Happy 40th Birthday, Star Wars!

A long time ago, in a theater far, far away….starwars_poster

I was just shy of my 10th birthday in the summer of 1977, when some friends and I went to see Star Wars because out of the movies playing at my neighborhood 4-screen theater, it looked the most interesting. Typical boy stuff, right? Just hang out in a darkened theater for a couple of hours on a hot Florida day, and then on to something else, right?


Like a lot of kids that summer, I watched the film (no “Episode” number! no subtitle! BAH!) with unrestrained glee. It was the first time I could remember enjoying myself so thoroughly at something I was watching on a movie screen. It was all Star Wars all the time that year as, along with all the other 9 and 10-year-olds, I devoured the action figures and other toys, read the comics, built the models, and on and on and on….

SW-1977-02(This photo was everywhere, that summer.)

Forty years later, I still love the original Star Wars. After all, there’s  plenty there to enjoy, no matter your age. Its sequels are fun, The Empire Strikes Back being its own bit of superb, of course, though I’m not as enamored with the “prequel trilogy.” Still, the music from all of the films is in my regular rotation for when I’m writing, and I’ve continued to keep up with various books and comics and whatnot over the years. This is aided in no small part by my daughters, who absolutely dig Star Wars. They watch the Rebels cartoon and play with Star Wars toys, and because of them I get to act a little like that 9-year old all over again. For them, it’s just cool characters and space ships, which in its own way is completely, spectacularly awesome.

Of course, things elevated to a whole new level of cool in December 2015: I’d been waiting to take our kids to see a new Star Wars movie since the instant it was announced. Sure, we’d watched the other films together, at home, but that can never compare to watching a Star Wars movie on the big screen, the way it’s meant to be seen.

As we sat there in the theater, waiting for the lights to go down so we could watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens, my oldest daughter was the same age I was on that magical summer day in 1977. So, on some level it was moment nearly forty years in the making. Since then, we’ve seen Rogue One, of course, and eagerly await The Last Jedi and whatever else is coming down the pike.

But for now? Happy Birthday to the first, original Star Wars.

sw-1977-01(This one was everywhere, too.)


Talking Rogue One at the SciFi Diner!


So, hey! It’s me, again.



And so it was last week or so that I sat down (virtually speaking, of course) to hang with Scott, Miles, and M at the fabulous SciFi Diner. It’s been a while since I last made it over to their neck of the woods for an actual chat. Earlier in December, they asked if I might be interested in chatting about Rogue One, the new Star Wars flick that’s tearing up movie screens across the country, around the world, and maybe even kicking its way into other dimensions and universes.

SciFi Diner Podcast – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

Though we may pick a few nits here and there, I think we all agreed the new film is a very fun ride, particularly for old-school Star Wars fans like me, who went in wondering how well Rogue One slots in as it’s intended to, acting as a true prequel to the original Star Wars movie (aka, “Episode IV: A New Hope” for you youngsters). What’s that, you say? You’re one of the precious few who still doesn’t get where this new flick fits in with the larger Star Wars saga? Well, then here; let me help you:


Boom. Done.

The highlight of the evening may have come from Scott’s son, Kiefer, who’s about the same age as my oldest daughter and like her knew precisely where Rogue One fits into the Star Wars mythos, and explained with authority just how kick-ass this new movie is, and why everybody should go and see it at least three times while it’s still in theaters.

Can the rest of us clear the bar set by Kiefer and his analysis? You’ll have to listen in to find out.

SciFi Diner Podcast – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie Review


Thanks very much to Scott, Miles, M, and Kiefer for inviting me to talk Star Wars for a bit. It’s always fun hanging with that bunch, and here’s hoping we can do it again soon.

Talking ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ with the SciFi Diner!

Hey, it happens. Occasionally, I’m invited to come and sit with friends who are of the Geek Body and we talk about this or that, and someone sees fit to record the resulting conversation and make it available to the unsuspecting masses.

This time, it’s the SciFi Diner Podcast!

