Thursday, December 30, 2010

Circa 300 - 100 BBY: The Apprentice: Star Wars Tales Volume 5

I’ve made my way back to the path I deviated from many months ago, and I’m ready to engage with Star Wars history in its correct chronological order once again.

We’ve moved ahead somewhere between 371 and 571 years in Star Wars history, away from the Pirate Prince of Xim, and towards the end of a great galactic conflict between the Jedi and the Sith. The Apprentice, found in Star Wars Tales volume 5, is a concise comic short that tells the story of a small aspect of the darkside of the Force.

Set sometime between 300 to 100 BBY, Master Finn, a Sith Master and terrorist who “operated during the final years of the New Sith Wars” (wookieepedia) defines Sith philosophy in terms of a negative relation to Jedi teaching: “Empathy leads to understanding. Understanding leads to compassion. Compassion leads to love. There is no place for love for a Sith. Only hate.” These, or course, are Master Yoda’s words played in reverse.

Master Finn’s less-than-Sith-like apprentice learned this lesson the hard way, and was summarily ‘out-eviled’ by an apparent slave girl.

Wookieepedia states that this story occurred during the end of the New Sith Wars, or Draggulch period, an epoch in Star Wars history that has not been explored in any exhaustive detail. This period in history is defined by a “thousand year conflict between the Jedi and the Sith” a “spectacular rise of the Sith” and “a growing militancy in the Jedi Order”. The story of The Apprentice can then be book-ended by the Knight Errant series by JJM – the latter occurring at the beginning of this immense Jedi/Sith conflict – a story which itself gives credence to the line ‘a growing militancy in the Jedi Order’.

As it is, Master Finn’s apprentice – weak willed and prone to Jedi mind tricks – is summarily dumped from the top of a building by a “slave girl” he was attempting to rescue like a lost puppy. She then, deservedly, becomes Sith Master Finn’s new apprentice. Like I said, Finn’s apprentice was not very Sith like. Surely his fate would have been better had been recruited into the Jedi Order. Finn’s apprentice seemed like a confused young man, wanting to be an anti-hero, yet more afraid of the goodness within him than the empty existence awaiting him down the path of the darkside. Finn’s apprentice seems like a young man who was “searching for a Yoda”, to use the words of Dick Staub, but instead found a Charles Manson.

Brief and satisfying, these comic shorts are like a perfectly made cup of coffee drunk at 2pm in the afternoon.

For my next post I’m going to engage with Legacy of the Jedi, and skip past the flashbacks in-between. Until then my friends, have a happy New Year, and may the Force be with you.

Monday, December 27, 2010

4904 BBY: Rise of the Sith Empire

I think it’s important to talk about this timeline in its proper historical context at circa 4904 BBY (its in-universe date is listed at 1251 BTC), as this timeline truly re-colours Star Wars history as we know it. Situated 96 years after the Great Hyperspace War (otherwise known as the Fall of the Sith Empire – for both titles explain the same historical period in Star Wars history), and 5 years before Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, the Rise of the Sith Empire tells the story of what happened to the Sith species of Korriban after their defeat by the Republic and Naga Sadow’s failed invasion of the Galactic Republic.

In this timeline Master Gnost-Dural makes the distinction between the “Sith Lords” who were threating the Republic prior to the “True Sith Empire” revealing itself in 3681 BBY, and all other “Sith” civilizations. Gnost-Dural goes on to explain that these “Sith Lords” who existed outside of the prevue of the “True Sith Empire” were instead “fallen Jedi” falsely claiming to be “Sith Lords”. As these Fallen Jedi – Ajunta Pal, Exar Kun, and the like – were threatening the Republic, the “true” Sith – the biological descendants of the Sith species from Korriban long thought extinct – were exiled from Korriban and for many decades were wandering space as fallout from the Great Hyperspace War. Master Gnost-Dural tells us that these Sith eventually settled and were now thriving on Drummond Kas under the leadership of their enigmatic emperor.

It’s not really necessary that I rephrase the timeline, suffice to say that the distinction between the Sith which came before 3681 BBY, and the Sith now occupying the time period after the Treaty of Coruscant until about 2000 BBY are distinct entities – not necessarily different in philosophy or worldview or ultimate purposes – but distinct creatures none-the-less.

Gnost-Dural also makes it clear that the citizens which were part of this empire considered themselves Imperialists, and for the remainder of the timeline he goes into the history of Grand Moff Odile Vaiken – the architect of the Sith fleet. But it’s the idea of Sith citizenry I want to focus on, for it’s clear that the citizenry of the Sith Empire stood behind their emperor and His expansionist agenda: “But the dedication of the Imperial people must be acknowledged as well…He (the emperor) promised to build a new civilization of unrivaled efficiency. And he promised his people vengeance. His promised them an empire destined to dominate the galaxy. An empire destined to bring about the Republic’s destruction”. With this timeline I think important motivations are cleared up, as one could rightly ask ‘what does the ‘regular Joe’ in the Sith empire have to gain, if he is simply a subjugated individual’? It seems the “True Sith Empire” is made up of red-skinned Sith who also have a stake in the Republic’s destruction, and for the most-part are not treated as slaves, but as productive members of society. I’m not sure the same can be said of humans though.

Interestingly, Gnost-Dural also points out that the humans existing in the “True Sith Empire” (and presumably other alien species) were considered second class citizens: “Vaiken’s story represents the surprising loyalty the imperial citizens show to an empire which they will always be subservient to the Sith”. This is intriguing because all other “Sith” civilizations we know of: the Sith which are descendant of Yaru Korsin, and the Galactic Empire under Palpatine for example, were speciesist towards all non-humans, as anyone considered non-human was usually treated as a second class citizen. It seems in the “True Sith Empire”, this role has been reversed.

Besides the idea of Sith citizenship, two other aspects of this timeline caught my attention. Firstly, is that the emperor shown on the bridge of the ship while Vaiken was a boy? My instinct tells me it’s not, but rather one of his generals or other some-such high ranking Sith soldier. Still, I wonder who that particular character is. Secondly, we are told that Vaiken (shown as an older and graying man) died in an Imperial campaign to conquer an alien system. I found this wildly remarkable, as the natural question is who were these aliens, that they can stand up to the Sith armada? The Yuzzhan Vong perhaps?

For my next post I’m going to look at the comic short The Apprentice from Star Wars Tales volume 5 and finally work my way back to discovering Star Wars history in its proper chronological order. I’ve also decided to ignore chronological excerpts that are flashbacks. For example, Joe has listed as the next source after The Apprentice is a flashback in Yaddle’s Tale, but I’ve decided that I only want to deal with a source once (The Essential Guide to the Force being the exception to this rule), so all sources with flashbacks will be dealt with in the majority of when their timeframe occurs. So with that being said, the next source after The Apprentice I’ll deal with is the book Legacy of the Jedi, but not simply chapters 1-6 as Joe has properly delineated. Instead, I’ll engage with the book in its entirety. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

990 BBY: The Jedi Path

With the book The Jedi Path by Dan Wallace we are witness to the evolution of Star Wars literature.

This type of book is not the first of its kind, as in this post I’m going to look at what The Jedi Path is, and try to make sense of this relatively new literary creature. At the very least The Jedi Path is a harbinger of things to come from the literary world of Star Wars – something apart from the novel, the comic, or the short story – genres of writing which have had their time at the fore of what most people read. The Jedi Path is the next step in fantasy story-telling.

The Jedi Path begins to come close to fulfilling the promise of science fiction literature. As David Brin, in the book Star Wars on Trial I think rightly states: “Science Fiction has never been modest about its aim to take on important issues. Beyond just “good versus evil” or “boy meets girl”, there has always been a notion that SF is the true descendant and heir of Gilgamesh and Homer, Virgil and Murasaki, of Dante, Swift, and Defoe. Liberated from the constraints of day-to-day existence, it provides a canvas wide enough to portray and discuss real issues. Things that matter in the long run.”(page 2). I use this quote not to say that I think The Jedi Path deals with important issues, but in that it tells the story of Star Wars in a new and unique manner, and it’s the telling of the story that I think is important here.

The Jedi Path is a new tradition in literature, one that brings fantasy to the next level. Though I don’t think The Jedi Path is the modern equivalent of the ancient epics listed by Brin, I do think this type of writing opens the door for other authors to begin thinking about penning Star Wars stories in the same tradition (the epic poem tradition) of the ancient texts mentioned above. The Jedi Path has demonstrated that there is more than one way to tell a Star Wars story, and I think as lovers of all things Star Wars we should take notice.

The real story of The Jedi Path is not the content of its pages (though I will spill ink on this), nor its extremely cool packaging, but in its manner of narrative. It’s an artifact from an unreal universe – the soul of Star Wars incarnated into our world in physical form – the Force made paper.

After I read The Jedi Path I entered into a discussion about the nature of this book with an old friend from Grad school. I was perplexed by it, and wanted to look into the history of this type of story-telling. At first this booked reminded me of The Castle of Otronto, a 17th century Gothic novel written by Horace Walpole. Though overall the two texts are very dissimilar, the reason I thought of The Castle of Otronto was because of Walpole’s introduction of the story to his 17th century audience. In the first edition of the story, it reads: “The Castle of Otranto, A Story. Translated by William Marshal, Gent. From the Original Italian of Onuphrio Muralto, Canon of the Church of St. Nicholas at Otranto.” As Wikipedia says of this book: “This first edition purported to be a translation based on a manuscript printed at Naples in 1529 and recently rediscovered in the library of "an ancient Catholic family in the north of England". The Italian manuscript's story, it was claimed, derived from a story still older, dating back perhaps as far as the Crusades. These Italian manuscripts, along with alleged author “Onuphrio Muralto”, were Walpole's fictional creations and "William Marshal" his pseudonym”.

