Do You Remember Your Mother?

Posted in Questions with tags , , , on 13 May 2018 by Megan

Happy Mother’s Day! Let’s take this as an opportunity to explore the only real continuity hiccup that exists in Lucas’ two-part saga.

LUKE: Do you remember your mother? Your real mother?

LEIA: Just a little bit. She died when I was very young. […] Images, really–feelings.

Now, the fact that there’s only one hiccup in a saga written over three decades, that’s impressive and nothing to knock Lucas over. But it still warrants explanation: who is Leia talking about here? Can she be referring to Padmé? I argue: no. In spite of anything you’ve heard or read, this line positively refers to Breha Organa. I’ll prove it.

First, to deal with authorial intention: Yes, in in 1983, George Lucas intended Leia to be recalling her biological mother who was also Luke’s mother. He once remarked that he had never considered the character of “Mrs. Skywalker,” who she was, what she was like, where she came from, not until he started writing the prequels. So when Return of the Jedi came out, he clearly had a loose idea of Leia having spent her first years with this “Mrs. Skywalker,” but by 2005, the story couldn’t sustain that. Padmé had to be dead at the end of Revenge of the Sith, and the line could no longer refer to her.

But to be frank about it, this didn’t introduce any sort of contradiction. At the end of E3, Bail Organa makes it clear that he and his wife will raise Leia as their own. Leia never had any idea that she was adopted, not until Luke said she was his sister and his father was Darth Vader. Her mourning in the Ewok village that night, and her struggle throughout the Bakura Crisis, revolved around her trying to reconcile her blood being Darth Vader’s and not Bail Organa’s. Furthermore, when such care had been taken to make Padmé still appear pregnant at her funeral, Bail would never have risked Leia’s anonymity by telling her she was adopted.

Not only can we be confident Leia never knew she was adopted, we can also be confident that Breha died sometime during Leia’s very early childhood. When Leia thinks back to the destruction of Alderaan, she mourns for her father, her aunts, and her cats, in that order — no mention of any mother, so Bail was a widower by the time Alderaan was destroyed, and the woman Leia thought was her mother died when she was “very young.”

It’s worth mentioning at this point that 2013’s Scoundrels makes a reference to suggest Breha and Bail both died at Alderaan’s destruction, but there’s 30 years of publications before it that emphasize Leia had no mother and felt the loss keenly. This was a merely unfortunate slip not uncommon in late publications of the EU.

Just because we knew who Leia and Luke’s mother was, it’s extreme on our part to insist that Leia’s “images, really–feelings” must refer to Padmé. Remember that statements must mean something to the characters who make them; we the audience are mere eavesdroppers, and characters do not automatically have access to the knowledge we do. So while we can look at the comic illustration there and say, “See! It’s a picture of Padmé!”, we need to remember that Leia doesn’t know who Padmé is, and the picture could just as easily (and far more logically) be of Breha.

Nevertheless, there are some extreme attempts to force “[I remember her] just a little bit” into meaning “I, Leia, have retained memory of Padmé Amidala.” So I’ll rebut those claims now.

One claim is that the Organas told Leia she was adopted and even go so far as to suggest Artoo even showed Leia pictures of Padmé. While this is an amusingly literal interpretation of “[I remember] images,” I feel I’ve already countered it: the Organas never told her she was adopted. It would be pointless to the point of foolishness. And while I’ll never understand why Lucas ham-fistedly had Artoo exempted from memory wipe at the end of E3, Leia never spoke to, communicated with, or even “met” Artoo before the events of E4. I’m confident Artoo was wiped at some point (why arbitrarily “spare” one computer from a defrag and not the other?), and he did not play clips from the PT for young Princess Leia.

The more common argument is that the Force, acting as an all-encompassing magic wand, somehow granted prenatal Leia with superhuman awareness and memory capability. Embryo Leia was therefore able, through the course of ~37 weeks long before the human mind develops long-term memory, to forge such a strong bond with her mother that she retained memories of Padmé’s kindness, beauty, and sadness well into adulthood, and keep those impressions fully separate from her impressions and memories of Breha. Breha, who was omnipresent in Leia’s life for some three years after the point when long-term memory develops, and who was also certainly kind, beautiful, and sad.

Leia’s connection with her prenatal twins is often used as evidence to show that this is possible, though what gets ignored in that it is Leia, as a mother who is Force-sensitive, who forms that bond. It doesn’t originate from the twins, but rather the twins develop it after her influence. Padmé was not Force-sensitive, and while I’m confident Luke and Leia had a strong bond through the Force while they were in the womb, there’s simply no way Padmé entered into the equation.

