Archive for the Spotlight Category

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.

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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.)

20 Year Anniversary

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

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

Storytime!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really Is the Best

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

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

Quotes to note:

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

and,

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

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

A Lot of Special Modifications Myself

Posted in Fun, Spotlight with tags , , , , on 1 August 2017 by Megan

Consider this. The YT-1300 is not a spectacular ship. It’s a freight hauler, an intergalactic semi truck — and an outdated one at that. But what about Han Solo’s YT-1300, the Millennium Falcon, makes our hearts sing and pulses race with excitement?

Surely it’s what he tells Luke in the first minutes of A New Hope: “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts. I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself.”

We love modifications. We love customization. The ubiquitous smartphone is personalized with skins outside and background images inside. And even the default choices for desktop backgrounds aren’t good enough; there are whole websites dedicated to gathering or even digitally creating backgrounds so we can express our individuality. We even alter functionality, using apps and add-ons based on our personal needs. Some tech geniuses even know how to make mechanical adjustments to their devices. And it’s not just our technology.

We customize our living spaces, applying paint and floor coverings to reflect our personalities. Pinterest is full of ideas on how to modify furniture, to turn old dressers into shelves, tables, chairs?! Do a search for “Ikea Hack” and find out how to add a personal touch to impersonal furniture. There’s no denying that human beings love to adjust things to fit.

Until, of course, you start talking about doing it to books.

Meet my Star Wars library. Like the Millennium Falcon, its appearance can be deceptive. You might think it doesn’t look like much, since I restrict my timeline to books set before the Hand of Thrawn Duology and refuse to buy or even read anything published after Disney’s purchase in 2012. But this library, like the Falcon, has it where it counts. I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself.

Before we explore those, though, I want to say a word about book modification. We take for granted the customization of our technological devices. Even body modification doesn’t earn a double take anymore. But if you announce that you write in your books, you’re stripped of your “book lover” status and thrown into the dark with those disturbed souls who use Readers Digest Condensed Books for craft projects or dog-ear pages instead of using a bookmark.

I took a quiz once about “What kind of reader are you?” and it said people who love their books read them while wearing gloves, never lend them out, never eat while reading–never do anything that would make them change from how they looked sitting on the shelf in the bookstore. Well, that’s a load of bantha poodoo. I love my books. I also write in my books. I eat while reading. And, by the way, gloves are tremendously bad for books! (Seriously. They’re dirtier than your hands and you’re far more likely to tear a page while wearing stupid gloves.) My books are my friends. Why should I ostracize them from my daily life just so they’ll “always look new”? A new-looking book is an unloved book, and that’s a fact.

Specifically about marginalia. I spent ten years as a Shakespearean researcher. Do you know that the untouched, pristine copies were the most useless? Sad books with uncut pages that nobody had ever read? I spent my research days poring over the editions full of marginalia, fingers pointing, angry ink dots, corrections, emendations, insults, exultations. Marginalia is how we anchor ourselves in eternity, hooking our thoughts onto a page that will last far longer than we will. I remember telling one of my nieces, “Always write your name in your books. That makes it special. That makes it yours.”

DSCN2156

And I’m in favor of writing far more than that. If it’s your book, I think you have a right to leave your thoughts on the page. So much the better if you can trade the book with a friend who’ll add theirs before giving it back!

Let’s get specific now. My Star Wars library has every type of modification. And I bet that you won’t even be able to tell a difference as we explore those modifications.

First, the obvious. I have made it my clear stance that I refuse to accept anything set after the Hand of Thrawn or anything published after Disney (except for Scoundrels, because Timothy Zahn earned that right). For me, all that stuff is heresy. It’s not the true Star Wars and I don’t want it in my house. Publishers, however, like to promote their wares wherever they can. Job one for my library was removing all those references: specifically, editing timelines that suggested post-VotF history and removing previews of books I consider offensive.

Next was the more complex job of editing the nonfiction works that posit post-VotF as history. The biggest example of this is The Essential Atlas, which I consider an essential resource, but its “Fate of the Jedi” content has always hindered me. This is the book that actually started me on this path. As you can see, though, the edits are almost entirely unobtrusive.

