The Best Star Wars Story That Will Never Make The Movies

By Murray M. Lee

On December 18 2015, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” hit the theaters, and there was no shortage of fans waiting to see it, whom had waited ten years since the last movie in the saga, and over thirty years since where the story left off in “Return of the Jedi.” That’s quite a long time of which most science fiction stories, the public wouldn’t be expected to bother with. But Star Wars has struck such a cord with the public, not just a story but a phenomena, a loyal group of fans, of which yours truly considers himself part of the less than fanatical numbers, have kept up with it.

heirtotheempireOf science-fiction fare, only “Star Trek” comes as close in popularity. Unlike “Star Wars” fans, Trekkers didn’t have to wait 30 years to find out what happens next as several years later the first of their movies began coming out (whether or not The Animated Series done shortly after the Original Series falls into its cannon is up for debate). This is partially due to Star Wars’ creator George Lucas losing the interest he had in the story following his divorce. What helped convince him there was still an audience for the stories were the graphic novels by Dark Horse Comics, and the novels written by Timothy Zahn, notably the first three, known as the “Thrawn Trilogy,” published from 1991 to 1993. They are “Heir to the Empire,” “Dark Force Rising,” and “The Last Command.” In the trilogy, a master tactician assumes command of the Empire, and comes uncomfortably close to defeating the New Republic.

“Heir to the Empire” starts of five years after the events in “Return of the Jedi.” Since the Empire’s defeat at Endor, the Empire has slowly been pushed back to roughly a quarter of the territory it once had. The Rebel Alliance has formed the New Republic, which is establishing itself as the legitimate power in the galaxy. Of the heroes, Han Solo and Princess Leia are married and expecting twins, with Luke Skywalker the first of a new line of Jedi Knights. But fortunes are about to change. Grand Admiral Thrawn, the last of the Grand Admirals of the Empire, has returned and assumed command of what’s left of the Imperial Fleet. Thrawn’s first victory doesn’t get much attention at first, but it isn’t long before the heroes realize they have a problem.

Nothing drives the conflict of a story like a good villain, except perhaps a great villain. Thrawn certainly qualified. Unlike the Emperor or Darth Vader, he was no wielder of the Force, nor did he particularly need to. As a brilliant tactical genius, he could outmaneuver opposing forces with ease, even with inferior numbers. With his near-encyclopedic knowledge, and attention to small details of data and intelligence, he could piece together small details that by themselves were trivial, but “together formed a powerful variable.” He could keep the New Republic’s leaders guessing about his plans, and by the time they figured out one detail, he had already moved on to the next step in his plans.

Unlike many, presumably most, others in the Imperial leadership, Thrawn was unconcerned with his personal glory, levelheaded enough to call a retreat when an obstacle proved much stronger to the point that fighting it there and then would just be too costly, once remarking, “We haven’t been beaten, only slowed down a bit.” Neither did he punish those under him “Vader style” for failure. Preferring to promote creativity, a clever action could be rewarded even if it failed as it demonstrated the soldier’s ability to think. He was also willing to accept and use the ideas of others, willing to let them have the credit. Rather than arrogance, those under him felt pride in serving the Empire.

Thrawn’s hobby turned out to be his method for helping him understand his enemies. When going up against a world, he studied it’s art to develop insights to it’s people and their ways of thinking. Many expressed skepticism, calling it a cover to his actual methods. To those who bought his explanation, it added to his mystique.

Darth Vader and the Emperor had the Death Star, and were building a second following the destruction of the first, to intimidate their enemies with a superweapon. When Vader had neither, he had his Super-Star Destroyer that dwarved normal sized ones. Thrawn never had or developed such superweapons, at least not ones like these. Instead, he relied on technology from the Emperor’s storehouse which he found out about and claimed.

One such piece of technology was a cloaking device which blinded the ship using it as well as making it invisible. Such a device would seem of limited use to a warship. But Thrawn found a way to use it to trick a planet into surrendering. Going up against a world with a defense shield that was impenetrable to turbolasers, Thrawn’s star destroyers were seemingly able to fire warning shots through it. What had actually happened was two cloaked ships had gone to predetermined points below the shield before it went up, and fired their weapons just as the ships above were. Thrawn had convinced the planet’s leaders their shield was useless, and they gave up. Thrawn would find another use for the technology to take a more important, and heavily armed, world out of the war for a while.

