Can fandom, any fandom, be truly free?
If you count time as an expense, definitely not. In terms of literal money, opinions differ. Do you live in a city or a rural area? Do you have a library card? Are you able to access public transit? There are more potential barriers out there than many might think, but the idea that you can’t be a Star Wars fan without spending some amount of money can be a tough pill to swallow.
With that in mind, myself and several others are coordinating “Mynock Monday” (today, natch) as a counterpart/response to the (admittedly exciting) spending spree that was Force Friday. Mynock Monday isn’t the anti-Force Friday as much as a supplement—an opportunity to recognize all the fans out there who have to choose between Star Wars and basic necessities, and the many, many creative ways they make up the difference that are low-cost or even totally free.
To follow along with the event, simply watch the #MynockMonday hashtag on social media (we’re mostly on Twitter, but we’d love to see it branch out to other platforms) and if the spirit strikes you, share your own fun activities, DIY doodads, or even just your thoughts on that initial question—how do you feel about the consumer element of your fandom, and do you think it’s possible (or even desirable) to avoid it entirely?
What follows is a first draft of all the research we’ve done thus far, a comprehensive-ish guide to all the ways you can be a fan while spending as little money as possible. Unlike most ETE pieces, this will be a living document—I plan to update it in perpetuity as new ideas come in, so if you know of something that’s missing (or incorrect) feel free to share it in the comment section or on Twitter and I’ll incorporate it down the line. While it can never really be complete, my hope is that this will serve as an ongoing fan resource for years to come.
It should also be noted that many, many people gave us input on this over the last few days—too many to list easily. I couldn’t have done it without the great community that is Star Wars Twitter, so enormous thanks to all of you.
- The first step of Star Wars fandom, at least for the majority of us, is of course the movies. The options for seeing a matinee showing of a new or recent-release movie for less than eight dollars or so depend a lot on where you live1, but many areas may have “second-run” theaters, which show movies that have left the big theaters but haven’t yet hit home release, often for as little as one dollar.
- Even once a movie has left theaters you can check your local parks department to see if they do free screenings over the summer; here in Pittsburgh there have been multiple showings of both The Force Awakens and Rogue One in parks the summer after their initial releases. As a popular franchise that appeals to people of all ages, Star Wars is a great fit for these kind of screenings, and if they’re happening in your area at all, odds are they’re either open to Star Wars or already doing it—don’t be afraid to ask!
- Another fortunate thing about Star Wars is they have a pretty good relationship with Netflix (for now, at least), and Netflix has free one-month trials. As of this writing both Rogue One and all six seasons of The Clone Wars are currently available in Netflix’s streaming library—if you’re really dedicated you could get through all of that in a month. And if not, streaming subscriptions start at $8 a month and can be canceled at any time. The absolute cheapest option is their basic DVD plan, which lets you rent two actual discs per month—if you don’t care about TCW and just want to watch Rogue One for as little as humanly possible the only option below that is to rent it from Amazon streaming video for (as of this writing) $3.99.
- Speaking of TV, Star Wars Rebels is, alas, currently unavailable on Netflix streaming—but if you’re a member note that they do take requests. Can’t hurt, right?
- Meanwhile, Lego and Disney are awesomely hosting the entire first season of The Freemaker Adventures and (so far) some of the second on YouTube—check Mario’s comment below for direct links. While you’re there, the Lego YouTube channel also has lots of fun little Star Wars shorts.
- Last but not least, many libraries have DVD and Blu-Ray renting options, but I’ll get more into that later.
- If you have a little money for books but would rather not pay full price, do a google search for used bookstores in your area. This is an especially fun way to hunt for old Legends books, and you never know—you could even find a collector’s item!
- After that is of course your local library. If you’re lucky enough to have a good network where you live that’s really all there is to it. If you want to read new books as soon as possible the best thing to do is go in and request them as soon as they’re out (or maybe even earlier). Brand-new hardcovers are ordered on the basis of perceived demand, so if your library doesn’t seem in a big hurry to get its own copy of Phasma consider it your civic duty to place an official request and let them know they’ve got one more prospective Star Wars customer. This applies to comic book trade paperbacks, too—I read a whole bunch of old stuff this way when I was a broke college kid myself.
- In terms of older books (and/or smaller libraries), look into your local Interlibrary Loan system—often books can be requested from other cities and library networks altogether! It can take a little while, maybe even a month, for a requested book to make the trip2, but if it’s 2017 and you want to read Ruins of Dantooine that badly, them’s the breaks.
- In addition to libraries, Del Rey publishes a free “Sampler” of their Star Wars material every year, handed out at conventions but also available for free digitally (here’s 2016 and 2017) which includes excerpts from the novels as well as several short stories from that year’s Star Wars Insider and beats the hell out of Insider’s cover price.
- On that note, an extra-special shoutout to @yoda_naughty on Twitter for sharing his fantastic spreadsheet of all the canon Insider stories and the various ways to read them—not just in the Samplers but included in paperback novel reprints and sometimes even for free at StarWars.com. If the magazine is out of your price range that’s a must-have bookmark for sure.
