Your Time Travel Pre-Flight Briefing Dec01

Your Time Travel Pre-Flight Briefing...

*Bing Bong* Ladies and gentlemen, I’m Captain Preston, your timepilot. On behalf of myself and first officer Logan, I’d like to welcome you aboard Wells Timeways flight number ∞. If you’ll direct your attention to the front of the craft, our chief flight attendant Sarah will give you a brief safety … um … briefing. *Bing Bong* Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for travelling with us today… and tomorrow and tomorrow and all our yesterdays. For those of you who are new to time travel, please pay close attention. For those of you who have travelled with us before, you already know what I’m going to say—but bear with me. Before we begin, ensure that your carry-on luggage is safely stowed in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. Whether you’ve brought along your twelve monkeys, your source code, a ticking clock or a triangle please make certain you keep the safely stowed. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, nothing will drop from the ceiling. This timecraft is a Hartdegen 7{x}{y} and it has several built-in safety features. Chief among these is your 12-point restraint harness. You can fasten the harness by pulling the upper straps over your shoulders, wrapping the lower straps around your waist and putting the belt low and across your lap. Connect the harness by fastening tabs A, B, C, D, and F into buckles G, H, I, J, and L. Your cabin crew will be by to connect tabs E and K to ensure you won’t be able to get up without assistance. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, nothing will drop from the ceiling. You’ll all be pulled irrevocably into the timeline, so there’s no point...

When Warped Community Feels Right Nov15

When Warped Community Feels Right...

There’s wisdom in seeking counsel from those who are older and wiser than me, from friends who can view my situation from an unbiased perspective. Any time I have to make a big decision, I consult those close to me. However, advice still needs to be taken with careful consideration. A solution that worked for someone else in a similar situation may not work for me—it might not even be the wisest thing for me to do. In Stranger Things 2, Eleven meets Kali (another girl with superpowers). She finds safety and belonging with someone who can empathize with her troubles. Kali gives her advice on how to harness her power and tries to coax her into seeking revenge against the people who hurt her. But Kali tempts Eleven to the dark side of the Force—I mean, convinces her to do more harm than good. She advises Eleven to use anger to fuel her abilities and be unmerciful to those who have hurt her. Eleven chose the more difficult path—one where she had to face her ultimate fear and reconcile with people who’ve hurt her. Kali’s advice isn’t malicious; she genuinely wants to help Eleven. But Eleven comes to realize that Kali’s life is dark and bitter; and Kali is surrounded by friends who let her thrive in her depravity. Eleven soon realizes Kali’s life is not something she wants to aspire to. Kali tries to convince her to kill a man who abused Kali and hurt Eleven’s mama. When Kali tries to kill the man herself, Eleven stops her and Kali responds by saying, “If you want to show mercy, that is your choice, but don’t you ever take away mine. Ever.” Kali respects Eleven to make the decision to show mercy, proving...

Race and Gender: A Timeless Issue Nov08

Race and Gender: A Timeless Issue...

I expect a show about time travel to ask difficult questions like: “How much do we alter history?”, “Should we let people die just because they’re already dead in the future?”, and “Why can’t we kill Hitler? What I appreciate most about NBC’s Timeless is that it doesn’t shy away from dealing with the awful way women and people of colour have been treated throughout history. The premise of the show is pretty simple: a terrorist, Garcia Flynn, hijacks a newly-made time machine from Mason Industries and attempts to alter certain events in American history. In response, Homeland Security tasks the show’s three protagonists—history professor Lucy Preston, Master Sergeant Wyatt Logan, and engineer Rufus Carlin—with following Flynn in a second time machine to preserve history and take him down. In the first episode, Rufus is adamant that he doesn’t want to go, and tells his boss, “There is literally no place in American history that will be awesome for me.” Every one of us wishes we had the freedom to tell off our harassers like Lucy does. As a black man, Rufus is all too aware of how he will be perceived if he goes back in time, but as the only pilot trained to handle the time machine, he is required to go. The show is peppered with humorous quips (“The back of the bus was amazing!”says Rufus in 1937) and more poignant moments in which Rufus deals with a legacy of racism and marginalization. In “The Murder of Jesse James,” Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus track down the famous outlaw, who has been recruited by Flynn. To do so, they team up with Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. Marshal. Reeves is thought to be the inspiration for the popular character the Lone Ranger,...

