Missing the General: In remembrance of Carrie Fisher


On this date in 2016, the Star Wars galaxy and its fans lost a princess, a general, a mom, a sweetheart, and most of all a member of our family. In the two years since Carrie Fisher passed away her presence still resonates across Star Wars and our culture.

I’ve been to a lot of science fiction and comic book conventions, and have even had the opportunity the last few years to vend some of my own wares here in the Pacific Northwest. What stands out for me out of all those experiences, though, was an encounter in September 2015 in Portland, Oregon.

Having played the carnival barker all day peddling my works as a writer and the works of my good friend Michael as an artist, a diminutive woman approached the table. There was a small squad of convention workers around her, and on a leash she led a chubby little French Bulldog. Her attention was drawn by a t-shirt Michael had designed with a stylized Stormtrooper. In an extremely affected Cockney accent, she asked me how much it cost.

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I was standing face to face with Carrie Fisher.

It was an act of sheer will that I did not simply melt into a puddle of fanboy adoration, slur my words, and despite knowing my beloved wife waited for me at home, sputter out an awkward and squeaking, “I love you.”  I was face-to-face with Princess, no GENERAL Leia, and she wanted to buy a shirt.

If only I could have reached back at that moment and let 8-year-old me see this. It was the year The Empire Strikes Back came out, and somewhere along the line the very cool Princess with a blaster from Star Wars was garnering a little more of my attention. Her Kenner action figure in my collection got a little better treatment than my Luke or Han. The Topps collector card labelled “A Brave Princess” somehow made it into my cheezy velcro wallet and stayed in my pocket rather than with the batch of cards wrapped in a rubber band on my shelf.

Like a million other boys (and as I would later discover, more than a few girls) in my generation, I was in love with Princess Leia.

LAS VEGAS – MAY 29: Actress Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia Organa character from “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” is shown on screen while musicians perform during “Star Wars: In Concert” at the Orleans Arena May 29, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The traveling production features a full symphony orchestra and choir playing music from all six of John Williams’ Star Wars scores synchronized with footage from the films displayed on a three-story-tall, HD LED screen. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

I had to mature a bit before I realized though it wasn’t just because she was pretty (though she certainly was); she was also independent. A leader. And so incredibly strong as a character. When others failed, she did not give in to Vader’s interrogations. She did not give in even when her planet disintegrated in front of her. She comforted Luke when the old sorcerer he’d known since the previous Tuesday died, while she was still just hours away from witnessing flash genocide.

When stripped and chained to a vile gangster, she used her own chains to choke the monster to death.

She was a hero in a time when Princesses were expected to just get saved. That impacted not just how I viewed Star Wars, but how I viewed characters in all fiction, or for that matter in my life.

I will just say it is no coincidence that the brown-eyed brunette to whom I am privileged to be married these last 29 years is strong, independent, and my hero.

The character of Leia though I do not think would be who she was without Carrie Fisher behind her. As someone who could have rested on her laurels and spent the rest of her days just riding the residuals from playing Leia, Carrie went on to continue to act, to write novels, to ghost-write scripts across Hollywood. This included at least one of the Star Wars Prequels and famously The Last Jedi where she worked with Rian Johnson.

More than that Carrie was a bold spirit by all accounts who did not know the meaning of boundaries. Infamously, she threatened a Hollywood mogul who had inappropriately touched a friend of hers with an almost Godfather-like gift. If you don’t know that story, please click here, but know it is not for the timid.

That much verve comes with a cost though, and Carrie faced mental health issues and addiction for years. She faced it head on, and even in passing served to send a message to us all to take care of ourselves, because regardless of how strong we are, we have to be aware of those demons. We have to seek help.

In the two years since we lost her, Carrie is not only alive in the character of Leia across various forms of Star Wars, but as a hero to those who need strength, and a cautionary tale for those who need to remember that even the strong need the love of others sometimes.

It is the strength, the humor, the audaciousness, the eccentricity that we commemorate, that we miss, that we celebrate. She is forever our Princess and our General, though she may well have laughed at us for even thinking that very thing.

She bought that shirt, by the way. I like to think it made her laugh too.

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What are your favorite memories of Carrie Fisher? How do you remember her? Let us know in the comments below!