Archive for opinion

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 It’s a freight hauler, an intergalactic semi truck — and an outdated one at that.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?

15 Years of Attack of the Clones

Posted in Fun, Spotlight with tags , , , , , on 16 May 2017 by Megan

Even though E4 turns 40 this year, which is a more significant anniversary than 15, the E2 anniversary is really hitting me this year. Several reasons for this, probably, not least of which is that I have no memories of E4 as it predates me by almost a decade. I was 16 when E2 came out, I waited the full three years for it (as opposed to E1, which I only found out about six months before it came out–although I did have to wait a month to see it), and I remember every bit of the build up to it. I collected more stuff around the advent of E2 than any other Star Wars movie; I actually went to unrelated movies to see the trailers, which I never did for the others. And I saw it more times in the theater than any others.

There’s something about 2002 in my memory that really sticks. Metallic blue nail polish, hours playing Sims, waiting for Quicktime downloads of the E2 trailer over dial-up. I had an email newsletter called The EmJay Zone, which I began on August 8, 2000, and eventually racked up 43 subscribers at its peak, though I can’t imagine why as I look through its incoherent rambling for something to share today.

So I wanted to share with you my first review of Attack of the Clones, which I wrote exactly one week after its theatrical release. I apologize in advance if the formatting is a nightmare–a 16 year old wrote it in the early 2000s! Now, I wrote approximately once a week for almost eight years:

You are about to enter a different place, and yet one that isn't so different. It is a place of sight and sound, and of mind. It is a land of shadows, substance, and a lot of weirdness. You've just crossed over into... The EmJay Zone.

Continue reading

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.

EUderaan Two Years Later

Posted in Announcements, Opinion, Spotlight with tags , , , on 25 April 2016 by Megan
taken

courtesy Paul Adams of the Alliance

We the Star Wars fan community have often compared ourselves with Alderaan, the demolition of our universe with the destruction of that planet, our plight as homeless nerds with the lost refugees of Alderaan. It’s comparable on every level: a world with hundreds of thousands of vital, living creatures and a rich, deep, ancient history completely destroyed by one cold and unfeeling machine of evil empire.

Were there people from Alderaan who had a bad life there and who sullenly growled that it was better off gone? I have no doubt. Frustrated ne’er-do-wells who couldn’t live under Alderaan’s laws and restrictions, who didn’t care about history, who would rather be going after the latest shiny thing, glit-biting or finding other shallow Imperial-allowed entertainments — you can bet they sounded a chorus of “well I’m glad that planet’s gone.” But they weren’t refugees. They didn’t have something taken from them.

The Graveyard of Alderaan

The Graveyard of Alderaan

Princess Leia and her companion Winter, Tycho Celchu, the other survivors of Alderaan — they did have something taken from them. Some, like Leia, were aware of it the moment it happened — others, like Tycho, didn’t realize what had taken place until later. They banded together to fight against the empire that had created such a menace, and they also banded together to help one another in coping with the loss of something as monumental as an entire world. The Empire had to be stopped, but also, Alderaan had to be restored. It would never be the same, you can’t un-destroy what has been destroyed, but it would be a place for the refugees of a world to call home once again.

A ritual developed among the survivors of Alderaan. Called The Returning, it consisted of a special journey to the Graveyard, a vast asteroid field making up the remains of Alderaan. An intimate and private act of memorial, the Returnees would say a few words and leave a pod of gifts to commemorate those lost family members, friends, faces, places.

Leia's Return

Leia’s Return

We are the Refugees of “EUderaan.” We mourn for what has been lost, because we know the depth and the extent of what has been lost. Two years ago today, Lucasfilm made the announcement that should have shaken the fanbase to its core. When Joss Whedon had the audacity to say the television show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D wasn’t canon vis-a-vis his Avengers films, people flipped out and he was forced to retract. When the Lucasfilm Story Group declared that a 38-year-old fully unified multimedia canon of Star Wars lore would no longer be considered canon, people were not permitted to flip out. We were muffled, pushed down under hype of new movies and propaganda where the most peculiar, obscure bits of the EU were used to typify the whole. “You don’t get to have a voice until we see how Disney’s movie turns out,” people said, even though we already knew all we needed to know when we were told Heir to the Empire (whose Coruscant is the hinge of the prequels), Dash Rendar (whose ship Outlander was edited into A New Hope by Lucas Himself), and Aayla Secura (drawn from comics for a role in Episode II and III) no longer existed as canon.