Finding Hope the Replicant Way Nov06

Finding Hope the Replicant Way...

In Blade Runner’s world, the only thing darker than the City of Angels is the hearts of the people who live there. As imagined by Ridley Scott, the Los Angeles of 2019 is a dismal, rainy place. Unnamed environmental catastrophes have poisoned the Earth to the point that the best option—as announced by the ever-present advertising blimps—is to get off the planet. The streets are a neon-lit warren of storefronts and stalls where vendors compete for the money and attention of a perpetually weary populace.  Life seems to be a grim march toward a lonely death. It is a world devoid of joy and hope. This cold, wet hellscape is ground zero in a battle which asks what it really means to be human. As the opening text scroll explains, the Tyrell Corporation has created genetically-engineered robots (called replicants) which are virtually indistinguishable from humans. Replicants are slave labour; tasked with the most difficult and dangerous jobs and forbidden from living on Earth. Furthermore, to keep them in check, they are engineered with a four-year lifespan. They are considered mere machines to be used and discarded at the whim of their human creators. How do I hope for change in a dark world? Rick Deckard is the Blade Runner—a policeman who has the task of identifying and killing replicants who make it to Earth. Like the other humans in the film, he views the replicants as mere mechanisms. In an early conversation with Rachel, he says, “Replicants are like any other machine—they’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” He hunts and kills them with uncaring efficiency; the way a programmer might hunt down and eliminate errors in a block of code. More disturbingly, he later orders...

Logan’s Run and the Question We Don’t Want Asked Oct23

Logan’s Run and the Question We Don’t Want Asked...

No one wants to know when they’re going to die. But for some reason, I am fascinated by a society built around the notion. The novel-turned-movie Logan’s Run deals with a shiny dystopian future that indulges your every desire, but demands that you give up your life at thirty. A crystal in the palm of your hand maps out your life in colours—white, yellow, green, red, and finally black. A few citizens decide to seek escape, running from the safety of the vast, domed city. A squad of elite policemen—the Sandmen—pursue and kill them. The penalty for trying to avoid death is… well… more immediate death. The runners choose to run because they have heard of a mythical safe place called Sanctuary. The computer that runs the city selects a Sandman named Logan 5 to find and destroy Sanctuary. As motivation, the computer adjusts Logan’s lifeclock and steals his remaining four years. He goes from 26 to 30 in an instant. He lifeclock blinks red-and-black, signaling that he has just 24 hours left. Having no other options, Logan takes the assignment. Most of us don’t face the immediate deadline that motivates Logan. In high school, I kept coming back to the story because I was just beginning to grapple with the question of mortality. Logan has an innate desire to survive that drives his mad quest for sanctuary. He didn’t think dying was something he’d have to worry about for another four years. But with a day to live and very little to go on, Logan follows one clue—an ankh he stole from a terminated runner—and connects with a younger woman named Jessica. She wears the ankh and he suspects she has ties to the runners’ underground, so he convinces her he’s a runner...

Ahsoka Tano: The One with Enthusiasm Jul28

Ahsoka Tano: The One with Enthusiasm...

Ahsoka: So, what’s the plan?  Anakin: Oh, I thought you were the one with the plan.  Ahsoka: No, I’m the one with enthusiasm. You’re the one with experience, which I’m looking forward to learning from.  From almost the moment Ahsoka first appeared in Clone Wars, stepping off a shuttle that landed in the middle of a war zone, I adored her as a character. Promoted at the young age of 14 to Padawan status, Ahsoka left behind the safety and serenity of the Jedi Temple and was thrust headfirst into a new world of war, struggle, heroism, and heartbreak. As the show continued, she faced challenge after challenge head on, with that same indomitable spirit that she displayed from the start. I was 12 when the film premiered in theatres, and suddenly I—a young girl, just on the cusp of entering into a new world of my own—had a character I could look up to; a character I could identify with. Don’t get me wrong—I admired Leia and Padme, and took some inspiration from them, but they were much older than I was, and it was difficult to relate to them because of that age gap. But not only was Ahsoka close to my age, she was a Jedi. For me, a girl who spent much of her free time challenging neighbour kids to lightsaber duels, this was even better than getting a kitten for Christmas. But what really sealed the deal for me was her exchange with Anakin early in the film: “I’m the one with the enthusiasm”—that line has just as much of an impact on me now as it did the first time I sat wide-eyed in that theatre. At the beginning of her character arc, Ahsoka is eager to learn, good-hearted,...

