Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Star Wars Chronology Project: Five Years Later



Though it may seem like I’ve completely abandoned my quest since I haven’t posted in a full year, believe me dear reader I have not.  I have plans for the Star Wars Chronology Project – plans I’ll let you in on a little later in this post.

In early July last year I decided to write my own piece of Star Wars fan fiction.  It was where my creative impulses were pulling me and I decided to follow.  A full year in and I’m still writing, and having a blast.  Like all my writing projects, I’m not as far along as I thought I’d be, but this summer I’ve been fairly productive, only because I took some advice from Robert Mullin he unknowingly gave me.  On one of his Facebook posts he posted something like ‘If you wait for the right conditions to write you’ll never get any writing done’.  I had fallen into this trap and was always waiting for the right conditions to write, and of course, those conditions never came.  Interestingly, when I looked up where this quote came from it’s originally from Ecclesiastes 11:4-10. 

So this summer I decided to embrace the chaos of my busy home.  I planted my laptop on my kitchen island, and I now write my fan fiction in spurts and  bursts – between diaper changes, prepping meals, breaking up fights, playing secret agent, playing Pok√©mon (which I’ve become quite good at) going for “woks awond bok” (walk around the block) with my daughter, or just otherwise doing my best to be present, there are those moments where the egg is boiling and all three are hypnotized by Toupie & Binoo and my wife is knitting and I can get some writing in.  It may only be five minutes, or maybe a half hour in the afternoon, but surprisingly I’ve been very productive in those small moments of time.

Regarding my fan fiction – the creative impulse that has put the Star Wars Chronology Project on the back burner – I feel confident that I’ll have it complete before the new year.  I want to have it done before Celebration 7 (which at this point I still intend on attending) because I want to have the Star Wars Chronology Project back up and running by then.  I think I need to do a little self-promotion, and Celebration 7 is probably the best place to do that.

If you’ll indulge me, I want to let you know what I’m writing about.   Without giving too much away I’ve decided to do a framed narrative.  I had two competing stories going on in my mind and I decided to link them.  The outside narrative will take place a few generations before the Battle of Ruusan, while the inside narrative takes place sometime between 25,000 BBY and 24,000 BBY – I don’t have an exact date on the inside narrative just because of the nature of it.  I want to include some art with it as well, but ultimately I don’t think I will.  I haven’t quite figured out how I’ll go about it.  I might just go to deviant art and peruse some of the fan fiction art pieces there and proposition some artists to see what they’ll charge. As it is, things turned a corner this summer and the writing is going very well.

So – we experienced the Great Schism, did we not? 

I hereby call it the Great Schism of 2014, where almost all we know and love about the Star Wars universe has become apocryphal writing.  We knew it was coming, but it still came as a shock. 
I want to highlight three responses to the Schism:  Joe Bongiorno’s, Eric Geller’s, and Tim Zahn’s.  If I was to apply a pithy line to each of these men’s thoughts on the new continuity, Bongiorno’s would be “Via la Revolution!”, Eric Geller’s would echo something similar to the immortal words of Kent Brockman “I for one welcome our new insect overlords”, while Zahn’s would be something like “Keep calm and Star Wars on”.

The response I most emotionally identify with is Joe’s.  You can read it here.  He basically states that this new canon that is being constructed will be no safer in 20-30 years as the original “official continuity” was, and that Disney perpetrated a grand insult on those of us who have been supporting the EU over the last 30 years, and I agree with Joe.  As one of my buddies said: “If you can't write a good story in the confines of the "expanded universe" then you can't write a good story period.”  Reading Abel Pena’s AMA, he made a comment regarding the West End Games’ D6 role-playing game:
“Even though I wrote a lot for Wizards of the Coast, my favorite incarnation of the Star Wars role-playing game will always be West End Games'. They just got the license at the right time, when no one was doing anything with it and went nuts exploring every nook and cranny of the galaxy. Just look at the order of battle in the Imperial Sourcebook. The galaxy always feels limitless, raw and fresh when I read those books, even now.

