Wesa No Carin’?

Posted in Announcements, Opinion with tags , , , on 12 November 2018 by Megan

About a week after my horrific encounter with a Lucasfilm employee (read part 1 here), a member of the Alliance to Preserve the Expanded Universe approached me on Facebook messenger, reporting that Ms. Gutierrez had taken to Reddit telling people to calm down and stop bothering me (as a non-Redditor, I know nothing further about it than that). This group member suggested that I use the situation as an opportunity to open a line of communication with Lucasfilm. Although I did not have very high hopes in any such maneuver being successful, I felt that I at least had the responsibility to offer the olive branch. (Or glowing orb of peace.) I determined to write a physical letter, use up two of my remaining Star Wars US postage stamps, and make the friendliest possible overture of contact. The Alliance member who approached me not only agreed to proofread my letter, but also offered an original piece of artwork to send with the letter: a gift and symbol of the unity of fandom. This custom art depicted Qui-Gon Jinn and Artoo (the favorite characters of myself and Ms. Gutierrez, respectively) “waiting for more stories” outside Yoda’s hut on a rainy Dagobah.

Five other administrators of the Alliance Facebook group also reviewed my letter before I printed and mailed it, to be absolutely certain its tone was respectful, appropriate, and that all issues had been addressed. In this letter, I stated that I would visit this entire situation in full on my blog if she did not object. In eight months, I have not received any message whatsoever. Here’s the letter:

Dear Andi Gutierrez:

I’m reaching out to you regarding the unfortunate occurrence on Twitter last week.

Allow me to say first that you have my profound sympathy over any medical stress you may be under. It was never my intention to disrupt you, least of all when you had more important things to be focused on. I regret that this occurred, as my purpose was not to “target” you and I identified you only because the journalism standard I learned is to name anyone in an image; had there been a version of the image without you in it, I would have used that. I believe I also would have worded things differently had I noticed who I was speaking to in my first tweet replying directly to you.

Our presuppositions seem to have made us speak right past each other. Twitter, even with 280 characters, still isn’t the best place for clarity. I saw Luke Skywalker’s face crossed out and recalled the crushing misery on Mark Hamill’s face in an interview when Rian Johnson condescendingly patted him on the shoulder to silence him. Of course, you merely saw the good-natured hijinks of coworkers and friends. Ours is just one example of the growing divide between many fans and the company we wish to think the best of. I hope this letter will encourage dialogue between Lucasfilm and fans unintentionally alienated; I mean to publish it on my blog unless you object.

I also regret if you experienced any harassment; I am emphatically not associated with anyone who came after you. The complaints I saw people making were not the same as the message I meant to convey. Simply this: many fans felt a death mark on Luke’s face is a tone-deaf joke at a time when so many people are still reeling from creative decisions in the most recent film. We are tremendously discouraged when Lucasfilm employees respond to such concerns with dismissal. We’re frustrated, but “trolling” is the farthest thing from what we want. We want to communicate.

I appreciated your efforts on Reddit begging fans to get along with one another. I hope to work with you in that regard. Please feel free to reply to me at my personal email, [redacted]. Enclosed, please find a gift, a piece of original artwork made by a fellow member of the Give Us Legends movement, in hopes that it will encourage friendly relations between fans and creators once more.

Sincerely,

[Redacted]
The “RebeLibrarian”

Enclosure

More than anything, I wanted to forget all about this. I almost didn’t send the letter several times. I ignored tweets, deleted DMs, decided not to have anything else to do with it. But the situation at Lucasfilm is not getting better, and choosing to “grin and bear it” (as I’ve done these last months) is not bringing about a resolution. Starting in 2014, Lucasfilm seemed to decide that mocking and shaming fans into silence was the way to handle disruptions. And over the last year, again and again, the employees of Lucasfilm (and I include in that designation directors and actors who have participated in Lucasfilm projects while not necessarily literally working in that office) have doubled down on their antagonism. The vitriol gets stronger and stronger, pitting “pro-Lucasfilm” fans against “anti-Lucasfilm” fans when in reality, we should all want the healthy thriving of the fantastic saga that has changed all of our lives for the better. But Lucasfilm refuses to let anyone say “you’re not doing justice to George Lucas’ Star Wars.” The kneejerk response is “you’re a troll.” Or more recently, “you’re a Russian bot.” We are instantly degraded because we don’t toe the party line. When did Star Wars become so Soviet?

