Star Wars oil painting exhibit "Sandstorm" opens

Breakneck boredom: an old time Star Wars fan's thoughts on Star Trek Into Darkness

They put me on the news to talk about Star Wars

More from Steve Sansweet on Star Wars and gay marriage

Carmine Infantio has died

I can die happy: I've been interviewed by Dungeons & Dragons

Star Wars Episode 7: All My Children?

What JJ Abrams needs to really succeed with Star Wars 7

Star Wars: The Old Republic is gay--on one planet at least

Tongal and Pringles bring us DYI desecration of Star Wars

Reminiscences about West End Games' Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Here's the biggest Star Wars news of 2012

Stephen Quinn interviews me about Star Wars on CBC Vancouver

Star Wars: modern myth or global franchise?

Parents turn child's 1st birthday into extended Lucasfilm/Hasbro advert

Me reading from A Long Time Ago

Highlights and lowlights of the upcoming Star Wars Celebration VI

Grown men (mostly) dressed up as Lando Calrissian

Beggar's Canyon Toys offer Star Wars toy "restoration" service

Blog's t-shirts banned by Zazzle

Will the real David Prowse please stand up?

LaserSaber: Unlicensed, dangerous and yours for only $99

Is this the future of Star Wars?

Is Star Wars link bait?

Dissent not tolerated at the Prequel Appreciation Society

TSOT discovers its nemesis

Comme des idiots: Star Wars teams up with poncy fashion house

US Christian activist attacks SWTOR for being gay

Yodaphone--the latest product pitch from Star Wars Inc.

Attention tortoise-fanciers: do you like Star Wars?

History of Star Wars as related by a bot

Is Star Wars a travesty of science fiction?

Luke Skywalker and company on the Muppet Show

Yoda now shilling instant soup in Japan

Commander who?

$6000 for a toy you can't even play with

Star Wars underwear

Retro Star Wars decor in my son's bedroom

Phantom Menace 3D: Now With Plot

Star Wars and disco: the forgotten love affair

Will Muschamp: What a guy!

Oi, fanboy: grow up! A reply to Darren Franich


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In praise of Star Wars Rebels

I decided to set aside my skepticism of all things Star Wars produced after 1983 and give Star Wars Rebels a try. I had watched the trailer and a few other previews online and was attracted to the Ralph-McQuarrie-inspired art and the apparent lack of any references to the dreaded (and dreadful) prequels. So I signed up for a season's pass on iTunes and watched the first episode with the kids (Beatrice and Zach, six-and-a-half and four). We've been watching one episode a week ever since. 

I'm amazed at how right Star Wars Rebels is. The characters are terrific. Zeb is a wonderful mix of strong and smart, gruff and gentle. He's possibly my favourite character. Sabine and Hera, while a little underdeveloped so far, are promising female leads in a universe that has always been too short on them--something that bothers me a lot more now that I have a daughter than it did seven+ years ago. Chopper is a genuinely new take on a droid (unless he's not--I've never watched Clone Wars so I don't know what I've missed, but he seems fresh and original to me). 

But most intriguing to me are Kanan, billed as the cowboy Jedi, and Ezra, his accidental protegé. Watching how the show's writers have drawn these two characters, I feel like I'm finally seeing what I had hoped for from the prequels: a coming-of-age story mixed with a Jedi take on the buddy flick. Kanan and Ezra's complex relationship, in which annoyance and admiration are mutual and frequently simultaneous, is what Obi-Wan and Anakin's could and should have been. Utterly unlike the prequels, the age difference here is perfect: Ezra is old enough to be interesting and young enough to be forgivable, while Kanan is old enough to be authoritative and young enough to be in over his head in training a would-be Jedi. Isn't this exactly what the original trilogy led us to believe about Kenobi and Skywalker? It's hard for me not to see the Kanan-Ezra relationship as a gentle rebuke of the prequels, as though the Star Wars Rebels writers are saying to old-time Star Wars fans like me, "This is what could have been".

Perhaps my favourite thing about Star Wars Rebels so far is that it actually feels like Star Wars, by which I of course mean the original trilogy. The stormtroopers look like stormtroopers. The vehicles are familiar, even when they are given novel twists. The settings have the eerily organic quality of McQuarrie's paintings. I feel delightfully at home in this world. 

Hanging over the entire series is the knowledge that, by the time of the Episode IV era (said to be five years in the future) the only Jedi left in the galaxy are Obi-Wan and Yoda. What this means for the arc of Star Wars Rebels is brutally clear: Kanan and Ezra must die. The grim inevitability of their deaths brings an unexpected poignancy to the show. For the moment, I want Star Wars Rebels to go on and on. But eventually it has to end, and the ending must be harsh. I pray the show doesn't flinch from the impending tragedy. Judging by the perfect-pitch storytelling we've seen so far, it won't. In that case the best of Star Wars Rebels is yet to come.


My cousin Rory wrote a book about Star Wars

Pretty good for a six year old. Writing books about Star Wars seems to run in the family.


