Archive for the Opinion Category

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. 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.)

How Star Wars Impacted My Life Journey

Posted in Opinion, Spotlight with tags , , , , on 18 May 2017 by Megan

by guest blogger Fibro Jedi
https://fibrojedi.me.uk/

Hi there! My name’s Martin, better known as Fibro Jedi. Some of you may be following some of my characters’ fan fiction journeys, but I wanted to give you an idea of how long…and how deeply George Lucas’ Star Wars creation has impacted my own journey in life. Despite it being fiction, Star Wars has enabled me to be creative, meet new people and even affected some of my own life approaches. Please join me on this journey!

Star Wars Episode 1

Don’t hate on me but my Star Wars journey began with The Phantom Menace. The family I grew up in weren’t into anything that could be classed as geeky. My Mum read fiction, and both my parents watched the occasional period drama. So I had to find my own path. With the release of Star Wars Episode 1, I suddenly became intrigued in the SW Universe. At the same time a friend introduced me to an online chat site based on Star Wars ideas. As part of that, they had forums for written role-playing – in the old-style turn-taking model. It was in that community that I began writing within the SW universe – and it was there that Cor-Jhan Arcturus first appeared.

Cor-Jhan Arcturus was first created nearly half my lifetime ago!

Despite Star Wars being based on the traditional Good vs Evil mechanic, it was more complicated than that. Good people could become evil, or commit atrocities, and evil people could be redeemed. Subsequently watching the other movies started to get me thinking more about the detail of the universe, how nothing is certain – but above all, there is always hope.

Jedi Knight II and Jedi Academy

I just want to make a passing comment about these two games. Jedi Knight II (Jedi Outcast) was my first introduction to playing with others online. I was part of a clan, you could rise in the ranks by learning from, and fighting against more experienced players. I ended up in contact with a couple outside the game – and one of them came to my wedding – all the way from the States!

SWTOR

I had a long gap (many years) of not pursuing my interest in the Star Wars Universe – getting a job, changing jobs, getting married – and other life things got in the way. But when a friend introduced me to Star Wars: The Old Republic, my interest was rekindled. More than that, creating characters, seeing how they reacted in different situations, and ‘getting to know them’ actually sparked my desire to write again. Although I recreated Cor-Jhan Arcturus, it was the former slave Talitha’koum that I really enjoyed writing about.

Talitha’koum rediscovering her identity during the events of Knights of the Fallen Empire

When you write within a framework, you have to understand the rules of that framework. So I learned more about Star Wars technology, lore and even about different species in the galaxy. There’s still so much I don’t know!

That’s when you realise that when George Lucas created the Star Wars movies, they were really only scratching the surface of how the galaxy operated. It gave birth to different cultures, planets with different eco-systems and characters that traversed different walks of life. The movies were great, but they are a small percentage of what you can discover. SWTOR gave me insights into those, but I’ve still learned more on my own initiative.

Friends and a Blog

Even from the early days of my role-playing forum and Jedi Outcast, the fact that Star Wars exists has meant I have had contact with new people, some of whom have become real friends. Friendships have really blossomed in those I know through SWTOR. You don’t just know the characters, you can get to know the people behind them. And it’s those friendships and connections that keep me playing the games I do. Features of a game change over time, but when you make friends, that transcends what’s happening to the game. Had Star Wars not been created I wouldn’t have had those friendships and I wouldn’t have had the blog that I do today!

Finding Balance

The more I’ve looked into the Force, the more I have seen some of the good in the Empire and some of the bad in the Republic. No governmental system is perfect, and extremes of behaviour can be found in both the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’ people. Although originally aligning myself with the Jedi, now I find myself pitched between the two sides of the Force – within the shades of gray. Although I am a Christian and therefore I don’t let things like fiction affect my actual faith, I do try to strike a balance now: between ‘work’ and ‘play’, listening to both sides of an argument and not dismissing either side, avoiding extremes etc. Balance in the Force wasn’t achieved by wiping out all the Sith. The real world is made up of people from various cultures, religions (or none), languages and worldviews. We need all those held in balance to get along with other people – to not just tolerate them, but to show all humans have intrinsic value regardless of how they think. If we could all be accepting, the world would be a better place. The Force needs both sides represented to be in balance – the same should apply to what goes on here on Earth.