Speaking of Luke — I’m actually not skeptical about the ability of Jedi-in-embryo to use the Force to create bonds and even form memories, even to the extent of maintaining those memories after a span of time medical science would consider impossible. But Luke’s emphatic statement of “I have no memory of my mother; I never knew her” precludes any possibility that Leia could have performed this incredible feat of Force-sensitivity.

Throughout the EU, Leia expresses frustration that her Jedi training is waylaid, that she can’t do the things Luke can, that her skills in the Force are weak. And while Luke eventually realizes that she is simply talented in a different aspect of the Force, for embryonic Leia to accomplish this amazing thing would have made her a Jedi prodigy of unbelievable skill! For Leia to instinctively use the Force, without training, before conscious human reasoning has even developed, to filter and separate her memories of Padmé and Breha–to say “this memory is of the dark-haired, dark-eyed, sad-looking woman who taught me to walk, and this memory is of the dark-haired, dark-eyed, sad-looking woman who died one second after I was born”–she would never have doubted her skill or connection to the Force! In reality, five years after this conversation, she lamented never having time to hone her skills at all.

So in conclusion, the simplest explanation, the explanation that would have the most meaning in context for the characters who actually speak the lines, is that Leia is remembering Breha Organa. Neither Luke nor Leia have any recollection or knowledge of their mother, who remains as unknown to her children as she did to all fans before 1999. And that is the tragedy of Padmé.

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The One About Jar Jar

Posted in Opinion, Spotlight with tags , , , on 18 February 2018 by Megan

A long time ago, I thought I’d have to do a post about Jar Jar for the “character everyone else hates that you love” challenge. I ended up finding another character, which was good because I don’t love Jar Jar and I like to be accurate.

But for the last month or so, I’ve been thinking more and more about Jar Jar as a character and about the structure of the prequel trilogy in general. First: I like everything about Episode I except the podrace. I like Jar Jar’s character, his role, and everything else. I don’t like that he’s in 2 and 3, but in every scene, he annoys me far less than Artoo does. I will vote Jar Jar over Artoo every day of the week.

People often accuse Jar Jar of serving no purpose. Actually, he is a tremendous character, and there’s a lot going on here that has to do with the old-fashioned style of storytelling Lucas prefers combined with Ahmed Best’s own acting style.

First, complaints about Jar Jar are generally unhinged. I did the math, and he carries 9% of E1’s dialogue; he’s onscreen about 30% of the time, but that’s every moment he’s visible, not every moment he’s the focus (I didn’t calculate that). People act like every single moment is him dancing around juggling senatorial bills or something.

Second, there’s great artistry going on in his performance. People who don’t get that Lucas is following a 1930s style aren’t going to catch how Jar Jar’s a Buster Keaton homage. But Ahmed Best worked hard AND worked well. Liam Neeson himself said “this guy’s gonna be the next Eddie Murphy.” He called him hilarious. No one in the cast or crew thought there was any problem with the character.

I had this idea a couple weeks ago that Jar Jar is supposed to be the “gateway” for the younger audience, to draw them into the action. I was thinking about the poignancy of his “I was banished for being clumsy” past. You know how the droids were the gateway for the OT–the films Lucas made for 12-year-olds (his phrase)–but he made E1 for his own kids, a younger audience. Little kids are always getting shut out for clumsiness, for being silly, for not being like the adults. And here’s Jar Jar, a big character who is just like them. He’s a simple guy. He just wants to have breakfast. But he gets whisked off with these people doing things too big for him to understand. He’s exiled for clumsiness yet he saves them all.

There’s the beauty in the story of Jar Jar: Even the most annoying or incompetent individual has value. This is a message our modern world desperately needs to hear, as genocide against Down syndrome becomes increasingly the cultural norm, as teenage suicide skyrockets, as kids start to question their meaning in life at younger and younger ages.

If you hate Jar Jar, if you weren’t a young child when you first saw E1, I encourage you to just take a minute and put aside all your first impressions of the character. Sit down and watch the movie, if not with the innocence of a child, at least without the cynical assumptions of an old crank. Keep your eyes on Jar Jar as much as you can, every moment he’s on screen. I did this for the first time last week and was amazed. In the OT, Luke is the only one worth watching every second because he’s the only one who is always reacting, always doing something. Fisher and Ford both kind of check out when the scene isn’t on them. But Ahmed Best and Mark Hamill are always doing something worth seeing. I watched how he stands in the background, rocking on his feet, swaying his arms, blinking, looking at people . . . and I went, “Sweet Maker, I’ve been Jar Jar my whole life. Staring at people I don’t get doing things I don’t understand, wondering what I can possibly do to fit in or help.”

