Archived News 2022
12/25/22 Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
This is the final week before I submit Supernatural Encounters to the printer. The book is at 1,050 pages with copious illustrations and two maps. If anyone is looking for a physical copy, this is the last opportunity to grab one (outside of conventions). Drop me a line and I'll send you the contributor-perks list. Be safe and May the Force Be With You!
12/15/22 Update Day
Update Day: Part 2–Atlas Companion Hello everyone!
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Corey (no, not that one, but I’ve lost so many times in Thrawn’s Revenge that I’m a serious contender for that title). I’m one of the editors working on SE, and, as Joe was kind enough to tee up, I’ll be giving you the second part of today’s update.
A few weeks back, Joe teased that an Atlas Appendix for Supernatural Encounters is in the works. Given the excitement that generated – and the fact that I’ve actually made some progress on it – we’ve decided that the time is right to properly announce it.
Inspired by the Essential Atlas’s Online Companion, the Supernatural Encounters Atlas Companion will provide official placements for every planet and species’ homeworld mentioned in SE. While I go about the usual editing work, I’m cataloguing each of these mentions and compiling a spreadsheet with placements for everything. We’re rapidly approaching 1,000 entries and should well exceed that number by the time I’m finished. Though the majority are well-established systems that were already placed by The Essential Atlas, I can assure you that there’s going to be a lot of new stuff for map fans to pour over.
The Atlas Appendix will be published as bonus material after the initial release of SE. I’m hoping to have it ready for release in the first quarter of 2023. While the initial release will be focused on placing everything in SE, its online nature means that the Appendix can continue to be updated in support of other projects being released on the Expanded Universe Timeline. This includes the Hungarian Han Solo novels, foreign language RPGs (some of which are referenced in SE), and other treasures that Joe manages to unearth… and maybe, just maybe, a few post-SE projects that we aren’t ready to announce just yet.
I look forward to getting to share everything with you when the time comes. In the meantime, MTFBWY!
Update Day: Part 1—Progress Report
Hail, Star Warriors and Starhopper! By this time next Update Day, SE will be at the printer!
It’s a scary thing to finally let go of something that’s been a part of your life for years, but life and time demand letting go, and I feel confident—thanks to the dedication and hard work of my editors, particularly Kyle Rawlings and Corey Carter—who’ve been assiduously catching and sending corrections, that it’s nearly ready to be sent off.
A few more things: The maps are in and I’ll be doing more
corrections this week to ensure the text is near-perfect!
Update Day: Part 2 will be handled by Corey who will discuss in more detail the forthcoming Supernatural Encounters Atlas Companion!
11/24/22 Site Update
I added Season 1 of the excellent Andor to the Complete Saga page in 5 BBY. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best Star Wars has been in the visual medium since the Prequels. It also happens to be EU-friendly... Of course, so was the Mandalorian until it hitched itself to the abominable Book of Boba Fett, but I suspect that the next and final season won't change that.
11/8/22 Site Update
I finally got around to adding Star Wars: Visions to the timeline. If the new canon doesn't want them, I'll gladly take them for the EU (most of them anyway--"The Twins" is Infinities).
10/31/22 Update Day!
Happy Halloween, Star Warriors!
SE update news: The endnotes are done, the illustrations are in place (they look great and there’s a lot of them), and I have a final page count! I'm now talking to my cover people, who will be preparing them this week. I plan to submit the manuscript to the printer on or around 11/16. (At that point, I’ll find out from them how long it will take and should have a general delivery-date then).
That reminds me—I’ll be contacting those contributors for whom I need addresses, so be sure to check your inboxes and junk folders later today and tonight.
This is the final hurrah, so anyone who wants to be a contributor and get perks, there's two weeks left, so message me now because once it's done it's done.
10/15/22 Update Day!
Hello fellow Starhoppers! Today's update will be short and sweet!
While I'm awaiting maps from my mapmaker and notes from my proofreaders, which I've been told I'll be getting this week and next, I'm going to go over the endnotes again (I have no choice since I changed up and divided the chapters again--don't worry, I'll update the timeline soon).
The next step: I add the illustrations and finalize the cover (I'll be chatting with my cover people this week).
Then it gets sent to the printer. The printer will send me a proof copy to go over and make sure everything is right. Then, I send it back and they start printing up copies. I'll keep updating you guys with each step along the way!
10/9/22 Site Update
Thanks to Noam for helping to move the Star Wars 2015 series to before Empire #26, noting a much more organic break in the storylines where these might better fit.
10/1/22 Update Day!
Hope all finds you safe and well in our ever-troubling times.
