke, my arms naturally flew outward and back without the resistance they’d been working against. My fingers followed this pattern, too, somehow. They flew open of their own accord.

My Star Wars figures went flying.

One of them, and for the life of me I couldn’t tell you who it was, landed somewhere in the third seat behind me. The other went the same direction but flew much farther. The next moment is family legend. My voice shrieked out a cry of terror as events unfolded in seemingly slow motion.

“CHEWIE!”

A brown blur arced in a perfect trajectory for that open window, and in the next instant, I saw one of my dearest possessions fly right out that crack.

“DAD! STOP THE CAR! CHEWIE!”

I started to cry.

My little world was coming to an end.

“STOPTHECAR!STOPTHECAR!STOPSTOPSTOP!”

Did I mention we were on I-90? Or some other equally large road with a lot of high-speed traffic?

Yeah… we didn’t stop.

I understood why even then. It took me a minute, but I calmed down. Some.

I was young, not stupid. There was no way we could have stopped the car, gotten out, and recovered poor Chewbacca without being smashed to bits, and the odds were good that Chewie had already suffered that same fate, thus rendering any heroics on our part too little and too late.

All the same, I know I sniffled for a good long time, and the rest of the ride was a quiet one for me. I moved to the third seat and sat gazing out that evil back window for miles, quietly mourning the loss of my Wookiee and angry that at first I had been blamed for his tragic demise despite it being a complete and total accident.

And for the longest time (perhaps still), I believed that Chewbacca did not perish by violent dismembering on that fateful day. Instead, I thought his entire body was run over evenly while he was laying on a soft tar patch in the asphalt and thus he sunk completely into the road and was preserved forever, like the saber tooth tigers in California.

Someday, perhaps, some archeologist will prove me right.

And perhaps she will wonder what strange, hairy god was worshipped in our time and postulate that Chewbacca was carried as a totem against evil spirits.

And you know what?

She’ll only be a little wrong.

———-

*Since this was written, my father has informed me that Chewbacca was lost to us on I-75 in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Huh. A coincidence, then, that Dragon Con is held there every year? Somehow, I think not, and nothing you say will convince me otherwise.

End of An Era

This is the first of what I suspect will be three Avengers: End Game blogs from me. It’s essentially untitled to avoid spoiling anyone. Do not proceed below the pic (my desktop background for about a decade, by the way) if you haven’t seen the movie. Obviously, Avengers End Game spoilers below the pic.

iron_man_wallpaper_by_cure4-d2xx4jw

SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: END GAME BELOW!

NO, REALLY!

STOP NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ WABBIT WAXING POETIC FOR A BIT!

———-

“I shouldn’t be alive. Unless it was for a reason.”

Tony Stark said that, in the first Iron Man movie, in 2008.

And now, as any of us who have seen Avengers: End Game knows, Tony is dead. He gave up his life willingly to undo the damage of Thanos.

I’d say that was a pretty good reason. So, in many ways, I’m okay with the passing of Tony Stark in the MCU. It’s not like it was a surprise. Tony so much as told us of his demise eleven years ago, and if you’ve read the comics, you know how Infinity War plays out (though to be fair, the MCU is a completely different entity, and it hard core shows here). But even if you haven’t; even if you didn’t suspect that Stark’s sacrifice was inevitable (yeah, you, not so much, Thanos); there are other things that made Tony’s death a given. Robert Downey Jr is moving on, and rightfully so. He can still look the part, and play the part, but nothing lasts forever here in our so-called “real world,” and while CGI is a wonderful thing, RDJ will age and change, so it’s time. He deserves to do other things, too. He’s given Marvel fans eleven years, so I don’t begrudge him time with his family and other projects. Also, he deserves to go out on top. To have his story have an end point. After all, as the man himself said, “part of the journey is the end.” Tony’s story is complete, and Pepper had it right. He can rest now.

But what a story it was.

Tony Stark, the once spoiled brat rich kid with the moral compass of an infant grew into a man willing to lay down his life for others over the course of the twenty-two interconnected films of the MCU. I won’t bore you with the details – you’ve all seen the movies. Suffice to say we watched Tony grow, and it was a wonderful thing. Tony changed right in front of us in ways so many of us wish we could – but only a few manage to achieve.

