Reflecting on a top ten moments for 2011 in a blog post is really something I’m doing for me, because I like to see where I thought I’d go and where I actually ended up. It helps in future goal-setting and gives me a bright spot to return to when I need a pick-me-up. But if you want to catch up on what’s been happening at FANgirl Blog, I’ve got a lot of the year captured in today’s post. In reverse order, my top ten of 2011…
After getting to experience the final runs of the original ride on the Last Tour to Endor at Celebration V, of course I hurried to Star Wars Weekends 2011 to experience the new Star Tours as soon as possible. I had to ride it a bunch of times to finally get to see all of the different randomly ordered elements – but you didn’t see me complaining. The visuals and audio are stunning and the 3D is incredible, and it makes me eager to see The Phantom Menace on the big screen in 3D early next year.
9. Coach K Wins #903
Wait a second – what does a basketball coach have to do with Star Wars, writing, storytelling, and FANgirl Blog? A lot more than you might think. It’s almost impossible to explain, except that while fictional characters are inspiring the fact that there are real life heroes is doubly inspiring. Coach K’s teams win because they are strong in the fundamentals of basketball, they are talented, and most importantly because he gets them to believe they can win. You can’t be something if you can’t see it. Number 903 wouldn’t have existed without someone (and probably many someones) believing in Coach K. My takeaway watching the clock tick down on his history-making win was that it wasn’t that last stroke of the clock, but all the hours of hard work that made him a legend. It made me eternally grateful for everyone who has believed in me.
8. The Clone Wars Roundtable
While at times I’ve been sharply critical of the recent EU novels, The Clone Wars keeps getting better and better. Whether it’s Nightsisters or Mortis, droid adventures or clone mutinies, the storytelling and the characterizations are gaining strength and momentum right alongside the incredible leaps and bounds in the animation. So after I managed to convince the ForceCast’s Jason and Jimmy that they wouldn’t catch cooties from an EU kook, it was a real thrill to be invited back for an installment of the Clone Wars Roundtable about the Umbara arc a few weeks ago. I actually enjoy having my own thoughts and ideas about Star Wars challenged, and I don’t see differing views as a reflection of how someone might feel about me as a person. Intelligent discussion and debate are actually fun if approached with respect. With some great arcs ahead, I hope I’ll get to join them again next year.
Have you heard of it? This is one case where word of mouth overcame any reluctance on my part – the series is Young Adult, but Twilight it ain’t. A story about children killing children sounds intimidating, but Suzanne Collins is remarkably skilled at getting to the hells of war and making truly terrifying moments without writing an overly violent series. There’s nothing innocent or trite, and Katniss is a compelling heroine. I’m glad I trusted my friends when they said, “Read these books.”
6. Inbox Surprises
You can plan your life, be prepared for many possibilities, believe you’ve got a grasp on things – and then the unexpected happens. This year was full of those moments: messages from Jennifer Stuller, Erich Schoeneweiss, and a couple Star Wars authors were unexpected but awesome surprises. Then there were the tweets at conventions asking to meet; I made some new friends. And most importantly, comments and emails from the fan community in the form of thank you’s, words of encouragement, and offers to help share the fangirl experience and perspective.
5. Interviewing Frank Parisi
Asking for the interview, well, I about needed a Montana Mary and some Evel Knievel-worthy fearlessness. Worst case, he said no. Then the Del Rey editor and new In-house Coordinator for Star Wars said yes! Which resulted in me chewing on my nails and wondering, What they heck am I going to ask him? To be fair, he was probably thinking, What they heck is she going to ask me? Then he suggested a phone interview would be easier, and I thought, Oh poodoo! Considering my philosophy in the engineering business is “pick up the phone,” it worked out for the best. I didn’t stammer like a bumbling idiot and we ended up with a great interview. Frank probably has one of the coolest jobs in the world, but certainly not the easiest or one that I envy him. There were a few moments over the past year that re-energized my outlook for the future of the EU, but talking to him was probably the number one reason I look forward to 2012 and beyond.
