Showing posts with label Star Wars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Star Wars. Show all posts

Monday, May 13, 2013

Creative Cartography

When I was a little girl, the first fictional map that took hold of my imagination was that of Neverland on the inside covers of my Peter Pan book.  All of the illustrations in that book are beautiful oil paintings - full of color and life from the veins in Tinkerbell's wings to the curl of Captain Hook's moustache.  The map, too, was created on the same medium and brought to life an island of coves and mountains, Indian camps and homes underground.  Here was Neverland in full relief, suddenly a real place.  Of course it was real.

I suppose it was no coincidence that maps began to show up in my writing.  From middle school into high school I spent a lot of time on that rudimentry program known as "Paint" in order to create the island-continents of the planet where my characters were from... ironically "Eiresta."  Once I painstakingly traced the contours of Ireland and England onto tissue paper and broke them up into smaller islands to form those continents.  Silly?  Maybe, but at the time I felt it was important.  I needed to map what I was seeing in my head, to make tangible the little backstories that were a heritage for my pseudo-quasi Celtic creations. 

In high school I lived, read, breathed, ate and dreamed Star Wars, which means that my little creative writing projects inevitably took that shape.  Inspired further by J.R.R. Tolkein's maps of Middle Earth, the map-obsession continued.  Imagine my delight when I discovered galactic maps of the Star Wars universe inside the novels I read.  Finally, I knew where Tatooine and Dagobah were in relation to Coruscant (or the Imperial City) and Alderaan!  This map was handwritten, imaginative, pretty.  It did not attempt to calculate light-years or the three-dimension distance each star had to one another.  It was art, not science - simple and beautiful.  Naturally, I had to add a few worlds into the mix:

My addendums are fairly obvious: they are written neatly on little scraps of paper and pasted carefully onto the map, tucked into corners between stars and across the spine of the page.  At the top right was Ceilte, Nabbeor and the starless Rift which served as a no-man's land between peaceful worlds and evil Euronia (which even the Empire was keen to avoid).  I could see it: pieces of the massive puzzle finally in place.

Years after leaving the Star Wars galaxy, I found myself writing a novel which took place much closer to home in North Yorkshire, Great Britain.  While I did, of course, study maps of northern England, I mapped something that came directly out of my writing - a piece of the moors that was entirely my own fairy land.  I created it because my characters drew it themselves, tracking their own footsteps through a childhood playground, through barrows that were supposed to be haunted, passed ruined abbeys to a mysterious coil of rock they called Adrian's Pass after a legendary monk.

I drew this by hand, and it was such fun imagining the terrain, the twists and turns and slopes my characters had to traverse.  Bleak Point was a memorial to people who had disappeared on Adrian's Moor.  Where the ridges begin to grow, the fog thickens giving way to visions of demons who look like Benedictine monks.  Rose Cottage (added later) was a dilapidated house the characters found and made into getaway accessible only on foot. 

Which brings us back to space.  Waterwill and its in-development sequel have their earliest roots in that old Star Wars project of mine.  Nowadays these stars (if they existed, that is) might be visible from Earth.  I'm envisioning a cosmopolis over five hundred years in the future where humans have expanded their horizons to other worlds.  A cosmopolitan "nexus" has formed around a new star, 61 Virginis.  It is called the Virgo Nexus because of this capitol.  It is almost twenty-eight light-years away from where the worlds around good ol' Sol (our Sun) continue to thrive.  Below are two maps-in-progress.  Though Waterwill is complete, I have gone back to reevaluate the (very) approximate distances between the stars and expand on the worlds between Virgo and Sol for the sequel.  I am finding this extremely frustrating.

This map contains a few "familiar" stars: Alpha Centauri, Altair, Vega, Arcturus, Sirius, Epsilon Eridani, Tau Ceti, Denebola, 55 Cancri, Castor, Pollux and Formalhaut.   I am trying to combine the fictional elements with the real stars, creating a sort of bridge between our home (Sol) and the Virgo Nexus.  The map above is supposed to be a "side-view"; the map below an "above view."

Like I said, this is a work in progress.  I've been working from several "star maps" from the internet, some helpful, some confusing.  I realized I am doing something here that I've never attempted before: that merging of fact with fiction.  The problem with these maps is that they represent two-dimensional thinking instead of three.  For example, Epsilon Eridani might be ten light-years from Sol or Earth, but it's at a diagonal away and below instead of simply ten light-years to the right.  On a 2D map, this diagonal would not properly register the distance... unless I got fancy with dotted lines and angles.  Last week, while I was away from the blog, I was busy pulling my hair out over the difficulty of showing distances as well as depths.  I was afraid of what mathematically-inclined people would say... how astronomers might snort at my imaginative calculations... how other science-fiction writers must have an easier (if not smarter) time of it than I do.