And that’s what I’ll miss. That’s what I’m not okay with. That’s what upsets me. I’m mourning the end of an era, truly. I saw End Game Saturday night. I discussed a few things with a few friends (I have some Feelings about Hawkeye in this movie, for example, but that’s a whole other blog). I didn’t cry, though. Not during the movie and not right afterward. I didn’t cry until Sunday afternoon, but then? Oh, I did cry. Because Iron Man means so much to me, for so many reasons. Tony Stark, in all his humanity, is a personal touchstone. He’s a fictional character, yes, but like Luke Skywalker and a few others, he’s one I reach to in my actual life for inspiration.

This has been my profile pic on Discord for years, and I don’t think it’ll ever change.

IMG_3778

Why? That’s easy. I mean, yes, I love Iron Man and tailored suits – especially if they’re grey – so it’s a bit of a no-brainer, right? But no, that’s not why. It’s not even because it makes many assume my gender, rightly or wrongly. No, it’s the hands. One protected in a gauntlet of gold and titanium. The other fragile, human flesh. One strong and capable. One weak and friable. One the persona the world sees – the man who is nearly invincible. The other the being inside the suit – the one who battles anxiety, panic attacks, alcoholism, and the crushing inability to form human attachments. The one who becomes so absorbed in a project he forgets everything else and has to be handled like a child*. The one who doubts himself constantly, but still manages to get the job done, because he puts on the suit.

This is the man I relate to, because every day, I’m weak. I’m vulnerable. I’m scared. I don’t drink alcohol because I shouldn’t. I’m tired and I don’t want to go to work. And while I come off confident, I’m not. That’s a suit I wear. It’s armor, and I need it to survive this harsh world I live in. But I made that armor. I learned to adapt to my environment in a way that only I could. And like Tony, the armor and the flesh are one. They are intermingled, like those fingers. And when interlaced, they are strong.

And so I love Tony Stark, and I’m very grateful to him, for showing me that I can be a superhero even when I’m scared and all sorts of fucked up. I can put on my armor and get the job done.

And that…that is what made me sad yesterday and brought the tears. The Tony I love, the MCU Tony (he’s better than the comics Tony, by the way – and I won’t take that back or apologize for it at all**)… is gone. I’m not ready for him to be gone. I’m not ready to let him go. That said, I hope they never resurrect this version of Tony ever. His story is better this way. I know he has to go. That he has played the hand he was dealt and has left the table. And I’m happy for him. I truly am. Not many characters get treated that well. But I’m sad for me. For us. For all those who loved him for whatever the reason.

I’ll miss him.

But as I’ve said before, if you make art, you never really die.

And Tony Stark has inspired so much of that, that he’ll be here forever. From the actual films, which aren’t going anywhere, to fan art and vids and costumes and fanfiction, Tony Stark, as seen in the MCU, is here forever.

After all, I’m still here, and as everyone knows:

I am Iron Man.

Footnotes

Thank the Maker

I originally wrote this in July of 2013, according to the date on the folder in my computer. I thought I’d share it again now, as I embark on a journey to my first Star Wars Celebation. It was then titled “Outside the Bell Curve,” and written for the now-defunct SFX Magazine Reader Blogger group. (Ah, the good old days…)

Incidentally, I got that job through the Firefly fandom, and I’m soon to meet some very old online friends for the first time at Celebration. Because this blog still rings true. At the end of the day, well, thank the maker.

—-

My colleague Steven Ellis recently wrote about passing on our geek legacy to the next generation, and that got me thinking about something that comes up occasionally in my own life.

When people ask me who influenced me in my geeky ways as a kid, I tend to just stare at them blankly for a moment before saying “no one.” I answer this way because it’s true. I didn’t know anyone who watched Star Trek when I was little. I don’t remember anyone tuning in to those static-filled midnight broadcasts of out-of-order episodes of Doctor Who or lamenting the fact that there was always that one episode that never aired here.

I got none of that as a child.

What I did get was sports. We only had the one TV, and it was my dad’s to control. Sure, we watched The A-Team and Knight Rider, and yes, Buck Rogers made some appearances in my youngest days, but mostly we four kids played outside while my dad watched (American) football or baseball, depending on the season.