In the second edition of The Castle of Otronto Walpole comes clean and basically says ‘I just made up that whole ancient Italian manuscript thing for effect’. And effective it was. But this highlights the blending of the real and the imagined. In Otronto Walpole wants you to believe in the origins of the story you are about to read. He wants you to believe that this story really did survive the Crusades and has been passed down through time, hidden for centuries in the library of an “ancient Catholic family” until it eventually fell into your hands. Likewise this is what Wallace wants you feel with The Jedi Path (feel - not necessarily believe – but he wants you to buy into the origin story of the book you are currently holding). And the effect is convincing. As I was reading The Jedi Path I imagined this really was the only surviving textbook of the Jedi Order. I gleefully suspended my disbelief and bought-in to the fantasy Wallace was selling me.

With The Jedi Path Wallace tells us the story of the Force, the Jedi, and the religious order built around these rare and unique individuals, all without a ‘traditional’ narrative.

But what does one call this book? It’s not a novel, or a short story, or a poem. What is it?

This was the question I posed to my old friend. In our discussion we came up with a few things this type of writing is similar too. To quote our e-mail exchange, he proposed that The Jedi Path was like “Alfred Jarry's "How to Build a Time Machine" and the vast amounts of literature that has come out of it: This stems from the pataphyiscal movement, which basically has to do with imaginary science. It is not the writing of fiction, but rather things like instruction manuals for fictional devices, as if those devices were real. You could also think of all those elaborate Star Trek manuals that used to come out with maps of the ships and all kinds of descriptions of how everything was supposed to work. In this sense, the appearance of Klingon dictionaries is part of this impulse to create instructional texts that operate as if the fictional world isn't fictional at all, but real. Another thing that comes to mind is the Diary of Laura Palmer. I don't know if you ever watched Twin Peaks, or if this entirely fits what you are thinking about, but sometime after the series ended, David Lynch's daughter wrote Laura Palmer's diary to continue the creation of that particular narrative world.”

Of all the books my friend mentioned, the one that I thought was the most interesting was the Codex Seraphinianus - a book written and illustrated by the Italian artist, architect, and industrial designer Luigi Serafini during thirty months, from 1976 to 1978. The book is approximately 360 pages long (depending on edition), and appears to be a visual encyclopedia of an unknown world, written in one of its languages, a thus-far undeciphered alphabetic writing.

But the question still remained – what does one call this type of literature. I proposed the utilitarian marker of “intertextual”, but AEM took the idea further saying: “I would call this kind of thing we've been talking about simply by "adaptation" (which can be rather complex, as the rest of this email will suggest). Perhaps "adoption" is better, however. But it does have elements of intertextuality too. But maybe "hypotext" is better in some of these cases. A hypotext, as opposed to a hypertext is when an adapted story not only adapts/adopts from a source, but actually makes reference to other editions.”

Our e-mail exchange went on like this for a while, but I bring all this up not to bore you with literary jargon, but to demonstrate that The Jedi Path marks a new way of telling and imagining the Star Wars universe. The Jedi Path, I believe, shows just how wild Star Wars story-telling can get, and all the while remain commercially viable. Great writers of the Star Wars mythos need not be confined to Hyperspace. Writers like Fry, Kogge, Pena, and Wallace. Maybe The Jedi Path will allow other texts that are non-traditional narratives begin to revive other less popular styles of writing – Star Wars epic poetry perhaps?

You never know. Maybe one day.

Now that I’ve talked about ‘what’ The Jedi Path is, let me now focus on the content of its pages and the particular lines of interest that jumped out at me, but before I get into what I liked about the book, I want to first put my only criticism of it to rest. Though I thought the comments by Yoda, Anakin and the like along the book’s margins was a stroke of brilliance, and made this book better than simply being a textbook of the Jedi Order, I found it irritating that every comment was signed by its author. When I comment in a book’s margins I certainly don’t sign my name. I’m not sure why I would, and I’m not sure why these Jedi did. It was enough that each had their own particular handwriting and color to go along, and as a reader I could identify who’s comments were who’s from the front of the book. Seeing the author’s signature at the end of every comment ‘broke the fourth wall’ for me. I found the practice unnecessary.

So with my criticism aside, allow me to delineate where the remainder of my post will go. What I found of interest in this book’s pages was its mention of the will of the Force, midichlorians, form zero lightsaber combat, the language of High Galactic, Jedi hunters, and the Education corps. I could go on almost indefinatly, as I literary found every page worthy of in-depth discussion, but I only have small spaces of time to write and therefore I can’t be exhaustive with my thoughts.

Firstly, Jedi seer Sabla-Mandibu’s mention that ‘the Force does have a will, make no mistake’ (pg. 24), caught me a little off guard. Still, after all this time trying to come to an understanding of the nature of the Force I’m at a loss as to what it is. Is the Force THE God? Or is the lightside of the Force a benevolent God, while the darkside of the Force is a destructive God? Is the Force a duality of divinity, like in Zoroastrianism? As Wikipedia states of Zoroastrianism: “In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil originates from Him. Thus, in Zoroastrianism good and evil have distinct sources, with evil (druj) trying to destroy the creation of Mazda (asha), and good trying to sustain it”. Is the lightside of the Force asha (sounds a lot like Ashla from the text JvsS doesn’t it?) while the darkside is druj (“Bogan” if you recall from JvsS)? I’m I even correct in aligning the idea of the Force with divinity in the first place?

Whatever the case may be, the fact that ‘the Force has a will’, is a significant statement. If the Force has a will, the next question is then ‘what is the Force’s will?’ Who understands its will? Who has the authority to interpret its will? Is the Force’s will benevolent? Is it destructive? Are the Jedi the proper interpreters of its will? Is it the Sith? If the Force is the ‘voice that whispers your destiny’ does it want beings to ‘fall to the darkside’, since it was the One that whispered a being’s destiny in the first place? If the Force is the cause of all goodness and evil simultaneously, does it even know what it wants?

What is the Will of the Force?

Perhaps for my own stability of mind I need to move on.

Before Sabla-Mandibu mentioned the will of the Force, I also thought it interesting the way she downplayed midichlorians: “Master Bowspritz will teach you of the midi-chlorians in our cells that channel the Force’s energy. I urge you not to think too much on this necessary biological symbiosis but to instead cast your focus wider” (pg. 23). This is the second time I’ve come across the idea of midichlorians in the EU – the first being its mention by Doctor Demagol in the short story by JJM. In that post I wrote how I thought JJM was attempting to “remystify” the Force through the character of Demagol. You can read my reaction to that story here. I think like JJM, Wallace is attempting to recapture the Force from the clutches of cold empirical science, and rephrase it in the dimension I think the Force is meant to be understood – as an energy field that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.

The Force doesn’t need midichlorians as its explanation. What is more, I’m glad that the mythology of Star Wars as it exists outside of the films rejects, although ever so subtly, this notion of symbiotic cells.

On page 43 of the book, Jedi Battlemaster Skarch Vaunk discusses the notion of form zero, a form of lightsaber combat I personally feel too few Jedi use: “Although I am a Jedi Battlemaster, I must stress that aggression is never the way of the Jedi. More fundamental that even Form 1 is form Zero – finding a non-violent solution to any problem you encounter.” Master Yoda then goes on to iterate the importance of these words: “Wise Master Vanuk is. For knowledge and defense a Jedi uses the Force. Never for attack.” In my opinion, the strongest Jedi are the ones who never take life, or use the Force for aggression (Zayne Carrick). As Gandhi once Famously said “For this cause I too am willing to die. But, my friend, there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill”. Gandhi and Christ Jesus Himself – Jedi Masters of form Zero, and still to this day, messengers of counter-culture.

Wrapping up my post, I want to quickly mention how I thought it neat that High Galactic was Latin (pages 78-79), and Darth Sidious’ mention of Jedi hunters on page 91 was very cool. Let me tell you, if I do get to my own writing of Star Wars one day, taozin amulets and Akk Dog armor plating will appear on my own Jedi hunters.

Before I sign off though, I want to give my reaction to the Education corps (page 57) – the group of Jedi who consist of scholars, teachers, and archivists. My buddy and I used to wonder, ‘If the Star Wars universe were real, what would we be? Smugglers, Gamblers, or Pirates? Perhaps even Jedi? The truth is, if I were ever transported to the Star Wars universe, the Education corps is where I feel I would likely end up. I don’t think I would be some great Jedi warrior, or some moisture farmer, but I would most likely be what I am in life – a dowdy teacher of less than average stature, sitting in his dusty office away from most people, pouring over a book. A teacher who loves the Force with all his heart and only wants to point young padawans in its benevolent direction. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. The Jedi Education Corps seems like my home in the Star Wars universe.

We need more of The Jedi Path in Star Wars.

For my next post I’m going to look at the latest timeline offered by Bioware. From there I’m going to move ahead in Star Wars chronology to Tale #17 The Apprentice and keep going from there. I’m then going to pause and engage with the Knight Errant comic series when issue 5 comes out, and take Plaristes advice and deal with that series in chunks of 5. As it is I’m still under the pump with my home life and the Star Wars Chronology Project has had to take a back seat for now. But until next time my friends, may the Force be with you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

1032 BBY: Knight Errant: Influx

After a successful run with the Knights of the Old Republic comic series, JJM has taken another kick at the comic medium, and has given Star Wars fans a new series that further explores the wide wide world of Star Wars. Set a generation before the events of the Bane trilogy, Knight Errant tells the story of Kerra Holt, and newly minted Jedi Knight bent on challenging the evils of the universe.

The first narrative in this new story arc is Influx, a short story written by JJM which is available at Hyperspace. It tells the story of Kerra’s first mission into Sith space where she accompanies the titans of the Jedi Order on a mission to disrupt the war machine of Daiman –a Sith Lord who believes he is the creator of the universe.

What caught my notice in this particular piece was the readiness of the Jedi to kill, the mention of Chancellor Genarra, and the addition to this story – the Knight Errant Essential Atlas Gazetteer, written by Dan Wallace, Jason Fry, and JJM.

Firstly, what grabbed my attention at the beginning of this story was the readiness of the Jedi to cut down their enemies. When Holt and Treece’s plans for subterfuge had gone awry they immediately turned to their lightsabers to deal with the situation. Initially, the Jedi did try to deal with the Sith in a humane manner, as is shown by Kerra Holt’s attempted mind trick, but when her trick didn’t work, it was straight to the Jedi handing out death sentences against the Sith. The Jedi’s action can still be defendable in that when the mind trick failed the Sith immediately set upon them with the intent to kill, but when the situation took a turn for the worse, where were the Jedi’s temperance? Did any of them think that perhaps what they were doing was wrong, or perhaps there was another avenue to explore before it went straight to killing?

