Monday, August 31, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: Tales of the Jedi Companion: Chapter 4 - Sith Reborn

The Sith Reborn

I was a little hasty with saying I’d be moving on to the Saga of Nomi Sunrider in my last post. I first have to examine the Tales of the Jedi Companion sourcebook from West End Games. The chapter I’ll be looking at is chapter 4 – Sith Reborn.

Before I get into the chapter summary though, I’d like to first talk a little about West End Games and my experience with Star Wars role playing games.

I was introduced to role playing games, otherwise known as RPG’s, many years ago. A buddy of mine used to play with his high school friends, but after going to university, he and his friends drifted apart. He and I became friends at university, and we both shared a love of Star Wars. He asked me if I ever played a role-playing game, to which I replied, no. He started recounting for me all the adventures he and his friends used to have, and he described them with such vivid detail and passion.

It was the vivid detail that grabbed my attention. Pretty soon, he had his sourcebooks out, and before long we were rolling my first character. Of all the templates to choose from, the one that attracted me most was the gambler. In a short matter of time, a few more people joined our circle, and before long, we had Sunday afternoon games at his place that would last for hours.

Whenever my buddy and I talk on the phone (he lives overseas now) we still talk about some of our Star Wars adventures.

West End Games was the company that produced the Star Wars role-playing game, and they used a D6 system, which means the die they used for the game were six sided. Of all the RPG systems out there, I still think that WEG’s D6 system was the easiest to use, and the most effective to play. WEG went out of business a while back, and the Star Wars role-playing game was purchased by Wizards of the Coast. They changed the game to the D20 system, and in doing so ruined the game for me. Wizards of the Coast revamped the core rule book a little while back, and from all reports that I’ve read have improved the game. But as it is, I haven’t played in a long while. I still purchase the sourcebooks though, and it is from a sourcebook that my post gets its impetus today.

Star Wars source books are considered Canon by Lucasfilm. I find source books extremely interesting to read, as they give nitty-gritty detail to almost anything in the Star Wars Universe.

Tales of the Jedi companion, chapter 4: Sith Reborn, gives us some nitty-gritty details into the story of Ulic Qel-dorma and the Beast Wars of Onderon.

Five characters are flushed out in further detail in this text, they are: Queen Amanoa, her husband Kind Ommin, the failed Jedi Freedon Nadd, the queen’s assistant Novar, and finally Warb Null. For this post I’ll only deal with three of them: The King, the Queen, and Freedon Nadd.

In Chapter four, Sith Reborn, we are given a small narrative of Queen Amanoa before the arrival of the three Jedi sent by Master Jeth. Before the arrival of the Jedi, she killed a malcontent in her throne room using Sith magic. Some background is then provided on the Queen. Apparently, she did not completely embrace the darkside of the force when she first encountered it. Her husband, King Ommin, was a descendant of Freedon Nadd, and it was the spirit of Nadd that converted the king to a user of darkside magic. When the Queen had seen her husband under the Sith’s spell, she did all she could to get him to turn from his wicked ways. But the old saying holds true, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” and this is what happened to the Queen. Unable to help her husband, she embraced the teachings of the Sith, and after her husband’s disappearance, began to commune with the spirit of Freedon Nadd. Needless to say, Queen Amanoa was hostile to the Jedi, right from the start.

King Ommin is an interesting character as well. A descendant of Freedon Nadd, it seems that his fate had always been sealed. After embracing the full power of the darkside, he was summarily crippled by it. As we learn by his story, full control over the power of the darkside has its price, and the price he payed was the loss of his ability to control his own body. I guess controlling the darkside is like making a deal with the devil – you think everything is going to work out in your favour, or you have control of the situation, only to learn in the end that nothing will go the way you want it to, and in fact, you are not in control.

Ulic Qel-Dorma and the Beast Wars of Onderon gave very little detail on the personage of Freedon Nadd. He operates as this master puppet behind the scenes, controlling the action. The Tales of the Jedi companion fills in some blanks for us.

Four centuries prior, Freedon was a promising young Jedi Knight. It seems that his masters, and all around him, were very impressed by his openness to the force. Many agreed that he would reach the rank of Master quicker than anyone before him. Yet, on the day they were conferring the title of Jedi Knight to the learners, Freedon was passed over by his Master. Little did he know though, that this action was a test of his Knighthood. He grew very angry, and he felt betrayed by his Master. He left the area, and went to the edge of town where a great Jedi Master lived. She was an expert in lightsaber combat, and spent her days going through drills. When Freedon asker her why he had been passed over, she told him that not everything could be pointed out to him. He had to discover what it meant to be a Jedi without being taught. If Freedon would be willing to look inside of himself, and reflect on what his Masters had taught him, he would know what it takes and what it means to be a Jedi. Freedon accused the Master of hording secrets, and that the Jedi did not give away their knowledge for fear of others holding the power over them. Freedon declared himself a Jedi, and the Master at the edge of town asked him to prove it, through his proficiency in lightsaber combat.

The two dueled, and Freedon was overwhelmed by the Master’s proficiency with a lightsaber. Yet, he noticed that the Jedi Master made a slight mis-step in one of her parry attacks. Freedon jumped at the chance to defeat the master, and swung with all his hatred:
“As his blade swooped down, he saw something in Matta’s stare, and expression of calmness and acceptance, underlied by a strength Freedon had never seen before. Suddenly he knew that he had failed, that Matta had offered him a true test, and that he had chosen to see it as a threat” (Tales of the Jedi Companion, pg 70).

It is in this test that Freedon fails as a Jedi, and it is after this incident that he begins his decent into the darkside of the force.

What I find remarkable about this story is the way that Jedi Knighthood is framed as a form of enlightenment. Buddhists would teach that enlightenment cannot be directly taught. One can be given advice, and rules to follow, but if you don’t get why they are important, then enlightenment cannot be yours. Freedon did not achieve enlightenment, and therefore, was not worthy of the title Jedi Knight.

