Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 16:53 on 26-01-2018, Ibmiller
Arthur - I would LOVE to read a review of the Hainish books that don't get read as much. The Dispossessed is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read, and I really enjoyed The Telling, Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile, and City of Illusion. In honor of Le Guin's life, I'm reading Left Hand of Darkness for the first time (which review on ferretbrain prompted me to think that the ferret response was mixed), and plan to also read The Word for World is Forest. I may also reread The Dispossessed, since I love it so much. :)

My hesitance to read Left Hand so far has been my aversion to tragedy - though I did listen to the 2-hour BBC Radio 4 drama a couple of years ago, and loved that. But because of her death, I've finally gotten off my duff and am going through the book itself - and so far, it's very much Le Guin. Slow, thoughtful, painful, and beautiful.

Robinson - I think you would appreciate The Telling (2000). I find it a lesser Le Guin work, but it's still quite lovely, and the explorations of culture and religion I think you might appreciate. I'm curious which books The Dispossessed inspired - was that the book by Delany?
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at 05:15 on 26-01-2018, Robinson L
Good to know. As I said, I have deep respect for her contributions to the genre, and I always appreciate ferretbrain reviews of topics I have some interest in, but can't be arsed to go into blind (see: Moorcock, Lovecraft, and many more). So far, The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness are the only Hainish stories I've read so far. Who know, perhaps your review will inspire me to give some others a chance.
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at 21:10 on 25-01-2018, Arthur B
I am absolutely pro-Le Guin. I've been working my way slowly towards doing a review of the lesser-known Hainish materials and should probably shunt that up the priority list.
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at 18:00 on 25-01-2018, Robinson L
Actually, I suspect I'm an outlier on the site for not being hugely impressed by le Guin's fiction. I revisited the first three Earthsea books a few years back, and I just found them okay. Tried The Left Hand of Darkness once, and only sheer stubbornness got me all the way through, because I was so incredibly bored by it. The Dispossessed is easily my favorite of her stuff that I've read, and that's at least as much for the exploration of political ideas as any interest I had in the characters or plot. (It also apparently helped inspire one of my new absolute favorite books, so there's that.) But I still recognize and respect the enormous contributions she made to the genre. I suspect most of my fellow neurons would be much quicker to praise her works.
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at 22:00 on 24-01-2018, Ibmiller
So, Ursula Le Guin has passed away. I know she has kind of a mixed ferretbrain response, but I think she's a true great in science fiction and fantasy - not just politically, but from the sheer beauty and power of her prose and stories.
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at 18:02 on 19-01-2018, Robinson L
Whoops, I completely spaced out on finishing my scenario.

Sooo, anyway, after having his ability to use the Force for evil stripped from him, Kylo Ren is placed in Chewbacca's custody and permanently exiled to Kashyyyk, where he's completely dependent upon the locals for survival what with being way high up in the trees and all the dangerous predators on the lower levels of the planet. And also, every other person around him can literally rip him in half if he steps out of line. So he's not been redeemed, but he can still be made to do good (or else he says hello to the predators on the lower levels), and there's no way he can cause further trouble.

I could see me being okay with that ending, but I don't expect the movie to go that way; Hollywood likes to tie off its major plot threads a lot more cleanly and neatly than that.
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at 00:36 on 19-01-2018, Robinson L
Also in my musing, I came up with a scenario for how they could avoid redeeming Kylo Ren and still have it be satisfactory.

Before going into that, though, I want to talk a little about Anakin Skywalker's redemption to give context. I think Anakin's redemption is a hugely significant development in the saga, one that - mythologically speaking - has major, lasting consequences for the story.

However, in my view the importance of the redemption aspect of his character arc is often overlooked or downplayed. The old Expanded Universe had numerous stories taking place in the time of the prequels, many of which prominently featured Anakin. Of these stories, a substantial subset foreshadowed Anakin's descent into the dark side in various ways. While this is understandable, I noticed there were a lot fewer stories foreshadowing the Anakin's return to the light in the end. It felt as though those stories had lost sight of the fact that the character of Anakin Skywalker is ultimately a hero who loses his way and finds it again in the end, and treated him more like a villain waiting to happen. (Admittedly, the latter interpretation is bolstered by some weak acting and directing choices in the prequel films.)

I've also seen the rest of the Expanded Universe and the sequel films dwell heavily on the theme of a good character's fall into darkness, while the theme of bad characters becoming good has been much less prominent, and sometimes ignored altogether.

I think this is unfortunate, but what actively upsets me is when the impact of his redemption on the mythology of the franchise is undermined. I know Arthur has pointed out multiple times that in real world terms, the original trilogy heroes' victory and Anakin's redemption accomplished a great deal. But Star Wars is a franchise dripping in mythology, and so I think it's reasonable to ask that his victory have substantial mythological consequences as well.