I’m up to page 809, which Harry tells me is over 90% of the way through!
I wanted to say how much I appreciate your charitableness in regards to the length of time this has taken! Perhaps with today’s update I can delve into some of the reasons why this project has taken so long, talk a bit about the process and continuity, and do so without rambling on for too long.
It occurs to me that many (but not all) modern writers tend to work like landscapers. They’re hired to do a job—make the property look good—and do so quick and efficiently. The problem is that that actually causes more harm than good. As the New York Times notes:
Nearly everything about how Americans ‘care’ for their lawns is deadly. Pesticides prevent wildflower seeds from germinating and poison the insects that feed songbirds and other wildlife. Lawn mower blades, set too low, chop into bits the snakes and turtles and baby rabbits that can’t get away in time. Mulch, piled too deep, smothers ground-nesting bees, and often the very plants that mulch is supposed to protect, as well. But the gasoline-powered leaf blower exists in a category of environmental hell all its own, spewing pollutants — carbon monoxide, smog-forming nitrous oxides, carcinogenic hydrocarbons — into the atmosphere at a literally breathtaking rate.
They get the job done, but at a cost to our health, environment, and wildlife. There exist safe alternatives, but those take longer.
One would hope that with knowledge and concern for people, nature, and our fellow creatures, this might change. Yet, because most want to get the job done and move on to the next assignment, it probably won’t happen until people demand it.
This strikes me as similar to writing in a shared universe. Writers, editors, and publishers demand everything quickly. What suffers is the characters, settings, and history. As I noted, there is a better way, and if you’ve been an Expanded Universe fan for some time, you’ll have seen the considerable care taken with this matter of continuity, which is a word we throw around a lot, but it simply means ensuring the integrity of the larger story.
In an ideal world, we’d only hire editors and writers who already have a deep familiarity with the universe or are willing to learn about it. Of course it’s not an ideal world, but the only way we’ll ever get close to that is not to dismiss it as impossible, but to hold it up as a goal to be attained.
Suffice it to say that the EU did not always have careful contributors or editors who cared to steer writers along the right path. It did well enough, but I think with a little less output and more time and care given to coordinating and planning in advance certain storylines, they could have presented bigger cross-media events (akin to Shadows of the Empire.)
Let’s take for example the Exiles, which I just finished proofreading. The Exiles were Jedi who turned to the Dark Side around 7,000 BBY and started a war against the Jedi and Republic called the Hundred Year Darkness. It’s a big historical period, but there’s no book or comic that details these events or its participants. What exists are scattered bits of lore across numerous sources. It would be easy to simply turn to Wookieepedia for all the answers, but Wikis are notoriously prone to errors, omissions, and mistakes, which is normal and to be expected due to human error, and it’s for this reason one should always go to the original source. But even there, care must be taken, as one can easily come away with a wrong impression, so re-checking things can help to ensure accuracy.
This happened to me. I read Corey J. Herndon’s short story “Korriban: Planet of Lost Souls” at least three times to figure out exactly what was going on with the artifact known as the Heart of Graush, and yet I came away thinking the First Mate of Captain Felyood’s ship was male. Granted, that character wasn’t the focus of my research, but I still made the mistake, and it took Patrick, one of my editors, to point it out.
And that was just for something that comprised maybe a paragraph or two.
Then there’s the matter of characterization. Most EU sources have the Exiles operating as a collective, but it was important to explore them as individuals. But only to a point. Supernatural Encounters isn’t a novel; because it covers epochs, it doesn’t have the luxury of space to describe each of them in depth. But with the use of dialogue and a careful brush, one can convey some aspects of their personalities and ideologies based on clues found in the text to help figure out what makes each one unique. Where they students? Teachers? What organizations did they later join? Dark Path? Black Legions? Baron Dreypa is probably the most fleshed out in the EU due to his appearance in Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral. There we find a rather boorish figure who doesn’t care about collateral damage or even his own troops. His followers abandon him and join the Jedi against him! That says a lot about who he is, and from that, one can extrapolate backwards.
But it’s not always so cut-and-dried. Dreypa doesn’t have much written about his youth, so that leaves room for interpretation. But in cases where there is lore, it’s important to examine it without bias or preconceived notions. Case in point: I had incorrectly assumed that the Sith Lord Freedon Nadd had been an arrogant child with a mean streak, but a more careful look at his story in the Tales of the Jedi Companion did not reveal an egotistical personality but one that was sensitive with feelings of inadequacy. And re-reading it again, with a closer look at the Jedi involved in his training, a picture emerged of deep flaws in the way they handled him.
