A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
The Talker Toy Challenge Strikes Back
It is a dark time for the Star Wars fandom. Although December is approaching, DISNEY will not be releasing a new Star Wars film for another year, instead assaulting fans with a new cartoon show, a legion of mediocre comic books, and toys, lots and lots of toys.
Evading the dreaded lack of a Star Wars film, a group of bloggers led by THE IMPERIAL TALKER have struck back with a new version of THE TALKER TOY CHALLENGE, encouraging fans of the franchise to buy Star Wars toys and donate them to children who are in need this holiday season.
The DISNEY CORPORATION, obsessed with selling merchandise and increasing stock value for their shareholders, has dispatched thousands of new Star Wars products into the far reaches of the globe. Little does DISNEY know that THE IMPERIAL TALKER is ridiculously good at never paying full-price for merchandise, finding troves of fantastic Star Wars toys on sale and on clearance…
Participating in The Talker Toy Challenge is easy!!!! Just follow these steps.
Step One: Purchase Star Wars toys.
Step Two: Donate said Star Wars toys to children who are in need. I bring the toys I collect (see the featured image above) to a local Toys for Tots drop-off site.
Step Three: Encourage others to do the same by promoting The Talker Toy Challenge on your blog, podcast, social media, etc.!!! Be sure to use #TalkerToyChallenge when you do!
Step Four: Repeat Steps One, Two, and Three.
Leave a comment and let me know if you participate!
Contispex I is a character who, although minor in the scope of Star Wars lore, has a story that I find intensely fascinating. Mentioned for the first time in a solitary paragraph in Daniel Wallace’s The New Essential Chronology (2005), with his story being expanded in subsequent reference books, Contispex I was a human and an ancient Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic who, along with his descendants, launched numerous crusades against alien species and their human allies. An adherent of the zealous and extremist Pius Dea religion – a faith which, according to The Essential Guide to Warfare (2012), taught followers that “…fallen communities should be restored to purity by purging their unredeemable elements…” (27) – Contispex took the reigns of the Republic in the year 11,987 BBY and set about reforming the corruption of the Senate and government by placing Pius Dea faithful in positions of power.
What was, at first, a small religion dedicated to the worship of a Goddess and confined to the shadows of Coruscant where it began, Pius Dea quickly exploded into galactic prominence thanks to Contispex. Referred to as the Pius Dea Era (ca. 12,000 – 11,000 BBY) in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the millennia of Pius Dea rule which Contispex I instituted would see galactic purges, imprisonments, forced conversions, inquisitions and executions justified under the rallying cry that “The Goddess Wills It!” But it is the 30+ crusades of Contispex I and his successors which truly stand out, crusades that were launched to rid the galaxy of the scourge of alien civilizations. In 11,965 BBY the first crusade was directed by Contispex, a “pre-emptive strike against the Hutts beyond the Rim” according to The Essential Guide to Warfare (27). Subsequent crusades would be directed against other alien species: the Bothans, Lanniks, Zabraks, Herglics, and more.
Notably, during the Pius Dea Era the Jedi Order abdicated its responsibilities as peacekeepers and protectors, instead choosing to renounce its affiliation with the Republic. While individual members of the Order chose to challenge Pius Dea rule, as a whole the Order was “unwilling to take up arms against the civilization they had safeguarded” (27). This would change after almost 1,000 years had passed when the Jedi Order allied itself with oppressed species to overthrow Contispex XIX, arresting him and installing Jedi Grand Master Biel Ductavis in the Chancellorship (27).
While Contispex I truly is a minor character in the grand scope of Expanded Universe lore, as is the era of Pius Dea rule, I never-the-less find him intensely fascinating precisely because his story opens a vast window to the imagination. As someone who studied religion/theology in college and graduate school, the idea that the Old Republic succumbed to zealous theocratic rule in the name of “The Goddess” for nearly a millennia intrigues me and leaves me wanting to know more. Of course, at this point I have soaked up everything I can about Contispex I and the Pius Dea religion, having mined the tomes of Star Wars reference books for every morsel of information.
