The Fandom Menace Strikes Back
“Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.”
Fred Hoyle, quoted in The Observer
Once upon a time there was a film called Star Wars—no episode number, no A New Hope—just Star Wars. Many people throughout the galaxy of movie houses saw this low-budget summer released flick and were enthralled with its special effects, the interesting characters, and the way it took old story archetypes (a young man’s quest towards manhood, a valiant knight storming the evil wizard’s sanctum to save the princess, good vs. evil—that sort of stuff . . .) and made them fresh again.
Eventually a second film was released and there was much rejoicing. Fans held conventions and began dressing as their favorite characters from the films. A third film came, seemingly to end the story. But the fans wanted more. Some even went to great lengths, writing their own versions of the stories in the films. This way, they surmised, the story would continue, with or without the guiding hand of George Lucas, creator of their beloved Star Wars.
But unrest came when Lucas and his Empire of lawyers began to crack down on the purveyors of these stories, which were not endorsed by their all-encompassing franchise. The Empire, with bottomless pockets and an endless team of stormtrooper lawyers struck back with lawsuits and threats as they attempted to thwart these rebel upstarts who thought they could fashion their own versions of the story. But there was hope, for the rebels took their fight to the vast reaches of the Internet where they continue, even now, to produce stories—and even films—of their own . . .
Fan made films such as Troops, which is a fun parody mixing television’s Cops with the original Star Wars; George Lucas In Love an amusing and well thought out story about George Lucas’ college days; and the newer Broken Allegiance, which has two apprentice sith escaping Vader’s clutches and being pursued by bounty hunters. These films have state of the art special effects and experienced actors; but the only way they’re able to fly under Lucasfilms radar is that they’re not-for-profit.
Unlike other films such as The Phantom Edit; and Dark Redemption, which do nothing but raise Lucas’ ire, causing him to pull the plug on the website for these films (good luck finding these on the net now.) The Phantom Edit is famous for being a version of Episode One: The Phantom Menace, re-edited by some crafty fan to remove the annoyances of Jar Jar Binks’ dialogue, while smoothing out some of the editing. Dark Redemption is an Australian fan film set a mere two days before A New Hope and details just how those all-important Death Star plans (possibly one of the greatest uses of Hitchcock’s MacGuffin ever) got into the hands of the rebels.
But even this ignominy is nothing compared to the legions of fans who have taken upon themselves to expand the scope of the Star Wars universe by writing what is referred to as “Slash Fiction”: stories which utilize the characters in the Star Wars universe in ways not originally intended by George Lucas. Such as tales of forbidden love between Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice, the Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi. That’s right, homosexual love and/or racy sex scenes between these and other characters (Luke and Leia, Han and Luke (???), Leia and Lando, and it just goes on and on…) from the films abound on the net if you know where to look. As fast as Lucasfilms shut these down, others pop up to take their place.
For as much as Lucasfilms would like to be in control over its content, Star Wars has grown too big to fit inside of Lucas’ universe anymore. Nearly everyone alive today has a Star Wars story to tell. The first time they saw it, dressing up as the characters on Halloween, standing in long lines to see the films again and again, arguing with their friends over which movie in the series is the best (The Empire Strikes Back is still many fans fave flick of the five out so far . . .), where to find that hard to find and all-important piece of Star Wars memorabilia, and occasionally writing their own stories and sharing them with fellow fans.
After all these years, with millions of people, young and old, becoming fans of the movies, it was only inevitable that Star Wars would become something more than just a series of cult films to these people. It’s now a way of life. The Internet has become a haven for fans of all ages—and ahem, predilections—to meet and exchange ideas with one another.
You didn’t like The Phantom Menace? Edit your own version. Or do what others have and create your own characters, learn how to greenscreen special-effects, produce your film yourself, and put it up on one of the many Internet fansites for other Star Wars fans to see. Interested in what would happen if Princess Leia and the Wookie, Chewbacca, decided to hit it off? Write it down, send it out on the web, and hope George Lucas and his troops never learn your real name.
Curious about what really happened “behind the scenes” in the films? Then write your own story, filling in those gaps between the movies. Which is what anonymous fiction writer Marie’s very ingenious and capable “Missing Moments” tales of Princess Leia and Han Solo are; stories that show us much more than the movies ever did about that oh-so-tangled relationship.
These stories and films may be outside of the official realm of what is considered the “real” Star Wars, yet to a fan they can be an important piece of the whole, just another in an endless universe of ideas.
Will Brooker, who in 1977 “hated Star Wars,” then after seeing it again in 1978, quickly changed his mind, and now has compiled one of the most extensive studies ever of this worldwide phenomenon. Star Wars fans are some of the most loyal, rabid, discerning, and hard to please fans out there. Brooker gives voice to many of them in his book, without being condescending or churlish. You can tell that he’s also a fan of the films, which doesn’t deride from his efficient handling of the subject manner in the least.