MAY THE FANS BE WITH YOU!
by Jason Gibner and Star Wars fans
Who made Star Wars? The first easy answer is George Lucas. The crazy ideas that we all love so much originally came from inside his finely coiffed head. But then there’s also folks like Ben Burtt, Ralph McQuarrie, Joe Johnston, Alan Ladd Jr, Lawrence Kasdan, Marcia Lucas and so many more that without their input, these strange stories of space wizards would simply not exist. But one of the most important and often overlooked contributors to the richness of the saga is us. You, me, the teacher who quotes Yoda to the class, the little girl in the grocery store wearing a Jyn Erso shirt…they are all the fans that are the Kyber crystal that powers the Star Wars lightsaber. From a certain point of view, the Star Wars we know today was made by the fans.
Star Wars has, from the very beginning, been always all about the fans. I was reminded of this few weeks ago in Orlando, as I watched Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy in a room filled with thousands of fellow die hard fans, celebrating the first 40 years of the saga. As she stood up there, she spoke of the fan’s passion, dedication and love for Star Wars and how much it inspires what they do at Lucasfilm every day. Without the dedicated fans, there would be no resurgence of Star Wars fiction in novels and comics in the 90s. No lines in 1997 to see the same movie they’ve already seen 75 times but now with extra Rontos and stuff. No demand to know the story on just what turned Anakin Skywalker to the dark side. And there would be no one to now say an overwhelming yes to seeing a new generation of heroes in the galaxy far far away.
As everyone today talks about May the 4th, remember that this day is a celebration for the fans and by the fans. To be a Star Wars fan doesn’t mean you’ve read all the books or you dress up or you have the biggest collection of stuff or you even like each and every movie that has had Star Wars in it’s title. To be a Star Wars fan simply means that some part of this story has made you think, inspired you or just simply made you smile in a darkened movie theater. That’s the Force at work in our galaxy at the Force is definitely with this collection of amazing Star Wars fans:
One of my fondest memories from my childhood is being 14 years old and seeing Star Wars for the first time. Like everyone else, I was blown away and went back to see it at the theater 24 times. Half the fun was standing in line with other fans sharing our love of Star Wars and anticipating seeing the film on that big screen again. After the film came out, I was able to purchase a little color Super 8 short of the movie and my dad made a big movie screen in our backyard. I was able to invite friends over all the time to watch the 12 minutes of footage from SW in that film. Since this was in the days before video cassettes and DVD’s this was really something special!
For me, my life is intertwined with Star Wars. I have made so many friends through my association with Star Wars and running the Official Star Wars Fan Club and Star Wars Insider. It has really rewarded my life. One of my dearest friends today is Anthony Daniels who was instrumental in helping me launch the first Star Wars Celebration here in Denver back in 1999. I still to this day get emails and messages from people telling me they were watching Episode One and saw me again in my cameo as Dams Denna. Star Wars has and will always be one of the most important experiences in my life!
- Dan Madsen – Publicist for Her Universe, Former President of The Official Star Wars Fan Club and founder and former publisher of Star Wars Insider Magazine
Star wars has always been a major part of my life. I remember first watching Star Wars so many years ago. When I was younger then I first became knowledgeable about the universe. My love of star wars continued when I joined the Rebel Legion in February 2014 and the 501st Legion in August 2014. I’ve been honored to be able to visit children in the hospital, Grant A Wish, be on the red carpet for the world premier of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, stood guard at a casket for a brave young boy, brought smiles to the faces of children and adults, raise thousands of dollars for charity, become the best friend to a child who was battling cancer, and much more. Star wars has changed my life for the better and I’m glad to combine my love of for the saga and charity to do good in the world.
- Lauren Lys – Rebel Legion – 501st
I am old enough to have watched Star Wars in the theater but the saga wasn’t on my radar until the release of ROTJ which was the first episode I watched. I quickly sought out the remaining two movies and was hooked for life! Kenner toys, Marvel comic books, the Ewok movies plus the Han Solo and Lando trilogies kept me busy until 1986 when the overall interest waned. Fortunately, West End Games released a plethora of source material starting in 1987 that made everybody’s hearts leap for joy and excitement. Then finally in 1991, Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire was released and the rest is history. Over the years, the saga has played an ever-increasing part of my life…podcasts (host and guest), 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, attending eight Celebrations, etc. Its impact on pop culture and everyday life is one of a kind. Where else do you find a regular kid with the help of different characters (dangerous types, teachers, comic reliefs) that take on evil? All that happens in space plus the good guys win which makes it even cooler.
