With today being the grand holiday of Star Wars day*, I found myself thinking about falling in love with series whether said series were made of books, movies or TV shows. I was late in coming to love Star Wars. Up until the winter of eighth grade, my knowledge on the subject consisted of those ridiculous clips on Muppet Babies where Kermit or Gonzo would open up a closet and a Star Destroyer would be firing away in the middle of battle. To show how far out of the loop I was, when we had to create a matchmaking program in BASIC in eighth grade computer class, I couldn’t figure out who Jabba the Hutt was and why he had two ts at the end of his last name instead of one. Science fiction, let alone space opera, was not my strong suit by far.
Then at my grandparents’ that winter, I caught part of what I think was the Empire Strikes Back. It piqued my interest a bit, though I still didn’t know what was going on. I ended up at Borders with my Christmas gift card to spend (this store is now sadly closed). I wandered out of the children’s section and its then quite small u shape of young adult books and into the fantasy and science fiction section. I poked around a bit and ended up with the novelization of the three original Star Wars movies and Heir to the Empire.
With that small start, I fueled an addiction that lasted for years. The movie novelizations were fun, even with sometimes random discussions like Luke Skywalker asking Ben Kenobi what a duck was. It was Timothy Zahn that really hooked me though. Smaller characters were expanded and new ones were born. There was Mara Jade, the Hand of the Emperor, charged with killing Luke. There was a mad Jedi clone. Luke had to stumble along without the grand advice of Kenobi. There was Winter, who is amazing. She’s smart, intelligent and strong, but not in the having to pound everyone in the dirt sort of way (Hey, the fact that she later marries a Rogue Squadron member may bias me a bit). I was always sad when she sort of abruptly vanished when the New Jedi Order arc took off, but I get ahead of myself.
I was insatiable in my search for new books to read. I plunged onward through the Jedi Apprentice books by Kevin J. Anderson. Kyp Durron spoke to me as a character. I’m not sure why, given the amount of death and destruction he wrought, but he did. Maybe it was the kid growing up with nothing getting seduced by evil; he walked into it (This now makes me think of Hollywood and children celebrities). There’s a passage that can still make me twitch at imagined pain when Kyp jams his body into a capsule to survive.
The Courtship of Princess Leia retains a fond spot because of how Luke used the Force while being on the verge of death (He is on the verge of death rather a lot in all these books) and the not so smart actions of Han Solo while buying time for the others “You wouldn’t do anything to my teeth, would you?”. I read the odder stand alone books. There was Splinter’s of the Mind’s Eye where I had to tell myself over and over again that Luke didn’t know Leia was his sister. This one came out before The Empire Strikes Back was even in theaters. Vonda MacIntyre’s The Crystal Star was good in the sense of watching Luke get all twisted around to act out of character and him not being able to see it.
With the advent of the X-wing books, I was beyond hooked. My favorite original characters came from the writing of Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston. With Stackpole, I got Corran Horn – pilot, detective AND Jedi (later). Wedge Antilles came to life more than he had before (and became fodder for a college speech on heroes). He later wrote I, Jedi, one of my favorite first person novels ever. The first part of that book is the Jedi Academy trilogy from a different viewpoint. It also has one of the best recommendations for an interrogation ever with “Think Hutt. With eyebrows.” With Aaron Allston, I got the Wraiths, the quirkiest group of almost flunkies to become a squadron. Character interactions were excellent and there were pranks everywhere. Yub Yub, Commander!
If it came out, I had to read it, even the titles were not always to my liking. There was the dreadful disappointment of reading The Blackfleet Crisis when I thought I was going to learn about Luke’s mother (This was before the prequels came out). There was getting frustrated when facts from Young Jedi Knights seemed to contradict what was in Planet of Twilight. There were books and characters that I originally enjoyed and later lost taste for (Callista). There was fury at the death of Chewbacca when the New Jedi Order took off. Character deaths should hurt. However, I disliked that the book in question read like a textbook to me.
There are scenes that struck me with their power. James Luceno has a scene where Han is so breathtakingly distraught after the passing of Chewbacca. There’s the moment where a supposed murder victim walks into the trial for his death in another. There was the excitement of Timothy Zahn returning to write Specter of the Past. There’s Exar Kun getting taken care of by the trainees. There’s the moment when the Solo children have their robot explode and young Anakin proclaims “Really melty now.”
From 1994 to 2002, I read all the ones that came out. What motivated this binge in the Star Wars universe? Much of it came down to the pursuit of characters. I like revisiting characters and seeing how they change and grow. I liked the sense of adventure and the mythos. Calling Star Wars modern day mythology is nothing new, but it was part of the attraction.
Another big part of my addiction was that one of my riding friends also read the books. We’d chat away half hours at a time about the books on the bus ride two and from camp. We even started a shared story in the ‘verse. I wrote Corran (of course) and she wrote Boba Fett. Then there was the big long story I was trying on my own with Star Wars characters. Somewhere I still have those pen and pencil smudged notebooks.
While it has been a long time since I read a Star Wars book for the first time (I still go diving for the X-wing books from time to time), I took great enjoyment from those books. There was the excitement of seeing the Special Editions of the movies come out, often in the company of my riding friend. I was incredibly excited for the prequels (and always sadly disappointed. Too much expectation can be a bad thing). I even gave a thirty minute presentation in Spanish Class on Star Wars (and grumbled a lot about translating last names like Skywalker in it). A then boyfriend gave me a giant cut out of Amidala from his work. I took the Diplomatic Corps test on Star Wars, played trivia games and more. When I got Star Wars Trivial Pursuit from a different friend, nobody would play me!
I wandered away from the ‘verse over time. I wasn’t as invested in newer story lines, and the books came out too fast for me to keep up with in college (Plus, shockingly, there were many other books I wanted to read!) I missed my favorite characters as they got older and weren’t always the primary people any more. I couldn’t handle the Solo children falling apart. Yet I’m not sure I’m really ever over the addiction because there’s a lot of trivia and remembered story still in me. I still talk about it with people even though I don’t watch or read it much any more. I’m very grateful for the authors it introduced me to because some of them then became my favorites for their original work.
So is there a verse that you love, that you push others to read? Is there one you no longer follow but shaped you as a reader, a writer or a fan?
*Maybe it is only my Twitter and facebook that have been replete with “May the fourth be with you” remarks, but I doubt this is the case.