Sourcebooks are one of my favorite media for gaining Star Wars knowledge. Like I said before, they give the nitty-gritty details to all the other formats. I look forward to when I encounter this source again.

For my next post I’ll be moving on to the Saga of Nomi Sunrider – for real this time.

Friday, August 28, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: Ulic Qel-Dorma and the Beast Wars of Onderon

The focus of my next many posts will be the years 3998 BBY – 3996 BBY, as I have many different sources to read through in this time period. Refer to Joe Bongiomo’s website here to see what I’ll be examining.

Moving on to my first source of study in this time frame…

When it comes to authoring in the comic book format, it seems to me that Tom Veitch is a superior author to Kevin J. Anderson. Ulic Qel-Dorma and the Beast Wars of Onderon was a well crafted tale, told with confidant narration, excellent dialogue, and sequences of events which all made sense.

The story takes place 8 years after the Hazzen /Barrison incident (see my last post), and is situated in the year 3998 BBY. The Beast Wars of Onderon tell the story of three Jedi learners who are not quite knights (the term Padawan was not in use at this time). They are students of Master Arca Jeth, and they have been sent on a mission by him to bring peace to the planet of Onderon.

Onderon is a planet in the midst of civil war. At war are the citizens of the great walled city of Iziz. They represent civilization and prosperity. On the outside of the city walls are the beast riders, who are often referred to by the citizens of Iziz as barbarians.

For four centuries these two factions have fought.

When the three Jedi knights enter the city of Iziz, the beast riders broke the city’s defenses and kidnapped the daughter of the queen. The Jedi were unable to defend her. The Jedi did, however, follow them into the wilderness outside the city walls. When they finally caught up with the queen’s daughter, she was marrying the head Beast Lord of Onderon of her own accord. The Jedi were confused, by Ulic Qel-Dorma, the main protagonist of the tale, thought this a great opportunity to bring peace to the planet.

Ulic managed to convince the princess to reveal her marriage to the queen, hoping that the queen would see this as an opportunity for peace. Unfortunately though, the power of the dark side of the force was strong with the queen and the citizens of Iziz, and when the marriage was revealed, the largest war in the history of the planet Onderon began.

The queen used darkside battle mediation to turn the tide of war in her favor. She called upon the power of Freedon Nadd, a Jedi knight, who four centuries earlier, fell to the darkside of the force. It seems that four centeries ago Freedon Nadd was unable to defeat his Master, the Dark Lord of the Sith, so he left where it was he came from, declared himself King of Onderon upon his arrival there, and since then, he decedents ruled the city. The Beast Lords, who were branded criminals by their society and were thrown out of the city walls to face certain death, were actually attempting to defeat the darkside of the force.

It took the arrival of Master Jeth to turn the tide of war in the Beast Lord’s favor. When master Jeth arrived in the city, he and his three students faced the queen, who died when the darkside of the force left her. The light of Master Jeth had defeated the dark. The Republic sanctioned the marriage between the princess and the Beast Lord, and peace ruled the city of Iziz.

The story ends with Ulic asking his master how a Jedi, trained in the ways of the light, could fall to the darkside of the force. His Master tells him it has happened more than once in history, and to be wary that the same fate does not befall him.

Some foreshadowing I see here on the part of Veitch.

For my next post I'll be moving on to the Saga of Nomi Sunrider, also written by Tom Veitch.

4006 BBY: Knights of the Old Republic #33 - Vindication

4006 BBY

Knights of the Old Republic #33: Vindication

We have moved 993 years ahead in Star Wars chronology, and we are situated approximately ten years before an era in Star Wars history known as the Sith War. I believe there are sources on the Internet which give small pieces of information regarding what has happened in those 993 years, but alas, they are not canon, and therefore, I will not deal with them.

I had to do some sleuthing to figure out this date and what was going on here in the Star Wars timeline. In the comic Knights of the Old Republic #33, we are privy to a flashback from Lucien Draay, one of the characters in the story. The information here is all very disjointed to me, seeing as how I have yet to read this comic book series. I’m certain it will become clearer to me as a read on. I don’t want to go into detail about the story or characters because, firstly, I’m not familiar with this story line, and secondly, I want to deal with Star Wars history in as precise a chronological order as I can. Needless to say, I think I’ve figured out this particular piece chronicle.

This flashback to 4006 BBY centers upon a young Jedi Padawan known as Hazzen. It seems Hazzen became a pupil of the Jedi Knights at the behest of his Lord, Barrison Draay. The relationship between these two is similar to a butler and his master (though not in the same manner as a Padawan and his Jedi Master), or secretary and CEO of a large corporation. Hazzen is Barrison’s servant, for lack of a better description.

Barrison was the head of a large corporation, who employed millions of beings across the galaxy, as well as a Jedi Knight. Barrison’s Master, Arka Jeth, had his doubts as to whether Barrison could juggle both occupations, but as it turned out he could. Hazzen was also the pupil of Arka Jeth, and was a Padawan learner along side Barrison, but as it turned out, Jedi Master Jeth knighted Barrison before Hazzen.

Hazzen questioned Jedi Master Jeth’s motives, and accused Barrison of buying his title of Jedi Knight, and not earning it. Master Jeth quickly scolded Hazzen, saying Barrison did indeed earn his knighthood, while he, Hazzen, did not. Add into the mix the affections of a woman who Hazzen wants, and Barrison gets (who is also rich and knighted by Master Jeth, and add to that has feelings for Barrison) and we have the makings of a jilted and failed Padawan learner.

After the knighting ceremony, Hazzen runs away, while Barrison chases him to console his faithful servant. When alone, Hazzen attempts to hit Barrison, misses, and is gifted with a punch on the jaw from his employer. Barrison quickly apologizes, and tells Hazzen he’ll keep him as his retainer – perhaps he’ll pilot a ship for him. Hazzen is left defeated and embarassed.