This kind of work is not difficult even if it is relatively tedious. When you understand how a book is put together, which I learned in Descriptive Bibliography (SLIS-S 684), it’s uncomplicated to excise without damaging or even leaving noticeable scarring. A good x-acto knife and rubber cement are essential. I use plain white glue to reinforce the binding where it’s been exposed. Be honest; you can’t even tell, can you?

In this way, I keep my collection healthy and whole. No compromise, one of my major tenets of love for Star Wars. But what of  the marginalia? You know, even the Star Wars books themselves promote marginalia, with the Handbooks series boasting handwritten notes by main characters.

My notes are chiefly cross-references–an occasion is mentioned in one book and I add a note for the page number and title of the book where the incident occurred. But the most entertaining notes, which I provide for your entertainment, are where I take the Original Trilogy novelizations to task for all their wrongheadedness. James Kahn, especially, writes an absurd adaptation full of unjustifiable nonsense. Thankfully it’s S-canon, but I still have a lot of fun writing saucy notes–and even more fun reading them later.

So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my modified library — and that you’ll be more accepting of modified libraries in the future. After all, if people can get a tattoo because it’s special to them, why can’t I reorganize a few pages in a fictional encyclopedia?

Review Redux: Death Star

Posted in Reviews, Spotlight with tags , , , , , on 12 July 2017 by Megan

I know I keep saying “This is probably the only time I’m going to re-review something…” I should probably stop saying that.

Death Star Cover

Death Star by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry. Actually really good.

So, I first read this book back in 2011 when I was “getting back into” the Star Wars books. At the time, I dismissed it as an unnecessary rehash of the events of ANH. I didn’t consider that it added anything to the overall saga and promptly forgot about it.

To be honest, I have always been about as reluctant to give Del Rey Star Wars books the time of day as they have been to give credit to any other publisher but themselves. (Note the fact that Del Rey claims they published the first Star Wars book, when that was in fact Ballantine.) But I’m not too proud to admit I made a mistake here. In fact, as an information professional, I’ll go ahead and state plainly that before 2014, when Disney|Lucasfilm made it imperative to research the history and actuality of the Star Wars canon, I made a lot of mistakes about Star Wars and George Lucas. That’s over now, I hope ;)

Awhile back, feeling annoyed about Jocasta Nu and the fact that people never seemed to bother correctly differentiating archivists from librarians (another mistake I myself made in the past, until I got an MLS and the confusion was impossible), I asked around to find out of there were any legitimate librarians in the entire canon. What people told me completely flabbergasted me.

“There’s an Imperial librarian in Death Star,” they said. What?! But I read that already! I read it while I was in library school! You’d think I’d remember there being a Star Wars librarian, especially since I’m trying to create a cosplay of a librarian in the Imperial navy! Maybe I had done the book a deep injustice.

I had.

Death Star is a great read. It fleshes out A New Hope, giving depth and feeling to characters that in 1977 were little more than extras adding ambiance to our cowboys-in-space Bildungsroman. Michael Reaves and Steve Perry are responsible for some of the high points in the EU, and together they weave a crowded ensemble into a high-tension story leading up to the moment seared onto all our imaginations, when Luke Skywalkers sends those proton torpedoes into the small thermal exhaust port.

An escaped convict, a bartender, her bouncer, a gunner, a librarian, a doctor, and a soldier tormented by strange dreams . . . They are all drawn together by this floating fortress, this “Death Star” that combines the most powerful laser ever conceived of in the galaxy with the largest space fortress ever built. Telling us the “other side” of the story we know so well, Reaves and Perry explore why people serve the Empire, what made soldiers volunteer to work someplace that could destroy planets, what went on in Tarkin’s final days. Even when we know exactly how the story ends, the psychological weight bearing down on the characters creates a high-tension narrative and leaves us not sure what to hope for.

I was so inspired by the character of Atour Ritten that I decided to adapt my Imperial librarian costume, already in-progress, into a cosplay of this proper librarian. I was impressed both that Reaves and Perry captured universal librarian behavior so well, but also that I had spontaneously chosen the correct rank (Commander) for my cosplay! And now I’m thinking I should do a post specifically on my upcoming costume. Hmm.

Anyway, Death Star is not disappointing; it is essential! I apologize for ever disparaging it.