So there’s a lot of legwork involved in making sure everything lines up correctly—and much of the time it’s for the sake of ensuring that one paragraph or sentence is accurate.
It may seem foolish to go through so much time and effort for so little gain, but any of us who write in a shared universe are beholden to what came before. My first writing job was as a journalist and I took it seriously because I believe truth matters, and I believe it matters in a fictional history as well. We’re caretakers of a property. We plant; we prune; we harvest. We don’t destroy (unless something is diseased). We grow, maintain, and look out for the well-being of the people, land, and wildlife while making the whole neighboring better as a result. And within those parameters is plenty of room for inspiration and creative freedom.
It is a lengthier process… and that’s especially true for something this sprawling.
While I don’t have editors beating down my door for a deadline, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a deadline in mind. I’m bound to all of you, my contributors and supporters, and I don’t expect you to wait forever so that I can dot every “i” and cross every “t,” despite my inclination to do just that!
It’s been quite a few years now and your patience has been exceptional! But I don’t intend to stretch it for much longer. I expect to have this book done before the year is up (and for financial reasons and other obligations that have been put on the backburner, I have to).
But I am grateful to have had the time and glad you were all along for the ride!
 Lawns cost trillions of gallons of water, billions of gallons of gasoline, and millions of pounds of pesticides. See: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/25/opinion/leaf-blowers-california-emissions.html
9/15/22 Update Day!
Apologies for failing to put the last few updates on here. I sometimes forget!
Greetings fellow Starhoppers! It’s another Update Day! I’m on page 773, which the good Harry Henry has calculated to be 87% of the way done! That’s exciting, though I’m making an effort to not rush through this final part to just “get it done,” and to that end, I’m enjoying giving these words and sentences the final finesse, as well as rooting out small but pernicious errors, some of which will no doubt escape my notice and make it to print… and that will undoubtedly drive me insane. But we can only do our best and cannot obsess over perfection to the point of delaying something indefinitely.
And that leads me to something I’ve wanted to chat about that’s been on my mind and appears to be in the zeitgeist of our ever evolving fandom. Let me start with some context.
Some of you have heard bits and pieces of my Star Wars journey before, so bear with me if you have…
I was led to Star Wars by means of reruns of Lost in Space and Land of the Lost which aired back-to-back starting at 3:00 PM every weekday afternoon. I was very young, but I remember rushing at the end of the school day, trying my best to avoid conversations with teachers and students alike, because I had to get home and watch my shows. And Mom always had a snack ready and waiting so that I wouldn’t miss the beginning. It was a too-short part of the day that was pure bliss. Some episodes were serious, some were silly, and some were scary. Those were my favorites! I didn’t care if they weren’t perfect or not as good as yesterday’s episode. I didn’t think in those terms. I was just happy to be transported to those places with those characters.
So was a life-long love of the genre begun and fed.
When the network stopped airing them, I was sad but moved on. Reading took its place. Science-fiction, fantasy, and horror were still very niche back then, but I was fortunate enough to have had a grade school library that catered to my tastes [I recently reached out to my school librarian to thank him for that], plus there were Scholastic Fairs, a host of TV movies (amongst others I recall with fondness Gargoyles, The Night Stalker, Trilogy of Terror, and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark), Saturday morning cartoons, and an array of older movies that regularly came on, sci-fi films from the ‘50s, Ray Harryhausen, the Hammer films, the Universal monster movies, etc., but all of these were still far and few between.
When Star Wars arrived, it was like nothing else in terms of immersion (due to outstanding production values, a stellar cast, and a spellbinding story) and on each subsequent rerelease, I saw it again and again. It was revelatory, weaving a spell over me and an entire generation. My dad brought home some of the Marvel Star Wars comics, which blew my little mind because in these golden pages were the continuation of the story, but we didn’t have a local comic book shop around us, so getting subsequent issues was a bit of a challenge. Soon, there were newspaper strips (which I would faithfully cut out), and then a book, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye! I’ll never forget Alexander's Department Store. Mom would do her shopping on the first two floors, and I had the third floor all to myself. It had books, magazines, toys, games, and records! (My other obsession would come out of the latter some years later).
As far as I was concerned, these were the sequels… though I was surprised that no one in school was as enthused about picking them up and reading them as I was. Remember what I said about niche? Well, I was yet learning that lesson.
The Marvel Star Wars comics were also the first time I came across a continuity issue—as had other readers. Of Luke and Leia, which could swim? In Marvel, it was Leia and not Luke. In Splinter, it was Luke and not Leia. By the time the editor solicited solutions from the fans, my mind was already considering the possibilities of how to reconcile it. Luke must have learned how to swim, while Leia must have suffered a traumatic event which made her afraid of large bodies of water. The existence of a seeming contradiction wasn’t something that angered me (or anyone else that I could see) but rather a puzzle to be solved.
