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Queen’s Peril – An Interview with E. K. Johnston

How does a fourteen-year-old girl become queen of an entire planet?

This is a question many of us have had since being introduced to Queen Padmé Amidala in The Phantom Menace. For years, Padmé has enjoyed a celebrated position among fans, especially women who grew up with the prequel trilogy. She was a fiery character, equally at home making passionate arguments in the Senate as she was shooting a blaster at bad guys, she wasn’t afraid to stand up for what was right, and she had an absolutely killer wardrobe. But despite her dedicated fanbase, it took twenty years for Padmé to star in her own novel.

Last year, I talked about how much of a revelation Queen’s Shadow was, and how incredible it was to finally get to read a story that not only gives one of my favorite characters her long-overdue chance in the spotlight, but was the rare story that focused entirely on women and their relationships with one another. It’s not a surprise to learn that author E.K. Johnston has been a fan of Padmé since the character’s debut, because her love for Padmé and the handmaidens came through in every word and detail.

While Queen’s Shadow focused on Padmé transitioning from Queen of Naboo to galactic senator and dealing with the fallout of her actions in TPM, Queen’s Peril goes back farther to focus on her coming of age on the political stage as she becomes queen, builds her inner circle of handmaidens and learns to navigate her personal life amidst the major galactic events beginning to take shape around her. E.K. Johnston was kind enough to sit down with us via email to discuss Queen’s Peril, writing prequels, how her fanfiction background aids her as a writer, and the importance of the teenage-girl experience.

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Ended, The Clone Wars Have

What a journey we’ve had from 2008 to now! Through a cancellation, a surprise release of a sixth season and story reels, and a few arc adaptations to comics and books, The Clone Wars has at last reached the finale that we’d been teased about for years. Staff writers Ben Wahrman, Sarah Dempster, and myself (Abigail Dillon) got together to talk about following the show over the years and how we felt it ended.

Sarah: Hilariously, what got me to actually watch TCW was learning that Maul was coming back. I loved the character but didn’t want to jump in in the middle of Season Three so I figured I should start from the beginning. I was in high school when the movie came out and I mostly ignored it; I was in a lull in my Star Wars fandom and some random cartoon movie didn’t interest me. And I regret to say that I was definitely one of those “too cool for school” fans who thought Ahsoka was annoying, the show was dumb because Anakin had a Padawan, etc. etc. It wasn’t until the whole show was on Netflix (and had been canceled in the wake of the Disney acquisition) that I really started watching it while I worked on costumes in the lead-up to Celebration Anaheim in 2015. But I still think it’s funny that my interest in it started out purely because of Maul; my brand is strong!

Abigail: Look, if fandom isn’t about being On Brand, then what actually is its purpose? For me, getting into TCW was a way for my brothers and I to reconnect when they came back from college over Christmas. We set up a laptop to watch the show on StarWars.com as we built a blanket fort and played with LEGOs. That’s really my earliest memory of watching it, and while I liked it, liked Ahsoka and Rex, and caught up with it all when it was on Netflix, I didn’t become a massive fan until “Twin Suns”. That got me back into Star Wars as a whole in a big way and turned me into a Maul fan so…I guess Maul’s to blame for two of us being here.

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The Pitch: Rey’s To-Do List

The Rise of Skywalker happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It is already over. Nothing can be done to change it.

So, what now? Rumors abound, but outside of season two of The Mandalorian and a slate of books and comics that looks pretty similar to last year’s (at least until they spill the details on Project Luminous), exactly what form mainline Star Wars content will take remains an open question. The Old Republic, or maybe the Even Older Republic, seems to be the most likely next step, if only to give the sequel cast some time to breathe and perhaps age up a little.

But the galaxy didn’t end just because the Skywalker saga did; the story of those characters will go on, first in fanfic and almost certainly in officially-licensed material of some sort, someday. Let’s dwell for a moment on what that day might look like.

Rey may be the last Jedi, but even the relatively tight confines of the sequel films have established at least two other Force-sensitives in Finn and Temiri Blagg, better known as Broom Boy. Potentially even Jannah’s entire company of former stormtroopers depending on how strictly you want to interpret ROS’s nudges–imagine for a moment a new Jedi Order whose first class is composed almost entirely of First Order stormtroopers! It’s a hell of a thing. Between that and Rey’s own training seeming to have come at least as much from the original Jedi texts as from the Skywalker twins, you’ve got a recipe for a very different Jedi Order.

And they’ll have their work cut out for them. Another side effect of the saga’s tight-focus ending is a lot of lingering threads and unanswered injustices in the galaxy: slavery, both biological and mechanical; a newly-familiarized Unknown Regions with untold mysteries and threats, the ignorance of which allowed the First Order to rise in the first place; and even within the quote-unquote civilized galaxy, political divisions have been exposed that make the Empire look positively centrist. Not only are the possibilities endless, but it strikes me that they’re uniquely interesting in their potential to underline the ways in which the old Jedi let the galaxy down in the name of holding it together, and the lessons Rey might have learned from them.

So with that in mind, what’s an established, persisting injustice in the GFFA that you think an ideal NJO should take on? If you’re Grand Master Rey, what would you do in your first hundred days?

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Second Look: Middle-Chapter Romance – How The Last Jedi Holds The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones Accountable

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

As regular readers of the site may know, I do not interpret The Last Jedi as romantic. However, I understand many of the reasons why others do, even if I don’t agree. Romance has always been a part of Star Wars, and many relationships end up being mirrors of each other. For my part, I can read romance into The Last Jedi from that angle, though it’s not necessarily a positive spin. With parallels to the previous Star Wars romances visible, I can see this film as a commentary on The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones.

Movies are a type of communication. And like any type of communication, movies can communicate their ideas well, poorly, or anywhere in between. So when I speak about how the two previous “middle chapters” of Star Wars fail in their romances, I am not discussing the idea of Anakin or Han as romantic leads, nor am I critiquing fans who see either of them (or Kylo) as just that. I’m discussing how the film communicates those ideas of romance. This is a Doylist discussion.

The Last Jedi in general is a wonderful exercise in Watsonian and Doylist interpretations. “Watsonian” is from the universe: John Watson explaining the events of his adventures with Sherlock Holmes. “Doylist” is from the meta: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle explaining why he wrote those events.

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Second Look: How The Empire Strikes Back Ruined Star Wars

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

“The saga comes to an end”, announced the trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. It isn’t the first time we’ve heard that.

In 2005, Revenge of the Sith was marketed with the tagline “The saga is complete,” and the first six movies are still available in a blu-ray box set titled “The Complete Saga”. The sequel trilogy was an unnecessary addition to the story of Anakin Skywalker, and the prequels themselves were unnecessary additions to the story of Luke. What is now a multi-generational saga, with a final episode which will define the legacy of the Skywalker family, was, just a few years ago, the story of the rise, fall and redemption of Darth Vader; and a few years before that, it was the hero’s journey of a farmboy.

Nothing, however, changed what Star Wars is more than The Empire Strikes Back. With Episode V, we gained a blockbuster franchise, a sprawling family saga, a modern myth. But we also lost something – a weird, fascinating high-concept movie, an episode of a Flash Gordon-style serial that the audience would stumble upon without ever knowing what came before, or what came afterwards; and the completion of a thematic trilogy of films by a young filmmaker which dealt with leaving home and going out into the world.

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