Archive for Scotch Tape and Popsicle Sticks

Stages Within Stages: The Minority Report, Year Two

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Ever since 2009, I’ve conducted an ongoing study of diversity in Star Wars fiction—first (and still) at the Jedi Council Forums, then here at Eleven-ThirtyEight. Over time, I developed a means of “diversity scoring” various stories based on the demographics of their casts, and began looking for trends and precedents in the franchise, for good or ill. One huge thing I’ve learned from this process is that it’s very, very hard to quantify diversity in a useful way; people inclined to argue with me will often yell “Quotas! One of everything!”, which is an easy logical leap to make but hardly a solution. Not all roles and stories are created equal, so simple math is at best a limited measure of work’s value.

This became especially clear to me a year ago, when scoring the first several works of the new Star Wars canon. While at first glance these stories had established a number of remarkable things like an all-female stormtrooper unit, a black main character for a middle-grade series, and several LGBTQ characters in a single book, these bold steps weren’t showing up in the scoring—if anything, the raw figures were slightly worse than they had been in my studies of Legends material. While the average score has ticked down a little over the last year—from 67 to 60—that feeling has mostly held up. » Read more..

Let’s Dispel With This Fiction That Mon Mothma Was Wrong

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Star Wars fandom, and this site in particular, have spoken at great length over the last year about the course charted by the New Republic from Endor through to the destruction of Hosnian Prime. Is the New Republic actually better than the old one? Is it different enough? Should it be different? We have an unusual frame of reference for these questions, because aside from a few hints in Aftermath, pretty much the first thing we saw the New Republic do was get blown up in The Force Awakens. Since then, both stories have gotten a lot of new elaboration and context, but we’re still debating the big question—could the destruction caused by Starkiller Base have been prevented somehow?

Way back in March, before we had either Bloodline or Life Debt to consider, Ben Crofts tackled this question head-on in his piece Fantasy Foresight—basically arguing that it would have been impossible for the New Republic to eliminate the vein of Imperialism that became the First Order without becoming just as bad as the Empire itself.

Surely they could have acted differently than they did, though, right? In last week’s guest piece What the New Republic Should Have Learned From the Old Republic, Chris Wermeskerch looked specifically at the example of Kashyyyk, whose liberation Mon Mothma argues against in Life Debt, and cites several examples where even the Old Republic, corrupt and bureaucratic as it was, managed to act in the interests of small, oppressed populations. Isn’t there a big grey area, Chris wonders, between absolute pacifism and rampant militarism? » Read more..

The Expanded Universe Explains, Vol. XIII – Young Han Solo

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The Expanded Universe Explains series has had an interesting evolution over the last few years; originally it was a compendium of lots of actual questions posed by my friend Pearlann; once the reboot happened I then moved on to detailing stray movie references that had been told and retold in Legends multiple times (and thus, were especially in need of a reboot). That strategy eventually led me to one of the biggest messes of all—the theft of the Death Star plans.

Perhaps not all that coincidentally, that low-hanging fruit became the seed (ha, fruit pun) of the first Star Wars spinoff film—Rogue One. As such, interest in that particular piece has remained quite steady over the last eighteen months as more and more people become curious about the story. That recently led me to the conclusion that the next spinoff film, its premise also rife in Legends, was a worthwhile topic for an EU Explains, and so here we are.

24. What is Han Solo’s pre-A New Hope backstory?

Well, for starters, there’s a whole bunch of it—two entire novel trilogies, plus any number of scattered bits and pieces. If you really want to get the full young-Han-Solo experience, you’re in luck, as both the Han Solo Adventures, a self-contained trilogy by EU VIP Brian Daley, and the much more recent (and expansive) Han Solo Trilogy by Ann C. Crispin are among the best of the Legends material out there (while managing to be very, very different kinds of stories), and unlike a lot of my recent topics here, they’re pretty damn good at consistency—Crispin’s trilogy covers effectively Han’s entire life pre-ANH, meaning that at one point Han basically takes a leave of absence from his own book and the plot continues without him while the events of Daley’s trilogy are taking place. » Read more..

Why the End of Darth Vader is Great News for Star Wars Comics

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No, not the end of Darth Vader the character—I just couldn’t resist using that amazing image by Phil Noto. I’m talking about Darth Vader, the ongoing comic series by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca. When the series kicked off in February of last year, Gillen was very clear that this book had a specific story to tell: how its titular character went from his embarrassing defeat and loss of the Death Star in A New Hope to perhaps the height of his power, leading Death Squadron in the hunt for the Rebel base in The Empire Strikes Back. Earlier he likened the arc to that of Frank Underwood in House of Cards, and while that series has gone to great lengths to keep its, ahem, house of cards standing much longer than the story it’s based on, Gillen announced last month that he had gotten to his endpoint faster than even he had anticipated:

“…we’ve always said all the way through, from Darth Vader #1, that this was a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. And we kind of looked where we were after Vader Down, and we realized we were probably actually nearer to the end than we thought we were. And it was a situation where we were like, ‘Okay, it’s better to actually end this story in a way which we think is the most effective. We don’t want to pad it out extraneously.’ That was the kind of thing, we were like, ‘Oh yeah, this is the end of this particular story,’ in which case it’s a natural place for Vader to move on.”

While I’m a big fan of Gillen’s writing and Vader has often surpassed Jason Aaron’s Star Wars series over the past year, I met this news with a certain amount of relief. In the world of comics, especially from Marvel and DC, a creator getting to tell the entire story they set out to tell—and then, maybe just as importantly, actually ending the series at that moment—isn’t as common as you might think. So knowing that Gillen was allowed to wrap things up in a way that doesn’t just tee up a new creative team a month later is a big sign that Marvel’s Star Wars line is being handled in a healthy way, and makes me more excited to see where they go from here. » Read more..

Fatal Faves: Shadows of the Empire

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A long time ago, in another millennium entirely, I had only just discovered Star Wars via the Special Editions and I was hungry for more. The Paradise Snare, book one of A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo Trilogy, was my first SW book, but I didn’t actually choose for it to be—it was the summer of 1997, my fifteenth birthday was coming up, and I asked my mother to get me what seemed like the most exciting, natural entry point into the world of the Expanded Universe. No, not Heir to the EmpireShadows of the Empire. I don’t even know how I actually managed to hear about it, since I didn’t own a single piece of merchandise at this point, but somehow there were enough remainders of its huge multimedia bonanza the previous year that it got through to my young, ignorant brain that this was an Important Story.

Exactly how hard my mother looked for it—it would’ve been out in paperback by this point—will forever remain a mystery, but one way or another she eventually settled on Paradise Snare instead. I can only imagine what was going through her head as she browsed through things like The Crystal Star and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye before deciding for some unknowable reason that that was the right call, but in retrospect, it actually was a pretty good call. Not only was the HST a great story, but Paradise Snare being set as early in the timeline as it was led to me reading the entire Bantam era pretty much in chronological order, which had a huge impact on how I ultimately became familiar with stories like Dark Empire, the Corellian Trilogy, and yes, Shadows of the Empire. » Read more..

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