I would suggest three logical potential consequences it could have, and submit that, for it to be as mythologically significant as it seems to be in Return of the Jedi, then at least the third and one of the first two ought to hold true:

1) he breaks the back of the Empire so that it never again grows powerful enough to take over the galaxy; 2) he destroys the Sith so that they can never menace the galaxy again; 3) he breaks the Skywalker family curse so that none of his descendants will fall to the dark side for at least the next 5 of 6 generations out.

Obviously, all three of these potential consequences were thrown out by both the Expanded Universe and the sequel trilogy. (And unnecessarily, I'll add - as that review Daniel F linked points out, there are plenty of other stories you can tell in the Star Wars universe which don't require feeding old villains and problems from the previous movies through a copy machine. I personally would've liked something involving droids, because I want to see a Star Wars property tackle head on the question of how the hell you can have droids like Threepio and Artoo and BB-8, who are clearly alive for all intents and purposes and yet are not part of the Force.) At this point, in either continuity, the mythological consequences of Anakin's redemption are effectively nil, which I think is tragic, and I'd hate to see them walk even further by having his last descendant fall to the dark side and never be redeemed. "His failure is now complete" indeed.

... All of which said, here's how I could see Episode IX not giving Kylo Ren a redemption arc and avoid pissing me off even further:

Kylo Ren is defeated in a final battle with Rey, but remains unrepentant. The good guys take him prisoner, but they're going to rebuild civilization from a higher ethical standard, so they refuse to execute him.

The filmmakers then resurrect an obscure technique from the Expanded Universe whereby a Force-user can be permanently stripped of their power, and have Rey use it on Kylo Ren - either that, or they hand-wave things so that now a Force ghost can stand guardian over him and ensure he never uses the Force for villainous purposes again, under the right circumstances. The Force ghost in question, of course, is Anakin Skywalker, as portrayed as Hayden Christensen (hey, he can't be any worse than Adam Driver) for maximum irony.

Either way, to ensure he can never get up to any mischief again, Kylo is placed in

(Something else I heard in the podcast reviews of Last Jedi are many people assuming Kylo and Rey are going to hook up in IX, which presumably entails a redemption on his part in the process. I have to admit this is a plausible outcome from what's been set up in The Last Jedi, but the prospect is so appalling that I haven't let myself consider it seriously. Between that and no redemption at all, I can't work out which possibility is worse.)
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at 00:30 on 19-01-2018, Robinson L
Daniel F: There is room in this universe for creativity, once you unshackle yourself from familiar story beats.

Very true. This is why, while I love getting more adventures of the original trilogy cast, I'm annoyed that the second of the anthology films - the side movies - is all about a young Han Solo. Let's open up the universe a bit more, please?

The trilogies are all products of their era. Even the OT: heroic Rebels overthrowing an evil empire seems like a fitting narrative for the beginning of the Reagan era. The PT was widely interpreted as critical of Bush or Blair, with fears about tyrannical government overreach, corrupt government, and an executive head feeding a country lies to lead it into war.

Right, although the first movie came out 3 years before Reagan first ran, and was in the works for a few years before that - I've heard that it was based on the Nixon Administration and Vietnam. Likewise, I'm pretty sure Attack of the Clones was written and filmed before the September 11th attacks. And Rogue One and The Last Jedi were both in the tin before the 2016 election. I guess if you make a movie about rebellion against a warmongering, authoritarian government, the United States can be counted upon to provide real world parallels on a semi-regular basis.

But I was referring more to the mood and outlook of the films. The original trilogy consciously told an optimistic story with heroes who were thoroughly good rather than morally compromised anti-heroes - in direct and deliberate contrast to the gloomy, proto-grimdark films of the late 70s. The sequel trilogy, by contrast, I feel is more closely in step with the mood and outlook sensibilities of contemporary cinema.

My recollection is that you’re an anarchist of some sort? We might actually have more in common than you think. But you never know.

Well, I'm uncomfortable with labels, because I often find them limiting - but yeah, that's pretty much where I'm at.

However, I was quoting Ibmiller, and as he says, my response was specifically directed at him.

Ibmiller: I have no idea what could ever make me want to read Crucible.

Sorry, yeah, I was trying to come up with an analogy which fit the current conversation, and that was what came to mind. I actually was grudgingly impressed by some elements of Crucible, but yeah, it's not a worthwhile read on the whole - especially if you already slogged through the whole of Legacy of the Force (and maybe Fate of the Jedi?) instead of just half like me.

I mean, I would LOVE to see Mara back, even without her connection to Luke - that kind of slow redemption story, realizing that she's working for the wrong side - is great.

Same here.

Haha, I know your opinions on Captain Cardboard. I just like him. :)

I like him okay as a supporting character - though I'm a bit biased toward his brother Chak from Survivor's Quest - I just find him boring as a love interest for one of my favorite characters. But hey, I'm glad you enjoy him.