I know Jedi try their best to hold up the ideal but it seems that the Jedi in this story are too comfortable with the notion of bringing their lightsabers in to bear. Did the Jedi on this mission explore every avenue to avoid a death filled outcome, or did convenience (it is simply better to kill them rather than tie them up) – not their moral imperatives – guide their actions?
As I read this I wondered why there wasn’t a back-up plan should the mind-trick fail? Even more, why wasn’t the mind-trick attempted by Master Treece, one presumably more versed in such a passive and usually effective tactic? Wouldn’t the Jedi want to avoid the needless loss of life, I wondered? But I think this was the point which I had missed. After I read the story I realized that I wasn’t dealing with Jedi I as fan of the movies was familiar with. Nor was I dealing with Jedi who took to heart a philosophy of non-violence proffered by luminaries like Master Yoda. I quickly realized I was dealing with a different type of Jedi in this story – I was dealing with Jedi hardened by war, Jedi who have to look past moral imperatives and righteous absolutes in order to get the job done and restore peace in the galaxy. In short – Jedi who believe that ‘the ends justify the means’.

If this was my first dance with JJM, I’d label him as a poor writer and say he doesn’t know what it means to be a Jedi, and point to this opening scene. But this isn’t my first dance with JJM, and I know better. I learned my lesson with the whole Rohland/Demigol story-line. JJM understands exactly what it means to be a Jedi, and I think this story, Influx, is setting up the overall theme of the Knight Errant arc - that a Jedi – in the purest understanding of the word - is not one who cuts corners or only takes the easy way out, as it seems the first group of Jedi we met in this story did. I’ve come to realize JJM knows what he’s doing, and I think he’s going to show his audience what being a morally ambiguous Jedi leads to, not only for the individual Knight (possibly Kerra), but possibly for the Order as a whole as well.

With that being said though, I don’t want to label Kerra with the “morally ambiguous” label, as we’ve only been introduced to her and it is my hope that she emulates the classical traits of a hero. But I was a little shocked at her callous consideration of the slain crew chief: “Hair dripping, the girl knelt over the dead crew chief's body. "'Little missy?' Is that how Sith swear these days?” There is no remorse in her words. She is irritated that she was insulted by a Sith. She is not kneeling over the body to show repentance for her actions – to look at the face of a fellow being and consider the gravity of her choices. Kerra, it seems, is already hardened by war.
Miller sets up this ‘act first and consider your actions second’ attitude amongst the Jedi in describing for us how they are being trained during this time period. As he explains of Kerra’s training, she never had time for ‘tradition’ on her path to Knighthood: “Dorivan liked tradition, but Kerra never had time for the trappings” – in this instance Kerra sounds like Bane’s adversaries when the future Dark Lord was at the academy. Bane’s adversaries never had time for tradition. Instead they wanted to fast-track their skills at the feet of a Sith Lord. Unlike Bane who spent the time researching and discovering his Sith heritage. I think this introduction to our new Star Wars heroine is interesting, as it seems like her actions and her training was quicker, easier, and more seductive. It seems she was trained to get immediate results and to dismiss the purpose of the journey involved in training and learning and growing as a Knight.

Continuing in this line of thought, JJM writes: “trying to learn the skills the Jedi could teach her as quickly as possible – it was the better path” or is it? JJM continues: “A lot of the regular ways of doing things had changed by necessity in recent times. With Knights needed at the front, there simply weren't enough teachers to go around; Padawans tended to apprentice for short periods under whoever was available.” I think maybe that JJM is showing that this ‘learning as quickly as possible because we’re at war’ theme is how all Jedi are behaving in this period, and maybe JJM is going to show us exactly how difficult it is to be a Jedi, and how difficult it is to carry the moral ideals that such a title and responsibility holds.

Moving on to my next point, I thought the mention of chancellor Genarra – a female Jedi chancellor – very cool. Again, this ties in to the Bane trilogy and the character of Farfalla. It was assumed that after the Russan Reformations that Farfalla would naturally take the role of chancellor of the Republic, but in that particular text it mentioned that the role had gone to a non-Jedi, breaking with four-hundred years of tradition. We are lead to believe in the Bane trilogy that this break was surprising, and in my post regarding that text I spilled much ink on the notion of Jedi chancellors. I also looked into the history of chancellors of the Republic and was shocked to find that one of the Republic’s greatest chancellors was a Hutt. Needless to say, I was fairly excited when Genarra was mentioned. Firstly because I think this is the first time in Star Wars history that there is mention of a female chancellor, and secondly, this mention shed light on the topic of chancellorship and further flushed out some of the history of this role. I wonder how old she is, and if maybe she’s another older woman portrayed in a positive light, like the older woman who appeared in the Exar Kun timeline (for a further explanation of what I’m talking about here see my post on the Kun timeline).

I also thought it interesting that in talking about the chancellor, Dorivan referenced the Jedi role of consular as an uncommon choice among the recruits of the day. Dorivan brings this up as he asks Kerra if she would follow that particular path of Jedi wisdom.

Taking into account the role of a Jedi counselor, a counselor is one who: “sought to perfect the art of diplomacy and mediation, hoping to calm a tense situation or mend hurt feelings through civil discourse, reasoning, and parley, rather than drawing their lightsabers and cutting down an attacker” (definition of Jedi counselor on wookieepedia) it’s no wonder that this particular form of Jedi mastery is nowhere to be found. Who needs a bunch of reasoned diplomats in a time of war? It seems that in 1032 BBY most Jedi recruits pursue the role of Jedi Guardian – the warriors of the Jedi Order.

As it is, I enjoyed the first story of this particular narrative, and I’m now looking forward to picking up my copies of the Knight Errant comic at my local comic shop this weekend.

But the Knight Errant material available on Hyperspace does not end there. Last week we were treated to a supplementary piece of material that further flushed out the backstory of Influx: the Knight Errant Essential Atlas Gazetteer. This, however, isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with material in the style of the Essential Atlas. My first encounter with this particular style of Star Wars material came in the collection of Xim stories from last year. The text I engaged with at that time was a piece titled Xim and the Tion Cluster. There, Fry delineated the galactic history of the Tion cluster and how the Pirate Prince Xim affected historic events in that particular space in the galaxy. Likewise, in this particular piece, Fry, Wallace, and Miller give a picture of the area of space Holt and the Jedi strike team are heading to, along with a preface written by Master Treece to chancellor Genarra about the history of the Sith in that region.

What I love about Fry and Wallace’s work in these bits of Star Wars chronology are what Plaristes refers to as their ‘throw away lines’. Take for example their excerpt on the planet Sarrassia: “The religious war that has devastated Sarrassia since the rule of Chancellor Am-Ris is reportedly at an end under the rule of Lord Bactra, who has kept the Grumani Hierophants in check and barred Spumani Crusaders from pursuing their typically sanguinary quests.” This piece of text is absolutely pregnant with Star Wars history. Where does one even begin to engage with this? With an investigation into chancellor Am-Ris? With Lord Bactra? With the Grumani Hierophants? Or perhaps maybe with the Spumani Crusaders? What’s a lover of Star Wars history to do when faced with such extreme sub-text?

I also enjoyed this particular bit because it reminded me of our own real-world events. Attempting to stop the sectarian violence ravaging Sarrassia, Lord Bactra placed the planet under his dictator thumb, subduing needless conflict which interfered with his own plans of dominion. In this line I couldn’t help but think of Saddam Hussein, and how during his reign he managed to keep the bloodshed amongst the Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims to a minimum. That’s not to say he didn’t exact some bloodshed of his own, but he did manage to quell the sectarian violence in Iraq. Hussein – a minor Sith Lord indeed.

The last bit of the Gazetteer was by far my most favourite. The Children of Mani post-script was completely awesome to a theology academic like me. I’ve placed a special note on this bit of information, as I hope to use this passage and its implications in my own Star Wars writing eventually.

I look forward to examining the Essential Atlas when I get to in, and with regards to the Star Wars Chronology Project, it will be the last source I engage with.

On a personal note, it might be a while before I post again. My wife is seven months pregnant with our second child (another boy) and unfortunately this pregnancy has been hard on her. Her doctor has placed her on bed rest which means all household duties are now my sole responsibility. This, as you can imagine, has made my life very busy. I try to complete all my daily tasks with joy in my heart, but these last few weeks have become very wearisome for me. I still try to find pockets of time to continue with my Star Wars quest, but in doing so, I’m taking away precious time from other tasks I should be fulfilling. But still, if I didn’t have this little project of mine I’d fear my life would be totally devoid of “me” time. As it is, I’m not sure when I’ll post again.

With that being said however, my next post (whenever I’m able to get to it) will be on the Knight Errant comic material. As I said earlier I’m heading to the comic shop this weekend and I’ve placed myself on a monthly subscription. I’ll engage with as many issues as I can, and then move on in the project to Tales #17, The Apprentice. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

3960 BBY: The Lost Tribe of the Sith: Purgatory

The Lost Tribe of the Sith series has grown on me.

I like what JJM is doing with these small e-novellas and the fact that they are being produced on a nearly tri-annual basis. I was a little wary of the series after the third installment Paragon. I thought JJM was going to write a small little trilogy about some lost Sith and that was that. I enjoyed Savior, the last installment, but at the time I thought it was a little gratuitous because I wasn’t sure what JJM was going for or what the purposes of these novellas were. With the completion of the fifth title in the series, Purgatory, I think I see what JJM is doing: he’s exploring the story of Sith culture as it grows in isolation from the rest of the galaxy, and he’s connecting in novella form all of his Star Wars tales. I at first thought he was only going to tell a short story about some abandoned Sith, but his Lost Tribe series is more than that – it’s an exploration of the Sith mindset, Sith governance, the Sith people, and an exploration of a culture that glorifies the individual and places societies’ emphasis on the “me” and not the “we”. I see now that JJM will weave these stories through his already established ones in the KOTOR series, and will most likely entwine these novellas into his new story cycle Knight Errant.