Simply put, the Expanded Universe forms the framework for the Star Wars films. Since the entire EU — books, comics, and both electronic and tabletop games — was instigated and supported by George Lucas as canon equal with the films (his only caveat was that he did not need to submit to them if his vision contradicted them — something which rarely happened), by removing the EU, Disney effectively rebooted the franchise. Deletion of 90% source material is as sure a reboot as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. But we were denied the right to call it what it is.

The Empire didn’t let people mourn for Alderaan, either. Such an event should have caused such moral outrage and horror that the Empire would’ve been lost overnight. But the Emperor’s grip was tight, and protestation was muffled — just as our protests for the EU have been muffled.

But now we the community have taken a stand. Star Wars fans have done something really amazing, and the media has noticed —

We literally took a sign out.

We literally took a sign out.

Various coinciding factors allowed certain organizers among the fan community — I reject the terminology that we are an “organization”; no, we are merely fans doing what fans do! — to plan and accomplish getting a literal billboard literally outside the doors of the Lucasfilm offices [more here].

Literally.

Literally.

It’s the message we’ve been speaking for two years now, but this time it cost money to make. Via crowdfunding, the relatively modest cost of a billboard (compare $7 million raised by Msties to bring Mystery Science Theater 3000 back) was raised and applied to a sign asking for the EU to be restored to its position, and the response has phenomenal:

We’ve started the conversation. People are finally being heard as they voice dissent against the mouse empire. The anti-EU fighters can no longer hide behind “wait and see, you don’t know, it might be good.” The pro-EU wishers and dreamers who hoped that somehow Disney meant to decanonize and yet incorporate have seen that all the current Star Wars administration means to do is recycle the stories into trash for cash.

It took almost four years for Alderaan to receive justice, and longer than that before her homeless refugees were able to rebuild. This is a long fight, but we’re in it and we’re in it together.

I have another post coming where I try to address some of the repeated confusion in media attention (“what do those Legends people want, anyway?”), but with this post, looking back on the last two years of anger and struggle, all I want to do is say thanks to the Give Us Legends [also Twitter] guys for doing this!

The view from here.

The view from here.

We’re not an organization. There’s no leadership, no hierarchy, no one in charge. We’re just the fanbase. The Star Wars fans in 2016 as we were in 1976, in 1986, in 1996, and in 2006. We just want Star Wars, as it is, as it was, as it should be. Declaring the EU non-canon was no different from declaring Return of the Jedi non-canon — and we will fight for what we love, to bring it back.

For the press release and more information about the billboard, how it came to be, and what it represents and is for, check out giveuslegends.net.

Our love. Our story.

Our love. Our story.

And you, EUderaan, EUderaan,  you are not forgotten. We will not send you quietly into that good night. We will keep up this fight. #WeWantLegends. #GiveUsLegends.

Realcanon Favorites

Posted in Questions with tags , , , , on 1 April 2015 by Megan

Do you have a list of your favourite Star Wars books in order? Would be curious what your picks would be? — Chris

When Chris asked this, it occurred to me for the first time that I have never provided a book list of my favorites from the EU. I was frankly a little astonished to realize I’ve never done it before — I mean, I’ve mentioned some favorites every now and again, but never done a list. No joke! This shocks me because on my personal blog, it’s all book lists, all the time. Time to remedy it!

I don’t love every Star Wars book I read. If you’ve spent any time in my reviews, you know that. In fact, if you’ve spent any time in my reviews, you may wonder if I’m capable of love. I’m unusual among Star Wars fans in that I don’t like the same books they like and I don’t crave new book after new book. It’s why I started this site, why I’ve worked so hard on the concept of realcanon even before the Disney Death Star drove everyone into the discussion of canon. (PS, I am revamping the realcanon page. Soon. Soon!) But I think my favorites represent a certain cream of the expanded universe’s crop.

As it happens, I have 10 books (keeping trilogies as “one book,” because it’s not fair to separate them) that I’ve rated 4 and 5 stars! I’ll elaborate on the top 5. As usual, here’s my complete bibliography (aka the books I’m choosing these favorites from).

10. Shadow Hunter by Michael Reaves. (Published 2001; set 37 years before ANH.)

9. The Jedi Academy Trilogy (Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, Champions of the Force). (Published 1994; set 7 years after ROTJ.) My first favorite.