In fact, it was one very small morsel in a Star Wars reference book which led me to write this piece, a reference to Contispex I in Solo: A Star Wars Story – The Official Guide. Contained within The Official Guide to Han Solo’s standalone film is a page that is dedicated to the vast collection of rare treasures which Dryden Vos, leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate, displays in the study aboard his star yacht. And, as The Official Guide notes, among this impressive collection of artifacts are “…arks that hold the ashes of Chancellor Contispex I…”
As I said, a very small morsel indeed, but one that immediately caught my attention given my interest in Contispex I. On the one hand, what makes this nod to Contispex I important is that it re-affirms his place in the Star Wars canon. A minor character in the Expanded Universe, Contispex I is now, also, a minor character in Disney’s Alternate Universe. On the other hand, this is hardly surprising. While I was NOT expecting a reference to Contispex I in The Official Guide to Solo, that author Pablo Hidalgo – a member of the Lucasfilm Story Group – found a way to incorporate Contispex I into the book makes perfect sense. With Vos’ study populated by rare and ancient artifacts, Hidalgo could easily mine the ancient history of Star Wars confined within the Expanded Universe and provide readily available information about the artifacts without entirely having to re-create ancient Star Wars lore.
In fact, Hidalgo not only identifies the ashes of Contispex I in The Official Guide but he also attaches other elements of Expanded Universe lore to items in Dryden Vos’ study. A “crystal masthead” is identified as that of Xim the Despot while a dataplaque is noted as containing the location of the Xim’s long-lost treasure ship, the Queen of Ranroon. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Xim the Despot, he was first mentioned in the novel Han Solo and the Lost Legacy while the Queen of Ranroon received it’s first mention in Han Solo’s Revenge. As well, a carver set is noted to be that of Noghri origin, the species first appearing in Timothy Zahn’s popular novel Heir to the Empire, while a set of wraith boxes come from the long-extinct Rakata, a technologically superior civilization which was originally created for the Knights of the Old Republic video game.
While I highly doubt that Contispex I, the Pius Dea era, or other elements of the Expanded Universe which have crept into the Disney Canon will be teased out in greater detail, I am never-the-less pleased by the fact that these legendary aspects of Star Wars continue to have relevance. More importantly, these elements bring with them pre-crafted stories which need-not be reconstructed. Rather, they unify the Expanded Universe and Disney’s Alternate Universe in small, subtle ways. Contispex I may only ever have this one, small reference in The Official Guide to Solo: A Star Wars Story, but that reference is packed with the already rich story about Contispex and the tumultuous era of Pius Dea rule. As far as I am concerned, unless Contispex I receives a brand new tale which changes his narrative – a highly unlikely prospect – I will move forward with my enjoyment of Star Wars knowing that he, and the Expanded Universe I love, continue to add depth and meaning to the galaxy far, far away.
Reporting Star Wars news is not my thing, in large part because there are more than enough sites – official sites and fan sites alike – that deliver a near up-to-the-minute stream of happenings in the Star Wars franchise. Yet, I felt compelled to say something about the recent announcement from Lucasfilm that J.J. Abrams has accepted the offer to write/direct Star Wars Episode IX. While Episode IX was originally slated to be the brainchild of Jurassic World writer/director Colin Trevorrow, the studio parted ways with Trevorrow, thus paving the way for Abrams to return to the Sequel Trilogy he launched with The Force Awakens.
That Abrams is reentering the Star Wars universe is neither surprising or all that controversial. For the studio (and parent company Disney), bringing a known and successful variable back to the writers/directors chair makes perfect sense. Still, with the announcement I could not help but feel a pang of dismay, having hoped that the head of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, would choose a woman to write/direct Episode IX in the wake of Trevorrow’s dismissal. Abrams may have been the safe and reasonable pick, but choosing a woman could have injected an entirely new and fresh perspective into the Sequel Trilogy, particularly to round out the heroine journey of Rey. But alas, that ship of possibility has sailed (unless, of course, Abrams crashes and burns, prompting a third writer/director to be named…a doubtful prospect).