"Despecialized Edition" of Star Wars a huge task

This video shows how a new, fan-made "Despecialized Edition" of Star Wars was created. It's an astonishing amount of work. As CinemaBlend explains,

The video you see above is dedicated to the creation of Star Wars: Despecialized - an amazing, fan-made, high definition cut of the originally theatrically released Star Wars trilogy, constructed using a number of different versions of the movie that have been released over the years. Credit for the creation of restoration goes to a user named Harmy from the message boards, who has really put together something magnificent here. As you'll learn watching the featurette, the greatest resource for the project was the Star Wars Blu-ray box set that was released back in 2011 - but Harmy's version actually goes beyond that flawed professionally-made cut and creates something that's in many ways superior.

CinemaBlend: Amazing Star Wars Fan Restoration Removes All Of George Lucas's Mistakes


Touring Marvel Star Wars

I'm really enjoying Brett White's "Touring Marvel's Star Wars" series on White (@brettwhite) is reviewing the old Marvel Star Wars comics, starting at number one. He does it with a lot of humour and also a lot of knowledge of the artists that drew, wrote and coloured those first comics. If you're an old-time Star Wars fan--and if you're not, why are you here?--you'll enjoy this.

Here's a sample from White's recent review of Star Wars #4:

The middle panel features a line from Han that was presumably added in by Thomas: "Y'know kid—getting back to the Falcon's going to be like flying thru the Five Fire Rings of Fornax!" Doesn't sound like Star Wars, does it? It sounds a lot like something out of a Flash Gordon serial or a pulp sci-fi novel, right? "Star Wars" is weird in that it both took heavy inspiration from that type of science fiction, but it also grounded it in reality—a reality set in a galaxy far, far away, but still a reality. You don't hear words with a lot of gratuitous Xs and Zs in "Star Wars." You get words like "Jedi" and "Wookiee," words that sound alien but lack any of the alien signifiers usually used. For example, George Lucas came up with "Kessel Run" and Roy Thomas came up with "Five Fire Rings of Fornax." Both are made up, but man, they really sound different.

It's great stuff. My only complaint is the needs to put up a page with all White's "Touring" posts in one place. If you want to start from the beginning and read them all (as I suggest you do), it's a bit of a hassle right now. Touring Marvel's Star Wars #4--Explodey-Wan Kenobi

For the first three parts of "Touring Marvel's Star Wars" click herehere & here


Kevin Smith on the set of Episode VII

Kevin Smith's account of his recent visit to the set of Episode VII at San Diego Comic-Con. Not safe for work. In fact I'm really not sure how it was appropriate for Comic-Con--children do go to this event, don't they? But it's spoiler-free.


Deeth Starr Valley

From the Facebook feed of my colleague Greg Allen. His comment: "Deeth Starr Valley, NV. The place to be for functionally illiterate Star Wars fans."


Amazing gifts from artist Chris Woods

You may remember last year's terrific Sandstorm art exhibit by Chris Woods. Chris funded the exhibit in part through Indiegogo and has spent a huge amount of time and effort since then producing drawings and prints for those who contributed. 

Chris was also kind enough to prepare something for me. I wasn't expecting anything, and I certainly wasn't expecting THREE fabulous pieces. These came in the mail a couple weeks ago. 

Untitled, by Chris WoodsHeroes in Danger, by Chris WoodsVillain, by Chris Woods

"Villain" is my wife's favourite. In fact she just asked me what I planned to do with it, in a way that made clear that it wasn't leaving the house! Fine by me. I especially like the moodiness of "Heroes in Danger".

I can't thank Chris enough for his immense generosity. But I can at least tell you that Chris's Sandstorn exhibit is showing again this summer at Gallery Jones in Vancouver from 12 July to 3 August. I understand these amazing works are for sale. Contact Chris on Twitter (@chriswoodsart) for more information.

Gallery Jones: Sandstorm by Chris Woods


Worst Star Wars exhibit ever?

Chewbacca, apparently (source: Metro UK: 

Princess Leia lying awkwardly on the floor like a drunk belly dancer, dirty clothes and manky old wigs.

Those visiting the Stars Wars exhibition in Wolfsburg, Germany, would have been forgiven for mistaking it for the set of a budget porn film.

The force was definitely not strong in this awful display of creepy mannequins, terrible lighting and all-round lameness.

Take Chewie for example – obviously just a wig glued to a doll head.

Metro: This is the worst Star Wars exhibition ever


10 reasons to be glad the EU is gone--except that it probably isn't

Uproxx's list of 10 Star Wars characters we'll never see in the movies starts out a bit obviously with Jaxxon and Ackmena but gets weirder, funnier and sadder with every new name. Here's a sample:

Triclops, The Emperor’s Three-Eyed Son
If the fact that the Emperor’s three-eyed son is named Triclops doesn’t make you groan, know that there’s a guy who pretended to be the Emperor’s three-eyed son, and his name is… wait for it… Trioculus. The possible result of genetic experimentation instead of good old-fashioned sexytimes, Triclops was kept imprisoned for years, because the Emperor was cringingly embarrassed that he named his three-eyed son Triclops. “What was I thinking? Was I on a Homer kick that day?,” he could be heard to mutter as he roamed the halls of the Death Star late at night. “Could I not have gone with Greg or Jerry or, I dunno, Bob?” Triclops eventually escaped captivity and had a two-eyed son, named not Duoclops but Ken. Again: The Emperor has a grandson named Ken. Somehow, Duoclops would’ve been better.

