It was in 1981 that Space Opera The Complete Sci-Fi Role Playing Game became the in game at the moment. My buddy, Chris Mc. had picked it up and had written up a series of adventures that became an epic campaign. Chris ran a Star Wars-esque style of game (long before Star Wars became an role playing game) and I had two characters: A feline humanoid named Phelixx who lasted four adventures before being blown out an air hatch because he couldn’t defuse a bomb in time. My second Space Opera character in his campaign was a human named: Asterik Jacks, an explorer whose ship had crashed on a jungle world and the team had landed for repairs and manage to find him.
Chris Mc. had “borrowed” heavily from Star Wars, Alien, Battlestar Galactica and Starlost for the adventures and it was one helluva of summer of battling cyborgs, dinosaurs and exploring a gigantic spaceship filled with zombies! Good times, good times.
I was at Cangames when a dealer had this game on the shelf for sale for $80 and though I was hit with nostalgia I wasn’t going to that price for any role playing game. As the day wore on, she was closing up shop early and wanted to know if I had wanted the game and to make an offer. I started low and she counter and we haggled until a price which was affordable and left her happy with as well.
Chris Mc. was one hell of a game master as well, and it was a sad time when he graduated high school two grades ahead of me and moved out to seek his education and the big city of Toronto, I tells ya. So, when I crack open the box of Space Opera it unleashes memories of late, late nights and playing til the morning light in a universe filled with pop-culture references and grand adventures.
Look. I’m as dyed-in-the-wool EU fan as it gets. I once submitted Darksaber and Children of the Jedi for my mandatory first grade reading assignments. I own at least 80 percent of post-ANH novels, and a lot of the comics. Mara Jade was probably the first fictional character I ever had a crush on: I get it.
I never really got into the prequels, either in terms of themes or characters, and never watched Clone Wars (that might change). I was underwhelmed by the news of Disney buying the rights to Star Wars, and pissed off when what formed a significant part of my childhood, adolescence, and teen years was summarily de-canonized to clear the way for this new stuff. And I am still nervous as hell about JJ Abrams, who missed the entire point of Star Trek in large swaths, being in charge of a franchise that has always been more space fantasy than science fiction.
But Rebels, man. Rebels is everything you could want from new canon media. It captures the feel of underdog optimism and underlying tragedy of the original trilogy and most of the good rise of the empire-era EU. It’s a new medium, sure, but when you get past that and compare it to the better parts of the original trilogy (or the prequels) it stands up really well. And it seems that one of the calling cards of the new Star Wars media is going to be diversity, and, let’s be real, the EU was pretty poor at that. It had a lot of great women, and nearly all of them were white, and those that weren’t were non-human.
In contrast, none of the highly-promoted original characters in The Force Awakens is a white male, and Rebels introduces the first significant woman of color of the new continuity (as Lupita seems to be CGI’d, alas) in the phenomenal Sabine Wren. There’s also Hera Syndulla, who is non-human, though if we’re honest, between the narratives of colonialism, slavery, and resource exploitation that have surrounded Ryloth, Twi’leks have always been the aliens most heavily coded as POC, especially the women. And Hera is everything. And to top it off, she’s the least sexualized and mentally balanced Twi’lek woman since fucking Mission Vao (apologies to Dia Passik and Aleema Rar, but it is a nice change). To make things even better, the plucky force sensitive street rat audience character is clearly non-white as well (as well as being fairly interesting in his own right) and even the angsty Jedi is somewhat ambiguous (his voice actor is mixed race). The astromech droid is a troll (and more than a little terrifying). And the wookie archetype character is based on the original concept art for Chewbacca. Plus Vader shows up in Season 2. It’s amazing.
The show isn’t without its problems, though they are more of the logistical and tone-setting (the ‘are stormtroopers comic relief or not’ and ‘should we really be cool with a sixteen year old gunning people down’) kind than the social justice and representation-oriented issues (though I’m not expecting canonically lgbt+ characters soon, because Disney).
Also, I remember Star Destroyers being bigger than that. And there shouldn’t be A-Wings five years before a New Hope. Stormtrooper blaster accuracy standards remain entirely consistent, however.
What is undeniable is that the show has come together dramatically since the start, and the last three episodes of season one and the opening short film of season two have really carried the show to the next level (and carried me to hitherto-forgotten levels of emotional engagement in Star Wars). So many stories remain to be told about the crew of the Ghost, and from the sounds of it, they will be told. And after watching this show in less than three days, I am so fucking excited, more than I have been about any star wars media since probably the last few books of the New Jedi Order.
So, to my followers, even, no, especially to my handful of EU junkie followers (save Rachael, for…reasons), please join me in this madness. You will not regret it. (Also it’s about 16 episodes so far)
(At the very least, remember than Rebels is too early to be directly overwriting canon that anyone particularly cares about (if it messes with Han or Lando’s backstories, we could potentially have a problem). How you deal with The Force Awakens is entirely a different matter, and I haven’t quite settled on that either.)
These are some of the ‘Space Fantasy’ series my reclusive artist friend Steve Dodd has sent me over the last year or two. I’ve posted them before but I wanted to see them all together! Most of these paintings are over 30 years old (the first one at the top ‘Space Fantasy #6’ was painted in 1974) and, incredibly, many have never seen the light of day. I’m certain Steve has more deep in the galactic recesses of his studio. I can’t wait to see them.
Fact: Kurt Vonnegut wrote a made-for-TV movie in 1972. It’s called Between Time and Timbuktu, or Prometheus-5: A Space Fantasy. Vonnegut later withdrew from the production: “I am not going to have anything more to do with film—for this reason: I don’t like film.” Well. As far as excuses go, that one’s airtight.