As I started in the previous post: It seems like more and more, Disney|Lucasfilm and Star Wars fans are unable to talk. If fans disagree with corporate policy on any level, or hold any opinion deemed negative by the Star Wars overlords, there is a total communication blackout between these two groups. And that blackout, I’m here to say, does not originate with the fans. It is a calculated thing coming from within the company, originated by those working for Lucasfilm.

I know this is not true Lucasfilm. Therefore, this cannot be the desire of the people who work so hard to create the stories that mean so much to so many. So where is it coming from? It must come from ignorance. The people in charge simply must not know that this is going on. So how do we fix it?

My experience with Ms. Gutierrez was a very brief nightmare. But other fans have lost more than I have. Fan podcasts have lost their Lucasfilm endorsement. I’ve simply had unpleasant interactions with Lucasfilm employees, like the time Pablo Hidalgo told me to shut up because my opinion didn’t matter (not in so many words, but when I asked if that’s what he meant, he didn’t deny it). But this is not the way to do business. Fans don’t want to go to a movie when they know the people behind the movie think they’re stupid. Every year, more fans sign on with the boycott, and insulting us just isn’t bringing us back into the fold somehow.

There is a light of hope, though. Recently, the hysterical Chuck Wendig went on a Twitter rant about how his Twitter rants have resulted in his being removed from all future Disney|Marvel/Lucasfilm productions. That is how to fix this growing chasm between fans and creators, between fans and fans. Get rid of the people who are fueling hostility, who think insults are a rebuttal, who viciously attack anyone for disagreeing with them.

Now, don’t misquote me; I’m not saying wipe the slate over at Lucasfilm, but Chuck Wendig knew better. He literally wrote a book full of advice for writers that contained the advice “don’t be a d*** on social media,” and if you can’t avoid that, “hire a ghost writer.” Get rid of the people who spout vitriol even though they know better.

In the end, Ms. Gutierrez did reach out to people on Reddit and ask them to let the whole situation go. I was not able to get in touch with her personally, but I think we both realized that through mutual poor communication, we allowed an overreaction to take place. That’s good. Now, in order to close that chasm, it needs to keep happening. Some people like Chuck Wendig need to go. Others, I hope, just need encouragement to speak appropriately, honor the legacy that was entrusted to them, and give fair hearing to the valid concerns of fans. In short, stop assuming that everyone who disagrees must be a troll.

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A Communications Disruption Can Mean Only One Thing!

Posted in Announcements, Opinion with tags , , , on 12 November 2018 by Megan

It seems like more and more, Disney|Lucasfilm and Star Wars fans are unable to talk. If fans disagree with corporate policy on any level, or hold any opinion deemed negative by the Star Wars overlords, there is a total communication blackout between these two groups. And that blackout, I’m here to say, does not originate with the fans. It is a calculated thing coming from within the company, originated by those working for Lucasfilm.

I know this is not true Lucasfilm. Therefore, this cannot be the desire of the people who work so hard to create the stories that mean so much to so many. So where is it coming from? It must come from ignorance. The people in charge simply must not know that this is going on. So how do we fix it? A good start is by bringing things into the light — like my bleak encounter with a Lucasfilm employee nine months ago.

It was the end of February, the beginning of my Wednesday work day, when somebody I was in a conversation chain with on Twitter asked, “Have you seen this?”

“This” was a still from a Disney|Lucasfilm web show; I’d never heard of the show, I don’t remember the name of it now, and I don’t think it’s important to the story to look it up for you. At first I didn’t see why it possibly mattered. Some woman, evidently the host — some random YouTuber, I assumed — stood in an office-looking place with bits of ephemera all around. And then I noticed the picture under her left elbow: the famous shot of Luke and Vader in the Death Star turbolift, a scene with particular meaning for me as it kicks off my favorite 45 minutes of cinema in the universe.

But Luke’s face had a big red X over it.

“Well, that’s a little ungracious on a Star Wars show,” I thought. This was barely two months since December’s big catastrophe — namely, the decision of nucanon to discard Luke Skywalker like a wad of gum and not treat Mark Hamill, his actor, much better.

And then I found out something that made me sit up and pay attention: the show was an official LFL production. It was recorded in their office. This crossed-out picture of Luke was displayed in a fairly prominent location in the office of a corporation named after the man who created Luke Skywalker, Lucasfilm, the entire franchise, the very thing that gave these people a job in the first place.

Now I was upset.

