Skyhoppers, Hovertrains, and Landspeeders


In Star Wars, even something as mundane as simply getting around is a visibly futuristic process. Cars are replaced with landspeeders that glide smoothly over even the roughest terrain without needing a single wheel to touch the nonexistent roads. Their governments must save a fortune on infrastructure upkeep. Skyhoppers and airspeeders are more like flying cars (or what flying cars would be like, if we had them) than planes, complete with being totaled by thrill-seeking young drivers.

A speeder bike is something like a motorcycle, only about a dozen times faster, with no wheels, and an even worse safety record when it comes to crashing headlong into inconvenient obstacles like trees. Crossing the great void between the stars to new worlds is as simple as booking passage on a vessel headed in the right direction, the galaxy’s denizens having long ago circumvented that troublesome little matter of the light barrier that’s been keeping us from our round trip to Alpha Centauri all these years.

With casual interstellar travel being so accessible to the general public, one can safely assume that travel time between cities or continents on the same world would be all but nonexistent in the vast majority of cases. War machines are regularly produced in bipedal and quadrupedal configurations and deployed to great effectiveness, despite the obvious limitations and weaknesses of the design. Clearly, someone has an extreme aversion to wheels and tank treads (to the disappointment of car chase enthusiasts everywhere).

It’s easy to dismiss these things as being nothing more than irrelevant bits of background information and lore; the means by which our heroes hop, skip, and jump between their interstellar adventures. Flavor for something that would be otherwise stale, of interest only to the most overzealous of pedants. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

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Character Building and the Art of Filler


“You did all this…for fruit?” “No! …okay, maybe a little!”

When a TV show is written, the staff has a choice to make: How will the show find its balance between character development and the plot? The Clone Wars was a show where the events of an episode held precedence over characters. Not that there were no character moments or any development, but the story came first, especially early on when summaries of episodes could be “Godzilla IN SPACE” or “the Seven Samurai WITH BOUNTY HUNTERS”. Whatever concept the TCW writers wanted to put on screen, they put there, regardless of whether it was a good fit for the characters drafted into various roles. While there were episodes that got away from this, it’s a tendency that colored the show’s entire run.

Another decision, one more specific to action-oriented media, is the stakes of a given story. From episode to episode, something or other may be at risk or hanging in the balance. Is it the fate of a world, or merely the well-being of a few people? TCW tended toward the dramatic side, where the stakes were high, be it to save hundreds of lives, catch a dangerous fugitive or stop a superweapon. While there were some low-stake episodes that focused less on the action and more on character interaction, they became fewer and fewer as the show moved into its later seasons and more driven, multi-part stories took over. » Read more..

The Star Wars Expanded Universe: The Pithy Reader’s Companion Vol. IV

Longtime readers may remember my three-part Pithy Reader’s Companion series from early in this site’s existence; for the unfamiliar, it worked like this: over on the Jedi Council Forums, I ran an ongoing thread called One Sentence or Less, wherein participants would summarize assorted works from the Expanded Universe in one sentence—the “or less” part was half joke, half gentle nudge toward brevity, but it didn’t always work out that way; ETE staffer Lucas Jackson’s synopsis of The Swarm War actually held the record (until now, that is) at 242 words, all still technically one sentence.

Anyway, readers would vote for their favorites via the forum’s “like” system, and after two days or so, whoever had the most likes won the round. After about a year, I compiled all the winners into the three-volume Pithy Companion, and there was much mirth to be had. The thread went on under the guidance of my fellow poster known as @instantdeath, and while activity has sadly waned in recent months, enough new winners emerged that I thought I’d use the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the original series of articles to catch back up with it, in Volume IV of the Pithy Companion. While each part of the original series focused on a third of the Star Wars timeline, this time I’ll cover basically the whole shebang, within the loose confines of “stuff I didn’t get around to in the first year”. Highlights include the the Knights of the Old Republic games, Fate of the Jedi, and the entire—yes, entireJedi Prince series, perhaps best known for its first book, The Glove of Darth Vader. Enjoy!


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How I Spent My Fall Break: NYCC 2014

151,000 people, four days, one large convention center, altogether too many overpriced snacks, nowhere near enough hours of sleep. That’s quite a convention experience. It was my third year attending NYCC, and this year, I wasn’t just there for fun and mischief. Being at the con as Eleven Thirty-Eight’s woman on the street was an experience, and I come bearing tales of what Star Wars has in store.


In all honesty, last year I saw a good deal more Star Wars cosplay. This year it was a bit scarce, though I did run into a Mara Jade, quite a few Mandalorians, a few Sabines, a Tahiri, and several different versions of Leia, Anakin Skywalker, and Darth Vader. The Rebel Legion and 501st definitely had less presence than last year, but there were a few around. As a whole, cosplay was not what stood out the most about Star Wars fandom. Instead, the very presence of the fandom was powerful enough.

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Droids: Slave or Sentient?


Ben: What is a droid? What constitutes intelligent life? Where does programming end and independent thought begin? Themes like these have been tackled in just about every major science-fiction franchise since the early part of the twentieth century. There are exceptions, of course, but one of the most surprising ones is our own Star Wars. Considering the massive presence of droids on-screen throughout all six films and The Clone Wars, it is somewhat interesting that, outside of a few novels and short stories, the issue of what rights droids have, whether they are considered life or merely property, has yet to be touched on.

In many ways, the events of Droids in Distress provide us with a snapshot of how the two major factions of the time treat the universe’s ubiquitous mechanical sidekicks. There is a stark contrast between the Imperial treatment of droids and the way the rebels interact with the droid member of their own crew, as well as this week’s special guest stars. » Read more..

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