In other news, I finally started listening to some podcast reviews of The Last Jedi, and they've reminded me of a couple elements of the movie which have gotten me thinking some more about a couple of points. In particular, it reminded me of what bugged me so much about Luke's death. Not the part where both the soundtrack and camerwork go into what I can only describe as the musical and cinematography equivalent of hyperventilating to beat the message into me "Be sad now! Be sad now! Be sad now!" for what feels like a solid minute before he actually dies. Or how Rey flies directly in the face of the above when she claims his death was peaceful and not sad. Or the way that, for me, his death undermines the awesomeness of his parting shot to Kylo Ren, "I'll see you around, kid." Turns out, not so much. (Yes, he'll almost certainly come back as a Force ghost, but that's not the same. If he'd said that line as a Force ghost it might've been different.) But it's related to that last point.

I thought Luke's confrontation with Kylo Ren was fantastic. I particularly liked the part where it looks like he's gearing himself up to do the Obi-Wan sacrifice, and Kylo Ren takes a swing at him with the lightsaber and I'm thinking 'holy shit, they're really going to do this' - and instead it passes right through him, and he's been on Island Planet the entire time. That was an awesome moment.

... And then he up and dies for real five minutes later, which to me undermines the moment. If you fake out a character death, and then go ahead and kill the character off for real soon afterwards, the original fake out winds up feeling pointless. (This is also what frustrates me about stories where you're led to believe a supporting character is a villain, and then they're killed off only a little while after having their name cleared.)

I'm okay with killing off Luke in principle, but if that's what they were going to do, they really should have nixed the Obi-Wan fake out. (There were other potential ways to reveal he was on Island Planet.)

And here's the thing: setting aside the aforesaid Melodramatic Build Up, I thought the execution of Luke's death was well done. Very well done. As a matter of fact, it's the same way I feel about Han's death scene in The Force Awakens, though the build up here is less excruciating.

But as great moments go, the Obi-Wan fake out was better. A lot better. I think the movie would have been best served by leaving Luke alive on Island Planet - maybe telling himself 'that took a lot out of me, better not try it again' - and left it to IX to kill him off. Granted, now that would mean clearing out both Luke and Leia in IX, but 1) Johnson and company didn't know that at the time, and 2) while this would be a difficult task to pull off, it's far from impossible. (I think it could especially work if Abrams and his crew took my suggestion from way earlier and revealed Han to be alive after all, and the last of the Big Three standing.)
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at 16:03 on 17-01-2018, Ibmiller
Probably not a great topic for the playpen. If you want to send me a message on my blog, or hunt me down on another social media platform for a DM or PM or something, I'd be fine with that.
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at 08:18 on 17-01-2018, Daniel F
Do you feel like expanding, or should we leave it there? I suspect that my views aren't quite the norm here either... but then, I suppose I'm not sure what the norm even is.
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at 03:56 on 17-01-2018, Ibmiller
Um. Unless I'm a lot less unusual among the ferrets than I thought, not likely.
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at 00:33 on 17-01-2018, Daniel F
I thought we were mostly in agreement on structures?

Otherwise, oops, that's embarrassing.
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at 16:58 on 16-01-2018, Ibmiller
Robinson: I have no idea what could ever make me want to read Crucible. Even if you told me Wedge Antilles and Tycho Celchu save the day, I wouldn't read it. Denning is just that bad in my experience.

I mean, I would LOVE to see Mara back, even without her connection to Luke - that kind of slow redemption story, realizing that she's working for the wrong side - is great. I feel like they tried to do that with the new Battlefront character Iden Versio, but I just was not feeling the story when I watched through the first hour or so of it.

And no, they're not rationed. I hope!

Haha, I know your opinions on Captain Cardboard. I just like him. :)

Daniel - I think Robinson was talking about my ideas about the proper role of structures and institutions, not yours. :)
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at 04:58 on 16-01-2018, Daniel F
On Christie Golden:

Yes, she’s written a lot of garbage. I would single out Starcraft: Flashpoint and World of Warcraft: War Crimes as particularly bad, but it’s possible she’s written other awful novels and I haven’t read them. Those two in particular stand out as unnecessary ‘bridge’ books between two video games, written to a narrow deadline, with the requirement that they not effect anything in the surrounding games. So Flashpoint is supposed to bridge Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, but the fact is that HotS follows on directly from WoL with no intermission. So Golden had to invent a nonsensical two weeks or so to cram in the middle, all with the requirement that nothing happen, so that people who didn’t read the novel don’t get confused. It’s the worst sort of tie-in novel: just a shallow appeal to completionists.

But as I said, I liked her two orc novels, so I hold out hope that if she’s given more time to write a novel and more creative space to work in, she can do something a bit better. Neither Lord of the Clans or Rise of the Horde are particularly original, but the former is everything I want out of fantasy adventure pulp, and the latter does a reasonably good job of showing how nomadic hunter-gatherers transform into a bloodthirsty juggernaut of destruction.

Robinson:

Dawn of the Jedi is one of my absolute favorite Star Wars properties of all time. (Odd, considering I found Ostrander and Duursema's other Star Wars series at best "okay.") I loved the mythology and the way it played around with the mysticism of the franchise, and I'm a sucker for a "discovering the good within you" character arc. And I'll note that they accomplished all this telling a brand new fecking story that was true to the spirit and themes of Star Wars without cannabalizing and repackaging large chunks of the films, unlike some other stories I could mention.

