The True Force
|Title:||The True Force|
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The True Force is a 4-page Star Wars story written by Eva Albertsson. In it Darth Vader sexually and sadistically tortures Han Solo. This story appears in The Dark Lord #3/4, an English language zine published in Sweden in 1981.
While the story includes sex between two men, the zine editor and the story's author would not have used the term "slash" to describe it. This is due to several reasons.
- Not only were only a tiny handful of "slash" zines published by this time, the term "slash" was not in use in the 1970s or early 1980s. The virgule was.
- Zines published then simply didn't categorize themselves as anything. Labels and Warnings are a much more modern activity.
- The sex act depicted was not one of of desire (at least on Han's part) but an act of non-consensual violence. Fans today would probably categorize it differently, probably "Han/Vader noncon."
Caused a Flap
"The True Force" is one of stories that caught Lucasfilm's attention and generated the Open Letter to Star Wars Zine Publishers by Maureen Garrett. While the main open letters by Lucas were sent beginning in August 1981, at least two fans had actively poked the hive in spring 1981, perhaps a bit earlier.One of these fans was Jane Firmstone, author of a drawerfic called Moon Silver. In spring 1981, Firmstone explained:
Another faned was Jonas Soderblad, editor of The Dark Lord, a zine published in Sweden. In his editorial for the third issue of this zine, Soderblad wrote: (Note: T.R. is Eva Andersson who is the co-edior and translator of Swedish material into English, as well as the author of "The True Force"):
Well, the latest thing on the burner is the issue of adult-oriented X- rated SW storles/zines. We should be finding out from St. George's legal crew what they will and what they won't allow, very shortly. A fanzine that claims it's going to be an adult SW zine will make it's appearance very shortly at Media West Con  and it will be interesting to see what type of re action to Organia is from both the fans and from Lucasfilm.As an editor I was concerned when I first heard that there was going to be an X-rated zine. I had already heard the scuttlebutt that Lucas would make life unpleasant for anyone who committed such an act of outrage. (coff*coff) Then I started hearing really disturbing rumors like Lucas might try to close down all SW fanzines. So, I called Maureen Garrett at Lucasfilm and had an informative, if somewhat expensive, little chat. The upshot of the whole thing was that they had never seen an X-rated SW story and didn't know what they were getting upset about. Idiot that I am, I offered to send them Moon Silver my ancient X-rated Han and Silver Lady complete with R-rated illos. Now, this is a bit of erotic fluff that only contains one dirty word. How upset could they get? You don't wanna know. I got a letter from the Vice President of Lucasfilm demanding that I send him a signed statement that I would never have that story published anywhere! Now, I told them in the enclosed letter that I had no intention of publishing it. Why should I when it's already been around the world? If they get this upset about erotica, I don't want to see what they have to say about outright porn. While not having a particularly groveling attitude toward St. George, I can see his point in that these are his characters and he doesn't want to see them used in any way that would bastardize what he's done with them. Perhaps we should just keep the wonderfully smarmy stories under the table and continue to write a story this way if it keeps the dragon off our collective backs, perhaps it's worth it. 
There are certain limitations concerning what can be considered an acceptable submission; not too much of the sexy stuff, that is, gay stories or too explicitly heterosexual stories. This is because Lucasfilm Ltd apparently disapproves, and threats have been issued that all SW-zines would be banned, if that sort of thing went to extremes. (I could go on [for]ever about the non-existent wisdom of such a reaction, but having already done so at some length in a letter to Mr Lucas personally, I'll do my best to refrain since The Honored Editor will probably hit me if this extends beyond the two pages he sent me for translation. However, if anybody should feel inclined to discuss the subject, I'm sure we can find some column space for that— T.R.) These limitations concern STAR WARS material only. Non-SW material is gratefully accepted! Such material may contain X-rated things, but we would rather to avoid it. (WE??? T.R.) Those are the only limitations on submissions for TDL.
Strangely, despite the statement: "not too much of the sexy stuff, that is, gay stories or too explicitly heterosexual stories," Soderblad included "The True Force" in that issue of "The Dark Lord."
