The biggest challenge I face as a writer is actually finding the time to sit down and write. Even one consistently uniterrupted hour is unheard of in my life. I come up with new stories in my head every single day, many of them novel-length, but finding the time to write them down? Impossible. It’s getting me rather down and depressed lately. The longest thing I’ve managed to write over the last year are a couple of my longer blog posts, and those have all been written in under an hour, and not edited at all (shameful, I know) before being posted. I have a lot to say, and I even know how to say it, I just can’t find the time to get the words out. Sad.
A not so long time ago in a galaxy that’s exactly right here…
I have a feeling that I’m going to sound every single day of my thirty-eight years as I say this, but all the same, it’s something I need to get out, so if this makes me an old man in your eyes, well, frankly, I feel sort of sorry for you because you’ll never know what it used to mean to be a fan of something the way us Gen X’ers and our predecessors do.
I fell in love for the first time when I was three and a half years old, maybe four, and it was a love that was passionate to the point of obsessive for two decades or more. It wasn’t a woman, a pet, a car, a friend, or even a scrumptious dessert that stole my heart and mind to the point of obsession, but rather, like pretty much every other red-blooded boy of my generation, it was a movie. No, not just A movie, but rather, THE movie. The movie that changed the nature of cinema and defined what a worl-wide blockbuster should look like, the movie that spawned a now recognized (in New Zealand, anyhow) religion, the movie that made asthmatics suddenly seem threatening and murderous, the movie that taught us all that, to paraphrase one of its many parodies, Good will always win because Evil sucks.
I’m talking, of course, about Star Wars. And before you start slinging your geek-hate at me, back in the day it wasn’t A New Hope and I will never call it that. It was, is, and in my mind, always will be: Star Wars. If I’m in discussion and need to differentiate, then it is known as The Original. You can take your New Hope and your Greedo shooting first and shove it up a Wookie’s rectum, okay? For decades this movie was known as Star Wars, and that’s what it will be in my eyes until my dying day. You don’t like that, get over it, okay? If I were to ask my sister what her favourite Star Wars movie was, she wouldn’t know A New Hope from The Star Wars Christmas Special, dig? It’s Star Wars. Just plain old (although it’s the farthest thing from being a plain old movie) Star Wars.
Now, admittedly, I was a pretty young when the first movie came out, but by the time The Empire Strikes Back hit the cinescape, I was hooked like a junkie, and by the time we got to the renamed Return of the Jedi (originally more bad-assly titled Revenge of the Jedi until George Lucas realized that peace-loving creatures don’t often seek revenge) I was beyond a fanatic, beyond a patriot, beyond a champion of these movies – they were my be-all, my end-all, my philosophy, and my way of life. You find me a kid who was eight years old in 1981 who didn’t feel the same about these movies and I’ll show you a kid who’s either a liar, or who lived a very repressed life, most likely in a cave (likely without a resident Wampa in it).
I know it’s very easy to take for granted now in this age of internets and instant information gratification, but back in the day (damn – I really DO sound old), being a fan meant something else entirely. It meant when we saw a magazine that mentioned Star Wars in your local Variety Store, you quickly put your popsicle and chocolate milk back where you found them and asked (begged! pleaded!) your mom to get you the fanzine instead. Finding information, new pictures, trivia, or even the slightest mention of your love was like living in a life-long treasure-hunt, never knowing where the next shimmering glimmering glean of information might show up. If there was real news (or sometimes even rumours) about a new Star Wars movie, it wasn’t just some random piece of information you’d see on a blog, but rather it was on the real six o’clock motherfucking news because it was just that big a deal!
Somebody overheard on a bus or in a bookstore talking about The Holy Trilogy became noticeable eaves-dropped on from all points, just in case this nerd knew a nugget of information that the rest of us geeks hadn’t yet heard. Star Wars made me a collector – Star Wars comic books, Star Wars baseball cards, Star Wars action figures, Star Wars bed sheets, Star Wars lunch boxes, Star Wars picture books, Star Wars magazines, Star Wars spaceship diagrams and specs, Star Wars underoos, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars everything. You get the point.
I was a collector, I was an expert, hell, in my mind, I was practically a Jedi. But I worked for it, let me tell you. I scrounged long and hard. Every bookstore, every magazine shop, every comic book and collectable emporium I happened to come across while out with my parents became either a place we stopped to find Star Wars stuff, or it became a fight to the tears with my folks, because who knew what kind of vital information I may have been missing due to us not stopping?
I still remember when I first got internet in 1995 (holla AOL and Netscape!), and suddenly there were places that geeks like me could go! No longer was a relegated to the back-shelves of bookstores, but now I could learn it all from the comfort of my own home! And then in the late 90’s when Lucas released starwars.com upon the universe and there was now an official source for information, it was like nirvana. I spent hours and days perusing the site, learning more than even that ridiculous Jedi Quiz Book from the 80’s ever taught me – all the information was there at my fingertips!
It was invigorating!
It was enlivening!
It was amazing!
It got boring pretty damn fast.
Have you ever heard the saying that too much of a good thing can make it bad? I’m pretty sure that’s not actually a saying, but you know what I mean.
I’m sure things were helped along by the fact that the prequels weren’t quite as groundbreaking as those of us who waited twenty-plus years for them hoped they would be, but other than Attack of the Clones, I didn’t think they were particularly bad movies either, and I will defend The Phantom Menace to the end for being actually pretty great for what it was: A kid’s movie whose target audience was adults whether it wanted them or not. Forget all your Jar-Jar hate – I walked out of the Phantom Menace feeling like a four year old the first time I saw it – mission accomplished, Mr. Lucas. But, something else was happening at the same time, some sort of sordid and unexpected fall-out from this new and insanely awesome access to information we had gained. Part of what made being a Star Wars fan as fun and fanatical as it was, was the hunt. It was never knowing where some new tidbit might show up. Suddenly, I could just subscribe to an internet feed and get the news at the same time as the news and magazine outlets did.
The secrecy was stolen away by technology, and we were happy that it was.
And more than just news feeds on the internet, there were now 24-hour news, movie, and cartoon channels on the television. One of the Star Wars movies could be found on the boob-tube at least once a month, and now there’s also a weekly cartoon, another movie based on those cartoons, not to mention all of the special editions of the movies Lucas has cash-grab released over the last decade or so.
Suddenly Star Wars was everywhere. It was always everywhere for us fans, but now it literally was everywhere! In fact, there are times when one feels one must search out an escape thanks to over-inundation! It’s just too easy to be a fan now – the specialness is gone.
About a month ago, Lucas released The Phantom Menace 3D – yet another iteration of the same story we’ve already seen, and for the first time ever, a Star Wars movie hit the theatres and I walked on by. As I will walk on by when he releases Attack of the Clones 3D, as I continually pass over the Blu-Ray releases of the trilogies he released for my birthday this year. Because too much is too much.
I will always be a Star Wars fan, although I’ve long since given up trying to be the biggest one on Earth (thank you to all the beautifully distracting women of the world for helping me to get my priorities straight as a teenager!). I’m glad I got to grow up Skywalker, and now I am the grown-up you wanted me to be, with an active imagination, a strong moral sense of what is right and what is wrong, and the ability to quote the Holy Trilogy at will and make it fit any conversation.
I’m glad I got to grow up Skywalker, and now I’m glad that I learned enough to know that it’s time to start Skywalking away.