Sunday, September 13, 2015

Early Retirement - the Special Edition



So I was at Target this week, back from DragonCon and attempting to soak up some Force Friday fun, albeit a few days late. The decorations are pretty neat, particularly the beeping BB-8 and the roaring Chewbacca who greets you at the entrance. And who doesn’t love the First Order stormtroopers plastered to the front doors that you have to “Force Push” out of the way to enter?

(Although I will note, one Target boasted them on the doors you have to “pull” open as opposed to the ones that operate automatically, thus redefining the phrase “epic fail”)

Anyway, one little boy and his mother were having a fine time posing for pictures with the life-sized Chewbacca stand-up, all smiles and geeked out. It was just a very pure expression of fun and fandom, something often not to be found in our troubled, slightly mad, Internet era.

Likewise, there was none of the drama and politics my last rant and diatribe outlined in the toy aisle or in the Halloween section with all the new kids’ costumes. I doubt a single boy or girl in the toy department excitedly chatting away about the new displays were inwardly wringing their hands and existentially worrying that The Force Awakens is some kind of backhanded attack on the legacy of George Lucas because of the constant emphasis on practical effects in the PR campaign.

Perhaps a belabored point, dear readers, but one I’ve often pondered over the years. Seeing us frantically and angrily typing at each other, and just acting the way we fans do, would it be so hard to imagine that our younger fan selves would label their older incarnations as categorically insane? Have we just lost our way, as surely as the Jedi and the Republic? Is this really what it’s all about?

So I’ve written a book which, according to my publishers at DragonCon, has become a standard fixture at their displays at cons. I’ve shepherded this blog to well over a hundred thousand views (so sincere thanks for all the reading). But still, time for something new.

As Yoda said, twilight is upon us, and soon, light must fall. That is the way of things. The way of the Force.

If you’re wondering why I’m writing this at all, it’s just because there was so much frustration and negativity built into that last post, just as surely as Kylo Ren built a lot of anger and madness into that volatile crossguard lightsaber of his. And despite everything, it seems bad form to go out on such a dark side note. The basics are still intact, the online fandom is still unsalvageable, but hey, the good news is the drama and problems get smaller and smaller the less time one wastes on the Internet.

Still, as usual, I’m going to beat a dead bantha and deconstruct my feelings on this some more. I suppose I do owe at least that.

The Star Wars Heresies were born out of a very specific time and place in the history of George Lucas and Lucasfilm. It originated from the era framed by the special editions and prequels, that so often merrily maligned chapter in the Star Wars saga. Yet how ironic is it that this period – far, far more than the pristine, untouched original original trilogy – created and sustained the world we know today, the world where people began to definitively claim the title of Star Wars Fan? As in, “I am a Star Wars fan, this is my life, hear me roar”?

#Chewbacca-approved.

Maybe I’m still spouting heresy and nonsense, but face it. Before this era, the original trilogy was buried and largely forgotten. Honestly, even for me. This relaunch was largely the origin of it all.

The Star Wars Heresies also sprang largely formed from The Phantom Heresies, all the way back to Episode One. This was my first bit of professional (meaning paid) writing about our favorite galaxy, this long-running series of articles published on Space.com, which offered a fresh, indepth look at the prequel era. That seems like a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

But what an era it was! The special editions broke all box office records. The prequel trilogy did much the same, as well as, yes, win another generation of fans. Then there was the amazing run of The Clone Wars series. It was extraordinary. Star Wars redefined fandom as we know it. The toys. The games. The merchandise. The cosplay. And on my end, the academic criticism.

And it all came down to one man, George Lucas. The Flannelled One. Uncle George. The creator who exclusively owned it, lock, stock, and Tauntaun. It was Lucas Unplugged, an artist with no limit but his imagination and the work of ILM.

Pay attention, kids. It was utterly unique. And in today’s corporate-fueled atmosphere, it may not happen again for a very long time.

But even Lucas couldn’t stop the suns from setting. He sold Lucasfilm to Disney, gave all the money to charity, got remarried, and retired. No, I wasn’t consulted. And no, I can’t call him up and lure him out of said retirement. So the fact remains, there simply is no longer a Lucas to champion, nor his singular vision for the franchise.

For a long time, I felt tempted to retire too. I mean, exclusively, just completely withdraw from that one fixed star in my life. Or rather, that fixed Star Wars. Those were the real dark times, that black hole of secrecy and uncertainty and nothingness in a post-Clone Wars world.

The timing of all this was truly interesting. Keep in mind, not three days after I’d polished and edited and submitted the final copy of The Star Wars Heresies to MacFarland & Co., Disney bought Lucasfilm. Lucas was on his way out. The sequel trilogy was being made without him. The era my book was inspired by was inexorably ending, and with it, a lot of my personal understanding and interpretation of things.

It was big stuff, and most of you know it was a genuinely hard on me as a fan. Okay, it was hard in a lot of other, more important real life ways too, but still. There was a lot of change all the way around.

Yet, as Anakin so tragically failed to understand, as surely as the suns set, they do rise again too. After a year of fanboy soul-searching, I got with the franchise again. That second trailer sealed the deal. Of course, my fandom still occasionally got water-boarded by online arguments and anything concerning the King of Haters, that walking, talking bag of hypocrisy and idiocy, Simon Pegg.

In short, my fandom is still intact, but The Star Wars Heresies really are over, too tied to a time and place that have gone the way of the Old Republic. The problem I’ve struggled with on this blog is that it doesn’t make much sense for me to continue down this path. Plus, there are other things I want to do. And, you know, general busyness.

