Why Star Wars Matters To Me

My son, four years old, said he wanted to go outside and play Star Wars. I said shit yeah, kid, let’s do it. So he got his Darth Vader lightsaber, and gave me this foam sword that’s more like a medieval knight’s sword, and we headed outside.

He said he wanted to be Kylo Ren. I didn’t even realize he knew who Kylo Ren was.

He told me I was Darth Vader, and that Ren was now a good guy, and he was fighting Darth Vader.

So, we battled for a while and he suddenly said: “KYLO REN’S SWORD HAS THE THINGIES.”

I did not know what thingies he meant, but he clarified when he grabbed my foam sword and pointed to the crossguard (aka the “quillons,” aka the “thingies”). Ah, right, okay. So, we traded lightsabers, which actually is totally appropriate since I’m Darth and he had Darth’s red saber.

We lightsabered for awhile.

And we chopped off hands for awhile, too, because that’s just how Star Wars rolls. (Normally, I’d be appalled at my four-year-old being excited at the prospect of lopping off limbs, but he didn’t seem fazed by it and, hey, man, JEDI GONNA JEDI.)

Then he’s like, “Oh no! My Force powers are gone. Let me see if I can get them back from my lightsaber.” And he presses his sword to his chest and makes BZZRAOW VWOMM noises. But no, sadly, the lightsaber did not give him back his Force powers. (Children, I find, understand that stories need conflict better than many adults do.) So, he says, pointing to the trees (as we live in the woods): “It’s Endor! We can ask the Ewoks to get us our Force powers back.” Which is how I learned that I, too, was now lacking in Force powers. First though, he said he had to lightsaber my armor off so I could be Anakin again.

Which he did.

BZZRAOW VWOMM VMMMMZZ.

Okay, evil Darth armor gone. Anakin returned.

Onward to our Ewok encounter.

He says, “We need to summon the Ewoks.”

Then he says, and by the way all of these are direct quotes because I wrote this shit down:

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I was born with a trumpet. But I never blew the trumpet. Let’s see what it does.” Then he makes a doo-doo-doo sound and: “Look, I summoned Ewoks!”

Then he explains that the Ewoks make for him “wood armor” because sure, why not, and then we’re off for more adventures. He tells me that my Darth armor keeps growing back and that I have to occasionally lightsaber it off (and now I’m like, man, that’s awesome, some kind of self-aware dark-side armor that keeps resurrecting itself like the Venom symbiote), and later we hang out with Wookiees on Kashyyyk and we also find a patch of discolored driveway asphalt that he assures me is a “blood puddle” (!) from a clone trooper (!!) who got squished by a “speeder motor” which is a speeder bike but with a bigger motor and then the speeder motor spread the blood around (!?) and that we can use our Force powers to resurrect the clone trooper from his blood (!!!#@&*!). (Also in there, he stirred his sword into the dirt and said, “A long time ago in another different galaxy far far away, this dirt is old. It is from BEFORE THE DARKNESS.” Holy shit, what?)

It was gonzo bizarre-o good stuff.

It’s certainly not the only storyworld in which he’ll play. He’s a huge (and sudden) My Little Pony fan. And other times he just makes up his own weirdo narrative events — this morning he was playing with (no joke), two stuffed lizards, a plastic egg and a plastic potato. (The egg’s name is Eggy, the potato is Angry Potato.) And they were playing some kind of stealth game with the lizards? I have no idea what was going on. And sometimes, too, we’re treated to more stories of robot dog Hamslice and his detective pals, Baloney and Hair.

But Star Wars has stuck. Just as it did me when I was his age. He loves the world and the characters. We’ve bonded over LEGO Star Wars. It’s a thing.

I was his age, in fact, when I first saw Empire Strikes Back in the theater.

A drive-in theater, actually. My sister and her boyfriend took me and his little brother. We watched the movie. I cannot promise that they also watched the movie, but that was their teenage business, not mine. Given that I had no way of returning home and just popping the movie into the Blu-Ray player or pulling it up on the AppleTV, I was content to replay the experience with toys and costumes and crayons and comics. Then when Return of the Jedi came out, we waited in line around the block only to have it sell out. (We ended up seeing a movie called Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, which inexplicably starred Molly Ringwald, was in 3-D, was terrible.) After college, I lined up and actually camped out for Phantom Menace tickets. I’m covered in nerd froth for the new one.

I had the Burger King drinking glasses.

I had a lot of the toys — including ones you had to get by sending away Proofs of Purchase.

still have a lot of the toys — and my son, B-Dub, still plays with them.

