A Long Time Ago . . .
If you don’t know I’m a Star Wars fan, then you don’t really know me. Since childhood it has shaped my life in ways that are difficult to describe. Nowhere is that more evident than in how it has shaped my imagination. My ability to write imaginative fiction is largely from the skills I learned in imagining the Star Wars universe as a kid. But I’d better not say that too loud or George Lucas will want a cut of my royalties.
I remember going to see Star Wars at the big, downtown theater. We never went to movies, but this was different. This was important. When we got there, the line wrapped all the way around the building. As a child, that impressed me more than I can explain. I knew I was in for something good–little did I know it would be life changing.
As a child, Star Wars captured my imagination like something from, well . . . a galaxy far, far away. We had mock lightsaber fights and rode our bikes like speeders racing through forests. We played with Star Wars figures and even hid them in the kitchen cupboards and occasionally Mom would find one we left behind the green beans. With Star Wars figures, we were able to make Princess Leia kiss the wookie, as Han Solo threatened, and then have her sputter and mutter afterwards. We invented our own backstories and named unusual characters (before the name Panda Baba was known, we simply called him “butt-face”). We carried our Star Wars lunchboxes (I wish I still had that) to school and the girls debated whether Luke or Han was the real heart-throb. I secretly thought Han Solo was the cuter of the two, but I wasn’t sure it was okay to like a shady character like Han Solo so I told my friends I liked Luke.
He’s Worth a Lot to Me
As an adult in my late twenties, one of my favorite jobs was working for Hasbro, the makers of Star Wars figures. I’d go into retail stores and restock the shelves and build displays of Hasbro products. Geeky guys would make nice to me because they collected Star Wars figures and they wanted original Hasbro boxes to store them in. Or they wanted dibs on merchandising materials like posters or cut-outs. While I worked, they would hang out and tell me about their collections. Some of them had enough Star Wars stuff to fill an entire room or two. Some of them had wives threatening to divorce them over their obsession with Star Wars. And some of them hoped to strike it rich by selling their collections at just the right time to turn a huge profit. There were so many collectors I always wondered if any of them made a profit or if the market was too saturated for significant profit.
My brother had quite a collection of Star Wars toys from our childhood, plus ones he had purchased during his college years and so forth. But during a period of downsizing, he boxed them up and gave them to my sister’s family. From this secret stash in their attic, her two boys received Star Wars birthday and Christmas gifts throughout their childhood.
In a Galaxy Theater Near You
Fast forward another decade to the release of the prequel movies and you’d find me working at Egghead Software, right next to the movie theater. When the original movies re-released in theaters, my brother and I saw each of them on opening day. On my lunch break, I would walk next door to the theater to get tickets for that evening. He would meet me after work and we would stand in line with other Star Wars fans for an hour, waiting to get in the doors. Then when Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out, we did the same. As each of the prequel movies came out my brother and I saw them on opening day. Thus, we saw each of the six Star Wars movies on opening day and we have the ticket stubs to prove it. I think I still have mine somewhere.
Although we saw The Phantom Menace on opening day, my parents waited until the crowd subsided. Then we went with them to Cinerama, the big theater in downtown Seattle. After watching a matinee there, my parents were so excited about the movie that mom suggested we see it again. So we went out to eat and then saw the movie a second time at a smaller, local theater. What a blast! It’s the only time I’ve ever watched the same movie in theaters twice in one day. And it’s a memory to last a lifetime. Why? Because the movie moved my family to do something spontaneous (something that never happened in our planned-out lives). That’s the power of Star Wars–and the joy.
After Episode II came out, it opened in the huge IMAX theater downtown. My brother and I went to see it and it really was amazing to watch it on a screen four stories tall.
I’ll never forget the times we stood in line at Cinerama on opening day, with hundreds of other raving fans dressed up like their favorite Star Wars characters or simply holding lightsabers or wearing Star Wars t-shirts. It was loads of fun to spend an hour visiting with (and gawking at) people who lived and breathed Star Wars. It wasn’t just a movie; it was our culture. When the movie started and the Star Wars music began, the crowd would hoot and holler and applaud loudly. Throughout the movie, the crowd would erupt with delighted hoots and whistles. It wasn’t just a movie; it was an experience.
By the time Episode III came out I was living in Whitefish, Montana, but not wanting to break my opening day streak, I went to a midnight show at our small theater in Whitefish.
After Attack of the Clones, Wizards of the Coast came out with the Star Wars Trading Card Game. My brother and I got hooked on it and started attending a weekly tournament. It was called Jedi Nights. We played Star Wars Cards with total strangers, but we quickly became friends because of our common interest. There was no shortage of things to talk about while we were playing. Star Wars provides such a natural means of social engagement because it’s familiar to almost everyone and is easier to talk about than the weather. As we played games, we earned stamps and advanced in levels and earned prizes.
We were eligible to travel to the state tournament. That’s right, I played in the Washington State Star Wars Trading Card Game Tournament. Out of approximately 50 contestants, I came in last place. But that didn’t matter too much. It was about the experience and having fun. Not many people can say they played in a state tournament for anything, let alone Star Wars awesomeness.
My experience playing Star Wars cards led to getting a job at Wizards of the Coast where I played games and had fun. What cool jobs I’ve had! I love jobs where I can goof off with fun and games and teach others to do the same.
It’s Like a Second Language to Me
Thanks to the generous donations by my brother, my nephews became avid Star Wars fans, too. That has been a point of connection I’ve been able to have with them. When my sister gets tired of hearing them talk about Star Wars, she tells them to call Aunt Christy. And I love that we have something easy to converse about, despite the generation gap. I am convinced I have a stronger relationship with them today because of establishing a common interest and vocabulary in Star Wars.
When the Clone Wars cartoons came out, I was a little skeptical, but it turned out to be well-done and believable. This, too, gave me something new to talk to my nephews about on a regular basis. Can you see a pattern here? Star Wars is a kind of currency or social token that can be easily shared, has intrinsic value, and is universally recognized.
The Star Wars Empire around the World
Every year I celebrate Star Wars Day on May 4th: “May the Fourth Be with You!” We fix Han Burgers for dinner and come up with other fun ways to celebrate, including wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. Then we do it all over again the next day (May 5th) for Revenge of the Fifth. If you don’t get that, I’m surprised you’ve read this far.
In October, I also participate in Star Wars Reads Day, an event to promote reading Star Wars books. There are thousands of Star Wars books available now. My personal favorites right now are the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy: Verily, A New Hope; The Empire Striketh Back; and The Jedi Doth Return. Star Wars fans are so talented and creative. I enjoy being involved with such talented folks.
There are so many ways to get involved with Star Wars fans around the world. It’s just plain fun.
When the Star Wars convention comes around every couple years, I follow the events on social media as close as I can. Mostly I enjoy the pictures of fans in costume. I have wanted to attend a Star Wars Convention, but it isn’t financially possible.
Finally, I’ve been a fan of the 501 Division, a group of Star Wars costuming fans (or fanatics) who dress in pre-approved Star Wars costumes (mostly storm troopers or clones) to do charity work. They’ve raised huge amounts of money for various charity causes. They say they are bad guys doing good. I guess that’s why I love the kinship with Star Wars fans. They’re good people with unbelievable imagination and talent. And that’s what I want to be, too.
The Rebellion has never been so funny . . .