Another piece of technology Thrawn gained would have otherwise been of limited value: Spaarti cloning cylinders. Unlike the Kaminoan cloning techniques, which were featured in the movies, they could produce a clone in a year instead of ten years. Trouble was, clones produced by them were prone to “clone madness,” and thus would be of limited value as soldiers (but perhaps an explanation as why some Stormtroopers can’t hit the side of a barn). But Thrawn made a discovery that would make all the difference with the cloning cylinders in his campaign.

In the face of this most formidable adversary, The New Republic, formed out of the Rebel Alliance, had some problems of it’s own. With the Empire seemingly on the ropes and now resurgent, political differences began, notably one of the higher ranking politicians moving against Admiral Ackbar, whom had been the leader of the Rebel Fleet at the destruction of the Second Death Star and continued to be one of the more important military leaders.

One of the “good guys” was concerned more with his political standing than winning the war, while the lead villain wasn’t concerned with personal glory. Not something you’ll find in most stories.

But not everything went Thrawn’s way. One of the wild cards were the smugglers whom were taking advantage of the demise of the collapse of Jabba’s crime empire after the Hutt’s death, as well as the disintegration of the Empire. Among the newer members of a smuggling band was Mara Jade. As it turned out, Jade had an interesting history, of which she blamed Luke Skywalker for a great loss in her life. But while inclined to help out the Empire if it meant some money, their interest could sometimes clash.

Thrawn couldn’t use the Force himself, but he did see one ability of Jedi masters that would be of benefit of him, the ability to bolster allies to fight better by improving their coordination, morale, and stamina. So he recruited a Dark Jedi, Joruus C’baoth, to help him in that respect, in exchange for promising to capture Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, now Leia Organa Solo and turn them over to him. But how long could they work with this character whom could be confrontational, and more than a little mad?

Another of Thrawn’s secrets were the Noghri, a race whom had been discovered by Darth Vader following the devastation of their homeworld, promising to heal their ruined world and in return received the loyalty of a planet of seemingly unstoppable assassins. The Emperor and Vader kept the world off Galactic records, and Thrawn was given control of them as a reward for his help at a crucial time earlier. With a society where honor played as great a role as the Wookies, they dutifully served Thrawn. But Vader’s “help” to the planet, which Thrawn continued, was not what it seemed.

When Zahn was interviewed about his story, he explained he wanted a villain different from Darth Vader and the Emperor, whom had an air of omnipitance with their Force powers, “He’s a clever villain. … Ultimately the heroism of the hero is measured by the … power of the villain, and with Thrawn I wanted something other than Force-using Vader or Palpatine, someone who doesn’t have Luke’s Force powers, but can run him around in a maze …”  Thrawn didn’t have the Force, or a superweapon like the Death Star. His main weapon was his extremely keen tactical mind.

The Thrawn Trilogy received good reviews among both Star Wars and other science fiction fans, and was a factor in convincing George Lucas in going forward with the prequel trilogy of Star Wars movies. It introduced a number of characters that would been seen in more stories, Thrawn himself would get stories detailing his military career before the Empire, in addition to a role in a “TIE Fighter” video game. As for Mara Jade, she would be in a few more stories with Luke Skywalker, the two eventually forming a relationship.

So what are the chances of the Thrawn Trilogy being made into movies of their own? Sadly, they are zero. In 2014, it was announced that all “Star Wars” materials outside the movies and the “Clone Wars” animated television series would be declared “non-cannon.” Some fans were okay with the decision as a whole; although there was an effort to maintain consistency in the novels, some felt a few details had been pushed a little far.

Being a “Star Wars” fan, it is a little sad being told that my favorite three stories “never happened.” But in the end, they are fictional stories of a fictional universe. One can only make such a deal of it. On the other hand, many novels end up something entirely different when given the Hollywood treatment, such as the villains of “The Sum of All Fears” changed from Islamofacist terrorists to aging Neo-Nazis. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise.

Still, one can dream. Like other Star Wars fans, I’ll be seeing “The Force Awakens.” But I can’t help but wonder how Mark Hamil, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher would have handled going up against the Empire’s master strategist and tactician.

Source: Wookepedia

Murray M. Lee

Man Buys Google.com For $12

googledotcomforsale

This Internet news story is several weeks old, but still worth talking about. It seems Google briefly lost the ownership of it’s Internet domain name to a man in India, albeit for just a minute.

“I was learning more about the Google Domains interface,” Sanmay Ved of Mandivi India would write in LinkedIn, “and typed google.com and clicked search domains. To my surprise, Google.com was showing as available!” He then used his credit card to purchase the domain, documenting his transactions on screenshots, and his transaction was confirmed, making him the new owner of Google’s web domain.