I have the new First Order stormtrooper from SDCC (thanks to Adam Christopher).

I made lightsabers out of sticks when I was a kid.

I used my swingset as an X-Wing.

I still have my ratty, dog-eared hardcovers of the original Zahn trilogy.

And now, of course, I have my own Star Wars book coming out. My own little postage stamp of canon. Actually, my head-canon kind of… became real canon? In one of the biggest narrative universes to have ever existed? That still trips my breaker every time I think about it.

Star Wars informed my early understanding of storytelling. Thankfully, my understanding didn’t stop there, but it was the seed that started it all, I think. It gave me characters I love and a simplistic, elegant view of both narrative and morality that inevitably you push back against while simultaneously reaching for it. It made me friends. It was a love my family shared then, and it’s a love my wife and my son share now. It is the universe that keeps on giving. It made me feel like I could do anything, because if a literal dirt-farmer from some galactic nowheresburg could somehow change the galaxy — along with a princess, a walking carpet, a scoundrel, another scoundrel, and a couple of Laurel & Hardy droids — then maybe I could change the galaxy, too. Or, at least, maybe I could someday write my own chapter in the Star Wars mythology.

That’s what Star Wars means to me.

It means friends and family. It means the power of story. It means the power of possibility. It’s about the underdog versus the bully, about the righteous against the oppressor, about fun and derring-do and heroism and understanding that we all have a little Dark Side in us, and all have a little Light Side in us.

I’m happy to be a part of it.

And I love that my son is all-in, too.

I’m glad you’re along for the ride, too.

May the Force be with you, nerf-herders.

See you when Star Wars: Aftermath releases this Friday.

(And if you’re at DragonCon or anywhere near Atlanta: Thursday night is the release event — I’ll be at the Edgewood B&N starting at 10PM. Come say hi. Or catch me at DC/Decatur!)

50 comments

  • “A drive-in theater, actually. My sister and her boyfriend took me and his little brother. We watched the movie. I cannot promise that they also watched the movie, but that was their teenage business, not mine…”

    OMG THIS WAS ME I WAS SEVEN AND IT WAS STAR WARS A NEW HOPE AAAAAA

  • I cried when Han said, “Chewy, we’re home.” My heart stutters to see Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. That movie can’t come soon enough and I’ve spent no small amount of time spreading my joy of SW to my two daughters, 8 and 4, who both think Yoda is the coolest and who marvel that a princess carries a blaster.

    Star Wars doesn’t just matter. It’s part of the fabric of my life. And congrats on the book. I can only imagine the thrill you must have to be a part of the story and add to it. :)

  • When I was a kid I would run around trying to force-push things around. I told all of the kids at school that my Dad built his own lightsaber (?). I watched the movies on a dinky VCR until our solar batteries wore down.

    I am so, so excited for you, and I can’t wait to read it.

    (Also, B-Dub, <3)

  • Holy shitballs. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve always been a bit more of a Trekkie, but damn if this didn’t make me a little verklempt. I want to re-watch all the movies again.

    Also, look. If you ever get B-Dubbed out, I will totally take him off your hands.

  • My son (also 4) loves to act with Kanan and Ezra when they use the force on the doors in “Rise of the Old Masters”. And he loves to Force Lightning EVERYTHING….
    Congratulations on your canon postage stamp. I will scrape money from some unholy place when it comes out.
    Cheers.

  • Ah, a tinge of envy, and much nostalgia. I remember similar days playing with my 5 y/o Marty. Our games were often a bizarre blend of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, and Star Wars. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

  • I hear that wood armor is no good man! I saw those crappy TV Ewok movies that shit sucks!

    I had my grandma and like four other people looking in different states for a green “Greedo” figure back in like 1984. Honestly though, these legos and the toys they have now…lucky buggers. My 4 year old is just getting into it. I let her watch clone wars and rebels and we’re just kinda starting. 1.5 year old loves it as well…but mostly just shouts at the explosions or bad guys.

  • This is my all time favorite of your posts. We are a Star Wars bonding, light saber warring family. If you take him to Disneyland you have to do the build your own lightsaber.

  • So many wonderful things about that story and your story, and how your story is more like, look what I’ve done vs. talking about it in a salesy way, and connecting it to what your son has done and likely will in the future — and for the Lucas team, the fact they reminded us how old stories can have new life to them, and how you can make up fantastic worlds with string and sticks. Congratulations, it’s an inspiration.

