Missing the Forest Moon for the Trees: Star Wars Films Aren’t Just For Us

If there’s one thing we as Star Wars uberfans have in common, it’s myopia.

To a degree this is pretty understandable. I’ve been guilty of it and odds are I’ll be guilty of it again in the future. Folks that are ultra-invested in Star Wars fandom kept the franchise alive during dormant periods between films. During those dormant periods, content that was released tended to be catered more towards invested fandom. Star Wars during these stretches felt like it was For Us rather than more casual fans or people who simply enjoyed the movies. In essence, we often feel like we’re owed something for Star Wars having a pulse through the mid eighties to late nineties and 2005-2012.

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On the Well Actuallying of The Force Awakens

My first thought when it was announced that J.J. Abrams was returning to direct and co-write Episode IX was “Argh, I really wish a woman had gotten this.” And yeah, while I completely understand the production realities that necessitated Lucasfilm asking a familiar face to return to get things back on track, I was bummed. 

My second thought was “We’re about to revisit the Well Actuallying of The Force Awakens, aren’t we?” My Twitter timeline bore that out in about two minutes of me waking up on Tuesday.

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Luke Skywalker and the End of the Jedi

“I know only one truth: It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

The first trailer for The Last Jedi ends with Luke’s shocking declaration about the future of the Jedi Order – that there is no future. After all his explorations of the galaxy, all the knowledge he’s gained about the Force, he’s concluded that the Jedi must die out. This is a result of Kylo Ren’s fall to the dark side and Luke’s subsequent hermitage/depression. He blames himself for what happened, and believes the Jedi Order will keep on destroying itself if it continues. He has become jaded, cynical, and fatalistic.

Or so some people believe. I, on the other hand, have much different thoughts. Luke isn’t calling for an end to the Order because he’s given up. On the contrary, he knows exactly what he needs to do now, and Rey is the only person who can help him.

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Broaden Your Diversity Horizons

Insisting that only women/creators of color should write women/characters of color is part of the problem.

It’s an inevitable protestation brought up every time a comic company announces a new comic about a character that’s not a white guy. Most recently, the internet is all aflutter because Brian Bendis (who happens to be white) is writing Riri Williams, the black teenage girl who’s going to be the new Iron Man. Some parts of the internet want to see a WOC on the book instead. While I can most certainly appreciate the sentiment behind the movement, I find it to be a little more harmful than helpful for two very big reasons.

First, it sends the message that only women should write women or POCs should write POCs. For some books, having creators who have had the same life experiences as the characters is absolutely invaluable. Very few people would disagree that the life experiences of Sana Amanat and G. Willow Wilson do not play a fundamental role in creating Kamala Khan. Ta-Nehisi Coates also brings a unique point of view to his Black Panther book. So yes, there are absolutely some books that require a creative team with that intimate knowledge and strongly benefit from it. Every book doesn’t. In a way, it’s almost insulting to those everyone involved. Writers are supposed to have imaginations. If they only wrote about things they specifically experienced, fiction would be terribly boring.

Second, I truly believe that it actively discourages white male writers from creating characters of color. Bendis and artist Stefano Caselli get credit for creating Riri and hey, this is hardly the first time Bendis has created a young black character to take over the mantel of a white guy… Miles Morales anyone? Objectively speaking, why would someone want to create a diverse character when they know they’re just going to be faced with backlash for wanting to write a character they’ve made? I’m not saying we need to give white guys a gold star for making diverse characters but maybe a little credit or a nod of appreciation wouldn’t hurt.

The solution isn’t to stop asking for more women and minorities to get jobs creating comics (and everything else) we love so much. Instead, the solution is to ask for it more broadly and praise it when it happens. We should celebrate the work of Marjorie Liu on Han Solo and Becky Cloonan on Punisher a hell of a lot more than we do. To me, assignments like those are more groundbreaking than if Liu had been asked to write a Rey book or Cloonan a Wasp book (although I would not object to either of those.) Start bringing up the names of female and POC creators on your wish lists for books like Batman and Wolverine and not just Wonder Woman and Spider-Woman. And yes. I hope that in fifteen years, there’s going to be a young black woman writing the adventures of Riri because the character inspired her as a kid.

But (and this is a big but) let’s not pigeonhole or discourage writers from writing diverse experiences. We should absolutely continue to make our voices be heard in asking for more diversity amongst both the characters and creators. Change happens because people speak up and show that there is a demand for a certain type of story or character. Hold companies accountable but do so broadly and not just in a narrow lane.

What It’s Like to Watch All 7 Star Wars Films in a Row

When you first buy a ticket for the Star Wars marathon that leads up to The Force Awakens, you’re probably on an adrenaline high and thinking how incredibly awesome it will be and how you can’t wait for December.  And then you realize that you’ve just agreed to sit in a movie theatre with a hundred other nerds for 21 hours.  Twenty. One. Hours.

Uh-oh.

12:20 AM: Your alarm goes off and you roll out of bed, somehow putting on the clothes you laid out the night before.  You’ve had about 3.5 hours of sleep but it’s going to have to do.

12:50 AM: You arrive at the theatre, armed with your supplies for the day.  The pillow is useful.  The blanket remains shoved in the bag and your ‘I Survived the Battle of Jakku’ sweatshirt is quickly ditched because it is hot as hell already.

1:00 AM: The Phantom Menace starts!  You roll your eyes as people start mocking trade negotiations.

1:02 AM: You down your first frappachino of the day.

