Jerusalem, 34 AD

Peter: Well, it’s been almost a year now and it looks like Jesus isn’t coming back any time soon, so I guess I’m in charge?

Paul: I think you’ll find I’m the one in charge!

Peter: Who are you!?

Phillip: He’s that Saul bastard who’s been…

Paul: I’m Paul, and Jesus put me in charge!

Peter: When?!

Paul: Last week.

Peter: Last week!? Our Lord has been gone for months!

Paul: He appeared to me in a vision on the road to Damascus.

Peter: A vision? Seriously? And what did this ‘vision’ say to you?

Paul: That I was in charge.

Paul: And also that you were a bitch.

Peter: Why you..!

John of Patmos: I saw Jesus too!

Peter: What…?

Paul: Who…?

John of Patmos: He was a lamb! And he had horns! And eyes – lots of eyes! And swords for teeth! And there was a dragon with seven heads and more horns! And there were living creatures! And four guys on different coloured horses and a woman standing on the moon and a harlot and then everyone had to run and hide in caves because all the water was poison and there were grasshoppers with human heads and a mountain fell out of the sky and the sky went away and there were angels blowing horns and did I mention the grasshoppers because they had human heads and scorpion tails and all the stars fell down and…

The Inner Life of the Star Wars Fan circa 1981

I’m currently engaged in a major clean out of my apartment to make it suitable for visits by human beings who aren’t absent minded hoarders. This has resulted in the turning up all kinds of treasures that I knew were in here somewhere but hadn’t actually seen for going on 20 years – one of which is the April 1981 issue of Fantastic Films: The Magazine of Imaginative Media.

If you’re a Star Wars fan you will realise that this date is signifigant, as it falls after the release of The Empire Strikes Back, but before the release of Return of the Jedi. This means that the sci-fi fans of the era were dealing with a number of epic cliff hangers – Han and Leia have confessed their love, Han has been frozen in Carbonite and taken away by the mysterious Boba Fett, Vader has made the spectacular claim of being Luke’s father, and there’s a mysterious ‘other’ who may save the day if Luke fails.

Of course we know the outcome to all of these. Han and Leia get together, Luke rescues Han, Boba Fett is just this guy, Vader actually is Luke’s father, and the other is Leia, who is actually Luke’s sister. But fans in 1981 knew none of this, so rumours, theories and speculation abounded.

The World Wide Web being 12 years in the future, the main place that these theories were discussed were in the articles and letters pages sci-fi magazines. And the letters page of Fantastic Films Vol 3 Number 8 contains a doozie of a letter penned by one Mary Jean Holmes of Milwaukee Wisconsin, responding to an earlier article speculating on how the Star Wars saga would conclude. It’s a fascinating look at the state of the fandom in between the movies, so I’ve decided to transcribe it here.

(I am doing this completely without permission and will happily remove the letter if anyone involved with it objects)

Mary Jean Holmes
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Fantastic Films, Vol 3, Number 8, April 1981

Recently, I read Bill Hayes’ article speculating upon possible turns of plot in the upcoming Revenge of the Jedi 1, and had several strong reactions. Although I find his idea of Boba Fett working as an agent in [sic] behalf of the supposedly defunct Jedi intriguing (somehow, one lone knight wouldn’t seem enough to warrant calling an entire film Revenge of the Jedi), I also find some of Master Hayes’ arguments or speculations don’t hold proverbial water.

First off, if he’s going to bother to use quotes at all, he should get them and their sources right. The reference he makes to slavery is from Brian Daley (not Davey)’s Han Solo’s Revenge, not Han Solo at Star (not World)’s End.

The business about Jesus Christ clones is utterly ridiculous, as well as inapplicable to the SW universe. It’s a galaxy far, far away, remember? I’m quite tired of hearing stuff about Christ-figures in various stories. Granted, Ben-Kenobi might be Christ-like, but a Jesus clone he is not. (Jesus Eugenics Development Institute!2 Really!)

There is also the thought that “Obi-wan Kenobi” translated from (I believe) Japanese means more or less “The One with the force” to consider3.

Actually, musing over the idea of Boba Fett as the Other, I came up with a radically different conclusion.

If Fett really has been chasing around the galaxy, pursuing and supposedly destroying Jedi, but in reality collecting them at some undisclosed location for future use, I might buy the assumption. There is support, remember, Vader turned quite pointedly to Fett and said, “No disintegration.”4 Obviously, the man has a reputation for vaporizing his quarry. Perhaps he has been pretending to do so in order to keep them alive.