It is very, very likely that if it weren't for Firmstone's willingness to openness and to "educate" Lucas and company, and without Soderblad's "lengthy" letter to Lucas that altered Lucas to his very amateurish zine printed in Sweden, that the topic, while not avoided, certainly could have been much more of minor blip.This is confirmed with a phone call between Linda Deneroff, editor of Guardian, and Maureen Garrett as reported by Deneroff in a letter to Jundland Wastes:
... regarding this matter, Maureen called me some time toward the end of September. I don't remember the date, but it was before the guidelines were sent out, and we had a very interesting conversation. Basically, Maureen apologized about 'Slow Boat', saying, in effect, that she had spoken to my friend and realized that there had been a lack of communication between them regarding "Slow Boat", and that certainly in relation to the story for which the original two form letters were intended, "Slow Boat" was small potatoes. Incidentally, as I pointed out to Maureen, for a story that was printed in a foreign country and which very, few fans in this country are ever going to see, they indeed had overreacted and I was glad to see a more level-headed policy emerging. 
Fan Reactions and Reviews
A large part of my lack of enthusiasm for 'The Dark Lord,' though, is the result of one story. 'The True Force' by Eva Albertsson is a get-Han, a genuinely pornographic bit of trash that no editor with minimal standards of taste would have printed. It is certainly not erotic; if it was intended to be funny, it fails miserably. In fact, the only reaction I can imagine it evoking is revulsion. 
Well, the story that got Lucas all up in arms was just a bit more than graphic--the author did several other things that never got into general zine distribution. In general, the endings all seem weak and the main theme is voyeurism, which is not exactly my cup of drinking material. 
'The True Force' — I sure wouldn't like to see this one on film!. What's become of your 'restriction* concerning X-rated stories?! It kind of didn't fit in' with the usual kind of SW story...
As for 'The True Force' (this to Eva A, really) gee, folks, I'm no prude or scared of sex, but I thought the story content was tacky. Well writ, but tacky. 
Ms. Albertsson, who I first encountered in Twin Suns II, has written in "The True Force" something to offend everyone. After I recovered from the state of shocked disbelief that it brought on initially, I plowed through it because I believed her to be too good a writer to perpetrate so perverse a vignette without good reason.
I was right and wrong. Her point was certainly not the feeble "joke" which climaxed the story. Rather I think she intended it as a satire on the many SW stories which have as their raison d'etre inflicting pain and suffering on Han Solo. Additionally, some devilish desire to raise the blood pressure of any Vader's Raiders among her readers must have caused her to portray Vader in this way, (I would, after this, be very suspicious of any packages, ticking or not, arriving from Karen Osman....
Albertsson may have intended to write a satire but I fear that what she got was' pornography. As a 19th century critic might describe it, this story must incite such feelings of revulsion and disgust in its readers by its gross depiction of scenes of such.depravity and sadism as to bring down upon itself the just condemnations of all persons of taste and sensitivity. Etc, etc. Or, in other words, it didn't work as satire for me.
- [This LoC included a direct reply from Eva Albertsson, the author of "The True Force"]: All our protestations and promises aside to never publish anything of the sort again, I see I shall have to defend "The True Force". In proclaiming himself both right and wrong, Mr Walker could not be more correct. In fact, the only instance in which he is completely wrong is in the supposition that his own reaction of shocked disbelief is necessarily shared by the rest of the world. Although the story is very likely, not to say certain to offend some, many more have so far chosen to treat it with indifference or even appreciation.
- I also believe that what I got was pornography - with the small distinction that I do not fear it. I have written, almost as many stories of that genre as I have the regular kind, and as far as quality is concerned, with considerably more justification. As a rule, however, I prefer to classify them as 'erotica' since a certain playfulness of style is an essential part of then, in a way that is not often the case with straight pornography. I would be the first to agree that "The True Force" does not entirely meet these requirements...
- "The True Force" was not intended primarily as a satire although parts of it may give that impression as a side-effect. I can see where it may be interpreted as a comment on sadistic fanwriting and the "feeble joke," as Mr Walker puts it, is, admittedly, the manifestation of a deplorable inability on my part to take Darth Vader seriously (sorry, Editor, but you would agree he is melodramatic. If he were less dignified, I would not laugh at him). But, the story is mainly about another Corellian trait - a will to live so strong as to render Han virtually invincible, even with the odds against him. Perhaps this can be best illustrated, if I am allowed to disclose the first idea I had of a story like this. That idea was never put on paper, nor had it anything to do with the SW universe at first, but here is how.it went: The past days had been full of reports of people dying painfully at the perverted hands of official torturers in prisons all over the world, and this gave me the idea that it would serve those torturers rights if one day they happened to capture something they had not bargained for. I saw the prisoner as an alien being, something like a fiercely glowing sphere, or whatever -- that they. I did not understand and consequently - in the usual smart manner of such people - proceeded to treat in the same way as the rest of their victims. Only, this being would have a life-force so intense as to start searing the walls, when tampered with, ultimately burning the whole prison down. Now, I never wrote that story, but later on it occurred to me that the basic idea would fit a Han-story very well. The alien with the belatedly recognized potential was replaced by him and the invincible life-force which ultimately defeats Vader and his henchmen, is contained in the Corellian's vigorous sexuality - not a farfetched association to make. If this did not come through, it must be either because of the author's unclarity and general inability to express herself or the blind prejudice and deficient imagination of the reader - the choice is yours.
