Friday, December 2, 2011

That Galaxy Far Far Away used to be a lot bigger back then...



Allow me a brief off-topic in this blog’s usual Pathfinder schedule. Thanks to James Maliszewski’s excellent posts about the old Star Wars comics from Marvel I became very interested in the history of Star Wars. At about the same time, I became aware of RedLetterMedia’s infamous (and hilarious) movie-length review of Star Wars Episode 1. Like many, I found the new movies to be quite disappointing so it was only natural that I would try to dig more information about the original ones, specially the first, its inspirations and the circumstances surrounding its creative process. I found a great deal of incentive reading the great posts of the Original D&D Discussion forums. From there I plunged into Michael Kaminski’s The Secret History of Star Wars. Leaving aside any comments regarding George Lucas’ bizarre revisionist posture to the original material, I was really enjoying this “pop culture digging”. Besides hours of entertainment, I also found excellent gems, like Alan Dean Foster’s novel Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker (still credited to Lucas).

This is the first novel in the Star Wars universe and – the best part – it was written before it became a pop culture and mass media phenomenon (and also before Lucas changed and obscured lots and lots of things, and before it bloated out of proportions to the now unendurable Expanded Universe).

Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker is space fantasy (or space opera) at its most essential form and, while quite simple, it also has a guileless and naive approach that reminds of classics like A Princess of Mars.

Anyway, I’m talking about this because the novel has occasional insights about the then younger and more quintessential Star Wars universe. Take the Jawas, for example: in the novel it’s speculated that they can be degenerated humans and that their tongue is almost impossible to decipher because it uses random elements. Notice also that all this information is handed not in a dry or encyclopedia-like manner, but as possibilities (i.e. without removing the mystery of the setting, but rather by enriching it). Now, the place where this is done masterfully (so far, I’m still in the middle) is in the following quote by Grand Moff Tarkin, while rebuffing the argument that the Rebels are a threat to the Death Star:

"It is immaterial.  Any  attack  made  against  this station  by  the  rebels  would  be  a  suicidal   gesture,   suicidal   and useless-regardless of any information they managed  to  obtain.  After  many long years of secretive construction," he declared  with  evident  pleasure, “this station has become the decisive force in this part  of  the  universe. Events in this region of the galaxy will no longer be determined by fate, by decree, or by any other agency. They will be decided by this station!"

Note the parts about “this station has become the decisive force in this part of the universe” and “Events in this region of galaxy”. I really love the idea that the Galaxy (and/or Universe) is much larger than “the Adventures of Luke Skywalker”, which are just a tiny part of it. I dearly miss this idea in the recent material. I get the impression that Star Wars keeps getting smaller and more mundane (or maybe I’m just getting old). I think I’m talking yet again about dragons and maps here, but I can’t resist – I enjoy a lot more the vastness and wonder of 1001 Nights and Pegana than the soap opera events of “Drizzt do'Urden and his friends” if you catch my meaning.

Well, just my two cents. Now, back to the Pathfinder schedule…