But his ownership was brief. A minute later, he received an email stating his purchase was canceled, which Google could do as they owned the registration service, unlike a similar incident with Microsoft and it’s domain in the United Kingdom. Some days later, he was contacted by their security team, stating he would get a reward for finding the error. Ved requested the reward go to charity, an educational group that runs 400 schools in India, “providing free education to more than 39,200 children in the slum, tribal and rural belts where child labor and poverty are widespread.” Google agreed and doubled the amount.

I can’t shake that feeling that I actually owned Google.com,” he was quoted as saying.

Sources: LinkedIn, Business Insider, BBC News, PCmag.com 

Murray M. Lee

Of Generations and History

 

By Murray M. Lee

Yours truly has enjoyed reading history all his life, both in reading the facts, but also sometimes looking at why things happened the way they did. So when I heard about the book “Generations: A History of America’s Future” in 1991, I went ahead and got a copy. It’s remained one of the books I recommend those interested in history have a read.

Written by William Strauss and Neil Howe, the central point of the book is what’s come to be called the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory, that generations more or less repeat themselves in a pattern, and influence history’s patterns of “Spiritual Awakenings” like the Great Awakenings of the 1740s and 1820s and the 60s Counterculture movement, and “Great Crises,” such as the American Revolution, Civil War, and Great Depression/WW2. Generations, the authors stated, can be grouped as four types, appearing in a cycle: Civic-minded generations, such as the “GI Generation” of which was the generation that was fighting age around WW2, Adaptive generations, such as the “Silent” generation that came of age in the late 40s and 50s, Idealistic generations such as the Boomers whom came of age in the 60s and 70s, and Reactive or realistic generations, such as “Generation X.” Over a course of about eighty years, they appear in a pattern: Civic/Adaptive/Idealistic/Reactive.

And just as there are different generations, American history follows a pattern. Times of crisis, such as the Second World War, are followed by a time when the country is united and society is more conformist. What follows is a time in which the norms of society come increasingly into question, or a “Spiritual Awakening,” such as the 60’s and 70s. What follows is a time in which the country is less unified, the people more individualistic. Times like these are known for rugged individuals such as the 49ers who sought their fortunes in the Old West, barnstormers and stock-market moneymakers in the 1920s, and the dot-com Internet enterpenurers of the 1990s.

In the last Great Crisis, the Depression WW2, you had an Idealistic generation, what they called the “Missionary” making up most of their elder statesmen (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur), a Reactive generation, the “Lost,” making up lesser leadership roles (Harry Truman, George Patton), a Civic generation, the “GI” generation, as the young adults fighting the war, (John Kennedy, John Glenn, George Bush), and an Adaptive generation, the “Silent,” in their childhood (Walter Mondale, John McCain), who could only watch as older generations served in a global conflict.

In the Postwar era of the 1950s (termed the American High by some), a time when the country was unified by some were starting to get uncomfortable with the conformity, the Idealist Missionary generation was passing into history and the Reactive Lost were now making up the elder statesmen. Members of the GI generation were getting elected to Congress and other government positions, as well as working their way up corporate ladders, the Silent generation were now young adults, serving in the Korean War or entry level jobs in businesses, and a new Idealist generation, the Boomers, were growing up as children in a time of prosperity and conformity.

In the “Spiritual Awakening” of the 1960s and 70s, members of the GI Generation were assuming the positions of elder statesmen, with members of the Adaptive Silent rising up to leadership positions just under them, or leading movements themselves, the Boomers now as young adults and their numbers swelling the ranks of counterculture and civil rights movements, or serving as the foot soldiers in Vietnam, with a Reactive generation, Generation X, in a childhood in which the outside world seemed more than a little chaotic at times.

In the 1980s and 90s, a time of rising individualism and less of a sense of a united country, the Adaptive Silents would assume some positions of elder statesmen (although the Presidency itself would elude them), with the Boomers taking some positions of leadership in politics and business (Newt Gingrich, Al Gore, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs),  Generation X now all grown up was entering the working world or starting their own companies, notably those in technology such as the dot-com businesses, with a lucky few making names as singers or athletes (Philip Rosedale, J.K. Rowling, Michael Jordon), and the Millennial generation (Mark Zuckerberg, ) as children, watching the Cold War come to an end with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and seeing politicians become increasingly bitter to one another.