- May I as a conclusion seize this opportunity to express my thanks to artist Tania Sinclair, who I think did a competent job, especially with regard to the difficult subject. -- Eva Albertsson 
Comments in "The Dark Lord" #5 by the Two EditorsMost of the editorial in issue #5 addresses the story "The True Force," explicit fan writing, and complaints from George Lucas' camp:
[Note: "T.R." is Eva Andersson, who is also the English translator, as well as co-editor of this zine]:
The last ish you had the opportunity to read... a slightly pornographic story (cough, cough -- T.R.) titled "The True Force" by Eva (What suddenly happened to my last name? -- T.R.) Reactions to this story has been overwhelming, that much we can assure you. They have also been widely spread; some have considered the story excellent, a true masterpiece, whereas others have expressed their disgust. (I'm taking bows, while simultaneously dodging the flying tomatoes -- T.R.) Unfortunately, some people did not want their opinions printed, but the prevailing reaction seems to be that the story was kind of average.... However, this story has elicited such strong emotions that we have decided not to print stories of this nature in the future ishs of "TDL." (Somebody's being sanctimonious; to all literate members of the audience it ought to be quite clear by now that this decision was taken shortly after "The True Force" had been accepted for #3, as a last lingering example of its kind. Our Dark Editor has been bending over backwards denouncing all contributions of this nature for months already. For information on why I keep committing outrages like these in the face of bigot opinion and common taste, I beg to refer interesting readers to my reply to Gary Walker's LoC in this issue -- T.R.). We do find it very interesting to note all the different views on what's being printed.... and in this case it's perfectly clear which policy will be TDL's in the future.
Lucasfilm Ltds have been more than adequately fuzzy on this point, but are mumbling something about not exactly approving. (They "feel very strongly about 'X-rated material,' because it is so wholly at odds with the nature of the characters and the films." Let us all hope this is not so; up to this point I had concluded Han, Leia and the rest were all supposed to be of the human persuasion, but I see I might have been mistaken. True, they have been frequently accused of two-dimensionalism' but this is ridiculous -- T.R.)
A word from the Co-ed at this point: First, we would not have you believe that we - cowering in our tracks - denounce all material with any reference to sexuality, at the drop of a vague frown from Lucasfilm. This is entirely our own choice, and one of some standing at that; partly because it was never our intention that TDL should develop into an erotica-zine, partly because special circumstances concerning Mr. Lucas' policy regrading 'X-rated material' have been brought to the Co-ed's attention. Circumstances which she feels merit some consideration.Second, you may have heard that the official objection to undesirable stories is one of infringement on copyright. This is true, but are you also aware that in the eyes of Lucasfilm, "-- the Star Wars themes and characters are the copyright property of Twentieth Century-Fox and Lucasfilm (and) no one may publish any stories, books, or other material using the characters without the permission of those companies." This is not pointed out to discourage any of you from writing the fanstories which we all love, for, as Mr. Roffman at Lucasfilm so kindly puts it "-- it is not always feasible for Lucasfilm to attempt to stop publication of infringing story material which does not received any significant commercial distribution." But in the event any of you have in mind the great hearts of the recent past who started out with the explicit intention of "contacting intelligent life form on the other side of the tube," and build something great inspired by and in collaboration with this multiple life form, let me advise you to throw all such parallels to the winds, before you are disappointed. Mr. Lucas is telling a story entirely his own, and though he may be flattered by your efforts, he has not need of them, and does not even want them. So, everything we do, we do for ourselves, and the intoxicating worldwide contact and friendship resulting from this mode of communication is strictly a thing from fan to fan. Most of you will naturally have accepted this for a fact, and an exciting one at that, but for the occasional younger fan who may still be confused as to the nature of SW-fandom in relation to some others, I only wish to make this clear.