By the time Return of the Jedi, six years had passed and my tastes were in a different place, leaving me unable to connect to a film that now felt clunky instead of wondrous; prosaic instead of magical; and which seemed purposely (and offensively) geared for little kids. Fandom back then was made up local friends and cousins, and they pretty much shared the same level of bewilderment. And that was the end of it. No more Star Wars films, Lucas proclaimed, until another ten years or some such thing.
Once again I moved on… this time to the worlds of Lovecraft, the Hyborian Age, Narnia, Middle-earth, Dungeons & Dragons, Heavy Metal, and others… and in those places I found it again. A few more years would pass before I rediscovered Star Wars—this time during its VHS box set debut—and that was a unexpected surprise. The magic was still there! I still didn’t like Return of the Jedi, but that didn’t matter so much. Serendipitously, a day or two after revisiting ANH again, I walked into a comic-book shop looking for work (I would later go on to manage a different comic-book shop called The Abyss), and there on the wall was the cover of Dark Empire #3, which to my mind remains one of the most iconic and arresting images. And I remember just pointing to the proprietor with a look of shock on my face. He smiled knowingly and said, “Yeah, Luke turned to the Dark Side.”
That was it. I was back in full-throttle, collecting everything current and old that I’d missed, which in pre-Ebay days was an interesting challenge, with things like Marvel Star Wars #107 near-impossible to find, and Pizzazz magazine something no one had even heard of! And I’d get up super-early to record the Ewoks and Droids cartoons. It didn’t matter to me that they were a little dopey; they were part of this universe and they were hard to come by. That all meant something.
[I was assistant manager of B. Dalton at the time and able to grab the newest copies of every Star Wars book that came in the moment it came in. It was from there, while ordering new titles from them, that I first got in touch with West End Games and Dark Horse Comics.]
Online fandom began shortly afterwards. This emergent technology called the internet allowed fans from across the world to communicate with each other. A great thing, to be sure, but there were considerable growing pains. The one thing that each of us had to learn—and not all of us did—was that fandom is a shared space. No one person or their opinions have ownership of it. That should have been obvious from the letters pages—which have existed in genre literature since the pulp days of the 1920s—and yet the idea that different fans have different ideas about things is something we still struggle with. To muddy the waters came the trolls taking perverse delight in stirring things up and getting people upset.
Fandom has always struggled with maintaining balance.
Non-fans don’t understand it because they don’t feel the love and passion that
drives it. But passion—taken too far—can lead to pointless bickering,
gatekeeping, and other unhealthy expressions. I wasn’t immune to this by any
means, and often expressed more heat than light. The first time I came across
this imbalance was hearing people attack Tom Veitch and Dark Empire,
while at the same time praising Zahn—as if it was a competition. I didn’t
understand that then and I don’t now. I mean, I didn’t care much for Return
of the Jedi (though my opinion softened considerably after the Special
Edition came out), but I didn’t think less of its makers or fans.
Then The Phantom Menace came out. I saw it nine times in theaters. It wasn’t because I loved it (though I do now). It was because it was Star Wars and I believed in this story, even if certain beats—namely the characterization of Jar Jar as a clumsy buffoon—didn’t work for me. I thought that Jar Jar should be a warrior, cynical of the Jedi, and exiled for wanting the Gungans to go to war against the Trade Federation. George had a different conception… he wanted an innocent. And maybe he was onto something. Youth culture had changed a lot over the years. Younger viewers were open to funnier, sillier characters, and didn’t require everything to be dark and grim.
But discourse grew ugly and some fans bailed and others bullied. EU readers by and large stuck around. I think our expectations were more tempered. We’d seen highs and lows and different shades in Star Wars. Our perspective wasn’t only the three films.
Fast-forward to today, SFFH is no longer niche. Whereas before, genre fans were a minority, now we’re another avenue of mainstream culture. And with social media and Youtube taking us out of dedicated chat rooms into public spheres where anyone and everyone can chime in, it’s proven kind of disastrous, particularly now that political discourse has become so toxic and pervasive that it seeps into and infects fandom, sometimes cloaked in disguise and sometimes with hyperbolic statements that make “George Lucas raped my childhood!” seem nuanced and calm by comparison. Meanwhile, the trolls have found ways to make money by becoming media influencers who generate outrage over nothing as a means of controlling the narrative and perniciously pandering to extremists in the culture war.
