Saturday, January 14, 2012

Circa ????: The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural

Back in December of last year I commented on Dan Wallace’s Jedi Path, calling it the evolution of Star Wars literature and a harbinger of a new and different type of story-telling to make its way into the science fiction and fantasy genre. 

It seems I was right.
The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural, like The Jedi Path, (and soon to come Book of the Sith), follows in the line of this type of literature:  not a short story, not a novel, not a comic, but rather an artifact from the fantasy universe in which it lives.  I talked a lot about what I mean by this in my post on the Jedi Path.  You can read it here to understand what I mean when I say books like these are the next step in fantasy story-telling.

So, here we have in our hands, courtesy of Rob Chestney (its author) and Bioware, another artifact from the Star Wars universe.  The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural is not a fictional textbook like The Jedi Path, but a personal journal from a renowned Jedi Master of old.
It’s an absolutely wonderful book.  It’s ascetically pleasing, contains beautiful artwork, is well put together, and is tremendously fun to read.

Though The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural is an artifact from a fictional universe, and is a new form of story-telling to the Star Wars mythos, the fictional diary, which this is, is itself not new to the world of literature.  A quick look at Wikipedia under the heading of fictional diary will bring you to a rather extensive list of authors who have all used this medium to tell a story. 
As it is with these types of book I always like picking the brain of my friend AEM to see what he has to say.  Allow me to plug his website www.scriptcastle.com so you can get a sense of what he’s a little bit about.  Anyway, when I asked him about the fictional diary he had this to say: “One thing that is very interesting about the genre is how time works. You as the reader are essentially reading it as if you were writing it. You are reciting in your head the act of the diary keeper as though the two of you are conspiring to get it written down. So all past events that are explored in this narrative form are being explored in the present tense (so too is anything you read, but we as readers rarely if ever conspire with third-person omniscient voices, nor with first-person voices who are simply telling a story).”  He always has interesting stuff to say and that’s why I’m glad we are friends.

One of my personal favorite fictional diaries (and not one contained on the list I looked at) is the Amazing and Death Defying Diary of Eugene Dingman, by Paul Zindell.  It was a Christmas gift from my sister when I was a kid.  I remember I was pretty disappointed that my older sister got me a book for Christmas that year, and it sat on my bookshelf for a long while before I read it.  But after I read it I was glad I did.  It was a fun read.

As it is, the journal itself cannot be purchased through conventional means.  It is part of the Collector’s Edition package of the Old Republic MMO released by Bioware last month.  I regret I did not buy the Collector’s Edition, because I had to pick my copy up on Ebay.  Still, after shipping and handling I was in for only a little under 30 bucks, which in my estimation was money well spent for this book.  If you’re a fan of Star Wars literature but not a gamer, I recommend adding this book to your collection.  Last time I checked there were a few of them for sale on Ebay.  You never know, due to their exclusive nature they could be worth a few bucks far into the future.  Not likely, but possible.

I’ll move on to my reactions to the book.

I want to comment on a couple of things today, namely, the dating of the text, Gnost-Dural’s first entry, Padawans and the darkside, the Sith as a reaction to the Jedi, my previous predictions of the Sith emperor, intertextuality (yes, again), and Rob Chestney.

Firstly, I’ve found the dating of The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural difficult to understand.  His last entry ends with him on Tython rebuilding the Jedi Archives after the Treaty of Coruscant.  I can only make an educated guess that the last date referenced in the journal, which is written by Gnost-Dural as 21398.48.556, is also 3643 BBY, the year when the Old Republic MMO establishes its beginnings.  On Joe Bongiorno’s website he has The Old Republic MMO listed at 3643-3641 BBY. But a problem occurs when trying to determine what exactly 21398 actually translates to in terms of BBY.  When does Gnost-Dural, and the Republic and Jedi Order at this period in Star Wsrs history, mark as the beginning of time?   Is it the beginning of the Republic, which was 25,000 years before the Battle of Yavin?  If so, that would make the date 21359 (the first date entered) translate into 3641 BBY.  But that doesn’t make sense, because 3641 is that start of the Republic/Empire cold war.

