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.