The Adventures of Darth Vaderby Alex Service of the Star Wars Literary Guild
Lando's Bad Night
is my hero.
I suppose I have always loved him. I was six years old when the first Star Wars film hit the theaters, and though I liked all of the usual heroes – the first thing I ever bought with my allowance money was a fuzzy stuffed Chewbacca – I must always have had a special place in my affections for the Dark Lord of the Sith.
Recently, when going through boxes of old papers, I found a story-in-pictures that I drew shortly after the first film came out, in which Leia (recognisable by the peculiar Mickey Mouse ears-like protrusions on the sides of her head) and Lord Vader (just barely recognisable by his black cape and a helmet that looks rather like one of those old fashioned, curved-topped radios) join forces and have some sort of adventure together. I remember making up a story about how Vader's wheezing was due to allergy problems (that must have been after my first visit to the allergy specialist). I even made an early start on my habit of saving Lord Vader from death, since I rescued a Vader action figure from a (very small) bonfire set by some vile children outside of our apartment building, and took the action figure home with me, where I had my mother make a new cape for him out of a bit of black plastic bag.
As my fellow Star Wars Literary Guild member Monika Simon wrote on an earlier web page, "a long time ago, I thought that George Lucas was God". I didn't like it when Vader died in Return of the Jedi, and no matter how many times I see that film I will never watch the Vader death scene (it's always a perfect time for a trip to the kitchen, the toilet, or at the very least, for closing my eyes until the bloody scene is over!). But it was many years before I took the step from thinking that Vader's death scene stinks, to inventing my own version.
In the spring of 1997, Monika Simon, Kirsty Hartsiotis, Michael Gaunt and I went to see the Star Wars Special Edition films together, and I suppose the four of us must have started talking a lot about Star Wars whenever we went to the pub. And then it happened.
Kirsty started writing a novel starring Boba Fett. Monika resurrected ideas she'd developed years before, for her own version of Anakin Skywalker's evolution into Darth Vader. And I wrote the first scene – originally intended as the only bit of it I'd ever write – of an alternate universe tale in which Darth Vader survives Return of the Jedi.
That one scene turned into twenty chapters plus epilogue, a writing project that stretched from 1997 to 2001.
It sounds trite to say it, but that first year of the Star Wars Literary Guild was one of the defining eras of my life. If I had to choose a moment to live in, over and over for eternity, I would choose a summer night sitting at a wobbly plastic table outside the Judge's Lodgings pub, as we four drank our pints and/or gin and tonics, searched packets of Walker's Crisps for Star Wars tazos, and discussed such important issues as Han Solo's bathrobe, Admiral Piett's health problems, Darth Vader's interactions with his grandchildren, and the fact that when Boba Fett walks, his armour or accoutrements make a sound very like that of walking with a tin of Pringles in one's backpack.
As Star Wars fans, all of us know that one's reality depends greatly on one's point of view. The reality that developed as we wrote, talked, drank, and wrote some more, has spoiled me forever for truly enjoying the new Star Wars films. I will always be grateful to George Lucas for creating Star Wars. But his creation has become large enough to encompass everyone's realities – and I'm afraid that these days, I like our reality better than his.
Couldn't he see that a dead Vader is a lot less interesting than a live one, who has to deal with the discovery that he has two grown children – who incidentally, have every reason to hate him? Isn't it more interesting to explore what Luke and Leia might do if they actually had to learn to live with their father, and deal with him as Darth Vader rather than dismissing him as a glowing blue figure who smiles benignly and occasionally dispenses words of wisdom in a few of the Star Wars novels?
And what about all the "points of view" that Lucas never touched?
What about the people who must have believed that the fall of the Jedi was a good thing for the Republic? They must have existed, or it wouldn't have been possible to wipe the Jedi out so completely.
What about the people who built the Empire, and fought to protect it? They can't all have been evil, even if the Emperor was. What about the reality that sees the Rebels as terrorists rather than freedom fighters? Why are we supposed to think that the destruction of Alderaan is a horrific crime (which it is, I'll admit, but …), but we're not supposed to give a damn about the people who perished on the Death Star? Why is it that we're expected to accept that Darth Vader, who we see strangle a few people and kill Obi Wan Kenobi in a fair duel (it's not Darth's fault that Kenobi just stands there and lets Vader kill him!), is on the Dark Side, but Luke, who killed around 1,187,000 people on the Death Star, is on the Light Side? Don't those 1,187,000 lives count?
I could go on about this for pages – and have done, for 300 something pages, in The Adventures of Darth Vader. So I will shut up here, and invite everyone to have a look at this particular reality.
You know you want to! Read on, for Admiral Piett's romance, Darth Vader's mid-life crisis, Han Solo's trip to Coruscant with his almost-father-in-law, Moff Nevoy's palace revolt, maniacal cackling from Palpatine, Wedge and Mon Mothma's venture into the field of detective work, and a galaxy full of angst, fight scenes, chases, drinking sessions, and bitching about the Jedi.
We're not making any money off of this, Star Wars belongs to George Lucas, and our lives would be a lot poorer if he hadn't invented it. That said, here are some of those different points of view …
[c. 2002 amended 2011]
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