I’m going to stop here, because I’ve totally confused myself now, and I’ve been staring at the book and my computer screen for a full 30 minutes and I can’t figure it out.  Can someone please figure out for me the dating of Gnost-Dural’s journal?

Moving on in my reactions, I absolutely loved Gnost-Dural's first entry into his journal, because I found it similar in spirit to my own initial entry to the Star Wars Chronology Project:

“Today I have decided to begin keeping a journal.  As Padawans, we are forced to spend a great deal of time in the Jedi Archives.  While some of my fellow pupils find this tedious, I find it to be absolutely fascinating – centuries of Jedi wisdom preserved in its purest form.  I expressed my appreciation for the Archives to Master Bestos, who suggested that if I were truly interested in history, I should begin keeping my own personal record. Though I never considered that I might contribute to the vast knowledge in the Archives, I begin this endeavour in just such a spirit.  Perhaps this may also be a convenient way to keep track of my studies for later reference” (4).

The Star Wars Chronology Project is my own little addition to the Jedi Archives that is the Star Wars cosmos.  I consider this blog, like Master Gnost-Dural, as a ‘convenient way to keep track of my studies for later reference’.  What is more, I’m very aware that this blog could last for many decades; indeed it could last until well after my death.  The internet is not disappearing anytime soon.  It will not degrade, it will not go away.  What one places on the internet could possibly last for longer than we might imagine.  What one writes on the internet could even conceivably be read by their grandchildren.  Freaky eh?
Furthering my reactions, and getting deeper into the text itself, I want to focus on what I find to be a very peculiar passage by Satele Shan, who is herself commenting on Gnost-Dural’s entries.  In his entry on the return of the Sith Empire, Dural gets into the story of the first time he heard of the Sith’s return to Republic space via the holonet.  Satele Shan takes this story further and references the tale of Master Barel Ovair and his infiltration of the Jedi Order.  The peculiar part comes when she says:

“I’ve been trying to find a way to ferret these traitors out, however deeply imbedded they might be.  Our best hope is a young Padawan under the tutelage of Master Nomen Karr who is showing signs of an amazing aptitude – the ability to sense the darkside in a person’s spirit.” (16).

What does she mean by spirit here?  Are Jedi of this time unable to sense the darkside at all, or can they sense it but just not focus it to a particular individual?  It does not make sense that the Jedi cannot sense the darkside in an individual, because in AOTC Yoda says to Dooku ‘the darkside I sense in you’.  Also, the choice of the word ‘sprit’ is very interesting, as this particular word carries with it heavy connotations.  Do the Jedi recognize beings as having a ‘spirit’ along with a corporeal body?  A soul?  Has something like this ever been mentioned in Star Wars history over the time period I have covered, because I’m not so sure it has.  Anyone else want to take a stab at interpreting this bit of text?
Another noteworthy comment in this text from both Satele Shan and Master Gnost-Dural is how they see the Sith as a reaction to the Jedi Order.  I remember in the Jedi Path Palpatine making a comment in the margins of page 150 saying “Yet the Sith are older and run deeper” to chief librarian Restelly Quist’s comment that the Jedi had over 24,000 years of accumulated wisdom.  Here, I think Shan, using the words of Dural sets the record straight:

“Gnost-Dural’s report, of which I only include a summary here, analyzed these events from a historical perspective, explaining how, in truth, the roots of the Sith Empire can be traced back to the Jedi Order” (46).
Any discussion of the Sith empire necessarily brings up the subject of the Sith emperor, the one who brought Sith civilization back from the brink of extinction after the Great Hyperspace War.  In a way, I feel sort of vindicated by The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural, because like him, I followed a similar line of logic in trying to determine the identity of the Sith emperor:

“Though I now have considerable doubt that the Emperor is the same person as the ancient Sith Lord Naga Sadow, I cannot prove otherwise.  Nonetheless, I must make the observation that despite historical records indicating that Ludo Kressh was killed in a suicide attack on his ship, his fate was never truly verified, and thus, there is also the possibility that he found a way to survive all these years as the Emperor” (53)