So how did I become such a huge genre fan?

Well, E.T. and those Buck Rogers reruns played a role, and I remember liking Voyagers during its short run (no one hated sci-fi in my house, either, so it’s not like we were never exposed to it – it just wasn’t a large part of our lives), but frankly there was this one thing that changed everything. This one thing that transcended nearly all aspects of life when I was forming my opinions about entertainment.

And that one thing was Star Wars.

Not to be cliché, but Star Wars was truly a game-changer, and despite all of the issues that surround that trilogy and its spin-offs now, it’s still true that much of what we genre fans know now is a direct result of the effects of Star Wars on the world. From Spaced (“You weren’t there at the beginning! You don’t know how good it was, how important!”) to Kevin Smith’s films to J.J. Abram’s love of the trilogy, Star Wars is still everywhere. Even that supposed opposite side of the sci-fi coin, Star Trek, owes much of its success to Star Wars. Yes, Trek came first, but without Star Wars (and Close Encounters) showing Paramount the potential of science fiction, the Star Trek films don’t get made, and without those, we fans don’t get TNG or any of the other Trek series, and TOS would be a just another cult classic.

So Star Trek does owe a debt to Star Wars, and always will. It’s an odd sort of sibling-rivalry debt that oddly goes both ways, but it’s still an aspect to that debt that can Trek can never fully repay.

And neither can I. Because Star Wars didn’t just give Star Trek and many other sci-fi ideas a leg up, it created a cultural phenomenon that made all the kids at my school sit around and trade those little yellow-bordered cards at lunch. ALL the kids. Every type of kid was into Star Wars. In that one topic, there were no cliques. Everyone could relate.

And for some of us, it just stuck. I was one of those kids. I still played sports and watched them on TV, like the rest of my family, but I also devoured anything sci-fi I could get my hands on, and I never stopped.

Now, I have friends the world over that I’ve made purely because I love science fiction, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Now, it’s trendy to be a geek. There are science-fiction and fantasy conventions all year round on nearly every continent. Cosplay isn’t just for the outermost fringe of fandom anymore. Heck, cosplay and fandom are words now. And a large part of this, I’d argue, is due to Star Wars. An entire generation (mine) had never seen anything like it, and we were swept away. We grew up surrounded by Star Wars merchandising and the unifying effect of a true cultural phenomenon, and it shows. No longer was science fiction pushed to the fringes of society.  It was front and center everywhere we looked for a good long while. Those of us who happened to be particularly susceptible to that were forever changed by it. And when the internet (that other huge part of why it’s chic to be geek now) came along so that we could all talk to one another, well, that was just the icing on the cake that had been baking for twenty-odd years.

So I guess I have to change my answer.

May the Force help me, but I do.

Who got me into science fiction?

George Lucas.

Despite everything.

Thank the Maker.

The Hardest Sport I’ve Ever Done

Hey there, strangers! It’s me, wabbit. Bet you forgot about me, huh? Minus those few of you who still read my rare fanfic. 😉 Well, I’m still kicking, and thanks to crazy random happenstance, I’m reminded of past days today, and as occasionally happens, I’m specifically reminded of the hardest sport I’ve ever done.

Many of you know I played softball for decades and that I’ve dabbled in soccer and track and very briefly in volleyball. I’ve done martial arts for three quarters of my life and have the rank to show for it, though I tend to keep that mostly quiet. I’ve even run a half marathon and done a few triathlons. I’ve been beat up, bloodied, and seriously injured by these things through the years. I even had developmental bone disease from one of them. And the half marathon was my biggest physical challenge to be sure, but none of those things fits the title of this post. Not by a mile.

Because when I think of those things, I understand how I trained my body and my mind to do them, and I’m pretty sure I could do them all again, given a little time and training.

I even understand that when I played defensive back in football and finally started to be able to see the whole field, it was from simple experience.

But the hardest sport I’ve done? That’s simply not true for it. I am just astounded that I ever could do it, even though I did it for years without a whole lot of thought. How I managed to multitask to the level required for that task is still beyond me.

How did I manage to count beats, get to a certain spot and stay there for a certain period of time, stay aware of all of my teammates, measure my steps in a very precise manner, change my body posture often, and play music ALL AT THE SAME TIME?