In the run up to the release of the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, the Diner has been revisiting the earlier movies and devoting an episode to each “installment.” Hosts M.Sieiro Garcia, Scott Herzog, and Miles McLoughlin invited me to sit down and have a chat a we discuss The Empire Strikes Back.

Nostalgia and geekery were in vast supply that evening as we recalled our first experiences with the film and our love for everything Star Wars. Favorite scenes, this movie’s place in the overall saga, trivia challenges, and other bits pepper the conversation, and a fun time was had by all.

Have a listen, whydontcha:

The SciFi Diner Podcast #266 – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Many thanks to M., Scott, and Miles for having me on the show again. It’s been a while since my last visit to the Diner, and I have to admit I missed the joint. 🙂


A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe: It’s really a real book! Today!

SW1Because why not have a blog post title takes up the better part of two lines, amirite?

Though I knew this book was coming (hopefully) to capitalize on the Star Wars insanity which has gripped the known universe, what with The Force Awakens just over a month away from release, I didn’t know exactly when it might see publication. Well, BAM! Here it is. The Sequart Organization has announced that this bad boy is a real, honest to goodness book, and anyone and everyone who might want to check out their very own copy or perhaps buy eighteen or twenty of them for their friends and family are in luck, because it’s alive in the wild as of today.

Hey, don’t take my word for it, doubters. Check out Sequart’s official press release:

Sequart Releases A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe

I don’t want to steal too much of Sequart’s thunder, but I will go so far as to offer up the contributors to this latest Tome of Awesomeness. You may recognize at least a few names on this particular perp list:

Joseph F. Berenato, Jean-Francois Boivin, Joe Bongiorno, Nathan Butler, Julian Darius, Ian Dawe, Keith DeCandido, Kevin Dilmore, Rich Handley, Zaki Hasan, Rocko Jerome, Alex Newborn, David Pipgras, Matthew Sunrich, Lou Tambone, Steven H. Wilson.

Oh, and me.

For reasons that continue to surpass understanding, Sequart keeps inviting me back. I figure they’ll learn, sooner or later, but hopefully not before I can make off with some office supplies, or something. My contribution to this collection is titled, “Surrounding and Binding Us Together: Star Wars Across the Generations.” The essay was inspired by the fun I’ve been having with my daughters, the oldest of whom is just about the same age I was when I saw the first Star Wars film in 1977. We’re very much anticipating The Force Awakens, and this dad is particularly jazzed about taking his kids to see a brand new Star Wars movie the way it was meant to be seen.


A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe is now available from the usual haunts like Amazon.com, and your local Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or independent book store can also order you a copy. In fact, go that latter route. Make an indie bookseller’s day, all right?

As always, special thanks to editors Rich Handley and Joe Berenato for inviting me along to play one more time. I’d have warned them about the dangers of continuing to include me in these things, but they’d already signed me for yet another essay by that point.

Suckers. 😀

Topps Star Wars trading card goodness…in book form!

Oh be still, my fanboy heart.

When I was a kid, “non-sports” trading cards were all the rage. Yes, they’re still a thing these days, but way back when? They were special. Long before the internet or home video, a set of trading cards might help you relive a film one glorious frame at a time, or page through images from a favorite TV series.

I had boxes of these things. Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Superman, The Six Million Dollar Man, and on and on.

Oh, and Star Wars, of course.

Holy shit. Star Wars cards. Out. The. Ass.

Topps, the company responsible for most of the card sets I was collecting back in those days, kinda sorta lost its damned mind for a while there, starting in the summer of 1977. Okay, not really, because they opted to release not one, not two, and not even three but five separate sets of supremely awesome trading cards and accompanying stickers, snarfed up a few at a time by me and legions of eager kids, along with a sticker and a piece of that wretchedly tasty bubble gum. You know what I’m talking about. The blue set. The red set. The yellow set. The green set. The orange set.

They never stopped. I had boxes of the damned things. I was able to complete the first three sets, but I ended up with gaps in the latter collections. Curse you, trading card gods!

Of course, all those are lost to time. I don’t remember whatever became of them. However, a suitable substitute is coming. Behold, yo:

Topps-StarWars01 (Click on the pic for more info.)

