Tag Archives: Nerd

The Intensity Of Head-Space

Today is Star Wars Day, so of course I have to write about it. There’s so much I could write about. Realistically, it’s an absolutely amazing story. It has so much longevity, and as far as I know, it’s the closest we’ve got to a parallel universe. What I mean by that is, for one thing, it exists in several genres. Regardless of the quality, one can read, watch, and play Star Wars. This has been true since the very beginning. The universe exploded with A New Hope, and it’s still expanding. What is also significant is that is the amount of contributions from fans. The people who love this story shape what happens in its future and in the parts of the galaxy we wouldn’t otherwise see.

The latest RPG I’ve been a part of is a Star Wars rendition of Dark Heresy. We decided to go this route because we understood and cared about that universe. The time period our game takes place in is the height of the Empire (between Revenge of the Sith, and A New Hope), far away from where the “main story” is taking place. Before this, I had been part of two Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. I hastily threw together my characters, not thinking too much about who they really were, what they cared about, or where they came from. This time I took time.

My character’s name is Sky Turin. Before becoming a Jedi padawan she lived with her father on the lowest level of a planet similar to Coruscant, though this was not where she was originally from. Her parents were from the Sky, which was the wealthiest part of the planet. Think of Cloud City. The Surface, where she lived for most of her early life was the poorest. Her parents were what would probably be the Star Wars version of missionaries, working to empower the poorest people on the planet. When Sky was nineteen she rescued a Jedi, not much older than herself, who crash-landed in her neighborhood while in pursuit of a Dark Jedi. Dark Jedi, if you don’t know, were force-users who were not directly allied with the Jedi or the Sith. They generally minded their own business, but the few Jedi who remained after the Empire took most of them out pursued them, either to bring them over to their side or detain them if they could.

While Sky was helping Val escape, Val discovered that Sky could use the Force, though she didn’t know what she was doing at the time. Sky went with Val to the remaining Jedi–none of them officially masters–and was permitted to learn the Force and become a Jedi herself, as the Jedi were desperate for recruits. After some preliminary training with a light saber, Sky and Val went to a planet similar to Earth to investigate a possible meeting of Dark Jedi in a mountainous area, similar to the Rocky Mountains. While they were there they were ambushed and captured. Their captivity didn’t last long, however, because Val was extremely powerful with the Force. They were able to escape, but had to leave in separate ships. When Sky returned to the Jedi council, she discovered that Val had not returned. The council would not permit her to look for Val, so she left and began searching against their will. This is where I entered our campaign. While I don’t know the specifics of where the story is going, I do know that Sky is assertive, hates the Dark Jedi, hates the Empire, and mistrusts the Jedi themselves. She has been taught that the Dark Side is evil, and will lead to her own destruction, but she’s so obsessed with finding Val that she will most likely not always stick to the Code entirely. She’s also impulsive and will probably make some stupid decisions.

I considered writing Sky’s story in full detail. In fact, I tried, but she’s too distant from me, for lack of a better way to say it. Ironically, I think I have trouble creating a story in an already existent universe. My novel takes place in a future version of the U.S., but almost everything about that world is my own. It feels awkward to me to write about a universe that someone else made, even if I’m inventing most of the details of a story that is otherwise original. It feels weird to talk about the Force and the Empire and the Jedi as if they were my own. It feels invasive in a way, like I’m invading someone else’s creative space. At the same time, the Star Wars universe has always seemed very inviting when it comes to original ideas. I think what this ultimately comes back to is that I’m much better at coming up with characters than I am at coming up with plot. I’m great at writing their past, but when it comes to writing their present, I often get stuck.

I’ve written two hundred pages of my novel thus far, and I’m about fifty pages into Part 2. Part 1 was a lot easier to write. So far I’ve had to write two battle scenes. I think they were both okay, but they both need work. I have trouble with timing and intensity. Right now I’m working on a captivity situation. I have to deal with the head-space of a character who has just been captured and is about to be interrogated by an evil government. This kind of scene is slower, but I think, just as intense, and I’m much better at writing this kind of thing. I think Star Wars is a very action-oriented story, and maybe this is why I have trouble writing in that universe.

One of the greatest stories I’ve ever read is Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Most of that story takes place in dialogue and internal thoughts, which one might assume would be boring, but it’s anything but. Solitude, in particular, can make for some seriously intense character and plot development. Head-space, while mostly metaphorical, is still space, and in that space, anything can happen. In that space, a character can go insane or overcome impossible odds. A person’s psychology makes them who they are, and plot can’t exist without characters. A world without people in it doesn’t matter.

