Archive for David Schwarz

Burden of Empire: The Complex Relationship Between Star Wars and Fascism

hux-blackseriesOur fandom is rarely without some kind of controversy. It’s been like this since the times of message board wars and it feels like social media has only exacerbated this tendency towards grabbing pitchforks and torches that we often show. Sometimes these controversies become full-blown online wars (just look “Reylo” up on Google), sometimes they just fizzle down after a couple of annoyed grunts, and sometimes they actually become polite discussions. A couple of weeks ago one of the latter happened when Florian from Jedi-Bibliothek revealed that then-upcoming book Leia: Princess of Alderaan (since then positively reviewed by Jay and Sarah in this website) had a very disconcerting scene: at one point, Leia happily speaks of an old Alderaanian proverb, strength through joy. For those not in the know, Strength Through Joy (Kraft durch Freude) was the name of a Nazi leisure organization; our friends at Jedi-Bib, a German fan site, were understandably puzzled, so were I and many others, especially European fans (I wonder why!). The fan reactions were multiple if muted, from the fans that suspected that it was intended to be a sarcastic commentary on the reach of the Empire to the fans that thought that it was not that big of a deal because to American readers it was an obscure reference, to even a few that said “STJ was just a tour operator, not a big deal, get over it.” I personally thought that the obscurity of the reference was what made the reference complicated, as it meant that in practice it worked like a dog whistle. Anyway, the strife lasted just one day: author Claudia Gray was horrified when she found out about the phrase’s origins, explaining it was just a coincidence, and everyone seemed to accept it and move on (although word is still out on what’s going to happen with future reprints and especially with the upcoming German translation). It was obvious from the start that it was most likely just an unintended reference: if George Harrison can accidentally copy one full song, the chances that Claudia Gray had referenced Strength Through Joy without knowing of its very dark origins were not small.

Yet the reaction of some fans who were just unwilling to contemplate the possibility that a Star Wars book could somehow have an intentional Nazi reference—while understandable because the author is well-liked and the book is really good—highlighted the sometimes complicated relationship that fandom has with both the representation of fascism in the Star Wars saga and the influence that fascism itself has had on it. I’ve mentioned before that I personally find the commodification of Imperial chic to be slightly disturbing, but this time I’d like to dig a bit deeper and to talk about the very tortuous relationship that Star Wars has always had with the concept of fascism itself. Is Star Wars a fascist dream? Is Star Wars actually anti-fascist? » Read more..

Here Today, Gone Trevorrow: JJ Abrams Returns to Land the Plane

abrams-troopers

I don’t like for this site to do instant-reaction pieces very often because I want us to be measured at all times, and focused on the big picture rather than the heat of the moment. But sometimes an announcement comes along that’s so vaguely detailed that there’s nothing particularly informed or complex we as fans are in a position to say about it—so it’s either offer up our first impressions for what they are, or ignore it entirely.

But how could we possibly ignore something as big as the news that JJ Abrams will be returning to the franchise to direct Episode IX after Colin Trevorrow was put on a bus out of town? With most directors, Trevorrow and even Rian Johnson included, you can speculate a great deal about what their version of a Star Wars film would look like based on their other work, but Abrams is the only working director who has an actual Star Wars film already under their belt that we can pick apart for clues as to what he’ll do next.1

That said? I’m reasonably agnostic on this choice. I love The Force Awakens even more two years later than I did when I first saw it, so I’m completely certain he can produce another Star Wars film that I enjoy. But Star Trek Into Darkness (while I don’t hate it as much as many do) wasn’t anywhere near as good as his first Trek film so I’m not quite convinced he’s the kind of director who gets better at a given property with practice—TFA could very well be his high-water mark.

I also wonder how he’ll cooperate with Lucasfilm this time around; Bad Robot had a pretty heavy hand in TFA because LFL was still largely getting their shit together and figuring out how they wanted to do things—their trust in him was rewarded that time, but with a more firmly ensconced Story Group and a president who knows what she wants and isn’t screwing around, is he willing to accept more “outside” input this time around? Is he willing to take chances of his own? I hope so.

Since Abrams is such a known quantity in this fandom, I’ll make this a little more challenging for the rest of you—if you’re generally positive about this news, what’s the thing that most concerns you? And if you’re generally negative, what are you most optimistic about? » Read more..

  1. Yes, I’m excluding Lucas—let the guy retire. []

The Han Solo Movie Doesn’t Have a Title Yet So Why Should This Article?

lordmillersolocast

While Eleven-ThirtyEight shall forever remain gloriously free of any obligation to “report” the “news”, sometimes it’s nice to chime in on a hot topic while it’s still hot, and the big hot news this week was the departure of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the still-annoyingly-untitled Han Solo standalone film. While the Disney era of Star Wars films has had no shortage of backstage drama already, Lord and Miller had been with the project for such a long time, and were so far into filming, that to lose them less than a year out from the release date seems a new threshold entirely. How does everyone feel about this? While we may not know much (indeed, may never know) about exactly what this means for the final film, does the steady stream of shenanigans make you at all wary of how Lucasfilm works with its directors on the macro level?

