Today, we are delighted to kick off our long weekend countdown to Star Wars: The Force Awakens! Join us from today until Monday November 30 as we celebrate all things Star Wars.
To start the event, we invited writer S.L. Huang over to talk about her journey back to Star Wars.
Star Wars was my first fandom.
This was before I even knew the word “fandom.” I didn’t know such a beast existed. I saw the movies for the first time when I was thirteen years old, and I fell so hard and fast I practically bruised myself. I called myself “pathetically obsessed,” and I was.
I watched the movies over and over. I bought every different version I could find (including in Spanish). I recorded them on cassette tapes so I could listen to them when I wasn’t watching them. I would go on and on about them with friends for hours, or to act out new scenes we would make up. The tie-in books? I bought and read ’em all, over and over. Then, since I liked to write, I started writing my own Star Wars novel, because I didn’t know how media tie-ins worked and I figured I would write it and submit it and it would get published. (I never made it past chapter 3, but hey!)
I cheerfully inhaled all the Star Wars I could for years. The day The Phantom Menace came out, I was at the midnight showing.
It was like getting a bucket of ice water thrown over my head.
The movie was terrible. Just terrible. I was devastated. Tender teenage me had been in love, and been betrayed.
It wasn’t that everything Star Wars suddenly felt tarnished, but . . . I couldn’t invest in it anymore. The magic had been broken for me.
Episodes II and III only cemented this for me. At the same time, the New Jedi Order books started coming out, and everything was death and despair and my favorite characters started dying and I just . . . I fell out of love. And as happens when one falls out of love, I felt stung. Burned.
Then college happened.
I’m sure every college has its geek contingents. Mine was geek to the nth. You couldn’t throw a model Death Star without hitting an intense scifi fan. It was awesome.
Of course, that meant Star Wars, as part and parcel of the celebrated geekdom, and this included some good friends from my musical theatre group. Now, I love musical theatre — A LOT — and I loved doing it in college.
One of my friends, he’d written a Star Wars musical.
And, let me tell you, it was freakin’ FANTASTIC. Songs included “I Am the Very Model of a Multipurpose Service Droid,” “Don’t Cry for Me, Princess Leia,” “My Only Hope” (sung to the tune of “A Whole New World”), and a massive Death Star Assault Medley mashup that started with the West Side Story “Rumble” and mixed in Les Mis, My Fair Lady, The Music Man, and a half-dozen other musicals. Lest you not believe me about how awesome this musical was, here is a video of us performing “Tatooine” at SDCC a couple years ago:
Well, what do a bunch of geeks in a musical theatre group DO with an excellent Star Wars musical except produce it? (Twice!)
The very first table read, I read for Luke. And heck if I didn’t remember every part of that damn movie. I imitated Mark Hamill’s inflection on every line and God, it was like crack. In the final scene I shouted, “Carrie!” and we all died laughing.
I was having fun with Star Wars again.
In the actual production, I played Red Leader and a tap-dancing stormtrooper (yup). And no, you really can’t see a thing in those helmets.
The production blew audiences away. We got asked to come perform at Arisia in Boston and at Celebration III in Indiana (my first two cons!). To this day, that production is a highlight among my college memories.
Fast forward to a few years later. We’re all graduated, and my friends who wrote and spearheaded the musical production are avid cosplayers. They want to put on one of the numbers from the musical for SDCC. Would I like to come down from LA to be in it?
And that’s how the above video happened. I couldn’t believe what an incredible time I had. Reconnecting with friends, performing for the love of it, soldering Jawa eyes till the wee hours of the morning . . .
We won some stuff that year. Here I am with our trophy:
My friends asked me if I’d like to come back the next year. WOULDN’T MISS IT. That time we performed “Be a Fan” to the tune of “Be a Man” from Mulan:
That month was a difficult time for me. I’d just had major surgery and a lot of things in my life were going haywire. This was pure, unadulterated fannish joy with people I loved being with.
This past year, I was psyched to be involved again — but life went even more haywire and I ended up in Japan during Comic Con. My friends texted me the night of their epic performance and I teared up. Then I went to watch their video. In honor of The Force Awakens, they’d gone back to Star Wars this time. It was one of the best things I’d ever seen.
You know, personally — I can’t get excited about the new movie. Not yet, not until I’m sure. Not when I still feel raw over The Phantom Menace two decades ago — I feel a childish need to protect my fannish heart. But . . . now when I think of Star Wars, I think of all this. My friends. Our joy. How we can come together to create something amazing, how it can mean more to me than even what inspired it.
I’m back in love with Star Wars, and it’s all my friends’ fault.
S.L. Huang justifies her MIT degree by using it to write eccentric mathematical superhero fiction. In real life, you can usually find her hanging upside down from the ceiling or stabbing people with swords. She is unhealthily opinionated at www.slhuang.com and on Twitter as @sl_huang.