Indeed. If you get away from the most well-mined areas of Star Wars history (tentatively, I’d say TotJ/KotOR, the PT, the OT, and post-RotJ), there are a lot of different stories you can tell. There is room in this universe for creativity, once you unshackle yourself from familiar story beats.

I think that's right - which shouldn't be surprising, given the 30 year time gap between the trilogies' productions, and the shift in real world sensibilities over that period. Then again, the sequel trilogy seems a lot like a reflection of modern attitudes and sensibilities, such as in the general sense of disillusion, and the feeling that the universe is crumbling around us with no clear sense of what a better alternative might be, and a brooding tone.

The trilogies are all products of their era. Even the OT: heroic Rebels overthrowing an evil empire seems like a fitting narrative for the beginning of the Reagan era. The PT was widely interpreted as critical of Bush or Blair, with fears about tyrannical government overreach, corrupt government, and an executive head feeding a country lies to lead it into war. And the ST, I think, has this sense of ennui that younger people in the West have now? There’s a sense that the old systems aren’t working, and that we have to grow out of the chains of the past and accomplish some sort of social action, and its skepticism of institutions (the collapse of the New Republic, collapse of the Jedi Order, the much more overtly fascist First Order compared to the merely authoritarian Empire, etc.) fits alongside a modern rejection of institutional religion or putative moral authorities more generally.

Sorry, I could go on about this for a long time. The changing religious and spiritual landscape of the First World is... something of a specialty for me.

That sounds accurate. I'm sure we have very different ideas about what the proper role of structures and institutions actually is, and how they ought to be organized, but a general breakdown and lack of clear understanding does seem to be at work.

My recollection is that you’re an anarchist of some sort? We might actually have more in common than you think. But you never know.
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at 22:30 on 15-01-2018, Robinson L
Ibmiller: I'm a pretty obsessive Holmes and Watson fan (and will defend my love of Elementary as canonical to the death ;) )

I knew the former, and the latter is something you and my sisters share in common. It's one of the very few shows my entire family can watch together - and my favorite of those, about even with John Oliver.

Interesting about the comics. I have so little interest in the subjects they're dealing with that I don't read them often, but I have enjoyed things like the Lando series, and the Vader series (even though I really don't like villain stories).

I really liked the Lando series, and Vader is quite good, and I say that as someone who likewise isn't into villain stories. I also recently read the Obi-Wan and Anakin and Han Solo miniseries and midway through I thought they were extremely good ... then came the resolutions, which worked over all, but had enough flaws that they brought down the overall quality a few notches.

I wish I liked the Poe comics, but they're so obviously "we want to squeeze money from you X-Wing fans, but we're not going to write anything that actually matters or is seriously engaging) that I was very disappointed.

Huh. I find them pretty engaging so far. I enjoy the character work for the most part, and the plots are good. Like I said before, not great, but well above average. Then again, I generally enjoy this sort of prequel "how did we get here?" type of storytelling, which I know you don't.

You make an excellent point that not redeeming Kylo would make the pathetic resurgence of the Empire even worse - but I still can't want it. I just hate him too much.

I don't blame you - as a character he's risible in almost every way possible. (Which is to say, I appreciate what they're trying to do with his character, but it doesn't work as portrayed by Adam Driver, and I hate that they decided to give that particular character arc to Leia and Han's kid.)

I do think Lucas has said that the Jedi in the prequels are not supposed to be ideologically admirable, but I don't think he was that great at communicating that

Huh. In that case, yes, I agree the films do a bad job of making that point clear, but that interpretation is still present in those movies, if you see what I mean. More so, say, than the interpretation of Faux Skywalker's Jedi Order as a paranoid, authoritarian organization is present in Troy Denning's Crucible, because we do see the negative consequences of the prequel Jedi Order's inflexibility, even if the movies do a poor job of attributing it appropriately.

It's too bad, because depicting a deeply flawed system which the people in charge are dogmatically attached to and actively suppress attempts to change for the lesser ultimately contributing to the rise of fascism would've been a terrific piece of social commentary.

how does Luke's last stand impact the galaxy?

Given this is Star Wars, we could hypothesize some kind of mystical significance, but that's pure speculation, not meant to try to convince you.

I don't necessarily want Mara Jade back - but I want a character who is as awesome as Mara Jade.

Ideally, I'd like to have both. They're not rationed out, are they?

she accomplished nothing at all and looked really dumb.

Not to mention uncritically swallowing his bullshit excuses for his transparently evil behavior from Swarm War all the way through to Sacrifice. Palpatine's former top agent, eh? Are we supposed to understand she was suffering early onset senility? Much as I disliked Anakin's death in NJO, it, like Chewie's, was heroic, and neither of them required knee-capping their characters to accomplish.


Daniel F: the need to work everything into a single consistent continuity seemed to limit the space in which authors could do anything creative and memorable.

