The obligatory Star Wars 30th Anniversary post

It's been 30 years since Star Wars came out. Rather than talk about what it all means to me and going on some nostalgic trip through Hollywood history from the 1970s, or recounting the history of the franchise, I want to do something different. Lets talk about the little hidden truths about Star Wars that have been drowned out by the cacophony of Lucas haters, fanboys and the press.

1. That the first movie was a blockbuster is not the point - it's that 30 years later people all over the world are still addicted to it, ToT included. Blockbusters come and go (how many Titanic expansion universe novels are there? none) but Star Wars has continued. Why? Because it's that damn good. How many of us have felt like they spent serious time in the Millenium Falcon? Or in a X-Wing/TIE fighter dogfight? Or on a speeder bike in the woods? Or fighting Darth Vader with a lightsaber on a dimly lit platform in Cloud City? Or trading lightsaber parries with Darth Maul in the bowels of the Naboo palace?

2. The merchandising is a distraction from an amazingly well-developed mythical action adventure. When you become a billionaire, everyone starts throwing the worst motives at everything you do. Lucas didn't develop Star Wars to sell action figures and toy starships. He didn't create the Ewoks because he could sell teddy bears; it was because he was making a statement about how overwhelming military might and firepower can be defeated, a la the US and France in Vietnam, Napoleon in Spain, etc. The hero's journey he laid out in the original trilogy and the bigger one in the six episode series is ancient and effective. Lucas is an artistic movie maker who loves to make homages and he is 'blowing a kiss' at the movies of his youth. And he did it incredibly well. He could have made Robocop, but he didn't.

3. Guys my age and the press in general crap all over the prequels and for the most part, it doesn't hold water. The critics can't be 8 or 15 years old again and they're blaming the prequels. Lucas couldn't repeat the initiation of the blockbuster phenomenon, which is the only thing the media cares about when it comes to Star Wars, and so the media panned the movies regardless of how well they did. But young kids love them. My kids, after minimal exposure to the franchise from me, took to SW like Mon Calamarians to water. But get this: they would much rather watch the prequels than the original trilogy. Yes, the prequels lack the grittiness that the original trilogy had, and Harrison Ford livened up the dialogue and acting in the originals. But these changes are the point of the story - how the Star Wars universe changed after the Empire took over. Little kids like Jedi battles, beautiful Queens on beautiful planets and really cool looking spaceships.

4. CGI. Computer generated images. Somehow, Lucas has caught a ton of flak for using lots of computer generated imagery in the prequels. People claim the acting is worse because they think actors can't act in front of a green screen. People complain that it's all a video game. Apparently they think that actors can't act without 360 degrees of realistic scenery, which DOES NOT exist on any movie or TV set or in a play, where 'real' acting takes place in front of an audience too boot. Apparently it's okay to insert immaculate matte paintings on blue screen in the original trilogy, but using hand-painted digital paintings and 3d modeling is beyond the pale. And it's impressive when Peter Jackson does the exact same thing (compare the battle on Naboo to the battle at Minas Tirith). Guess what, 30 years from now, no one is going to fault the prequels for having too much CGI. It'll probably be considered old-fashioned how it was not 100% CGI.

5. Artistically, the whole Star Wars phenomenon has opened up movie-making, story-telling and the sci-fi genre. Lucas refused to limit his vision because of technological limitations and gave everyone permission to do the same in all movie-making, from Spielberg to Cameron. No one would pony up the money for heavy FX films if it weren't for Lucas blazing the path. He also changed story-telling by bringing back morality tales that didn't lean on tired religious dogma for authority but came up with a cool moral code. Darth Vader's bust is not on the National Cathedral just for grins. Lucas also brought back many of the ancient myths, like the virgin birth, that Joseph Campbell identified as nearly genetic predilections we have for story-telling. And everyone was allowed to try everything in sci fi again.

Off to Balticon again

I'm off to Balticon this Memorial Day weekend, the Maryland sci fi convention. Hopefully I will meet old friends, make new ones and move the ball a bit on the whole sci fi novel writing project, formerly the Secret Project. Each year I get a bit recharged, get some new ideas and feel both pumped up and intimidated by the notion of being a sci fi writer.

I know, you might be thinking that a sci fi convention is all geeks, freaks, and freaky geeks. Yes, that's true: we pretty much form our own ethnic group. Only when we're all together does it become glaringly obvious how similar we are. The stereotypes are true to a large extent. These are the nicest, strangest, smartest non-conformers I've ever run into and I'm proud to be one of their number.

Balticon is not your typical sci fi convention, driven by TV stars, fanboy drooling and new product demos. It has a heavy literary focus, which is nice for us writerly folks. Yes, there are movies, video games and tabletop gaming going on for something like 72 hours straight, but there are also sessions on writing, podcasting, comic books, artwork, medieval dance and costuming. Plus straight up bona fide lectures on physical science subjects (physics, astrophysics, biology, tech, computer science, etc.). Not to mention the dealer room and art show and auction. (There's a masquerade ball and costume contest and live action role play, but I've not been to any of them).

My goal at this con, besides steeping myself in a weekend of sci fi, is to do a bit of networking, be a bit more social, maybe talk to authors, publishers and other wannabes like me. This is not easy for me. My first con two years ago, I was so awestruck by A.C. Crispin that I couldn't even say hi to her in an empty hallway. I mean, I had read all of these books of hers, and what the hell was I going to say that she might have wanted to hear other than incoherent fanboy gushing?

Last year I loosened up a little bit with some success. Networking or casually conversing with the rock stars of certain areas of life has always come very hard for me. I can't help seeing it at times as being fanboy gushing, or sucking up, or being totally phony. Plus, I suck at it, I think. I'd rather have relationships emerge naturally, instinctually, rather than an as a result of a Special Ops surgical strike masquerading as a random meeting. If one thing will sink the writing career and other possible career options, I fear, it is my uncomfort with this most basic level of business dealings. So this is yet another attempt to move the ball a bit on this front as well.


What You See is What You Get

For many people, this is more than a type of word processor, it's a code of personal conduct. I am one of those people and believe in it quite strongly. One of the key ingredients of being true to yourself is being yourself. And yet, it sounds like a radical concept, doesn't it?

I'm even a bit perplexed as to how one can act otherwise. The show ponies who pretend to be workhorses, the people who put on airs, the people who tack into the wind personally all strike me as being dishonest and self-crippling. They expend so much energy trying to be something they are not that they can't play to their own strengths or dwell on their home turf. And most everyone sees through their act anyway. Maybe it's part of their nature to be false, you ask. We're not going to get into a circular discussion though.

On the flip side, some people make a point of being themselves a bit too much. They walk around in a bragging kind of way stomping on any and all rules of decorum that interfere with them acting any way they feel. These people in actuality are really the same as those putting on a front.

I figure, be yourself and let the chips fall where they may. We're all characters in our own way, even the quiet, reticent ones. Yes, there are certain traits that we each have that one would rather not have at times (I talk too much). We can try to rein those weaknesses in where we can and where it's prudent but still be WYSIWYG.