And then I realized "Hey!  This supposed to be art, not science!" Why did Star Wars appeal to me so much in the first place?  Because it wasn't concerned with the mind-twisting principles of relativity or a tangible explantion of hyperspace... or how the heck they actually have the capability of flying clear across a galaxy in a week's time (or less).  In Star Wars, these things simply were; no explanation necessary or required.  While my novels take place in Sol's interstellar backyard (or is it front yard?), and require a little more explanation as to how the vast distance is/was conquered by humanity, I simply see no reason to worry about whether or not Vega and Formalhaut are actually in their correct positions.  What matters is that they are part of the picture, part of that corridor between Virgo and home. 

And that's what I hope the maps, in whatever state of evolution, can show: pieces of the puzzle coming together to create a tangible world.  Everything else is just details: time, relativity, hyperspace. 

Monday, March 25, 2013


Hello again!  I took an inadvertent break from delving into the depths of my logophilia collection to devote some serious time to editing and novel-building. 

Adventures in Logophilia, Day 191:


unfeeling, unconscious; incapable of understanding human things or showing sympathy; in other words, inanimate.

Does this man look insentient to you?

I have been watching Star Trek: the Next Generation for the first time in fifteen years or so.  Having spent a good deal of my childhood immersed in this world, there a few questions I find myself revisiting.  For one, I believe the one-of-a-kind android Commander Data feels a great deal more than he lets on.  I find it hard to believe that C-3PO and R2D2 are more capable of producing emotion - oftentimes irrational, biting emotion - than Data claims to.  Why?

Data is driven to understanding and becoming an acceptable participant in humanity.  We first see him whistling "Pop Goes the Weasel."  He proves himself an artist, classical musician and Shakespearean actor.  He is fascinated with Sherlock Holmes (aren't we all?).  He experiences grief many times.  Confusion and bewilderment, also.  He's been in love.  He expresses the desire to be a parent.  He owns a ginger-stripe cat named Spot - only a human would be able to embrace the irony of that.  Above all, he is a loyal member of the crew of the Enterprise, a friend to many, an enemy to few. 

And yet through all of this Data will declare that he has no emotions and is incapable of understanding love, grief, fear, humor because they (supposedly) reside outside of his original programming.  His brother Lore was the android outfitted with emotions, but he soon turned out to be the defective model prone to misanthropy and evil.  

Here's my theory.  Data was created by a human being - a human being he will refer to as "Father." He works with humans (and others) on a regular basis.  Without emotion, he'd have no drive, no curiosity, no will power to adapt, to learn or to better himself.  Without emotion, he'd reside in a closet until it's time for him to go to the bridge, would not be embraced by his crew, nor would he be a respected, trusted senior officer.  I'm not an expert on Starfleet, but would they really give such privileges to an insentient automaton?  My argument is that Data does have emotions.  The evidence is overwhelming.  He simply does not know what to do with them.  That said, he is like a child constantly learning about his world. 

Again, if 3PO can express pain, mourn, worry, spew insults, panic and whine, then Data can, too.  (Someone would argue - "hey! They're in two separate universes!" That's true. But it makes no difference to me.  I could very easily throw in a blurb about Daleks or Cybermen.)  When Data is outfitted with an "emotion chip" in the later years, it doesn't necessarily produce his emotions but allows him to experience and express them more fully... though this gets him into a great deal of trouble.

In the film Star Trek: Generations, Data goofs around with a tricorder puppet, is paralyzed with fear when Geordi is kidnapped by Klingons, expresses triumph when the crew wins a victory, and cries with joy when Spot is found alive in the wreckage of the Enterprise.  It wasn't the chip that produced these emotions.  These emotions were there all along, just buried in his android programming, waiting to come out.

So try to tell me that Data has no emotions, and you'll  be hearing from me.  He's more human than he realizes.  He just happens to be a well-made machine.  But aren't we all?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disney Buys Star Wars (j)

In case you haven't heard, the Twitter-sphere and the internet in general is abuzz with the jaw-dropping news that George Lucas has decided to retire, and has handed over the reins of his multi-million dollar baby Star Wars to - yes, you heard correctly - Disney.  The opinions vary, and I myself am nothing but skeptical about this change... and the supposed plans to create "episodes" 7, 8 and 9 in the next decade or so.  I'll reserve actual judgment when the details come out.  Otherwise, I hope Mr. Lucas enjoys his retirement. 

Leia Organa contemplates change in The Empire Strikes Back.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Lucas Effect (Jillian)

Dean of "Heart of the City", voice of a generation... or two.

You may have heard in recent weeks about the Blue-ray release of the entire Star Wars saga. Many fans are less than pleased with this event, as it is just the next installment in the re-re-release saga of George Lucas' films.

I am not rejoicing about the Blue-Ray release - 1.) because of the blue-ray exclusivity, 2.) I have DVDs from 2004 that work just fine, and 3.) I actually think the older, untouched versions of the films say more about storytelling in film than Lucas' recent perfectionistic and revisionist ventures do.

