The Many Faces of Captain Solo

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Title: The Many Faces of Captain Solo
Creator: Chris Callahan
Date(s): 1981
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Wars
Topic: Han Solo in fanfic
External Links:
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The Many Faces of Captain Solo is a 1981 essay by Chris Callahan. It is about the appeal of Han Solo and his portrayal in fiction that has a romantic focus. In it, the author discusses a number of current stories.

The essay was published in Facets #7/8 in 1981.

Han and Leia in Fanfiction and Han Solo: A Ladies' Man for All Seasons are similar essays.

Some Topics Discussed

  • fiction that explores "Corellians in general" and things about them in canon (i.e. they are pirates, and they can't get lost), Han's background and family, Corellians' sense of ethic, Han Solo's use of alcohol, the Millennium Falcon, meeting Chewbacca, about The Force, general relationships, relationship and views of the Alliance, and Han's relationship with Leia
  • canon and fanon

Some Stories, Authors, and Zines Mentioned/Discussed


It's amazing how much the character of Han Solo has inspired fan writers. Luke Skywalker is ostensibly the hero of STAR WARS, but Han is the dominant character in a large portion of SW-based fanfic published so far, and probably will be in the future, whether the stories are based on SW or THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (all stories considered here being based on SW and its official offshoots only). He's not so well delineated in SW (TESB shows a couple interesting sides of him), but fan writers have taken the flat comic strip character of SW and built him into a real person — actually many real people, depending on the individual perspective. I suppose one of the most surprising things about fannish portrayals of him is the nearly unanimous agreement on three aspects of him which are not brought out in SW, movie or novel: his sense of honor (idiosyncratic though that is), his deep loyalty to his friends, and his relationships with women. Beyond these, everything about him is open to various interpretations, some of them being better thought out than others.

In this article I've chosen to examine ten aspects of Han and his life as covered by fan writers: Corellians in general; Han's background and family; his business/personal ethics; drinking; the Millennium Falcon (main ly, how he got it); meeting Chewie; the Force; his relationships with people generally; his relationship to the Alliance; his relationship with Leia. The stories are from my personal fanzine collection; stories only, no poetry, articles, 'gag' items such as stories written strictly as humor. As for the quality of the stories, I've tried to avoid making judgments, though there are a few places where I question some of the ideas presented. And I've used only stories actually published, which means leaving out some of my own, plus a few I've been told about by correspondents and in conversation. Sigh. The individual stories are listed in the bibliography at the end, so if I mention only an author's name in later references to that author's single story discussed here and you forget the title, you can check at the end. Here are the zines, in alphabetical order: AGAINST THE SITH (6-7); FALCON'S FLIGHT (1-5); GALACTIC FLIGHT (1-3); GUARDIAN (2); JEDI JOURNAL (1-2); MOONBEAM (3); MOS EISLEY TRIBUNE (1-3); PEGASUS (3-4): SCUM AND VILLAINY (one shot); SHOWCASE (May 1979); SKYWALKER (1-3); STAR JOURNEYS (one shot); TIME WARP (3); TWIN SUNS (1); WARPED SPACE (31/32-43).

I organized this article by aspect rather than each writer's total perception because some stories included only one or a few aspects, and even when an author included different ideas in different stories, the picture might or might not be consistent. Some people seem to have one particular 'universe' they stay with, while others have more than one, or no particular 'universe' at all (at least as apparent from what's been published). So if the organization seems a bit confused at first, it's not really. And if you find the con- stand citing of titles a bit of a nuisance, remember I'm a librarian by profession and probably a researcher at heart.

Nowakowska refers sometimes to a vague code of honor. Lee Lauzon in Knightsbane says that Han is held back from using Alliance funds for personal use by an "odd Corellian scruple". Walton's Boredom has Han saying, "'On my honor as a Corellian'", while Jeffords in Jedi^s Journey quotes him as insisting, "'Corellians don't rat'" (she also mentions "a Corellian's laser beam wit", likely extrapolating from Han's proven talent in that area). And Janal Tagar in her The Corellian Code states that code specifically: never do anything free if someone's willing to pay for it; always have an escape route; always pay debts, good or bad. Sounds almost like a Corellians version of the three Laws of Robotics! Notice that part of the code is paying one's debts. That's something else the fen seem to agree on, whether for Han personally or Corellians in general.