Right, though my point was more that it limited space to for them to write more stories where my favorite characters (pretty much all of whom were either original trilogy cast or closely related) weren't either dead, complete jerks, or both. So 'personal canon' only applied so far.

As you say, the stuff that didn't heavily feature the original trilogy cast, and especially the stuff set in the past, had a lot more room to maneuver, creatively.

Dawn of the Jedi is one of my absolute favorite Star Wars properties of all time. (Odd, considering I found Ostrander and Duursema's other Star Wars series at best "okay.") I loved the mythology and the way it played around with the mysticism of the franchise, and I'm a sucker for a "discovering the good within you" character arc. And I'll note that they accomplished all this telling a brand new fecking story that was true to the spirit and themes of Star Wars without cannabalizing and repackaging large chunks of the films, unlike some other stories I could mention.

Unfortunately, I don't have time for video games these days, so I can't comment on The Old Republic.

Personally, I'm happy to see the original trilogy cast and EU characters in a new continuity - I'd just prefer that they be presented with new stories and new problems rather than the same stuff all over again. The old EU was very good at this in the New Republic and New Jedi Order eras, though the quality of those stories was very much hit and miss.

it feels to me like there is a difference of attitude, even if it’s one I can’t properly articulate.

I think that's right - which shouldn't be surprising, given the 30 year time gap between the trilogies' productions, and the shift in real world sensibilities over that period. Then again, the sequel trilogy seems a lot like a reflection of modern attitudes and sensibilities, such as in the general sense of disillusion, and the feeling that the universe is crumbling around us with no clear sense of what a better alternative might be, and a brooding tone.

Then again, the original Star Wars was a conscious pushback against the filmmaking attitudes and sensibilities of its time, with their anti-heroes and general cynicism, so this true feels like kind of a
creative regression.

Ibmiller: I think Del Ray's desire to speed up the "important" Star Wars books (which is to say, the ones that are actually moving the timeline forward, instead of fill-in novels like Tatooine Ghost) was the real problem. They forced the writers to all work from a 5 to 9-year timeline which was set in stone, with extremely controversial (which is to say idiotic) creative decisions set in stone.

Yeah, that makes sense. Also, the constant need to do big game-changing series.

Re: Christie Golden
I know our esteemed editor emeritus (oh hey, alliteration) was highly unimpressed with her Lich King Warcraft novel. I think the only book of hers I've read was Dark Disciple, based on an unfilmed Clone Wars arc. I found that story surprisingly good, with the major weaknesses coming from the translation from cartoon (where you can get away with some pretty silly plot points more easily) to book. I dunno if I would've read Sword of the Jedi. I might've been too broken on that period of the EU, as it related to the Skywalker/Solo families. Plus, both Jag and Zekk put me to sleep by that point (sorry, Ibmiller).

but it's a very large group of fans, based on the sales of the books about the SkySolo family vs. side characters.

I have to admit, the stories about the Skywalker/Solo family are the ones which most interest me (thus why the Legacy era hurt my enjoyment of the entire franchise), and I feel like the original trilogy, especially, is supposed to be this epic turning point in galactic history, rather than a historical footnote. So I guess that makes me part of the problem (although I do follow other stories, and get most of my books and comics from the library).

From my own perspective, which is likely not very common here, it's about a lack of understanding of the proper role of structures in actually building a society that functions.

That sounds accurate. I'm sure we have very different ideas about what the proper role of structures and institutions actually is, and how they ought to be organized, but a general breakdown and lack of clear understanding does seem to be at work.

KotOR 1 and 2 are definitely a great outgrowth of the prequels - and I would also argue that Battlefront 2 (the original), the Republic Commando video game, and the first two books of the Republic Commando series were also very strong. I don't like Stover, but people are fond of his Shatterpoint and Episode 3 books. And, of course, there's the Clone Wars animated television series, which has some very good (and some very bad) episodes.

Even if you dislike the prequels, there's a lot of great supplemental material associated with them. I would add Yoda: Dark Rendezvous and Labyrinth of Evil; and then later we got Clone Wars: Wild Space, by Karen Miller of The Innocent Mage fame (man, I'm just full of references today), though I found her follow-up Clone Wars Gambit duology a disappointment. I was also favorably impressed by Darth Plagueis, and while I personally found Cloak of Deception underwhelming, I've heard other folks give it high praise.

The first Republic Commando book was okay but not quite my thing. The second had some great character work but I feel like the plot fell apart by the end. My favorite Karen Traviss books were actually the Clone Wars film novelization and No Prisoners. The former in particular, surprisingly, had some really good character work and worldbuilding.
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at 14:52 on 15-01-2018, Ibmiller
I've skimmed a couple of Golden StarCraft novels at the bookstore, and they're just not very impressive. I haven't even tried her new Star Wars stuff.

Completely agree that the prequels were creative. Lucas wasn't rehashing or remixing plots and ideas - even the goofy "ring theory" is just him using visuals or symbols to bring unity, not reusing story structures or character types. (Though I think you could argue that Amidala and Leia are probably the most similar to each other in character type.)

