In Defense of Things That Don’t Make Sense

Hilarious Abeloth IllustrationI’m going to shout it from the hills: I love the Bantam era. I love warlord and superweapon of the week. I love silly, disjointed things that years later, make us wonder what exactly we were thinking when we first read this. I love the things that don’t neatly fit into the greater Star Wars puzzle, and there is much to be said in defense of embracing the weird. We’re in a new era of Star Wars now, and with that comes all the unexplored territory. We don’t have to avoid the mistakes of Legends; in fact, I could happily argue that many of those mistakes are better in the long term.

One of the things that Star Wars fandom had run into, in the twilight of the Legends years, was quality issues. Ask a group of Star Wars fans about Fate of the Jedi and Crucible, and you’ll get a wide variety of (frequently negative) reactions. Sometimes people ask me about how I feel about Fate of the Jedi, and my response is usually along the lines of “I remember the hilarious Abeloth illustration that’s on Wookieepedia, that Daala is the worst politician alive, and that Luke and Ben went on a father-son trip that proved that Ben’s taste in women is no better than Luke’s had been.” That is possibly one of the sillier sentences I’ve written in a while, but let’s deconstruct that. What if we didn’t worry so much about things being silly or not making sense? What if wild plots could be the basis for a good story? Because there was a time when we really were thinking that way.

Many of the earliest Star Wars books are from a time when we had no idea about longer-term galactic history. Big chunks of galactic history were a complete blank, and the authors really couldn’t do much filling-in. We didn’t know exactly how the Old Republic fell until the Dark Nest trilogy was released, and of course now that we knew galactic history out-of-universe, it worked its way into Legacy of the Force. But we did fill in about twenty years of galactic history with no good references about what came before. And that led to things that just didn’t make sense in the longer run. Read More

Aftermath and its Place in Continuity (spoilers!)

(This is not a spoiler-free review.)

At last, post-ROTJ content. At last, we’re back in a time in the Star Wars galaxy that I’ve so missed and been so eager to return to.

aftermath-nrlogoI can see twelve-year-old Rocky, at the local public library, grabbing Heir to the Empire off the revolving book rack, reading a few pages, and then that night diving into the book and getting thoroughly hooked. I can remember how it felt to be back in a galaxy at war, one where the nascent New Republic had a chance but not a definite one, where the Empire was something of a wounded animal but still a dangerous one, where we didn’t know much about the parameters of the universe we were in, where every new character and plot twist was met with delight. Where I couldn’t wait for the next chapter.

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Looking to the Future

Disclaimer: I will not give you spoilers for new Star Wars content, especially with the amount we’ve been getting lately.

twin sunsetWe are on the cusp of an awakening. Okay, fine, that was a shameless ripoff from the teasers, but the point stands. We are about to have a large amount of Star Wars content released rapidly in the lead up to The Force Awakens. I’m excited, of course; as a post-ROTJ fan in my heart and soul, we’re finally getting into my favorite content. The things a lot of us have been waiting for. Even for the casual fans or those who aren’t especially familiar with Star Wars, suddenly it’s everywhere around us.

Therefore, we’re about to learn a lot. Maybe it won’t seem like a lot; honestly the amount of information we’re getting has been strictly controlled. We won’t have a detailed state of the political galaxy available immediately, nor do I expect it any time soon. We have what, thirty years of history to cover? That took nearly twenty years of publishing previously, and I for one am glad for the empty space.

I’ve previously written in praise of the unknown and hidden, the concept that we don’t have to have all the facts. There is a good deal to be said about letting a story be told slowly. What do we really know about TFA’s plot at this point? Not very much, really. We know we’re seeing our heroes from the OT, we know of a few we aren’t seeing, and we know the character names of the newcomers. But for major plot details, there still is very little. There are some sources out there that have been decently reliable in the past, but we still have no idea what we’re walking into on December 18th. That itself makes me all the more excited; it’s been ages since I’ve gone into something Star Wars-related and not really known what I was going to get. It’s a completely new experience and that feels amazing. Read More

Modern Mythmaking, Star Wars Style

Ziost_citadel_Book_of_SithsThe very essence of a myth is how it is not set in stone. Stories change as they are told and retold, and multiple versions of one story is considered perfectly reasonable. In the present, there are plenty of franchises that are very well-known, stories that almost anyone can recognize a few references from even if they aren’t in the fandom. Star Wars is very much one of those- by now, pretty much everyone has heard a few of the iconic lines, and the main characters and imagery are known worldwide. We can even argue that by now, Star Wars has transcended the “film franchise” status and is now a modern-day myth. It’s not just the prominence of the Star Wars franchise, but the very narrative structure. Even recent developments, like the Legends announcement, actually fit well with the modern-myth status.

The hero’s journey, as described by scholar Joseph Campbell, was one of the most powerful influences on Star Wars, and we have every reason to think that the sequel trilogy will fall into that same pattern. Maybe our hero is going to be Rey this time, but the very pattern of the hero’s journey is probably going to stay intact. If we’re talking about myth-making, maintaining the narrative structure is going to ensure it. It’s simple- an ordinary person gets a call to adventure, and often reluctantly accepts. They go off on a long journey that often includes some very dark times, a somewhat ‘journey through the underworld,’ and eventually emerge triumphant. This is an excellent format for storytelling, and it gives Star Wars a framework that fits its setting perfectly.

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The Void: Exploring the Galactic Unknown

Space is huge. It’s quite a bit larger than we are able to think about, and the concept of a light-year is truly incredible. How far can one travel in one year? Not even halfway to the next star over. But what about universes where faster-than-light travel is normal, where one can go across the galaxy for dinner if one’s hyperdrive is fast enoughCorellia_Antilles_Atlas, but there are still places too remote to easily access? There’s a fine balance in science fiction of allowing technology to be advanced enough to travel through space, while maintaining a sense of exploration and wonder. Star Wars accomplishes this feeling well, just by looking at a map of the galaxy.

Everyone knows where you start in the galaxy. The Core Worlds are the first settled, easiest to find and get to, and probably have most of the galaxy’s population. Beyond that, the Colonies, Inner Rim, Expansion Region, and Mid Rim show different stages of galactic settlement and exploration. As you get further away from the Core, there are fewer named planets and hyperspace routes. By the time you get to the Outer Rim, named worlds and known routes are few and far between. Within the Outer Rim, we see Wild Space and the Unknown Regions, areas that show you have truly left the civilized and mapped galaxy. The very description of a corner of the galaxy as the “Unknown Regions” is more than just flavor text. It’s a very accurate description of a part of the galaxy that is functionally a mystery. Best of all, the name Wild Space, applied to the furthest corners of the galaxy, is so remote that there is just simply nothing there. It’s a huge galaxy.

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