The idea I want to focus on in Pena’s comment is the description of “the galaxy always feel(ing) limitless, raw, and fresh”.  Indeed, I think this description can go beyond just West End Games’ contribution to the Star Wars universe, and include the entire EU.  The idea that the EU somehow restricts storytelling in the Star Wars universe post ROTJ is ridiculous.  There are a plethora of stories that can be told within the confines of the EU which can “preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience”.  My honest gut reaction to this is that they (JJ Abrams et all) just don’t want to, or care to, explore what has been uncovered in Star Wars literature over the last 30+ years.  They’d rather steam-roll over other artist’s deep and personal contribution to this world.  As Pena describes the ret-con, it is something “inherently disrespectful, like disturbing someone’s resting place.”

The second response I want to look at is Eric Geller’s, theforce.net’s Clone Wars commentator.  You can read his comments here.  I think he tragically missed the point regarding Disney’s overwrite of the EU, which was disappointing.  In his response to the overwriting of the EU he wrote:

“The most important thing to remember is that you can continue to enjoy every single story you have purchased regardless of what the new movies, TV shows, and literature bring. Just because something is no longer an authoritative part of continuity, that doesn’t make it a bad read.”

True, it doesn’t make it a bad read, but I think Geller has really missed the point here. As a matter of fact, it does affect our enjoyment of these stories.  That fact that these were “official continuity (canon)”made these stories better than simple fan-fiction.  Though I enjoyed Tag and Bink, I enjoyed KOTOR more because it was official continuity.  The events of the EU happened in the world we all love and these stories carried with them legitimacy.  He then goes on to say that one of the problems with the EU is that it had become impenetrable:

“Furthermore, in the coming years, the Star Wars universe will welcome many, many new fans. Those of us on the inside often forget how impermeable this vast web of stories can seem to people who aren’t already invested and paying attention. A convoluted fictional universe like Star Wars can prove intimidating to potential fans.”

This brings us back to Joe’s point.  What’ll be the difference in 20 years?  Will a reboot be required again then?  If yes, then that’s the problem, and if you don’t see why that’s a problem you’ve missed  the point.  A reboot (or possible multiple reboots) destroys what made Star Wars different and great from all the other IPs out there.  Its uniqueness was its 30+ years of unbroken continuity – however jagged that continuity was at times.  Back in 1996 I never thought the Star Wars EU would be as big as it is now.  In 2032, the same amount of time that has passed between 1996 and 2014, will the Star Wars EU be bigger or smaller than it is now?  I hope bigger because the more Star Wars stories the better.  If smaller, then we’ve all lost.  But the point is this – it’ll be just as “impenetrable” then as it is now.

The third response I want to look at, and the one that makes me breathe easier, is Tim Zahn’s.  You can read it here, and it’s how I’m going to look at Star Wars literature going into 2015.  My favorite part of his response was this:

“...as far as I can tell from the announcement, LFL is *not* erasing the EU, but simply making it clear that nothing there is official canon. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, nor does it immediately send everything into alternate-universe status. If nothing from the Thrawn Trilogy, say, is used in future movies (and if there’s nothing in the movies that contradicts it), then we can reasonably continue to assume that those events *did* happen. It looks to me like the “Legends” banner is going to be used mainly to distinguish Story-Group-Approved canon books from those that aren’t officially canon but might still exist.”

Leave it to the man who wrote the Thrawn trilogy to bring it all into perspective.

This brings me to the future of the Star Wars Chronology Project.  The question I struggled with for a while was this: do I still run one blog, and include all the stories being produced post Disney acquisition into the EU we’ve had for 30+ years, or do I run two blogs – one that is “legends” and one that is “canon”?  I’ve decided to fall to the later. 

When I finish my fan fiction I’m going to reboot The Star Wars Chronology Project into The Star Wars Legends Chronology Project.  Before I move into the new material I’m still determined to finish what I’ve started.  The good news for me is that the Legends timeline is now static, but the bad news is that in 2032, when I’ve finally finished what I’ve started, I’ll be back at square one with the canonical material. HA!  Jokes on me!  But it’s all good – this has always been about me engaging with Star Wars.  How long I do it for is immaterial.  I’ve also decided that when I reboot my blog I’m going to start putting ads on it.  I figure since I have 65k+ hits I might as well put 5 buck in my pocket.