Battlestar Galactica and the Virtue of Waiting Jun26

Battlestar Galactica and the Virtue of Waiting...

Breaking News! The original Battlestar Galactica series is going to be on a local TV station near me this summer! Whoop-dee-do, you say? It’s been on Netflix for years, you say? Well, pardon me, but I’m somewhat elderly (42!) and don’t remember things like Netflix when I’m wishing to see my old TV shows. I still “tape” the shows I want to watch on my DVR. As much as I try to live in the brave new world of technology—with some small successes—my brain is wired for the 1980s. So, when I heard that BSG was going to be on, I was very excited. I bought the theme song on iTunes and have been listening to it frequently in my hype. There are three main reasons that this is excellent news: 1) Dirk Benedict, 2) the fabulous theme song, and 3) now the kids today will see what Cylons are supposed to look like—stocky, chrome dudes with Knight Rider helmets that speak a robotic, “By your command.” They aren’t skinny blondes in slinky, red dresses, or your best friend, or you and you don’t know it! In the 80s, we knew who our enemies were; and they were stocky, evil robots. “Binge watching” wasn’t a thing during my childhood. You had to wait, probably a week at a time, to see a show you wanted. And if you missed it? Too bad. You’d have to wait until it was in syndication—if it ever even made it! And, if seasons ended on a “to be continued” cliffhanger, may God have mercy on your soul! You could bust a gut waiting for that next episode! My husband was grounded when the first episode aired, and I don’t mind telling you that I have listened to that...

Dear Anakin, I wasn’t promoted Jun23

Dear Anakin, I wasn’t promoted...

Dear Anakin, I’ve been working my butt off for a big promotion at work for a few years now, but I just found out my boss gave the job to someone else in my department who is way less qualified than me. How should I handle this? Yours truly, Overlooked on Ryloth Dear Overlooked on Ryloth, You deserved that promotion. You showed your bosses you were willing to work harder, longer, and smarter than anyone else to prove you were worthy of the position. You were entitled to it, and now that they’ve made their mistake, it’s time to make them pay. Start by becoming close, personal and invaluable friends with your boss’s boss. Find the department manager, or better yet, the CEO, and buddy up to them. Once you’ve spent some time in their inner circle, it’s only natural to mention the promotion you were denied, and once your new friend hears about how unfairly you were treated, he or she will surely want to help you—that’s what friends do. Ideally, your powerful friend will simply force the other managers to bring you on, even if that position is ceremonial and unrequired. Everyone else in your department will know how important you are because you’re there whether they want you to be or not, and they will never, ever cross you again. If you’re interested in seeking more detailed advice on how to rise through the corporate ranks, I recommend seeking out The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise. Just don’t ask a Jedi, it’s not a story they’d tell you. With hate, Anakin Need some career, relationship, or life advice? Email dearanakin@geekdomhouse.com and ask your own...

Understanding the World through Star Trek Jun19

Understanding the World through Star Trek...

Star Trek debuted on television two years after I was born. I never knew a world without it and, in a lot of ways, the series and I grew up together. My father served in the U.S. Air Force and we moved frequently during my childhood. Dad’s postings took us from Nevada to the United Kingdom and back across the Atlantic to Idaho and Texas. Through all of that, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the Enterprise crew were the fixed stars in my universe. Because I was young when I first saw the series, my limited vocabulary led me to the conclusion that the series was called Star Truck and that the Enterprise was their “truck” for space travel. When we left the U.S. for the U.K. I remember watching episodes with my babysitter. At least until we saw What Are Little Girls Made Of? and the idea of human-seeming androids scared me so badly I stayed away from the show for a while, at least until my return to the U.S. when I bonded with some local Idaho geeks over our shared love of the series. From the beginning, I loved Star Trek because of the “cool” factor. I’d watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, so it wasn’t hard to believe that we’d have crews out exploring the galaxy before long. The series opened the door for me to understand an exciting future world. It also helped me understand my own world. When I realized that I could apply the show to my life, it opened a new world of ideas for me. Growing up in a military household has its own unique challenges. The frequent moves, the possibility that the active duty parent might be sent around the world...