Again, I’m not some huge Jar Jar fanboy and I don’t think he should’ve been in Episodes II and III, but I have always loved this: after the whole movie of Jar Jar breaking things when he wants to help (title of my autobiography right there), he has the courage to speak to the QUEEN. Think about that. He doesn’t know that’s Padmé! It’s a stranger, the leader of the people who universally hate his people. It must’ve been the scariest moment of his life. And then his sincere attempt to make her feel better, because he has no racism and can’t stand seeing anyone sad, actually inspires her with a game plan to both rid her planet of invaders and unite it more powerfully than ever before. And get this . . . It works! He did it right! The whole final focus of the movie doesn’t so much celebrate banishing the invaders as it celebrates a world of united peoples. Because Jar Jar worked up the courage to do something. Awesome.

Now think about being a little kid seeing this for the first time, a little kid who gets pushed around at school, pushed aside at home, who’s always being told he’s too clumsy, the wrong shape, or not smart enough to do things. “Nobody talks like that,” “Nobody looks like that,” stuff every victim of bullying hears. And then this kid sees Jar Jar, nonthreatening, funny Jar Jar. This character who goes through all the same stuff this little kid does–but Jar Jar never loses his good attitude, he never gives up, and then he saves everybody.

Adults get too cynical about the PT. But I guarantee you Jar Jar changed some little kid’s life when they realized that no matter what people yelled at them, they could save the world. We’re still watching the people grow up who grew up with the PT, they’re only just now beginning to find their voice and move into the public square where the folks who grew up on the OT have dominated. I think once these full-saga kids are adults who start speaking for themselves, we’re going to hear a lot about this whole different perspective on the much-maligned Jar Jar.

It’s A Date!

Posted in Opinion, Questions, Spotlight with tags , , , on 22 January 2018 by Megan

Not a trap. But don’t eat ’em.

It’s the much-awaited (by somebody, I’m sure) post about RebeLibrarian’s BetterTimeline™ for all your Star Wars needs!

Let’s start with this: nothing within canon itself sets dates explicitly. Nothing ever says “In the year of our Sith Lord, seventeen hundred and twelve…” Or, “It has been three years since…” The only character whose age is stated in a film is Yoda, who may have been using 900 literally or figuratively (that is, that could’ve been the day of his 900th birthday or he could be 902, 914, or 938). So every fan who watches these movies is operating under an assumption of when the dates are. Some people unconsciously absorb or casually accept tidbits scattered around the resources. I just happen to have been a great deal more methodical.

The moment that made me realize I had to create and enforce a dating system occurred to me over a decade ago when I read an online article that offhandedly referred to “seventeen-year-old Luke Skywalker.” This threw me into a tizzy.

First, the earliest interviews with Lucas and Hamill put Luke Skywalker at 20 years old in ANH. Hamill–age 24–even had a cutely self-conscious moment of thinking he might look too old to play someone that age. So the creator’s intention at time of creation was not to have a teenager in the role. In fact, the 1976 novelization published by Ballantine lists Luke as “twice the age of the ten-year-old vaporator” (p. 13, book club edition). I know the Del Rey timeline and 21st century sources fell all over themselves assigning Luke the age of 18, but consider this.

By necessity, Luke is exactly the age of the Empire. Since the Republic was gone before he was born, his “empire as the eternal way of life” statements make sense, coming from him. But Palpatine’s empire is not presented as a teenage dictatorship. Yes, of course an empire doesn’t need to be old to be powerful or destructive; the Third Reich only lasted 12 years, and Lucas did use Nazis as models. But the language of the expanded universe and the presentation of the films wants a somewhat older Empire.

Furthermore, Luke’s frustration at being stuck on the farm makes more sense coming from an older youth. Notice he complains to Owen, “That’s a whole nother year!” That means he wanted to go to the academy the year before, and Tatooine high school functions anything like it does in the States, then he would’ve been 18 then and 19 now–minimally. That combined with the 1977 statements that Luke was 20 seems to me that he can’t justifiably be any younger. However, what about my supposition that he can easily be older? Since Hamill was 24, I honestly think you could have Luke be any age up to 25. More years just means more frustration for him; they also lend weight to Biggs’ argument that Owen is going to feed Luke whatever line it takes to keep him on the farm.

(As someone who was 25 and dying slowly of stagnation in my adolescent bedroom, I feel this deeply.)

Let’s turn to the prequels, since the dating of the OT depends on the dates in the PT. My PT dating scheme is the more risky anyway, as there’s no doubt about authorial intention here. But hear me out about these insertions and see if they don’t make for a stronger story.

There’s more concrete information about characters’ ages with the PT: at the time of the E1 crawl, Obi-Wan is said to be “mid-20s” (so 25), Padmé is known to be 14, and Anakin is nine. In E2, Anakin says “I haven’t seen her in ten years,” and the assumption (which Lucas intends, I know) is that it’s ten years after the events of E1. But what if Anakin is referring to some adventure that he, Obi-Wan, and Padmé had three years after the events of Episode I? What if Episode II is thirteen years later?

