Star Wars and Me

Today is a special day to me on so many levels. Star Wars was the movie that gave my imagination wings. Before then, I liked movies, TV shows and books, but none of them sparked the flow of what I later called the grand ‘What if’, or make believe if you will. With the action figures I was able to make up stories that strangely enough stayed with me for years to come. I guess this could be my defining moment. Or, I could just be geekily deluding myself. Either way, I thought Star Wars’ birthday would be the perfect opportunity to explore my love affair with the entire Lucas universe.

I can’t remember seeing Star Wars on the day it came out but I do remember going to the old Rose Theater in Bastrop on a Friday to watch it. By then, I had already amassed a few of the action figures with no idea of who they were or their roles in the movie. C-3PO was my first Star Wars action figure. I bought it at Howard Brothers because it was shiny. I do remember that. Darth Vader and Luke were my next two because they had sliding out swords if for no other reason. Remember this is before I even saw the movie. Not to brag, in some ways I think my fevered stories rivaled the next two movies in breath and scope. Yeah, I was a pretty awesome kid.

As the years dragged forward, my love affair with the Star Wars Universe would wane only to return with a vengeance, but through it all, one thing remained true. The story just wouldn’t die. Good versus Evil would constantly be a theme in the books I read and the ones I would eventually write. More directly, the subject of what defined good and what defined evil would become a theme that defined me as a person and a writer.

Evil is not absolute. Good is not absolute. Both are a product of choices both right and wrong that led a person down the road they eventually find themselves walking down. The eventual end result of that walk is not the interesting part. Return of the Jedi taught us this in a cutesy Ewoky kind of way. No, it would take the prequels to show us the downfall of a warrior for good took place because of love and misplaced faith. See no evil. Not a lot of good either, but you know what I do see? A heckuva lot of the human condition.

That’s the thing. Humans are screwed from the get go. Why? Because we don’t understand love. We grasp the concepts of need, want, lust, and possession pretty damned good, but love is an alien thing to us. We can’t get our heads completely wrapped around the fact love is about sacrifice. It’s about putting another person totally above yourself. No one can do that without some humanity seeping through to screw things up. We all fall short from time to time.

Therein lies the rub as the Bard would say. So what is this rub? Good stories aren’t about attaining perfection. Truly great stories are about the imperfection of humanity and those brave souls who fight against our natures to achieve not perfection but normalcy at the cost of who they think they are to see the person they were always meant to be. Good or bad, that is the story we love to read, or see as the medium dictates.

I think what I’m getting at is I love a good story and that’s what Star Wars is, a good story. And, good stories are hard to come by. Okay, the Prequels could have had a bit more work, but when taken into the context of the society mores of the Republic, I can accept the horrible acting as… Well, hell if I know what it is, but I like the three movies in segments. The last fifteen minutes of Phantom Menace, most of Attack of the Clones and everything that doesn’t involve the romance of Padme and Anakin in Revenge of the Sith. If you leave out the crap, the first three episodes are pretty awesome. Most importantly, they give you the total story of how New Hope came about.

For those of you Philistines who have never seen the prequels let me sum it up in a few sentences.

Little kid crushes on older girl. Same kid a little older obsesses over the girl and somehow brainwashes her into loving him. Girl gotten, boy kills girl by smothering her with love before going insane. Which if you ask me he was crazy to begin with.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. I love Star Wars. Now, I get to write stories that owe their lives to those movies that fueled my childhood.

As I wrap this up, there’s only one thing left to say.

May the 4th be with you!

Jmo the Authorized Unauthorized Biography: Part Two

Last week I began the journey of how I became a writer. To recap. I got sick. I read a lot and became a geek. See pretty easy. But, we all know it’s more complicated than that. Writing is all about experiencing things, or in some cases wanting to experience things. That’s where reading comes in handy, but we’re jumping ahead of the story.

So, let’s backtrack to 1977. Bellbottoms were all the rage, as were sideburns, disco, and several other things I still try to forget. To state it as delicately as possible, my mother dressed me funny, and I went as fat Elvis for Halloween. There, my childhood horrors are all laid bare for you to imagine and snicker at.

1977 is important for a lot of reasons. I turned 8 for one thing. America turned 201 and in May of 1977 my life was forever changed! I know that is pretty shocking to hear someone say but it is nonetheless true as my wife and family can attest to. As the year began no one could foresee that not only my life but countless others would be sidetracked by something as insidious as a motion picture. If they had, I doubt they would have let it be shown in theaters.