The Freedom of Failure in Ender’s Shadow Jun05

The Freedom of Failure in Ender’s Shadow...

After reading the novel Ender’s Game, I discovered Ender’s Shadow, a parallel story about Bean’s journey through Battle School and the war against the Formix. There was a surprising lack of repetition for two novels that covered the same events; the protagonists had such different backgrounds, attitudes, and personality that each novel told a very different story. And I was surprised to realize that the story I preferred was Bean’s. I think the main reason for my preference is that if I had to choose to be one of the two characters, I’d pick Bean. For one thing, Bean’s story has an upward arc that ends with him gaining a family, while Ender’s continually dips down in fits of despair, and he is finally banished from Earth and his family; for another, Bean shows mercy to his enemies whereas Ender destroys them; and though Bean struggles with acceptance, he eventually becomes part of a team, while Ender is continually isolated. When there’s no way to win, Ender stops; only way not to lose is not to play. But the biggest reason I’d rather be in Bean’s tiny shoes is because unlike Ender, who must never lose, he has the freedom to fail. This is drawn into sharpest relief when Ender confides to Bean his struggle to remain undefeated. Bean asks him why it matters if he loses one game, and Ender’s reply speaks of desperation: “That’s the worst that could happen. I can’t lose any games. Because if I lose any—” We, along with Bean, are left to speculate what the consequences could be. In Ender’s Shadow, we see Bean wonder if Ender fears the loss of his reputation as the perfect soldier, of the confidence his army has in him, or of the confidence...

The Forgotten Mothers of Star Wars May12

The Forgotten Mothers of Star Wars...

As origin stories go, the Skywalker twins have it fairly rough: they were orphaned not once, but twice. I don’t know much about the Organa and Lars families, but when I watch Luke and Leia, it’s clear they’ve been taught good values, and I wonder how much their mothers had to do with it. “My wife and I will take the girl. We’ve always talked of adopting a baby girl. She will be loved with us.” —Bail Organa, Revenge of the Sith Breha Organa, the queen of Alderaan and Senator Bail Organa’s wife, appears for a few seconds in the closing montage of Revenge of the Sith. The music swells, reminding me of Leia’s journey to come, and I imagine how Breha might have mothered the iconic princess. Breha wants a daughter, not just to train as an heir, but to love. Bail would have been busy on Coruscant for weeks or months at a time, resisting the Emperor as he siphoned away the Senate’s power—hardly a safe place for a young girl. Even though Breha was queen of a whole planet, I doubt Leia was reared by droids in a lonely nursery. “As a girl growing up and seeing Star Wars, of course you want to be Princess Leia. And to know that I’m actually playing her mother . . . I just kept thinking about those buns! . . . Maybe I taught her how to do those buns!” —Rebecca Jackson Mendoza, the actress who portrayed Breha Organa in Revenge of the Sith Leia’s title isn’t “junior senator” or “representative,” or some other role connected to the Senate. It’s “princess.” Early drafts of A New Hope name Leia as the daughter of Queen Breha, almost 30 years before her on-screen debut. Leia...

The Stigma of Jupiter’s Red Spot Mar27

The Stigma of Jupiter’s Red Spot...

