Archive for Simple Tricks

On The Front Lines – An Interview with Dan Wallace

onthefrontlinesFew Star Wars fans need an introduction to Dan Wallace. Over the course of two decades, Dan has been one of the undisputed kings of worldbuilding, lore, and back history for the Galaxy Far, Far Away. In the old Expanded Universe, Dan’s Essential Guides were truly essential reading for fans who longed to know more about the characters, species, and worlds of the Star Wars universe. This trend continues in the new canon, with the book Star Wars: On The Front Lines.

Released this past week in the US, On The Front Lines is an up close and personal look at the major battles that defined the Clone Wars, Galactic Civil War, and the new war between the First Order and the Resistance. Dan was kind enough to take some time to discuss this book and one of his upcoming works, Journey to The Last Jedi: The Rebel Files. Without further ado, let’s get into the interview!

First off, thank you for your time, Dan! This is your first foray back into traditional guidebooks for Star Wars in a few years, correct? What was the main driver behind this guide and what was the development process like?

Yes, this is the first Star Wars reference book I’ve worked on since Ultimate Star Wars in 2015. But I’d done many reference books before then, everything from kid-friendly warfare guides like Star Wars: Battles for the Galaxy to dense, lore-heavy tomes like The Essential Atlas. So writing this was like putting on a comfortable pair of boots. » Read more..

Second Look: Forty Years of Inspiration—From A New Hope to Rogue One and Beyond

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

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When I woke up this morning, I tossed aside my A New Hope-themed comforter. In the shower, I lathered up with Suave for Kids – hey, it was my only option for finding shampoo with Kylo Ren on it, isn’t it? Before leaving for the morning, I brushed my teeth with Colgate for Kids featuring Rey and BB-8. As the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars approaches, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on what the franchise means for me – and what it can mean for others.

One of the most powerful aspects of literature, in my mind, is its ability to be pedagogical. That is, fiction can teach us and change us. No fiction has shaped my life as utterly as the Star Wars franchise has. There are times I wonder what kind of person I would be if I had never seen Star Wars. Asking this aloud prompted my roommate to note that I wouldn’t have any t-shirts, at least.

But I think there are a few other ways it has taught me and changed me. First, Star Wars taught me that ordinary people can do great things. Growing up, I wasn’t really the most confident person. I wasn’t the best looking, nor did I really apply myself to my grades as much as I could have. I wasn’t good at sports, and I needed remedial band practice between regular band practices. I think this caused a lot of existential despair in me, for a long time.

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Second Look: Everybody Lives – Rebels and Character Death

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

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Star Wars Rebels has just wrapped up its third season with the biggest Empire-versus-Rebellion showdown we’ve yet scene from the show. Prior to the episode, speculation swirled around the promised battle, with many wondering just exactly how the rebels we know and love are going to make it out of thione. And, inevitably and tiresomely, spirited discussion sprang up around which Ghost character would die in the ensuing conflict.

It’s not the first time there has been speculation around a major character dying in the show. Like clockwork, the closer we get to a season finale, the more discussion there is about why someone on the Ghost needs to bite it. Rex and/or Zeb needs to go out in a blaze of glory. Kanan needs to die for pathos and so the fandom can make tragic fics about Hera. Ezra needs to die because of a thousand and one reasons (the main one being that the majority of the older fanbase finds him irredeemably annoying). They all have to die because we don’t see or hear anything about them in the original trilogy. Inevitably, it all comes down to fans wanting to see that things are different, that the rebels have finally faced a serious threat and come up short and now have to find a way to overcome.

And yes, that’s certainly a good (and necessary) narrative to explore. After all, it’s not exciting if your heroes never face any serious challenges or defeats. But why is it that we automatically go to “major character death” as the best way to show the severity of a threat or to shake up the status quo?

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Second Look: Tales from the Journal – On Storytelling and “Canon”

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

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“Originally, I was trying to have the story be told by somebody else; there was somebody watching this whole story and recording it, somebody probably wiser than the mortal players in the actual events (…) the stories were actually taken from the ‘Journal of the Whills’.”

George Lucas – Star Wars, The Annotated Screenplays

The Journal of the Whills occupies a strange place in Star Wars lore. Initially part of George Lucas’s early drafts and referenced in the novelization of A New Hope, it then disappeared from Lucas’s work almost entirely (though he did return to his “Journal” notes during pre-production on The Phantom Menace, and considered referencing a “Shaman of the Whills” in Revenge of the Sith). The idea has seen a resurgence of a kind recently, though, with its reference in the novelization of The Force Awakens and with Baze and Chirrut, the mysterious “Guardians of the Whills”, in Rogue One.

Though Lucas did not make the Whills an explicit part of the story, instead developing the idea into the Force, the concept of the story being recorded in an ancient Journal, from which he is retelling it, is something he never quite let go of. In 2005’s The Making of Revenge of the Sith, Lucas revealed that the story was told to the Keeper of the Whills by R2-D2, 100 years after Return of the Jedi. The ongoing use of the introduction “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” – a modern “once upon a time” – reminds us that Star Wars is a fairy tale, a myth that is being retold to us, and that this is how we should look at it

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Second Look: Mandalorians in Rebels – From Traviss to TCW and Back Again

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

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Ever since Boba Fett first graced screens, whether you count the Holiday Special or The Empire Strikes Back as his debut, the Mandalorian visage, that “T”-shaped visor, all-encompassing armor and jetpack with weapons strapped across every extremity, has intrigued people. From that initial appearance, with as little time spent on him as there was, a whole subculture of the Star Wars fandom grew, even before anyone really knew or codified exactly what “Mandalorian” meant. It was the mystery that drew people in, the very Star-Wars-fan idea of taking something that looked cool and sounded cool and latching on to it, filling in the gaps in the existing storytelling with our own ideas.

Since then, there have been several waves of Mandalorian backstory fleshed out, both canon and not, but there has been a main, consistent drive through almost all of them: a warrior culture. In the grand tradition of dozens of other fantasy and sci-fi franchises, the Mandalorians became a Proud Warrior Race, with honor, a clan-based social hierarchy, and a thirst for battle as the cornerstones of their society. This led to problems, of course, because what little we know of Boba Fett showed a man very different from that, and the idea of him being an outlier or social outcast was established early on.

Thus, Mandalorian culture left him behind and continued to grow and evolve through its different portrayals, typically in novels and comics. But things did not really start taking off until Jango Fett, Boba’s father, came onto the scene in Attack of the Clones. In establishing Jango’s backstory, the ideas of Mandalorian terrorist groups like the Death Watch, who took the ideals of their culture to their most violent extremes, and of more honorable groups like the Protectors, were first really presented. Also, and just as important in the long run, was the ideal of family.

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