Abrams ComicArts is on the case once again! Coming our way later this fall will be a new book showcasing the art/photos from all five sets of cards and their stickers. Even the dust jackets are made from the same wax paper as the original wrappers. And they’re including all-new bonus cards? Are you kidding me? This is a total instabuy.

What? There’s more? Check it:

Topps-EmpireStrikesBack01 Topps-StarWarsGalaxy01
(Yep. Clicky click.)

For The Empire Strikes Back, Topps ended up releasing three different sets of trading cards, and Abrams will also be releasing a volume devoted to those. As for the Star Wars Galaxy cards, I never collected those as they came out much later and long after I stopped chasing such things (I’ve resisted that sort of thing at numerous points over the years, you understand).

I’ll probably end up buying it along with the other two books, because…you know…Star Wars. Besides, they’ll look great on the shelf next to my copies of these other books Abrams published that celebrate two of my other favorite card series:

(Again, click click click away.)

Anyway, if you’re an old-school fan like me and either don’t have the cards or your collection got tossed eons ago, these books are the perfect antidote. Yeah, I’m buying ’em.

And hey! Abrams ComicArts people! If you’re reading this, I hope you might consider a similar tome for the Star Trek: The Motion Picture cards you did back in the day. Or, if you really want to tickle my fanboy funny bone, you’ll think about these bad boys:

Topps-PlanetApesMovie Topps-PlanetApesTV

Oh, and did I mention I write and stuff? Just puttin’ that out there.

Cover art for Sequart’s trio of upcoming Star Wars essay books!

I think the title pretty much says it all, right?

The Sequart Organization has been keeping friends Rich Handley and Joe Berenato busy of late. In turn, they have been keeping freelance word pushers like myself out of trouble by giving us things to do. You may recall that Mr. B edited an anthology last year, New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, which took a deep dive at–wait for it–Star Trek comics in all their various forms. For reasons surpassing understanding, Joe invited me to contribute an essay to that collection.

Despite my best efforts to show him how he’d made a tragic mistake, Joe along with co-editor Rich called me back not once but twice for two different essays dealing with different aspects of Planet of the Apes. The first of these, The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes, was just published, while a follow-up, Bright Eyes, Ape City: Examining the Planet of the Apes Mythos, is due out next year and will take a look at the entire Apes franchise.

And now, they’ve done called me back. Again.

This time, Rich and Joe really went off the deep end, commissioning not one and not two but three–three, I tell you–new collections of essays all focusing on Star Wars. Hey! As it happens, there’s a new movie coming out later this year, and more in the pipeline, so now seems like the perfect time to do some analyzing and ruminating about various people and things in that galaxy far, far away.

SW1Rich and Joe have assembled–conservatively speaking–six hundred million different writers (I could be off by a few dozen) to contribute essays to the three books. Deciding quite correctly that a little bit of me goes a long way, they’ve contained my pollution of this monstrous undertaking to an essay for the first volume, A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe.

Whereas this first book will be covering Star Wars on multiple fronts, the second and third volumes will be dialing in on specific aspects of the franchise. A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics will do just what you think it’s going to do, while A More Civilized Age: Exploring the Star Wars Expanded Universe takes a look at novels, games, comics, and all sorts of other tie-in products that serve to expand and enhance the Star Wars mythos.


So far as I know, publication dates for the three books have not yet been finalized.

Rich is also staying busy on a number of fronts with his own publishing company, Hasslein Books. You can read more about all of that as well as these latest Sequart offerings by moseying on over to the Hasslein Blog:

From Planet of the Apes to Star Wars: New Anthologies Bookin’ Your Way

Many thanks to Rich and Joe for continuing to invite me into the Sequart sandbox. I figure one of you will learn your lesson one of these days.

Or, you know…not.

Happy 35th Anniversary, The Empire Strikes Back!

It is a dark time for the
Rebellion. Although the Death
Star has been destroyed,
Imperial troops have driven the
Rebel forces from their hidden
base and pursued them across
the galaxy.

Evading the dreaded Imperial
Starfleet, a group of freedom
fighters led by Luke Skywalker
has established a new secret
base on the remote ice world
of Hoth.