Chronic Illness and Gaming

The last awesome thing I’ll say is that running @FibroJedi has enabled me to connect with people who have Chronic Illnesses. But it has also helped me find (or be found by) people who are in a similar situation to myself – they have a chronic illness, but use gaming as a coping mechanism. This has been made possible because Star Wars exists. I would have picked up gaming (I used to play The Sims way back when, and Sim City) as a coping mechanism, but without online games, or communities, I wouldn’t have been able to connect person-to-person with people who share my life experiences. And that’s something that works in both directions.

TL;DR Star Wars and My Life

I’m in my 30s now as I write this. That means Star Wars and its various off-shoots, have been a major part of my life for more than half of it. From helping me pick up fan fiction writing, to coping with my pain, to making real friendships – Star Wars has been integral throughout that time. Criticise the movies all you want, none of the lasting value I have in my life comes from there. None of George Lucas’ legacy to me and my family derives from how well SW game developers do their jobs.

The greatest value is in the people and the communities that Lucas unknowingly sparked. Without him I wouldn’t feel an emotional link to the characters I write about. And without Star Wars, my Fibromyalgia would have been even more isolating than it is now. So to that end, I will be eternally grateful to what George Lucas started.

May the Force Be With You – May It Make You Strong.

How Loving Star Wars Made Me Stronger

Posted in Opinion, Spotlight with tags , , , on 11 May 2017 by Megan

by guest blogger Kiri Mohan
Star Wars Anonymous

To say Star Wars changed my life would be cliché.  If you’re any kind of Star Wars fan, the movies changed your life and you were never the same.

Maybe it would be more appropriate to say that Star Wars made me a stronger person.  Loving Star Wars made me less afraid, gave me more confidence, and helped me care less of what others thought of me – all at a young, impressionable, need-to-please age of 12.

I wrote once about how I fell in love with Star Wars when I saw the Hoth scene in the Empire Strikes Back.  Though that is true, I would say it’s The Phantom Menace (TPM) that caused me to become obsessed with Star Wars.  I was raised on the generation where the Original Trilogy had been out for a while and I hadn’t seen the Special Edition in theaters because my parents weren’t interested.  The only reason I had seen that Hoth battle was because my parents had decided to re-watch the Original Trilogy in preparation for Episode I being released.  By the time TPM was out in theaters, I had watched the Original Trilogy and was prepared.

But it was such a different world from the Original Trilogy – and I loved it!  I remember being so surprised when I learned people hated TPM.  It was amazing!  The Old Republic looked glorious, I loved the Jedi, the droids were so cool, and the music by John Williams was the icing on the cake.

However, there was a problem with me loving Star Wars so much.  Even with these new Star Wars movies, Star Wars was something for “geeks”, “losers”, “nerds”, and whatever other labels kids in my middle school decided to tag on.

I wanted to be cool so badly.  The year before TPM came out had been 6th grade and I had successfully navigated my way into the “popular” crowd.  I had worked hard at it…I wasn’t naturally popular as I was awkward looking, read a lot of books, and – the worst – my parents wouldn’t let me go to the mall to “hang out”.  So I worked hard to be in the popular crowd and tried hard to remain there, which basically meant abandoning my own things that I loved in order to be liked.

Then a fortuitous event (though not fortuitous at the time) happened right before I discovered Star Wars and saw TPM.  I made a faux pas and the popular girls abandoned me.  I was ruined.

You might laugh and, by all means, please do.  It’s laughable now that I am older.  But by laughing, we also forget what it’s like to be that age.  We forget how cruel other children can be and how children have taken their life because of bullying.  At that age, we have not yet quite built up the resilience that we have as we get older.  By laughing and dismissing what happened, it takes away from my summer where I evolved into a different, stronger person because of my love for Star Wars.