Consider that Padmé never even interacts with Obi-Wan in Episode I. How does Palpatine explain referring to him as “an old friend” of the senator’s? The events of E1 don’t cover much more than a weekend; would you be comfortable if your boss volunteered a random dude you met once a decade ago to come stay in your house because you’re “such old friends”? But say Obi-Wan, 12-year-old Anakin, and 17-year-old Padmé had some hijinks–perhaps involving those disgruntled spice miners Mace Windu thinks would try to kill her? This is enough to grant Obi-Wan “old friend” status and offers stronger footing for the defiant relationship of Anakin and Padmé in E2.

This also makes Anakin a more respectable 22 years old in E2. Worth noting: Obi-Wan, at 25 years old, is not even under consideration for knighthood. Yet using the Lucas timeline makes Anakin have a tantrum about not being a master when he’s only 22 years old, three years before Obi-Wan barely attained knighthood! Yes, Anakin’s a prodigy and yes there are wartime exceptions, but that’s not enough to clear this hurdle: after a minimum of 24 years being raised by Jedi, inculcated in Jedi doctrine, with 12 of those years under the close personal tutelage of a veteran Master, Obi-Wan was not considered up for knighthood until an unusual circumstance intervened. The Council doesn’t even want to take Anakin in for training because he’s too old; even in wartime circumstances, it’s unreal that he’d be complaining about unfair treatment when he’s knighted after barely a dozen years of training with zero background.

Back to Episode II. Say Anakin is 22. He’s now at a much more reasonable age to be given independent assignment, and he’s now had at least as long of master-padawan training as Obi-Wan had by E1. Also, since Anakin was 12 the last time he saw Padmé, his feelings are less boyish than they would have been coming from a nine-year-old. Padmé (now 27) says “you’ll always be that little boy I knew back on Tatooine,” but that doesn’t negate the possibility of a slightly more recent adventure. People refer to when they met without it having to mean mean they haven’t met since.

I haven’t had any reason to quarrel with the Clone Wars being a three-year war. Anakin is knighted six months before Episode III begins. Depending of course on when his birthday is, that makes him somewhere between 24 and 25, which fits with the wartime conditions/prodigy element I acknowledged earlier–he’s now parallel with Obi-Wan’s evidently somewhat “early” knighthood (it’s easy to miss how against knighting Obi-Wan the council is in E1; you either have to assume he’s a remedial student or knighthood typically comes later than age 25!).

Padmé is now 30. The initially awkward age difference between her and Anakin is essentially erased by now. They’ve known each other on a fairly steady basis for a good 16 years, which highlights the deep emotional relationship Lucas wanted to give them but was unfortunately unable to capture on screen. And Obi-Wan, with gray in his beard, is 41, only seven-ish years younger than his mentor was at the start of E1 (Liam Neeson stated in an interview that he convinced Lucas to make Qui-Gon “about my own age,” or roughly 48). (I’ll also note here that E3 covers a period of six months the way there’s six months between E5 and E6.)

Having come full circle, I can now justify the 22 years I settled on for Luke: with Anakin’s adventure really starting in E2 at age 22, Luke launches on his father-finding quest at the same age, 22. And as Anakin was ~26 when he fell to the dark side, Luke is ~26 when he successfully resists, claims the light side, and saves his father. Anakin dies at age 51 (including the two 6-month periods), on a Death Star, as Obi-Wan had, as Anakin predicted he would.

Postscript: I regard the matter as settled there, but I want to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Keep reading!

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The Star Wars Heretic

Posted in Fun, Opinion, Spotlight with tags , , , , , , on 1 January 2018 by Megan

“Heresy” has a very strong meme life but I’d best start with a categorical definition so we all start on the right page: “Any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs.”

My favorite Christmas story ever is by J. Edgar Park and it’s called “The Christmas Heretic.” It’s about a man who believes human beings should be kind, generous, and good 363 days a year and self-centered and mean only two days a year. This makes him a “Christmas heretic” because the rest of humanity of course lives the opposite way–self-centered and mean all year except for on two or so holidays a year. The ironic twist is that he is, of course, correct.

In this vein, I discover myself more and more to be a Star Wars heretic. Quite simply, I believe things no other Star Wars fan does. And, like Mr. Jones in Mr. Park’s story, I am . . . correct (ironic smirk face).

These aren’t the same as my conspiracy theories, which are things I think are possible, however unlikely, based on circumstantial evidence within the films. I don’t actually believe they happened, but this post is about things I truly believe, that I take for granted as basic facts in the Star Wars universe.

