On May the 4th, five StarWars.com writers discuss how they first became fans and why the galaxy far, far away remains so special to them to this day.
On the Comlink is a feature in which StarWars.com writers hop on a call (virtual or old fashioned) and discuss a specific Star Wars topic. In this installment to celebrate Star Wars Day, Dan Brooks, Kristin Baver, Katie Barnes, Dustin Diehl, and Bria LaVorgna discuss how they first became Star Wars fans and what has kept them interested in the galaxy far, far away over the years.
Dan Brooks: This is coming out on May the 4th, so that's why we’re talking about what Star Wars means to us. I thought we could start by talking about how we all discovered Star Wars. So I'm going to ask Dustin: tell us your Star Wars story -- what were your first steps into…
Dustin Diehl: [Simultaneously] A larger world? [Laughs]
Yeah, oh my gosh, so I was in second grade and I think they were running one of the TNT or TBS marathons back when you would record things on VHS. My dad was like, “I recorded this movie that I think you might like.” And I had some friends in school that were big Star Trek fans and so when he said that it was Star Wars, I was like, “Oh no, I know about that. I don't really think that's for me.” And he's like, “No, I promise you it's different.” Nothing against Star Trek, it just wasn't for me at the time. And we sat down to watch it and I was just hooked. I was so hooked, I made my mom take me to Toys ‘R’ Us the very next day to get my very first Power of the Force action figure. And there was only one red card on the shelf and it was an R2-D2. So R2-D2 was my first [Star Wars action figure]. And the next day I started Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back before my dad came home and he was so mad that I started without him, but I was just like, "We'll just start it over. It's fine! We'll start it over."
Dan Brooks: And where did it go from there for you? Were you re-watching the movies a lot, did you start reading the books?
Dustin Diehl: I was huge, huge, huge into the books. I was already a pretty avid reader as a kid, and got into the young Jedi Knight series -- was obsessed with that. And then pretty much any of the now Legends books, but from the Thrawn trilogy to the Jedi Academy trilogy, pretty much all the way through New Jedi Order all through middle school. Very much, kind of…I survived the dark times of the ‘90s.
Kristin Baver: Do you have a T-shirt that says that?
Dustin Diehl: They should have that. They should totally have that. But it was mostly through the action figures and the toys and the books, honestly. Obviously, I re-watched the movies all the time, but I think that the love of Star Wars kind of stayed alive through the novels and through the merchandise. [Laughs]
Dan Brooks: Yes, of course. [Imitating Yogurt from Spaceballs] Merchandising! Merchandising!
Dustin Diehl: Yup! [Laughs]
Dan Brooks: I knew this conversation was going to make me feel old, by the way, ‘cause I survived the dark times of the ‘80s and the ‘90s. Katie, what about you? How did you first get into Star Wars?
Katie Barnes: Actually in a very similar way, although I think I had multiple Star Wars entry points, which we can unpack in a minute. But I definitely remember my dad had a VHS tape and he would write all of the things that he had taped on it and like, what order they were in. I just kind of picked one up and I put it in and it was The Empire Strikes Back, and so that was the first film I saw. And, you know, it was also in the ‘90s. And it must have been…I don't remember exactly what it was, because I didn't immediately turn into like, a “Star Wars person.” I'm actually probably much more of a Star Wars fan now than I was when I was a kid. But then I remember going to see The Phantom Menace with my dad. And he hated it and I loved it. I was like 10 years old having the time of my life. My dad kept being like, "Jar Jar sucks." And I was like, "Yeah, totally… [whispers] I like Jar Jar."
[I was] very much like that small person that was into Jar Jar Binks. And you know, it was always just going along with my dad. And I really enjoyed it and I watched the first three…Episodes I, II, and III, which were my most formative memories. I saw every single one of those in theaters with my dad and we would talk about it. It was just kind of like one of those things I do with my dad and that was the same with Star Wars as it was with the first three Spider-Man films. It was all kind of around the same time in my life. And then you know, I kind of like stopped. My friends were into Star Wars and I watched all of the films, of course, but I never got into like Legends canon. And I wasn't able to play that many video games as a kid, so I didn't get into those games. And it wasn't until probably when I was in college and early adulthood that I started to kind of double back and dive in… really started to embrace my Star Wars fandom and learn more and actually pick up a couple of the novels and then play video games. The best thing about being an adult is being able to buy your own video games.
