I’ve been thinking about Star Wars recently, and more specifically, how my early exposure to the original trilogy influenced my work.
The most obvious way it shaped my view of what science fiction could be was the way it portrayed Tatooine as a rough and ready ‘used’ future, in which vehicles were patched and rusty, and folks were just scrabbling to make a living — all very different from the shiny opulence of Star Trek‘s Federation, in which the interior of the Enterprise had more in common with the sterile corridors of the Death Star than the lived-in recesses of the Millennium Falcon.
But one of the key things that influenced me — and I only realised this recently — was the moment at the beginning of Return of the Jedi when Boushh the mysterious bounty hunter pulls off his mask to reveal… He was Leia all the time!
As a youngster, this seemed revolutionary. I thought it was so badass. I’d consumed quite a few 1960s and 1970s sci-fi movies and TV shows by that point, and those tended to feature scantily-clad love interests with poor survival skills, who regularly needed the hero to come and bail them out of trouble. But here, the princess got tooled-up and went to rescue her man. And she even managed to stare down Jabba the Hutt with a thermo detonator!
Luke had the Force and Han had his luck, but Leia had love for them both and it gave her the strength to equal either of them.
When I later came to start writing, I think that version of Leia lay at the back of my mind. I had wanted to see this new Leia embark on some freewheeling adventures with Han and Chewie. The three of them could have blazed quite a trail across the galaxy. But if I wanted to see those exploits, I’d have to write them myself, and embody her spirit in the new characters I created. Because like her, the female characters I wanted to write about (like Sal Konstanz in the Embers of War trilogy; Katherine Abdulov in The Recollection; Victoria Valois in the Ack-Ack Macaque trilogy; and Eryn King in Stars and Bones) were tough and capable, but they were also unafraid to be human. In fact, just like Leia, their humanity was always their strength and the source of their power.