8. Tales of the Bounty Hunters. (Published 1996; short story anthology edited by Kevin J. Anderson.)

7. The Thrawn Trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command) by Timothy Zahn. (Published 1991; set 5 years after ROTJ.)

6. Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber. (Published 2009; set 1 year before ANH.)

First and best.

First and best.

5. The Corellian Trilogy (Attack on Corellia, Assault at Selonia, Showdown at Centerpoint) by Roger MacBride Allen. Published in 1995 and set 14 years after the Battle of Endor, book 2 of this trilogy was the first Star Wars book I ever read. It was December 1997, ten months after I saw Star Wars for the first time, and my mind exploded with all the new information: Han and Leia were married and had three kids? Han had an evil cousin? Leia was running the New Republic? There was a New Republic?! A shocking place to dive in — but it’s not just nostalgia that makes me give it a spot in my Top 5. This book really holds up. Every time I go back and re-read it, I’m thrilled by the sense of history, the fearful mystery of the archaeological expeditions, the quick wonder of the Solo children, the gripping determination of Han Solo, family man. MacBride Allen is an underrated contribution to the EU.

Gambling on awesome

Gambling on awesome

4. X-Wing Series, specifically the “Taking Coruscant Trilogy” by Michael A. Stackpole (Wedge’s Gamble, The Krytos Trap, The Bacta War). Published in 1997 and set three years after the Battle of Endor — it’s hard to pick a pinnacle, but I’m thinking Wedge’s Gamble might reach top this time. I’ve enthused about these all recently, but to be honest, I was surprised to find myself ranking them so highly. Unlike the Corellian Trilogy, for years I just thought these were “those flight sim books” that were “kinda okay.” When I re-read them last year, though, I was knocked flat by how good they are. Solid win. (Specific review here.)

Book 2 is best

Book 2 is best

3. The Han Solo Trilogy (The Paradise Snare, The Hutt Gambit, Rebel Dawn), by A.C. Crispen. Published in 1997 and set 12-0 years before the Battle of Yavin. It was February 1998, almost one year to the day after I first saw Star Wars. I was returning Paradise Snare to the library, saw they already had Hutt Gambit in, but was not allowed to check it out because Mom felt I was “too in to” Star Wars and shouldn’t get two books in a row. I read as much as I could while sitting there, and reached page 57 before being made to leave. That night I wrote in my diary, “I don’t think I’ll forget that page number if I live to be 100 years old!” And to this day, Hutt Gambit is linked with the number 57 in my mind. These books quickly became some of my first favorites, especially Hutt Gambit, which is also my preferred gateway book to introduce people to the EU. The trilogy starts with a young Han Solo, shows how he got his start as an orphan pickpocket on up to a cast out of the Imperial military academy. How does he know Wookiee? How is he with Chewbacca? Why does Boba Fett have a grudge against him? The man with the mystery past need be a mystery no more.

Book 1 is best

Book 1 is best

2. The Bounty Hunter Wars Trilogy, by K.W. Jeter; published in 1998 and set both immediately after ROTJ and during ANH, these books are unique in a variety of ways. First of all, they lack the “Big Three.” Second of all, the antagonists are the protagonists. In these landmark books, we learn that Boba Fett survived the Sarlacc, and also get to find out more about the bounty hunter crew we saw briefly in Empire Strikes Back. The whole gang is here — Boba Fett, Bossk, Dengar, IG-88, Zuckuss, 4-LOM. Plus Prince Xizor and my all-time favorite, Kuat of Kuat. Jeter has a fantastic sense of place, boldly painting the lines of bounty hunter culture and building a mystery that takes place during a most tumultuous time in galactic history, a mystery that makes the rise and fall of regimes seem almost insignificant. I love this trilogy — in fact, the one post I have done on “favorite EU book” was dedicated to it. Read more (here).

The greatest

The greatest

1. I, Jedi, by Michael A. Stackpole. Published in 1998 and set 7 years after ROTJ, concurrent with the Jedi Academy Trilogy — perhaps why I love it so much, because how often does a writer you love get to touch up a story you love written by a lackluster author? Anyway, you knew it would end up here. Simply put, this is my favorite Star Wars book and one of four Star Wars books to end up on my List of 100 Favorite Books Ever. I talk about this book so much, there simply isn’t more to say. I’ve already said it here. And here.

Why I Love Star Wars

Posted in Challenges with tags , , on 31 July 2014 by Megan

This question has bothered me for a long time, almost since I started watching it in the first place.