The idea that the writers have to share our political, religious, cultural views wasn’t even a thought in our minds before recent times. And it’s an abhorrent concept. The purpose of literature is not just to entertain us but to help us grow as people, and we do that by listening to different perspectives and seeing things through the eyes of different people. Most writers are just trying to tell a good story and, of course, they’re colored by their worldview. But unless it’s an egregious one, the idea that we should condemn their stories and judge them because their ideology doesn’t exactly match up to ours is extremely unhealthy.
In fairness, the idea that someone would use art to propagandize is not paranoid fantasy. The big names from the “golden age of science-fiction,” Campbell, Clarke, Asimov, and others had an express agenda that they pushed in their stories. So did H.G. Wells. And George Orwell. Nearly all of the Grimdark genre stems from a nihilistic worldview that propagandizes amorality. Writers have perspectives. Some are wise. Some are foolish. No one side has the corner on either. I’ve read some outstanding stories from writers on the right, left, neither, and both, stories that have entertained me and gotten me to think. Great narratives, interesting characters, clever ideas, and themes that resonate are not the sole purview of one group vs another, and anyone who’s been led to believe that has been lied to.
I was asked recently what I would think of an adaptation of Supernatural Encounters. My initial thoughts were that: a) it would be interesting, b) it would never happen, and c) it’s unfilmable. It’s written in a way that covers aeons of time and often doesn’t have the same characters running through it, which something like The Sandman at least has the benefit of. And that’s fine. Not every work of literature is meant to be a movie or TV series. Written works have a charm all their own. And some stories, like SE, are extremely niche. But if it were to be adapted, I would expect changes. Big ones too. And I say this as a stickler for continuity.
I started what became the Star Wars Expanded Universe Timeline in 1993 as a way of defending and restoring the old Marvel series which was being ignored in continuity at the time due to the fact that they were out-of-print. Also, a faction was claiming they were childish and lame and didn’t fit with modern continuity, a view I thought was utter nonsense likely spouted by people who hadn’t read them. My timeline at the time included a lengthy summary of each and every extant story, which I spent many long nights writing up, and regularly sent to Bob Cooper of Dark Horse and Bill Smith of West End Games. I wanted them to see how it all fit together and not be unduly influenced by the naysayers. And my first RPG adventure, which was expected to be published in a future RPG collection, included numerous lore bits from it. [The SE entity, Ooradryl, comes from there].
But continuity within a long-running series, as challenging and rewarding as that is, cannot be expected from movie or TV adaptations of books. Unless the author herself is overseeing and guiding every aspect of the production, from casting to scriptwriting to directing, the idea of a “pure and faithful adaptation” is an impossible dream. Even The Sandman, which had heavy involvement from its author, Neil Gaiman, saw significant changes… and I think for the better. If we maintain our expectations, and keep an open mind, we may find ourselves pleasantly surprised.
All I want from any adaptation is to see the basic beats and themes understood and conveyed. In SE, as in many denser stories, there are complex connections, chronological and narrative-wise, that affect each other. Removing or changing one thing would harm other things. But an adaptation has no choice but to make shortcuts and changes. Because so much money is involved in bringing genre fiction to the screen, and those who’ve read the original material are a minority of viewers, there have to be changes that work for a medium that has very different expectations and can’t accommodate the odd intricacies and twisty digressions that a book has. It also has to provide audiences who aren’t familiar with the material a way to follow and digest it. And sometimes a screenwriter can find a workaround or even better solution (see V for Vendetta which is arguably better than Moore’s original). But even if they can’t, the silver lining is that the basic story is exposed to a wider audience, some of whom will seek out the original source.
We all have family and friends who are never going to read the books and comics we read. So to be able to share and enjoy with them a piece of that is a beautiful thing. And the original is always there for us. Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey famously said of the Peter Jackson adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, that “now we have two roads to Middle-earth,” and we can explore both. We can contrast them, discuss the differences, and imagine how we might have done things differently.
Very soon, we’re going to have another road to Andowyne. This new one might not even be called Andowyne. And it won’t be anything like the George Lucas-Chris Claremont trilogy. And that’s OK… so long as the first road is still available for us to tread. I’m going to approach this second road with an open mind and hope that it’s a good story.
Since 2014, there have been two roads to Skyriver (three, if you count Infinities). As EU fans, we’ve struggled with that, no doubt due to the way it was handled. And Supernatural Encounters does provide a way for all to exist harmoniously alongside each other.
We don’t all have to walk the same roads, enjoy the same things, or agree about what is and isn’t great. We’re free to enjoy our corners and paths, provided we remember that the roads don’t belong to us. They belong to everyone who feels that same passion we do and wishes to walk them.