KotOR 1 and 2 are definitely a great outgrowth of the prequels - and I would also argue that Battlefront 2 (the original), the Republic Commando video game, and the first two books of the Republic Commando series were also very strong. I don't like Stover, but people are fond of his Shatterpoint and Episode 3 books. And, of course, there's the Clone Wars animated television series, which has some very good (and some very bad) episodes.
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at 02:41 on 15-01-2018, Daniel F
I like Golden's Lord of the Clans and Rise of the Horde for Warcraft tie-ins, but she's also written a lot of garbage, so to be honest I would have waited for reviews on 'Sword of the Jedi'.

I would agree with you about poor understanding of structures, and would tentatively link that to some issues in America (and even some in the UK and Aus), but I'd better stop here before it gets political. I would also agree that the prequels were more creatively fertile, so to speak, than the sequel films. The prequels weren't good films as such (though judged by the standards of their day I think they're a bit underrated), but I feel they had more imaginative force, so to speak. If nothing else, they helped popularise an image of the Old Republic as a setting for Star Wars. If not for the prequels, I don't think we'd have the likes of Knights of the Old Republic.
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at 21:59 on 14-01-2018, Ibmiller
I think Del Ray's desire to speed up the "important" Star Wars books (which is to say, the ones that are actually moving the timeline forward, instead of fill-in novels like Tatooine Ghost) was the real problem. They forced the writers to all work from a 5 to 9-year timeline which was set in stone, with extremely controversial (which is to say idiotic) creative decisions set in stone.

I personally liked the idea of Sword of the Jedi, but Golden's writing is just sub-par. So I was really torn.

The problem with getting away from the OT is that there is a very intense group of fans who say that anything not connected to Skywalkers isn't real Star Wars. They think that everything else exists just to set up and empower this one set of characters. It's the fan version of the main character elitism that I was talking about earlier. And I hate it - but it's a very large group of fans, based on the sales of the books about the SkySolo family vs. side characters.

I think you're right about the issue of institutions. From my own perspective, which is likely not very common here, it's about a lack of understanding of the proper role of structures in actually building a society that functions. (I could also argue that it's a sign that the Star Wars films function more on visual shorthand to let us know that things are good and bad rather than actually developing a philosophy or ideological foundation for the Resistance and the First Order/Rebellion and Empire). For all their flaws, the prequels actually did do a lot to develop ideologies. It just did so in a very boring way, too often.
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at 07:22 on 14-01-2018, Daniel F
Robinson: Right, I think there’s a fair argument that Del Rey’s consolidation of the EU was the nail in the coffin. I would have been interested in Christie Golden’s ‘Sword of the Jedi’ trilogy, to see if it can do anything new with Jaina, but the need to work everything into a single consistent continuity seemed to limit the space in which authors could do anything creative and memorable.

At least, with film characters, or the post-RotJ era. I think some of the comics and games had more room to experiment. Comics like Knight Errant or Dawn of the Jedi were able to get a long way away from continuity and do their own thing, and whatever you might say about TOR’s Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne expansions (and I’m not a big fan), they were able to chart their own course as well. In some ways I like that more. It doesn’t always feel like traditional Star Wars to me, but I can handle that.

lbmiller: I don't necessarily want Mara Jade back - but I want a character who is as awesome as Mara Jade.

Yes, this is it. I don’t want the ST to just go around trying to remind me of things I liked, either in the EU or from the OT (the latter being a larger problem, really). I want something different but just as cool. In that light, to be honest, I think the further we get away from the OT characters and setting, the better.

Regarding the reach of the Resistance: my somewhat uncharitable interpretation is that it’s about trust in institutions. TLJ had an entire plot about the trustworthiness of Resistance leaders with Holdo, whereas the OT had lots of barely named Rebel leaders (Dodonna, Rieekan, Ackbar, Mon Mothma, etc.) and never even touched the idea of mutiny. The Rebellion was run like a military hierarchy, and no one ever voiced any doubt about this. Today, we get an entire subplot about it, and while sexism is implicit in the Holdo case, I suspect it’s also that a 2017 audience is more skeptical of institutional authority than a 1980 audience.

So ESB and RotJ can comfortably imply Rebel fleets and generals and so on out there, and we understand that the heroes will listen to them and obey their orders. The Resistance feels more ambivalent about even being a military organisation. The way they talk about the Resistance at the end of TLJ feels more like a social movement, to me? They talk about being a spark of hope: it’s raising awareness, not settling down to the difficult and even bureaucratic business of running an organisation. The sign of hope at the end is a kid with telekinetic powers, as opposed to anything practical.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this… but it feels to me like there is a difference of attitude, even if it’s one I can’t properly articulate.
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at 03:30 on 14-01-2018, Ibmiller
I think seeing more than a kid who met Rose one time and got her ring use the Force - like maybe showing the Rebels finding a network of those supporters they reached out to instead of just flying away on the Falcon. Similar to how, though everything is pulled out from under Luke and Leia, they both have the Rebel Fleet where Luke can get a new hand and Leia can plan with Lando to get Han back. I mean, to some extent you have a solid point that this is supposed to setup, not answer questions. But I feel like it didn't even setup questions. It gave dumb answers to a lot of TFA's questions, and didn't really pose any interesting ones for the future.
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at 20:37 on 13-01-2018, Arthur B
how does Luke's last stand impact the galaxy? Is the GFFA a place where oral tradition is super powerful?