After watching TPM nine times in the theater that summer, I took it upon myself to become like a Jedi.  To me, they were the ultimate “good guys”.  I kept a Jedi Journal where I wrote down anything that was, well, bad.  If I pushed my brother, snapped at people, lost my patience, swore — anything even remotely Sith-like was written down and recorded.  If I had fewer instances one week than the previous week, I felt a sense of personal satisfaction.  This was before I knew about the Jedi Code – all I was going off of were Yoda’s words from TPM:

Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.

As the summer crept toward fall, I knew I would have to make a choice.  Do I choose Star Wars and know my chances of being popular were ruined?  Or do I try to get back into the popular crowd?

My love for Star Wars won out.

I was bullied.  I was ridiculed.  Children made fun of me.  You can read about it here. For a boy to like Star Wars was one thing, maybe slightly accepted, though they were still a geek.  In my home town, for a girl to like Star Wars — she was a pariah.

But my love for Star Wars won out…and that’s an amazing thing at that age, especially for someone like me.  I still look back at it as one of the hardest decisions of my life.  I chose to go a different path.  I found better, truer friends who didn’t mind that I loved Star Wars to a scary degree.  I still remember walking to school with one of my new friends and telling her, “Hey Kate? I really like Star Wars.” And she went, “Yeah, they’re pretty awesome movies. My brother likes them.” And I said, “No, Kate, I mean, I really like Star Wars.”  At which she laughed and kind of reiterated what she had just said.  It was as if I was revealing to her who my latest crush was, I was that reverent about it.

Star Wars made me stronger.  In a small way, I’m glad I was bullied because it taught me a priceless lesson: how to stick up for something you believe in and love.

Star Wars changed my life, cliché or no.  I will always and forever be in debt to George Lucas for making these wonderful movies, especially returning to the Star Wars universe to create The Phantom Menace.  So I tip my hat to you ol’ George, wish you a wonderful month and hope that wherever you are — you know your work is appreciated, loved, and life-changing.

Thanking the Maker

Posted in Opinion, Spotlight with tags , , , , , , on 4 May 2017 by Megan

by guest blogger Michael O’Connor
GeorgeShotFirst.com

A little over a year ago, I started a company with some friends of mine. We were feeling dispirited, frustrated, and annoyed. The Star Wars that we loved was being thrown under the landspeeder. And the man who had created that saga, George Lucas, had been tied to that landspeeder and was being dragged through the mud.

The common consensus was that Star Wars was better without Lucas, that he was a creator hated by his own fans. Except… we didn’t feel that way. We felt like something crucial had been lost, and we were confused why so many fans apparently hated the man who had created this exciting and rewarding saga in the first place.

So we decided to test our loyalty and commitment to the Star Wars of our childhoods and its creator. We started an apparel company and we called it George Shot First.

Our mission was simple: we wanted to offer a positive counterpoint to the “George Lucas is Satan” consensus and see if we couldn’t find some other people out there who might agree with us. We imbued our designs with the same sense of sly humor that we always appreciated in his films, whether it was the Star Wars saga or American Graffiti, Indiana Jones or even Radioland Murders. And we aimed the reticles of our satire at elements of the fandom whose hypocrisy and arrogance had sullied the reputation of our community.

In other words, we wanted to make a statement, and we were crossing our fingers that somebody would listen to it.

We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the response. Fans from all over the world picked up the gauntlet that we threw down and proudly proclaimed their admiration and respect for Mr. Lucas. They were as relieved as we were to discover they weren’t alone, that there were others out there who also felt as they did. We may have started this company to make a statement, but in the process, we’d actually managed to build a community.  

Not everyone who joined our merry band had come to their fandom the same as us–some of us were fans of the films, others gravitated to the books, the video games or the graphic novels–but we all realized that without George Lucas, this wonderful galaxy full of stories wouldn’t exist and that both our childhoods and adulthoods would have been all the poorer for it.