  • My son seemed much more pissed that R2 got shot in Star Wars than he did about Luke losing his had or Han getting frozen. We only watch the old school movies in my household, the alleged first three only exist in a parallel universe where George Lucus should not be lynched for making a character like Jar Jar Binks. I suppose we are Star Wars fundamentalists.

    • We like the prequels enough here — I mean, we’ve tried to sit through Phantom and B-Dub mostly gets bored? (Though he likes Jar-Jar’s buffoonery.) He picks and chooses things from the prequels that he does like, though. For some reason, he really digs battle droids. (Which is why I made a certain decision about a certain droid character in AFTERMATH, actually.)

  • And who knows, Chuck, maybe one of your series will stir the same curiosity and have the same effect on a family that this did on you and yours. Weirder shit has happened, just ask B-dub :)

  • Bdub totally sounds like my 6 yr old. He’s not into SW completely yet, but getting there. Loves sword fights and world building. I saw the first SW when Iwas 6 in the drive in. Mt friends and I played SW for years after. (I got to be Han because I had a black vest from Dad’s old suit). Had a lot of toys. Drifted away over the years but with my boy now 6, am pumped for Aftermath and the new movie.

  • “And don’t forget my lightsaber while you’re down there.”
    As flawed as I think that flick was, that screening was one of the best times I’ve ever had in a theater.

  • “Then when Return of the Jedi came out, we waited in line around the block only to have it sell out. (We ended up seeing a movie called Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, which inexplicably starred Molly Ringwald, was in 3-D, was terrible.)”

    Wow. I thought I was the only one who saw that as a consolation movie. I got taken to it because Jedi was sold out, too. Don’t forget, that cinematic masterpiece also had Ernie Hudson and Michael Ironside as OVERDOG.

  • At age 15 and 20, my kids (and who am I kidding. me too) are still making magic wands out of sticks and swinging pretend light sabers at pets, neighbors, trees, and stuffed animals enlisted to play magic ponies, ents, wizard friends, Smaug, and more. It is an awesome thing.

  • This was my favorite blog post, yet. I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, not even sure if I’ve seen beyond the first three movies, but I do remember when my parents went to see it at the theatre. I was ten and it was one of the few “dates” they went on that were not work-related Christmas parties. While they were gone, I made an R2D2 out of a cottage cheese container and a C3PO out of washers and shoe laces, but even this Little House fanatic played light sabers. I’m sure you must be thrilled about the book. Goosebumps thrilled.

  • Oh God, you make me want to get off of my I’m-too-busy-to-have-children high horse and birth tiny geeklets with whom I can share the collective culture of shit that got my shunned in high school. Seriously, though, 70% of my sporatic desire to have kids stems from the image of my husband sword fighting with them.

  • Oh my god, B-Dub is a story telling genius! Armor that regrows! Love. Love the sword fighting image too. My kids’ imaginations never cease to amaze me either. They refresh my own sense of fantasy and play. They’re both more into super heroes and ninja turtles at the moment than Star Wars, but I foresee a future SW love ;-) Can’t wait to read Aftermath. It should help stem my impatience for the movie release.

  • We live Star Wars at our house too. My oldest son wore a Star Wars T-shirt every day of 8th grade. We have action figures of all different sorts displayed and posters on the walls in our computer room. My youngest son had seen all 6 movies several dozen times before he was in first grade. We all love it. I was 14 when A New Hope came out and its why I fly for a living now. I’m happy that you got to be a huge part of the new sequence, what a dream come true that would be for many of us. Can’t wait to read the new book!

  • Your son is awesome. It’s amazing what the little ones come up with. I too am super excited for the new Star Wars movie. Have been ever since I first heard it was being made. It’s so cool you got to write a book for that universe.

  • Hi All,
    Chuck,
    You seem to have kept what most lose as they grow older that sense of wonder and true imagination of a young child’s mind that we all had as children, this is what you have witnessed and played out with your son in his story telling and is to be treasured..
    You obviously have a deep bond with your son and enjoy what most father son relationships can’t because dad’s usually at work and comes home just in time to say goodnight as you toddle off up to bed when we are young children and long may this bond carry on.
    I am certain that Aftermath will be one of the all time classics and most anticipated books to be released ever, let alone in the Star Wars universe that you are now creating cannon for with each book added. Just keep on the imaginative story telling road you are taking the reader and we the fans shall be rewarded while you the creator will be happy in the knowledge of a legacy that your son can pass to his.