Why would you expect to have a definitive answer on this before episode IX comes out?
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at 00:28 on 13-01-2018, Ibmiller
Robinson - re: Watson and Holmes - I'm a pretty obsessive Holmes and Watson fan (and will defend my love of Elementary as canonical to the death ;) ), but I'm also a really big comic book fan, so the art and construction of a book probably bugs me a bit more as well.

Re: Star Wars - Interesting about the comics. I have so little interest in the subjects they're dealing with that I don't read them often, but I have enjoyed things like the Lando series, and the Vader series (even though I really don't like villain stories). I wish I liked the Poe comics, but they're so obviously "we want to squeeze money from you X-Wing fans, but we're not going to write anything that actually matters or is seriously engaging) that I was very disappointed.

I don't regret reading Legacy of the Force or Fate of the Jedi (especially since I skipped at least one full Troy Denning book in each series), but they were not good. But my love of Wedge is too strong. :)

Completely agree with you that the way the film is setup, the Resistance rebuilding just doesn't seem very plausible. But my ideas of plausible are obviously very uninteresting to Disney, see also Gravity-propelled Bombs In Space. :)

You make an excellent point that not redeeming Kylo would make the pathetic resurgence of the Empire even worse - but I still can't want it. I just hate him too much.

I do think Lucas has said that the Jedi in the prequels are not supposed to be ideologically admirable, but I don't think he was that great at communicating that, so while you can parse it out, what is cool and visually appealing in the films doesn't support that communication.

Arthur - how does Luke's last stand impact the galaxy? Is the GFFA a place where oral tradition is super powerful? I think you are on board with what the film is selling there, but they haven't sold me on it. I see what they're TRYING to do, but it's undercut too much.

Daniel F - I think you are absolutely right that the EU ended up really fragmenting the fanbase pretty badly, which is a good reason for Disney to jettison it. I still think it would be nice if they had something as good to replace it with instead of the bland rehashed and repackaged and reriffed and reinterpreted blue milk we're getting. I definitely have my own personal canon of Star Wars at this point, and it's probably only about 10% of available material from any source. I just wish I could enjoy more of the stuff that's coming out than I do. I don't necessarily want Mara Jade back - but I want a character who is as awesome as Mara Jade. Ahsoka in the Clone Wars got close sometimes, but I don't think was ultimately as strong.

I do wish we had a much better sense of what kind of resources both the Resistance and the First Order have. I mean, to be fair we never really get into the economics of the Empire and Rebellion, but we at least see the evidence of massive industrialization by the Empire in the Death Star and Star Destroyers, and the banding together of many races in the Return of the Jedi fleet. The Resistance has...tons of goofy little ships and new X-Wings (and A-Wings! yay! But they all died :( ) and one big ship, and the First Order seems able to whip up new ships at any time.

Robinson - yes, I find I have to be careful when driving and listening to Expounded Universe, because I'm laughing so hard I am seriously distracted. Wow. :D

As for character death, I think it should always mean something. Much as I think NJO started a bad trend, at least both Chewie and Anakin died really heroically. Mara...died like a total punk by authorial cheat - she completely won the battle, and Jacen just poisoned her, so she accomplished nothing at all and looked really dumb. (And also just thinking about that makes me so angry. I still remember, in about 2013 or so, rereading her death in the library, and walking to the parking lot almost paralyzed with fury at how stupid and pointless it was.)
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at 22:30 on 12-01-2018, Robinson L
Daniel F: I believe originally Jacen was slated to be the one who died, but George Lucas expressed the preference that Anakin Solo not be the protagonist (due to potential confusion with Anakin Skywalker), so they swapped it around, and I think I prefer that.

Oh, I believe me, I know the story, and I don't think I would have liked it either way. I'm with Zahn in my dislike of character death - not always, but quite often. And if How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is to be believed, I'm in agreement with Lucas as well, at least circa the early 80s.

I thought Anakin Solo was a great character and I was deeply invested in his future character arc and his budding romance with Tahiri. Instead he got killed off, and to what story benefit? A bunch of angst and eventually assholery. Terrific.

That said, I get this all subjective, and if you were fine with Anakin's death, that's how you feel. Personally, I was okay with killing off Chewbacca in Vector Prime, but I also get why people were outraged. And I'm certainly glad to see him back again in the sequel movies.