For me personally, the works of George Lucas have been vital touchstones in my life. His films have been some of my most reliable guides in helping to understand the world and my place in it. And as it has evolved, so have I; its growth and expansion mirrored my own.

I first discovered Star Wars as a kid in middle school, and I immediately gravitated towards Luke Skywalker. I recognized in him all my yearnings for adventure and purpose, for an escape from the normal and mundane. Luke’s integrity and honesty, his humility and stubborn incorruptibility were traits I aspired to attain. The promise of The Force spoke to me in a way real-world religion never had; the idea of everything being connected as if by invisible strings and we merely needed to reconfigure our brains, to “unlearn” what we had learned, to reach out and pluck those strings. We could play reality like a musical instrument.

In high school and college, I saw the prequels, and in them I recognized Anakin as a new side of my personality emerging during those teenage years. I, like Anakin, felt disrespected, inferior, and frustrated at my own shortcomings and others’ expectations of me. I also saw in Anakin my darker, baser emotions, and realized the danger in giving into them. Anakin’s struggles were my own as I sought connections with others and understanding of a world that was becoming more complicated and frightening. Watching Anakin fail, I saw where I must succeed, where I needed to avoid his pitfalls to overcome my own limitations.

At various times in my life, the Star Wars films have been my most reliable resources for getting through trying times and inspiring me to move forward rather than take the easy way out and remain in one place. And at times, George Lucas’ other films have also spoken to these needs.

In THX-1138 I see my own struggles played out onscreen. Individualism or conformity? Fitting in at the expense of one’s own desires or coping with the dangers, loneliness and isolation inherent in being separate? There are arguments for and against both approaches, and that film has helped me understand where and how I need to find balance.

And then there’s American Graffiti, which always reminds me of the importance of change, risk and ambition. It’s easy to stay in one place, to be complacent and comfortable. But it’s far more rewarding to challenge yourself and strike out for parts unknown. Maybe you’ll fail, but you’ll also learn along the way. Without American Graffiti to inspire me, I’m not sure I would have made some of the risks I’ve made in my life, risks that in hindsight were so integral and so important for my development.

So while I’d like to thank George Lucas on behalf of everyone at George Shot First, I also need to thank him on behalf of myself. His films have both inspired and challenged me; they have excited my senses, stoked my imagination, and yet also forced me to look at myself in the mirror and wonder how I could become a better version of me. His films have sustained me more than any mere entertainment could ever accomplish; his characters, his philosophies, and his ideas have enriched my life in ways too many to even conceive. Without his artistic influence in my life, I honestly shudder to think of the kind of person I might have become.

And finally, I’d like to thank YOU as well. If you’re here reading this, it’s probably because you are also a fan and you might have experienced similar sensations upon being exposed to George Lucas’ work. Without you, we would be alone in the wilderness, yelling to an audience that would not and could not hear us.

It’s so important to continue showing our respect and admiration for the individual whose artistic contributions have made such a difference in so many lives. And if we’re all loud enough, who knows? Maybe he’ll even hear us.

Michael O’Connor is a member of George Shot First, an apparel company dedicated to championing respect and admiration for George Lucas. Please join us by visiting our website (www.georgeshotfirst.com), liking us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/georgeshotfirst)  and following us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/georgeshot1st). You can support our cause by purchasing any t-shirt or hat from our website. Be sure to take advantage of our special May the 4th Sale all day Thursday, May 4th and Friday, May 5th!

The Greatest Sin, The Most Forgiveness

Posted in Opinion, Spotlight with tags , , , , , , on 14 April 2017 by Megan

It’s deep in the human psyche that betrayal is the worst thing anyone can ever do to anyone. The crux of Julius Caesar is not whether the Caesar was a good or bad ruler who should or should not be removed from power — it’s a tragedy that hangs on betrayal, on E tu, Brute?