JJM has recreated something new in Star Wars literature that resembles and reminds me of the early work of famous American writers. Artists like Henry James and Mark Twain used to have their short stories regularly published in magazines. At the time of these small publications James and Twain weren’t the literary giants they are today (with that being said though, they were recognized by their contemporaries as excellent artists), and had to produce something to make ends-meat. Many famous writers of American and English literature would write short stories and look for a magazine to publish them in, and they were usually paid by the word. If I remember correctly (and I’m not sure I do), I think James’ novel The Golden Bowl was originally published in a magazine in parts over the span of many months. It was a way for these writers to showcase their work, and generate interest so they could sell novels. Once a writer had written the entire story over the span of many magazines, he would then find a publisher to run the complete story in book form.

It’s only a matter of time before all of JJM’s novellas are collated and made into paper and print format for us to buy. And once this is done I myself will buy a copy because, as I’ve said before, I like to have a hard copy of Star Wars stories, complete with book jacket and pretty cover page sitting on my bookshelf. I like to have a material item I can flip through, reference, and handle.
Again, it is this reason that I love the format of the Star Wars Adventure Journal so much. It was a quarterly publication that contained five to six short stories per issue with some characters from these short stories included in many of the journals. The stories of Alex Winger, for example, run from Adventure Journals one through seven, and she appears again in issue twelve.

I know I’ve harped on about this before, but I would truly love to see the Adventure Journal format get picked up again because it’s a format which is conducive to what JJM is doing with his Lost Tribe series. I think JJM’s work is showing that Star Wars storytelling needs this medium (the short story medium) to come to life again. The e-format is nice because it’s free and easy to access. But at the same time I'm not a fan of the electronic formate becuase I’m not one of those in the literary world prognosticating the end of print media as we know it. I also don't subscribe to the idea that eventually all books will be placed in electronic format for our iPads to download. No matter what is said, I don’t believe any piece of electronic media can replace the book. Maybe I’m not seeing the writing on the wall, but I don’t feel like I actually own a story the way I do when it’s on my shelf as opposed to my hard-drive.

I suppose for the Star Wars Adventure Journal to be re-born a new company has to come along and purchase the Star Wars RPG license since it was originally West End Games who published the Journals. Since Wizard of the Coast has discontinued producing Star Wars RPG material, the fate and future of the game is in question. Does anyone reading this blog know what is happening or what might happen with the Star Wars RPG license? Has it been picked up again? Will Star Wars RPG material be produced once more? I’ve daydreamed of starting a gaming company with a bunch of other people, pooling our money, and buying the license so the Star Wars RPG can come to life again. I know this is a pipe-dream, considering the 800 pound gorilla in the RPG gaming world, WOTC, couldn’t handle the license itself. If not WOTC who is supposed to step in and take over?

Take a look at the fan fiction being produced at There must be hundreds of stories there with the archive going back nearly 10 years. This is the Star Wars Adventure Journal in seed form. I would love to see the most highly rated stories from this archive printed in a book (five or six stories per issue), complete with artwork (artwork which could also be fan produced. Head over to the swtor forums and see some of the brilliant Star Wars art being produced there) coupled with RP stats of the main characters involved. I’m sure the rights to these stories could be purchased and a low cost, the benefit to the writers and artist being their work becomes Star Wars canon. It could also have the added benefit of launching some of these fabulous writers and artist into possible Star Wars careers.

One man’s wild dream, that’s all.

I think in this post I was supposed to talk about JJM’s Purgatory, wasn’t I?

Alas, funnily enough, I haven’t much to say about it. Brining the legacy of the stranded Sith on Kesh ahead a millennium and into the history of the KOTOR comic series, JJM introduces us to Jelph Marrian, a Jedi shadow on the run. Ultimately I thought it neat that JJM included in this narrative the character of the Jedi Shadow. I wonder if he was one of the faces shown on Lucien Draay's holo-screen from KOTOR voulme 5 (Vectors 1)? Presumably in the employ of Lucien Draay, Jelph Marrian, a knight in the Jedi Covenant, knew he couldn’t return to the Covenant after its defeat at the hands of the Jedi Order. Sending himself into self-imposed exile he headed for deep space, only to find himself marooned on a planet full of Sith: his worst nightmare come true. The story of Purgatory ends with Jelph caught up in the affairs of Ori – his love interest and a disposed member of the Sith ruling class. As JJM writes: “He was a lone Jedi on an entire planet full of Sith. His existence threatened them—but their existence threatened everything.”

I’m looking forward to JJM’s next instalment of the series. In the meantime I’ve decided to read and comment on Knight Errant, so for my next post I’ll engage with Influx, the new Knight Errant story by JJM found on Hyperspace. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: The Fall of Exar Kun (BTC 347)

Exar Kun has no relation to the Sith Empire, nor does he connect his Sith linage to the emperor of the ‘True Sith Empire’. This much was established in the TOR timeline The Fall of Exar Kun. This, the tenth timeline in the series, and set in BTC 347, tells the story of Exar Kun’s fall from the lightside of the Force and his rise to the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith. The events contained in this timeline are not new to us, as most of this history we are already familiar with in our examinations of The Dark Lords of the Sith and The Sith War.

Though not much new is revealed in the way of history, there were certain aspects from this piece I found remarkable.

At the start of the timeline an interesting threesome of Jedi are depicted. Part of the Jedi council, these three were seen discussing amongst each other what to do about Kun’s newfound interest in all things Sith. I wonder who these three are. What is more, the older woman with the short white hair looked interesting, as she reminded me of a grandmother type figure. I liked that an old woman was included as part of the council, and in doing so, the writers at TOR placed aged women in a positive light. When we come across an old woman in Star Wars she seems to fit into the character type of crafty old hag (Kreia) or evil witch (Queen Amanoa). If a woman is on the council she tends to be young and nubile (Adi Gallia), or if she is older, she is an alien (Yaddle). Old women in literature seem to get a poor presentation. It seems that old stereotypes die hard. If an old woman has power – any kind of power – she must necessarily be evil, or a witch, or out to destabilize the power structures of men. And if she is knowledgeable or powerful or good (Jocasta Nu) she must be placed somewhere where she can’t really have input on any important decisions. Needless to say, it still seems like old woman with power can’t be trusted – even in the Star Wars universe. Kudos to the writers at TOR for including an old woman on the council.

Old women aside, there were some events and people in this timeline that were notably absent; namely, Nomi Sunrider and the circumstances surrounding her and Ulic. As Master Gnost-Dural says: “Qel-Droma abandoned the darkside and betrayed Exar Kun”. This description is not accurate, as we know that it was Ulic’s epic confrontation with Nomi, and his subsequent stripping of the Force, that coloured his relationship with Kun. I found it remarkable that the Sever Force ability perpetrated by Sunrider was not mentioned at all. If I were to hazard a guess at this, I think on the surface the writers did not want to include this detail so as to not create speculation that this might be an ability players may have in-game. But who knows? It could be a stun ability used by the Jedi Wizard. Still, I was a little disappointed that this, the most powerful lightside attack, was glossed over. As stated by Master Odann-Urr it is the most devastating attack in the entire arsenal of Force powers, both light and dark.

My buddy and I had a discussion about the Sever Force ability a few weeks back. Knowing how powerful the ability is, I wondered why more Jedi did not use this spell on darksiders. It was my stance in this discussion that the Jedi should use it more often. Jedi are absolutists, I argued, and since they are absolutists they must necessarily see it as their mission to rid the universe of the darkside. Since Severing the Force does not kill the person the ability is enacted upon it is the ultimate weapon of the light – respecting the sanctity of life, all the while stripping those of power who use it selfishly and irresponsibly and who endanger innocent lives. Why wouldn’t the Jedi use this ability all the time?

My friend countered with a wise and prudent point. He said: “Sever Force is the most powerful ability the Force has to offer – as a matter of fact, it’s absolute power – and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If used too often and too recklessly, this power of the light could quickly lead a noble Jedi with the best intentions down the dark path. It’s a terrifying ability, not because of what it does to the darksider on the wrong end of the spell, but because of what it does to the Jedi who enacts it”.

His answer gave me pause, and helped me understand why the Jedi are so weary of this capability. In my examinations of Star Wars history thus far, this power has been used on two occasions (Sunrider and the Jedi Exile), and at the time I was examining this material I felt the warnings by Master Odan-Urr were too cautious: “To block a Jedi from the Force—even a Dark Jedi—is a terrible thing." I couldn’t understand his warning, and I didn’t understand why it was such a terrible thing. I think I do now.

As far as timelines from SWTOR go, The Fall of Exar Kun was interesting, but it didn’t reveal much surrounding the figure of the Sith emperor, except to say that the Sith spirits that supported Kun don’t seem to support the emperor.

One can speculate as to why the writers at Bioware would include this timeline which does not reveal much historically, and on its surface, does not seem to further the plot of the TOR story in too great a capacity. Perhaps Kun appears in the game as a foil to the Sith emperor – a path a “Gray Jedi” could explore while aligned with the Republic? Maybe he is a raid Boss? Maybe he is a quest giver? Like I said, we can speculate as to why this timeline is important to the game, but until the game’s release all discussion surrounding this lays on the pitch of supposition.

Again, I think the Exar Kun timeline is interesting, not because of what it reveals, but because of what has not been mentioned in TOR’s timelines to date; namely, any consideration for the events of KOTOR 2 and the Jedi Exile. Granted, Malachor V was mentioned in the previous timeline, but not in any great detail, and the story of the Jedi Exile’s contribution to galactic history seems to be going ignored. Many questions arise from this absence. What did the Sith triumvirate have to do with the Sith emperor, if anything? (and if nothing, then why not mention the negative relation as in Kun’s timeline?)

I know a number of fans from the SWTOR forum pages have become fairly hot and bothered over this perceived snub on the part of Bioware regarding Obsidian’s contributions to the Star Wars mythos and its work on KOTOR 2. And even though I find their approach to discussing this lack of KOTOR 2 material aggressive, arrogant, combative, and ultimately disrespectful of other people willing to engage with them on this topic, their questions and inquiries are relevant. Why has Bioware seemed to have ignored the events of KOTOR 2? This is a valid question.

