Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Podcasting Padawan

Along with the interwebs, this whole podcasting thing seems to be catching on. Indeed, my own Star Wars fandom has largely been guided and inspired by it, starting with the old Forcecast shows.  Things have since progressed with the splintering of that source of the Force into Rebel Force Radio, as well as increasingly popular shows like Full of Sith.

But if there is indeed one podcast that is remarkably in tune with my own approach to that long ago, far away galaxy, it has to be Coffee with Kenobi. It offers a friendly yet analytical approach to all the happenings when it comes to Star Wars, and is hosted by two of the nicest, most intelligent gentlemen in fandom – Dan Zehr and Corey Clubb.

They were kind enough to express interest in having me on as a guest to talk about my book, The Star Wars Heresies. Fortunately, they are far more knowledgeable than I concerning podcasting, and were able to edit together a fine show out of it. As for me, I’m just amazed I got Skype working at all. And I still haven’t listened to the whole thing, basically because I think I sound like an over-caffeinated Ewok or something. At any rate, it does offer a nice look at my work by two generous and enthusiastic professionals.

The entire episode can be found right about here

The second big bit of news I feel necessitates commentary is the decision by Disney and Lucasfilm to finally breathe fresh breath into the modern Expanded Universe, a topic of some controversy online. While it was something of a given that the new owners of the franchise would bring it into the fold of their own publishing empire, it has caused a considerable amount of angst because pretty much everything post-Return of the Jedi is going to be scrapped.  
Since you are reading a blog with Heresies in the title, I’ll be honest. This is the first move Disney has made that has endeared me to them since the cancellation of The Clone Wars. As more than a few fair have pointed out, it’s not that the EU stopped being canon this week, it’s simply that it was never canon to begin with. Personally, all I had to do was read about fifty pages of Timothy Zahn’s beloved Thrawn trilogy to figure that out. It never resonated with my own well-honed fanboy barometer. It wasn’t canon; it wasn’t even Star Wars, and had nothing to do with Star Wars.

It’s like I said at the beginning of my interview, much like Emily Dickinson’s take on separating the wheat from the chaff when it came to distinguishing what’s true poetry and what isn’t, I know it’s Star Wars when I feel as though the top of my head has been taken off. Needless to say, most of the modern EU has barely ruffled my hair. And if I’ve wanted to be particularly snarky, I simply offer my own book as a balm to all the controversy. It’s somewhat sad that I can state without a hint of arrogance that it has far more relevance to the galaxy that George Lucas actually created than half of what has gone on in the ever-expanding Expanded Universe over the past decade or so.

As noted in earlier posts, my main source of contention with the EU is the teeth-clenched dogmatism so many approached it with. It would be easier to pry open the jaws of a rancor than get them to relax their hold on the belief that what was simply started as a series of media tie-in books to be read for fun on rainy afternoons when no new films were on the horizon had become the Gospel According to Star Wars. No and no. The tail does not wag the Tauntaun.

As is my modus operandi, I simply always wheel this whole enterprise back to what it was originally intended to be. It is a mythology, not a religion. As such, whatever version of the story you’re listening to depends largely on whatever village you’re standing in at the time. So frantic arguments about canon and continuity are always somewhat out of place. As Joseph Campbell said, myth changes and evolves and that’s what Lucas has always done with the franchise. Canon debates are only necessary if this is about to evolve into a religion, as some fundamentalist fanboys would no doubt like it to do.

Not to mention it gets really boring and futile trying to fight over what “really” happened in fictitious stories set in a fictitious galaxy.

So maybe this Disney business has some potential after all. If they are really interested in something resembling quality control over this material, then more power them. For me the films were always be paramount over everything else, but I remain cautiously optimistic and willing to let the future reveal itself ...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Star Wars Heresies

… but were afraid to ask.

Like an aging pop star, I suppose it’s time to drag out some of my greatest blogging hits, or at least ones that I like the most. There are a couple of reasons for this.

One, I have done a lot of work on this thing which the various fans surfing in and out of this site might not be familiar with. Some of this has been published on other sites, but still ...

Two, I also do not really keep producing materials for this blog on a regular basis. My book drained an enormous amount of fuel from my tank when it comes to Star Wars. Not to mention all the reasons I outlined in my previous post on Christmas Eve.

However, not long after I posted I began to hear the Midichlorians whispering in my ear that there was still a considerable amount to say about this franchise, and chances were no one was going to if I didn’t. Those galactic muses are guiding me again, and some big projects may be in the works when it comes to my Star Wars scholasticism. Even now, it doesn't seem possible that I won't - at some point - be writing something interpreting the themes, symbols, and philosophies of Episodes IV, V, and VI. Just flipping through the Star Wars Frames book that I got for Christmas really started inspiring me again, letting me find what was left of my old voice or perhaps invent a new one. 

Peeps, I still absolutely love this stuff. 

Last time, I used a Doctor Who metaphor to talk about my transition, but it was not unlike Ashoka Tano at the end of The Clone Wars. She walked away from a dogmatic and bureaucratic Jedi Order, leaving behind the named and the known, with nothing left to do but carve out a new life for herself. That was very much me, abandoning my comfort zone until not really even being sure I had one anymore. But that’s what life requires of us, and that’s why the Jedi stance on non-attachment in an ever-changing, ever-transforming galaxy makes a fair amount of sense.

 Needless to say, if you enjoy what you read here, my book is the best way to go ….

But in case Amazon is sold out again and you’re not feeling the Force of the e-book, here’s some essays and editorials that I love from this blog. 


Reading The Force – This is basically an introduction to what I do and why I do it, as well as establishing that Star Wars is a language best when poetically interpreted. 


Deconstructing Vader – This is a great one that views Star Wars through the lens of Eastern philosophy, specifically Zen Buddhism. 


The Saga in a Paragraph – One paragraph from The Hero With a Thousand Faces, a lot of deftly chosen images from Star Wars, and yes, the whole story unfolds


Star Wars According to William Blake - A very similar thesis, only this time juxtaposing images from a galaxy far, far away beside the poetry of William Blake. 


How a Jedi Master Makes War - Still mourning the loss of The Clone Wars? Try out this study of the first episode, Ambush.  


Slower and Less Intense - Still not enough Clone Wars? This is an analysis of the character Tera Sinube in the episode Lightsaber Lost


 Lucas the Sell Out! - Tired of listening to the endless bashing of who art critic Camille Paglia refers to as the "world's greatest living artist"? Me too. Hint, the article is ironically named. 


Lucas Stole All My Money! -  Surprisingly enough, this article was also ironically titled. Think Lucas owes you something? Only from a certain point of view. 


Night of the Mindless Lucas Slaves! - After having the phrase "mindless Lucas slave" fired in my direction a number of times over the past decade or so, why not just embrace it? This rounds out the trilogy about why the Notorious GL is still a stand-up dude. 


Why Midichlorians Matter - An in depth analysis of why those microscopic little buggers make perfect sense in that galaxy far, far away. Plus one of my most well-punned titles. 


The Soul of Star Wars - And finally, some thoughts from me early on concerning the Disney buy out and the future of our saga. Not to mention my own particular take on what it all means to me.

P.S. And if you're int he mood for more reviews, this one courtesy of Bookgasm. The comments section is particularly interesting.

P.P.S. Also check out the brilliantly entertaining Coffee with Kenobi. This episode features not only Kenobi himself, but also a kind listener email concerning my book.