When Dante described the lowest circle of hell in his Inferno, he described a place reserved for betrayers — the worst sin that deserves the worst punishment. He also assigns the worst fate (being gnawed on by Satan himself in the center of the pit) to the two most famous betrayers in history — Brutus, betrayer of Caesar, and Judas Iscariot, betrayer of Christ. The creature who betrayed Christ fills us with such revulsion that we no longer use the name “Judas.” When Ben-Hur was being adapted into a film, the producers wanted to change the main character’s name from “Judah” because they thought it was too similar. All of this resonating from the deep human repugnance at the notion of betrayal.

This is a very literary opening, isn’t it? Well, Star Wars is literary and so am I. This is all leading somewhere.

In Luke’s Gospel, 7:47, Jesus makes the profound statement that one who loves much is forgiven much — and one who is forgiven little, loves only little. If betrayal is the worst thing one human can do to another, then it follows that a repentant betrayer is forgiven more and surely loves more than any other person. In light of this, let’s turn to the two most famous betrayers in the Star Wars Saga.

Although they were born 3,000 years apart on opposite sides of the galaxy, these two have remarkably similar stories in the great saga. Malavai Quinn, whose name literally means leader going bad, was born on Dromond Kaas 3,680 years before the Battle of Yavin. One of thousands of frustrated military men, he enters the saga as a companion of the Emperor’s Wrath during the cold war between Old Republic and Empire. A cunning military mastermind, he was exiled to a post on Balmorra after embarrassing a Moff; he only escaped execution due to the good graces of a Dark Council member named Darth Baras. Baras, an exacting master, was content to let Quinn rot on Balmorra until such time as he needed his services. The Wrath was merely an apprentice when Quinn joined his crew; when this Sith received the Emperor’s commission and became Wrath, he aligned himself against Darth Baras and put Quinn in an unenviable position of serving two masters, each wanting the other dead. Not knowing which master was truly serving the Emperor, or which truly desired the best for the Empire — Quinn’s driving passion — he obeyed Baras’ orders and attempted to destroy the Wrath in a crushing betrayal. Defeated by the Wrath, he begged forgiveness and begged to continue serving him for the Empire’s sake.

Lando Calrissian was born on Soccoro 31 years before the Battle of Yavin. Always a restless spirit, he left home as a teenager and acquired a reputation as a professional gambler. He participated in military actions such as the Battle of Tanaab but was always more of a businessman. Constantly sniffing out opportunities for profit, he more than once found himself uncomfortable when the situations went bust. One of his most successful ventures was when he took over as Baron Administrator of Cloud City, a tibanna gas mine that flourished under his control. Many of its citizens came from dubious backgrounds and criminal pasts; they viewed the mine as a way to start over, to go legit. When the Empire arrived on the hunt for Han Solo, it was a disaster in more ways than one. Lando and Han had been friends for years, but due to a falling out, hadn’t spoken for a long time. With the Empire threatening the colony of people who depended on him, Lando tried his best to make the situation work. Betrayed in turn by Vader, Lando was forced to call the city to evacuate and dedicate his energies to rescuing Han from the trap he had helped create.

Both of these men are forced between two profound loyalties when it comes to “the betrayal.” Neither of them choose to betray their friends for something trivial such as greed or lust. Both men are willing to sacrifice for and desperate to choose the best for their respective communities; however, it’s even two-pronged on Quinn’s part, for Darth Baras has treated him well for ten years, protecting him from Broysc’s pettiness, even confiding in him. By contrast, however much Quinn respects and admires the Sith Warrior who becomes the Wrath, this person is a recent acquaintance whose behavior may be quite erratic as far as the good of the Empire is concerned. Sith are notoriously self-serving, and Quinn believes he has ten years of Baras’ behavior to count on.

Both men defend the decision in the heat of it. Lando’s “I’ve done all I can! I’m sorry I couldn’t do better, but I’ve got my own problems” and Quinn’s “I didn’t want to choose between you, but Darth Baras has forced my hand” are nearly interchangeable. No doubt it’s on this very brief moment their detractors most focus — but look at how much, how weighty the evidence is on either side of this flash.