Rob Chestney attempted to address this question on the SWTOR forums, basically saying ‘the events of KOTOR 2 happened behind the scenes and most people in the galaxy were unaware of the events of the (Dark) war’. He goes on to say that he thought a timeline on the events of the Dark War were important, but in the context of the timeline series would confuse players. This answer, I think, only further irritated players and fans of the KOTOR franchise, and even though I believe Chestney was being genuine in his answer to the community, he response seemed to be somewhat dismissive of the communities concerns.

I myself have a few problems with this statement. Firstly, calling the near complete destruction of the Jedi Order by the hands of Nihilus a ‘historical footnote’ is problematic at best. Secondly, in the story of KOTOR 2 there is a historian present by the name of Mical. One would think a historian contained within the KOTOR 2 story would record these events to keep for posterity. What is more, the narrator of these timelines, Master Gnost-Dural, is himself a historian, and taking his character into consideration, one would think he would have uncovered the events of the Dark War, and he most likely would want to address the almost complete destruction of the Jedi Order at the hands of the Sith. For an in-depth look at fans reactions to Chestney’s statement, check out the Star Wars discussion forums at

Ultimately I wish that the developers at Bioware would have taken the time to address the important events of the KOTOR 2 story, and not worry about ‘confusing’ me. I’m a smart lad, as are all the other fans on the swtor forums – we can connect the dots.

For my next post I’m going to look at JJM’s fifth installment of the Lost Tribe of the Sith series: Purgatory. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

580 BBY - 232 BBY: Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force

A word of warning to would be Star Wars Chronology writers or those interested in investigating in great detail the workings of this world: this path is not for the faint of heart! All stones must be overturned along your journey! All paths, those clearly marked and those hidden from first sight must be explored and trod upon. All avenues must be investigated if one wants to encounter the full wonder of this magical realm. Heed my advice: begin your adventure with the writings of Abel Pena, for he is a shaper of this world, and his knowledge of this universe knows no bounds!

In my post today I’ll be going over some minor details of Star Wars history found in the text of Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force. The pages I’ll be covering are 192-192, page 197, and 133-134.

Pages 192-194 and 197 deal with the Teydryn holocron, and the words of Bodo Bass and his encounters with other Force schools. Meanwhile pages 133-134 deal with the planet Almas and a Sith fortress found there.

The first story from these particular pages is an interesting tale of abandonment and the development of the Zeison Sha school of the Force. In or around 2000 BBY some friends and family of the Jedi settled upon the planet of Yanibar believing a group of Jedi was close behind to assist with the settlement of the planet. However the Jedi relatives who knew of this mission were all killed and knowledge of this settlement mission was forgotten. This small band of pioneers was quickly forgotten and had to then fend for themselves. Unfortunately, the settlers believed the Jedi forgot them on purpose, and over time resentment and suspicion of the Jedi grew on this colony. In the year 580 BBY, Jedi Master Bodo Baas rediscovered this lost mission, and attempted to persuade this thriving force-sensitive colony back into the Jedi Order – to no avail. Master Baas, in the Teyndryn holocron describes this unique school of the force, commenting on their impressive telekinetic power, along with their ability to wrap themselves in the force to protect themselves from harmful incoming objects.

The Zeison Sha reaction to Bodo Baas reminded me of the millennia old suspicions between the Roman Catholic Church, and the Orthodox churches of the east. When Baas warned the elders of Zeison Sha about the epitomizing of self reliance, Baas says to them “self-sufficiency can quickly turn into selfishness”. Wise words I agree. The ZeisonSha’s response was interesting as well. A warrior stepped from the crowd to challenge Baas’ words and said: “‘If not for our self-reliance, our ancestors would have died shortly after your ancestors left them here’. Because this warrior’s elders did not reprimand her, I could only assume they agreed with her assessment.” Baas laments the failure of his mission, and ends his report with his respect of the Zeison Sha’s wish to remain independent of the Jedi Order.

Page 197 tells the story of Baas’ second encounter with another school of the Force: The Matukai. Bodo Bass’s reaction to this particular school of the Force left me quite shocked. Upon hearing of this school and meeting with its leader, Baas says: “I believe we should be content to let the Matukai exist as an autonomous organization, provided that they continue to steer clear of the darkside”. I was taken aback by the arrogance of this statement. ‘let them exists!?!’…How kind of the Jedi! It makes Mendor Typhoons comment (the leader of the Matukai movement) to master Baas that: “…the Jedi method of teaching the Force was both elitist and ineffectual” hold some sway. Anyway, still interesting stuff.

Pages 133-134 are remarkable, because it is a story which begins with the character of Darth
Rivan, a Sith decedant of Revan, and the namesake of this particular Dark Lord. Rivan is famous for building a Sith fortress on the planet Almas – a fortress which was still standing after the Clone Wars. I’m not certain how long this fortress lasts in Star Wars history, but it’ll be something I’ll keep my eye on as I progress forward.

The small story on pages 133-134 tell of an explorer finding the planet in 232 BBY. Reidi Artom, the explorer in question, was wise enough to leave the fortress she rediscovered alone. Eventually the Jedi arrive on Almas, set up an academy, and begin to struggle with unlocking the fortress’ mysteries. Later on in the narrative, Jedi Master Lanius Qel-Bertuk tells a harrowing story of betrayal and murder, initiated; it would seem, from the evil aura of the fortress.

The story aside, what is most remarkable about this little tale is that we find the machinations of Abel Pena once again operating in the background of the Star Wars universe. Upon researching Darth Rivan on Wookieepedia, I came across Pena’s article titled “A Darth by any other name, Part 3”. In these blog posts from Pena explains to fans the Darth names he’s responsible for creating, and connects for us the history of the Sith Lords from Sadow to Bane. In this third installment, Pena explains how Zannah came by her name, and how she and Bane link their Sith names to the Dark Lords of the Sith before them. What I find most remarkable about Pena’s work is the depth of thought he puts into the elements of the Star Wars universe he adds to, and how very little is placed there haphazardly. This is why I began this post the way I did. Pena’s work in the Star Wars universe has had a deep and lasting impact on the mythos of this realm, and any explorer of this universe needs to familiarize themselves with his essays, thoughts, and contributions. As it is, the events after 2000 BBY to 1000 BBY are filled with history and intrigue, especially for the Sith and their ilk, most of it courtesy of the imagination of Pena and other Star Wars shapers – events which found their way, imperceptibly, into the pages of Jedi vs. Sith.

October, as it turned out, was a very busy month for me and I can’t really explain why. It seemed like I had something going on every day of the week this month, and this particular post took me over a week to complete because my energies and time were constantly being placed in other areas of my life. After this post I’m not really sure if November will be any different. But who knows, maybe I’ll find myself with a little more free time after classes in the coming weeks.
For my next post I’m going to examine the latest installment of the SWTOR timeline titled The Fall of Exar Kun. After that, I’m going to make a post on Dan Wallace’s The Jedi Path. I received my copy this week but haven’t had the chance to hide-out somewhere and read it cover to cover. After that, I’m going to rejoin my chronological journey and examine the story The Apprentice found in Star Wars Tales volume 5. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

671 BBY: The Despotica: Part IV: Evocar

If you are reading my blog concerning the Xim material and have not read the material yourself, please stop reading this right now, and read all of the Xim material, for if you have not read any of it, you are missing out on some of the most original writing to be found in all of Star Wars literature.

My first suggestion for getting your hands on the material is to pony-up the money and buy a Hyperspace membership. Don’t be cheap, it’s only 15 bucks. Hyperspace has awesome Star Wars stories. It’s a membership that is well worth it. If a membership to Hyperspace is honestly not a financial reality for you, send me an e-mail and I’ll see how I can help engage with the Despotica. You can leave your e-mail here, or you can send me a PM on the SWTOR forums. My handle there is Iscariot.

Michael Kogge, the author of the Xim material, in the words of Abel Pena, is one of the most innovative writers of Star Wars today, and fans of Star Wars literature should take notice of his work. I’ve gone in length about the Xim material before, and covered the predecessors of Evocar in my earlier posts on March of 2010.

Now, to the text itself, Xim: The Despotica (Part IV: Evocar)…

What I found of most interest in this text was the introduction to the play, the mention of a (presumed) bounty hunter, the invocations of divinity, the Oedipal nature of the Xim material, the prevalence of intertexuality in Star Wars literature(again!), and the story’s ending.

The historical preamble leading up to Evocar, written by our old friend professor Skynx, is worth the price of admission alone. Detailing the history of this audiophonic production, and how this play singlehandedly began a revolt in Hutt space, Skynx gives his readers a solid contextual understanding for appreciating the effect this work had on the history of the Hutts. What struck me most in this introduction was Skynx’s remarks that: “Nikto warriors chiselled dialogue from Evocar on their tuskbeast pikes. Klatooinian desert seers committed the entire series to memory so as to recite them at festivals of the Fountain. A troupe of Evocii refugees from Nar Shaddaa even performed a couple episodes on public hyperspace radio as a desperate plea for Republic aid, before being silenced by hired guns”. Like religious adherents memorizing their sacred text lest the words be forgotten or mis-written, Nikto, Klatooinian, and Evocii beings did everything in their power to preserve what they deemed the sacred truth of this audioplay. To these aliens, Direus’pei will always be remembered as “The Good Hutt”.

After the introduction by Skynx, we get to the meat of the play and the story itself. Evocar picks up where Xim at Vontor left off. Defeated, betrayed, and “blinded” at Vontor, Xim is now held in a Hutt dungeon on Evocar where Kossak the Mighty (a Hutt) rules supreme. Xim is eventually brought to the Hutt for trial. Xim’s crimes, in the eyes of the Hutts, are for tyranny and the destruction of species and planets. He is sentenced to death by the Hutt, and in the middle of his execution, is saved by the Evocii, who believe Xim to be the savior of their prophecies. Kossak the Hutt’s palace is brought to ruin, while Xim escapes to fight another day.

Without getting into too much detail over the story, there were lines here and there I want to highlight which caught my attention.

Shool, the prosecutor of Xim, says to the pirate prince before he was brought before Kossak: “To think we scoured the stars, even hired Lirdarc himself to hunt you down, and there you were, Xim the Deposed, lurking right under our feet, breaking stones. “ Unbeknownst to the Hutts, Xim was labouring in their dungeons as a common prisoner. It was only until Xim’s faithful servant Oziaf realized where his master was and brought him to the attention of the Hutt did Xim finally get released from the catacombs. But what caught my attention in this line was the name Lirdarc. When we read this, we are supposed to know who Lirdarc is – but we don’t. Oddly, this is what I enjoy about Kogge’s writing. His presumed audience is not us, Star Wars fans reading his work circa 2009, but his presumed audience is people listening too or watching the holoplay in the Star Wars universe circa 670 BBY. Kogge name drops people and places and events he assumes his presumed audience knows, and makes historical references his presumed audience will understand, but leaves us who are actually reading the work scratching our heads. I can only guess that Lirdarc is the Cad Bane or Boba Fett of his time, and oddly enough, I hope some Star Wars writer down the line picks up on this obscure reference and flushes out the history of Lirdarc, whoever he, she, or it, may be. I think this is a novel approach to Star Wars writing, creating a work for an intended audience which doesn’t exist. Brilliant if you ask me.

To continue with lines which stood out to me in Evocar, I was highly intrigued by the oath Indrexu had to take before giving evidence at Xim’s trial. Being sworn in by Shool, the prosecutor asked: “Your Majesty, do you swear that the testimony you are about to give is the truth and nothing but, by the Original Light so help you?” This line just about made me gasp. Is this a reference to God? The God? The Original Light? Do the Hutt’s believe in such a thing? Do the Hutt’s have religion? I always find references to gods or divinity interesting in Star Wars, because on some level the idea challenges the supremacy of the Force – the Force being the de facto God of the Star Wars universe. I remember a divine power other than the Force being referenced to or evoked before somewhere in one of the other mediums I’ve already addressed, but I can’t seem to remember where I read it. As it is, I wonder what can or will be told about the Original Light.

Moving on, the Oedipal natures of these works keep coming to the foreground of the Despotica. First with Xim’s self-blinding in Xim at Vontor, and again in epic form in Evocar. While giving evidence and verbally sparring with the prisoner, Indrexu, Xim’s former consort, mistress, and Queen says in bombastic Star Wars fashion: “Xim, I am your mother”. Memories of Darth Vader at Bespin aside, I was almost bowled over by this statement. The emotions I felt while reading this were similar to the emotions invoked in me the first time I read Oedipus Rex. I was disgusted, I was revolted, I was surprised – but not Xim. His response: “So?” A twisted reply, revealing the truth that Xim may have knew the entire time, but had no problems with his incest. Kogge should be winning awards for his work here.

Coupled with the Oedipal nature of Evocar, is the literary device of intertextuality. Kogge owes some thanks to Brian Daley, author of the Han Solo Adventures, and the originator of the story of Xim the Despot. I remember reading this trilogy back in the early 90’s after I had finished the Thrawn trilogy. I enjoyed Daley’s work more than Zahn’s in this case. One of my favorite aspects of Star Wars literature is the way texts shape other texts. We’ve encountered it time and again on our journey through the history of Star Wars, and this will not be the last time we see how one Star Wars text forms another. Indeed, the entirety of Star Wars canon is built upon this idea, and is shaped by the nature of intertextuality.

Finally, the ending of Evocar was absolutely brilliant. Our own professor Skynx, nothing but a bug in its larval stage, is knowingly leaving behind his love of Xim scholarship – his fanciful childhood – to cocoon himself for his transformation into a winged creature with Chroma-wings, looking to discover a new love in his adult stage of life. This picture filled me with a deep melancholy. At the end of his post-script he asks his readers to continue with his work, to “take his torch and dare the dark of Xim”. What a sad sad happy ending.

Every lover of Star Wars literature needs to read Kogge’s work. You don't know what you’re missing.

For my next post I’m going to go over some brief references in JvS that deal with Star Wars history after 671 BBY, and before I get to the years 300-100 BBY. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

700 BBY: Star Wars Tales Volume 4: Heart of Darkness

Minch is not Yoda.

I was disappointed by this fact, as I thought Heart of Darkness was going to reveal something of Yoda’s youth – a fact I both bemoaned and appreciated. I appreciated it because I think it’s for the best that Yoda’s past remain shrouded in mystery. There has to be something mysterious left in the Star Wars universe, and Yoda is one of those characters which hasn’t lost his mystery. I also bemoan this fact because I thought a simple story from Yoda’s knighthood would not subtract from his mystery – but then again, maybe it would. As it is, Heart of Darkness is still an origin story which links itself to the Empire Strikes Back.

After reading this comic I, at first, thought Minch was just another name Yoda went by in his youth: a name later to be changed to Yoda. But as Leeland Chee said on wookieepedia “Minch is not part of Yoda’s name”, putting any debate that this character is a young Yoda to bed. Interestingly, Minch was originally Yoda’s first name in the early drafts of the Empire script, but was later dropped for the simple name ‘Yoda’. What is more, in Jedi vs. Sith, on page 132, there is a picture of Yoda “battling Bpfasshi Dark Jedi”. I wonder if Edwards received the inspiration for the picture from Heart of Darkness.

We’ve moved ahead another 280 years in Star War history, to a time where the Galactic Republic rules strong and the Jedi Order looks robust and healthy. In this time-frame it seems the Jedi Order is taking threats of the Sith and Dark Jedi seriously, and not simply burying its head in the sand believing the Sith to be extinct, but actively going and meeting these threats head-on.

Written by Paul Lee and penciled by Paul Lee and Brian Horton, Heart of Darkness, Tale #16 which appeared in Star Wars Tales volume 4, tells the story of Jedi Knight Minch, and his defeat of a Bpfasshi darkside Master. The defeat of the master took place in the famous cave on Dagobah, where Luke received his vision of Vader. Fighting past the dark Master’s use of Dun Moch, Minch managed to cut down the dark leader. As the Bpfasshi Master lay dying, his final words to the Yoda-like creature were eerie: “You will make a great addition to the Dark Jedi…one day”. I wonder if the words of this dark master come to fruition sometime in the future, or if this was simply his continued use of Dun Moch on Minch.

Regardless, as the end of the text states regarding the cave: “A new place of power, anointed with the sweat of the just and the blood of the wicked, is founded”. It is this cave that Yoda later comes to during his self-imposed exile. If I remember correctly, it is because of this Dark Master’s black mark on Dagobah that Yoda felt he could hide his presence in the galaxy – away from the searching eyes of Palpatine and Vader.

I enjoyed the art in this piece, and I thought it especially sinister the way the Bpfasshi adept committed suicide rather than being captured. Still, if this story was about Yoda, I don’t think it would take anything away from the Jedi Master’s mystery. This was a neat little tale which further detailed the universe we love. For my next post I’ll be engaging with our old friend Xim once more. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

1010 BBY - 980 BBY: Miscellaneous Missings from Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force

In my final post regarding this time period in Star Wars history I once again turn to the pages of Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential guide to the force. I mined all possible pages which referenced the epoch of Darth Bane. The pages I covered were 9, 10, 27, 158-159, and 160-167.

As Jedi vs. Sith is a secondary reference text, very little new information was revealed. The information contained in these pages mostly went over what we already knew about this space in history. There were, however, little tidbits of historical interest.

Darth Andeddu’s holocron seems to have withstood the test of time, and over the mellinial made its way from the hands of Set Harth, to Count Dooku and the era of the Clone Wars. I look forward to exploring this era of Star Wars history, as I am slowly closing in on the era of the prequel trilogy.

I also thought it interesting that the Thought Bomb is eventually destroyed by Kyle Katarn and the spirits of the trapped Jedi (and Sith) are eventually released from their prisons of hell.

The most interesting component of these pages though, was the story told by Pernicar, and his encounter with his former apprentice on Russan. I found this story tragic as Pernicar had to cut down his former student, who had now turned to the darkside and joined Kaan’s Brotherhood of Darkness. The purpose of this story was so Pernicar could discuss Sith lightsabers and how they differ from those of the Jedi. What I found absolutely mind blowing in this discourse was the fact that a synthetic red crystal, and naturally occurring red crystals which power Sith sabers, have the ability to break the blade of a Jedi’s saber. This fact must play on the minds of Jedi when they encounter a Sith in lightsaber combat. I would assume this rare occurrence must be trained for by the Jedi, lest they be caught by surprise.

Moving the discussion in a different direction, the words of Palpatine, reflecting on the teachings of Seviss Vaa and his discussion of Sith worlds, brought my studies of this final stage of history in a different direction. It is the first time in Star Wars source material that Darth Millennial is mentioned – the student of Darth Cognus, herself the student of Darth Zannah. I think it appropriate then at this point to engage with Pena’s essay Evil Never Dies, and his handling of post Bane/Zannah history.

Pena goes into detail about the happenings of the Sith order after Darth Bane, and the schism created within the Sith, predicated by Darth Cognus’ inability to inculcate in her apprentice an appreciation for the rule-of-two. Cognus’ failure is further exemplified by her inability to dispatch her apprentice once Millennial had proved himself a heretic from accepted Sith philosophy. Millennial then goes on to found the Prophets of the Darkside. An organization living contravene to the rule-of-two.

I liked Pena’s essay, as it was very similar to what Kogge and Fry did in their dealings with the Xim material. My only complaint with the work is that it wasn’t written “in-universe” and I would have preferred it if the narrator was an in-universe character – and therefore could be dated by someone like Joe Bongiorno. Somewhat like what Kogge did with the narrator of his works being professor Skynx, I think Evil Never dies would have been better if another such professor of Sith history was narrating the text instead of Pena himself.

This essay also reveals the origins of Plaristes moniker – a reference to a Pre-Republic thinker. There’s some narrative that should be explored I think.

Most of all, with regards to Evil Never Dies, I thought it interesting how the Prophets of the darkside later reconnected with Sidious in the future, thereby bringing Bane’s broken lineage in line with his dynasty once again.

Moving back to the text Jedi vs. Sith, pages 160-167 only went over the history we are already familiar with, and did not reveal anything new to Star Wars history.

On a personal note, I apologize for the lack of posting this month. Work became very busy as mark reporting was expected of us a month earlier than expected, which meant I had to move my timeline of projects and assignments up, which means I was chained to my desk marking said projects and assignments. I hope to pick up my posts now that early reporting is out of the way.

For my next post I’ll be venturing ahead a few centuries to the comic short Heart of Darkness found in the pages of Star Wars Tales volume 4. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

980 BBY: Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil

Drew Karpyshyn gets it.

I’ll explain what I mean by this towards the end of the post; suffice it to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the Bane trilogy and what Karpyshyn added to the Star Wars mythos.

Dynasty of Evil was the shortest of the three novels, and aptly named as by the end of the book, Darth Bane – Dark Lord of the Sith, had indeed established a dynasty of evil.

There are only three areas from this novel I want to discuss today, namely, the mention of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, cloning, and Darth Andeddu.

In Dynasty of Evil we meet Serra, Caleb the healer’s daughter, now all grown up and out for revenge for the murder of her husband. Because a Jedi was killed on her home planet, and she being the princess of Doan, it was necessary for her to travel to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant to explain to the Council that her family, the royalty of Doan, had nothing to do with the Jedi’s death. Upon entering the airspace of Coruscant, we see the Jedi Temple through the eyes of Serra: “…the Temple dominated the skyline. Serra recalled that it had been built on top of a mountain. Not on a mountain…but actually over the mountain – the stepped pyramid covered the entire surface, swallowing the mountain so completely that it was no longer visible” (59). This description of the Jedi Temple brought me back to the TOR comic Threat of Peace, and the TOR game trailer Deceived, where we were witness to the annihilation of the Jedi’s sacred space in 3653BBY.

A couple of thoughts came to mind as I was reading the description of the Jedi Temple. Firstly, is this the same temple that was reconstructed after the attack of the Sith in 3653 BBY? I briefly went over my notes, and as far as I can remember the Jedi Temple, in the history of Star Wars up until this point, had never been destroyed. The Order itself had been nearly wiped out by the Sith triumvirate, but as far as I can remember the structure of the Temple itself has always remained intact (I think this is correct, and I can’t seem to remember reading anything about the Temple being destroyed prior to this date).

Moreover, I began to wonder when the Jedi Temple was eventually rebuilt after the Sith attack. Did the Jedi expand the Temple from its original design, or did they simply look to reconstruct what was lost? Was the Jedi Temple always built over a mountain? Was there a time in Star Wars history, maybe circa 3000BBY to 980BBY (a little over 2000 years of history) where the Temple was brought down a second time? Is the Temple we see in The Phantom Menace the same Temple described in the pages of Dynasty of Evil? All interesting and thought provoking questions I think.

All of this talk of Temple destruction brought a whole host of other thoughts and questions to mind, and reminded me of the destruction of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70CE. It was this thought which really precipitated all my other inquires. Prior to 70CE, the Jews (lead by King Herod) rebuilt the first Temple of Solomon after its destruction at the hands of the Babylonians centuries prior. This ushered in the age of Jewish history known as Second Temple Judaism. What I find interesting here is how the Jewish people of the past measured time – they did so by counting the reigns of Kings and Judges and the beginnings of Abraham and Moses, but also when their sacred structures were built and then subsequently destroyed. Did the Jedi do this as well? (There’s a great essay topic: Jews and Jedi – the effect of Temple destruction on the psyches of a people).

As a matter of fact, how do inhabitants of the Star Wars universe measure time? I remember reading an in-universe story which explained the use of BBY and ABY, but such an explanation only makes sense regarding events which occurred after the battle of Yavin. And I can see how characters who are chronologically set after the battle of Yavin (Jacen Solo for example) could make reference to events prior to the battle of Yavin using the BBY marker. But how do characters living in the universe before the battle of Yavin measure time? It’s certainly not with the denotation “BBY”. What year did Darth Bane think he was born? How did he himself know he was 45 years old? According to what measurement of time did he use? I think this absence of measuring time from an in-universe perspective prior to the marker of BBY is an element lacking in Star Wars literature.

Moreover, now that I’ve gone through the beginnings of Star Wars history at length, I think the time markers BBY and ABY are inadequate. The battle of Yavin was not the most dramatic event in the Star Wars universe when one accounts for the entirety of Star Wars history (granted I myself have yet to get through that entirety).

We in our world mark time from the birth of Christ (whether we recognize his religious significance or not – changing the AD/BC denotations to CE/BCE really doesn’t hide the fact that our Gregorian calendar measures time from the birth of a significant individual – a birthdate incorrectly applied mind you) Yet Star Wars, a universe that has a habit of emulating our own, does not have the birth of a significant individual to turn to, so in lieu of that, we use the battle of Yavin to mark time. But I think there is a significant event we can turn to to measure time with without using the BBY and ABY denotations – the birth of the Republic.

In 25,000 BBY the Galactic Republic was founded. This could be year zero. This was a significant event that most sentient beings in the universe can turn to to establish common ground. Events prior to the founding of the Republic can be referred to as BGR (Before the Galactic Republic). According to this measurement of time, the first human colonists of Alderaan landed on that planet in 2,500BGR. Events after the founding of the Republic can be marked with AGR (After the Galactic Republic). Therefore, according to this measurement the events of Darth Bane would have taken place in 24,000AGR, and the battle of Yavin would have taken place in 25,000AGR. I think this measurement of time gives a more significant understanding of the age and depth of the Star Wars universe.

All of this nonsense, of course, is the ravings of a mad man who has put entirely too much time and thought into his obsession with Star Wars. Take everything I write with a grain of salt.

Wasn’t I supposed to be discussing the novel Dynasty of Evil?

Ok, back to my post. The description of the Jedi Temple on page 59 started all this, and ultimately I think a discussion of the Temple’s history was interesting, and that there is a better way to measure time in Star Wars.

Now on to my next point: the mention of cloning.

Because Darth Bane managed to master the art of essence transfer, he toyed with the idea of creating a clone body to house his essence, or soul, to create a Sith dynasty and live forever: “The best candidate would be an engineered clone body, an empty shell with no thoughts or identity of its own. But creating a suitable clone could take years…” (162). I’m vaguely familiar with the history of Star Wars after the battle of Yavin, and I know Palpatine also cloned his body in order to achieve eternal life, but I don’t think Palpatine had the same understanding of the darksdie Bane had, as I think Palpatine’s clones did not possess the collective knowledge he had managed to collect over time. But I don’t know that for certain – I’m fairly unfamiliar with that material. Maybe Karpyshyn was making the connection between Bane and Palpatine. I look forward to engaging with that future material though, and hopefully connecting a lot of dots between two Dark Lords of the Sith.

Cloning is a prime example of the stagnancy of technology in the Star Wars universe. I think cloning was first mentioned all the way back at 3963BBY, where it came to light that Jarael was a clone of Arca Jeth, the Jedi Master of Cay and Ulic Qel-Droma. I’ve come to accept that the Star Wars universe is a universe that reached the peak of its technology around 4000BBY. Nothing drastically changes after this date, not advances in weaponry, medicine, or science. There may be some improvements here or there, or bigger ships, but other than the size of the technology the technology itself stays basically the same.

My final point of discussion in today’s post centers upon the character of Darth Andeddu and his holocron. Darth Andeddu fills in some gaps, I believe, with regards to the Sith emperor from the Old Republic era and his secret of longevity. The end of the Blood of the Empire series came out a few weeks ago, and when I’m finished with Dynasty of Evil, I’ll return to that unfinished source. But before I make my final comments on that particular piece, there were certain events which took place in that comic that have repercussions, I believe, in Dynasty of Evil. It seems that the Sith emperor’s apprentice was running from him, to prevent herself from becoming one of his “children”; basically from losing her own soul to become possessed by the emperor. This makes sense, as Andeddu predates the Sith emperor (whose earliest appearance in Star Wars chronology thus far dates back to 3961) and from what I’ve read from wookieepedia, Andeddu was an apprentice of Karness Murr from circa 7000BBY. Therefore, it stands to reason that if the Sith emperor came after Darth Andeddu, that the emperor may have learned the technique of essence transfer from Andeddu himself. With the ability of essence transfer, the Sith emperor would be able to take his time with his invasion of the Republic. It could also be that the Sith emperor is an ancient Dark Lord of the Sith who dates back to before the 100 year darkness, but his backstory still remains to be seen.

So, what do I mean by my opening statement that ‘Karpyshyn gets it’?

I’m a fairly simple guy, and I like it when the end of the story I’ve read has a nice conclusion where everything is wrapped up. I don’t like to think too much (despite what my long winded posts may indicate) when it comes to fantasy and science fiction literature. I want to know simply who won: the good guys or the bad guys. Give it to me straight. Treat me like an uneducated buffoon. But at the end of Dynasty of Evil Karpyshyn got clever, which required me to think, which irritated me. I had to pause and contemplate the notion of whether or not the essence transfer worked between Bane and Zannah. I then had to re-read the text and draw conclusions of my own. Ugh!

Ultimately, I think the essence transfer worked for three reasons. Firstly, after the essence transfer ritual and the destruction of Bane’s body, we are told that Zannah: “…moved awkwardly and couldn’t seem to stand up straight, as if she was unfamiliar with how her own limbs and muscles worked” (293). Karpyshyn then gives us an out by stating, ‘but this could have been because of the battle’. At this point I’m not quite ready to buy that. Bane was too powerful, too smart, and had risked too much at this point to fail. Zannah had no idea what sort of attack was coming, and in this final spiritual confrontation between master and apprentice, Bane was too well prepared for what was about to happen. Like a newborn horse finding its feet, Bane was getting his balance after his rebirth in his new body. Secondly, After Zannah rose from the ground, Darth Cognus asked of Zannah “Lord Bane?” (293) Why would Cognus feel the need to ask this? She knew nothing of the essence transfer ritual, and had no idea that possessing an individual through the Force was even an option. I think she asked this question because her instincts and the Force had told her what happened: that Bane now possessed Zannah – but she has nothing rational or concrete to support her instinct. She knew it was an insane question, yet she still couldn’t deny the instinct that something had changed. All she has to go on is what Zannah next told her – that Bane is dead and she is her new master. She could only take this statement at face value. What is more, Bane has every incentive to lie to his student about what happened at this point. Why reveal the essence transfer ritual when he (in the form of Zannah) may need Cognus’ body at some point in the future? Holding on to the essence transfer secret is in a Dark Lord’s best interest. Thirdly, right before the epilogue, we are told that: “[Cognus] couldn’t help but notice that, as she was speaking, Zannah was continually clenching and unclenching the fingers of her left hand” (294). I’m pretty certain at this point Karpyshyn is telling us the ritual worked, since this was one of Bane’s physical traits. I can’t think of any reasonable reason to include this piece of text only to then try and convince the reader that the ritual didn’t work.
With all that being said however, Karpyshyn did enough to keep the conclusion a little open-ended, and that is why he gets it. In writing a Star Wars story the author does not look to conclude their stories with a wrapped up ending – they want to keep endings a little mysterious. Wrapped up endings is not what Star Wars is about. Inevitably some other writer at some point in the future is going to pick up another Star Wars author’s story and that author’s characters, and begin taking them in directions that the original author never dreamed of. This is exactly what has happened with the Expanded Universe. Other storytellers came along and expanded upon Lucas’ vision. And likewise, other storytellers are going to pick up the legacy of Darth Bane and Zannah, and write the story of the Master/Apprentice relationship between Zannah and Cognus.

Maybe Zannah is Zannah, but I don’t think so. I think Bane was successful and is looking to further develop his revenge plot against the Jedi.

But that’s just one man’s opinion.
For my next post I’m going to fill in the gaps of the Blood of the Empire comic, and then engage with the Jedi vs. Sith Force guide, and mine all references to Bane and Darth Andeddu. In the meantime though, I’m going to take Plaristes’ advice and take a look at the short story Bane of the Sith and the comic All for You; both sources are considered non-canonical. I’m not going to deal with them in their own post however. I’m just going to reply to Plaristes question in the comment field on my post on Rule of Two. So, if at all possible, Plaristes, would you be able to set me up at the end of a source with a non-canonical source following with a question like “so are you going to read…’? That way I can go, ‘Why yes…and here are my thoughts on that…’ Let me know if you don't mind being my straight-man.

Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

1000 BBY - 990 BBY: Darth Bane: Rule of Two

Even though I love my job, and truly believe teaching is my calling, I wish I could somehow make the Star Wars Chronology Project my full time job. The more I get engrossed in the material, the more I wish I could just be at home surrounded by peace and quiet, silently reading the novels, short stories, or playing the video games and recording my thoughts and reactions. I’m having entirely too much fun with this blog.

Things are going to be heating up at work with assignments coming in and tests to be given out, so all my spare time will go to marking – the necessary yet darkside of teaching. I’m already lamenting the time I can’t spend on the project in the coming months.

But in the here and now, I have a few reactions to the second book of Karpyshyn’s Bane trilogy: Rule of Two.

Though I enjoyed this book more than the first installment, I have only a few small things to comment on, namely; Farfalla’s flagship (again!), the destruction of Darovit’s hand, the role and history of the Chancellor of the Republic, the planet of Tython, and the final lightsaber duel.

In Path of Destruction I commented on how Karpyshyn downplayed the fantastical nature of the comic Jedi vs. Sith, even going so far as to exclude a description of Jedi Master Valenthyne Farfalla’s flagship the Farwind. I guess he had a change of heart, because in the opening pages of the novel, he defined the look of Jedi flagship for his readers unfamiliar with the comic: “Fashioned so that her exterior resembled an ancient sailing barge, the vessel had an archaic elegance, a grandeur that some felt was a sign of vanity unbecoming in a Jedi” (pg. 10). Even though this was the only description of the ship in the book, it still gave readers something to imagine. What I find most remarkable though, is Karpyshyn’s reluctance to fully describe the physical appearance of Valenthyne’s lower half. There is never any mention of his satyr legs. The most we get is that Valenthyne “nimbly” jumped over someone or something.

I wonder why this is so? Does Karpyshyn himself not agree with the way the story was artistically rendered in the original comic? Does he also feel that Ramon F Bachs interpretation of events is too close to the fantasy genre? I think these are questions I’d like to ask him if I ever got the chance.

Moving on, I was surprised at how the events surrounding the destruction of Darovit’s hand played out in the text, as I completely mis-read the turn of events in the comic. I had originally thought it was Bane who blew up Darovit’s hand, not in any act of mercy, but because it was he who felt his death would serve no purpose. Looking back, I can now see where my interpretation went awry. I don’t know why I thought it was Bane who blew up Darovit’s hand, as there is a caption clearly showing Zannah concentrating, then Darovit’s hand blowing up. What I did like about this scene though, was Bane’s patience with Zannah. He knew she acted out of mercy, and in turn showed some mercy himself, as he realized compassion would be something he would have to instruct out of his student in the future. He couldn’t expect her to be a Dark Lord of the Sith right away.

This leads me to another great scene I enjoyed: the flashback when Bane teaches Zannah about patience and using living things like tools – and to never become attached. I also felt a twang of sadness when Bane broke the neck of the neek.

I wonder what Master Thon would think of a Dark Lord of the Sith taking up residence where he buried the powers of the darkside from that planet. It just goes to show you how fully and completely Master Thon decimated those powers, as the only thing they are capable of is perverting the wildlife. What is more, Darth Bane – Dark Lord of the Sith – was unable to pull on those powers from the lake.

Furthering my reactions to Rule of Two, I found the character of Supreme Chancellor Tarsus Valorum interesting, but what I found more interesting was some of the history revealed around the role of Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. In musing about the Chancellor, Johun wondered about how he came to be in that position of power: “It was these traits, along with his exemplary record of public service, that had led to Valorum being appointed the first non-Jedi Chancellor in over four centuries” (pg. 94). I found that bit of information mildly shocking, because from all I know of the Star Wars universe, this would seem to me a conflict of interest for the people of the Republic and a conflict of philosophy for the Jedi. Would there not be some in the Jedi order, who over the four centuries mentioned, crave the position of power offered by the role of Supreme Chancellor? In our own universe, more than a few popes themselves could not stop from abusing their power as leader of the empire (I know papal experts could argue that popes were never the leaders of the empire, but just ask Emperor Frederick II who was in charge of the empire when Pope Gregory IX excommunicated him who he thought was in charge).

I explored this bit of history a little on wookieepedia, the only source I could really turn to to investigate the linage of Supreme Chancellors, and found that during the time frame mentioned by Karpyshyn, there is no history of who these Jedi Chancellors were. There was, however, one mention of a Jedi Chancellor from 4000 BBY to 3997 BBY, Sidrona Diath, Dace Diath’s father. Dace, if your recall, was part of the Jedi strike team from Ossus that assisted Cay Qel-Droma, Nomi Sunrider, and Tott Doneeta and company on their assault of Exar Kun and the forces of the Krath. It is mentioned that Dace’s father was Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, but that tidbit of information slipped pasted me when I was investigating that timeframe. I still find it remarkable that the Jedi were able to hold this position of authority.

The way Karpyshyn presented this information was interesting as well, because Johun thought it remarkable that a Jedi was not appointed to the Chancellorship, as most people thought it was going to be Farfalla who was going to be elected. So from what we know, sometime between the years 1400 BBY and 1000 BBY, there was a string of Jedi Supreme Chancellors.

In my opinion, that era of history is absolutely ripe for storytelling. Right there we have the makings of an epic hero in the most traditional sense. I think I’ll begin to ponder this area of Star Wars history myself.

Jedi Chancellors aside, I still haven’t talked about the most interesting Supreme Chancellor in Star Wars history (to date anyway), Blotus the Hutt, from 9000 BBY. Supreme Chancellor for over 275 years, Blotus is regarded by most historians to be one of the greatest to hold this office. A Hutt! Can you believe it?!? Dan Wallace, Steve Sansweet, Pablo Hidalgo, and Jason Fry, through a compilation of texts these writers have collaborated on, were having entirely too much fun creating and adding to the history of Supreme Chancellors in the Star Wars universe. Here’s a topic of historical expansion for any one of these writers. It could follow a similar chronology or written in the same style one would follow presidential history, the history of any monarchy, or papal history. I can see it now. Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Supreme Chancellors of the Republic.

In addition to an interesting history of Supreme Chancellors, Karpyshyn did a really good job with the final battle sequence between Bane, Zannah, Johun, Farfalla, Worror, Lsu, and Xaj. It was well described, and I found I could follow the action quite easily. It was an epic fight, the most interesting aspect being the use of Worror’s battle meditation. How powerful was that Jedi Master? He nearly singlehandedly killed Bane.
Though Worror did not attempt to use the Force power Wall of Light on Bane, I wonder why more Jedi do not use the power of Wall of Light to cut their opponents off from the Force? It’s made out to be some morally incorrect thing to do on the part of a lightside Jedi, but I wholly disagree with this sentiment. If the Jedi truly believe that what they are doing is for the greater good, I would argue that they are under a moral imperative to cut the Force from those who abuse their power.

My final point of discussion centers upon the world of Tython. In Rule of Two, it is presented as a desolate world, one where the darkside of the Force has taken up residence. Many questions arise with this presentation of Tython. What happened to it? In The Old Republic, Tython was the world the Jedi fled to – their ancestral home world – where they reconnected with the Force, built new temples, and meditated. Somewhere in the 2000 plus year history of this planet, things went terribly wrong. Not only does it seem like the Jedi have been pushed from this sacred space, but the darkside of the Force, in the form of a former Dark Lord of the Sith, Belia Darzu, has taken control. From the material presented in the Old Republic sources, Tython was once a lush and verdant planet. Unfortunately it seems like a grey and dead place now. I’m sure somewhere down the line an explanation will be provided as to what happened to the once Jedi stronghold.

I’ll complete my reactions today with a question to you, my reader. What did you think of Rule of Two? Please, share your own insights and reactions here.

For my next post I’ll engage with the third installment of the Bane trilogy – Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.