I know all of you here are the best examples of fandom. And I know this because I’ve gotten to speak to many of you, read your comments, and seen your interactions. But for the world beyond our borders, I would hope for and encourage others to stop acting as gatekeepers, stop blindly following “media influencers,” stop magnifying nitpicks, or worse, allowing hate, accusations, and political agendas from destroying what we’re getting, even if what we’re getting isn’t perfect.
If you’re a serious fan of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror, try and remember why you fell in love with the genre in the first place and see if you can’t return to that sense of joy and openheartedness. Understand that we’re entitled to none of it—and that there was a time when it wasn’t so readily available—a time that could return if we don’t cast out cynicism and support what we love so that we continue to get more.
7/31/22 Update Day!
Progress Report: I’m 20 pages away from being at the halfway point! One of you guys can probably better recall when I started proofing the final draft and extrapolate how long it’ll take me to get through the second half. I remain excited as I go through it! To finally see it in its nearly-completed state is just very cool because there’s been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears poured into it. I’m looking forward to jumping into the second half!
Some of the content I’ve recently been reading involves the Teezl, Seoul 5, the Sumrians, the Silentium, the Abominor, Skaith, a Sith who turns against his kind, the start of troubles on Andowyne, the end of the Xylan Empire, the undersea battles between Daritha Trayus and the Warriors of the Deep; and the creepy origins of the Bando Gora. Today, I move onto Typhojem’s breaching of the gates…
But today I also wanted to talk about one of the reasons that I love the prequels, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever discussed with you guys.
So among the things about the Star Wars prequel trilogy that I find so interesting is its profundity and interspersed wisdom. These films are more philosophical and reflective than the original three (which have a different charm), presenting a tonal departure that not everyone was able to bridge and which some needed time to process before coming to appreciate. And if you haven’t yet, that’s OK too. Different strokes and all…
But there’s been a spate of disingenuous criticism recently that argues that Star Wars has never been anything but dumb, sci-fi action flicks. Youtuber Thor Skywalker did a great takedown of this argument (he’s one of the most measured critics of Star Wars content that I’ve seen online), which got me thinking about what aspects of the films I think are worthy of deeper exploration. And there’s quite a lot! But I’ll focus on just one today.
One of my favorite lines from Star Wars is this Qui-Gon Jinn quote to young Anakin, which contains a few layers of meaning that anyone can apply to their lives and benefit from:
“Always remember. Your focus determines your reality.”
Qui-Gon had earlier told Obi-Wan to “Keep your concentration on the here and now where it belongs,” and this is part of what his advice to Anakin meant. The ability to stay focused is important if we want to accomplish anything in life. Whatever projects you endeavor upon, expect there to be distractions in numerous forms along the way. Some are important and unavoidable and will have to be dealt with before we can return to the task we’ve set ourselves on. Others are distractions of our own making: the temptations of social media, smart phones, television, general boredom, or restlessness. Rather than succumb to them, we can take control by scheduling breaks for food, exercise, and mental and physical rest before returning to our work.
But Qui-Gon’s quote has even greater depth because it talks about the different things one might focus on that will “determine our reality.” This is an acknowledgement of paradox. To paraphrase science-fiction author and TESB screenwriter Leigh Brackett, the world is both absolutely terrible and perfectly wonderful. Both of those statements are true despite seeming to be contradictory. The truth is that life is paradoxical and because of that it can be difficult to navigate and know where and what to focus on.
Anakin, like many young people, sees possibilities and ideas and is filled with hope and joyful expectation, which he achieves because of his determination and developing skills. But also like many who grow up, Anakin loses those good traits. Hardened and tired from the war, misgivings and mistrust come to replace hope. Frustration and anger come to replace joyful expectation. Determination gives way to an impatient desire for domination.
In large part, this is due to what Chancellor Palpatine had been feeding him over years.
But Palpatine wasn’t Anakin’s first bad master. Watto was also greedy, deceptive, and manipulative. But Watto was more obvious and Anakin recognized those traits in him. But even more important than that, Anakin’s focus was firmly on the positive. He wasn’t blind to his situation, but he accepted it for what it was and made the best of things, knowing he’d somehow find a way to fix it.
Similarly, if we remain focused on what is positive and noble and good, and are determined to see things through, we’ll more often than not have a joyful and hopeful outlook as we go through life. To choose that path doesn’t mean we bury our heads in the sand or ignore the darker aspects of reality. It means seeing what’s bad or broken, acknowledging it, doing what we can to help (if it’s within our power), and then moving on. In other words, we don’t remain in a dark, angry, or embittered state.
