Archive for Guest Editorials

From Lira San to the Kessel Run: Star Wars and Relativity

ghost-starcluster

The Solo film is approaching fast, with our first canonical look at the Kessel Run that made the Millennium Falcon famous. We have multiple confirmations now that the Kessel Run is made hard to navigate by black holes in the vicinity, among other things, and this wouldn’t be the first time the new canon has shown this kind of environment as a navigational hazard. Indeed, the heroes of Star Wars Rebels faced such phenomena in their journey through a star cluster, in the second season episode “Legends of the Lasat”.

Black holes and their surroundings are the topic of the astrophysics research I do for a living, so I’ve wanted to talk about this since before I finished writing about Concord Dawn. Because I absolutely loved this scene. Accompanied by the marvelous music of Kevin Kiner, magnificent visuals depict a maelstrom of gas and dust that swirls around a number of bright, hotter spots where the black holes whose gravity dominates the entire region might be located, but they are left unseen. Indeed, the fun thing about these objects is how small and compact they are compared to their mass: the spherical event horizon of a black hole as heavy as our entire Sun would be a bit less than six kilometers wide. When the camera in the episode is pointed sideways, away from the accreting dust, blue streams of ionized gas can be seen coming out of the biggest hot spots. Some in-falling, disintegrating objects, probably asteroids disrupted by tidal forces, complete the picture. I liked it so much that I remarked at the time how, given its description in Legends sources, this could have been a great depiction of the Maw, the black hole cluster located near the Kessel Run.

But there was more. Despite the term “black hole” appearing in concept art, Hera says “imploded star” instead. They probably changed it to make it sound more exotic, but in doing so they actually increased its accuracy! The explanation is as follows. Natural ways to end up with a cluster of black holes involve massive stars exploding as supernovae. Stars tend to form in clusters, and the heavier they are, the faster they burn their fuel and the shorter they live, so massive stars don’t get very far from each other before dying. And if some of these had more than twenty-five times the mass of the Sun, they could leave black holes behind as their cores collapse (or implode). However, the formation of those stars will also produce many more of lower masses. The ones with more than eight times the mass of the Sun will live a few million years longer and their cores will also implode, but this time creating neutron stars. You would also expect some of these in a cluster of black holes like this, and “imploded star” includes both. » Read more..

What Kenobi Can Learn From Kenobi

obiwan-kenobibanner

Like many Star Wars fans, I think it’s high time for us to have ourselves an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie. There are so many areas worth exploring with this character, some of which had been explored and then wiped clean by the Disney buyout. I know I’d personally love to see more stories that focused on Obi-Wan and Bail, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, Obi-Wan and Satine, and Obi-Wan’s Padawan days – all stories that I’m interested for a variety of reasons.

Ultimately though, what most have been clamoring for is some Tatooine-based, post-Order 66 drama. And I cannot bring myself to disagree, especially since my two favorite pieces of Star Wars fiction take place in those years. “Twin Suns” is obviously off the potential-Kenobi-movie table, for a number of reasons, not the least of which would be the need for a digitized Alec Guinness Obi-Wan, à la Rogue One‘s Tarkin, for the entire movie. Additionally, “Twin Suns” functions first and foremost as an Ezra Bridger AdventureTM, which requires the context of Star Wars Rebels, and that’s not even getting into its deliberate parallels to previous episodes in the show or the intense symbolism from The Clone Wars.

Kenobi however…now there’s some ripe pickings for a movie.

The Legends novel by John Jackson Miller takes place shortly after Obi-Wan’s arrival on Tatooine and his delivery of Luke to the Lars homestead. While it’s only sparingly told from Obi-Wan’s perspective, the things he says and does, and the things he does not say or do, along with the parallels to other characters’ lives, all manage to paint a perfect picture of how he is coping with the aftermath of Order 66 and Anakin’s betrayal. The stakes in which he finds himself involved are on a distinctly small-scale – the internal drama of a moisture-farming community – but it all becomes a reflection of the fall of Anakin and the fall of the Republic. The pieces that we do receive from Obi-Wan’s point of view are his meditations with Qui-Gon Jinn. From there we see how he’s struggling with Anakin’s betrayal, his own failures, and the need to set aside his Jedi mantle for the time being.

While I don’t expect Lucasfilm to pluck the plot wholesale from Miller’s novel, there are core elements of the story that deserve to be realized on the silver screen. » Read more..

Nobodies: How the Jedi Have Always Come From Nothing

kylo-handreach

“They were filthy junk traders. Sold you off for drinking money. They’re dead in a pauper’s grave in the Jakku desert. You come from nothing. You’re nothing. But not to me.”