There seems to be no contradictions to this, except for two fairly minor items: 1.) The Wookiee scalps , which might be fakes he carries around to keep nosy people from looking too closely at him. 2.) The fact that he attempted to shoot Chewie in the carbon freezing room. You can argue off the shot at Luke as a warning, but we don’t know that he was thinking only of warning Chewie. Granted, Vader did stop him, which, if he is conversant with the Force, he might have predicted. Or perhaps he isn’t interested in either Chewie or Leia. But the fact that he tried is a touch disconcerting, especially if you accept the theory that Fett is a good guy working in disguise.5

Even so, one wonders what the blazes he’d want with Han, other than a legitimate bounty to keep the Jedi farm going.

There are theories running around that postulate Han as the Other, arguments with considerable support (if there’s really no such thing as luck, what’s been keeping him alive? Leia might have received Luke’s thought, but how did Han manage to find one half-frozen person in all that wasteland with a malfunctioning sensor? Things like that.) Oddly, we found that the two suppositions don’t necessarily negate one another; to a point, they are mutually supportive. The Other Hope, after all, doesn’t have to be a single person. No one ever said that it was.

But the notion of Fett as Luke’s father is one I simply can’t buy. I’d sooner believe Vader.6 The thought of Luke as a clone is interesting; it manages to keep all the projected tales within the collective title “The Adventures of Luke Skywalker”.7 But how many would there be running around the galaxy? There is support in Luke’s case in novelization of Star Wars: “. . . piloting and navigation aren’t hereditary, but a number of things that can combine to make a good small-ship pilot are. Those you may have inherited. Still, even a duck has to be taught to swim.” Of course, if such things are hereditary, one might wonder if that means Han is a Skywalker progeny as well . . . but that’s off the subject.

The Millennium Falcon was made by the Jedi, huh? That’s a cute idea and obliquely supportable. The business of comparing the word “millennium” and the thousand generation dominancy [sic] of Jedi in the Republic never occurred to me before; the response to Solo’s “You mean you’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?” (“Kenobi appeared amused”) did. There’s also Threepio’s complaint in TESB: “I don’t know where your ship learned to communicate, but it has the most peculiar dialect,” which lends certain credence to odd beginnings for the smuggling ship.

One wonders, however, that if the Falcon was just as fast when Lando owned her as she is now, why Han would lie about having modified her. A boast, perhaps, but one that could easily be caught by their mutual cohorts. A friend suggests the notion that, if she were originally of Jedi-construct, it was another manifestation of the Force (perhaps manipulated by Solo himself, unconsciously) that he merely repaired damage done to her by previous owners. In other words, he simply put it back the way it was supposed to be.

I’ve joked since first reading TESB8 that Jabba would prop up the frozen Han in a corner of his office as a warning to any future employees who might consider welching out on debts9. I’ve never considered it more that a joke. I won’t be the least bit surprised if Han and Boba never make it to Tatooine; it would seem a bit too easy, plot-wise, if Chewie and Co. have no trouble in locating their frozen friend.

Also: Where does Mr. Hayes get this “pirate fleet” nonsense from? From all indications, Jabba employed independent pilots to smuggle for him, not a full-fledged fleet. Any pirate in his right mind would be leery of running in too large a pack; there may be safety in numbers, but the bigger the target, the easier it is to find and hit. Not only that: Han may really be a soft touch, an idealist at heart, but I sincerely doubt that many of Jabba’s cohorts are. The notion of them working in and as a formal government seems not only absurd, but highly unlikely . How many criminals can turn over new leaves so suddenly?10

So Luke hasn’t been offered anything he wants by the Dark Side, eh? Bantha droppings! He most certainly has: revenge, a means of getting back at Vader for what he’s done to him, his family, and his friends. “Don’t give in to hate,” Ben warned. He knew, undoubtedly, that the temptation for Luke to use the Force for vengeance would be great. It still is at the end of TESB. He not only has the deaths of his family and Ben to get restitution for, but the torture of his friends and the possible death of one as well. I admit that he may still want Leia11, but he didn’t seem quite as crushed as Mr. Hayes thinks. “He understood what she was feeling . . .” The disappointment is obvious. The sadness is evident. But the key is that he understood. I find this apparent maturity most important since, by his ability to handle this personal loss, Luke displays that he has, indeed, grown and learned. In losing to Vader, he learned to accept failure, and also realized that he cannot allow it to keep him from pursuing his initial goals. That same maturity might also keep him from pressing a potential romance with Leia. I would like to think that Leia is stubborn enough to remain firm in her choice, now that it’s been made; I would also like to think that Luke’s relationship with Han was sufficiently close to keep him from actually interfering with Leia’s freely made choice.12

Besides, if Luke really wanted Leia13, and really wanted her to love him14, mightn’t it be easiest if he just went about convincing her that Han is dead?