I honestly don’t know. I only know it still blows me away as much as a John Williams fanfare. Yep, you got it. I’m talking about marching band, the most complex athletic (and it is athletic) endeavor I’ve ever been a part of.

I know I managed marching band the same way I managed all of my sports. I practiced. A lot. I went to school a month earlier than the other kids and spent four hours five days a week during that month out on a field in the blazing August heat of Texas. And then I went to school an hour earlier than the other kids every day during the fall semester and spent an hour after school in sectionals before running home to eat and then get to karate class. But I’m still in awe of how that works with marching band. There is so much going on all the time. It’s insane, and only those who have done it can realize it (generally after the fact).

And oh, those who have done it. We are legion, and we are often so much more similar than we are different. When I’m at costuming events, it isn’t “were you in band?” but rather “what did you play in band?”. It’s a safe bet, though sometimes the theater types are the exceptions. “Band geek” is a phrase for a reason (which reminds me of my definition of geek, by the way – fans watch things, geeks do things, and band kids do things from the get-go, and never stop in my experience, so it’s not enough just to watch Star Wars – we costume or write or draw it, too).

And today, I’m reminded of my fellow band geeks and what they meant and mean to me. See, I didn’t have to look hard for this picture. I knew exactly where it was. It was in the box of things that were on my wall in college. The things that were special enough to me to make the cut, all those years ago, when most things were left behind. That little box is now in a bottom dresser drawer, but I knew it’s where I would find Robbie and Blake and myself, circa 1993 or so.

Robbie, Blake, and I

It’s also where I found this little token of my accomplishments in band. I was a four year letterperson, and the star indicates my officer status (chief equipment officer FTW – no, really – I wouldn’t trade it for any captain or drum major or lieutenant – that was *my* truck, and don’t you forget it).

Four Year Letterperson

Funny thing, though. My star isn’t in the right place on this one, and also I graduated, so I never put this on my letter jacket. My three-year letter is on it, with the star down on the tail where it’s supposed to be. I know because I recently dug it out for research for another type of jacket. Still, this unused letter made me think about that truck, and how I didn’t go home from school on Fridays and/or showed up hours before the game on Saturdays, depending on the football schedule, so that I could prep and load all the percussion and larger instruments on the truck (we didn’t have a big trailer, like bands have now, but a rented Hertz – I was fortunate enough to go to a school where our football team was awful, but our band was great and was expected to be great and was respected as the pride of our school, but we didn’t have a lot of money, so we didn’t have all that jazz). And how you had to put them all in a certain way or they wouldn’t fit. And how we handed that information down like some sort of treasured secret, complete with initiation rites. Oh, high school. You weird little whacked-out world.

Ah, memories. And words, apparently. That’s a rarity these days. Thanks for the inspiration, however unintentional, orangerful. I should really do this more often. 😉

Anyway…march on, band geeks. March on.

Hi! I’m wabbit. And I think about Star Wars a LOT.

The other day at work, I had a conversation about why Luke Skywalker is amazing in The Last Jedi. It referenced mental health, the Jedi code, certain aspects of canon as seen in Star Wars Rebels (the show and A New Dawn, the book), and Force ghosts in general. Amongst many other things.

Involved in this convo were three other people, ranging in age from sixteen to about seventy. They mostly let me talk, because I’m known in that circle as the resident Star Wars geek. They wanted to know my opinion.

When I was done, the seventy-year-old said he’d have to think about things more. The twenty-something agreed with me wholeheartedly. And the sixteen-year-old – the one I know the least – just stared at me for a moment before asking: “How long have you thought about this?!”

I didn’t miss my chance to quote Obi-Wan. I put on an air and said only : “A long time.”*

As I did so, the twenty-something laughed and put a hand on the youngster’s shoulder, saying: “This is the tip of the iceberg.”

Yep.

Thats true.

Poor kid. It was pretty much this:

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*And I wasn’t lying. Figuring out how I felt about Luke in TLJ was…complicated. It did, in fact, take about three weeks.

We had to go back to work then, but over the course of the day, I showed the teen pictures of my cosplay. We talked more about all sorts of things in the Star Wars universe. Mostly Leia, but others certainly made their appearances.