For this, and nine more reasons, the author concludes, we can be glad the EU is gone. Except that it probably isn't really gone, and even if it is gone the things that will replace it will likely be just as cringeworthy from time to time.

Follow the link for more EU absurdities.

Uproxx: Here Are The ‘Star Wars’ Characters Who Will Never, Ever, Ever Be In The New Movies


I'm changing the name of this blog, and #WeWantLeia is why

Image credit: RebelScum.comFor some time now I've been increasingly uncomfortable with the original name of this blog, "This Sort of Thing: Star Wars for men old enough to know better". The subtitle was intended to emphasize my experience with men of my generation--men in the their late 30s to mid 40s who, like me, grew up as devoted Star Wars fans. My book, A Long Time Ago: Growing Up with and Out of Star Wars, was intended to speak mainly to that audience. It came of my experience with men of my age. Throughout my adulthood, I have been repeatedly struck by how easily I can talk about Star Wars with men who grew up in the late 1970s, whether I have anything else in common with them or not. As I say in the prologue to my book, 

Star Wars—the movie, the sequels, the toys, the books, the trading cards, the comics, the arcade games, the galaxy of myths and merchandise—dominated my youth. In this I am the same as so many other boys I knew then, and so many men I know today. It is a common reference point for my gender and generation. 

Not long after my book was published, however, I started getting feedback from women of the same generation. They mostly liked my book, but some were annoyed by the male focus. Star Wars wasn't just a boy thing, they said, and I knew they were right. When I first unwrapped Kenner Star Wars figures on Christmas morning, 1978, my four-year-old sister was there doing the same. I would call her my first Star Wars playmate, if the original meaning of that word had not been so totally corrupted. 

I was sensitive to these readers' criticisms from the outset. In fact I revised my book a few months after first publishing it to add more inclusive language, although I left the male focus largely in place. As the book became better known, I got more traffic to this blog. Again the (entirely fair) question arose, based on the blog's subtitle: Is this blog just for men? My answer was no, as I tried to explain in this post. But was it enough?

On 19 May, this happened:

Disney's answer was surprising and disappointing to Natalie, a mum and PhD student at King's College, London. She wasn't the only one who felt that way. The hashtag #WeWantLeia quickly became the latest Twitter phenomenon. The Daily Dot explains: 

Star Wars fans come in all shapes and sizes, in every gender and race, and are found in all corners of the world. The diversity of the fanbase is one of the most exciting aspects of being a part of the Star Wars fandom. Unfortunately the Star Wars films have never really reflected that diversity and while hopes were high that things may change with new movies and TV show being released under Disney, signs keep leading fans to believe they’ll be disappointed.

Female fans in particular have been consistently let down by recent news—especially the lack of women in the new Star Wars: Episode VII cast. That disappointment continued this week when it was revealed the Disney Store has no plans to create products inspired by Princess Leia. The revelation came last Tuesday when King’s College London graduate student Natalie Wreyford asked the Disney Store why there weren’t any Princess Leia products in the store. The store responded on Twitter with a cheery signoff that has done little to pacify fans.

Jezebel adds: 

This comes on the heels of a disappointing initial casting announcement—six new male characters, and just one woman. When the Internet raised hue and cry, J.J. Abrams rushed to say that the casting wasn't over, and he's totally adding one more "substantial" female role. Oh, well, in THAT case. As our pals at io9 put it: "Are we seriously still pretending that the universe is comprised almost entirely of men (and mostly white men at that)?"

Reading all this on Twitter and the web, I found myself strongly on the pro-Leia side. She is one of the leading (and best) characters in Star Wars.

But this isn't just about toys. As has so often happened in the course of the Star Wars franchise, a story about space heroes has again become a story about what we want to be. George Lucas first encountered this (likely very surprising) phenomenon in the aftermath of the first film, when he faced criticism for not featuring blacks and other minorities in his film. He responded with Lando Calrissian--another great Star Wars character who often does not get the attention he deserves. (In fact it seems to me that very few of the human-played characters of the original Star Wars trilogy are featured in the prequel and post-prequel era of Star Wars content and merchandise. Lucasfilm seems to prefer to let the faces of its franchise be the easily CGI'd characters: Vader, Yoda, Artoo, Threepio, Boba Fett, etc.) 

As I retweeted supportive and insightful #WeWantLeia tweets and blog posts (like this one from Natacha Guyot), the old embarrassment about this blog's subtitle hit me again. Yes, my experience of Star Wars in the 1970s and '80s was boy-focussed. But it wasn't boy-only even then, and it certainly is not now. Like so many Twitter users and Star Wars fans, I want Leia. To be clear, it's not more Disney toys I want--I stopped collecting toys at about 13. What I want is a world that isn't subjected to outmoded notions of what boys and girls are supposed to be. 

All of which is to say that I've changed the name of this blog--for the better.