Oh, well. It’s all speculation. I’ve heard more pet ideas on the subject than I care to count. Only time and George Lucas will tell; in this I fully agree with Mr. Hayes: Three years is too long.

1: Revenge of the Jedi was the original name for epis0ode 6 before George Lucas decided that revenge was an unsuitable motivation for a Jedi
2: Jesus Eugenics Development Institute = JEDI, get it?
3: This was an apparently a common rumour but is untrue. “Obi-wan Kenobi” could perhaps be understood as “Sash-woof Sword-Sash” in very bad Japanese.
4: Actually “No disintegrations“, but potato potahto.
5: Spoiler – he’s not
6: Yeah, follow that instinct…
7: The novelisation of Episode IV was originally published as Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. It was released in 1976, several months before the movie and credited to George Lucas, although it was actually ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster.
8: The novelisation of The Empire Strikes Back by Donald F. Glut was released in 1980, a month or so before the premiere of the film.
9: Oddly prescient there…
10: It would be fascinating to know what Bill Hayes was proposing here. Jabba running a pirate fleet who turn into a government?
11: Pull up! Pull up!
12: Man was that section rough, knowing what we know.
13: Stop it!!
14: I said STOP!!

So there we have it! Obi-wan as a clone of Jesus, Boba Fett collecting Jedi, the Millennium Falcon as a secret Jedi super-ship and more uncomfortable speculation about Luke and Leia than you can poke a banjo at. Fascinating stuff, and a very nice use of colons and semi-colons, the likes of which is rarely seen in this fallen age. May the Force be with you!

No Sex Please, We’re Different

Call me autistic, but it’s kind of weird to consider that not only may your own friends think about things in ways wildly differently to how you think about them, but that they may not realise just how different your viewpoints are.

Some years ago a good friend of mine breathlessly informed me that a woman we both knew was apparently extremely keen to sleep with me. I did not find the woman in question particularly attractive – not least because of her cigarette habit – so replied that I might consider said activity if she quit smoking.

My friend reacted as if I’d suddenly sprouted two extra heads and started singing the Whiffenpoof Song in Spanish. He was genuinely, mouth-hanging-open stunned. It was as if the concept of someone voluntarily turning down an opportunity for sex was completely alien to his thinking and understanding of the world. He shook his head back and forth uttering a confused series of ‘no’s and ‘but’s, and once he gained control of himself kept glancing at me as if I was some kind of Lovecraftian horror in the form of a human being.

So yeah. The way you think about the world is not the way everyone things about the world.

(Either that or my standards are too high…)

Sleep Deprived Updates

Barely survived the first heatwave of summer. Not that it’s technically summer here until the end of the week. Thank you climate change!

The heatwave lead to sleep deprivation which lead to an odd obsession with Mike Batt’s musical version of The Hunting of the Snark. It’s very good but I’ve listened to it far too many times over the last week, to the point that I’m mentally throwing around casting choices and mumbling fragments of verse under my breath. “But at first sight, the crew, were not pleased by the view, which consisted of chasms and crags…”

This caused me to dig out my copy of the poem – purchased on a whim from Elizabeth’s bookstore in Subiaco in its old location out the back of the markets in around 1990 – and discovering that it’s one of only 1,995 collector copies of the Centennial Edition, published in 1981. I hopped online to check out the value and it’s worth about $100 in good nick – not that mine is in particularly good nick, and I wouldn’t consider selling it anyway. But it’s nice to know that it’s somewhat exclusive.

I’ve also become obsessed with building a 40k scale model of the epic Siegfried Light Tank. I’ve scoured the internet for photos (there ain’t many) and have managed to get a design together for every part of it except the back. I rather suspect I may have to buy one on eBay which while not massively expensive is still a bit of an investment for a tiny piece of metal. And for a model that – if history is any judge – I’ll never get finished. Although maybe if I spend money on it it’ll actually motivate me to finish it. Hmmmm. I wouldn’t bet on it.