There's disagreement on the name of Han's home planet. "Corell" leads, as used by Lisa Adolf, Ebba Anderson, Ellen Blair, Pat Gonzales, Christine Jeffords, Susan Matthews, Maggie Nowakowska and Ann Wilson. "Corellia" comes next, for C.A. Bucar, Chris Callahan, Nancy and Tracy Duncan, Jane Firmstone (now Rafferty), Jackie Paciello and Janal Tagar (I know of two others, not yet published). "Corelli" is used twice by Matthews also, and "Corel" gets one vote from Michelle Malkin.

Several stories refer to his family rather than to one or other of his parents. Ann Elizabeth Zeek in The Cincinnatus Caper thinks he knows the Falcon better than "the faces of his own family", which seems to imply that he has living relatives. In A Marketable Commodity by Block and Hendricks he refers to his clan. And Wilson gives him Jedi parents who died when he was small; he was raised by relative who knew nothing of his inherited ability to use the Force. Michelle Malkin's Long, Long Way from Rome gives more detail; he'd worked as a smuggler with his father's ex-captain as a teenager (his parents having been killed in a speeder accident and his mother's family having taken in Han and his brother Dav). He joined the Academy to become a pilot, was court-martialed for reporting official corruption, and apparently the relatives turned Dav against him because of the 'disgrace' — he hasn't heard from Dav in eleven years. And though the ex-captain was a part time pirate, Han denies emphatically that he and his father were ever pirates. In my Work of Art, set when he's ten (he doesn't appear personally) I mention a twin sister, Val, and the maternal grandmother who looks after the kids when Maeve is working; Maeve takes with with her sometimes, but so far only on legal runs.

Matthews, Nowakowska and Jeffords so far have the most detailed backgrounds (published, that is). Matthews' Kinmeet & Don't Believe it for a Minute (representing two of her several SW universes) agree to some extent on Han's family. In both he's the bastard son of a Corellian mother and offworld father, with an older brother, and after his mother's death is raised by relatives, his father being long out of the picture. In Believe the brother (by a different father, presumably Corellian) and mother died in space when Han was twelve; Kinmeet doesn't say whether the brother was full or half, or how he and the mother died. The mother in Believe cut off the father when she got pregnant because she wanted to raise the child as completely Corellian; the father went off to marry his sweetheart on Tatooine, becoming Luke's father, making Han and Luke half-brothers. Han, after his mother's death, was raised by his brother's family, which is why I assume the other man was Corellian. Kinmeet's Han apparently never knew his father either. His mother, a Solo of the Fisher Family, was apparently a pilot with her own house and docking bay, which Han inherited, and it's her family, a cousin and the cousin's husband, who take in Han and his older brother after her death. This "aunt" and "uncle" are really parents to Han and he obviously loves and respects them very much, even though he's a bit nervous about coming back for the party, knowing the family disapproves of some of his activities.

Han's business and personal ethics as shown in the movie and book are apparently non-existent, but fan writers agree on at least three things: he's loyal to friends, pays his debts, and with one notable exception, keeps his word. In several stories there's mention of this last being part of his personal value system, but Blair's Intersection turns on his deliberate breaking of a promise—to Chewie and Luke yet! What's more, the promise concerns diverting for personal use part of a cargo already spoken for in order to make a fast fortune, which goes against his usual fannish image of holding to contracts—it's a perfect illustration of Ben's comment about Corellian terminology concerning ownership of cargoes. At the end he redeems himself, of course. In sharp contrast there's Hendricks' Tega Run, showing him adhering to a deal made by his partner even though he personally doesn't like the deal at all. There's no disagreement about his loyalty to friends, even when this gets him in deep trouble with the Empire because he won't betray the Alliance (which includes some of his friends) and his insistence on paying his debts, honorable and otherwise (though Frazer's reference to his "'compulsive paying of debts'" giving him a reputation for honesty—at which he gags—sounds as if they think he might have a reputation for ignoring such petty annoyances when it suits him.). THE debt, of course, is to Jabba and despite the implication in TESB that he's willing to let that slide til he's scared by bounty hunters, fen think he'd pay it as quickly as possible because of his own values rather than simple fear. There are several different views of his honesty, the mentions of which don't specify personal or business.