Besides, he's bribing us to give him money. The biggest lure: including longed-for and legendary deleted scenes from the original trilogy. For now, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

In a nutshell, the man has not learned to stop meddling. Last year saw the thirty year anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. In thirty-one years, Lucas has tweeked, subtracted to, added on, "improved" and "enhanced" the original Star Wars Trilogy from "fixing" outmoded special effects to adding dialogue to adjusting (unnecessarily) threads of the story that would later be added in the "new" trilogy. Mine was the "Han Shot First!" generation, referencing the scene in the first film where Han Solo shoots thug Greedo dead in the cantina; in 1997 Lucas toyed with the image, insinuating that Greedo actually shot first, and Han's act was self-defense. This was just one of many examples - small, yes, but enough to keep tempers flaring to this day. Why? Because once Star Wars came to the theatres, it was complete; it became someone else's story, too.

In the 1997 release, he said in a documentary that "Someone once said movies aren't completed, they're only abandoned." As I writer I understand this attitude completely. I myself am guilty of second, third and fourth guessing my work, wishing I could go back and add X to W, Y and Z. It's that perfectionistic streak we can never completely abandon, but never fulfill. Lucas, unlike many of us, actually has the money (and the legal right) to go in and do so... and so he has. Several times. You may have heard he's aiming for a 3D release somewhere in the future. Heaven help us.

Unanswerable questions:

* Is his goal to revamp/update Star Wars actually achievable?
* Can the man employ his energy for new creative ventures? (Besides Indiana Jones?)
* If you write a story, complete it to the best of your present abilities, and years, decades later go back and graft on dialogue, scenes, new characters, etc is it the same story?
* When will this possibly stop?

Please, Mr. Lucas. Please stop. This hurts.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Storyteller or Movie Mogul? (Jillian)

I could not think of a better title for this blog, but that is all right. Hopefully it got your attention. A subject that has come to mind recently is George Lucas... in a not-so-pleasant article written last month as Lucas' ridiculous Clone Wars movie was about to debut to a creatively exhausted audience. Okay, that's probably unfair, but read this article written by Jim Emerson of There is more to discuss!

In a nutshell, the writer is begging George to please, please stop making useless, pointless films. It makes a lot of good points about how his projects over the past thirty plus years have all been related directly to either Star Wars or Indiana Jones. Basically, GL has literally built an empire on both franchises... to the point where I am inclined to gently insist, "Mr. Lucas, you created something wonderful years ago. I think it's time to stop." The article goes too far, however, to strike at the heart of all of those projects... to imply that the world might have been better off if Lucas hadn't had a stroke of madness (or genius) back in the 1970s. Is that really true? Come on.

I began my creative journey as a little devoted Star Wars fan back in 1997. Worlds away, I have since expanded my universe (ha ha) away from wars amongst the stars to TARDISes and adventures in the English countryside. Knowing what I know from eleven years of being immersed in the burden of Jedi and the continuing war, and creating my own installments in the eternal saga (that would one day be a part of my undergraduate studies), I can say that Lucas wasn't insane or greedy by any means when he set out to bring Star Wars to the world. It was his baby. It took him around three years to develop the story which would produce the first trilogy... based off of stories he loved as a kid while also drawing on A Hero With a Thousand Faces to guide him into more traditional, more meaningful story telling. How much did Star Wars mean to him? It was a low-budget project no one believed in, and between finalizing the script and directing it, he nearly gave himself a heart attack orchestrating the development of visual affects that would bring it to life. That combined with an array of personal crises demonstrates that Lucas was devoted to it completely. The fact he returned to deliver three more in my lifetime is utterly amazing... and merits the utmost respect. For the most part...

George Lucas is a story teller, but not the greatest writer in the world. I won't go into painful details about how the script of the "prequel trilogy" feels wooden and the story unnatural. That's the subject of a different rant. Those films did become the butt of many a movie-going joke... and still are to a wide extent. We could attribute it to a number of GL-based causes. But we cannot use those reasons - however legitimate they are - to destroy every thing that he worked for. His films are still powerful, still permanent. And they emerged for the first time to a world that was in desperate need of hope and of heroes who began their journeys as ordinary people literally thrown together in a garbage compactor on a enemy space station. GL worked hard against all odds to create the story that he needed to create, and the result was actually quite impressive. From Star Wars emerged the ability to look at story telling in films in a better light - less impossible to reach those limitless skies. Films we love (and those we make fun of) would not have been possible without GL making the first step. The one thing that I couldn't fathom not having? Peter Jackson's rendering of The Lord of the Rings. And what about Pirates of the Caribbean? The list is infinite.

One storyteller inspires another... who inspires another... building down the generations. A spark can start a fire...

Whatever he is doing now - such as releasing silly animated films still stuck in the Clone Wars - it does not necessarily tarnish the story he began telling with Luke Skywalker standing in the dusk watching the twin suns set above him and wishing to be far, far away... waiting for the chance to sacrifice himself for a galaxy that needed him desperately. GL may not be the most ideal or prolific writer, but he still has a story to tell... one that moves him to keep creating and maintaining a reality he knows better than anyone.

I personally won't give much thought to the Clone Wars. But I will give my nod to the man who started the wheels turning for my own ideas and my own galaxies all those years ago. The world would never be the same without such madness. I should know. Write because others say you're mad. Then, the world will talk.


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