Here ends the flashback.

As I said before, this flashback sticks out a bit in Star Wars chronology, and makes me not want to deal with flashbacks in the future of this project. Maybe I won’t, I’ll have to see. This story obviously has a bearing on events to come.

For my next post I’ll be examining the years 3998-3996 BBY, and the text Ulic Qel-Dorma and the Beast Wars of Onderon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

5000 BBY - 4999 BBY: The Great Hyperspace War


The Great Hyperspace War recounts the events of the Fall of the Sith Empire. Indeed, The Fall of the Sith Empire could be re-named The Great Hyperspace War, and still retell the same events of Star Wars history.

In this text, taken from Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential guide to the Force, our narrator is none other than Odan-Urr, the Jedi Knight who participated in the events recounted last post. Odan-Urr gives a synopsis of the events, retelling what he knew of Naga Sadow and the Daragons, but what I found interesting was that he referred to Memit Nadill as his master. In the story The Fall of the Sith Empire, this relationship is not flushed out. It seems to me that in this story Odan-Urr and Memit Nadill are both Jedi Knights, one not occupying a position of authority over the other. What is more, in issue #0: Conquest and Unification, found in The Golden Age of the Sith series, it is Odan-Urr who teaches Memit Nadill about Jedi Battle Mediation, and is the first time in Star Wars history that such a technique is demonstrated.

Odan-Urr goes on to talk about the fall of his first master in this conflict, Master Ooroo, and his foresight that Odan-Urr will be the longest lived Jedi in history. Master Ooroo was an interesting character. He was a giant brain encapsulated in a thick yellow crystal substance. You can find a picture of him here. The scene between these two at the end of The Fall of the Sith Empire was very touching.

Odan-Urr also references the Sith holocron he discovered. It seems that Master Urr was incorruptible in the presence of this holocron, as Sith holocrons are known to warp those who keep them in their possession, and twist them to the darkside. What is interesting about this holocron was that Odan-Urr was aware of Naga Sadow’s escape to the Yavin system, even though he possessed the holocron after these events transpired. He came to the conclusion that some otherworldly or supernatural factor could update the holocron on events outside of the holocron’s possession by Naga Sadow. Tionne Solusar later confirms this fact.

The Great Hyperspace war ends an era of Star Wars history. From this point we move nearly 1000 years ahead in Star Wars Chronology to circa 4000 BBY. In my next post, I’ll be examining the year 4006 BBY, and the text Knights of the Old Republic #33.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

5000 BBY - 4999 BBY: The Fall of the Sith Empire


The Fall of the Sith Empire picks up where the Golden Age of the Sith left off. After Jori Daragon fled Sith space and returned to her home planet of Cinnagar in the Koros system, she was welcomed home with an arrest warrant, and quickly placed on trial for her crimes. Because of her quick wit, she managed to escape her captors, and sought refuge in Empress Teta, the ruler of the system. Jori warned the Empress of the incoming Sith invasion force, and in doing so managed to gain a reprieve from her crimes.

Empress Teta’s Jedi advisers, Odan-Urr and Memit Nadill, advise the Empress to take Jori’s warnings seriously, and she does. She readies her fleet for the coming invasion, while Memit Nadill fled to Coruscant to warn the Republic of the coming threat.

The Sith invasion force arrives and an epic battle begins. One of Naga Sadow’s strategies, through the use of darkside magic, is to make it appear as though his forces are stronger than what they actually are. At first the armies of Empress Teta and the Republic fall for his trick, losing heart in battle. But through the efforts of Gav Daragon, Sadow’s ruse fails. Gav, once taken under the wing of Sadow earlier in the series, underwent a change of heart while in battle, and betrayed his master.

Losing the battle, Sadow fled Republic space and headed back to his Sith Empire. Unfortunately, upon his return, he was greeted by his formal rival, Ludo Kreesh, and this time a Sith on Sith battle erupted. Sadow managed to defeat Kreesh again, only to have Republic forces appear through hyperspace onto his doorstep and engage him in battle once more. Once again, the Dark Lord managed to escape, but this time with only one ship and a crew of Massassi warriors. At the end of it all he fled to the planet Yavin, where he begins to rebuild his Empire.

The Fall of the Sith Empire was an entertaining story. As I’ve said before, I enjoy Kevin J. Anderson’s work. One particular scene I enjoyed was when Odan-Urr, a character that is quickly becoming one of my favorites, finds a Sith holocron on one of the abandoned ships, and muses with the idea of starting a Jedi library on the planet Ossus, the planet on which he was trained as a Jedi knight. Here, Anderson gives us a little background into the origins of the Jedi library, and introduces the idea of holocrons,(repositories of Jedi knowledge) which will play a significant role in the following Star Wars tales.

I had a couple of points of critique with regards to this text focusing on dialogue, and characterization. Firstly, some of the dialogue in this tale was awkward. There is a particular scene where Naga Sadow fires upon the Starbreaker 12, Gav and Jori's ship. Gav replies to the action with "My sister better not have been on that ship! This deal is getting worse all the time..". I find this line awkward for two reasons, the first being that there was never any mention of a "deal" in any of the dialogue leading up to this. We are never given any sense that Naga Sadow and Gav Daragon have worked out some kind of "deal" in relation to the invasion of the Republic. What makes this more awkward, is that the line" This deal is getting worse all the time" is a quote from Lando Calrissian in the film The Empire Strikes Back. Why do authors feel the need to quote lines in their EU texts that have appeared in the movies? I'm not against this use of movie dialogue, but only if it works. For example, the line "I've got a bad feeling about this" occurs frequently in the films, and subsequently finds itself in EU texts, and usually this line fits. But the line "This deal is getting worse all the time" was a weak reference to the Empire Strikes back, and was a sour note in what was an otherwise enjoyable tale.
Secondly, relating to characterization, there were a few more confusing cause and effect issues. What I mean to say is that some scenes did not logically follow from one to the other. For example, when Gav landed on Cinnagar with his Sith invasion force, and came upon Aarrba the Hutt, a deadly confrontation ensued where Aarrba was killed. Jori came upon this scene, blamed Gav for his death (to which he was not responsible) and then disowned him as her brother. The reason I found this confusing was because for most of the story she is searching for her brother through intermittent cries and sobs. When she finds him again, but this time in a precarious circumstance, she immediately disowns him. But what is more confusing is that she then says 'Talk to me, I'm your sister" as Gav is running away from her. I found this particular scene poorly played out, and took away from their realtionship as brother and sister.