Bria LaVorgna: Yes.
Katie Barnes: And I have kind of fallen in love with the lore now and I'm very into all of, like, the taxes and the trade stuff and I'm like, "Yeah, like let's talk about politics.” Like, that's my favorite part about it. Other than lightsabers, that's always going to be cool.
Dan Brooks: What was the impetus for you getting back into it as an adult?
Katie Barnes: It's one of those things that was really gradual. I immediately thought of this line from The Fault in Our Stars -- just go with me -- about like, you fall asleep slowly and then all at once. And it was a lot like that where my friends were very into Star Wars and I was into The Lord of the Rings but like, I've just always been kind of casual about my fantasy fandom. I think, honestly, if I'm being like self-reflective and frank about it, it hasn't been something that I had felt was really inclusive of the person that I am as like a black queer non-binary person. I just didn't know it was for me….[It] didn't seem like something that I would necessarily be a part of from a fandom and community standpoint. And so, I just kind of followed their lead and they were all talking about really cool stuff, and I wanted to talk about cool stuff. And I hate feeling left out, and that was a big driver for me to kind of really dive in and find other entry points into being a Star Wars fan beyond just the films. And like, you know, now I can talk to them about Rebels and about Clone Wars, and just having other Star Wars experiences other than like the kind of just casual and lukewarm ones I'd had as a kid.
Dan Brooks: I want to just ask about something important that you brought up, which is representation. You know -- and everybody can talk about this -- how do you feel about it now? Do you feel like things with Star Wars are getting better in that area? Is there a lot of work to do? What are your thoughts on that?
Katie Barnes: I mean, there's always work to be done, but I mean, yeah, it's better. It's so much better! Like the vibe is way different, I think. I mean, of course there are stories that came out around Kelly Marie Tran in Episode VIII and those difficulties and I'm not going to minimize that, but in terms of just sitting down for Episode VII and seeing John Boyega on screen, that's awesome! I love Rey as a character and I love Daisy Ridley in that role and so it's definitely changed for the better in that regard. And I think that it has carried over to The Mandalorian as far as the different types of characters and the way that representation has been expanded and, like, I love that. I think it speaks to the way that what being a Star Wars fan means and what being a part of the Star Wars community has meant has evolved over time in a pretty clear way.
Bria LaVorgna: I think it's definitely gotten a heck of a lot better. I got into Star Wars pretty young and as a half Chinese person there weren't many characters who looked like me. I think it's gotten a lot better, but I definitely think there's still work to be done. Most of the representation that has been very meaningful to me -- as, again, a half Asian and queer woman -- has come in the books. Doctor Aphra! I would have never expected we would get Doctor Aphra. If you had asked me 10 years ago [if] there would be like, a queer Asian rogue archeologist, I would have been like, "No, that's not..." And here she is, one of the most popular characters in the books. But between her and then Iden Versio from Battlefront II, it's been really cool for me as a fan who also cosplays, because now there are characters who actually kind of look like me. So I don't have to be like -- and I don't get this as much as other cosplayers of color do because I'm half white -- but you know, “Oh, the Asian Princess Leia” or something like that.
Kristin Baver: Bria, what was your entry point into Star Wars?
Bria LaVorgna: So I was two and I was left with my uncle, aunt, and cousins while my parents went on vacation and they introduced me to chocolate cake and Star Wars on the same day. It was great. [Laughs]
Kristin Baver: That is a good day!
Dustin Diehl: Best day ever!
Dan Brooks: That is a great day.
Katie Barnes: Great day.
Bria LaVorgna: Right?! So Star Wars has just kind of always been there for me because they introduced it to me. My older cousin, who is 10 years older than me, and then one of my other uncles, they're both really big fans as well so they sort of fostered that love. And at some point I know I found the Jedi Prince books because this was a little bit before the Special Editions came out. I remember I was in second grade and there was a picture of Trioculus in carbonite and I was showing it to the other girls in my class. And they were like, "What? Why? Why would you do this?"