It feels like a natural evolution of that, to me, for Jacen to end up this mystic who discovers new truths about the Force, and develops a special understanding of the Yuuzhan Vong and their biotech, whereas Jaina becomes a highly capable pilot and military leader. That way they’d both have very important but still distinct roles to play in ending the war, and as for sex stereotypes, I’d like to think that Jacen the healer versus Jaina the warrior is a little bit subversive.

That's all fine. My problem is that in the second half of the series, Jacen got built up as this ultimate Messiah with a super special destiny, whereas Jaina was just another Jedi who ran around doing the important but secondary stuff. They both played necessary roles in the resolution, but not equally important by several hundred parsecs. Kinda like the difference between Luke and Leia in the movies, except that Jaina and Jacen were built up as being equal in import and potential up until New Jedi Order.

I think it’s correct that most people who like the EU ended up developing their own ‘personal canon’ for it, and in that sense there’s no such thing as a stock ‘EU fan’. I felt that by the time of LotF, we actually found that different authors had their own personal canons, and these inevitably came into conflict.

Yeah, that's certainly true. If you want to see how badly EU continuity was breaking down by the end of the EU era, look no further than Paul S. Kemp's Riptide. The level of continuity unraveling is hilarious (unfortunately, the book itself is pretty dull, and shot through with some appallingly stark sexism).

That said, 'personal canon' only extended so far. If you wanted to, say, ignore some behavior by Han which you considered out of character in The Courtship of Princess Leia, that was easy enough. But since the NJO and Legacy books were so much less self-contained, out-of-character behavior had consequences which extended past their individual stories, and it was kind of hard to overlook how, say, Luke Skywalker deliberately saved someone's life just so he could fucking murder them himself in mid-LotF (and no, I'm never going to let that go. Really, Traviss?).

Similarly, with character death. Like or dislike NJO, if you wanted any more stories featuring Chewie or Anakin set after that series, tough luck. Zahn apparently would've liked to do a story about Luke, Mara, and Ben set after Legacy of the Force, but Sacrifice torpedoed that idea. So even if I'd decided just to blot out the Legacy era, I knew that I was never, ever going to get more stories set post-NJO, featuring my favorite characters, that I could actually like.

If I can treat them as separate, why not treat the Disney trilogy as separate as well?

Hey, if it works, then more power to you.

Thrawn is a bit overrated, yeah. I think the problem is that he should be the starting point for how good Star Wars villains are written, but because other writers weren't up to the task, he wound up being the its crowning achievement.

But I never want to see the Disney canon try to do Mara Jade. Mara, Thrawn, etc., have already had their stories. I don’t want to see slight variants on them. I think for me it would hit a sort of ‘uncanny valley’: new characters awkwardly pretending to be characters I know and love, but not being quite right. But perhaps that’s just the opinion of an unpleasable curmudgeon. ;)

I dunno about that. It's certainly how I felt about Mara in a lot of the non-Zahn EU books (which, again, wasn't a huge problem for me until the mischaracterization started having permanent consequences for the ongoing story).

But I don't see characters from previous canon popping up in the Disney continuity as necessarily new characters pretending to be previously existing ones. If well handled, I would view them as parallel universe versions of their previous selves. I would be happy to see what, say, Winter's or General bel-Iblis' or Captain Pellaeon's Disney canon counterparts are up to, and I'm sorry to see that they don't exist and won't exist (with the possible exception of Pellaeon). I think it would be interesting to see what their lives would be like in the changed circumstances of the new continuity. Then again, I'm fond of those parallel universe/what if? kind of stories.

I bought her as an old and revered Rebel general, but at no point did I have that instinctive, ‘yes, this is what Princess Leia forty years older’.

Not much I can say to that other than shrug and go, "Well, it worked for me."

Sure, the Rebel bases in ANH and ESB were the largest concentrations of Rebels, but I always had the impression that there was a larger network of Rebels across the galaxy.

So did I. Maybe because of all the leaders like Mon Mothma and General Dodonna they kept swapping in and out between movies, or the extra pilots and fighters they picked up between A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. And we're not the only ones - I'm pretty sure both the old EU and the Disney supplemental lines confirmed as much.
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at 22:00 on 12-01-2018, Robinson L
Arthur: I'm pretty sure the reason was "the situation looks genuinely hopeless and they don't want to send their forces on a suicide mission which doesn't have any apparent chance of success". That may not be courageous from a Hollywood point of view, but it is not a ridiculous decision to make from a strategic standpoint.

Oh yeah, fair enough, that's just not how it came across in the movie - though really, I'm not sure how they could have gotten that across without showing at least a scene or two of the allies debating whether or not to go help, which would have muddied the focus and drawn out Climax 2 even further. But the movie could've come up with any number of justifications why help doesn't arrive in time; I'm just a little bit annoyed they went with the one which makes all the Resistance's potential supporters - in the context of the film if not from a real world pragmatic perspective - look like a bunch of craven jerks. For me it's only a minor point, though.

Also, I listened to the first episode of Expounded Universe earlier today, and I'm listening to the second episode now. I haven't laughed so hard in a while; seriously funny shit. Thanks again for putting it on my radar.
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