The plot hole that bothers me the most in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the lack of health care. No, I’m not kidding. Bear with me. I recently read this fantastic article, “Did Inadequate Women’s Healthcare Destroy Star Wars’ Old Republic?” that suggests most, if not all, of Anakin’s fear for Padmé’s life could have been avoided if she had seen an obstetrician. For those of you who have no desire to relive the prequels, here’s a refresher: Anakin has a dream in which Padmé dies from childbirth. In an effort to save her life, he turns to Emperor Palpatine, all but solidifying his move to the Dark Side. How do I know Padmé didn’t receive any prenatal health care? When she confronts Anakin towards the end of the movie, she asks him to help her raise their “child” ‒  not their “children.” Padmé doesn’t know she’s going to have twins, which means she didn’t get so much as an ultrasound. How is it possible that Anakin lives after losing three limbs and nearly burning to death, while his wife dies from childbirth? (And, please, read the article mentioned above before you bring up how Padmé simply lost the will to live.) How is it possible that the Star Wars universe, which is scientifically advanced, doesn’t have proper reproductive health care? Anakin’s fear for Padmé’s life could have been avoided if she had seen an obstetrician. In this case, I don’t think it’s a problem of the Star Wars universe itself, but rather an oversight by the movie’s creators that resulted in lazy writing. When it comes to fantasy and sci-fi, female characters are often still an after-thought. I’m sure proper reproductive care wasn’t even on the radar when the writers thought out...

Arriving at Regret Mar15

Arriving at Regret

It’s easy to dwell on regret. “If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?” Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist charged with communicating with visiting aliens in the science fiction film Arrival, asks. In times of reflection, I all too often dismiss that question. It feels too banal, too much like it’s part of the plot for a Disney channel movie. And my answer would inevitably be something similar to the response Jeremy Renner’s character gives: “Maybe I’d say what I felt more often. I don’t know.” I would probably change a few minor things here and there, rework some regrettable moments, but live my life generally as it has been, and how it will be, because I wouldn’t want to miss the moments I treasure; I wouldn’t want to lose my connections to people that are in my life now and in the future. Basically, I would just live my current life, but leveled up. But after seeing Arrival, my answer doesn’t feel like enough. What moved me profoundly in the movie was how it caused me to dig deeper and think about what I would do if I could feel all the pain of the past and all the pain to come, including the tragedy that befalls us when relationships are broken forever by death. If I knew all that, and I could change the ending, then would I really do things more or less the same, or would I veer hard left, wholly altering the route of my life? Would I make the selfish choices for my own happiness, even if it meant passing my burdens onto others and causing them pain and grief? Would I miss out on my precious moments in lieu of...

The Problem with Time Loops Mar10

The Problem with Time Loops...

One of my favourite movies from the last few years is Edge of Tomorrow, the Tom Cruise vehicle that had him repeating the same day over and over again as he fought against alien beings. Marketed with the tagline, “Live. Die. Repeat.”, the film really fed my love for the concept of time loops. The idea that we can relive the same past until we get it right holds a strong appeal for me. Comics, anime, and movies that show time loops often present them as a curse, but I see them more as a superpower. With this ability, what could I do better with the time I’m given? How could I improve my situation? Could I do something to help the people around me that I didn’t do the first time? Steins;gate, an anime about a pair of scientists and their cohorts who find themselves intertwined in conspiracies and plots involving time travel, emphasizes further complexities regarding time loops. At first, Rintaro Okabe, a peculiar college student and self-described mad scientist, is satisfied living an eccentric life, visiting his wide array of friends, and conducting unusual experiments involving bananas in his home laboratory. But as his conspiracy theories start to tap into truth, Okabe and his partners discover that time travel research has come at a great cost, and that the organization that has conducted it is willing to kill to hide and preserve their findings. Okabe encounters a time loop as he travels to the past incessantly in an attempt to save someone very important to him. Although it’s a loop that Okabe can exit, it has no less effect on him than one in which he would be helpless to break. Okabe witnesses the brutal death of a dear friend over...

Losing Star Wars to Legend Feb08

Losing Star Wars to Legend...