See, I really struggle with living in a society that somehow is convinced that a science fiction adaptation of The Seven Samurai is a children’s movie. I saw it for the first time at the age of 12, but for some reason every adult that I knew apart from my parents thought it was a movie for six year old boys, and so I’ve been hit with, “Why do you like Star Wars so much anyway?” ever since I first dared tell someone I liked it. It’s always been awkward having this movie in common with my friends’ toddler younger brothers — not because I thought there was anything wrong with me liking it, but that these kids were way too young to even know what it was. And they are. But that’s a different rant.

Call it a kids' movie one more time, I dare you . . .

Call it a kids’ movie one more time, I dare you . . .

All I’m complaining about here is that most people seemed to criticize me for being too old to care about something I’d only just seen for the first time — something which I personally think should’ve been rated PG-13 from the beginning even though PG-13 didn’t yet exist.

All this is preface to the first time I got distressed by answering why I love Star Wars. On May 14, 1999, a homeschool co-op parent asked me on the way to class why I liked Star Wars. Being your average articulate 14-year-old, this was what I wrote: “Mrs. L asked me that today and I’m trying to think WHY I love SW. I think its the charicters, and the stories. I’m not sure. All I know is: I LOVE STAR WARS, AND I LIKE LOVING IT!! To tell the truth: I’m OBSESSED with it. AND I like THAT, TOO. I don’t know why. It just hit something in my imagination that I just like the way it feels when I watch or read about it. But WHY does it make me feel that way? In fact, why does ANYONE like ANYTHING?”

That was too much philosophy for me and I left off the diary entry at that point. And yet it’s a question that’s haunted me all these years, one I’ve struggled to find some way to answer or express.

I just like it. Don't give me that look.

I just like it. Don’t give me that look.

This week I was listening to The Princess Bride audiobook, which was on every possible level random because I rarely do the audiobook thing. It was a Christmas gift from probably eight or nine years ago and I recently found it in my storage unit while looking for CDs.

At the very beginning of this cleverly done book — as tongue-in-cheek and satirically funny as the film itself — the narrator attempts to explain what it was about his “barely-literate father” reading S. Morgenstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure to him. And — paraphrasing here, because I don’t have access to the book — it grabbed him because it made him care about what happened in the story.

Star Wars made me care about what happened. All these years, I’ve read Campbell and treatises on mythology and even took a class on the subject, trying to determine just what it is about Star Wars it is that gets me ticking, and you can say whatever you like about archetype and cosmology and myth and cliche, but the simple fact of it is . . . Star Wars made me care about the characters, on a level I had never previously cared about them before.

Their triumph, my triumph

Their triumph, my triumph

Their battles were my battles, their triumphs were my triumphs, their fears, my fears. Their universe was not truly inherently different from mine, and really, with as much as I loved Han from day one, I must have always seen myself as Luke, because at the age of 12 when I first saw him, I was just embarking on my own path — the road to personhood — as he was embarking on his path to knighthood and heroism. And maybe somehow if I watched him suffer and overcome enough times, I, too, could suffer and overcome. And maybe have a robot. Robots are cool.

I guess that’s what it comes down to. I love Star Wars with a kind of fervency that is not obsession, that lives somewhere beyond obsession (cf. this post), because it was the first time I ever cared on a personal level about the people in the story I was experiencing. Always before Star Wars, all I cared about was the story itself. I was a plot person, as it were. Stick figures or faceless silhouettes could have been the ones saving the world, rescuing the princess, ending tyranny for all time for all I cared; the heroes as well as the villains were interchangeable blanks who did not matter to me whatsoever.

After Star Wars, the story became second. Suddenly it didn’t quite matter to me if the heroes were on a quest to end all evil forever or just heading down to the corner for a pizza: as long as there were characters involved, that was the important part. Ever since the end of Return of the Jedi, when I first noticed Luke’s shoulders crumple as he wept over the man voted Most Likely To Never be Wept Over (before he killed the ones who voted it), all I have cared about is the character. I’d watch a feature-length film that contained nothing apart from Luke Skywalker Reads Novel In Comfy Chair because Luke Skywalker is the interesting part — not the lightsabers and spaceships and war.

I told you, I love him!!

I told you, I love him!!

And that, Mrs. L., is why I love Star Wars, because Star Wars made me love characters (“charicters” in my 14-year-old misspellings), and characters are my favorite thing in the universe.