    Geoff (1batfastard)

  • Your son sounds like a genius. Like in all the things you don’t understand, do you get some fantastic story ideas in there? I got chills when he mentioned Darth Vader’s armor growing back.

    When I was a little girl, I replayed the scene where Luke and Leia swing out over the abyss where there’s no bridge, to another locked door, and Leia covers Luke I think while he unlocks the door? It’s been a while. I played that scene over and over, saving Leia (I was not a girl who believed in being saved by others but in doing the rescuing myself), losing limbs in the process. I killed the Emperor many times too. Luke went evil and so Liz the Jedi stepped in to save mankind. Those stories made me who I am. I wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t believed back then that I had a mission in the cause of justice.

  • My very nearly three year old has not watched star wars yet, but he is totally into Transformers and is acting “Wobot” things out while wearing his super hero cape.

  • So many memories.

    Saw Star Wars myself in the theater with my parents. I was 5.
    Freaked. Them. Out.
    It was the first time we’d ever gone to the movies and I hadn’t been pestering them every five minutes. “I want some popcorn! I have to go to the bathroom! I’m thirsty!” You know. Like a normal five-year old.
    This thing? I still remember sitting there watching the X-wings fly down the Death Star trench, jaw just hanging. I was IN.

    Much later, I was in college, working as an A/V nerd. One day, the boss turns to me and says “We need to test all of the theaters and projectors on campus – make sure they work. Go get something and run ‘em through a test.”
    “Anything?” I asked.
    “Yeah, sure.” He shrugged. “Go for it.”
    So I went home, and got my widescreen pre-THX pre-Special Edition VHS copy of ESB. Took it to the biggest theater I had access to on campus, and just started playing it. Found myself a seat about ten rows back on the aisle, and let it run.
    A few minutes in, suddenly I notice that there’s some guy standing in the aisle next to me, his jaw hanging open, staring at the screen, like he can’t believe what he’s seeing. He looks down at me. “Are you… are you playing this?”
    I ponder the question for a moment, then nod. “Yeah.”
    He looks up at the screen, then back at me. “Can I run home and get my son? He’s never seen this on the big screen.”
    And dang if there wasn’t some kind of dust or something in the air, and I said “Go for it!”
    He was back in I think about ten minutes, and I saw this guy and his kid sitting in the front row all through the battle on Hoth. They had to run after that.

    Congrats on the book. I’ll always have the New Jedi Order books, and KotOR, and the year or so that I DM’d a Star Wars Saga Edition campaign for some friends. I’m looking forward to seeing the new stories, and losing myself in that universe again.

  • Reminds me of a conversation I had about Star Wars with a slightly older kid – you’ll see I’m not used to children.

    “But I don’t want to be a goodie, I want to be a baddie.”
    (Me, horrified as he looks like an angel) “Why?”
    “They have the best weapons.”
    (Me) “But the baddies are not nice: they keep trying to kill the good guys.”
    “Yes, but the good guys keep trying to kill the baddies.”

  • Your kid is one lucky little dude because not only does he have the coolest imagination, but he has a dad who plays with him and doesn’t try to talk him in a more reasoned or adult-oriented world. He’s like the kid in that short story Mimsy Were the Borogoves because he still *gets* it: the magic and the mystery are still there, and by virtue of his understanding, you get to experience it too. So cool.

    BUT, you have to give Spacehunter another chance. Seriously, it is SO bad it is good, kind of like Sharknado. The BF and I still quote it to each other.Of course you thought it was awful then–it wasn’t Star Wars. And it *is* awful, but in a deliciously bad way. ;-)

  • Clearly this speeder with larger engines need to be investigated further because my five year old said the EXACT SAME THING in the car today when we were discussing that the truck was bigger and should thus be called The Millennium Falcon while the Camry was smaller snd should be the speeder. This is an argument he and his three year old sister have been having for months. It is the only argument they have I enjoy.

  • It was raining cats and dogs as I stepped in off the street and climbed the stairs to the third story walk-up office. This was my last chance, the very last detective agency in the city. If they wouldn’t take my case, I was through. Chest still heaving as my breath wheezed in my throat, I stumbled down the hall, still trailing water as it fell from my limp hat and soaked overcoat. The hall was silent except for the drip, drip, drip of water hitting the floor as I stood before the door and read the sign.

    Hamslice,
    Bologna,
    and Hair,
    Private Investigators.

    I tasted sour vomit in my throat as I read the words again. It wasn’t much of a chance, but it was the only one I had. Shaking, I reached for the doorknob.

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