Calling all Nerf Herders
My first memory of Star Wars involves the Death Star trench run on a VHS tape. One of my older brothers rented it and brought it home, but because my family could only afford a 2-head VCR and the tape was recorded in SP, it played across our small television in slurred speed, with two bars of static erupting across the middle every two seconds. It still captivated me. For a child growing up in a large, poor refugee family, Star Wars was a world and a story I could imagine being a part of to escape. I would wield a flashlight as a lightsaber until my dad told me to stop wasting batteries. I coveted my older brother's collection of Star Wars trading cards, which he would let me read if I was careful with them. I was eight when someone in my family took me to see Return of the Jedi at the Skyway Theater on Hennepin in Downtown Minneapolis. I remember waiting outside the theater afterwards for a ride and two boys around my age, of different races, re-enacting the scene where Luke kicks his father Darth Vader down the stairs.
I was already a cynical college grad when the much maligned prequels hit theaters, but I was still excited. I tried reading Star Wars novels and even got through one or two. I thought the storytelling in Bioware's RPG, Knights of the Old Republic, might have been the best thing that had anything to do with Star Wars since the original trilogy.
As an adult and father to a child who doesn't care about Star Wars, I remain excited despite the divisive films made since the House of Mouse bought the rights from Lucas for a cool $4 billion. Having long since confronted my idolization of straight white male heroes, I was excited to see more people of color and women, including Vietnamese actors, even as I wished they all had more to do, and even as their presence revealed a particularly toxic population of Star Wars fans.
One way or another, the Skywalker thread of stories that made us fall in love with Star Wars more than forty years ago comes to a close this December, and who knows how long we'll have Baby Yoda. I thought it would be fun to gather writers and thinkers in the community, all with their own relationship to Star Wars, for a night of readings, funny slide shows, and reminiscing. We'll have name tags with Star Wars names on them as well as local artists and Star Wars enthusiasts.
"Growing up, the Star Wars Universe was a place of imagination, adventure, and possibly for my brothers, cousins and I," says Shannon Gibney, the Minnesota Book Award winning author and fellow Star Wars nerd. "The battle against good and evil, the questions of legacy and family, dominated our play and storytelling. Now, with the release of the last Skywalker movies and the Baby Yoda Chronicles—I mean The Mandalorian—I look forward to doing the same with my own kids."
"Star Wars has meant all sorts of things to me throughout the years," says Matthew Kessen, local actor and cryptozoologist. "From the uncritical thrills of childhood, to dealing with my relationship with my father through obsession with Darth Vader later on, to horror at the rise of the definitive toxic fandom, and finally my current understanding that Baby Yoda is the only thing in all creation that is truly important—but the meaning it has never ceased to provide is love of wonder. And as long as it remains America's leading provider of tauntauns and swords made of laser, this will remain."
On Saturday, December 14, 2019, join Matthew, Shannon, and a small grip of other literary Star Wars nerds as they bring a galaxy far, far away to not-so-far downtown Minneapolis, in the shadow of the stadium nicknamed the Death Star. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. In the words of Darth Vader, it is pointless to resist.