The evil lord Darth Vader,
obsessed with finding young
Skywalker, has dispatched
thousands of remote probes into
the far reaches of space….

It was a hot day in Tampa (aren’t they all?) on May 21st, 1980, when a couple of friends and I, after standing for four hours in the hot Florida sun finally were able to make our way into a theater that no longer exists, soaking up as much air conditioning, Coke, and popcorn as our bodies could absorb when after three long years of anticipation, these familiar words finally appeared on the screen….

And the audience went nuts.

Released 35 years ago today, The Empire Strikes Back (or, “Episode V” as some people insist on calling it) was that rare sequel that proceeded to top its predecessor. Working from a script by Leigh Brackett and the incomparable Lawrence Kasdan, director Irvin Kershner pulls and stretches on the mythology created by George Lucas. Empire amps up by several notches everything we loved about the original Star Wars while adding new characters and revelations as the journey of Luke Skywalker from backwater farm boy to potential savior of the rebellion against the Galactic Empire begins to take a darker turn.

We’ve got the evil emperor, who we see is the real power pulling Darth Vader’s strings. Then there’s that whole business with Han Solo and Princess Leia, and Boba Fett the super cool bounty hunter coming after Solo. And what about that conniving prick Lando Calrissian, or Yoda the annoying Jedi master? Oh, and did we mention that whole knowledge bomb Vader drops on Luke right after he chops off the dude’s hand?


Those who have only experienced “the original trilogy” via home video or (:: gasp! ::) after discovering Star Wars via one of the more recent films do have one thing going for them: they were spared the “agony” of having to wait three more years to see what would come next. On the other hand, I feel that those who’ve only watched the (at present) six Star Wars films in their “episode order” have been denied the true impact of the surprise twists presented in Empire (and later, Return of the Jedi).

Now that I’m a parent and once my kids started getting into Star Wars, I made sure to show them the films in their original release order. My oldest had been watching the Clone Wars cartoons, but the truth of Anakin Skywalker wasn’t revealed to her until we watched Empire and Return together, and I still laugh at the sounds she made when it all became clear to her.

(Proper indoctrination of offspring into Star Wars? Achievement Unlocked.)

For my money, The Empire Strikes Back remains the best of the Star Wars films, at least to date. Can The Force Awakens unseat it from the top of my heap? I was about to say, “It’s welcome to try,” but as Yoda would say: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Anyway, my kids and I will be there in December, ready to see for ourselves.

In the meantime? Happy 35th, Empire. You’re not scruffy-looking, at all.


Writing about Apes and Star Wars for Sequart!

Not together, you understand. I mean, that’d just be weird.

Those of you who follow this space with any regularity know that the good folks over at the Sequart Organization have seen fit to invite me into their fold here and there, so that I might contribute an essay or two on various pop culture topics of interest. Last year, it was New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, edited by Joseph F. Berenato. Coming later this summer is The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes, edited by Joe and Rich Handley.

Having not learned their lesson so far as what happens when you allow me to come over and puke in your punch bowl, Rich and Joe have taken complete leave of their senses and called upon me to contribute to not one but two more collections of Sequart essays.

(Overheard from the audience: “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?”)

Continue reading “Writing about Apes and Star Wars for Sequart!”

My bro Kevin writin’ about Star Wars like a boss for the Village Voice!

So, my hetero life mate, Kevin Dilmore, has been busy.

Being something of a pop culture guru, ol’ Kevin’s often asked to weigh in on topics of the day, ranging from movies to TV to comics and whatever else fandom might be on about. A short while back, he was asked to offer his thoughts on the announcement from back in April that the Star Wars “Expanded Universe” was getting something of a reboot in preparation/anticipation for the new movies, the first of which is comin’ at us in December 2015.  If you’re dialed into such things, you may recall that the “declaration” caused…something of a stir.



Once assembled and organized and polished just so, Kevin’s thoughts and ruminations and ponderings on the forthcoming “reset” of the Star Wars EU were to be published by none other than the Village Voice! How do you like them apples?