All in all I enjoyed the Fall of the Sith Empire. For my next post I’ll be revisiting our text Jedi vs. Sith: An Essential guide to the Force, and examining the Great Hyperspace War.

4985 BBY: The Lost Tribe of the Sith: Paragon

The Lost Tribe of the Sith (Part 3)

This post is reserved for my reaction to the third part of the Lost Tribe of the Sith series. It is scheduled for release on February 9th 2010. Check back after this date.

February 21st 2010:

A Matter of Style is a book written by Matthew Clark, who was the director of my humanities thesis. His book examines the question: ‘what is good prose?’ The opening paragraph of his introduction states: “Good prose, like any art, is part mystery and part technique; both are needed, in varying proportions. Mystery is hard to teach, perhaps impossible. But technique can be taught, and if it is well taught, it can open a window onto the mystery” (Clark, IV).

The second chapter of his book considers the arrangement of words. He states: “Most of the interesting questions about style do not concern grammar, and do not have definitive answers. They are questions of taste, which can never be settled once and for all. Nevertheless, taste can still be discussed – and, I believe, developed to become more sensitive, more discriminating” (Clark, 14).

I’m quoting the work of my old university professor to support my dislike of JJM’s prose. I don’t want to state simply ‘I don’t like JJM’s prose’ and leave it at that. I want to explain why I don’t like it, and justify why I think JJM is not much of a writer.

I don’t like JJM’s prose because I find his diction needlessly unclear, his arrangement of words inadequate, and his technique awful. As I read his work I’m constantly left with the feeling that I’ve missed something, or there is something he’s not telling me.

Take, for example, this line: “They were out all afternoon again, the two of them. Tilden had told her that, and Seelah had other confidants who provided regular reports.”
This is just needlessly unclear.

If I were to write this, is would read something like: ‘Korsin and Adari were out all afternoon, once again. Tilden reported these excursions to Seelah, but she also had other confidants, besides Tilden, who provided regular reports.’

In JJM’s version, I have to figure out who he means by “they”, in the first line. This question is cleared up a few lines later, with the statement: “Korsin and the Kesheri woman”. But JJM further muddles the meaning of ‘they’ when he states the ‘Kesheri woman’ because ‘the Kesheri woman’ could be in reference to any Kesheri woman, not necessarily Adari. There is no fault in making the subject of a sentence perfectly clear. He could have simply stated ‘Korsin and Adari’. I find that JJM’s diction leaves the reader constantly second guessing their translation of events, and his “clarifications” of meaning are not really clarifications at all.

What is more, I then have to figure out who “her” is when it says “Tilden had told her that”. It’s not until the second half of the clause do I figure out that the subject of the sentence is Seelah, and indeed, it may or may not be Seelah. “Her” in this circumstance still could refer to some other female subject, even possibly Adari.

The Lost Tribe of the Sith series goes on like this, with cryptic sentences, and clauses with unclear subjects.

JJM is an excellent story designer in the big picture. I enjoy his work in the KOTOR comic series, but I’m now convinced he should turn his ideas over to a ghost writer who knows how to write. He’s clearly not a writer, but simply a plot designer.

Criticisms of JJM’s techniques aside, there are four areas I want to discuss with regards to this piece of Star Wars history. The first is the Tapani, the second is the characters of Naga Sadow and Ludo Kressh, the third is the ideologies of the ‘Sith Empire’, and the fourth and final point of discussion is the ending of the story.

In The Lost Tribe of the Sith: Paragon, there is a brief mention of ‘the Tapani’: “Some Sith Lords, such as Naga Sadow, saw value in the work of the descendants of the original Tapani refugees”. (pg 10). In my discussions of JJM’s work with other Star Wars readers, they routinely commented on how this particular three part story has shed light on the Tapani. I, on the other hand, was left scratching my head. Who or what are the Tapani? I’ve read what I think are all Star Wars sources prior to this source, and in none of them have the Tapani ever been mentioned.

My excursions to Wookieepedia only further confused me. Apparently Tapani is a system which was colonized as far back as 13,000 BBY. The system was named after Shey Tapani who united the sector 1000 BBY. But I was privy to none of this information from a chronological perspective. I’ve obviously missed something. However, there is come consolidation for me. When I look at the sources that the Wookieepedia page drew upon for its information, the earliest source was JJM’s Precipice, and then a brief mention in the KOTOR comic series (which I obviously missed as well). Hopefully, with time, I’ll understand what was meant when JJM states “Sadow saw value in the work of the original Tapani refugees”. As of now I have no idea what this means.

Moving along, JJM provided interesting background to the tension between Naga Sadow and Ludo Kressh. I especially liked how JJM justified Kressh’s desire to keep the Sith Empire hidden in the Stygian Caldera: “I have seen the holocrons—I know what waits beyond. My son looks like me—and so does the future of the Sith. “But only as long as we’re here. Out there,” he’d spat, between bloody punches, “out there, the future looks like you.” I find this idea of destabilizing the Empire by expansion similar to that which the Chinese have held throughout most of history. Kressh was worried, and it turned out rightfully so, that if the Empire went outside of its boarders, the Sith would no longer rule it, but instead be ruled by those it sought to conquer. The conquers being the conquered is something history has seen several times. The Romans were eventually over-run by the Germanic tribes it itself had defeated centuries prior. As the game KOTOR reminds their player during game-saving sessions: “The Sith ceased being a species, and instead became followers of an ideal”. Humans were once the servants in the Sith Empire, and later became its rulers.