Negative views appear in Hill's Free Enterprise, in which he considers honesty only less vile than celibacy, and Zeek's Cincinnatus Caper in which he says never deal with an honest man—they can't be bribed. And in Tracy and Nancy Duncan's At the Rebel Base he swipes a machine part from Alliance stores for his own use. On the positive side is his statement (according to Walton and Jeffords) that the rebels are rebels because they're honorable and the view expressed by another character in Nothing Left that Han never learned to use sincerity as a ploy—when he's honest, he's honest, period.

There are a number of references to his sexual ethics or lack thereof (he does draw the line at rape) but only a few to children. In Nothing Left Nowakowslca says he avoids fertile Corelli women so as not to risk fathering children he'd feel responsible for. This puts him in a good light as recognizing the responsibility of fatherhood (part of his cultural background, no doubt) but makes one wonder if the Corelli on their various planets are so obsessed with their low fertility level that contraception (by either partner) is either unknown of considered out of the question even by spacers who've been rejected by the society otherwise. In Matthews' Corellian Wake, in which Han is killed at forty-eight, he has a son

about ten by a woman with whom he apparently had a fairly stable relationship. Wilson's Han has apparently been as casual about contraception as about his liaisons (it's not likely that contraception is nonexistent) because Vader had found at. least five children Han didn't know about—with the implication there there are others. Han's delighted at the idea of being a father, brags that of course his daughter's pretty—she's his, after all—but he seems to have no interest in taking responsibility beyond determining that no child of his will work for the Empire if he can help it.

Maybe it's the space opera image of the drunken spaceman, but a lot of fan writers seem to think Han would be a heavy drinker. Then there*re a couple who present, with considerable logic, the thesis that he doesn't indulge much at all. In the movie, though-he meets Luke and Ben in a bar and has a glass in his hand when the investigating troopers come by, he never takes a drink onscreen. In the novel, however, he has an impressively large mug in front of him and takes a good slug of its contents before starting negotiations; later, while running through the Death Star with Chewie, he excuses getting lost on one occasion by his inebriation at the time. Obviously, if he spends time in a bar, he's not likely to be a teetotaler, but this fact and possibly the two passages in the book form a rather small base on which to build some of the fannish portrayals. The two stories (of over twenty mentioning drinking) in which the authors show him as careful are Roberta Rogow's What Good's a Reward? and Zeek and Barbara Wenk's Catch Fire, Draw Flame. Rogow says he doesn't drink much because it can be dangerous en the job and harm a pilot's reputation, and he prefers to keep a clear head. Zeek and Wenk have a slightly different perspective—he seldom drinks because he can't afford the effects of drunkenness, but when his emotions, especially repressed ones, come to the surface and he can't do anything about the situation, he'll drink as much as necessary to burn out the emotional reaction. Interesting view of his personality there. Matthews in Devil and Deep Space is sort of in the middle saying he doesn't make a habit of overindulging, but when meeting Chewie's friends for the last time he gets careless and drinks so much he falls asleep.

Most of the writers, though, see him as putting away a considerable amount of alcohol, for whatever reasons, and sometimes with interesting results. In Wandering Star, for example, he's easily maneuvered (by Luke) into a deal while half drunk, something he later admits he should have been more careful about—apparently it's happened before and he didn't like the consequences! In two of Hill's earlier stories drinking is

important—in fact it saves his life in Superstition Run because he's so hungover the next day he can't even think about fixing some faulty wiring. His partner does it instead and gets electrocuted. And in Free Enterprise Han and Chewie seal their new partnership with a drinking bout and shared hangovers.