I should point out here, if you’re unfamiliar with me or my work, if you started rolling your eyes that I never heard of this show or its host, here’s a couple things you need to understand. I don’t follow Disney’s “nucanon” Star Wars. I don’t accept into canon anything produced after the buyout in 2012. I unliked the official Star Wars Facebook pages in 2014. I unfollowed their Twitter account in 2015. I have never followed any employee of Lucasfilm on Twitter, ever. Mark Hamill is the only real life person involved with Star Wars I even follow on Twitter, which I’ve done since the day he got the account. I use Twitter’s “mute” filters to keep any Disney Star Wars out of my feed. I don’t have a YouTube account; I don’t watch internet videos. My engagement with “Star Wars current events” is very limited in nature and specific in scope. Basically the only thing I do is remind Lucasfilm that it was immoral of them to declare 38 years of canon “non-canon” and then cannibalize it for parts in their reboot. I think the reboot was foolish, but I’ve never asked them to cancel it. I’ve never gone after the employees. As someone who endured a stalker for years, I’m sensitive about how I interact with others, and I have always been explicit that my objections are objections against the entity of Disney|Lucasfilm, and they are not personal on any level against anyone.

So I wrote this tweet, after doing a little brief research to identify the person in the picture (since that’s just good journalism):

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

I didn’t tag her, didn’t even think to check if she had a Twitter account, because she had nothing to do with the content of the tweet. I didn’t assume the artwork belonged to her, was her doing, or was even endorsed by her. So I accused her of nothing, because she had absolutely nothing to do with the point I wanted to make. She was merely in the picture. Despite using the word “viral,” I expected no reaction because, firstly, I had under 500 followers at that time; and secondly, because I’d made similar tweets in the weeks before with little attention.

It’s worth pointing out that by the time I made this tweet, almost noon for me and not yet 9 AM for her, Ms. Gutierrez had already announced on her Twitter (which I didn’t know existed) that she was “done” because she had already received “so many” emails about it. I shouldn’t have to add that I don’t know what her email is, and could not have been directing anyone to harass her inbox because the image had been circulating on Twitter and Facebook long before I even learned of it. (People did immediately run off with my MS Paint recreation of the crossed out Luke picture, though — that makes me laugh.)

Now, to be honest, I have no idea how Ms. Gutierrez found my thread. I did reply to her on another account, but I had no idea who she was (her @ handle was what had displayed, not the boldface nickname). If I had known I was addressing an LFL employee and not a fellow Twitter fan, yes, I would’ve worded it differently.

When she made the remark about it being her livelihood, I checked her feed and realized who she was. So I responded a little more deferentially but with evident frustration:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Because this has been the ongoing interaction with Disney|Lucasfilm. Fans say “this makes us uncomfortable,” “we’re upset about this,” and the DisLFL employees respond with taunts, bullying, or the brush-off.

I was completely shocked by her reply, telling me that she “couldn’t tell” if I was trolling or not, but ‘bye!

So I posted this as a follow-up to my earlier tweet:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

This lit an absolute fire. Notice two things: first, that I didn’t reply to her because she said the conversation was over. Second, that I chose to screenshot rather than RT, and that I didn’t tag her in it, because I didn’t wish to drag her into something she said was over from her point of view.

But that didn’t stop her from finding it (was she stalking my feed?!) and retweeting it to her ~500,000 followers (again, I was sitting on about 480 followers at the time), commenting something about how she might have cancer and really couldn’t deal with people like me right now. I must’ve gotten about 200 @’s, most of which I never read because they got vile fast. I also got maybe a dozen direct messages that included threats, profanity, insults. I had to aggressively filter my Twitter notifications for the next week, just to keep this garbage out of my sight.

I was alarmed that she might be getting entangled in something like this while dealing with a serious health concern, and yet simultaneously disgusted that she chose to target me of all people. Not the @JarJarAbramss account she had been replying to initially. Not any of the other many accounts that shared the image or even the Facebook page that posted it first. Hours after she declared she was going to ignore it because she was fed up with all the emails, she was engaging with tweets on it, and then, it seems almost arbitrarily, chose to broadcast my handle to her followers as a target.

I decided to shut it down and walk away while I still could. I’m an anxious, introverted person who can’t handle confrontation well ever since I picked up a stalker in my senior year of college. If someone with half a million Twitter followers was going to send them after me, I thought, it’s very possible they can get my Twitter deleted. I decided it wasn’t worth the risk — I love my Twitter, love the interaction I have there, and didn’t want to jeopardize it over this, or wreck my health by putting myself in a situation to field dozens of vile threats in my DMs. So I closed the lid.

For a week.

(Next page!)

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.

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!

Continue reading

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.