Somewhere between 1:10 and 3:10 AM: You’re stupidly happy because you forgot how much you love TPM.  People make Jar Jar jokes but that’s nothing new because you’ve been on the Internet.  Padmé Amidala is the Queen of the Galaxy and holy crap, that freaking Duel of the Fates!  You also roll your eyes and glare at the people who laugh when Anakin is sad as he leaves his mom and contemplate punching the guy next to you for being a dick.  It’s okay though.  They won’t drag you down!

3:12 AM: The credits roll and you make a desperate dash for the bathroom but then realize that there was no need because for once, the line for the ladies room is the short one.  This is going to be good.

3:18 AM: You try and offer the folks running this thing a smile and a kind word and let them know that you appreciate that they are doing everything they can to fix the air issue since you’ve just witnessed them have the same conversation 10 times in a row with everyone complaining, Continue reading

Luke Skywalker and the Secret Ninja Jedi Order

R2D2-and-Luke-Skywalker-in-The-Force-Awakens

This post contains spoilers for the “Journey to the Force Awakens” books and comics. 

Regular readers and listeners of Tosche Station already know my feelings about Luke Skywalker. He’s by far my favorite character in the Star Wars universe, and the reason I got invested in the Expanded Universe and read tons of books set after Return of the Jedi, even when I soured on certain events. I needed to know what happened to Luke after he became a Jedi. I wanted to know if he trained other Jedi, got married, and had children. We got answers in the form of books and comics: Luke started a Jedi Academy on Yavin 4, married Mara Jade, and had a son named Ben. He rose to the rank of General, resigned his commission after the Battle of Mindor, and dedicated his life to rebuilding the Jedi Order. His life wasn’t all roses, however. He had a brief dabble with the dark side about six years after the Battle of Endor, and many years later his own nephew/apprentice became a Sith and killed his wife.

luke-skywalker mindorBut the Expanded Universe is now Legends, and we have a new canon. New films, depicting the events 30 years after Jedi. We never thought this day would come. Now everything we once knew about the Galaxy Far, Far Away has been altered, and we’re left to wonder about the events that happened between Jedi and The Force Awakens. We’re just now getting some answers in the form of AftermathShattered Empire, and other books in the “Journey to The Force Awakens” line. But they’re just drops in the bucket, and only succeed in creating more questions. Then you add in the marketing for TFA, which has been very light on story but high on visuals and Force themes. We’ve seen Han, we’ve seen a tiny bit of Leia, but no Luke whatsoever (at least from the front).

Which leads to the most common question echoed about the internet: “Where is Luke Skywalker?” Or, better yet: “What the hell has Luke been doing in the galaxy?”

I don’t know what Luke’s been doing for the past 30 years, but I’m pretty certain he’s up to something hugely important during the events of TFA. And my favorite theory, the one I’ll cling to until December 17 (and probably even after that, even if I’m proven wrong) is that Luke is off the grid, training a group of secret ninja-like Jedi Knights.

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The Dragon Con Aftermath Panel

Two weeks ago, I had the honor of moderating the Aftermath panel with author Chuck Wendig. I was super excited for this event because, as I explained at the start of the panel, I love Star Wars, I love the Expanded Universe, and I love Chuck Wendig’s writing.

I was nervous, of course, as I always am before panels. Even though 2015 marked my third year (!!!) doing panels at Dragon Con, and even though I’ve been co-hosting the podcast for over 3.5 years (!!!!!), I still worry about freaking out while talking in front of a crowd. Not only that, but this was my first panel interviewing someone famous and my first panel without Brian on stage as well. I was all on my own. Could I handle the pressure? Would I say something really dumb? Would I have to run off the stage to barf?

Thankfully, none of those things happened. (Of course they didn’t. Anxiety sucks!) And most of that had to do with the fact that Chuck Wendig is a hilarious and awesome human being. I’d had a few Twitter exchanges with him prior to the convention, and met him the night before the panel at his Barnes and Noble signing. It was comforting to know he was just a regular guy, and that he would be just as tired as I was come Friday at 8:30 pm after not going to sleep until some godforsaken hour that morning. (We were up all night to get Star Wars!)

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The Expanded Universe Should Only Expand, Not Change

I love the Expanded Universe. I love that it exists. I love that there are books and comics and even video games to fill up my Star Wars obsessiveness in the absence of film and TV shows. I love that Heir to the Empire jump-started the fandom way back in 1991. I love that the barrage of books and comics kept the fandom going strong during the 1990s. I love that the EU always drove the Star Wars story forward, no matter what was happening onscreen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: without the EU I would not have become a Star Wars fan.

I don’t always like the way people treat the Expanded Universe. I hate that people look down upon it. But I also dislike when fans treat it as just as important as what’s onscreen. This might seem odd, coming from an EU fan like me, but it’s true. I hate when people take something that happened in a book and assume it will have huge consequences for the Sequel Trilogy. Yes, everything is canon now, but that doesn’t mean every story holds the same weight.

Nor should they.

(spoilers for Star Wars #6 and #8 under the cut)

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Separating the Art from the Artist: Why I’m Torn About Lords of the Sith

Lords of the SithI don’t want to feel conflicted about this, but there’s no way around it.

It goes without saying that an LGBTQ+ character being introduced into the Star Wars story group era canon is unequivocally a good thing. Any step to diversify one of the most prolific and powerful pieces of entertainment in the world is welcome. Despite this obvious good news, I can’t help but be wary. Not because I don’t doubt there are good intentions by the story group and the folks at Del Rey, but because the author who is introducing this character has a pretty dubious history when it comes to speaking about diversity.

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