2020 — at one point, a grim cyberpunk future. Math checks out.
I try not to do “New Year’s Resolutions,” although it’s difficult not to think of the rollover of the year as a new start. Doubly so when it’s a new decade.
In place of a Resolution, though, I think I’m just going to try to keep this lesson in mind, which I saw on Twitter from Xeni Jardin:
“I’m powerless over a lot but not how I live my life, or how I treat others. Small, modest, humble accomplishments with a solid core mean more to me, now that the glittering ones have been revealed as hollow. The imprint I leave on the hearts of others is what will outlast me.Xeni Jardin, Twitter 12/26/2019
How did our grandparents find the strength to persist during war or famine or all the other awful losses and cruelties? What’s that energy? That’s where I am now.
The world out there is a mess. What others do or believe may be horrible. How am I tending my garden today?What beauty can I create for others?
Yesterday the answer was, “make the best lamb roast ever and bake bread.” And, “do the uncomfortable phone call.” Sometimes it really is that simple.”
Not a bad way to approach things. At least I’m gonna give it a try. See you in 2020.
For my eighth birthday, my father took me to see Star Wars — a movie that would define my tastes, and set me on the path to my eventual career. To say that it looms large in the development of my personality, my likes and dislikes, and even my politics (the Rebels were my first antifascist role models) would be to vastly understate it’s influence on me.
Now, 42 years later, The Rise of Skywalker has been released, intended as the culmination of the 9 films of what Lucasfilm is now calling “the Skywalker saga” (which, by itself, is astonishing — that there is such a thing as non-Skywalker Star Wars now).
Does it pull it off?
I really enjoyed it. I laughed more than once, I cried more than a few times, and for most of the running time, I sat there with a big dopey grin on my face. I can’t help it — it’s Star Wars.
That said, I have some issues with parts of it — which isn’t surprising, as I’ve had a few issues with every film in the cycle, even the originals (for example: Why is Lando wearing Han’s clothes at the end of The Empire Strikes Back? Still bugs me). Most of these are minor. (“Always two there are. No more, no less… except for Sith Stadium, which seats 20,000!”) One is not, and it’s a big one.
The revelation of Rey’s lineage bugged the ever-living shit out of me.
Making her Palpatine’s grandchild utterly erases the entire thesis of The Last Jedi, which said that bloodlines don’t matter — that anybody could be strong in the Force. That it was about one’s character, not one’s family. It could be a child slave with a broom.
The Rise of Skywalker pisses all over that, by making Rey the product of a Force-aristocracy. Ham-fisted, infuriating, and worse: utterly unnecessary.
Palpatine says that he “made Snoke”, and we see several other Snokes in what appears to be a Cloning apparatus. I thought this was cool… and I was waiting for the revelation that he’d also created Anakin (hence the “immaculate conception” riff from The Phantom Menace) and that he’d made Rey as well.
Rey is his granddaughter. Never mind that the timing doesn’t really work out. I mean, sure, as a Senator, it’s possible, even likely, that Palpatine had a wife and kid, to complete his disguise. But Rey looks like she’s in her early 20s… and her father looked about the same. That barely gets you to Episode 4 on the timeline. You’re still 20 years shy of Senator Palpatine becoming the shriveled warlock Emperor. (And I’m sorry, but I can’t see the Emperor having kids.)
I mean, sure, it can be explained away — but honestly, in the culmination of a three-trilogy cycle? It shouldn’t HAVE to be.
I’ve come to the realization that whereas I like J.J. Abrams quite a bit as a director — he has a Spielbergian talent for orchestrating emotional responses — I don’t want him anywhere near the task of writing the screenplay. He has an over-reliance on MacGuffins, of not following through on questions he asks (What was the important thing that Finn needed to tell Rey? How does he sense her?), and generally hand-waving story-telling in favor of eliciting the responses he wants from the audience. Pair him with a better writer, and it results in a better film.
But again — I enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker. And now that Disney has proven that they can release Star Wars films and now streaming shows unrelated to the tale of the Skywalkers, I can rest assured in the knowledge that the journey I began at eight years old will continue for the rest of my life.
The Force will be with us. Always.
My favorite game recently, and one that I’m honored to have worked on professionally, is STAR TREK ADVENTURES, from Modiphius. I honestly feel that it’s the best rules system for playing Trek, and that’s saying something, as I’ve literally played all of them, back to FASA.
The system just feels right to me — it encourages teamwork, and the threat system used by the GM means that the stakes go up as the game goes on, which echoes the dramatic arc of an episode nicely. Modiphius even offers a free online character generator, which walks you through the options, and then generates a PDF of a filled-out character sheet, ready for printing. They’ve recently added the ability to create a starship with the same tool.
Recently, I’ve discovered an amazing fan-created resource — the website Continuing Mission, which features TONS of content: translating ships from STAR TREK ONLINE into STA stats, Adventure and Campaign ideas, Characters, Creatures, Equipment, and much more. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s available there, but everything I’ve read has been great. If you’re into the game, you need to be reading that site.