Just as history isn’t always cut and dry, the cycle isn’t a perfect one. It was broken once during the Civil War, which was characterized by people identifying with the Idealistic “Transcendental” generation for a longer than normal time for a generation, and the absence of a true Civic generation. Strauss and Howe wrote that during the Civil War Crisis, the Reactive generation of the time, which they called the “Gilded Generation,” took on some of the attributes of a Civic generation. But after what they had faced, they would be more distrustful of moral zealotry and more willing to accept less than perfect institutions. The generation following the Gilded, growing up in the shadow of a destructive Civil War and in a land where corruption was becoming more of a problem, would become an Adaptive generation, whom Strauss and Howe termed the “Progressive.”

My own knowledge of history is lacking in places, but I don’t recall the 1880s, 1890s and 1900s having a time of spiritualism as the US had several decades before and after, though more were drawn to missionary work overseas as Africa and much of Asia fell under Western control, and there was the Progressive movement in politics.

And of one generation giving way to another in positions of leadership, there has been one noteworthy hiccup: no Silent generation US President. Although they fielded a number of candidates from Walter Mondale to Michael Dukakis to John McCain, none would get the job, becoming the first generation to fail to get to top political office in America, the job in the 80s and 90s going instead from GI generation to Boomer.

One thing that marks Generation X is having a rougher time economically than their parents at their stage of life, enterpenuers of the dot-com era ending up going bankrupt and houseowners losing big in the housing bubble of the later 2000s. Previous Reactive generations have had troubles not dissimilar. Members of the Lost generation would make fortunes in the Stock Market in the 1920s, only to lose them in the crash, spend a decade of their prime working years unemployed or making depressed wages in scarce jobs, and getting the short end of the stick for the new Social Security program. For the Gilded generation, thousands took part in the 1849 California Gold Rush hoping to strike it rich, but most would find no gold and had to settle down to take whatever job they could, such as farming.

So what does this cycle of generations and history mean for today? Well, according to the theory, we’re right on the verge of a Great Crisis, which could he several months or several years away. The American Revolution, American Civil War, and Second World War, are roughly eighty years apart from one another: 1780/1860/1940. So the next one should be around 2020, give or take a few years.

What this conflict might be like, or what kind of generation the Millennials are likely to become will be the topic of  a later commentary. For now, I’ll leave you to a video of the authors of “Generations” discussing their book (Click here).

Murray M. Lee

About This Site

Many of you know me by my online pseudonym, Bixyl Shuftan, which I’ve been more or less known online for several years. Others, especially those who know me on the other side of the computer, know me as Murray M. Lee. As both, I’ve been known as keeping an eye on the news, having read a number of history and science fiction books in the past, a love of computer games, and a corny sense of humor.

murraymlee2013I’ve been writing for fun since childhood, as a kid homemade comics and fanciful tales that were the byproduct of a kid’s imagination. As a young adult, science fiction short stories for Creative Writing Class. From about 1999 to 2007, I self-published a number of short stories and a couple short novels on a website, “A Writers Block.” Over eight years, it would get thirty thousand hits. After I got a new computer, the File Transfer Protocol program stopped working. But it was about this time I was thinking I needed a new focus.

I soon found another subject to write about later in 2007 in in the virtual world of Second Life. I was invited by the owners of Second Life Newspaper to write for them, and I began writing nonfiction stories about the virtual world, it’s people, places, and events. In 2010, Second Life Newspaper folded as it’s owners departed the virtual world, and me and most of the other writers began a new one: Second Life Newser. It has become one of the leading sources of news for those interested about the virtual world, with twenty-two thousand readers checking the paper every month.

While my online friends were interested in the Newser, those on my side of the computer were generally puzzled, or disinterested in the newsletter. What they did pay attention to was the cartoons, of which even the inside jokes were laughed at, and that I was actually getting paid for what I was writing, indirectly through advertising, with what was left over after paying the staff going to charities in the virtual world. Good, I was told, but couldn’t better be done? Second Life is fine and dandy, but this does not put food on the table.

So I’m going to try something new.

While still doing the Newser, and still doing science-fiction stories on the side. I’m going to try my hand at writing at least once a week about things besides Second Life. Sometimes a joke or two, sometimes a commentary about something in the news, sometimes reflecting on history, and more.

What to call this something new? Thinking about it, I kept recalling people suggesting that I write to get businesses to want to advertise on my pages and pay me good money, so it would put food on the table.

And so, that’s what the title of this site will be: Food on the Table.

Hope you enjoy my writing, and if you run a business, please consider advertising here.

Murray M. Lee