Because I take Star Wars as actual events, a history of things that truly happened in a Galaxy Far, Far Away, I apply a methodology to the story that’s consistent with how I take Earth’s history. The foundation of this is my belief that Star Wars canon will necessarily grow out of itself and affirm itself; if something has the Star Wars logo but is inconsistent with what I know Star Wars is, I find it obviously isn’t canonical. I have no problem accepting that the humans who tell these stories about another galaxy will make mistakes. After all, our own historical texts have mistakes; it’s just a matter of gathering as much information as possible and then deciding what is the most logical version of events.

The most obvious point where I’m at variance with Star Wars fans is how I treat the timeline. Yet I’m only going to briefly mention these two points here because they deserve their own detailed posts: one, that I created my own dating system that especially impacts the films (they cover a period of 42 years from E1 to E6). Two, the timeline of known events ends at Timothy Zahn’s Vision of the Future. Infinite events may have taken place up to that point, but after that point, we on Earth can know nothing of what happened.

Now! Done with telling you what I’m not going to talk about. On to the juicy stuff–eight things I believe about Star Wars that most fans would never have even thought to question.

  • The Rule of Two does not exist

Think about it. The first time we heard of the “Rule of Two,” it was a from an 860-year-old Jedi Master speaking “a millennia” after the Sith were supposedly wiped out. Even in the Bane Trilogy, where the Sith who conceived of the Rule of Two was shown putting it into effect, the whole point of the plan was that the Jedi would never know the Sith weren’t extinct. For a Jedi to learn about the Rule of Two is the Rule’s most ultimate failure. It’s also unlikely that this very tight master-apprentice-master-apprentice-master-apprentice chain could have survived for 1,000 years unbroken. Again, in the very first duel of the Rule of Two, both Sith nearly wipe each other out, and it’s a fact of life that no one remains as dedicated to a concept as the first person on that concept. It’s also illogical for Sidious to have spent twenty-odd years training Maul only to lose him and replace him within three years with the quite elderly Dooku. It makes more sense that Tyranus and Maul were simultaneously Sidious’ apprentices–and for Tyranus to have planted the abandoned “Rule of Two” concept among the Jedi as a diversionary tidbit.

  • Palpatine killed his master decades before Episode III

Speaking of supposed proponents of the Rule of Two, Darth Plagueis is clearly described by the films as having been dead for a very long time when Sidious first tells Anakin the “Sith legend.” Luceno, late to the party with his 2012 book on the subject, makes a mess of the film continuity and contradicts the “Rule of Two” that everyone but me believes in. Maul is about 25 in Episode I; Sidious trained him from very early childhood; if Sidious and Plagueis are supposed to canonically adhere to the “Rule of Two,” then Plagueis must’ve been dead before Sidious started in on Maul., twenty-odd years before Episode I. “But Rebel,” you might say, “That only helps your point about the Rule of Two being a red herring. Why deny Plagueis was still alive until the morning Sidious became Supreme Chancellor?” Because the structure of the films takes for granted that Sidious has been the Master Sith from before Episode I. Obviously Sidious takes dramatic license when he tells Anakin the story of Plagueis is “a Sith legend,” but it’s just as obvious his master has been dead for decades by that point. If Plagueis was responsible for Anakin’s conception, as the films hint, the very latest date for his death is 10 years before Episode I, which still helps prove that the Rule of Two doesn’t exist, since Sidious was training Maul 20 years before Episode I.

  • Dooku did not train Qui-Gon Jinn

Speaking of people getting trained by people and the very elderly Count Dooku . . . from the day I first saw Attack of the Clones on May 16, 2002, at the 4:30 PM showing (first showing of the day) at Bellefontaine’s Chaker’s 8 Cinema . . . I never once believed that this was Qui-Gon’s master. Qui-Gon has always fascinated me, been my favorite character in the prequels and 2nd favorite character in the saga, so I would naturally be ecstatic to learn who trained him and who he shared his youth and adolescence with. But it never occurred to me that he was being truthful when he said, “I was once Qui-Gon’s master.” I may have scoffed out loud in the theater the first time; I don’t remember. I do remember that I came home and did the math on whether that was even physically possible. One of the main factors preventing it? There was simply no opportunity where Qui-Gon would have been hanging around with Dooku, after apprenticing Obi-Wan, where Obi-Wan would not have had a chance to meet the man. It never made sense; Obi-Wan seems to treat the assertion with some skepticism; and I always took for granted that Tyranus was telling the first of many lies.