Jay: Overall, I don’t have an opinion on this. Or at least, my opinion is to register a non-opinion. I have a couple of reasons for this: from my overall low level of interest in the Han Solo film (like I’ve said before, it probably won’t be until I see trailers that I’ll get interested) to the fact that we really don’t know all that much about what happened other than that the directors are leaving. Everything else is speculation, or based on information we can’t corroborate.

Of course, it doesn’t look good. How can it? I don’t know how much to credit the THR or Variety “sources,” but even from LFL’s own statements, “creative differences” at this stage of the game is not great.

But. I think we have to withhold judgment about the actual decision until we see the outcome. Maybe they wanted to be bold and risky with this one, and it didn’t work out. That could be because LFL is being too risk-averse, or it could be because the film really wasn’t working out. We don’t know if the creative differences were foreseeable, a risk hedged against, or a surprise. There are really multiple ways to read it, and I don’t know that “LFL didn’t do their homework” or “Kathleen Kennedy is meddling” (these are opinions I’ve seen voiced around) are things we really have any basis to say. We may well guess at the reasons the directors are leaving (or fired, I guess — it’s probably reasonable to read “creative differences” as a euphemism for firing) but that’s all it is. » Read more..

Let’s Game Like It’s 1999 — Running a Prequel to Your RPG Campaign

It's time for the people back there to take over!

It’s time for the people back there to take over!

Welcome again to The Force Does Not Roll Dice, our section about the wonderful world of running tabletop roleplaying games set in the Galaxy Far Far Away. No, this piece is not about gaming in what is known as “the prequel trilogy era”. What we are going to be talking about is how to set up a prequel campaign to your existing campaign. So dust off your Jar Jar sipping cup, find your old Y2K survival kit, play your least-hated Limp Bizkit CD… and let’s game like it’s 1999!

First of all: I’m perfectly aware that, out of the many words that are likely to elicit strong reactions from the fans, the two most powerful ones are probably “canon” and “prequels”, but this article is not going to get into whether the idea of Star Wars prequels was pure genius or a regrettable mistake. I have my own personal thoughts on the matter, of course, but it’s completely undeniable that the existence of prequels has become one of the most important or at least one of the most popular facets of Star Wars storytelling. So, if one of our objectives as GMs is presenting a faithful “Star Wars experience” in our RPG, why not bringing this to the table? So let’s work together and see how we can make our own prequel game.

Before taking a look at how to run a prequel, I’m going to make a few assumptions here. First of all, I’m assuming that you’ve had a “source campaign” running for a while and that you’ve created enough lore and characters to draw from: to be able to create a prequel, you need some kind of original work first! Second, I’m also assuming that we are talking about a “prequel” purely in the manner of the Star Wars prequel trilogy: we are not talking about a series focused on the childhood of the current characters or about a distant prequel set in the Old Republic or even before that, but a prequel set one or two generations before the current series. Third: in an effort to make this article as useful as possible, I’m assuming that the prequel campaign is going to be either a one-shot game or a short campaign, but there’s nothing stopping it from turning into a long campaign or even completely supplanting your original game: it happened to me, and it actually was the best Star Wars campaign I’ve ever directed. But I’m being realistic: it’s hard enough to get a campaign running, so I’m assuming you will be more likely to run a one-shot between adventures. Most experienced GMs are not really going to need any of this advice, but I still hope that they will find a few useful ideas in here! » Read more..

Star Wars Overload – Better to Fade Away than Burn Out?

burnout-bp

Mike: A couple months back, Disney CEO Bob Iger gave a public update on the status of the Star Wars franchise, confirming that The Last Jedi isn’t being altered in response to the death of Carrie Fisher, making his oft-misinterpreted comment that the Han Solo movie will depict the title character “getting his name”, and much less reported but no less consequential, stating that discussions were underway for “another decade-and-a-half of Star Wars stories.”

This brief burst of newsiness was followed soon after by Celebration Orlando, which was of course followed by weeks of speculation on the new teaser and Luke’s fateful closing line. But while there’s been no shortage of new material this spring to go with the news, things at ETE have been pretty dry for the last few weeks. Speaking for myself, as a news junkie it’s been hard to devote much mental energy to Star Wars with so many major political developments going on here in the US—even as I slowly work my way through Thrawn and, currently, Rebel Rising. And while I didn’t attend Celebration myself, it’s not uncommon to hear talk of attendees needing a “Star Wars break” afterward, lest they end up in a full-bore burnout.

With potentially fifteen years of Star Wars filmmaking coming down the pike (if not more), burnout is a very real concern for fans these days—for some of us, maybe for the first time ever. To those of you who were at SWCO, have you found your interest slipping in the month since? And to all of you, do you find your Star Wars attention span to be cyclical, with periodic rest periods, or does it depend more on what content is coming out at a given time? Can anyone honestly say they’ve never felt genuinely burned out on Star Wars, even for a little while? Alternately, what’s the longest you’ve ever consciously stepped away from it? » Read more..

%d bloggers like this: