Sandra McDonald is one of my favorite working short story writers. Her humor is often both warm *and* sly, her satires sharp but empathetic. She has some amazing funny and irreverant stories about drag queen astronauts and sexy robot cowboys, but one of her other favorite topics to lampoon is Hollywood.
“Searching for Slave Leia”–as you might expect–is one of the latter. Sandra McDonald hits a perfect point where humor and metafiction let her really dig into human emotion. Also, Star Wars.
“Searching for Save Leia” by Sandra McDonald:
A slip, slide, falling through icy coldness, white noise like TV static. A breeze of hot buttery popcorn. Giddy laughter, sweaty bodies, fanfare music over the intercom, and what’s this? A ten-foot-wide movie poster of young, pale, undernourished Carrie Fisher, posed seductively in a gold metal bikini with a collar and chain around her neck.
You’d bet she didn’t have her period the day they took that picture. No Kotex pad safety-pinned to her underwear, no feeling bloated and yucky down there. You wish you’d taken more aspirin this morning. You hope you don’t stain your shorts in front of the hundreds of fangeeks jammed in the lobby of the Charles Cinema here in the middle of Boston. This is 1983, that is Slave Leia, and through some supernatural stroke of luck you have become a time traveler, because last you checked it was 2013 and you were perimenopausal and you were having a fight with Trevor, again, on the set of your latest series.
Your best friend Karen sloshes her soda against your arm and says, “Shit, hell, sorry!”
You look down at your white knee socks, cut-off shorts, and baby blue Empire Strikes Backt-shirt. It’s amazing the fashion police ever let you out of your house. Karen’s wearing a yellow Han Solo shirt and white shorts and wooden sandals, the kind that are supposed to tone your calves. Her hair is teased up two inches. You have a mullet.
“Sheila?” she asks, face creasing. “You okay?”
“Yes, fine,” you say, because the first rule of suddenly displaced time travelers is to fake it until you figure out what happened. It worked for Scott Bakula in every episode ofQuantum Leap except the mental hospital episode—always one of your favorites; speaking of which, there’s an awful possibility: maybe you’re in the psych ward. Goosebumps ripple under your white bra, the one that always chafes your back. After twenty years of working together, Trevor has finally driven you into a complete nervous breakdown.
Princess Leia cosplay photograph marked for reuse from Wikipedia.