I proffered the idea that the emperor could Ludo Kressh back in July in a discussion with Lugija in the comments section on my post on the cinematic Return.  You can find that discussion here.  Though my suspicious pointed me to Kressh as a possible candidate for being the emperor, his survival coming via the essence transfer technique, I knew I would be shown to be wrong sooner or later, as events from the novel Revan gave us the emperor’s origin story.  Gnost-Dural also references the events from Revan, and comes to the conclusion that the emperor cannot be Kressh either.  Also, my essence transfer theory has fallen through as well.  The emperor has achieved his immortality through other means.   
On a smaller note, I know I’ve said many times in this blog that the literature of Star Wars is a massive work in intertextuality, as it seems all works of Star Wars are built on the works of other Star Wars books and authors, and The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural is no exception.  Satele Shan notes the actions of Aryn Leener after the events of the Treaty of Coruscant, and with this, Rob Chestney is making reference to Paul S. Kemp’s novel Deceived, which itself is based on the first cinematic produced by Bioware for the Old Republic MMO.  There is even a great picture on page 103 of Aryn Leener battling Darth Malgus, which is a great visual from the novel Deceived.

My last point of discussion in regards to The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural focuses on the Journal’s author, Rob Chestney.  I wonder if Chestney is poking fun at himself and his awful work The Threat of Peace.  In the last few pages of the journal, Satele Shan’s comments on the events that took place after the Treaty of Coruscant are funny.

“The bombing attack on the Senate Tower and the murder of Grand Master Zym were part of a bizarre series of events that took place in the weeks and months after the Treaty of Coruscant.  Most accounts of what occurred are muddled and confusing.  I myself was caught up in the events, and I can attest to the fact that the truth was just as convoluted” (104).

How true these words are. The Threat of Peace was indeed a bizarre series of events, and its account of these bizarre events was muddled and confusing.  The entire comic was convoluted.  But still, if Chestney was trying to poke fun at himself here, it’s nice to see he can have a sense of humor about it. 
Before I sign out I'll make some comments on the Old Republic MMO game itself.  I've been playing the game off-and-on since its release.  Im my last post I said I was a level 13 Imperial Agent, but after working through a darkside character I found myself uncomfortable with the idea of working for the Empire, which for me is rather funny.  Anytime I play an MMO I always enjoy playing the "bad guy".  The narrative of a villian seems so much more interesting.  But for some reason I was really bothered by the Empire in this game, and as I played through the class I ralized I really did want to see the Empire fall and the Republic emerge victorious.  I've also wondered if we, as players, are shaping the history of Star Wars.  Will our collective choices as players influence, in a democratic manner, what will be determained as cannon later on?  It would be neat if that were the case.  Anyway, I'm now playing a gunslinger on the Veela server.  My character name there is Black'beard.  Look me up if you're a player and we can game together.
For my next post I’m going to look at The Old Republic comic series The Lost Suns.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

5 comments:

  1. Regarding spirits, didn't Nomi Sunrider see her husband's spirit after his death? I'm not sure, since it's been years since I read that. The Jedi (or at least Gnost-Dural) also seem to know of Freedon Nadd's spirit, so I would think the Jedi of this time would believe in spirits.

    We know that the ability to become a Force ghost at death was known by the Jedi, but eventually forgotten by the time of the prequels until rediscovered by Qui-Gon. So, we don't know if the belief in spirits was a constant amongst the Jedi. However, by the time of TESB, Yoda (either through Jedi lore or by Qui-Gon's tutelage) believed in spirits: "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter."

    ReplyDelete
  2. There are times I write stuff, and when I look back on it I muse to myself 'what the hell was I thinking?' The paragraph I wrote regarding spirits is one of those times. All I can do is step back and give my head a shake.

    But spirits aside, what about the dating of this text? Any thoughts on that?

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey all,
    I just picked up this book and am trying to understand the dating too. Has anyone figured this out?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Not yet, it's still a mystery. I'm not sure if anyone has even been able to decipher the relation of 21398.48.556 to a concrete date in BBY. Personally, I'd love to move to an in-universe dating system and pitch this BBY nonsense aside. An in-universe dating system would be more immersive I think.

    ReplyDelete