Oh, and over the weekend when I was supposed to be getting other stuff done I did an update of my Warhammer 40,000 according to the Simpsons bit of nonsense. The current version is revision 4, but I’m already thinking I need to add the Men of Iron, and know exactly what screenshot to use. In any case here ’tis for your edification and enjoyment.

Warhammer 40,000 According to the Simpsons
Need to add those Men of Iron…

Now that things have cooled down, maybe I’ll be able to get some sleep. I wouldn’t count on it mind you…

Zanzibar, Oh Zanzibar!

So there I was, watching Joanna Lumley’s Spice Trail Adventure on free-to-air tv last night like the dinosaur I am while waiting for Annika to come on and reflecting that if they’ve killed Tosh on Shetland (on after Annika) I would be extremely annoyed when this thing appeared on my screen.

That’s no moon Zanzibar!

This – according to ITV – is a map of the east African island of Zanzibar. Now, I had never to my knowledge seen a map of Zanzibar prior to last night, but I was pretty sure it doesn’t look like that. And the reason I’m pretty sure it doesn’t look like that is because that is clearly a map of the much, much larger east African island of Madagascar.

What absolutely baffles me about this is how it could possibly have happened. Someone in the ITV graphics department obviously put time and effort into creating an accurate map of the area around Zanzibar, and then slapped a map of Madagascar into the middle of it. They even took care to not cover up the smaller island of Tumbatu just to the west. It surely can’t be a mistake. Is it some kind of protest? Some kind of prank? And how did it get through to the final product without anyone noticing it?

Just sheer bafflement all around. I’m tempted to shoot them off an email to try and get to the bottom of it. Do better ITV!

Ten Things to know about Zurvár Arèáná

1: Zurvár Arèáná is one of an uncountable number of alternative Earths (although it’s just as accurate to say that Earth is one of an uncountable number of alternative Zurvár Arèánás). It is a world of island chains with over 95% ocean and no landmasses larger than Great Britain.

2: The Zurvár people are a human species of unknown ultimate origin who traveled between alternate worlds for centuries before settling on Zurvár Arèáná from the 1960s onward. They have a number of minor physiological differences to Earth humans but the species are genetically compatible.

3: The world is loosely governed by the Konsâtèum – an organisation of powerful Zurvár houses and other interested groups established as a settlement authority. Many Zurvár consider the Konsâtèum to be overstepping its mandate by taking on a governing role.

4: Also inhabiting the world are a number of pods of dolphins and small whales from Otherworld One (another alternate Earth) who petitioned for environmental asylum in the 1970s. They officially have their own government, but it might be a fiction to ease relations with the Zurvár, or might be some kind of elaborate joke.

5: The world has eight cities ranging in population from 690,000 (Gorat Bárkalif Ganalû) down to 24,000 (Gorat Mantábon Dìaz). Outside of the cities the population live in towns and villages, none with a population much greater than 2,000. The total Zurvár population of the world is estimated at 18 million as of 2020.

6: Long distance travel across the planet is by matter transmission – a technology so much more advanced than the rest of the Zurvár technological base that it assumed to have been acquired from some other civilisation during the Zurvár peoples’ travels. Those who prefer not to be converted into energy and beamed between a series of transmission towers before being reassembled at the other end must take the slower option of boats or aircraft.

7: Homes, businesses and industry are powered by solar, wind, tidal and limited geothermal power generation. Zurvár battery technology is more advanced that than of Earth, allowing pretty much the entire planet to be run electrically.

8: Zurvár kidneys can handle much higher levels of salt than those of Earth humans. Visitors from Earth are advised to drink bottled water rather than relying on local supplies which may not be sufficiently desalinated for Earth human consumption.

9: Zurvár Arèáná has no native mammals, with the largest land animals being skink-like lizards no more than 25cm long. Bird and fish life is abundant. There are no known oceanic predators large enough to trouble humans, but the cetaceans claim that there are titanic predators dwelling deep below the surface. No one is sure if this is true or part of some elaborate joke.

10: The music of the Beach Boys has been wildly popular on Zurvár Arèáná since their albums were first imported in the late 1960s. As a result a highly profitable industry has grown up devoted to mimicking an idealised version of 1960s California, including the importation (and conversion to electric drive) of classic American muscle cars and, and the establishment of hamburger restaurants to drive them to. Traditionalist Zurvár are (unsurprisingly) infuriated by this.

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