In honor of May the Fourth, this is a pair of editorials where the editor and publisher reflect on one of their favorite multimedia franchises.
By Joshua Rivera, Managing Editor
Like every pop-culture-inclined 30-something, I’ve been a fan of science fiction my entire life. In addition to being a graphic designer and editor of The Belton Journal, I’ve also been a freelance tabletop role-playing game designer. I first became involved with that as a contributor to the Aethera Campaign Setting, a sourcebook that met its lofty $50,000 goal on Kickstarter back in 2015. Aethera is a book about a universe where a moon was stolen for unknown reasons, and the galaxy’s sun, the titular Aethera, was a font of magical energy. It was a dieselpunk setting, in which the technology and aesthetics are similar to the early 20th century. Androids played in jazz bands, crime organizations built cities on asteroids, and everyone is reeling from an all-encompassing conflict akin to World War I. Now, I bring all this up to mention that a copy of this book was actually shipped to Skywalker Ranch, the legendary campus of Lucasfilm, the studio that brought us Star Wars. It is in my eternal optimism that a copy of the book that includes my work resides in the Lucas Research Library, inspiring the next iteration of Star Wars material.
That may or may not be the case, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say Star Wars was influential on me growing up. It’s a space opera that pits mystical warrior poets against the tyranny of a sadistic empire possessing immense power. Its villains are often masked and shrouded, devoid of a human face. Our heroes were a ragtag group of rebels, including peasant farm boys, suave bounty hunters, regal princesses, and large, furry men. Only by having faith in the power internalized within him, can the Force work through protagonist Luke Skywalker so that he can attain victory. It leaves an impressionable message on a kid: the weirdos and outcasts can save the galaxy, but only through believing in themselves, and their own latent power within.
Between 1983’s Return of the Jedi and 1999’s The Phantom Menace, Star Wars as a franchise was left to languish in uncertainty with over a decade of no films on the horizon. So, Del Rey Books, Bantam Spectra, Marvel Comics, West End Games, Lucasarts, Bioware, and Electronic Arts were among the publishers and creators who kept these stories alive in official tie-in novels, comic books, tabletop games, and video games. This is when things got weird and exciting.
Leia Organa and Han Solo would have twins with an early penchant for getting kidnapped. Luke Skywalker would duel with and later fall in love with, a former imperial assassin who he would have his own child with. A blue man named Grand Admiral Thrawn would keep our heroes at bay with chess-like cunning. Boba Fett totally survived falling into the Sarlacc Pit. The Yuuzhan Vong were a warrior race from another galaxy entirely that almost brought the Star Wars galaxy to its knees.
A lot happened beyond the movies we were accustomed to. It was the first time that I got the idea that there could be these sprawling fictional universes that anyone could potentially contribute their own stories and characters to. There was a whole galaxy to play with. It was empowering! This isn’t even getting into the fan projects. There were scores of fan-produced short films, fiction and animation to sink our teeth into. Actually, right out of high school, I was an assistant stagehand on a short film based on Jedi in high school. I’m not sure of whatever became of it.
However, for all of their creative energy, the Star Wars fandom has been, at times, one of the worst in the industry. Jake Lloyd, who played a young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, was mercilessly bullied in school, leading up to his early retirement from acting. Ahmed Best, who provided the motion capture performance for Jar Jar Binks in the same film, was the target of harassment which led to depression and suicide ideation. Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose Tico in The Last Jedi, was harassed to the point where she abandoned social media. With the callousness with which some fans treated those involved with their beloved franchise, simply because they weren’t completely happy with the films they were involved in, it makes one wonder just what the hell series they were fans of in the first place. That toxicity isn’t Star Wars. It’s a surface-level obsession used to justify being horrible to others.
So, with all this in mind, on this May the Fourth, I would invite you to think of other messages this beloved series actually imparts. There is benevolent energy flowing within us all, waiting to be tapped. Obstacles that seem massive and insurmountable can be overcome. While risks may sometimes have to be taken, recklessness can lead to disaster. We can find meaning in honoring the legacies of those people who’ve left an impact on our lives. And of course, sometimes, our love can guide those we once thought were lost (even if there are a few Sith Lords who really are irredeemably evil). Even the old Jedi texts won’t tell you anything new you don’t already know in your heart.
By David Tuma, Publisher
I grew up watching Star Wars like many old folks my age. I am an avid reader and devour history books. I picked up a book called Allies 10 or so years ago. I basically just picked it up and read the back. It had Luke Skywalker and the Sith working as a team to defeat a monster.
Since that time, I have read 40 or so Star Wars books. They are both inspirational and sad. Not everybody makes it. Han and Leia have three children: twins and a son called Anakin. One of the twins turns Sith and the other twin is sent by Luke to kill her brother. This is after the Sith twin kills his wife.
Not everybody makes it in the real world and Star Wars is no different.
The depth of the world created by George Lucas is simply amazing. It tells you how it all ends and how Luke’s descendent finally kills the One Sith. He appears at the end of the series Fate of the Jedi.
There is a planet of Sith discovered in this series. I was really looking forward to a three book series on Jiana Solo the twin of Han and Leia who kills her twin brother on Luke’s orders.
Disney purchased the rights and all that ended for a time I reckon. They haven’t continued the story or expanded the universe from what I can tell. Everything is on the people who grew to love as kids. The names are the same…that is about it.
The movies are good, but I have no clue what they are doing. Luke never ends up on an island and he is anything like what they portray in the movie.
In the books, Han doesn’t get killed by his son. Jiana becomes the most powerful Jedi as Luke retires.
One of the most fascinating scenes is Boba Fett hanging upside down arguing with Tahiri Veila. Fett is trapped and waiting to die. They end up fighting together for a while against the monster Luke and the Sith are trying to kill. Fett appears throughout the many books and is not somebody to mess with. The three book series on Han Solo is amazing.
The books are inspirational. It is the depth of the world and the sacrifice so many make for others that brings you hope. In our world of so many are me, me and me it makes for a good read. The evil in Veila’s world is just that, evil. The bad guys are more than just Sith.
It gives us examples of the price of making the wrong choice. The sacrifices good people make for others. Their world is both uplifting and inspirational.