It’ll be a while before I post again so I want to sign off by saying thank you for stopping in and reading my blog these past 5 years.  It continues to be my labour of love and my continuous love letter to Star Wars. 

Happy Anniversary friends, and may the Force be with you

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Star Wars Chronology Project: Four Years In.



“Wisdom is the power to put our time and our knowledge to the proper use.” – Thomas J. Watson
I feel like time is my enemy, and in regards to the SWCP, and my fictional endeavour (which I’ll talk about a little later), it is.

This summer my days have been so filled from beginning to end that I have little time left for any “artistic” (I use the term loosely here) pursuits.  Which is ok, because I know my time is not being wasted. I know my time and knowledge is being put to its proper use.  It’s going to my wife, my children, my family, my friends, and my house (the last one is arguable).  I’m not sure how Thomas J. Watson would define “proper use”, but I have the feeling him and I don’t define it the same way.  Or maybe we do, who knows?

Anyhow, I bring the subject of time up because it’s a commodity I feel I have so little of this summer – time that’s just mine anyway.  I’ve had to carve out of my day little moments to write, which if you really want to write is tough.  Writing, for me anyway, requires a large block of undisturbed time.  Even as I write this, I had to wake up at 5 am to be able to sit down at my computer where no one demands my attention.  I think I should do this more often, but that means less sleep, which is not good for anyone, so maybe not.

There have been moments where I’ve been given time, but it’s time after I’ve given of myself, and that time is all but useless if you want to write.  All it’s good for is to catch your breath, and get ready for the next day.

Time, time, time.  I feel like I have so little of it.

Ok, so enough of that lamentation.  It’s time to look back at another year in the books.
Remarkably, I managed to put almost all of 32 BBY behind me, which is no small feat.  Once I get this bit of short story nonsense out of the way, I can go back to finishing off what I left of 32 BBY, and fill in some blanks from that year (Episode 1 Adventures).

My short story project is going well, even though I’d like to be further along than what I am.  I’ve got the bones of the narrative all laid out, and I’m now in the process of putting flesh to the bones so if I’m working top down I have the top half of the skull covered.  I continually oscillate between thinking the story is totally awesome to totally terrible.  I have to remind myself sometimes that my writing has always been for me and me alone.  I’m my intended audience.  If I like it then that’s all that matters, because ultimately, I’m not a commercial writer, I’m a hobby writer.  I feel like if I start to write in the hopes of other people approving of my writing then the love will be lost.  I’m not sure of this is a good attitude to have towards writing – I haven’t really reflected on it, but really, this whole project is my gift to myself, something I can look back on later with a bit of pride.  If others like what I write then that’s a nice bonus.  It’s a comfort to think that other people are rooting for me.

I really thought that four years in I’d be further along, but I’ve decided to call this the end of “1st year”.  What I mean is that if I’m pursuing my PhD is Star Warsology, and a PhD is typically four years, and really, I’m a part time student of Star Wars, then this project should take me another 12 years to complete – four real life years to one ‘Star Warsology Academic year’.  Make sense?  So, with this in mind, I’m considering my fictional project my end of the year paper, and you all are my professor.  It’s my big essay to demonstrate what I’ve accumulated and learned.  So when you read it, be critical, and give me an honest grade.

On that note, I know I said I’d hope to have it done by the end of the summer, but that’s not happening.  I think realistically before Christmas.  But know this – I will have it done.  I was reading some writing tips a few people posted to my Facebook, and the same tip kept coming up: Finish it!  So I’ve taken that bit of advice to heart.  Getting it done is the hardest part, I know this.  Make sure to prod me along too if you don’t mind, just drop the odd comment here and there and be like “Hey MKB, how the story coming along. I was thinking about your project and thought I’d just check in”.  That’d be nice.

Boy – it’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan, no?