Both men instantly regret the decision. One could say they merely dissolve when it goes sideways on them, but look at their history and you can see that’s not in their character. They both express their remorse right away. Quinn programs battle droids to kill the Sith and Lando stands by while Han is tortured, but as Quinn realizes the Wrath is more powerful than he thought and as Lando realizes Vader intends to destroy Han, Leia, and Chewbacca, they freely acknowledge they’ve gotten in over their heads. Both take steps to rectify the error as quickly as possible. Quinn later explains to Darth Vowrawn that he is trying to make up for a past indiscretion.

Neither man is questioned on his loyalty again. Quinn is integrated fully into the storyline after the anticlimactic betrayal scene. And while Han’s last words to Lando before carbonite are a stony, “What’s goin’ on, buddy?”, the first thing he does free of carbonite is attempt to save Lando from the sarlacc. There’s no hesitation. Not only does Lando reflexively call out for Han to help him, Han leaps into action despite being blinded and weakened. And when Han takes a blaster to shoot the tentacle holding Lando prisoner, neither man even considers the possibility that Han would take revenge–Lando’s only concern is Han’s ability to aim with hibernation sickness affecting his vision.

Now, I understand that The Old Republic is a game, and the Emperor’s Wrath is a character that is played differently by everyone who plays it. While I’ve freely noted Han’s interactions with Lando, I’ve refrained from speculating on the Wrath’s. Maybe you play a really dark side Sith who would like to kill anyone who ever looked at him sideways. I don’t have anything to do with that. I only present the canon version of these events: namely, that Quinn is accepted into the Wrath’s crew once more and remains a player in galactic events, just as Lando is welcomed into the rebellion and becomes an integral part of the Star Wars. How you feel is your business; I am under no circumstances telling you how to feel. So far, I haven’t even mentioned how I feel. I’ve just given the bare facts of the story.

Now, this is how I see it: if you want to be like the kids who threw things at Billy Dee Williams’ car when he picked his kids up from school, if you want to be like the kids on Twitter who moan about how much they want to kill Quinn, it’s your prerogative. It’s my prerogative to love both of these characters. I love the friendship between Malavai Quinn and my Wrath, a Chiss named Chan’drakan’tah. I love the friendship between Han and Lando. I can only hope my real life friendships are as strong and as stable — I hope if I feel forced between loyalties and choose the wrong one, that forgiveness and not condemnation will meet me. I promise my friends that if they make the same bad choice, I will forgive.

Because he who is forgiven much loves much. And, also, I love both these characters. Much.

An Essential Universe

Posted in Fun, Opinion with tags , , , , on 17 March 2017 by Megan

or, 17 trEU books to read in 2017

Some reports say that a majority of people won’t read one book through this year. I’m not here to guilt you, even though I feel guilty enough if I don’t read at least 52 books a year — I just want to inspire you. I really enjoyed the list I put together last year, so I was inspired to do it again!  I’ve carefully selected these 17 realcanon reads to resonate especially with this year! Enjoy.

17. Allegiance by Timothy Zahn (10 years old!)

If your heart, like mine, is an Imperial-occupied zone, what better place to start than by picking up a novel that gives depth and faces to the men behind the white armor? It also introduces a young Mara Jade just starting off her career as the Emperor’s Hand.

16. Specter of the Past by Timothy Zahn

Jump straight to the end of the RebeLibrarian timeline, find out why I love Pellaeon with a passion, and watch both Luke and Mara succumb to human feeling and realize they’re falling in love. Read it with Vision of the Future it’s essentially a novel-length prologue. Bantam specifically commissioned this “Hand of Thrawn duology” to capstone the timeline, and, if you like, it makes a perfect and 100% satisfying ending to the Skywalker saga.