Had Anakin paid better heed to Qui-Gon’s warning and kept his focus on the light, things would’ve turned out quite differently for him. Instead, trusting the wrong person and losing focus, he remained ignorant of the fact that the authority figure he’d put his faith in was twisting the truth with just the right amount of insinuation, fabrication, and accusation, manufactured to create a response in Anakin, to turn him bitter, resentful, and cynical. This changed Anakin’s focus so drastically that he now only saw bad motives, magnifying the imperfections and mistakes of others, and feeling something lacking in himself, believing it to be power. What he was missing was something he lost from when he was young: joy. At a time when he should’ve been at his happiest—with a child on the way and the war nearing its end—Anakin was at his unhappiest. This reality caused by an unhealthy focus resulted in him being severed from his loved ones and the community that had reared him.
There’s quite a bit to unpack here, and I’ll leave that to others, but I find it fascinating that this is but one of several cautionary tales that viewers can extract from the prequels.
Now it’s perfectly fine if someone doesn’t choose to delve into a movie’s thematic layers, but to argue that they’re not there and that the Star Wars films are just big, dumb sci-fi action flicks is either a reflection of the critic’s own shallowness and immaturity, a form of trolling, or an attempt to denigrate something that they don’t really like or understand.
Don’t let anyone judge or put down your fandom. We connect to different things for different reasons, and that’s because we’re drawn to something intrinsically valuable it, usually unconscious at first, and then consciously later. By the same token, let’s not be people who put down other fans or fandoms that we don’t connect to, or which we think have been corrupted. Life is short. We find joy where we can. Give the benefit of the doubt to something new. There are those who would profit from spreading hate and doubt and who have ulterior motives for doing so. By the same token, it’s absolutely not “toxic” to hold something to a higher standard and expect it to deliver. That’s called critical thinking, but being balanced means not attacking others who may not see the giant flaws that we see.
Be good to each other! May the Force Be With You!
7/15/22 Update Day!
(A day early since I won't be around tomorrow)
Special thanks for today’s updates go to the two Alex’s!
The estimable Alex Vinogradov has made the Russian translation of Cult Encounters available and in four different formats with over 150 author and translator notes! Check out Alex’s Russian Wookieepedia page here: https://starwars.fandom.com/ru/wiki/Darth_Niemand.
His editor, Ilya Garbuzov, is a huge Star Wars fan and collector (https://www.instagram.com/ilyamolder_starwarsbooks/)
The cover and interior illustrations were laid out by Alex’s good friend from the Ukraine, Serhii Yaroviy. He is a professional designer and letterer who has his own studio. This is his Twitter account: https://twitter.com/ComicsLettering.
We don’t talk politics here because it poisons and tears apart communities, but this fact bears mention: that these fans from warring countries have transcended their political and cultural ideologies to work together as friends is a lesson we should all take to heart…
Ok, back to fan stuff.
Our other champion, Alex Starch, has provided us with a ton of the old Hyperspace articles and other miscellany for you to download and/or print out as you see fit! https://drive.google.com/file/d/1azBNx5qiLtUrCT7VRfu0iimxnmS0VN9t/view?usp=sharing
Progress Report: I’m on page 350 in Chapter 43: Shadow Kingdoms, which is well over one-third of the way through. There’s been some additional reordering of chapters so that they’re more digestible, in better sequence, and thematically tied. Overall, I've been enjoying this final read-through more than any prior time I've gone over it. And I continue to be terribly grateful to all of you for your patience and support as I march forward to ensure that this book is the best it can be! I’ll see you again on the 31st with another batch of goodies! Stay safe, stay strong, and may the Force be with you!
6/30/22 Trailer #2!
It’s Update Day, Starhoppers!
And here is Trailer #2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjGouj9Dh3Q&t=51s
And in case you missed it, here is Trailer #1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmthPrjViSA
They’re kind of like contrasting light and dark sides… So enjoy! (And a big thanks to Kyle Rawlings for the sumptuous rendition of “She’s Gone” and Harry Henry for putting it all together!)
Progress continues but was a little slower since we last spoke. We had a death in the family, an aunt on my mother’s side who passed at 94. I spent many childhood weekends at her house with lots of food and family. I regularly played Dungeons & Dragons there (as DM), first saw Night of the Living Dead there, and watched countless classic horror movies there (anyone old enough to remember the weekly Chiller Theater?) Because of her desire to serve as a hub and openness to letting my cousins and me have a bit of free rein, her funeral was more of a celebration of her life and the joy she brought others.