  • Qui-Gon did not return from “the netherworld of the Force” or teach anybody to do anything with being a blue ghost

Lucas, bless his heart, is not good at pacing. A New Hope even suffers from uneven pacing, and Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith would be better if events were smoothed out between them. I’ve even advocated that it should have been a prequel trilogy with The Phantom Menace as a standalone–I think E1 is an essential film and I love it, but Lucas wanted E3 to do more than it could reasonably do, even if given 4 hours. And one of the most painful bits is the ridiculous tacked-on “an old friend has returned from the netherworld of the Force” comment, which Yoda doesn’t even say in his own messed up dialect. Let me stop you right there. The Force does not have a netherworld. Blue ghosts are standard issue for powerful Force-users who have unfinished business. The idea that Qui-Gon is responsible for Obi-Wan’s “if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” comment is so hastily crammed in there, I remember facepalming the first time I heard it. Yes, Qui-Gon may apparite from time to time. No, he did not communicate with Yoda. Yoda did not have training for Obi-Wan on Tatooine. The body-vanishing trick was new among Jedi, but it did not come from Qui-Gon. Move along.

  • Anakin didn’t kill younglings in the temple

I had no idea how emotionally attached people were to this “bit of evil” until I started casually saying, “I don’t think that happened.” On three separate occasions, more than three people at a time came down on me like a bag of hammers for daring to think that. To be honest, I’m more shocked at how desperate people are to believe Anakin killed the annoying younglings than I am that people do believe it. I understand that’s what the film wants to depict and I understand a PG-13 American film by George Lucas is not going to show a child getting lightsabered in half. But the fact is, there are more overt ways to get it across if that’s what happened. All we see is Anakin showing his lightsaber to some kids. Obi-Wan lies about seeing that on a security holo; there’s no holo-camera in the freaking council chamber. Some young Padawans are shown dead, but Padawans aren’t younglings. I have no spiritual problem with the newly-minted Lord Vader chopping down some seven-year-olds–I just see no evidence for it happening and find a more logical alternative is available. The child with the irritating voice says, “Master Skywalker, what do we do?” And Anakin ignites his saber. After the scene fades to black, he says, “Come with me. I’ll save you from the Jedi.” And he takes them to Palpatine where they are trained to be Dark Side Inquisitors. We know the Force-sensitive Dark Side Inquisitors exist. Where did they come from, and for what reason would Anakin destroy a dozen malleable Force-sensitives when the new regime would need their skills? In fact I believe Inquisitor Loam Redge in the book The Ruins of Dantooine was one of those kids, if not the kid.

  • Mara was Palpatine’s only Hand

This from Episode VII, the Thrawn Trilogy. Mara Jade, of course, was a Force-sensitive child Palpatine picked up and trained, not as an apprentice but as a Force-sensitive errand girl. He gave her the title “Emperor’s Hand,” reminiscent of the “Emperor’s Wrath” designation of millennia before. Vader is his right hand, the obvious agent of his will, but she is the left–the one in secret and silence. At least this is what she believes until Thrawn tells her she was merely “one of the hands.” To be honest, I never once took this seriously. I think people should be cautious what they take for granted as truth in a bad guy’s speeches, and Thrawn had every reason to want her off balance–which is exactly what telling her she was “one of many” accomplishes. So I automatically dismiss any suggestion that Palpatine had other agents in a Mara-like role. She was the only one.

  • Wedge Antilles ends up with Qwi Xux

I didn’t know this was a heresy until recently, because of course, I don’t read past Vision of the Future and the last book I read with Qwi Xux in it had her solidly set up with Wedge. So I spent close to 20 years rereading those books and getting warm fuzzies about their relationship. Wedge, of course, is the hot hotshot pilot and good friend of Luke Skywalker’s, the eventual commander of Rogue Squadron and the only man with two Death Stars tallied on his X-wing. Qwi Xux first appears in The Jedi Academy Trilogy (Episode VIII); she was kidnapped into Imperial service as a child and put to work on the Death Star project due to her technological brilliance. As an isolated but extremely intelligent individual, she is very naive when first freed from her cage. Wedge becomes her protector and the two form a deep bond over the course of several books. However, Qwi is not human, and apparently that was too much for Aaron Allston, who wrote a shabby one-off breakup scene in the first chapter of The Starfighters of Adummar to get the scummy nonhuman out of the way so he could pair Wedge up with a human who was already freakin’ married. (Yes, Iella was a widow at that point, but she obviously wasn’t over her husband by I, Jedi and she and Wedge had no chemistry apart from matching human genetics.) The relationship with Iella is so pointless, so abrupt, and so human-centric that I don’t consider those chapters canon. Wedge and Qwi forever. End of story.