15. Union by Michael A. Stackpole

I’m not a fan of comics and I end the timeline at Vision of the Future, so you just know Union must be something special for me to grant it status! It’s a charming epilogue, a lighthearted story about how even Luke Skywalker’s wedding can’t be free of Imperial plots and drama.

14. The Bacta War by Michael A. Stackpole (20 years old!)

Stackpole’s X-Wing series is a crown jewel of the realcanon, and the development of Corran Horn along with Wedge Antilles’ team of crack pilots is not to be missed if you value your Star Wars soul. These books make me laugh and cry unapologetically no matter how many times I read them.

13. Tales from the Empire (20 years old!)

These anthologies are close to the beating heart of the EU, true expansions of characters and situations we see only vaguely or mentioned briefly on-screen. This brilliant collection includes a novella by Stackpole. Read it now!

Fifteen years ago, we got the second installment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Honor that anniversary!

12. The Approaching Storm by Alan Dean Foster

Returning to the Star Wars universe for the first time since 1978, and with his third and final offering to the universe, Alan Dean Foster explores the relationship between a maturing Obi-Wan and Anakin as they work with another master and Padawan. Remember Mace Windu saying that the two of them are recently returned from a border dispute on Anision? This is that dispute!

11. Attack of the Clones by R.A. Salvatore

Although I never liked Salvatore and am never going to forgive him for his bizarre colorblind bungling in this novelization (with a redheaded Obi-Wan and red-eyed Jawas, it’s like he dropped acid before writing this thing…), the book is nevertheless a very important installment into the universe!

Now, forgive me if I mention Disney a few more times before I’m done here. I’ve saved the nine most significant books for last, and while four of them are celebrating 20 years, I admit that Disney doings are the primary reason I include them with such prominence.

10. Death Star by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry

If you want to know the trEUth about the Death Star’s construction and get a glimpse into what was happening on the other side during the events of A New Hope, trust Perry and Reaves to get you there! With bonus appearances by some of Reaves’ Pavan Cycle characters, Death Star delivers realcanon you won’t regret.

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7. Soldier for the Empire (20 years)
8.  Rebel Agent (20 years)
9. Jedi Knight by William C. Dietz

Kyle Katarn has a complex and compelling backstory, and this trilogy delves deep into his introduction to the rebellion, his first important mission for the same (aka stealing the Death Star plans), and his confrontation with the Inquisitor Jerec, the first Miralukan in realcanon. With breathtaking artwork and an awesome story, it’s an installment that deserves its stellar reputation.

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Han Solo is about to get a bad rap. A seriously bad rap. First 2015 had people saying he was dead. Next, rumor is they’re going say Disney came up with his origins all by themselves. Read on and be enlightened!

4. Han Solo at Stars End
5. Han Solo’s Revenge
6. Han Solo and the Lost legacy by Brian Daley

The very first tales of Han Solo appeared in 1979, penned by the same great mind that gave us the incredible radio adaptations of the Original Trilogy.

These books have undeniable historical significance and are a great deal of fun. Eighteen years before the controversy, Han brags about shooting first, and almost a quarter century before Crystal Skull, Han has an eerily similar adventure that even trashes a campus during a speeder chase! Read for the classics they are, the Daley trilogy won’t disappoint.

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And now! The number one books you should read this year — the three books you should read if you only read three books in 2017! —

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1. The Paradise Snare  (20 years)
2. The Hutt Gambit (20 years)
3. Rebel Dawn by A.C. Crispin

Read them before you can be brainwashed into thinking A.C. Crispen didn’t write the definitive edition of young Han Solo’s life! These books are three of the greatest in the entire EU. Who doesn’t love a good origin story? And the origins of how Han knows Wookiee; how he became a great pilot; how he met Chewbacca, Jabba, Lando, and Boba Fett; got the Corellian bloodstripe; and made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs is a nonstop thrill that will never disappoint. Ann Crispin, who died in 2013 less than six months before EU favorite Aaron Allston also passed, is by far the greatest female contributor to the EU. Applause!

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