Picture this scene: a short, scrawny Korean boy with glasses sitting on a bench in a middle school locker room, talking nerd stuff with a tall, gangly, bushy-haired classmate. Day after day, we’d broach topics like Japanese film adaptations of fighting games, whether dinosaurs really could be made from mosquitos trapped in amber, and how there was this great game called Doom, but it required a boot disc. Of all these conversations, though, the most significant one to me was when my friend told me there was an “expanded universe” to Star Wars, novels that pushed the stories of our heroes further. I swore to myself that he was lying. He had to be, right? There couldn’t be more Star Wars, could there? Of course, there was more. So much more. I asked my parents to take me to a local bookstore and bought the very first novel I ever read for personal reasons, Heir to the Empire. That book, and the rest of Timothy Zahn’s trilogy, blew my mind. And that was that—my love for reading and my obsession over Star Wars was sealed. What I grew up loving was no longer canon, no longer true. So you might understand why I felt like I was being tortured by force lightning when Lucasfilm announced that the EU would now be called “Legends.” Legendary stories are those relegated to myth and folk tales, to narratives that might have been true but probably weren’t, or else were so mutated over the years that they only match the historical fact in bare bones. No longer was there a Mara Jade Skywalker, nor the Solo twins. Grand Admiral Thrawn has returned through Rebels, but doesn’t bring with him ysalamir or the clone C’Baoth.  And Chewbacca didn’t die;...

Passengers and Big Dreams Feb01

Passengers and Big Dreams...

Be ye warned: this article contains spoilers for Passengers. I like to dream big. I’m not content reaching only one person with a project; I want thousands to admire my ambition, the project’s goals, and the passion behind it! I want it larger, grander, more memorable! And that doesn’t just go for decisions here and there—it’s how I try to steer the course of my entire life, for better or for worse. I relate well to Aurora Lane, a colonist who wakes too early from hibernation aboard the Avalon, a ship taking her to a distant planet. There’s a scene in the film, Passengers, where she watches a video of her friends wishing her farewell. They are in their twenties at the time of recording, but because she’s been in hibernation for 30 years, she probably wouldn’t recognize them if she saw them now. She’s passed them by, a reality Aurora knew would happen, and one she’s embraced. As a journalist looking to spread her wings, Aurora paused her life, leaving behind all she knew in pursuit of the big story. Her friends hope that she’ll find happiness in becoming the first reporter to document the tale of being a space colonist, but at least one of them suspects that she would find greater joy in a simple relationship. I can hear how Aurora might have answered because it’s the same as I would respond: “Not likely.” Aurora decides that love isn’t so mundane after all. When I was younger, influenced by Tom Clancey novels and the movies based on them, I intended to become a government analyst. Top secret clearance, the ability to influence international affairs, the significance of doing something that affects people and nations—that sounded important, and worth striving for. So...

Questing for Deus Ex Machina Jan30

Questing for Deus Ex Machina...

Deus ex machina, literally translates from Latin as God from the machine, is used to describe a magical or technological intervention of the Divine that saves the day, generally in an implausible way. In the plays of the Greeks, deus ex machina was actually a machine (often a crane) that lowered a saviour into the midst of trouble to rescue the hero. One could, for example, describe the many appearances of the giant eagles in The Lord of the Rings as deus ex machina because it is a contrivance which conveniently rescues hapless heroes from fates like lava, fire, or tall towers. In addition, the well-written, but implausibly “magical” endings to most of the Harry Potter books make J.K. Rowling a master of deus ex machina. It has been postulated that the appearance of a phoenix with healing tears carrying a magical sword hidden in a hat is the best example of a deus ex machina in the Harry Potter universe. How do I find hope despite all the chaos that comes with the machines crumbling around me? While we can scoff endlessly at these contrivances in ancient literature and as they pervade current popular culture, it is impossible to live in the real world without wanting, even questing after deus ex machina moments. If we are honest with ourselves, sometimes we are desperate for these events to happen. We come to the end of our money and we yearn for someone to rescue us from financial ruin by being lowered from the rigging above. Our son, our daughter, friend, or lover lays in the hospital, dying from accident or disease. And we weep at the end of the bed, desperate for an encounter with the “god from the machine.” Every so often, we...

Can We Forgive Rogue One’s Heroes? Jan18

Can We Forgive Rogue One’s Heroes?...