He was astounded that I taught myself to sew just to make costumes when I was in my thirties. He couldn’t believe how much I was willing to talk about Star Wars, and how much a lightsaber meant to me as a middle-aged professional.

But he knows now, and he thinks it’s cool. My work here is done.

A New Hope – Again

Anyone who knows me knows I love Luke Skywalker more than just about any fictional character ever.

They know my life changed when I saw a shiny green lightsaber for the first time when I was seven years old and seated in a theater next to my dad.

They know that Luke was my ultimate cosplay goal and that I finally achieved Rebel Legion status as Luke this year, complete with a shiny green lightsaber that made me cry when I got it, because only a Return of the Jedi version would do.

And for the past few years, they’ve heard me go on and on about how if Luke so much as sniffled in the new Star Wars movies, I was out. That I’d swear off Star Wars forever if he died, and other such dramatic drivel.

I know that many of you reading this are those people, but for those of you who are new to me, well, there you have it. I role played Luke every day with my best friend as a kid, and never was this debated. He was Han. I was Luke. Always.

I love Luke Skywalker. The end.

So, brace yourselves, folks, because here goes (obviously, spoilers ahead):

I also liked The Last Jedi, and I loved the end.

I’ve seen the movie three times so far. The first time through, I Was Not OK. Capital letters.

My beloved Luke was gone.

It hurt. And I was puzzled. I wasn’t expecting to lose Luke. Sadly, due to real life events that no one could have predicted or controlled, I was prepared for Leia’s death. But not Luke’s. So I was overwhelmed and confused and saddened by what I had seen (and heard – because Binary Sunset forever). Our General survived? But we lost our Jedi? What?

I was a mess. I didn’t know how to feel. Because while I was sad, I also somehow understood. And that latter emotion confused me. How could I be alright with losing my greatest hero? I couldn’t get my mind around it. But after a few minutes of actual tears, I cranked up my Luke playlist (specifically, this) on my way home, and by the time I got there, I was OK again.

And I was mystified by this.

I was physically sick before The Force Awakens came out because I was so worried for Luke, because that’s the trope, isn’t it? To kill the master? And I just couldn’t have that.

But here I was, actually in that position, and I didn’t feel sick. I wasn’t sad anymore. And all I could say, on Twitter and elsewhere, was: “I have feelings. I need some time.”

I couldn’t articulate any more than that.

But almost exactly a day later, I saw the movie again.

And that time, when I left the theater, I was OK. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t confused.

I was OK. I was accepting of the movie and, perhaps more importantly, my feelings about it.

Why?

Because time lessened my grief. And I was able to fully embrace the notion that Luke chose his destiny – and that makes all the difference in the galaxy.

Luke wasn’t killed. Luke died. No one else determined his fate. He did.

And what a fate it was.

Because before surrendering himself to the Force (yes, surrendering, because I believe that was also a choice in this case), Luke did the only thing he could to redeem himself for his failure with Ben Solo and for his throwing in the towel afterward.

He saved the Resistance.

He was the only one who could, and he stepped up.

Even though he’d left that life behind, for better or worse (worse, in my opinion, but that is another blog), when push came to shove, Luke couldn’t let the Resistance die. He had to face his greatest failure head on. He did what he had to do to save his sister and her cause. To save the galaxy.

Again.

And really, that’s all I need from Luke. Period. End of sentence. Full stop.

So it’s OK if he had to go. He deserved to rest after all he’d done.

I don’t need anything more.

But indulge me, if you will. Because I’ve got so much more. I have a list of why I love the end of The Last Jedi, even though it led to Luke’s apparent demise.

First, Luke shows us what he’s capable of. Finally. We didn’t get to see him be the badass we all expected him to be in The Force Awakens. And we’ve been spoon-fed a series of (now mostly non-canon, granted) books and comics for decades that made Luke out to be more than a superhero, to put it mildly. So to see him doing something we haven’t seen in canon before; something that is acknowledged to take more power and skill than can be contained in one vessel (thus Kylo’s “You’re not doing this. The effort would kill you.”  to Rey earlier in the film) – is fantastic. Luke is one serious badass here, and I love that. So much.