- Into ebooks? If you’re in the United States and you know somebody who reads their Star Wars books in Kindle form, they can be lent to another account one time—whether or not either of you have the actual hardware.
- Moving on to comics, one thing we’ve discussed a lot is the free download codes Marvel includes in every (or nearly every) print issue they sell. These codes can only be used once and are generally for the same issue you’re holding in your hands (though they often include a random bonus issue as well), but if you’re open to reading digitally and have a generous friend who also reads Star Wars comics, the codes are an easy way to get two “copies” for the price of one—whether you split the cost of the hard copy or mooch off your friend is between you and them. Some Star Wars VIPs have also been known to share download codes on Twitter from time to time—Story Group’s Matt Martin is one good person to follow if you’re open to that.
- If you’re willing to spend a little money, and don’t need to read stuff immediately, another great option is Marvel Unlimited, their digital subscription service that starts at $10/month (or less if you buy a year at once). They don’t get new issues until six months after release, but they do have the entire library of Legends comics (pour one out for Dark Horse when you read them) and around two years of canon stuff so far so it’s a pretty cheap way to binge.
- That brings me to fan fiction and fan comics—if I tried to list those comprehensively I’d never sleep again but there’s a lot of stuff out there if you do a quick google search or two. Archive Of Our Own and FanFiction.net are easily the two biggest resources for fanfic, and while I’m unaware of any comprehensive database of fan comics, a few great ones that were recommended to me are A Star Wars Comic (written by friend of Eleven-ThirtyEight Jim Mello), Star Wars Destinies, The Sun and the Sand, and Star Wars: Eternal Empire (coming soon). There are also a handful of fan comics listed on Tapas, and if you want some REALLY old-school stuff, TheForce.Net’s utterly ancient collection of fan comics from the nineties is inexplicably, amazingly still live. I was especially partial to Jawa Force once upon a time.
- Believe it or not, libraries have audiobooks, too! Hoopla and Overdrive are two good sites that can interface with local libraries and provide you with all sorts of digital lending goodies—eBooks and movies in addition to audio.
- Moving into the fan realm, do I even need to explain podcasts to you? They’re the hip thing these days, and if there are two other Star Wars fans in the room with you odds are good one of them has their own. I’m not even going to try to list the “best” ones here, but I will point out the most recent slate of Star Wars Podcast Award winners as a good place to start. Beyond that, you can ask for recommedations from fellow fans on social media—I promise you, whatever you’re into there’s a podcast about it. And if not, does your computer have a built-in microphone? That’s pretty much all you need to start your own!
- Are you a gamer? We’re living in something not unlike a Golden Age for cheap access to fun classics, with a plethora of old Star Wars stuff currently available from the aptly-named Good Old Games, plus Steam and the Playstation Store for as little as a few bucks.
- The Old Republic, the only still-active Star Wars MMO (and one of the last remaining sources of Legends storytelling) is free to play up to level fifty, which encompasses the main storyline of all available characters.
- If tabletop roleplaying games are more your speed, Fantasy Flight, the current creators of the official Star Wars RPG, have a number of free resources on their website (scroll down to the “Support” menu), or you can check out these tweets from our own David Schwarz for how you can get pretty much the full RPG experience—legally—without spending a dime.
- One of the lowest-barrier fan activities of all is good, old-fashioned artwork. If you always wanted to try your hand at Photoshop but can’t afford fifty-two thousand dollars or whatever it costs these days, two great free alternatives are GIMP and Krita (or if you’re an analog kind of person you can steal a pen and paper from your local bank). Want to share your work with adoring fans around the world? A Tumblr account is your best option, though some people even film themselves creating work and post process videos on YouTube—and come to think of it, those can be a great way to branch out and learn new techniques yourself.
- While you’re on YouTube, there’s no shortage of fan content to check out there, from vlogs to cosplay and crafting tutorials to official goodies like the Star Wars Show and Rebels Recon.
- Last but not least, if you’re able-bodied and lucky enough to have a few friends in the area to geek out with, there’s no substitute for an impromptu meetup. Can’t make it to Star Wars Celebration Albuquerque? Hold your own, or if you’re lazy just set up a watch party for your favorite streaming panels. See if you have a local chapter of the 501st or the Rebel Legion—hardcore costumers can be pretty intimidating at first but I bet they’d be happy to share some simple pointers to make even your dollar-store Arihnda Pryce cosplay really pop.
As one final category with a slightly different spin, I want to take a cue from Luke Skywalker himself:
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) September 1, 2017
However much money you do have, however accessible fandom is for you, never forget that there are people out there in even worse positions. The best expressions of fandom are those that give something to the community, whether it’s a legion of stormtroopers cheering up kids in the hospital or as simple as donating a few old toys or books to a local shelter. If you’re someone who doesn’t have to worry about making that tough decision between your fandom and your necessities, maybe take today to think about what you can do for people in your area who aren’t so lucky—we’d love to hear from you, too.
- Location will naturally be a factor in a great many of the things on this list—I understand that not everything is doable for every person but I’m attempting to be as thorough as possible. [↩]
- In some cases there may even be a small fee—here in Pittsburgh when you make a request you can tell them in advance the most you’re willing to pay to borrow something, even if it’s ten cents. [↩]