In his usual thoughtful manner and with that way of words that’s so uniquely his, Kevin lays out the whole deal, what it means to longtime fans and newcomers alike, and calmly and with great aplomb tells all of us to calm the fuck down. Why? Because, basically (and to paraphrase from another franchise that got its own form of reset), shit like this has happened before, and it will happen again.

Go. Have a read:

The Village Voice: “The Death of the Star Wars Expanded Universe”

Nice job, bro. However, I do have one question, arising from your brief bio at the end of the article:

Kevin Dilmore wrote his first and only Star Wars Expanded Universe story as an eighth-grader in 1978. It remains unpublished.

You’ve been holding out on me, dude.

The whole “Star Wars Expanded Universe” thing.

So, last Friday, the official Star Wars website dropped this little bomb for anyone who might be paying attention:

StarWars.com: The Legendary Star Wars Expanded Universe Turns a New Page

The short version? All those novels, comics, games, and other licensed tie-in products released over the years and which have come to be known as the “Star Wars Expanded Universe” will not factor into the mix as production ramps up on the first of what we fans hope will be many new Star Wars adventures for the big (and small!) screen.

Um, okay? I mean, to me, this seemed like a foregone conclusion since…well…forever.

Going forward? The plan for new novels, comics, games, and so on is to keep everything “on the same page,” so to speak. As the announcement reads:

Now, with an exciting future filled with new cinematic installments of Star Wars, all aspects of Star Wars storytelling moving forward will be connected. Under Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy’s direction, the company for the first time ever has formed a story group to oversee and coordinate all Star Wars creative development.”

All of the older material will still be available, of course, and its status as “not canon” shouldn’t diminish any potential enjoyment to be gleaned by readers, players, and so on.

That’s right: None of it is “real.” Not even the Greatest Star Wars Book Ever.


“I find this lack of canon disturbing.”
“Can I get more sprinkles?”

Anyway, I’m trying to figure out why anybody thinks this is “news.”

For years, there’s been a lot of information, misinformation, and misinterpretation with respect to Star Wars and what constitutes “canon” in that galaxy far, far away. There have been statements alleging that all of the expanded universe material is canon–meaning it “really happened.” On the other hand, George Lucas has said that he doesn’t read any of the books or comics, and considered all of that stuff “over there” with respect to the films. For reasons surpassing understanding, a hierarchy evolved placing the expanded universe material at various “levels of canon” in relation to the movies.

Confession: I never understood the hierarchy thing. To me, “canon” has always been something of a binary condition, much like being pregnant, circumcised, or a fan of Firefly: You either are, or you’re not.

To me, all of that singing and dancing about “levels” of canon seemed like a very complicated way of avoiding having to say what should be obvious: none of that “extra” material–no book, comic, computer game, role-playing game, or whatever–was “canon.” It did not and would not overtly influence the storytelling choices of the franchise’s primary platform: the films (and, later the Clone Wars TV series). Yes, there might be the occasional reference to a planet or character or something else relatively minor, but we were never going to see–for example–the events of Shadows of the Empire coming into play on screen, or driving events which would play out in later movies.

So, what does this new statement mean for Star Wars? Well, in a nutshell, all those years of stories set after Return of the Jedi are being set aside so as to give the makers of the new films the maximum degree of latitude to tell their stories. As for future novels, comics, and other stuff, according to the statement, we’re going to be seeing a “creatively aligned program of Star Wars storytelling.” Okay, but what’s that mean? In English? I mean, once again people are firing up the age-old debate: Is any of that stuff going to be “canon?”

The StarWars.com statement doesn’t come right out and say it. Of course, it doesn’t NOT say it either, but there’s really one measure worth worrying about: Will any of the new novels, comics, games, etc. influence the stories told in the films or television series? Will the director and writers of a future Star Wars movie be told that their story must conform to whatever backstory has been established in the new crop of novels, comics, and so on?

If the answer is “Yes,” then we’re talking about an unprecedented level of collaboration across multiple storytelling platforms, all with their own development life cycles, demands, and target audiences. I have absolutely no problem believing that such an effort will be undertaken to see that books, comics, games, and other tie-in material align with whatever is presented by future films and television series. On the other hand, I’m having a hard time believing that the producers of a feature film costing hundreds of millions of dollars will accept being “forced” to stay in step with the events of a novel or comic book read by a tiny fraction of their movie’s intended audience.