I’ve seen some great and some terrible post-apocalyptic movies. I’ve noticed two things regarding these, and regarding my story. First, the movies that are good have more people in them. It’s hard for a story to maintain its momentum when no one is around to keep things going. Second, what I’ve noticed, and sometimes want to smack myself for, is that I keep creating more characters. My story takes place over a very large area–basically the entire United States. I’ve noticed that the space in which a story takes place tends to correspond with the number of characters that are needed to keep the story going. Sometimes great movies or great stories take place in one house, or even one room. Sometimes there are only two or three characters involved, and these stories can be great. Some of the most intense scenes in my story are conversations or even internal monologues.

Interestingly, in the case of Star Wars, we really don’t get to see too much of the characters’ head-space, at least not directly. Their personalities come out in how they react and adapt to various situations. This is clearly effective because we know and love characters like R2D2 and Chewbacca, who never even speak a word of English. However, I think to get to know characters in this way, there needs to be constant action. There isn’t a lot of time, or even good reason to slow down. Finding a happy medium is definitely difficult. I think the few exceptions are the exchanges between Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi, but even these are short and almost invariably turn into light saber fights. The thing about dialogue is that it has to be executed well. There are far more longer exchanges in The Phantom Menace-Revenge of the Sith, but they’re often not well written. They’re either boring or cheesey. If there had been less talk and more action, I think they would have been better movies.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Own It

Belonging is a high priority for people, made more complicated by the fact that our minds and hearts can comprehend issues like religion, politics, and philosophy. The more things we can belong to, the more things we can be excluded from, and the more difficult it is to figure out precisely where we fit in. Sometimes we simply don’t want to put names to things, but ultimately, identity comes down to categories. We are all unique individuals because of the unique combination of buckets we fit in to. Of course it isn’t always simple. Sometimes our buckets don’t fit together perfectly for whatever reason, and sometimes we fit better in certain groups than in others. Being human is complicated.

I could probably give you an exhaustive list of every bucket I belong in, but it would be a pretty long list. Furthermore, the list might raise some red flags for certain people. I just read an article about a conference held in Houston for LGBTQA Christians. Several different views on many topics were represented, and it seemed like the whole thing was very balanced. Then I read the comments. They were snarky, cruel, and judgmental, and pissed me off royally. I bring this up because I am asexual and Christian, and that might freak some people out, but in my mind, there’s no issue when it comes to bringing these two aspects of my Katie-ness together. In the same vein, as you all know if you’ve been following me for a while, I love stories, particularly fantasy and science-fiction stories. I’ve read accounts from people who have been judged harshly by their churches for their interest in such things. In fact, at my college, I know that some students’ parents took issue with the fact that we were reading mythology in some of my classes.

Obviously some aspects of our personalities are more important to us than others. My sexuality almost doesn’t matter to me at all. It can complicate things here and there, but it’s otherwise not important. The fact that I’m a total nerd is important to me. The freedom to watch sci-fi movies and play RPG’s is something I value very highly, and I don’t find that it clashes with my faith. These stories take place in different universes, so the rules of this one don’t apply. It’s as simple as that, as long as we are able to distinguish fact from fiction, which is, or at least should be pretty darn easy.

Of course belonging isn’t simply a matter of identifying the buckets we theoretically fit into. it’s also a matter of acceptance. We long to be accepted for who we are by the people around us, even if those people are very different from us. Sometimes we’re the black sheep in our immediate families, or in our schools, but we find friends in odd places. Sometimes we fit into the category of weirdos who don’t have much in common other than the fact that we’re weird. Sometimes we’re just the odd ones out, and in that case, we just have to own it. That’s important. Acceptance is often a matter of recognizing confidence. It seems to be natural. Confidence in one’s self is a sign of strength that people will see and appreciate.

Lastly, it’s important to recognize where we belong and how valuable it is. It’s easy to disregard the fact that, although we may not belong in one “cool” or interesting group of people, we are loved by God, and the people we grew up with, and the new friends we make over time. It’s easy to forget what we already have, and we don’t have to strive for something we don’t need and ultimately might not want. Acceptance that is freely given is extremely valuable and should not be taken for granted, though it seems to be a natural human impulse to do so. Of course it is most important to be comfortable with who we already are, while remembering that we can always be better. As long as we strive for our perfect selves, we are the best we have ever been up until this moment. As cliche as it sounds, the most important person to be accepted by is yourself, so own it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Why I Like Star Wars More Than Lord Of The Rings

Yes, I realize how nerdy this is. As I’ve mentioned before, I live in fantasy land. I watch fantasy movies, read fantasy stories, and play fantasy games. Yes, that includes Dungeons and Dragons. I’m also a nerd when it comes to art, and I love to over analyze everything, so when these two aspects of my nerd craziness coincide, I get excited. Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are probably my two favorite fantasy (movie) series because, let’s face it, they’re probably the best. Unless you’re incredibly boring or totally clueless, you know that Star Wars episode seven: The Force Awakens is coming out in December, and I am beyond stoked. Furthermore, I got tickets for opening night! Even my brother, who is also a major Star Wars fan thinks I’m insane, but let’s face it; I belong with the crazies.