I haven’t talked about the Disney acquisition of Star Wars on my blog, so just to give you my two sense of this, I think it’s overall a great thing, but here is my fear.  My fear is that in 2015 we are going to be given the movie we wanted back in ’99.  It’s going to be mind-blowingly awesome; however, it’s going to trample on all the canon of Star Wars post ROTJ. I really feel like there is this disconnect.  I don’t understand how Filoni and others talk about how the writers and makers of all things Star Wars of today are fans of the franchise, and then dismiss events from the EU, The Clones Wars being what I’m referencing here.  I’m still disturbed by Filoni’s comments from Star Wars Insider’s July 2012 issue where he basically says the movies and the Clone Wars are a parallel universe to the EU, the EU being the lesser of the two.  For me, the EU is the heart and soul of Star Wars.  The EU is the heartbeat of Star Wars.  The EU has unfolded, in real time (which is unprecedented from a literary standpoint – I cannot stress enough how remarkable this is), the mythology of America. The EU is all canon to me – even the parts that don’t work well together.  I like that it doesn’t all fit.  I talked about this in my write up on Terry Brook’s The Phantom Menace novelization – this is what gives Star Wars its mythological feel. Luke, Han, and Leia have all aged in almost real time.  I know I’m sounding like a super-fan right now, but to disregard the EU is to disrespect Star Wars itself.  The Star Wars universe is the most artistically democratic literary creation in existence today. So many unique voices tell its story, and mostly, these voices sing in unison.

I really hope the makers of our Star Wars today listen to the song of Star Wars post ROTJ.  I really hope this new song will keep with the rhythm and the beat of what’s come before it, and respect the chorus.  Though I anticipate that I’ll like what comes in 2015 – a good story with compelling characters, great visuals and all that – I think the price will be the EU.  This is my fear for Star Wars.

The good news is that I’ll be able to see for myself if this is the case in 2015, as my wife and I have decided to attend Celebration VII in Anaheim.  It’s still all very tentative, there are many hitches to this plan, but if things stay status quo until the end of 2014 I really think it’ll happen.  I’ve never been to a Star Wars Celebration, and I think I’ve picked a good one to go to – right before the new films are released, along with the new show Star Wars Rebels coming out, which I’m really the most excited about.  Seriously, I’m more excited about the animated series than I am about the movies.  I guess I feel that the animated series has less of a chance of disturbing the EU than the films do, but really, such fear is mere conjecture.  Anyone else excited for this show?  Are we going to see Vader hunt down and destroy the remaining Jedi Knights?  How totally awesome is that?

So when I confirm that I’m going to Celebration VII, and if you’re a reader of my blog and you’re also going to Celebration VII, and if you’re up for it, let’s meet for a beer.  We’ll geek out together over a draft and wings.  Drop me a line here, or send me your e-mail over at thefore.net boards (my handle there is JarenJade) and we can begin to organize.

Speaking of geeking out, another bit of Star Wars news from my life is that I’ve decided the run the Star Wars fan club at my school this year.  There are some real Star Wars fans among the student body, so I’ve decided to get the club up and running.  We’re going to start with a chronological viewing of the Star Wars saga, so maybe you can help me out here.  We’re going to watch everything, so here is my list:

The Phantom Menace
Attack of the Clones
The Clone Wars Season 1-5
The Clone Wars (Tartakovsky and Gilroy version)
Revenge of the Sith
The Droids and Ewok animated series (Does it go here?)
A New Hope
The Star Wars Holiday Special
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
Caravan of Courage (Does it go here?)
The Battle of Endor (Again, does it go here?)
If you have a comprehensive list of a chronological viewing of these please share.

As it is, happy anniversary, and until next time, may the Force be with you.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Writing Fiction



Hello Everyone,

Usually by this time in July I’m about three of four posts into the SWCP, as summer is when I get a lot of work done.  But this summer I’m putting the project on the back-burner for a bit to focus on some fan-fiction that has been percolating in the back of my mind for a while.  After reading nothing but Star Wars for four years I feel I want to contribute my little bit narrative to the ever expanding mythology.   When I’m done I’ll create another blog and post-up what I’ve written for your perusal.   

