Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Star Wars: New Jedi, Childhood - Preface

    This is a complete re-imagining of the Star Wars universe in the years after the fall of the Emperor. I picked and chose from various ideas and characters in the Extended Universe, not feeling at all bound by anything other than the events of the original three films. The project was inspired by the last of the Jedi Knight video games, Jedi Academy. I found it in the discount bin at a Walmart. This is also a complete rejection of the recent Star Wars films. I'll repeat that: the new films PLAY NO ROLE AT ALL HERE. This is what Leia, Han, and Luke would have been. No fan service, no keeping Han an outlaw smuggler because that's what the "fans" want to see. We even see the main characters of the original films evolve, as humans are prone to do. Han becomes a leader of soldiers, a general. Luke accepts his destiny as the first Jedi of the New Order. Leia becomes a Jedi and later a leader of the New Republic. Sometimes life insists that you change, regardless of your desire to stay the same. That's what I liked about the Expanded Universe, not only the acceptance of the reality of change, but telling new stories.
    This is a labor of love, not money. I'm not a greedy studio executive sitting in his office at Disney, trying to figure out a way to trick addled Star Wars fans out of their hard-earned money.
    I've been a professional writer since 1989, not a very successful one, but I have the habits of a professional. I wrote every day, no matter what job I have or had, and I had a lot of jobs. Then my dad died and I took over his job as caregiver to my mom. She had Parkinson's related dementia. A long, long career as a 24/7 caregiver began. My ability to write went away. I took care of Mom and I read a little during the day. At nights after she went to bed, I played video games and chatted with friends online. Jedi Academy captured my attention. I discovered the large modding community associated with the game. I also discovered a large group of gamers who liked to play the lead character, Jaden Korr, as a young woman. Some also favored playing her as a female twi'lek. It's built into the game. The player can choose both the species and gender they wish to play.
    Perhaps because it was an extension of the game, of pure escapist play, I began to write little stories during the day while sitting with Mom. Her dementia meant she had to be supervised. I also had to help her around the house and prepare her meals. No time for anything more than a few scribbled notes. I eventually found several women to give her baths and clean house a couple times a week. I still couldn't work on my own fiction, but at least I could write about Jaden, who had become a teenage girl in the little stories I wrote. The game gives her a lightsaber right at the start. I knew from my limited reading in Star Wars Expanded Universe lore that this meant she was a gray Jedi, one on the Path alone. I began to read more in the Extended Universe.
    One thing that helped me in this: my mom liked to watch the Star Wars movies almost as much as the Lord of the Rings films. So we watched them, not as often as Lord of the Rings, but often enough to embed them all in my mind. It was the action, you see. She couldn't remember enough of the plot or the dialog to follow a conventional film, but the surface texture of the Star Wars movies were perfect in their constant action. Lord of the Rings had those beautiful images to capture her eye, but Star Wars had the simplistic action to keep her attention. Underneath the action, over time, I detected both the immense flaws of Lucas as a writer and the hints both he and his co-writers put into the story, hints of a deeper story. I name Leigh Brackett as the source of these...hints. She is sometimes known by her nom de guerre: Queen of the Space Opera. Lucas is no Tolkien and that's too bad, because the potential for a deeply imagined fictional world was there, as potentially rich as Tolkien's work. But no one saw it. Everything was superficial...until I played Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2. Like a baseball bat to the head! So it is possible to "Tolkienize" Star Wars!
    The takeaway from KOTOR comes, I believe, from Kreia: it was never about the Republic. This was an eternal war of beliefs, with the reality of the Force at the center of it all.
    Lucas borrowed the idea of the Force from the Chinese concept of Chi (or Qi), but the concept appears in various forms in other religions. The Prana of Hinduism. The Mana of the Polynesians. The Odic Force of Baron Carl von Reichenbach, inspired by the Norse god Od. The Iroquois Orenda. The Way of the Tao. The Holy Ghost in Christianity. These are deep roots.
    He never followed this thread. Too bad.
    Two other threads Lucas never dealt with...
    One, Obi-Wan's line right before Vader kills him. "Strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can imagine." I guess Lucas thought it was just another throw-away line. But not me. Combined with my thoughts about the Tao, about Qi, about Prana, and how this related to the Force in this fictional universe, I began to have ideas about just what it meant, how it could be portrayed in a story.
    Two, and here is a central flaw in Lucas as a storyteller. Just what, exactly, was the Sidious up to? And why were the Jedi so easily defeated? Before, the Jedi were brought nearly to obliteration by immense Sith armies, in wars that devesatated the galaxy, nearly made extinct, along with all life, by that  abomination, the Great Hunger, Darth Nilhius. Just one schemer and a couple of henchmen bring down the Jedi?
    First, what does the Force want? If it is the voice of the living universe, what does life want? Were the Jedi somehow weakened because of this voice? And how is this related to Sidious's wishes?
    As I cared for my mother, and in the years since her death, and my near-death from cancer, I have explored these themes through the character of Jaden Korr.
    Welcome to her world.