By far the most original story on this theme is Adolf's Little One, The title is Chewie's personal name for Han, who at twenty or so crashes near Chewie's home and is helped and hidden from Imperial agents by the Wookiees. During his convalescence they become very close, and Chewie secretly draws up an adoption declaration. Han finally leaves, but returns with the Falcon to offer Chewie a full partnership.

There are three stories in which Han decides after a while to leave but gives Chewie the option of joining him or staying. In Duncan's Solo's Quest Chewie's goes with him reluctantly, and after the Wookiee is killed, then resurrected by their young passenger, who has a strange gift for healing, Han decides to go back to the rebels, if only because he thinks Luke needs his help. In Nowakowska's Nothing Left^ Han, after two years of steady association, leaves with the new ship, Falcon's Mate as 'payment' for the lost Millennium Falcon and Chewie stays behind. In this case it's partly the Imperial murder of several of his friends (actually only one was killed, but he thinks others were also) and his need for the security and friendship of the last two years that gets him back. Zeek and Wenk show Han leaving, Chewie staying, and Han teaming up with a new partner — in a bar, of course!

Now that TESB has apparently settled the triangle in Han's favor (there's just enough ambiguity, especially on his part, to allow for more speculation) it's interesting to look at the various fan images of Han's relationship with Leia based on SW alone. Considering the hostility in the movie and book it's not at all surprising that a number of writers pair Leia with Luke — personally, I think she'd choose Luke, too, partly because it would be in the fairy tale tradition and partly because I couldn't see Han and Leia getting along on any but an armed-truce basis, being too much alike. The character development in TESB makes a Han/Leia relationship more plausible, and when you think about it they really are better suited to each other than Luke and Leia — at least they have the same sense of humor! Leaving aside such problems as social status and background, maybe they'd get along after all. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in REVENGE OF THE JEDI!

Quite a variety of views about Han Solo, no? Sometimes I thing the Han of fanzines is even more interesting than the original! It's a pity George Lucas seems determined to play down the character (as evidenced by all the SW spinoffs featuring everybody except Han; even Lando Calrissian gets publicity that Han doesn't get). What will happen to active SW fandom if Han is killed in the next movie, considering how interested this fandom is in Han as opposed to the other characters? I suppose it's faintly possible that fannish interest may keep him alive, especially with the new story possibilities opened up by TESB. Nobody knows how much detail Lucas has worked out for future films and how locked in to certain ideas he may be. We can only hope the fannish interest will have some influence.

I'm really looking forward to the next year's zine offerings based on TESB. It'll be fascinating to see how writers' views change to fit the expanded characterization, and how the writers will take up the expanded view from the movie and develop it further. Fanzine reading will be more interesting than ever!

Fan Comments

Chris Callahan's article, "Many Faces of Captain Solo", is an impartial study of various ideas about Our Favorite Corellian's personality traits, as expressed in fan fiction. Although Chris does a thorough job, she forgot to include a discussion of Solo's relationship with Luke. Since this important aspect of Han is one that shows him to be more than a one-dimensional, money-loving smuggler, I can't consider Chris' study to be complete. [1]

"The Many Faces of Captain Solo" was an interesting article, showing a lot of research. I personally feel that Han and Leia are now a twosome, period. Also, I seriously doubt that he will be killed off in REVENGE. I can still remember the tempest in a teapot over that possibility in TESB. [2]

I enjoyed the article on "The Many Faces of Captain Solo". I found it very informative since I'm new to SW, TESB and RAIDERS zines. Are any of the zines that Chris Callahan listed in her bibliography still available? [3]

"The Many Faces of Captain Solo" gave me insights as to Han's treatment in fanfic before I ever read any. [4]

LoCs — I love them, but they drive me nuts. There's always some reference to a story, author or fanzine (DAMN those out-of-print zines that I

can't get my hands on!) that I don't know about : and/or can't get. So imagine how crazy it made me to read "The Many Faces of Han Solo". I know, it's my tough luck for not discovering SW, TESB, HF, and fanzines sooner! If anybody has those zines listed in the bibliography and wants to sell 'em, I'm a buyer!


  1. ^ from Jundland Wastes #8
  2. ^ from Facets #8
  3. ^ from Facets #8
  4. ^ from Facets #8