I was a bit leery of dropping myself into the mass of humanity at the gigantic pop culture phenomenon that SDCC has become, but it was a great experience and I’m really glad I went. In particular, the Oh, You Sexy Geek! panel helped further develop my own ideas about female characters – yes, including Slave Leia – and the geek girl community, and the Her Universe panel about strong female characters gave me more ideas for angles to consider in my own novel. I was inspired by the efforts of men and women who sat on those panels, particularly the tremendous efforts of Katrina Hill (ActionFlickChick.com) and Ashley Eckstein (HerUniverse.com). Genre storytelling isn’t on the fringes, and it’s become apparent that an equal portion of those fans are women. My hope is someday to look back on my experience at SDCC and say, “I remember back in the day when women were fighting for equality from movies, comics, and books,” and that it’s just a distant memory that the women in the generation behind us will only hear about and not know.
3. Announcing Wynde
When it comes to my writing, I’m a perfectionist and my own harshest critic. (My editor Lex might tell you that’s an understatement.) Creating fanfiction is a personal experience; it’s all about the writer’s id. Recognizing that, over the course of the last year I went back and looked at what I had created to uncover where my own tendencies as a creator and biases as a human take my storytelling. At the same time, after studying the plight of female characters in published fiction, I realized that professionals aren’t immune to these same pitfalls. It made me less afraid of jumping off the cliff as Vespa does in the teaser trailer. After writing for over a year, with planning and designing longer than that, I finally forced myself to post some excerpts at TriciaBarr.com. With momentum building and the novel really coming together, I took the plunge and announced the title and teaser trailer at the end of last month. It was scary and thrilling all the same. And the feedback has been very inspiring to keep writing and finish!
2. Geek Girl Con
All around the internet, the voices of fangirls and geek girls are gaining more and more attention from the bigwigs who make the decisions about scifi, fantasy, and superhero stories. The chance for many of those voices to meet in person in Seattle, even just for Saturday and Sunday, turned out to be a far more amazing experience than I think any of us anticipated. I know that the experience gave me more inspiration, confidence, and motivation to push forward with my blog and my novel than I would ever have expected. And I have to give a special tip of the cap to Jennifer Stuller and her Ink-Stained Amazons book and panel appearances for giving me so many great ideas for strengthening my heroine and her story. Between SDCC and GGC I had the opportunity to listen to many insightful and distinguished individuals who write and study strong female characters, including Wonder Woman. That allowed me in turn to understand the choices I have made in the past as a writer, and then to consider if I’m making story choices because that’s what I’ve learned by example – the hero’s journey, for instance – or if I can make my characters, stories, and plots stronger by striking out into less charted territory and helping to create the heroine’s journey.
1. Luke Skywalker Must Die
Ever since I began developing the idea of FANgirl Blog, the Fangirl Speaks Up series was a core part of what I wanted to accomplish in making sure fangirl voices were being heard. The posts turned out great, and several of them – including Missing Demographic and Bad Romance – are some of my favorites on the blog. But Luke Skywalker Must Die was always drawn up as the capstone of that initial series of posts about the recent EU novels. I expected that a lot of people who read the blog wouldn’t agree with my solution – bring me the head of Luke Skywalker! – even if they agreed with many of my underlying points. I’m not surprised that’s turned out to be true – or that Luke Skywalker Must Die is far and away the most-read post of the year on FANgirl Blog, and to this day still receives 40-50 views a week.
Truly, though, the post wasn’t about an end for one of the best fictional heroes – and I hope I expressed that well when I got the chance to speak my piece on the ForceCast – but rather a beginning for other heroes. My criticisms came from a place filled with hope and respect for the Star Wars franchise. I think even Luke Skywalker would agree that there can never be enough champions for the light. Live or die, the farmboy from Tatooine will always be the gold standard for storytelling greatness; no one can take that away from him.