- Marcus Dohring (TK-14057) – 501st Legion
Star Wars to me was literally another world that I could get lost in and thirty years later I still don’t want to leave. Having this living, breathing other universe I could watch movies about or play video games or read comics about meant the world to me being I was just so facisnated by everything about Star Wars. For most of my childhood, I didn’t even think about how other people help create Star Wars, because it was always around, it was this thing that always existed. As I grew up and realized I wanted to tell stories and realized that Star Wars was a story someone thought was worth telling. It continues to be one of the most important things in my life. It showed me you can change the world with a story. You can reach people and and inspire kids to create and write and read and run around their backyard and fight Tusken Raiders. You can teach people that being different is what makes them special. You can inspire a whole new generation of storytellers to want to tell their story, too. The force is real.
- Dave Scheidt – Comic Book Writer
The 12 year old that I was in May of 1977 has never grown old thanks to the galaxy far, far away. Whether with inspiring creativity through writing art, and costume making, the friendships I’ve made with other fans all around the world, getting to make kids of all ages smile by dressing up as my imaginary dream job of being a Rebel pilot, or getting to share the love of Star Wars with my now grown children. Over the past four decades Star Wars and its beautiful fellow fans have continually inspired me, kept me going through some very tough times, and added so much life to my years. When clueless people ask me why I love such a “silly and childish” thing so much all I can tell them, without going into detail, is that Star Wars is one of the things that has literally saved my life. May the phenomenon of this universe the George Lucas created continue to inspire us all to imagine, create, and work to make our own corner of this vast universe a better place for the next 40 years and beyond. And thank you to everyone out there who keep creating and sharing that love with the rest of us.
- Angela Anderson-Cobb – Rebel Legion
When A NEW HOPE first appeared, you couldn’t get near a theater without waiting in line for hours. I went with a bunch of friends and we waited in a line that wrapped around the theater twice. Inside, I bought a book that had stills from the movie (I still have it) We found some seats and waited for the show to begin. Sound seemed to explode off the walls all around us as huge ships rumbled across the screen. The audience exploded, cheering and clapping–then fell silent as the story unfolded. On that screen was everything I’d ever hoped to see in a movie–but even better than I ever imagined it could be. I was caught up in Luke Skywalker’s story and by the time I left the theater, I knew I had to see Star Wars again…and again. Part of me dreamed of drawing the characters from ANH, but it wasn’t until years later that the dream of doing just that came true. For roughly 14 years, Star Wars became my world to live and create in every day. I had a blast hanging out in the world that Lucas created. I hope, in some small way, that I contributed good things to the GFFA and gave back to a world that gave me so much!
- Jan Duursema- Artist & Illustrator & creator of Aayla Secura and Quinlan Vos
How did I discover Star Wars? The actual question is how did Star Wars discover me! I was 6 when A New Hope came out…I didn’t get to see the movie in the theaters, but I did see it as soon as it hit VHS. From there I owned the toys… I made lightsabers and blaster rifles out if construction paper… I’d bring them to school and destroy them with my friends during gym or lunch.. It was great!!!! I pretty much grew up watching and enjoying the Star Wars franchise… I am one of the few or many who actually does not hate movies 1-3… I like those movies because they fill in more of the background of who was who and the mystery of the Jedi… they filled a void I was happy to see filled on screen… Now as a dad and older cosplayer, I started out cosplaying Star Wars characters. I did Mace Windu, and started creating my own Sith. It was great! Then I met a group of folks who did stage combat with lightsabers… dressed as SW characters… Let me tell you when I saw that people actual fought with their sabers… I went nuts! I joined up with the Jedi Guardians, performed had a great time, and it evolved into a few of us making SW movies… Star Wars discovered me, impacted my life… gave me an avenue in which to enjoy the creative side of myself, while enjoying a fandom from my childhood that is almost as old as I am. My latest cosplay, Saw Guerrera, gives me yet another avenue in which I get to imitate one of my favorite actors…. that to me is life!!! Star Wars to me is a part of my life until the day I move on from this world and join Obi wan as part of the force. Blast Points Podcast, thanks for giving me this opportunity to share a little about one of my favorite things in life. It was a pleasure meeting you all. One last thing… Save the rebellion… Save… the Dream!!!