If the answer is “No,” then what we’re looking at is pretty much the same thing tie-in products and “expanded universe” material has always faced: It’s “official” in that it’s blessed by the licensed property owner (and they get a cut of whatever money’s made from it), but no one at a studio will be obligated to “obey” any of it.

I’ve yet to read the definitive answer to this question. Not that it should matter. Not really.

Seems like a reasonable enough stance to take, right? Who cares if it’s “canon” or not? Just enjoy the stuff and try not to get wrapped around the axle. That’s my take, but there apparently are some fan circles in which this sort of attitude can get you strung up by your nut sack, your lightsaber just out of reach as you hear the sounds of the Wampa making its way up the tunnel.

Shit, people. Take a breath. Relax a little.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but I never saw the vast library of supplemental Star Wars material as anything other than just that: “supplemental material.” They’re additional stories featuring favorite characters, just as the hundreds of Star Trek novels and comics provide extra adventures for that “universe.” In the case of Trek, it’s always been known that the “canon” consists of the television series and films; no books, comics, games, or whatever. That’s it, plain and simple. No “levels,” degrees, concentric circles; none of that noise. No muss, no fuss, and this “decree” from the studio didn’t stop me from enjoying any of that material.

So, too, is and was the case with Star Wars.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read and reread Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, the first “original” novel set in the Star Wars universe, which was released way back in 1978. Sure, that whole “Luke’s crush on Leia” thing is a bit weird now, given how events eventually played out on screen, but it’s still a classic tale that’s a decent standalone story in its own right. I remember how excited I was to buy Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire in 1991, and later that same year the inaugural issue of Dark Horse’s Dark Empire, which was to be the first in a long line of Star Wars comics tales which have continued to the present day. One of my favorite comic efforts was the set of Crimson Empire miniseries. Ditto novels like Brian Daley’s Han Solo trilogy or the early books in the X-Wing series.

The fact that all of this material won’t be considered “canon” (and never was, to be honest) doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of the stories. I feel the same way about a whole bunch of Star Trek novels and comics, several of which have since been contradicted by films or TV episodes produced after their initial publication. Such contradictions and “overwriting” is part and parcel of enjoying any sort of media tie-in stories. It’s not all that different from the way DC or Marvel reboot their continuities/characters every so often. These new versions don’t detract from the stories I read as a kid, do they?

Hell, even real life can do that to favorite stories if we wait around long enough. The War of the Worlds is still a classic science fiction novel, despite our now knowing that there are no aliens on Mars waiting to invade us. Raise the Titanic! isn’t any less a fun action thriller, despite its depicting a Titanic that sank in one piece because the book was published a decade before Robert Ballard discovered that the ship really had broken in two.

But hey! Back to Star Wars.

I’ve never been bothered by the whole canon/not canon thing. As someone who works in the tie-in field, I’m used to that sort of thing. Instead, my main questions regarding this new direction are focused more on the level of creative freedom writers and artists working on such material can expect to enjoy. Will certain storylines or characters be deemed “off limits” to novel or comics writers, because those sorts of things will be kept under wraps or otherwise reserved for future film efforts? This also is “part of the job” when it comes to creating tie-in material, as anyone who does it will tell you. It’s just the nature of the beast when it comes to this sort of thing.

That said, if the relationship between a property owner and its licensees is strong, it makes things easier when it comes to developing material for books, comics, games, what have you. Star Wars has always had one of those strong relationships with its various licensees, so I think we’ll be fine in that front, as it seems that now there will be an even greater push for an overall coordination of all those various efforts. I’m down with that.

I just don’t expect my “Han and Chewie Go To White Castle” Star Wars novel to ever be considered canon.

Assuming I ever get to write a “Han and Chewie Go To White Castle” Star Wars novel.

(Now you know why the editors at Del Rey never return my calls.)

So, come on, folks: Who’s got opinions or concerns with all of this? It’s no big deal, right? What am I missing?