And so, as we move forward, towards the end of the Sequel Trilogy and into a new era of storytelling that will certainly follow – not only with continued standalone films but also, perhaps, a fourth Star Wars trilogy – I am left wondering: when will Lucasfilm finally hand the writing/directorial reigns over to an accomplished woman? Certainly, there are an endless stream of successful women adding to the Star Wars universe already – authors, editors, producers, production managers, sound mixers, makeup artists, wardrobe and costume designers, artists, actresses, and more. Yet, the most coveted position, that of director, is yet to be filled. Will Ava DuVernay, Patty Jenkins, Kathryn Bigelow, or another accomplished woman ever be given the chance/opportunity to bring their experiences and worldviews into the Star Wars franchise? My hope is yes, my gut tells me yes, but my heart is tired of waiting.
You might, in turn, wonder: why do you care, Jeff? It will happen someday, so why not let bygones be bygones and just go with the Star Wars flow? I do not deny it, it will happen. I know it will happen, it is only a matter of time (and there is a prime opportunity to really mix things up with a woman directing the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone film). But I do care because I am frankly tired of people like me – translation: men – getting all of the g-damn credit for the Star Wars franchise’s pinnacle achievements. This is neither a slight towards Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy (whom deserves great respect for overseeing the franchise) or against those countless women behind the scenes (or literally in the scenes as actresses). Rather, it is a deeply held desire to sit in a theater and watch a Star Wars movie that does not simply present female characters (and male counterparts) adhering to philosophies that seek, and teach us as viewers, to dismantle normative and oppressive ideologies, but that does this most loudly when a woman’s name appears on the screen as writer/director.
Lest I be interpreted incorrectly, I do not only desire to watch Star Wars films directed by a woman, but also films written/produced/directed by all varieties of people, men and women alike. The experiences and worldviews of women, people of color, persons of different religious and ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and more WILL bring new, fresh perspectives to the films we experience in theaters. I truly hope, nay I pray, that those Star Wars stories are not far, far away.
I spend a lot of time pondering the internals of the Star Wars universe – the characters, events, factions, spaceships, philosophies, etc. – but I also spend quite a bit of time thinking about the Star Wars franchise in general. These days, it’s hard not to think about the trajectory of the franchise since Disney – which purchased the franchise from the original creator/owner George Lucas in 2012 – has been announcing and releasing new content left and right. Movies, TV shows, novels, comics, video games, and more are adding to the already rich trove of stories that populate the universe, while an endless line of new merchandise in every shape and form pops up on a seemingly daily basis. Plus, Disney is building two different Star Wars-themed lands where fans can enjoy “being in” the Star Wars universe.
As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, the fact that the franchise is going strong definitely makes me happy, but this also comes with a catch – too much of a good thing isn’t always great. While I am excited there are new Star Wars stories being told and merchandise being sold, there is also a certain amount of burn out that also comes with all of this. Admittedly, it is a bit odd for me to say this since I maintain this site devoted to Star Wars, but it is also the truth – at times, being a Star Wars fan can be utterly exhausting.
Some of this Star Wars exhaustion is a natural symptom of over-indulgence, a symptom which necessitates moving away from the franchise for a while so I can enjoy it more fully another day. Having a site like this where I write about Star Wars certainly adds to this particular form of burn out, and at times, I have to step away from the computer or notebook, giving myself time and permission to not even think about Star Wars.
On the other hand, some of this burn out is just a general fatigue associated with having to maintain interest in such an expansive franchise, one that is not going to stop growing anytime soon. Just as I look up at the night sky and have difficulty processing the vastness of space, a similar feeling of being overwhelmed hits me when I think about the vastness of the Star Wars franchise, a vastness that encapsulates past, present, and future. While I can appreciate all that Star Wars has to offer, providing fans of every type with something they will love, on a personal level, the more Star Wars grows, the more exhausted I’ve become trying to keep up with it.