- Wendell Smith – The Best Saw Gerrera Cosplayer in the Galaxy
Star Wars for me was never about the movies so much as it was about the friendships formed through the Force. My earliest memories aren’t in the theater, they are on the playground. I was born in 1989 so the 1996 re-release was when I really fell into the movies, but I don’t remember those viewings. What I do remember is my Death Star Gunner action figure and playing king of the hill with my brother’s ROTJ Luke Skywalker figure for hours. We bonded over that and I will cherish those memories forever. In High School I was a bit of a misfit, and in Boy Scouts I didn’t fit in well either. On a camping trip, yet again I was alone while the other boys were playing around and stuff. I wandered around the campsite and starting humming The Imperial March out loud, and someone starting humming it back to me! That was how I met my best friend, still by my side to this day. We made Star Wars fan films together, saw Revenge of the Sith together, built Jedi costumes and today we and our wives all work on cosplays together. Star Wars brought me this sense of community and I’ll never forget that.
- Stephen Kent – Host on Beltway Banthas Podcast
This conversation is timely, Star Wars is so much a part of my worldview that it has become unconscious – a raw impression, a solid resonant core that I cannot put into words. Just yesterday I was wearing a bit of (to the average person obscure) Star Wars memorabilia and a friend said to me “I’m sorry, I don’t get the Star Wars reference in that.” She went on to explain that she had watched a smattering of various Star Wars films, this one and that one. This gave me pause, how can you have just watched: “this one and that one?” Another friend sitting to the other side of me started to say that you shouldn’t bother, that Star Wars was just… and then he saw the look I was giving him and he paused, he paused: Star Wars is not just…. I turned back to my friend to explain that you need to begin with A New Hope and then etc, etc… as the conversation wore on I realized I lacked the words to explain what Star Wars is, what it means to me.
How do you explain the visceral anticipation in the seconds after the fanfare ends when you know the crawl is about to begin: it is a feeling in the back of your throat, a tingle in the spine and ears, tears in the eyes. My friend felt that she just didn’t understand the movies because she had missed viewing them as a child, she has missed the window of nostalgia and I was at a loss to explain that it is more than that: I am nostalgic for hundreds of things from my childhood from Otter Pops to V, but what Stars Wars means to me is so, so much more than that: my earliest memories of fundamental concepts like honor, loyalty, love, and friendship come from Star Wars. I remember clearly coming back from Jedi, I was a bit older and right on the verge of losing the childhood suspension of disbelief, and just sitting on my bed and staring out the window trying to internalize the same feeling I got when I saw the teaser trailer for The Force Awakens, the scene where we see the Millennium Falcon again for the first time, the scene where Han says “Chewie we’re home.” I screamed out loud, I cried, I got chills.
I could talk for hours about the mythology, the characters, the plot, the fundamental tropes, this scene, that scene, the canon, the books, the amazing toys, the cheesy specials, or C3PO’s, but somehow that misses the mark. We all have our own personal experience of Star Wars – for me Star Wars remains the best part of humanity, childhood wonder, and love.
- Carrie Ann Cruce – Graduate Research Assistant – University of Texas Libraries
As long as I can remember there has always been Star Wars. My first memories are of Yoda, Luke and R2 on Dagobah, their colors dulled by the poor dubbing quality of the VHS tape my dad used to tape The Empire Strikes Back from primetime television ( it took years for me to learn that the Star Wars trilogy didn’t actually have commercials). This was the big bang for me. This used universe of droids, aliens, starfighters, heroes, scoundrels, villains and princesses set my young brain on a path that would forever dominate my destiny. Consume me, it did. I’ve always viewed Star Wars less as a movie and more as a portal into another reality. An escape. Narnia for those who prefer laser swords and space slugs to half goats and talking lions. When life got me down I could always transport myself to a galaxy far, far away and feel like anything was possible. If a farm boy from a desert planet could become the most powerful entity in the galaxy than surely I could find my way in this world. It’s a special time to be a Star Wars fanatic – the characters and the universe we know and love are in the hands of people just like us, those that grew up wanting to be cool like Han but were probably just dorky like 3P0 – the ones that want to know what blue milk tastes like, and what it’s like to hit lightspeed. We have so many new stories and adventures to look forward to and I await them all with the same ferocity I had as a child. May the force be with us. Always.