  • There are only 3 lightsaber colors

Finally, briefly . . . this isn’t that important, but I was arguing with someone about it the other day so I’ll throw it in. In 2002, George Lucas stated that there are only 3 lightsaber colors because there are only 2 kinds of crystals: natural and synthetic. Natural crystals give off blue or green light; synthetic crystals are red. Because Samuel L. Jackson is a special needs pile of specialness, Lucas let him have a stupid purple lightsaber, but that’s due to circuitry modifications in the hilt and not the crystals. Corran Horn is able to make a white saber using diamonds. But you will never get me to believe that traditional Jedi sabers exist in any other colors because George Lucas said it. It is his universe and he should know. You could say George Lucas said other things in my list that I object to, but no–those are outcomes based on interpretations of the films. This was something the Maker said himself about the films. There’s no arguing with that. Yeah, I have a rainbow of lightsabers in video games, but video games aren’t canon, honey. There are only three colors. Accept it. (Oh, and I don’t believe lightsabers are plasma weapons, either. Yeah, go have a panic attack about that. Whatever.)

Review: Dynasty of Evil

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on 19 November 2017 by Megan

by Drew Karpyshyn

If the fact that it’s taken two months for me to drag myself back to this trilogy isn’t enough of an indication, the only positive thing I can say about this book is that I enjoy the cover art.

This trilogy went from 4 stars to 2 stars in an out-of-control fireball of suck.

Right, say something nice about it, Librarian. Something nice. I can do this. I can think of something nice to say. Um . . . I like the cover. I really like the cover. The colors are nice, the tattoos are cool, it just looks good.

Nothing inside the cover makes me that happy, I can promise you that. For a brief time this summer, I really thought I had misjudged Karpyshyn, that Revan was a bad anomaly, that this writer deserved his reputation. But then I was so bored by Rule of Two, it took everything in me to force myself to finish the trilogy. Remember how I said I took 50 minutes for my half hour lunch breaks during Path of Destruction because it was so interesting? And how Rule of Two had me wrapping up in 15 minutes instead? Well, I kid you not, but Dynasty of Evil actually had me skip lunch several days because I did not want to read and preferred to stay at my desk working.

Karpyshyn started off with a bizarre premise, that human beings are nearing death when they reach mid-40s. Bane broods on his impending mortality with more illogical intensity than Raymond on that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. And it’s not because of what happened with his orbalisk armor, because Karpyshyn never mentions the armor in connection with Bane’s sense of coming old age. A weird hang up for a guy obsessed with achieving immortality.

The Sith obsession with immortality could have been developed in several very interesting ways, especially connecting it with Palpatine and the inherent fragility of the Rule of Two, but Karpyshyn was too busy describing the minutiae of everyone’s wardrobe to bother with inner monologue. Perhaps he exhausted his entire supply of “complex character juice” on the first novel. This book was 90% padding–like most Del Rey novels, we could’ve had a much higher quality duology, but how could they charge $23.97 for that? Eh?

Anyway, it stitches up the plot more or less, but does so in the least engaging way possible. The final duel between Zannah and Bane is the only interesting moment of the book and actually lasts 3 or 4 pages longer than it should, so it doesn’t stay interesting long.

I hated it and it poisoned all my good memories of the first book. I will never read or reread any book by this guy again.

20 Year Anniversary

Posted in Spotlight with tags , , , on 13 November 2017 by Megan

Star Wars has always been one unified galaxy to me, one single saga told over a variety of mediums, all equal parts of the same body, all the undeniable history of a single place. The main reason for this is that I originally encountered all three branches of the saga–the Original Trilogy, the Expanded Universe, the Prequel Trilogy–within one year of each other–and that year, by and large, was 1997. So as I’m guessing you’ve heard me say once or twice over the last few months, this year is absolutely full of significant anniversaries for me.

Storytime!

November 12, 1997. I was twelve and, after seeing Star Wars for the first time ten months ago, I’d begun to consider “Star Wars fan” a foundation of my identity. Also foundational to my identity, “horsewoman.” I’d been taking riding lessons at a local horse farm over the summer and my mind was full of daydreams where I get my own horse, achieve horsemanship certification level 4, and eventually teach students how to ride like my idol, the woman who taught our class.

Anyway, in November, the horse camp offered an opportunity to local homeschooling families, an opportunity to come out during a week and spend a couple days during the off-season learning horse-care chores and, I guess, helping them get the place closed up for winter.

This time of year, Ohio becomes a blanket of gray. The sky is like a field of slate. Bare trees with gray trunks stab black branches into the heavy clouds. Even the earth in the empty farmland has a grayish cast. Snow isn’t uncommon, and I used to make jokes about “White Thanksgiving” when I was about this age. That week, temperatures were between 20-30 °F (average of -2 °C). It was dark long before dinner, and for some reason, I had gone upstairs to the bunk room before it was time to eat. I don’t know if I was just looking to get away from people or after something I’d left in my bag, but I found someone else sitting in the room.

