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What Star Wars Fandom Can Learn from Isaac Asimov’s Robot Canon

I am a woman conflicted.

I was relentlessly eager for Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice, but once it was released, my enjoyment of the work was overshadowed by my childhood love for Jude Watson’s Jedi Apprentice series.  

I feasted on the rumors and then the announcement of an Obi-Wan Kenobi series, but at the same time, I’m not ready to say goodbye to John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi.

I want to set Del Rey up on a blind date with author Ann Leckie to bring the Young Satine Kryze novel we deserve into being, but I dream of this while clutching the Schrödinger’s canon of A Star Wars Comic‘s Satine issue to my chest.

I am not unique in these anxieties. Even if it’s not these particular characters and these particular stories, everyone has pieces of Star Wars that they want to see the light of canon. Perhaps it’s something that people want to see make the jump from Legends or theories that they want confirmed. Engaging with stories is always personal, and while critiquing the work we consume is important, there’s also a space where we must be willing to let go and accept the contradictions between our expectations and the stories created by other, equally invested people.

A good practice ground for engaging in these contradictions is the robot stories of Isaac Asimov.

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Cover Art of Myths & Fables

Myths & Fables & Bedtime Stories: On Reading the Tie-In for Galaxy’s Edge

“George, you can type this s[tuff], but you sure can’t say it!”

Harrison Ford

First night at Celebration Chicago, my dad and I plopped on the floor of our hotel room, pizza in hand, and cracked open Master & Apprentice, freshly purchased from the Del Rey booth. Trading off eating and reading at each double-paragraph break, my dad somehow always ended up with the sections filled with Kitonaks, Shawda Ubbs playing Growdi harmoniques, and long strings of Huttese. We finished the first chapter that evening and did not continue this activity the following nights. Partly, we were simply too exhausted by the end of each day’s events, but also – as good a novel as it is – Master & Apprentice was simply not written to be read aloud.

In contrast, when I decided to try reading aloud a single story in George Mann’s Myths & Fables, by the second page, my tone had taken quite the dramatic turn. By page three I was up out of my chair, pacing the apartment. Page five had me gesticulating with my free hand like a bard with an audience gathered about a tavern’s hearth.

Now this is a book tailor-made to be read aloud, beside a fireplace or at the foot of a bed.

Spoilers and Direct Quotes Ahead

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The Asexual Awakens – An Interpretation of the Journey to Adulthood

“Every Generation Has A Legend”.

That we fade from Rey to these words in the Rise of Skywalker teaser is of cultural significance: that a woman would define a generation. In the exhibit hall at Star Wars Celebration, the declaration drew a thundering howl of approval from the audience. However, I found myself affected for another, more personal reason. When examined through a queer lens, Rey’s journey from “no one” to “legend” can be interpreted as the acceptance of one’s aromantic and asexual orientation.

The path of the Jedi is one that’s long been associated with adulthood, and the burgeoning maturity of our leading characters. By their powers through the Force, we see our own adolescent journeys amplified. All of our emotions and choices – for good and ill – are made physically manifest as these characters form into Jedi or Sith, the adults they will become.

Most of our heroes actively pursue their paths of dark or light. Those that need extra prompting are usually granted it by the loss of a parental figure, frequently by the death thereof. It’s a metaphorical shedding of childhood to take their first steps into the larger world of adulthood.

For Rey, this aspect of childhood was shed long before we meet her in The Force Awakens. Yet she doesn’t immediately embrace the path of the Jedi laid out before her. She rejects it to the point of running away from the first offer of a lightsaber. This carries into other areas in her life: avoiding job opportunities, the chance to have her own ship, and other milestones that could define her adulthood. She keeps trying to press pause on her own life.

In our world, society likewise marks our paths to adulthood. We have achievements like driver’s licenses, certain levels of education, employment, or housing. Emotional milestones like one’s first love or sexual awakening which lead to socially-treasured events such as marriage or the loss of virginity. The lack of any of these is usually interpreted as an adulthood on pause, the indicator of something childish, repressed, or stagnated.

Rey keeps delaying her journey as a Jedi because she doesn’t see herself as one. It’s how I once felt I was holding myself back from maturity because I wasn’t matching the narrative of adulthood that I was watching play out around me. It’s how I felt before I embraced my identity as aromantic and asexual.

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Ahsoka in the promotional image for season 7

There is No Precedent, There is Peace – Expectations for The Clone Wars Season Seven

The Siege of Mandalore is upon us at last!

Canon’s first reference to it was back in 2005, though Mandalore may not have been the intent at the time. In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin refers to “the Outer Rim sieges” from which he and Obi-Wan had been recalled to rescue Palpatine. Ahsoka and Rex would later tie this reference to Mandalore in Star Wars Rebels. Rex mentions the siege by name, and Ahsoka speaks of the last time she saw Anakin before he rushed off to rescue the Chancellor. Maul is added to the mix with the familiarity of his “Lady Tano” nickname, a connection made explicit in E.K. Johnston’s novel Ahsoka.

In 2016, Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo gave us an unprecedented level of detail in the “Ahsoka’s Untold Tales” panel at Star Wars Celebration, revealing that the Siege of Mandalore had been planned to be the true finale of The Clone Wars. We have had long years of references and teases, with the major beats of the story established in a piecemeal way that we usually don’t get from Star Wars.

As such, I admit that I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the Siege of Mandalore would have in store for us. I was eager to see it, but I’d given up on the idea of being surprised by it. Then Celebration Chicago happened, and in one panel, I was forced to reconsider everything I thought I knew about the resurrected Season Seven:

“When I got the script for this stuff and finally could read what the Siege of Mandalore was all about, I was shocked. And I mean shocked. I don’t mean, ‘You guys are gonna really like it.’ No, I mean like I was shocked. I’m glad I’m sitting down. Are you sitting down?” – Sam Witwer1

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  1. Star Wars: The Clone Wars Sneak Peek Panel 2019. []

Age of Republic – A Nuanced Kaleidoscope

Panels from each Age of Republic issue

“My thoughts were in turmoil.
I can’t allow this to be done.
The Second Law of Robotics tells me I must follow orders and stay in the niche.
The First Law of Robotics tells me I cannot harm this tyrant who wishes to destroy me.
Must I obey the laws?”

– Isaac Asimov, “Cal,” Gold.

My entry into science fiction fandom was shepherded by a pillar of the genre: Isaac Asimov. It’s been a while since I’ve actually picked up one of his works, but you can still see the shape of his influence in my reading habits today. Namely, I have him to credit for the array of short story collections gracing my shelves. I, Robot was the first anthology I ever read, and from there it was a series of dominoes leading to a diet of short stories and anthologies.

There are gems to be found in anthology collections. When multiple authors are gathered under a single cover, such as Unnatural Creatures, we can explore variations on a theme. How does each author interpret the topic at hand? Answering this is a kaleidoscope of ideas. When it’s the work of a single author, such as I, Robot or Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, we get targeted explorations of the theme with deliberate nuance.

Age of Republic is an anthology that gives us the kaleidoscope and the nuance alike. It’s a work of art, a collection of individual stories beautiful on their own, but which spark to new life when seen in comparison with the whole.

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