- Jon Pataky – Father of twins, Founder of The Ben Quadinaros Memorial Fund
It’s hard for me to quantify what Star Wars means to me. I was thirteen when I first saw A New Hope. I was a budding artist, woman, rebel, and lost soul wondering about her own missing paternal line while staring down the twin suns of Tatooine. The movie left me speechless and with a lifetime obsession. Princess Leia was the sort of bad-ass I wanted to be; unafraid, unapologetic, and willing to do whatever it took to get the job done. Luke was a kindred spirit, kind of a whiny baby, yes, but a whiny baby who had questions about his lineage and who was troubled by the identity of his father. And Han Solo…well, I was thirteen years old when I first saw Han’s smugglers grin, his swagger and style. My developing sexuality congealed around Solo, the bad boy with the heart of gold, and he’s been my type ever since.
I grew up fast, hard, lonely, and poor. The original Star Wars trilogy and the prequels gave me something to be excited about: a place to lose myself in, a place where everything had meaning, and a place where I could find a community. I turned sixteen the day The Phantom Menace hit the theaters. A few weeks previously I slept outside the Kalamazoo 10 with a bunch of other fans and two of my best friends. Slap-happy and sleep deprived, we played with lightsabers, pretended to be droids, and talked Star Wars all through the night. It was, honestly, the most fun I had in high school.
Over a decade later, after watching The Force Awakens, I texted back and forth with my best friend from high school. “Rey!!!!!!” I exclaimed, “Did you love her????” “God, yes,” she wrote back, “I didn’t know how much I needed her until I saw her.” And I felt the same way, even sitting here typing this tears come to my eyes when I think of Rey in The Force Awakens. It’s hard to explain, really, what it’s like to see someone with whom you both identify and inspire to be: someone who doesn’t need her hand held, someone who knows how to run, and jump, and fight, and use the friggin force like she’s been doing it forever. I texted back to my friend, “I wish I had her when I was sixteen, someone like that…” I trailed off. Maybe I thought if I’d had someone like Rey I wouldn’t have wasted my time with so many heartless Solo wannabes. But if I hadn’t wasted my time, fallen and failed, I would have never been given the opportunity to face my deepest fears, the way Luke faced his in The Dagobah Cave.
Rogue One became instantly important to me. I suffer from anxiety and panic disorder. A few days after seeing the film I had a panic attack, normally I would breathe through the attack but I had all ready begun to hyperventilate. For some reason Chirrut Îmwe’s mantra came to me, I am one with the force and the force is with me. I repeated this phrase to myself over and over again until my breathing settled, until my heart stopped racing, until I felt close to peace. I still use it to center myself when a panic attack looms or when my anxiety threatens to blow me up like Alderaan.
I recently re-watched Rogue One with my beloved scruffy looking nerf-herder of a boyfriend, who had never seen it before. I cried through the last act, the same way I did the first time I saw it. A lot had happened since my first viewing: Trump has taken office and brought dark times upon the galaxy and we lost Carrie Fisher, whose importance to me stretched beyond her unfathomable legacy as Princess Leia. Watching Rogue One this last time I cried because the film is such a beautiful testament to resistance and love: two themes that I come to time and time again in these dark and uncertain times. As I cried I felt strength well up inside of me, I felt hope.
Star Wars has given me models to look to, a community to love and belong to and metaphors for the heroes journey we must all go through. As I go through my days as a writer, educator and rebel scum, I think daily of the series, of the lessons it has taught me, the gifts it has given me, and the strength it has lent me, even in my darkest times. Thank you Star Wars and thank you Star Wars fandom. May the force be with you, always.
- Katy Shay – Graduate Assistant at Miami University
My first Star Wars memory is hearing about the film a few days after my best friend at the time told me all about it during a sleepover at his house. He talked, and I listened for hours about a bar with crazy looking monsters, a Bigfoot dog-like friend of a cool cowboy type dude, a hero that seemed a little out of place but forced to fight for what he believed in, the evil black armored robot type guy that was the movie’s evil villain, and everything and everyone in between. A few days later, I got to watch Star Wars and it was that evening…everything changed!
- Tom Berges – creator of IGrewUpStarWars.com