There are only three movies I can recall (willingly) seeing in the theaters more than twice: The Matrix Reloaded, Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. This should tell you something about my taste in movies. "Yeah, that you've got terrible taste in movies," you might be thinking. At a glance, to the average fan who loved The Matrix and the original Star Wars trilogy (and hated everything after them), that's exactly how it may appear. To Grand Admiral Thrawn, however, it might seem more likely that I had enough spare cash during the first half of the aughts to indulge in the pleasure of repeatedly watching a few of my new favorite big action sequences and big explosions on the big screen.
Up until three weeks ago, I had no idea who Grand Admiral Thrawn was.
I've been a Star Wars fan for years. I've marathoned all six movies in the prequel trilogy and original trilogy. I've seen the Clone Wars animated film, I'm more than halfway through the first season of the spinoff TV series, and I've watched the previous (and, in my opinion, superior) animated TV series as well. I've played Shadows of the Empire and Episode I: Racer and LEGO Star Wars 1-2. I like the Rogue Squadron video game series, love the Jedi Knight computer game series, and have spent more time with Knights of the Old Republic I & II than any other RPG in the post-SNES era. I own posters from the six main films, a handful of Star Wars trade paperback comics, about a dozen different toy lightsabers, about as many Star Wars PEZ dispensers, and nearly the entire line of Galoob Star Wars Micro Machines (and a fair number from their larger Action Fleet line, too). The list could go on, but I think it's clear that I am, in fact, a fan of Star Wars new and old, in all its forms.
Yet liking the prequels and being over the age of five seems to disqualify me from being a legitimate Star Wars fan.
I always marveled at how people could claim to be Star Wars fans when Return of the Jedi received such criticism for being different from Empire Strikes Back, and when people outright refuse to acknowledge the existence of the prequels. Liking only two, maybe three of the six films that form the canonical basis for your fandom doesn't seem to make you much of a fan. I never minded too much when someone said they liked the original trilogy and not the prequels, but it was incomprehensible to me that I might be considered less of a Star Wars fan for liking something produced by the man who created it!
It wasn't until three weeks ago that my heresy began to make sense.
Early last year I'd picked up Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command, the three Star Wars books from the early '90s collectively known as the Thrawn trilogy. I'd read a few Star Wars books before--Tales of the Bounty Hunters, Shadows of the Empire (after playing the video game), the Han Solo trilogy, and possibly one or two other novels that have slipped my mind. While they were entertaining, and helped satisfy my curiosity about this Expanded Universe that Star Wars fans are always talking about, that was about the extent of their influence on me.
Strictly in terms of style--at least, as far as I've read--Timothy Zahn's writing favors function over form, providing only as much information the reader needs to adequately picture the action (with a few descriptions and turns of phrase here and there to add extra flavor, such as time being measured in "a pair of heartbeats"). What is most striking about Zahn's writing is how he seems to truly understand the characters, the Star Wars universe, and how the characters interact with the universe and each other.
I fell in love with Star Trek because of the characters, the universe, and how the characters interact with the universe and each other.
The moment that connection clicked with me was the moment I began to realize that being a Star Wars fan really isn't about the movies at all. The Expanded Universe isn't just an extension of the core fandom--it is the core fandom.
Suddenly, those big action sequences and big explosions on the big screen seemed like a pretty silly reason not to be disappointed by the prequels.
But that's a discussion for Saturday.