That leads me back to the new trailer. If you haven’t yet read The Adventures of Teebo or seen “Wicket’s Wagon,” the tenth episode of Season 1 of the Ewoks, or The Battle for Endor (the second Ewoks movie), the illustration is built around concepts that are introduced there. This, of course, leads to a larger metaphysical question that SE touches on, and which I won’t go into now save to say that Endor presents what I believe are larger clues to the Star Wars universe that I think many miss because they turn away from it—undoubtedly because of the fact that it’s a dopey kids cartoon from the ‘80s! I certainly had no use for it back when it first ran, and it wouldn’t be until many years later that I decided to give the series another chance and see why Lucas spent three movies and two seasons on that world.
(And, by the way, how cool was it to see Stranger Things S4 pay homage to the Ewoks cartoon?)
However you choose to interpret the image in the trailer, there’s a secondary message there—that nothing good is gone forever—and we’re all here because we believe, to one degree or another, the truth of Obi-Wan’s words in A New Hope as applied to the expanded universe: If you strike it down, it will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. And it has! The old fans haven’t gone away and there continue to be new fans coming into the EU all the time. And that is something to celebrate!
5/15/22 Supernatural Chronology
I finally got around to plotting the various events in Supernatural Encounters onto the timeline. I've attempted this before I'd completed it, and I won't promise that it's perfect even now, but we're getting close. I'm proofing a chapter a day, and then it'll be done. Figure about three months and then another two or so weeks to get the test copy to ensure everything is correct on the page.
5/4/22 The Trailer is Here!
The first trailer for Supernatural Encounters, created by my editor Harry Henry and featuring some of the book's interior artwork by Chris Cold and Guillaume Ducos, is now available! Check it out here.
Also, thanks to Alex Payne for the timeline update on the Obi-Wan home video game (listed in 32 BBY).
3/16/22 Update Day!
If you haven't yet, head on over to the Discord server for a little treat from the past.
The last two weeks have been spent doing various touch-ups to SE, so today I'm uploading SE to the printer and will await a physical copy. Once that arrives, I begin an intensive final read-through. This is a crucial last step to try and catch everything and anything that might have slipped by... (and there were still things that slipped by the eyes of several of us!) I don't know how long this step will take, but I don't want to rush it. That said, I'll be working on it every single day (baring any extreme circumstances).
Once that's done, I add the illustrations and maps during the layout process, and then send for another proof copy to ensure that it all looks right on the page and that there were no layout errors (which can cause wonky things to happen--a road I've been down before)! And then it's time to start shipping books!
I'll see you guys again on 4/1 with the next update!
2/23/22 Dark Horse Rebels
As revealed today by Screen Rant and other outlets, Dark Horse Comics, who recently reacquired the license to publish certain Star Wars comics, will be collecting "a variety of comics from Star Wars: Rebels Magazine including issues #1-#35, #37, and #39, along with Star Wars: Rebels Animation Magazine #1-4." In lieu of this, I've taken down the scans.
2/18/22 RIP Tom Veitch
I'm sorry to report the death of another legend--Tom Veitch.
Tom is best remembered by fans for Dark Empire and Tales of the Jedi, which are considered classics amongst EU fans. Tom's work rekindled my love of Star Wars and started me on a journey that I'm still on years later. The day I walked into a comic-book shop, looking for work, and saw this issue hanging on the shop wall, my jaw dropped and the proprietor explained that new Star Wars comics and books were coming out.
See you on the other side, Tom!
2/15/22 Update and Recommended Reading
Hey everyone, it's update day!
Recommend reading/watching list:
Marvel’s Pizzazz magazine—collected in Omnibus Wild Space and The Original
Marvel Years #3
The Ewoks comics—collected in Marvel Star Wars: Ewoks
Book of Sith
Note: This is not comprehensive by any means, nor did I venture too far outside of the Lucasverse. To keep this list manageable, I also avoided inclusion of common EU sources that most people know and are already familiar with. The endnotes will help with some things too. These are just titles that feature persons or events that are referenced in a relatively significant way in SE. I'm sure I've forgotten some things, but I wanted to keep this reasonably short.
See you again on 3/1 with the next update!
1/21/22 Supernatural Friends!
Hey guys, I wanted to share this great conversation that Matt Wilkins, Christopher Nelson, and my editors, Kyle Rawlings, Patrick Maes, and Edward Dodds did last night that talks about Supernatural Encounters, how it came about, what's coming up, and some of the difficulties it's encountered with Wookieepedia.
I'm just blown away by these guys... and, really, by all of you for your love and support! Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rj-7Y6S3z9E