To backtrack a bit in the auspices of adding flavor to the story, I had already developed some small love for Science Fiction. Planet of the Apes had instilled a love of the futuristic what-could-be in me. Well, it was about to be blown away by one simple phrase…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

Yep, you guessed it. Star Wars. I am not saying it suddenly turned me into an author. Things like that don’t happen in a second or even in a few years. What Star Wars did though was fuel my imagination. At the time, I had no idea there would be a second or even third movie. That left me only one recourse to find out what happened next. I made up stories. That summer I think I flew the Millennium Falcon from one end of the galaxy to the next. Okay, I flew Vader’s Tie Fighter from one end to the next. Bad guys get all the cool toys and I wanted me a Tie Fighter so bad I could taste it. I had already been playing around with making up stories but now I had a purpose. To take over the universe.

My imagination didn’t stop there. The 70’s brought me another true love. The Three Musketeers came on TV on Sunday night and I was spellbound. Michael York and Oliver Reed instantly became my heroes. I wanted a sword, a big floppy hat, and boots that would have made Puss jealous. On one of my many trips to the local library I found the book and spent many hours in France. As a result, when not saving the, or enslaving, the galaxy rather, I was fighting the Cardinal and saving fair damsels in distress. That my friends is what I call a lot of overactive imagination at work.

Fortunately, I had a lot to spare. Good thing too, because my trifecta of greatest loves was about to stumble into my life. On yet another trip to the library, yeah, I was one exciting kid, I saw this strange book. It was white with like this ring thingie in the middle with strange writing all around it. That wasn’t the weirdest thing. No, it had a giant eye in the center of the ring. Drawn to it, I picked it up and flipped through the first few pages. It opened with a birthday party of all things. While my grandmother found some books of her own, I began reading. There were strange things called Hobbits who lived in a place called the Shire. There was even a wizard who made the best fireworks. Now, I liked wizards and fireworks. My grandmother came back to pick me up but it was too late. I was on a quest. To Mordor! With the Fellowship of the Ring. Btw, I would go on to own this book and the others. In fact I own probably around three or more copies of it for some weird reason.

I was no writer yet, but hey I was only nine. All my stories took place in my head, but what stories they were. I think the point I’m trying to make in a rambling sort of way is that you can’t be a writer unless you have great inspiration early in life. I’m not saying Star Wars and Lord of the Rings work for everyone, because we’re all made different. What appeals to me, isn’t necessarily going to jazz up the guy or girl next door. It’s all about finding something that you love and makes you happy when you read it, or watch it. That’s what inspiration is all about. It’s not what someone else says you should love. Nope, love is personal and should never be dictated to you or forced upon you by popular vote.

I really can’t tell you why these three things impacted me so strongly, just that they did. As I’ve grown older, I’d fallen in love with other genres, but none of them resonated with me like these have. I can ride a horse and travel out west and get submerged in the story as it unfolds. I can even get locked in a haunted house and scream my head off until I’m able to rip open ‘The End’ waiting for me on the last page. Since you probably know already, I write Romance novels, you know I can fall in love with the idea of falling in love between the pages of a good book. Reading is about, for me at least, falling into love each time you open a book. Doesn’t matter the book, it’s all about the ‘escapist’ emotional connection you feel from the first word of the first paragraph that lasts until the last breathless word of the last page.

Through becoming a writer, I’ve discovered the art of fiction is the same way. Unless you fall into love with the first word you write and keep that love growing to the last page, it shows. I hate to say it but I don’t always succeed in accomplishing that. The hardest thing about writing is staying in ‘love’. Life drives creativity totally away at times. Heck, even the story will present problems you hadn’t envisioned when you start out. Sometimes, gasp!, you’re just plain wrong about what your own story should be about. Just because you love something, it doesn’t automatically mean you understand the complexities of it. Otherwise men and women wouldn’t be two different species most of the time. Okay, all of the time, but you get the point.

First loves are always the strongest loves of all. You remember your first kiss but rarely the tenth or so. When writing, it’s up to you to keep that love alive not only for yourself but for your readers. That might be the hardest thing of all to do. This brick wall, if you hit it, shouldn’t discourage you from writing. It’s the point where honesty comes in. you have to be honest enough with yourself to say this honestly isn’t working and you need to step back until it does work. Forcing it will bring you some honesty you really don’t want. It comes in the form of the greatest and worst thing an author has to face, the voice of their readers. Trust me, you would rather wait for a story to work than to discover it doesn’t in the court of public opinion.

Okay, that’s it for this episode of Jmo revealed. Stay tuned until next week, as we get to the unusual education of said me. It sounds more exciting than it is, but the point is to get you to come back and read more. So, there’ll be explosions, international spies, alien abductions with prerequisite anal probes, and shiver, nuns!