As Lucas sagely realized, it is sometimes necessary to let go. A lot of my writing of late honestly had very little to do with the original mission statement here. I may chronicle adventures to Star Wars Weekends or the events of the upcoming Star Wars Reads Day I’m orchestrating at my library, but I’m not sure how relevant it all is here, much less how “heretical.”

There is more writing I want to do, though in the teen fiction vein again, something with a sci-fi bent to it. And libraries. Working on it has actually been fun, something that became almost totally divorced from writing for me over the years. And even if I go off and write on Star Wars Rebels, or even the original and sequel trilogies, alas, this obviously isn’t the home for it anymore.

I will say the criticism I’ve produced still holds up. People still respond to it. While it isn’t going to happen due to lots of logistical difficulties on both sides, I was asked to participate in the promising The Prequels Strike Back documentary. At DragonCon, Vanessa Marshall, the voice of Hera Syndulla, was very enthusiastic upon hearing of my book, and even mentioned doing a feature on me in the Star Wars Insider. That probably won’t happen either, but I’m grateful for and honored by the attention. There are still shining points out there.

If I personally can claim any legacy from all this, I will assert the whole current movement recognizing “Star Wars as Poetry” is rooted mainly in my work, being both the impetus for my book, as well as me simply being the first I know of to put it out there.

As for now, I personally will follow Lucas’ lead. Again, he sold the franchise. He had a hand in appointing his successors. While I may not agree with it all, I am going to do my best to enjoy it. And with three months to go before The Force Awakens, I am happy to report, I’m succeeding.

(And for those of you who have a problem with me having fun with The Force Awakens, might I suggest you have far, far deeper issues to deal with than Mickey Mouse and the Force)

True, my DragonCon companion and I came at Force Friday a week late, but we had a blast the following weekend. Very few things make me happier than new Star Wars toys and merchandise. It all started with the action figures for me. I had Luke, Vader, Chewie, and C-3PO in my hand before I’d seen a single frame of any film. And at this point, it’s astonishing Hasbro can get products in the stores at all, but they have!

It remains borderline magical holding brand new action figures in hand after a long bounty hunt in the stores. I’m loving the Black Series Rey and Kylo Ren, even as anything Captain Phasma remains elusive. And that app-controlled BB-8 is frankly off the hook from what I’ve seen of it. God forbid, it’s going to be nice to be a mindless consumer and just geek out awhile.

(On the other hand, I’ve often considered Star Wars action figures the closest we contemporaries can score to the mythic totems and ancient statuettes of gods and saints and heroes. That hasn’t changed. It tugs at that very transrational core of us, much like the inspired rhythms of John Williams)

In closing, it seems to me we have a choice. We can all try to embrace this new era of the Wars, or let it go and leave. Just don’t twist into dark side haters haunting the shadowy corners of the Internet. Life is too short. Those of us who have been with it since the beginning sincerely deserve our enjoyment. Remember that.

So take heart. It you don’t like the current creative regime, that too will pass. Just rest in the knowledge that Star Wars is always going to be bigger than the Abrams’ and the Kennedys, maybe even the Lucas’. As Thomas Carlyle noted, no poet is equal his poem. And Star Wars is a poem, if not the poem.

For some reason, the iconic words of Obi-Wan Kenobi recorded in the holocron in the premiere of Rebels seem very appropriate to launch into hyperspace on one last time …

This is Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. I regret to report that both our Jedi Order and the Republic have fallen – with the dark shadow of the Empire to take their place.

This message is a warning and a reminder for any surviving Jedi: Trust in the Force. Do not return to the temple. That time has passed, and our future is uncertain. Avoid Coruscant, avoid detection, be secret …

But be strong. We will be challenged. Our trust. Our faith. Our friendships. But we must persevere, and in time, I believe a new hope will emerge.

May the Force be with you … always.



6 comments:

  1. jj Abrams still butchered star wars and Kennedy is a bitch and a hack

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  2. Your presence online through the years, and your book have been a gift, Paul. I hope you find enjoyment in all that comes next.

    Personally, I aim to give TFA a chance to entertain at least, but I expect ultimately to walk away.

    That's alright though, I was quite content for Star Wars to be done in 2005 with the release of Revenge of the Sith. More than content in fact. I like endings you see, and I liked that Star Wars had been completed. I still feel as though that's the case. The Clone Wars was an extra helping, an addendum that allowed Lucas and his collaborators to tease out certain elements of the saga for further exploration, and to just have fun, but it was never essential to me. The sale to Disney though, marked a definitive end point as I see it, and I'm not really invested any longer.

    Star Wars without Lucas holds no appeal I'm afraid, but like I say, that's fine. I have those six movies (and the Clone Wars), with which I have been fully sated. I've always been more of a cinema fan, a George Lucas fan, than I was a Star Wars fan anyway, so even if Lucas had have been the creative force behind episode VII I would likely have been lamenting his not dedicating those energies to something new instead (though I would certainly have taken an interest).

    I just wish that those now shepherding Star Wars would show more regard for the man that created it, without whom none of them would be doing what they've been doing these past three years, but here we are. What can you do?

    Enjoy your retirement Paul, and hopefully The Force Awakens too.

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  4. Yeah i'm also love this edition. Guys are you going to saw the new star wars movie that is released on the next weekend? if yes then why you waste your money in cinema you can watch the movie from our website at free of cost. Just visit here: Watch Star Wars The Force Awakens Online Free

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