I find the idea of a Sith Empire hard to rationally explain and justify, as, I think, does JJM. Prior to Kressh’s explanation as to why the Sith should stay put, JJM describes a scene for us where Kressh is using a “magical device to protect his young son.” This makes me question the “evilness” of this Empire, seeing Kressh in a more multidimensional role here as a caring father. JJM echoes this sentiment in the thoughts of Sheelah when he writes: “What did not make sense was why so many of her people—in her own family!—embraced the Sith teachings when they had no hope of advancement. Why would a Sith live as a slave?” Indeed, why would a ‘Sith’ live as a slave. The answer is a “Sith” wouldn’t. JJM is trying to make the sith empire make sense, but I’m not sure it can. I’m not sure any writer could make the Sith Empire make sense for me. It’s like the dimension of pure evil – how does mail get delivered in this dimension?

It was a movie called “Event Horizon” where my buddy asked this question. A crew of spacefarers enters a “dimension of pure evil”, and my buddy asked ‘how did this dimension even get to its current state?” He went on to ask “How did the first humans not just all turn on each other, killing one-another, and thereby destroying the dimension at its inception? – There has to be, at some base level, some co-operation, recognition of mutual dignity, and ‘treaties’ where people don’t try to annihilate each other in a frenzy of ‘pure evil’” Needless to say, when the idea of the ‘dimension of pure evil’ roused it’s ugly head in this movie, he declared ‘I’m out!”

On the car ride home he was still pissed-off at this idea, and he turned to me and said ‘how does mail get delivered in ‘the dimension of pure evil? There had to have been, at some point in the history of this dimension, a mail delivery system. What prevents the mail-man from ringing your doorbell, and shooting you in the face when you answer?” I just shrugged my shoulders. I was extremely amused at how much this idea pissed him off. 13 years later, and we still talk about Event Horizon and ‘the dimension of pure evil’.

Getting back to my point on the Sith Empire, it’s a little like ‘the dimension of pure evil’. It just can’t possibly work out.

Finally, I enjoyed the end of this series. I enjoyed how it was Adari Vaal who was at the heart of the mass deaths on Kesh, and it was her own secret attempt at wiping out the skyborn. I enjoyed how the story ended with the words of Adari: “I brought this plague upon us. And I will end it”.

I’m glad to be done with the Lost Tribe of the Sith series. They were an interesting bit of Star Wars history, which I know will play a significant role down the line, but I’m glad to be done with them.

Since this post was actually written on February 20th, and not August 26 2009, I’m going to back-fill another one of my posts, and move on to JJM’s last two issues of the KOTOR comic series. Until next time my friends, may the Force be with you.

5000 BBY - 4999 BBY: The Lost Tribe of the Sith - Skyborn


Someone must have told Miller that his work was hard to read, because I found the second installment of the Lost Tribe of the Sith series a little easier to comprehend. It could also be that my mind found the key to unlocking the code that is his prose. In any case, I got through this particular text a littler easier. You can find part two here. These pieces are short in length. I think the term being used for these stories is “mini-novel”, which I think is too substantial for them. I might even call them ‘novellas’, but I think even that term suggests a grander scale than what is actually present. Short story might be more fitting.

Skyborn begins with an introduction of new characters. Before Yaru Korsin descended the mountain on which he killed his half brother, and before he re-entered the campsite to face Devore’s widow, he saw flying in the air a large winged reptilian with a rider perched upon its back. We learn that this rider’s name is Adari Vaal, and Skyborn begins with her story, and how it intersects with the fate of the marooned Sith.

Adari is fleeing persecution from her people, the Keshiri. She is a geologist who is teaching something contrary to her culture’s beliefs on the origins of creation. Her culture believes the “Skyborn” – the designate term for ‘gods’ or ‘deities’ in her culture, started all life on Kesh (the planet the Sith have crash-landed on). Adari’s study of rocks has lead her to a different conclusion.

While Adari is in the middle of a Salem witch trial type hearing, she and the rest of her village look up into the sky to see a giant ship crash-land atop a mountain. The village elders take it as a sign and an omen that, in fact, Adari is a heretic, and the “Skyborn” have spoken. Torches and pitchforks quickly come out, and Adari flees on the back of her deceased husband’s Uvak – the reptilian flying creature.

She flies to the husk of the Omen embedded in the mountain, and eventually comes across the camp of the stranded Sith. The Sith quickly take her prisoner, and begin to read her mind for answers (this is done in a very invasive way). Yaru Korsin takes Adari under his wing, and convinces her to bring the Sith to her people. She agrees, and brings the Sith back to her village. Quickly the Sith are accepted as the “Skyborn”, treated as Gods by her people, and take over her village. Adari now occupies a position of authority in her town.

Yaru Korsin declares to the Keshiri that he will build a temple around the crash-landed ship, and that all the Keshiri should worship he and his people. The story ends with Adari feeling that the Sith are going to be occupants of her home world and village for a very long time.

Unfortunately a couple of things are still bothering me in this tale. It seems the entire crew of the Omen carry lightsabers. In the last part, the navigator who made the hasty jump to hyperspace had to defend himself against Devore with his lightsaber. I mean, even the navigators – the rank and file – in the Sith Empire carry lightsabers, which implies they are sensitive to the force. Once again my understanding of the mythology of Star Wars comes into questions here. I always thought that force sensitivity was relatively rare, and that such sentient beings were few and far between in the vast galaxy that encompasses the mythos of Star Wars. I’m sure that even the rank and file of the Republic doesn’t carry lightsabers, only Jedi. Yet here, even miners in the Sith Empire carry them. Perhaps in this particular setting, lightsabers are not viewed as a rare and elegant weapon, but just as a tool for getting things done – a utilitarian approach I guess. In this context it makes a little more sense. Maybe not everyone in the Sith army is force sensitive. Maybe they are issued lightsabers as regular G.I. equipment.