And so, I have found myself trying to reconcile my lifelong exploration of the “galaxy far, far away” with the continued growth of the franchise and the gambit of ways it is making me feel: overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out, and at times even uninspired and bored. In other words, I have found myself for some time now in the rather peculiar position of trying to decide how I will continue being a fan of the franchise (talk about first world problems). What do I mean by this? Well, it means I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my relationship with the franchise in general, and the content of the Star Wars universe in particular. It means that because I do not have an endless supply of time, energy, and money – especially money – to devote to a fictional universe that will probably still be growing when I am on my death bed that I have to decide which aspects of Star Wars I will continue to participate in/enjoy and which parts I am just uninterested in/do not feel are worth the effort.
In truth, this isn’t an entirely new approach to the way I engage with Star Wars. We all have our personal preferences and gravitate towards certain things, and I have always been the type of person who likes parts of Star Wars more than others. Even before George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney I was selective about how I participated in the franchise, what merchandise I bought, and yes even which stories I gravitated towards. For example, I can honestly say that while I am well versed in the stories of the now Expanded Universe (EU; now officially called Legends…bleh), there are some Expanded Universe stories I have never touched and know almost nothing about. Case in point: The Old Republic online game. Perhaps one day I will get around to playing The Old Republic or checking out those EU stories I haven’t read, or maybe I won’t.
Like the Expanded Universe I am already treating the “new Expanded Universe,” the Disney Canon, the same way. While I have done my best to keep up with all of the stories being released, it became very apparent early on that it just wouldn’t be possible to do so. This hardly means I haven’t tried my best, but it does mean that I am well aware there are tales I have missed and probably will never experience. Since I have no interest in subscribing to Star Wars Insider magazine, I miss out on the short-stories that appear in each edition. I have certainly read a few here and there, but otherwise I’ve missed most of them and am not rushing out to read them. This is also true of the discontinued Star Wars Rebels magazine, each issue containing a story in the form of a comic. I’m sure those comics are quite fun, and perhaps I will check them out at some point, but for now I’m just not that interested in going out of my way to read them.
In turn, even of the new stories I have encountered in the Disney canon (and this goes for the EU as well), I’ve absolutely loved some, really disliked others, and have otherwise mixed emotions about a handful. I thought Kevin Hearne’s novel Heir to the Jedi was rather bland, have been underwhelmed by the novels in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath series, felt the Chewbacca comic series left a lot to be desired, and walked out of my first viewing of The Force Awakens asking myself what the hell I had just watched. On the flip side, I really enjoyed playing the now discontinued Star Wars: Uprising video game, absolutely love the Princess Leia and Lando comic series, was blown away by Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple and James Luceno’s novel Tarkin, and have really enjoyed the rich layers being added to the canon thanks to the animated show Star Wars Rebels.
But just because I love one particular story or dislike another doesn’t mean I find perfection/imperfection in everything. I might not love Heir to the Jedi but there are some very good moments in the novel, The Force Awakens has grown on me over time, the Uprising game was fun but also incredibly tedious, and even though I am really loving Star Wars Rebels I’ve been a vocal critic of the overuse of the Jedi and the Force in the series. For me, being a fan of Star Wars is not a zero sum game, a matter of either love or hate. Rather, more often than not it boils down to shades of gray, the acknowledgment that stories that I feel are wonderful still have flaws, and those I believe fall short do have some redeeming qualities.
None of this is to say that my particular reactions/thoughts on each Star Wars story, or my moments of exhaustion, boredom and dispassion with the franchise as a whole, must be globally accepted. My personal fandom is no more or less important than any other fan, and my subjective experiences of Star Wars need not dictate the experiences others have. Besides, I can think of nothing more absurd than being a fan of Star Wars and lording my fandom over others. No, I am far more interested in sharing aspects of my fandom with others, engaging people in rich conversation about Star Wars. By maintaining this site, my hope is to always do just that: share aspects of Star Wars that stand out to me – the good and the bad, inspirational and discouraging – and open the floor for conversation.
And that being the case, I have to ask: what are your feelings and opinions on the current state of the Star Wars franchise? Am I the only one who has moments of Star Wars fatigue and boredom, or are there others like me who are out there? If you care to share your thoughts and feelings, leave a comment.