“The House” at Marmon was an old, creaky building, and the girls’ bunk room was at the top of the stairs and to the right. There were bunk beds along both walls and a window at the far end. Sitting under this window was a girl named Megan who looked just like me only she didn’t have bangs. She was sitting on the edge of the lower bunk, hunched over, reading something. I caught sight of the raised foil lettering and before I could think, I exclaimed, rather than asked, “Is that a Star Wars book!”

It was Assault at Selonia. She let me hold it for a minute, but I could tell she was more focused on reading than anything else, so I handed it back and left. We sat together at dinner, though, and were inseparable for the rest of the trip. That night, I switched bunks with someone else so both Megan and I had top bunks with our heads together and I read my first EU book–her book, her flashlight, which we shared by reading one chapter before passing it back to the other.

I couldn’t have slept that night for anything. My brain was more fireworks than it had been after finishing Return of the Jedi back in February. I had known for some time there were books; I have no idea when or how I found this out, but I knew they were out there and I took it absolutely for granted they were equal status with the films. A novel set 14 years after Return of the Jedi may seem like an awkward starting place, but after all, A New Hope starts with a 20-year-old empire and plenty of unspoken backstory. I was ecstatic that Han and Leia had three kids. And one was (almost certainly) a hot, intelligent, awesome boy my own age! And hysterical that Han was being held prisoner and tortured by an evil cousin. Selonians were instantly fascinating. The galaxy had suddenly grown that much vaster and my brain could barely keep up with all the expanding territory.

Eventually, one of the chaperones scolded the Other Megan and I into keeping the light off, but I still doubt any sleeping actually took place. We were glued together through the next day, taking work assignments together and polishing dozens of saddles in a semi-heated room that would eventually become the camp gift store. We talked nonstop, mostly about Star Wars, but a few personal details crept in. We also played a game dubbed “Star Wars railroad,” which consisted of giving a Star Wars word that started with the same letter that the previous word ended with. i.e., Star Wars – Selonia – Anakin – Nien Nunb – Bakura. I described the day in my diary when I got home:

Elisa went home and I went to camp today. There were 3 Megans in our room. One Megan looks like me, dark hair and Eyes, and she’s my age, loves Star wars, has a dog named Abby, and rode Toby! She’s letting me borrow ‘Assault at Selona’. We soaped saddles then we oiled them. Toby wasn’t there. Rode Vandi.

Megan ultimately ended up being the source of my first dozen EU books, as we were both in a play that December (pictured), and then we went on to be in the same electricity class in the new year. We were both in chess and horseback riding, though not the same sessions, so we began trading letters. For a few years, we wrote letters regularly and called on weekends when cell phone minutes were free. The last time I really remember talking to her was the end of May 1999, when she was exuberant over having seen Episode I and I was wallowing in disappointment that I wouldn’t get to see it for a few more weeks.

Still, I have a box of letters in the closet, all signed “Megan ‘Han Solo'” and with the opening greeting, “Red Leader to Gold Leader.” (All mine to her began “Echo Five to Echo Seven.”) She made trivia cards and sent them to her; I made bookmarks. She also sent me clippings, stickers, and a Luke Skywalker poster I kept in my closet for years so no one would know I had it.

Ooh! Fun story about that Luke Skywalker poster. I had two closets in my room and one I considered “my office.” I used to shut myself up in it especially if my nieces were over and I wanted privacy. I actually slept in there one night my oldest niece was being a particular pain in my neck; I “locked” the door by tying a bathrobe sash to the knob and tying the other end to the shelf so she couldn’t get in. I had the mini-poster of Luke on the wall, not to mention a bunch of cozy blankets, and a plastic cart with three baskets in it where I could keep things. I can’t find a good picture of that bedroom, but it wasn’t big, not like a walk-in closet or anything. Just a regular clothes closet. I can’t believe there’s no pictures. Anyway…

The point of all that is, 20 years ago this very week, I read these words for the very first time:

And I knew, knew that being a Star Wars fan was inseparable from being a fan of the EU. The EU is Star Wars. Star Wars is the EU. To pretend otherwise would be like cutting one of the six movies from existence–like pretending to make movies without George Lucas–both incomplete and also a little obscene.

Really Is the Best

Posted in Spotlight with tags , , , on 9 November 2017 by Megan

In a day and age that makes it easy to take cheap shots at George Lucas, even while glorying in his imaginative creation, Ahmed Best tells it like it is in a refreshing change of pace.

Quotes to note:

“George Lucas really does things that he believes. He has an incredible conviction behind every decision that he makes. That’s not the way Disney does movies. Disney does movies in a way that has to please stockholders, and that has to please a wide swath of people, a huge general audience”;

and,

“I appreciate filmmakers who have that type of vision, I appreciate filmmakers who really go out on a limb and take a risk. With these new movies, these filmmakers are different. They’re not George Lucas.”

via Ahmed Best ‘wouldn’t change anything’ about The Phantom Menace