One particular line stood out at me in this e-book. When looking at the Sith through the eyes of Adari, Miller states: “They argued, they envied, they killed”. Adari does not see them as gods, but as flawed powerful being. I found this very similar to how the gods in ancient Greece are viewed today (and perhaps in the past as well). They are powerful beings, but powerful beings with very “human” emotions.

Part 3 of the Lost Tribe of the Sith is scheduled for release on February 9th 2010, and t I’m looking forward to it.

For my next post I’ll be moving on to The Fall of the Sith Empire.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

5000 BBY - 4999 BBY: The Lost Tribe of the Sith - Precipice


Precipice is the first of three parts in the Lost Tribe of the Sith series. It takes place after the Golden Age of the Sith, and within the years 5000-4999 BBY.

Before I get into a quick plot synopsis, I have to say that this particular piece was very hard to read. In fact, I had to read over it a second time to understand what was going on. You can read it for yourself here. I found Miller’s writing very hard to follow. He prose was unclear and his style too choppy. What is more, I came across some continuity errors. I’ll address the errors a little later, first, allow me to briefly outline the plot, and how this particular story situates itself in Star Wars Chronology.

It seems that the Sith Empire is now at war with the Republic. Naga Sadow, preparing for a battle with the Republic and the Jedi, is awaiting the arrival of a shipment of lightsaber crystals. Two ships are delivering the crystals: the Omen, and the Harbinger. However, before these two ships depart with their cargo, they are engaged by a Jedi starfighter that opens fire. The Harbinger is hit, and careens towards the Omen. In an attempt to avoid the collision, the navigator of the Omen sets random hyperspace coordinates, and engages the ship's engines without checking the safety of his jump. When the ship re-enters space, it is pulled into the gravity-well of a planet and begins to crash-land all-the-while being torn apart by gravity. It is here the story begins.

The protagonists of this tale are Yaru Korsin, the commander of this Sith ship, his half-brother Devore Korsin, Devore’s wife Seelah and their newborn child, and Gloyd, the ship’s gunner.

Needless to say, the ship crash lands on the planet’s surface, and much of the crew perishes. About 355 people survive (which to me means this was quite a large ship). Part of the crew were the Massassi, who are the warrior caste in the Sith system of society. When they begin to breathe the air on this planet they die almost instantly. Yaru, Devore, and Sheelah are human, while Gloyd is a Houk, and all four are immune to whatever is killing the Massassi.

When the crew sets up camp things go from bad to worse, and in-fighting quickly erupts. Lightsabers are brought out to settle disputes, and many more crew members are killed at the hands of their shipmates. (It’s here, with the introduction of lightsabers I think continuity is breeched, but more on that later). Yaru and Devore are no exception, and in fanatic Sith style, the two half brothers duel to the death to see who will really command what is left of the crew. Yaru wins the duel, and pushes his exhausted half brother over the edge of a cliff (in his defense though, Devore started it, and what is more, Devore was hopped-up on spice).

The duel took place outside the purview of the rest of the crew, so when Yaru returned to the camp, Sheelah, Devore’s wife, buried her anger deep, and promised herself to never under estimate Yaru again. The story ends here.

I’d like to address some continuity issues here, but I’d like to first state that I’m not a continuity nut. I find continuity errors irksome, and they sometimes take away from my enjoyment of a particular piece, but I don’t rely on Star Wars continuity to be the keystone to my delight of Star Wars. None-the-less, they are somewhat bothersome when one comes across them.

Joe Bongiomo’s website has a few paragraphs on continuity and how it’s viewed by Lucasfilm. I suggest if you want to explore this idea a little further, and if you intend to continue reading my blog, this is a must read. Go here, and read the articles titled “Continuity in the Star Wars Expanded Universe”, and “Fiction within Fiction: The Star Wars Saga as History”. Both of these articles are very enlightening.

The continuity errors that jumped to my attention in this piece were the prevalence of lightsabers used by the Sith, and the mention of Jedi. Firstly, it was my understanding that the Sith in this time frame did not use lightsabers, but metallic swords that could still compete with lightsabers. I believe that this was made clear in Jedi vs. Sith, the Essential guide to the Force. Secondly, when giving background to the character of Gloyd, Miller states, when providing a physical description of the character: “The half smirk was a memento from a Jedi lightsaber swipe years earlier that just missed taking the Houk’s head off”. Again, it was my understanding that those in the Sith Empire had no contact with the Republic or the Jedi for over 1900 years, that the Sith had lost their way back to Republic space. These are minor errors, if errors at all – I accept I could have my head up my ass with regards to my understanding here.

For my next post I’ll move on to part two of the Lost tribe of the Sith series. The story is interesting so far, but Miller’s prose is un-enjoyable and too hard to decipher.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

5000 - 4999 BBY: The Golden Age of the Sith


In this particular time frame I'll be examining several sources, namely; The Golden Age of the Sith, The Lost Tribe of the Sith (in three parts), The Fall of the Sith Empire, and The Great Hyperspace War.

I've finally received Tales of the Jedi volume 1, and it is here that Star Wars chronology picks up again. It is a full 1900 years since the Dark Jedi were banned from the Republic and retreated to the furthest reaches of space. During this time the Dark Jedi conquered the Sith, and expanded their Empire into the outlaying regions of the system. After years of interbreeding, Jedi blood now runs through the veins of the Sith people. No longer simply Neanderthal type people, the Sith now have a thriving, if not still somewhat primitive, civilization.

