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Will you let me finish? Will you let me finish.

So picture George Lucas. It’s somewhere between 1977 and 1980, most likely. He pulled off a stunt that most industry experts would have said was impossible: he turned a weirdo Flash Gordon/Samurai/Western movie into a juggernaut. He’s feeling good, he’s feeling strong.

Picture he’s in a meeting, internally with Lucasfilm’s top brass. They’re fleshing out the universe a little. Star Wars was a hit, they’re going to want a sequel, gotta do some worldbuilding. Or maybe some fanzine (Bantha Tracks, maybe. Kids, ask your parents) asks, but the important thing here is that he’s talking about the music in the Mos Eisley cantina.

Somebody asks George what he calls that kind of music Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes were playing. I can only imagine how his vocalized thought process went.

“Well, I asked John Williams to do an upbeat swing-type piece. It’s jazz, but more…spacey.” He folds his arms, strokes his luxurious Wookiee pelt of a beard.

“Jizz. It’s called jizz.”

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I shit you not, these poor bastards are jizz-wailers.

Again, I was not there at the time, and can only speculate, but I think whichever of George’s Moffs was the closest to the throne said, “Uh, George…we, ah…that’s not…” before giving up and whispering into his ear, while making descriptive hand gestures.

Lucas was not swayed, and jizz became canon, God help us all.

He knew what he was doing. He had to have known. He went to school with Martin Scorsese, fachrissakes, you think there was a single curse word or sexual epithet in English or any of the dialects of Italian that he hadn’t heard at film school? He knew, and he stayed the course.

The Jizz Issue (oh christ I’m making myself uncomfortable, I am so sorry to you all) is only one of the elements of the Star Wars saga, both in film and in his larger body of work, that he would not budge on. And I’m not trying to rake George Lucas over the coals here, or wail and gnash my teeth about him ruining my childhood. The fact is, he faced a problem that I think all creatives deal with at one time or another, and that’s when to course-correct. When faced with the idea that a facet of his creation–in this case, a tiny sliver of a facet, because who gives a shit what kind of space music is in the movie–doesn’t work, he doubled down. The same with the idea that Luke and Leia are twins. The same with Darth Vader starting out as a boy that said “YIPPEE” and “SPINNING! THAT’S A GOOD TRICK!” It falls flat, and things like these can be nipped in the bud by exercising a little bit of self-reflection, and deviating from the course.

 

I’m in the midst of it right now–one of my settings, a setting that I’ve done a whole lot of work on, needs to be razed. A demo and rebuild that, were it a building, would have Norm Abram and Tommy Silva from This Old House panting like dogs.

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“Nah, nah, see, this whole narrative framework is gonna haveta come out.”

I published a lot of pieces in this setting on the late, lamented Weaponizer, and people really seemed to respond to it. Which is awesome! But as time went on, I started to notice things, like little termite holes, or mortise-and-tenon joints that didn’t quite align. So, rather than ignore the leaky roof and sparking electric work, it’s all gotta come out.

The trick to writing with confidence seems to be to do your own thing, but to stay agile at the same time. You write the story you need to tell, but you need to check yourself, often and honestly, about whether or not it works.

This is different from wanting to say FUCK IT, delete every file and burn every hard copy, and move to Maine’s scenic Casco Bay to become a lobsterman. Though that’s a daily occurence. You test it, down to the smallest moving part. You see what rubs against what, and what moves freely. That’s the hard part. Sometimes the pieces don’t sit flush, and you need to recut your lumber. But it’s what separates good, lean storytelling from a grown man having to type the word “jizz” over and over again who isn’t Hugo Nominated Author Chuck Tingle.

I apologize to all four of you who read this blog.

***

And while I’m on the Star Wars tip: Rebels Season 3 just had its trailer premier at the big Star Wars Celebration last week, and man, it’s gonna be a CORKER. No spoilers, but Season 2 ended very poorly for our heroes, and a lot of aftermath is going to hit immediately.

Also: I picked up a Playstation 4 this past holiday, which came bundled with Star Wars: Battlefront and a bunch of other Star Wars games from previous console generations. Let me say that Battlefront is, in a word, beautiful. The maps, including the lush forests of The Sanctuary Moon of Endor, the volcanic shitworld of Sullust, Hoth’s snowy glare, and parched Tattooine are all rendered in near-photographic detail. The Hero units (characters from the movies, with special abilities) are true to the actors’ appearances, and are inspiring to fight beside. The lightsabers go VRNNN VRRNN, the X-Wings’ blasters go BLAPPBLAPBLAP. It’s the perfect Star Wars video game environment.

But there’s nothing to do. There’s no campaign, where you can choose your side and fight through your own version of Galactic events. There’s precious little offline content–four Deathmatch maps were augmented with starfighter missions and an Imperial Walker mode, but overall? Not a lot to do if you don’t like online gaming. I did try multiplayer, and WOW did I die a lot.

Just a tip from your Uncle Chris, trying to help you caveat your emptor, know what I mean?

***

BOOKS. Let me tell you: Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence is one hell of a series. I guess you could call it a work of Modern Fantasy..? It’s set in a Fantasy world, where human magicians went to war with the gods, gargoyles patrol the streets, the currency is based on slivers of human soul, and intelligent horses are both the source of energy and the cabbie at once. So it’s very much descended from your Westeros, your Melnibone, your fully-realized Fantasy world. But it’s also very modern–cities are sprawling metropoli, you have lights, you go to work in an office. So it’s a weird hybrid of Epic Fantasy and Urban Fantasy, and it works so goddamn well I could just spit. The newest book in the five-part series came out this week, but it’s set up where each book is its own self-contained story in the setting, so you could jump around if you wanted to. Highly recommended.

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