In a film about good intentions, heavy consciences, and tainted legacies (also, lasers), the cry for redemption is what stood out to me the most. The line between scoundrel and hero is blurred in Rogue One. Galen Erso, the lead scientist behind the construction of the Death Star, wonders if history will remember him as one of the Galaxy’s greatest villains. Unwilling to die like his wife (who makes a stand rather than be a slave to the machinations of the Empire), he makes a deal to help complete the Death Star, believing his actions will be justified by adding a kill switch in secret. Guilt, when faced head on, transforms its subject into a willing sacrifice for good. Captain Cassian has compromised so much of his conscience as a saboteur, and he wonders if there will ever be a momentous enough victory to justify those actions. If he kills for the ideal of freedom that never appears, is he no different than an empire filled with men following violent orders in the name of a peace that is never established? Saw Gerrera, a fanatic, leads a militant terrorist-like group in the face of the Empire. Gerrera has fought too long, making too many compromises to feel like a hero. When in possession of a turncoat Imperial pilot who brings news of the Death Star’s flaw, Gerrera tortures him. While he saved Jyn Erso as a child, he abandons her when she comes of age in a perhaps misguided effort to keep her identity hidden. It’s another difficult choice to weigh heavy on his conscience, but made with good intentions. Desperate circumstances have led these men to embrace disgraceful methods, and they are all of them ashamed. The Turning Point Galen Erso, Cassian Andor, Saw Gerrera, and many of the Rebels...

When You Treat People as Things Jan09

When You Treat People as Things...

There wasn’t supposed to be a war that day. Captain Jankowski of the Earth Alliance cruiser Prometheus was exploring to expand Earth’s territory. He never expected to come nose-to-nose with a flotilla of Minbari warships. For their part, the Minbari hadn’t been expecting a war either. Theirs was an errand of investigation, an attempt to confirm recent sightings of a feared and ancient enemy, the dreaded Shadows. But naturally, when they encountered Captain Jankowski’s ship, they offered a greeting of respect as their tradition demanded: they opened their gunports. As a warrior and a man given to quick judgements, Captain Jankowski misinterpreted the intent of the Minbari and fired. He couldn’t have known that the ship he attacked contained the Grey Council—the ruling body of the Minbar Federation. Dukhat, a beloved leader, was killed in the attack and the council reacted with instant hatred. In a unanimous vote, they declared war upon the Earth Alliance. This battle and the ones that followed formed an important part of the backstory for Michael J. Straczynski’s series Babylon 5. A misunderstanding sent two races stumbling toward Armageddon. We mentally classify people, neatly sorting them into the boxes we have in our minds. This story isn’t the first tale of interstellar conflict born from misunderstanding. When Ender’s Game opens, humanity has survived two major wars with the alien Buggers. In the most recent engagement, the hero Mazer Rackham defeated them when he realized that they operate as a hive mind. Fearing a third invasion, the governments of Earth built an international fleet headquartered on the asteroid Eros. The stated purpose of the fleet was to defend Earth from a third invasion. In truth, the governments of Earth were preparing to end the war permanently by taking the fight...

Mara Jade, a Redeemed Villain Jan04

Mara Jade, a Redeemed Villain...

There was a time when Mara Jade had it all. She was a favoured agent of Emperor Palpatine, called by the title “Emperor’s Hand.” She enjoyed a life of privilege, which included a personal starship, a droid companion, and private quarters on Coruscant. All she had to do was carry out the Emperor’s will. Acting on Palpatine’s behalf, she eliminated corrupt Imperial officials, Jedi who survived Order 66, and anyone else the Emperor deemed worthy of death. Although few in the Empire knew about her, they would have been jealous of her if they had. She was, after all, advancing the Empire’s interests. Then Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance ruined everything. When Palpatine died at the Battle of Endor, Mara’s life crumbled. She blamed Skywalker and made it her life’s ambition to kill him. It seemed like the right thing to do. Not only is she flawed and human, but she also finds redemption. When Timothy Zahn first introduced Mara Jade in Heir to the Empire in 1991, he could not have foreseen her popularity. She has become a fan favourite and has appeared in novels and comics well beyond what Zahn originally intended. Her backstory—which he sketched out in his novels—has been extensively documented in other stories. Ask any group of fans about her and one or two of them will likely say, “Mara Jade? She’s awesome! I love her.” Really? Why? She was an assassin; a tool the emperor used to destroy his enemies. That hardly qualifies her for “role model” status. I think part of the appeal is that she is a strong, complex character. We can identify with her struggles. She commits evil acts, but her heart sometimes betrays her and she is drawn toward the light. In other...