When many heard these words in The Last Jedi, they saw a turning point in the Star Wars saga. No longer was it a tale of legacy, of “mighty Skywalker blood”, but instead a story of how the Force could be found to belong to all, and even a “nothing” like Rey could be attuned powerfully to the Force. It was a sentiment that stirred many people jaded with Star Wars.

It was a sentiment that has been present in many parts of Star Wars, both canon and Legends, both recent and old. Today I come to praise two oft-derided things, the Jedi Academy trilogy and The Phantom Menace. Rey, though a great example of a Jedi and a great counterpoint to Kylo Ren, was far from the first Jedi whom Ben Solo might have called “nothing”.

In the Jedi Academy trilogy, when Luke Skywalker seeks out those Force-sensitive people who have not been purged by the Empire, he goes to faraway and obscure places to find them. Although Luke does initially frame this as looking for Jedi descendants, he also states that he seeks those known as miracle workers, or the incredibly lucky. He later explains:

“Everyone can use the Force to some extent, but a few have a stronger innate talent.”

He also says:

“Reach out and feel your mind, feel your body, feel the universe surrounding you. The Force stretches around and through everything. Everything is a part of everything else.” » Read more..

No Easy Wins: The Case For Draven

draven

Going into Rogue One my only thoughts on the character of Draven had to do with the since-debunked speculation that he was really Agent Kallus from Star Wars Rebels. After walking out of the film, however, I found that I was fixated upon the Alliance general. Many fans I have talked to say that they disliked the character, or that while they understood his purpose and saw him as a necessary irredeemable jerk they still did not have much love for him. I was honestly surprised by this reaction because for me he was incredibly interesting and I wanted to see more of him as soon as possible.

Throughout Rogue One we see a lot of shades of grey within the Alliance. Jyn, Saw, Cassian, and Draven are the biggest examples of this. Within each of those two duos is one protégé and one old warrior who has given everything to this war dating as far back as the Clone Wars. Saw and Draven are incredibly fascinating to compare to one another. Each man is an embodiment of the shades of grey within the Rebellion, and yet they are vastly different people.

Saw was hardened due to being a ground-level revolutionary. He lost his sister Steela early on and has sworn to do whatever it takes to win. As he explained to Jyn in Rebel Rising, “Steela was the best part of me”. When Saw’s new war against the Empire began, “I was smarter that time. I didn’t make the same mistakes I had when Steela was still alive.” Saw never got to stop fighting. He never stopped being the revolutionary with nothing to lose, and that shaped him into a brutal, violent soldier who would do whatever it takes even if he had to be a monster. Saw lost his sister, his soul, and has to force away his daughter to protect her. » Read more..

Twin Institutions: Luke, Leia, and the Dueling Legacies of Vader

luke-firstorder

When no one answers the Resistance’s call for reinforcements on Crait in the final act of The Last Jedi, one can reach for a number of explanations: the chaos following the destruction of the New Republic government, individual systems’ lack of weaponry given the disarmament acts following the Battle of Jakku. One possible factor, however, plays into the heart of one of the sequel trilogy’s chief concerns, the idea of legacy. In the novel Bloodline by Claudia Grey, the truth of Darth Vader’s progeny is revealed, causing a massive scandal that forces Leia to leave the New Republic senate and tarnishes her name. That level of public disgrace could have easily endured the six years leading to the Battle of Crait, potential allies’ silence translating to a deep sense of distrust.

The weight of this scandal is something Leia must seemingly carry on her own—Luke’s place in the galaxy as a legend comes through unscathed, and again arises the idea of legacy. The starkly different effect this news has on Luke and Leia’s public standings is influenced by which institutional legacies they embody—the Jedi or the political—and reflects the splintered nature of Darth Vader’s identity over the course of his life.

Luke Skywalker’s reputation precedes him by light years, tales of heroism during the Rebellion having solidified into legend and spread across the galaxy, from the destitute stable children in Canto Bight to the isolated planet Jakku. The inherent resilience of legends aside, Luke’s own is given an immense amount of power by the nature of the position he steps into over the course of the Empire’s fall: the galaxy’s only Jedi. “Jedi” is a loaded title, evoking not only the idea of a time before the Clone Wars and the rise of the Empire but also a potential return to it. Of course, that era was not without its problems, nor were the Jedi themselves, but nearly fifty years and countless Imperial-inflicted traumas lie between Order 66 and the parentage scandal. That is more than enough time and fodder to build the rose-colored glasses making the Old Republic out as an ideal, especially when the generation who actually lived through it has mostly passed. » Read more..

%d bloggers like this: