Friday, April 30, 2010

3956 BBY: Payback

Revan and Malak’s victory over the Mandalorian forces shattered the Mandalorian war-machine, but more importantly to the Dark Jedi’s cause, their victory decimated the Mandalorian culture. Now scattered throughout the galaxy as mercenaries for hire, the Mandalorians want to avenge their destructive loss. Though unable to confront the new Sith Empire in large scale, the Mandalorians have moved to guerrilla warfare, and attack the Sith in small controlled skirmishes.

Payback, a minatures scenario by Wizards of the Coast, is the story of a small band of Mandalorians taking the fight to the Sith on the planet Taris. As the adventures reads: “a small group of Mandalorian mercenaries trapped on the planet take it upon themselves to exact a little payback on a newly established Sith outpost”. Using the element of surprise, the Mandalorians ambush the Sith outpost. The Sith however, are ever prepared, and thus the stage is set for this particular piece of Star Wars history.

As with all stories of an RPG miniatures nature, it is not the outcome of the events that are important, but simply that the events themselves took place.
Moving away from the source text itself though, I want to comment on this particular pieces' placement in Star Wars chronology

In Joe Bongiorno’s chronology he has placed this miniatures RPG scenario after the KOTOR video game, but since I have become more intimate with the KOTOR game, I think Payback should go before KOTOR, because in this particular piece of historical record the planet of Taris is still standing.

At the end of the first act in KOTOR, Malak maliciously destroys Taris, along with all of its inhabitants, in a fearful attempt to prevent Bastila Shan from escaping the planet’s surface. Since in this RPG scenario the Mandalorians are taking the fight to the Sith on the planet of Taris in revenge for their defeat by Malak and Revan’s forces, I think it should be placed before KOTOR.
As it is, I was biting at the chomp to get a post in before the end of the month, and Payback was a small bit of chronology I could easily post on.

This bit of text aside, It still might be a while yet before I write a post on my reactions to the KOTOR video game. I’m nearing the end of the Tatooine segment, and it’s the first time in a while that I’ve felt like the there is light at the end of the tunnel. Video games will defiantly be the most difficult challenge for me in the Star Wars chronology project. With a source like this in front of me, I wish I were an irresponsible teenager with tons of free time again, but alas, I’m not.

No bother though, as a few more sources have surfaced which I will be able to engage with while I crawl my way through KOTOR’s content. As Plaristes has pointed out to me, the fourth installment of the Lost Tribe of the Sith e-books, Savior, has been recently released. There are some chapters in the Star Wars novel Crosscurrent I can look at, and Hyperspace just released an exclusive called The Secret Journal of Doctor Demigol. I also just read on that a novel set in the time of the Old Republic called Fatal Alliance has been scheduled for release in July, (and yet another novel about the enigmatic Darth Malgus has been scheduled for release in late December – but I’ll probably have to backlog that one) so hopefully I’ll be able to read and report on it as I begin playing my way through KOTOR 2.

With all that being said however, video games will defiantly be the most challenging media I come across in my pursuit of this PhD.

Before I sign off I just want to share with you, my reader, some of my own Star Wars thoughts, hopes, and dreams, and what I would love to do with Star Wars when I’ve finally completed this little project of mine.

I would love to help resurrect the Star Wars Adventure Journal again. I know that Wizards of the Coast has chosen not to renew its license with Lucasfilm and produce RPG texts, so I wonder now where that leaves the Star Wars role-playing game. I would love to see Star Wars RPG go back to the D6 system, but ultimately, I really don't care if it stays in the D20 realm, or moves on to some other incarnation. I don’t even play the game anymore; I just love the books the RPG genre produces.

So here’s my idea, and where I daydream my role in it: I would love to edit the second edition of the Star Wars Adventure Journal, which would be made up of mostly good fan fiction, and the work of professional writers. I think Hyperspace and the short stories it produces fills this Star Wars short story niche to some extent, but recently I’ve read some really good fan fiction, and my first thought was, “man, it would be awesome to have these writers work’s canonized somehow”. Specifically I’m thinking of a story I read on the swtor forums called An Unexceptional Jedi which I really enjoyed.

Imagine a bi-monthly or tri-monthly publication featuring the work of amateur writers (and professionals), who get to add to the universe they love. This would be coupled with art and RPG stats of the main characters at the end of the story. I know that this was basically the idea of the Star Wars Adventure Journal to begin with; the new element to this idea being that the bulk of the work came from fans, with the submissions being peer edited by those at Lucasfilm who have every intent of keeping continuity intact.

I would love to be one of its editors. Basically I’d love to have the job where I get to read fan fiction and add it to the giant mosaic that is already the Star Wars universe. Make sense? Or am I just sounding like a true Star Wars fanatic?

Anyway, I think it’s time I ended this post.

My next post (if it’s not KOTOR) will most likely be my reactions to the fourth part of the Lost Tribe of the Sith series. I’ve given up on the idea that I can keep my chronological study of Star Wars completely inline, so for the next little while I’ll be doing some time-travel across a galaxy far far away. Until next time my friends, May the Force be with you.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Miscellaneous Missings: 25,000 BBY – 3956 BBY

When Plaristes pointed out to me sources I had missed in the text, Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force, I was irritated at myself for having overlooked important bits of chronology essential for the completion of my project. When I had initially engaged with the JvS text, I only looked at the pages I thought were important to what I was dealing with; namely, the 100 year darkness and subsequent stories. What I failed to do was look at the book as a whole. I did not read the book in its entirety because I wanted to look at Star Wars with a fresh perspective, and I did not want to be influenced by future historical events. It’s important to me that I deal with events in their original source texts before I get to second hand accounts, which is what the JvS text is – second hand accounts. Even though I have already read a great deal of Star Wars EU, I want to see if reading the story of Star Wars in chronological order makes any difference in what it has to offer a devoted fan (I’m not really convinced it does, but that still remains to be seen).

I became even more irritated at myself when I completed reading the sources in question. Firstly because my Star Wars chronological line was broken (again), and this time it wasn’t because of sources coming out after I had begun the project (Xim for example), but because I wasn’t careful enough with the source text in the first place. Secondly, the stories I missed were not only important because of what they offered with regards to Star Wars chronology, but they were also vastly entertaining and original. Indeed, after engaging with JvS in a more thorough manner, my appreciation for it has grown tremendously.

I don’t think I’ve heaped enough praise on Ryder Windham for this book. Now that I’ve engaged with it in more detail, I can see that the writing in this book is phenomenal, and reminds me in many ways of the Xim material I’ve recently covered. I think I overlooked it for a few reasons. First of all, because it was the initial text I dealt with when I started on my quest, and therefore I did not really notice what this book had to offer in the ways of Star Wars history and writing. And secondly, because its subject matter is the Force, and Jedi, and Sith, and all things “Star Wars” I think I took the content of this work for granted.

In this text Ryder Windam writes from multiple “in-universe” perspectives, much like way Kogge used the character of professor Skynx in the Xim material. His narrators though are many and varied, being Masters of the Force, Dark Lords of the Sith, or green Jedi apprentices. Their commentary ranges over topics such as: the early history of the Jedi order, the nature of evil and the darkside, and the first battles between the lightside and darkside of the Force. Wyndams’ writing is artful and well done, as each character he proffers has his or her own unique voice, intonation, and personal philosophy.

So, now that I have engaged with Jedi vs. Sith in a more comprehensive manner, I have a lot to say.

For my post today I’m going to reach all the way back into the near beginnings of Star Wars history, and take into account certain highlights of early Star Wars chronology I should have addressed back when I started. I’m going to begin in the year 24,500 BBY with the Jedi apprentice Danzigorro Potts. I’ll then move ahead a few millennia to Sar Agorn, an ancient Jedi Master. From there I’ll jump ahead a few more millennia to the perspective of the darkside and the words of Ajunta Pall, Naga Sadow, and Kla (and what I myself think is the most intriguing point in this post). I’ll move back into the light with the words of Masters Odan-Urr, Thon, Vima Sunrider, and Tolaris. Finally, I’ll end with the words of Darth Revan, and set myself up nicely to continue the Star Wars Chronology Project in its proper chronological order – with my next post focusing on my reactions to the KOTOR video game (which I’m STILL working my way through).

The recorded words of Danzigorro Potts offer the Star Wars historian the very first 1st -person account of Star Wars history. Set in 24,500 BBY, Potts, after surviving the battle of General Xendor and the first Dark Legion, records his thoughts and emotions on a holorecorder after the battle. This was the first Great Schism of the Jedi order, and prior to this the Jedi lived in relative harmony with each other for 500 years. The schism occurred because General Xendor, himself a Jedi, believed that the Jedi did not have to obey the authority of the council. Xendor’s perspective and use of the force was for the self, and the furthering of one’s own personal power. This, of course, set him in conflict with the Jedi order which proffers a selfless view of using Force powers.

Many Jedi were swayed by Xendor’s new perspective on freedom and joined his cult. One member who joined Xendor’s cult was a dear friend of Danzigorro Potts, Culhallox – a friend Potts was forced to confront in battle. Potts’ holo-recording after the battle had been won was fraught with uncertainty and emotion, and was a moving piece of Star Wars literature written by Wyndam. After reading this holo-recording, the reader is provided with a real sense of how difficult this battle was physically, but more so emotionally. After reflecting on the battle, and attempting to come to terms with having just killed his friend (and her Master), Potts does not condemn her actions, but instead tries to come to terms with what just happened from her perspective, and indeed, the Jedi apprentice places some blame on the Jedi order: “I think she just got tired of all the Jedi rules, being told what to do, how to behave, how not to behave, all the time. I think it crushed her a bit”.

Strict obedience in the face of individualized temptation is a difficult challenge to overcome. This episode in Star Wars history reminds me of a video I show my grade 12 religion class during the unit of conscience formation. I show a documentary from BBC called “The Monastery”, and there is an interesting scene in it where the abbot talks to the new recruits about obedience and overcoming temptation, and seeing freedom not as one’s ability to indulge one’s self, but having the freedom to say no to temptation, and then to take the next step and humble one’s self to an order. Obedience to superiors is obedience to God, says Saint Benedict. In this clip, go to the 3:36 mark and watch to the 8:00 mark to see my point. “Obedience to your Master, young padawan, is obedience to the Force”, says ancient Master Onodrim.

Sar Agorn, an ancient Master (approx 18,000 BBY) long after Danzigorro Potts, provides for the Star Wars Historian events prior to the First Great Schism. Master Sar Agorn’s sentiments (as are recorded through the Jedi historian Tionne Solusar) reflect those presented in the above video. I enjoyed his mention of monastic life, and that an education in proper moral judgment was essential for a Jedi in order to use their powers ethically. What is more, Agorn says that “patience, humility, and self sacrifice are paths to enlightenment” (JvsS, pg 54 – last paragraph). The mention of enlightenment here reminded me of the Story of Freedon Nadd, and his failure to reach enlightenment, and hence, the rank of Jedi Knight.

Agorn goes on to talk about Tython, the ancestral home of the Jedi, and where the first Jedi of the Republic came from. This is the first time in Star Wars chronology that this planet is mentioned. Not only is the ancestral home of the Jedi mentioned, but Agorn talks about “Ashla” and “Bogan”, the names the first Jedi gave to the lightside and darkside of the Force respectively. What I also found interesting was Agorn’s discussion of the first Force users in the galaxy; the “Mystic Order of Dai Bendu”, the “Followers of Palawa” who practice at the “Legendary Chatos Academy” and the “Ashla Worshippers of Tython” (presumably the first Jedi Knights).

The most interesting bit of history Master Sar Agorn had to offer was his story of the ‘first’ Jedi to turn to evil, and the “shadows” of the Force. He enters into a discussion with a student, who asks him the question “what is evil?” In response Agorn tells the story of Cope Shykrill. It’s a chilling tale of Cope Shykrill’s murder of three children, and his almost demonic like possession by the darkside of the Force. The most chilling line in that story was when Master Agorn questioned him on the shadows: “I inquired if the shadows ever spoke to him. He answered ‘You know they speak to me. They spoke to you, too. I heard them” (pg 124). I encourage you to read his story from wookieepedia which I’ve linked. I genuinely found it frightening. I couldn’t help but think of Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series as a read this. Cope was a willing student: polite, helpful, and quiet, much like Tom Riddle.

Star Wars chronology then moves ahead a few millennia, to the words of Ajunta Pall, and into the pallor of the darkside. In his holocron reflections, Pall speaks of the second great schism with the Jedi, and the movement to the planet Korriban. But that’s not what interests me here. One line caught my attention, and allowed me a piece of text I could ‘hang my hat on’ so to speak, and proffer one of my own Star Wars theories. For the record, I’m not sure if any other Star Wars-phile has offered this theory. To be honest, I’ve resisted investigating to see if anyone has, for fear that my one original Star Wars thought is not original at all, and is old news to hardcore fans.

Pall, when speaking on the malleability of the Massassi, says: “Although I personally prefer to rely upon the Force to create organic wonders… (pg157)” (bolded italics added by me). This just about stopped me in my tracks. Later on in the text, Freedon Nadd, who came after Pall says: “Sith Alchemy gives one the power to alter the molecular composition of living beings and reshape inanimate matter…” (pg 174). My thoughts immediately turned to Anakin Skywalker.
Here is my theory: Anakin Skywalker was created by Darth Plagueis the Wise, as revenge on his pupil Palpatine. Darth Plagueis knew that Anakin would one day destroy Palpatine, as he knew that one day Palpatine would destroy him. Darth Plagueis was playing the long revenge card. In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine says to Anakin: “Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midichlorians to create life”. He smirks and looks at Anakin as he says this. I know I like to call this “my theory” but in all reality the way the scene was directed one cannot but understand what Palpatine was inferring in his parable. Darth Plagueis was clearly the progenitor of young Anakin Skywalker. I think it was because he saw into the future and could foresee his pupil betraying him. Therefore, Anakin was Plagueis’ last laugh.

Moving on with the Sith’s perspective on history, Kla, a fallen Jedi and subsequent follower of the Sith, offers his insights into the fall of the Sith Empire, but as experts on Star Wars chronology to this point, it’s nothing we already don’t know.

With the conclusion of Kla’s thoughts, Odan-Urr, a Jedi Master we’re familiar with discusses a few things of interest. Much like the words of Ajunta Pall and Naga Sadow stopped me in my tracks, so did the words of Odan-Urr, our consummate academic. When speaking on how a Jedi should conduct themselves in public, I couldn’t help but think of the current state of the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church: “When a Jedi behaves badly in public, an observer might think, If this Jedi is representative of the whole Order, then plainly no Jedi is worthy of respect. On meeting a second Jedi, who behaves better than the first, that same person might think, Does this say that half of the Jedi are good, and half bad? On meeting a third Jedi, who behaves as well as the second, the person thinks, Was the first Jedi an exception, then? In this way, only by the good behavior of several Jedi can the public be certain that the poor behavior of one Jedi was unusual. Thus, it takes many Jedi to undo the mistakes of one” (pg 56). The problem, however, with my comparison is that it was not one priest in one parish behaving badly. It was several, around the world. This is what deeply saddens me. Still, Master Odan-Urr’s words ring true.

Moving on, Odan-Urr’s comments again on the devastating ability to sever the Force completely from an individual. As he says, it is the: “most devastating attack possible using the powers of light”. This, or course, was utilized by Nomi Sunrider on Ulic after he had killed his brother.
Though I understand how devastating it is, I wonder why it is not utilized more by lightside Jedi. It seems to me the most powerful non-violent attack a Jedi could use. Would not a Jedi want to sever the Force from Revan or Malak? Would not Luke want to strip Palpatine of his powers? I believe this is a very respectful power. It does not kill, thus not disrespecting life. But it does not respect a beings judgment and ability to use a power benevolently.
Granted, it does become a question of ‘my morals are more worthy than yours’, or ‘my worldview is more correct than yours’. But what is the point of adhering to a system of belief, if you do not believe that it is actually the most correct way to live? I know Odan Urr, after explain this power to Nomi places a disclaimer on it saying something like: ‘but to strip any force user from the force is a terrible thing…blah, blah, blah’. My retort to Master Urr would then be ‘but Master, if we really believe that we are the guardians of light and peace and justice, is it not our duty to trade one person’s misery or separation, not death, but merely a tumultuous emotional state, for peace, prosperity, and the common good of all?’ ‘Why, Master Odan-Urr, are we worried about this Dark Jedi’s feelings?’
I don’t know, that’s just me. I’d be severing Dark Jedi from Force left right and centre.
Master Thon, a contemporary of Odan Urr, discusses in the holocron the ability of battle meditation, and calls it: “among the most worthy of skills.” Battle meditation is apparently quite rare, and is the central ability of Bastila Shan in the KOTOR video game.

Finishing off on our last two lightside speakers, Vima Sunrider, the daughter of Nomi, and Tolaris, a contemporary of the Qel-Droma’s, talk about the events of the first Sith War. Vima focuses on her tutelage under Ulic sans Force Powers, while Tolaris talks about the four stages of seduction to the darkside. His basic warning was that all Jedi, even the most wise and most noble of the Masters, must always be mindful of their actions, least they fall to the darkside without even knowing it.

To complete my dealings on the Jedi vs. Sith text, I end on the words of Darth Revan, and the blinding arrogance of the dark. Darth Revan says: “Those who serve the light are limited in what they can accomplish”. I’m always so dismayed at the obliviousness of the power of the light held by the Sith. Darth Revan is not the first Sith to believe the notion that the dark is more powerful than the light. I wonder then, how they reconcile their view of the Force when they are eventually defeated by the light. I guess it’s all part of being Sith. There is this inability, weakness even, to recognize the strength of the light, a blinding arrogance, one could say.

Before I sign off I want to comment one more time of the artwork in this book. The work is truly absolutely stunning. I’ve decided to buy myself a second copy, and carefully cut the artwork out to have multiple pieces of Star Wars art from this book placked and placed around my classroom. My students already know I’m a Star Wars nut, so this won’t really make a difference.
My next post may not be for a while. I’m approaching the Tatooine section in the KOTOR video game, and I know I still have much more content to go. Wish me luck. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.