I’m  currently in the process of getting the story down – It’s taken hold of my imagination and has not let me go. Right now I’m simply trying to work it out of my system. 

Since the end of June I’ve been reading my way through The Living Force sourcebook in preparation for the Eye of the Sun trilogy, but every time I sat down to either read the sourcebook or write my thoughts on it I immediately opened my short story file and began working on that, so I thought, forget it –  I’ll go where my creative energy is taking me and I’ll work on the project when this story is out of the way.

I’m not sure when I’ll have it done.  It might take the summer to complete, but I hope to have it done before then.  With three little ones at home and my summer already booked with day trips to the beach and afternoons spent at the splash-pad I'm not sure when it'll get done.  Hopefully before the end of the month - that's time time-frame I've set for myself.  What is more, finding time to actually sit down and write is becoming increasingly more difficult.  Everyone wants a little piece of dad.

Not to worry though– the project will continue on, I’m just going to explore this deviation in creative energy for a while.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

32 BBY: Save the Mantaris!




After reading through Save the Mantaris! mission, I’ve realized that chronologically it works better if it comes before Peril in the Ionosphere.  Since this adventure is so short, let me reproduce it here:

This adventure idea, a companion to Secrets of Naboo, takes place in and around the Civic Spaceport in Theed. The Gungans are preparing to launch an effort to colonize one of Naboo's moons, using the Mantaris transport, a spacecraft developed in a joint effort between the Naboo and the Gungans. Queen Amidala, the ruler of the Naboo, and Boss Nass, the leader of the largest Gungan community both want this project to succeed, as they see it as the dawn of a new era of cooperation between their two peoples.

However, anti-Gungan (well, anti-alien in general) terrorists seek to sabotage the mission. Their first step is to kill a Gungan technician and kidnap one of the lead Naboo engineers. The evidence seems, on the surface, to point to disgruntled Gungans. A faction among the citizens of Theed that still considers the Gungans barbarians, rushes to judgment. The Gungan contingent in Theed blames these Naboo, claiming they are attempting to manufacture an excuse to wage war. The terrorists' plan is working like a dream.

Enter the heroes.

The heroes are investigators (either from Naboo or a Republic delegation) charged with finding out what really happened, as well as rescuing the Naboo engineer. After this has been accomplished, they are assigned to ensure that the Mantaris reaches the moon and starts its colonization mission safely. During this duty, they must prevent the ship from sabotage on its maiden voyage - tampering that could destroy this historic vessel.

Like I said, I think these events make more sense if they happen before Peril in the Ionosphere.  After successfully rescuing the Nabooian engineer (maybe it’s Kharl Vanned or Sakme Kelene), figuring out which faction is responsible for the kidnapping and murder, and perhaps *thinking* they have saved the Mantaris from terrorism, do the heroes then board the “shuttle” (as it is called in Peril in the Ionosphere) only to have it attacked, leak kyvalon-4 gas, wherein they now have to subdue the homicidal Captain Worlhp.  I think this order of events makes sense.

On a side note, I mistakenly referred to the Mantaris in The Gungan Frontier as the tribubble bongo.  It turns out that the Mantaris is its own kind of ship, specifically designed by Gungan and Naboo engineers for the colonization of Ohma D’un.  Also, it turns out there was more scientific expertise in this effort than I had originally thought.  Graf Zapalo, the Master of Sciences in the Naboo Royal Advisory Council, led this mission.  I suppose The Gungan Frontier couldn’t have Graf Zapalo as its hero, or the kiddies (and everyone else who played the game for that matter) would be like “Zapalo who?”.  But if this game were to make some sort of comeback, I think it would be really neat if it did feature Zapalo as its protagonist.

Anyway, I still think it’s neat how all these sources have intertwined with each other.  The narrative it has weaved is quite intricate.

For my next post I’m going to look into a series of RPG sources that have always been on the periphery of my RPG knowledge.  The Living Force Campaign is something I remember seeing a lot of back in 2001.  It was a prominent feature on the RPG shelves of the comic stores I used to frequent, so I’m looking forward to delving into its material.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.