For nearly 2000 years the Sith have been lost to memory and operate almost as myth in the minds of the occupants of the Republic, Jedi included.

In the Golden Age of the Sith we meet two intrepid hyperspace explorers, Gav and Jori Daragon. This brother and sister duo who are down on their luck and fleeing their debts manage, by accident, or by the will of the force, to find the long lost planet of Korriban, the burial place of the Sith.

They happen upon the burial ceremony of the latest Dark Lord of the Sith, Marka Ragnos, and the ensuing battle between Naga Sadow and Ludo Kreesh, the two challengers to his title. Sadow and Kreesh call an uneasy truce as they decide what to do with their new arrivals. Sadow thinks that the two travellers can be used as pawns in the expansion of the Sith Empire, whereas Kreesh thinks they should be executed immediately, for the sake of the Empire's safety. The two travellers are taken prisoner.

Through political wrangling, back-stabbing, and fancy subterfuge, Sadow manages to gain the upper hand in his feud with Kreesh, declares himself the new Dark Lord of the Sith, rescues the two travellers (which is part of his plan), and gains the support of the other Dark Lords, each with their own militia and resources.

Sadow's victory is cemented in a final space battle with Kreesh, where Jori Daragon escapes back to Republic space without her brother (who remains under the tutelage of Sadow). Little does she know though, that her spaceship has a tracking device attached to it. Here, the Sith now have the route back to the Republic, and under the new leadership of Naga Sadow, are bent on the expansion of the Sith Empire, and the destruction of the Republic.

A few reviews of this particular work underscores the fact that it wasn't received too well by fans. I liked it though. The most interesting character for me was Jedi Knight Odan-Urr. I had a problem with his characterization though. At the beginning of the story we see him as this wide-eyed Jedi historian who knew how to use a lightsaber, but really didn't take his training very far. As the story progressed though, we see him slaying would-be assassins in the street. When he is slightly reprimanded by his fellow Jedi Knight , who reminds him that Jedi must do their utmost to preserve life, he states meekly that he's "ashamed" by his actions. We really did not get a sense that he was capable of these actions, or was even leaning towards an aggressive nature. Maybe Anderson (the author) is setting up the fall of Odan-Urr to the darkside of the force. If he ends up turning to the darkside, then this particular incident makes more sense.

I've always enjoyed the technology presented in Star Wars, and the Golden Age of the Sith is no exception. The technological aspect I enjoyed the most in this text was how familiar technology was presented in an ancient looking format. Lightsabers that connected to a power pack on the Jedi's belt, the insectoid looking spacecraft, the Egyptian style dress of the two protagonists, and the way Coruscant seemed less built-up. That being said though, I've always found it interesting that the technology in Star Wars never seems to advance. They may make a spacecraft or a weapon a little better, but in thousands of years hyperspace is not really improved, and blasters still fire laser bolts.
I know much ink has been spilt on the technological dimension of Star Wars, and I think the universe of Star Wars has been referred to as a "depressed future", in that, because war is constantly raging over the galaxy, technology never really advances because of the endless destruction of worlds and civilizations. Be that as it may, I don't think the technology in Star Wars has to advance in order for me to enjoy it. I like blasters, lightsabers, and starships, no matter what millienia they appear.
I enjoyed the Golden Age of the Sith. Apart from some characterization issues centering on Odan-Urr, some shotty dialogue (Gav and Jori were sentenced to death and they make some really bad joke about filing a complaint with someone), and some happenstance artwork, I found the story solidly constructed and interesting. I like Kevin J Anderson 's work.
For my next post I'll be looking at the Lost Tribe of the Sith.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Internal Hyperlink Debate

I'm still waiting on some resources to arrive. Hopefully they arrive today and I can continue with the SWCP. I'm waiting for the arrival of Tales of the Jedi volumes 1 and 2.

In the meantime I've been having an internal debate with myself. After posting my last update, I realized, even as I was writing the piece, that those 93,000 years of Star Wars history are indeed mentioned in Wookieepedia. But for some reason it came into my head that I would not reference that website in this blog. When I thought about it, I understood my rationalizations. I don't like hyperlinks, and I don't want this blog to be a long winded re-iteration of Wookieepedia.

For some reason I find hyperlinks distracting when I read. Whenever I'm reading a particular piece, and I come across a hyperlinked word, it's like the author is telling me 'what you're reading is not nearly as important as what is behind this word'. Or, 'you couldn't possibly understand the complexities of what I'm telling you unless you read every bit of information behind the words I've chosen to hyperlink'. Basically, whenever I come across a hyperlink I feel like the author is treating my like an idiot. Of course this isn't the case. I've come to understand that it's the author's way of trying to assist his reader in the further understanding of his point. Still, I find hyperlinks distracting.

So here I am, now wondering if I should hyperlink words in my blogging pieces.

I was speaking to a buddy about this yesterday, and telling him how I felt about hyperlinks, and also that I thought Wookieepedia should be a part of this blog. His response was 'What is a PhD, if not investigating obscurity within a particular topic' - or something to that effect. So taking his sage advice, I've decided to hyperlink, but hyperlink with limits.

I'm going to hyperlink names, organizations, characters, planets, etc... of things that I myself looked up on Wookieepedia that I did not know previously. If I'm going to achieve my PhD in Star Wars-ology, Wookieepedia is going to have to be an ever present backdrop in my quest.

Now to go back and hyperlink things that I've looked up.

Monday, August 10, 2009

7000 BBY to 6900 BBY: The Hundred Year Darkness


After ordering my resources online, and waiting patiently for eleven days, I am now ready to begin the Star Wars Chronology Project, and achieve my PhD in Star Wars-ology. I feel like I have taken my first step into a larger world.