Star Wars Rules! Read this blog or the Dog gets it, Fett style

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We interrupt this regularly scheduled Comedy Blog Series for an important announcement.

 

Star Wars is better than Star Trek!

 

Feel free to quote me on that, but before you change to some other blog expecting another insane rant on this controversial subject, let me digress a bit. Because this isn’t a rant. Rather it is at its heart a discourse on ideologies. That might sound strange to you but that’s how I see this long fought over subject. I am somewhat an expert on the subject, so bear with me.

 

I live in a house divided. Little did I know when I got married that this die-hard rabid Star Wars addict had unknowingly married a Trekkie– Trekker? Whatever they call themselves. I just know I married one. I freely admit to liking Star Trek. Like most people of my generation, I grew up watching reruns before becoming enamored of the many spin-off series that came about because of the movie franchise. Let’s face it. If you love Science Fiction, before the age of VHS and DVD, the television was your only place to get a fix. For the most part, Star Trek was only your fix.

 

That said, I love Star Wars.

 

But, why is there such a division between fans? Why do we find ourselves on different sides of the Neutral Zone on this subject? Like I said, it all comes down to ideologies.

 

At its core, Star Trek is about man’s ability to rise above our natures and achieve anything once we put our minds to it. Trek is also about seeing our fellow man as equals. The series taught a generation that color, religion, and birthplaces weren’t reasons for hate. It showed us that the path of war leads only to ultimate destruction. Gene Rodenberry gave us a future we could find hope in, because it offers something more. It offers us all that we can be. Should be, free of our hate, prejudices, and a million other things that hold us back from finding peace amongst ourselves.

 

Okay, that sounds like some awesome reasons to totally jump on the Star Trek bandwagon. And, it does. I love Star Trek for the worlds it opened up for me. I look forward to that future for my grandchildren and their children. I pray for it on their behalf. I just know humanity well enough to doubt it ever happens.

 

Star Wars is the opposite side of this coin of Science Fiction Duology. Star Wars is about understanding that something greater governs our actions. Some divine will that we are all a part of. Lucas also plugged into something primal that everyone can understand. The eternal struggle between good and evil, where there can be no light without the dark to balance it. George Lucas tapped into the consciousness of our belief systems to construct a world where this struggle is never ending. Evil will rise, but good will always come to challenge it. This is a story that is timeless and resonates with humanity because we get it. All our varied mythologies address the concept. It has for thousands of years. Star Wars might not have had the social impact has had on us as Star Trek has, but it speaks not of us as physical beings, but to us on a spiritual level.

 

Star Wars’ devotees understand that we are in a constant struggle with our dark sides. We strive for the light, but fall under the weight of our own temptations. We can empathize with Anakin Skywalker’s battle with himself, because daily we fight that same fight to do what is right in the face of our own selfish desires. Lucas shows us that there is a greater purpose. A greater power. A truth if you will. What we do as an individual affects more than just us. We are part of a vast universe. Our personal power combines with it. Whether it is the Force, God, or whatever you personally believe, we are part of the organism that is this world. Only through understanding our role in this and submitting to it can we know what it means to be part of something much more profound than a singular existence.

 

Plus, Star Wars is just plain more fun than Star Trek. Trek has a seriousness to it. Star Wars is about adventure. A rogue with a heart of gold. A young man thrust into the role of the hero he always wanted to be. A princess not really in need of saving. A giant teddy bear that can rip your arms off. An all knowing droid and his clueless companion. A dark knight in need of salvation. Best of all! The baddest man in the galaxy, the Fett himself Boba. There is literally something for everyone to fall in love with.

 

Sure, many knock the prequels, but taken in context and as a whole, the story captivates you and draws you in to the deeper meanings behind what you see. It could truly be the story of our times in many ways. Like Trek, the Wars gives us an allegorical view of us as a people and the truths we cling too.

 

That said. I see nothing wrong with being a fan of Star Trek or Star Wars, as long as you’re a fan of Science Fiction. Out of every genre, I honestly believe Science Fiction is the best. Not because of space ships, aliens or really cool swords, but because of what these two examples of it convey so well. There is a future — or in Star Wars’ case, a long time ago — and it is one filled with the hope that humanity can be better than itself. As long as you cling to that hope, there is a chance of that future coming true.

 

Before I leave you, there are several movies and documentaries out there about this eternal struggle between Trek and Wars. If you would love to see the best I have watched, check out Fanboys. It is two things I love, funny and proves once and for all that Star Wars is better than Star Trek.

 

Until next week, where I may or may not return to Jmo’s Comedy-o-rama,

Live Long and May the Force be with You,

Jmo