I woke up way too early this morning after having a dream that I forgot to do my math homework, which was horrifying, and couldn’t fall back asleep because for some reason I started thinking about why I like Star Wars more than Lord of the Rings. Why I started thinking about this, I have no idea, but I thought it would be fun to write a blog post about it, and here we are. So why do I like Star Wars more? I’ve come up with a few reasons.

Something I realized this morning, which I thought was interesting is that, although the scope of Lord of the Rings is smaller than Star Wars (i.e. it takes place over a much smaller area), I think the stakes are much higher. It’s not just a question of Jedi vs Sith; Republic vs Empire; good vs evil. If the Fellowship fails, it could literally mean the end of the world. In my playwriting class we learned that higher stakes tend to make for a better or more interesting story. However, what I realized is that LOTR feels finished to me while Star Wars feels like it still has life in it. LOTR feels like an epic story of times long gone that gets passed down through tradition from generation to generation. I think this is what it should be, and I think it makes it a very successful story. It’s suspenseful, has enjoyable characters, and has a satisfying ending.

On the other hand, the Star Wars story feels like it could be going on as we speak. For one thing, there hasn’t been much extra material written outside of the core LOTR trilogy, while the original Star Wars trilogy has been followed by books, TV series, video games and prequels. It feels more like a universe that one can live in, partly because, especially when you play the games, you can. The story may have supposedly happened a long time ago, but it feels like it could still be going on, especially since the sequel is coming out. That universe is still expanding.

Cinematically, LOTR is a superior trilogy, hands down. The acting is arguably better, the script is better, and the effects are considerably better, which is an obvious benefit of those movies being made later. Here’s the thing, though, I don’t care. The Star Wars characters are more likable and more relatable, and this, among other things, is what has me hooked. Furthermore, the Star Wars characters have more understandable and more relatable motivations and problems. I think Luke’s relationship with his father is particularly interesting. You would think that he would hate him for abandoning him, turning to the Dark Side, and trying to destroy everything Luke comes to believe in, but he forgives him, and ultimately, that forgiveness leads to Vader/Anakin’s redemption. It sounds rather Christian, doesn’t it? I won’t talk about that because this isn’t meant to be a spiritual post, but I just think that it makes it an appealing story to me personally.

Here’s the thing, there are things about LOTR that are better than Star Wars, but the villains definitely are not. The villains in Star Wars are human. This makes them more scary, but it also allows the audience to empathize with them in a way. I definitely think Vader deserves some empathy, especially if we consider his story as a whole. I won’t argue with you. The prequels are bad, at least from an artistic standpoint, but I think they do add to the story. Anakin Skywalker begins his journey as a poor kid with an ordinary life. Nonetheless, he’s ambitious and optimistic and full of love. This leads him to do some not-so-nice things after joining the Jedi, and ultimately leads to his downfall, but the point is, he starts his journey as a good person, and ends it that way. There’s a scene in Return of the Jedi where he’s talking to Luke, and Luke tries to convince him to come with him. Vader says it’s too late for him to turn back, but you can tell in his voice that that isn’t true. You can see it when Luke says, “My father is truly dead.” Though you can’t see it in Vader’s face, you can see that this hurts him when he leans over the railing of the walkway they were standing on. You know, even as an outsider, that he’s not 100% evil. A part of that loving kid is still in him, and he misses his family. You don’t get that in LOTR. Both Sauron and Saruman are as impersonal as they come, and we don’t care about them.

I think it’s more fun to think about the Star Wars universe. To insert yourself into the LOTR universe is to go back in time. To insert yourself into the Star Wars universe is to entertain so many possibilities about technology, space travel, and maybe even politics. I think also that Star Wars, in some ways, is more unique. LOTR takes place in a similar universe as games like World of Warcraft or the Elder Scrolls games, or stories like the Inheritance Cycle. Medieval worlds with dragons and magic are fun. There’s no denying it, but that’s why there’s a lot of them, while I don’t know of any stories that take place in a similar universe as Star Wars… except for Star Trek, but Star Trek is dumb and stupid.

Lastly, I had an interesting realization. This has almost nothing to do with the movies themselves, and yet, I think it may have a lot to do with why I like Star Wars more. I’ve seen both series a million times, but I’ve seen LOTR a million times more. I think this has actually led me to be somewhat less interested in it, and more critical of small details that make the story more fun if you overlook them. Star Wars is still new every time I come back to it.

Because Guinea Pigs Can Fly

P.S. Apparently this is my 300th post, so that’s pretty cool!