The first text I’ll be examining is Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force, and it is in this book that the earliest beginnings of the Star Wars universe are referenced. The narrator of the text is Jedi record keeper Tionne Solusar; she is a Jedi librarian and historian. She begins with an introduction of her task, the recovery of Jedi history which has twice been lost, and the relationship between the Jedi and the Sith, the light-side and dark-side users of the force. Her introduction is dated 40 ABY. But before I go any further I need to explain the measurement of time in this universe. The designation BBY is reference to the ‘Battle of Yavin’, and is ‘Before the Battle of Yavin’, ABY means ‘After the Battle of Yavin’. Joe Bongiomo’s website sums this up best:

“The Battle of Yavin was depicted in Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. It is the start of Year Zero. Year designations on this timeline represent the events of that entire year starting from the first day of the first month through to the last day of the last month in that year.” (

Remember when Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star in Episode IV: A New Hope? Well, that’s when we, lovers of Star Wars, began marking the beginning of time. But before that epic moment of Star Wars history, there was ‘The Hundred Year Darkness’ seven millennia earlier.

But before I can even get to ‘The Hundred Year Darkness’ there is still history that must be covered dating from 100,000 BBY to 7000 BBY!!!. Here, Solusar reaches far back into the beginning of civilization in the galaxy:

“ c. 100,000 BBY. Dawn of Sith civilization on the planet Korriban
c. 30,000 BBY. The Force using Rakata tunnel through hyperspace to claim their modest “Infinite Empire”
c.28,000 BBY. Sith ruler King Adas unifies the Sith nations on Korriban
c. 27,700 BBY. King Adas defeats the Rakatan invaders and gains Holocron technology; The Sith relocate their capital to the planet Ziost, and Korriban is designated their tomb world.
c. 25,200 BBY. Rakatan Infinite Empire implodes.
c. 25,000 BBY. Formation of the Galactic Republic. Creation of the Jedi Order.
24,500 BBY. The first Great Schism: the legions of Lettow, a faction of Jedi Knights led by General Xendor, rebel against the Jedi Order.
7003 BBY. Second Great Schism: Dark Jedi declare themselves free from the Jedi council.
7000 BBY. Dark Jedi rebel against the Jedi Order; the Hundred year Darkness begins.”

I find this bit of information absolutely enthralling. Here, 93,000 years of Star Wars history is briefly marked over. After reading this I have so many questions, comments, and puzzlements. Firstly, I find interesting that the first thing mentioned with regards to Star Wars history is the Sith, which is the designated name for ‘evil’ in Star Wars mythos. Secondly, the Galactic Republic along with the Jedi Order are 25,000 years old, and what is more, there is reference to a Jedi “Council” which implies that the Jedi are not just present, but organized as an institution!!! Thirdly, most of the subject matter of this history is focused on the Sith, how they defeated the Rakata, and then came into conflict with the Jedi. Evil does seem to be more interesting than Goodness, doesn’t it! Fourthly, HYPERSPACE!!! Holy crap! There is so much here!!!

There is so much that is not said in this chronology. There is so much that could be said, explored, and dramatized. Fascinating!!!

Ok, now that really ancient Star Wars history has been acknowledged (albeit only briefly. I feel like I can write so much about that 93,000 years!), we can move on to simply ancient Star Wars history.

Sticking with our initial text, Jedi vs. Sith, Jedi librarian Solusar, in her introduction to her task, makes reference to the Jedi order of her own time. She states that conflict has arisen in the Jedi Order that threatens to tear it apart. This is not the first time the Jedi have faced such an ordeal, and using the historical recordings of Jedi Master Vodo-Sosk Baas from millennia past, she recounts the events of ‘The Hundred Year Darkness’.

Our knowledge of these events (7000 BBY) comes from Jedi Master Vodo-Sosk Baas, gatekeeper of the Tedryn Holocron and teacher of Exar Kun. He recounts the second great schism between the Jedi, when some Jedi began using the dark side of the force to transform creatures into “mutant warriors, mounts, and spirit-devouring Leviathans”. Here we have our first account of the dark side of the force perverting nature, and presumably, those who call upon that power. The Jedi who used the light side of the force thought this was wrong, and conflict ensued. The Jedi of light managed to defeat the Dark Jedi, and then banished them to the furthest reaches of space, namely the planet Korriban. It is here that Dark Jedi came into contact with the Sith civilization, subjugated the Sith people (who were Neanderthal-like force users) and then dropped the name ‘Dark Jedi’ and instead called themselves ‘Dark Lords of the Sith’.

There are many things I find worthy of note about ‘The Hundred Year Darkness’, but one tidbit of information I thought intriguing was that it was thought that the Jedi did not use lightsabers against each other in this conflict. Though historians agree that lightsaber technology did exist at this time, (the lightsaber was connected, presumably through a wire or cable, to a power source on the users belt) it was thought that Jedi most likely used actual metallic swords. The non-use of lightsaber technology by the Dark Jedi (and later called “Sith”) was later carried forward into the Great hyperspace war, which I’ll talk about at a later date.

It is in this conflict that we have mention of the first 'Dark Lord of the Sith' in recorded Star Wars history (As opposed to the first Dark Jedi mentioned, General Xendor). Dark Jedi Ajunta Pall was one of the founders of the Sith Empire, and was known to have slain many Jedi at the battle of Corbos, a mining world that was the final battleground of the Dark Jedi. Once the “Dark Jedi” were defeated and banished to Korriban, we have the beginnings of the “Sith” Empire. It is not until 2000 years later that we have the Sith Empire come into contact with the Galactic Republic again.

Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force, is an excellent book for a lover of Star Wars. Written by Ryder Windham and illustrated by Chris Trevas and Tommy Lee Edwards, the information in this book is attention-grabbing, and the art is truly awesome. There are so many great pictures in this book.

For my next post I’ll move on to when the Sith re-emerged in Galactic history, and the ramifications of their arrival.