Second, in this fight, Luke becomes the greatest example of a Jedi we’ve ever seen. Not for his skills, though they are formidable. But for this adherence to the actual teachings of the Jedi. Remember: “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack.” Check and check, mate. Knowledge of how to do Force projection in the first place? Got it. And defense, not attack? Yep. Luke never hurts Kylo. Or anyone else. Yet he defends the Resistance and allows them to escape by stalling The First Order. If that’s not a perfect Jedi, I don’t know what is. (Incidentally, Rose nailed this – Luke wins not by fighting what he hates, but by saving what he loves. And that’s beautiful.)

Third, that wink. Do I really need to say more about Luke’s coolness here? Probably not. But I will. Because there’s the shoulder brush off.  The “see you around, kid.” The cocksure attitude. Oh, but that was lovely to see. This is the kid who used to bullseye womprats in his T-16 and zip though Beggar’s Canyon without a care. The farm boy who thought nothing was impossible and wasn’t afraid to say so. This is my Luke, finally back from the abyss.

That abyss was understandable. Luke has been though some stuff. He’s not the same idealistic boy he was. So it makes sense that he’d shut down for a while. And Luke’s struggles make his story better, and him more relatable. A hero can’t be a hero without something to overcome, even if – especially if – the demons are in his own mind.

But in the end, it had to go, because Luke is that hero. And to see Luke climb out of the hole he’d dug for himself was glorious. This Luke is unapologetic and takes no quarter. This Luke has come to his senses. He has finally ripped off the Band-Aid and accepted that Ben is gone, and only Kylo remains. And he’s not going to apologize for that anymore, because while Luke screwed up, in the end, it was Kylo’s own choices that led him to his fall. And now the punk dares to endanger that which Luke holds most dear. So the gloves are off. Go Luke.

Next, there’s Leia.  Luke giving a sweet, gentle good-bye to his sister is wonderful. Be still my heart.

And finally, there’s hope. Just… hope. Luke berates himself on the island with Rey. He snarkily says he was a legend, as if that’s a terrible thing. And for him, I think it was. It was too much pressure. He couldn’t handle it. And when he finally made that one mistake that cost him everything, he couldn’t recover. He truly felt the galaxy would be better off without him, so he retreated. And then it became too easy to stay that way. To live in his bubble of self-loathing. We’ve all been there. The less we do, the less we want to do. So even when someone comes to draw him back into the fight, he refuses to go. He won’t re-enter the ring. He’s convinced himself it’s too dangerous for him to play the game, for so many reasons. Imposter syndrome, depression, anxiety, PTSD… they’re all there, and he can’t beat them back far enough to see any path except the exile he’s forced upon himself.

That is, until Leia gives up. Until his own flesh and blood (and more importantly, the woman who never quit ever) loses hope.

In that moment, which I believe Luke felt, even half a galaxy away and closed off from the Force like he was, everything changed. Not much could pull him out of his funk and off that island, but that did.

Luke got over himself in a way that we all we wish we could and saved the day. In so doing, he restored hope not just to Leia and her band of Resistance fighters, but to the galaxy. He walked into that base, so to speak, as the literal embodiment of hope. And he knew it, too. Because whatever else he was, Luke Skywalker wasn’t stupid. He knew what would happen after Crait. This wasn’t his first rodeo, as they say. He knew people would talk – about how the legend returned for one more fight, just in the nick of time, and then disappeared without a trace.

And he knew the kind of power stories like that hold. How, to borrow from Poe Dameron, they are the spark that lights the fire that burns the First Order down. He knew this was bigger than just him.

So he put on his obi and got down to business. The galaxy needed Luke Skywalker, so he was Luke Skywalker once again. He put away the hermit and got out the Jedi. That cost him his life, but that’s OK.

Because this way, Luke is finally free of the burden he carried for so long. And yet the Jedi remains. Forever.

Luke is preserved in legend as the epitome of bravery and magic and (most importantly) hope.

For the galaxy. For the next generation. And for me.

So yeah, I’m OK. I’m good, in fact, with Luke taking a final, awesome bow as the purest, most quintessential version of himself – the one that’s competent, calm, cool, confident, compassionate, and completely in control. So there’s really only one thing left to say.

Thank you, Luke.

Always.

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