Dustin Diehl: Zorba the Hutt! [Dustin spreads his fingers at his chin to mimic Zorba’s long braided beard.]
Bria LaVorgna: Yeah! Zorba the Hutt! They were the cool covers from the ‘90s! I did eventually get introduced to the young Jedi Knight series and I spent my entire time wanting to like, both be and be best friends with Jaina and Tenel Ka. And then from there I kept reading the Expanded Universe books. And then just kept reading them, and here we are. [Laughs]
Dan Brooks: What about your jump into cosplay? To decide to go ahead and give it a try?
Bria LaVorgna: I think that kind of had to do with the forums I was on when I was a teenager because the Jedi Council one had a cosplay section. And so I was like, “Oh, I could try to do this,” and I made a very, very bad Barriss Offee costume when I was like 15 or 16. Pictures are out there on the internet. Don't. Please don't.
Dustin Diehl: I’m sure it was great.
Katie Barnes: That's gonna be my new phone wallpaper, so…
Bria LaVorgna: I was 15 and I did another one about six or seven years ago that was much better. But I had always known how to sew. My mom had taught me when I was a little kid, and so I was, like, "Oh, I wanna be a Jedi, too. I want to be like Leia." And so I started to learn and I started going to conventions like DragonCon after I was in college and then I just kept making things and realized it was fun. You'll cry because you'll probably stab yourself with a sewing needle multiple times, but it's fun when you get to walk around in a full flight suit and a TIE pilot helmet and just give people the Imperial death glare. So much fun.
Kristin Baver: It just tells us so much about you, Bria.
Dan Brooks: It does.
Kristin Baver: I mean, just that sentence is like, Bria in a nutshell. I love it.
Dan Brooks: How did you get into Star Wars, Kristin?
Kristin Baver: I feel like my story sounds a lot like Dustin's in terms of, I was raised by Trekkies, so I was raised…
Dan Brooks: We’ll bleep that out.
Kristin Baver: Yeah. No one will know what I just said, it'll be great. But I remember distinctly being like four years old and watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on syndication with my dad in his recliner because I was tiny enough that we could both fit in the chair, and just having such love for that franchise. I went to my first convention when I was nine -- it was a Star Trek convention.
This is for StarTrek.com, right? This is fine.
Dan Brooks: Kirk or Picard. Who's better, Kristin?
Kristin Baver: Oh! Oh my god, it's Picard and that's a different argument. We'll have that fight later, Dan.
But, all of this is to say that I was raised with a lot of sci-fi and a lot of love for that. And then I think, if I'm remembering correctly, I somewhat discovered Star Wars on my own when it was on the Sci-Fi Channel. It was right after we had just gotten satellite TV for the first time and I remember feeling like I had discovered something special, and then my dad being like, "Oh, yeah. I know. I know what this is. Okay. No, this is cool, too.”
You know that feeling like, “This is just mine. No one else knows about this.” And, of course, it's like the ‘90s, like a lot of people knew about this already. And as with many things I think once you, especially maybe when you’re a kid, but once you kind of fall in love with something you are just down the rabbit hole. So I remember it was on Sci-Fi but then of course I wanted to watch it on tape. So we got the original trilogy on VHS. And we watched Return the Jedi so many times we broke the tape and we had to go find a replacement and I was adamant that it still match the set for some reason. It was the ones that had like the half Yoda, half Darth Vader faces on the covers.
Dustin Diehl: [Nodding] Oh yeah.
Kristin Baver: And I joined the Star Wars fan club and I had like, a little wallet that had velcro still, because I was a child. I didn't have money or a driver's license, but I signed that card and put that card in that little wallet and carried it around just in case I was going to get asked about it.
And I remember for Christmas I got those Power of the Force action figures. I also got R2-D2 and Chewbacca first, and Chewbacca was buff.
Dustin Diehl: [Laughs] Yeah.
Kristin Baver: And then I just started collecting all of those figures, which is the genesis of how much I love Star Wars toys and Star Wars action figures in particular and then it just started morphing in new ways. Like, Bria, you were saying your first cosplay wasn't great. My first cosplay -- sort of and my only cosplay I think to date -- I was doing a presentation in school and we were supposed to be a character and so I decided to be Princess Leia for this presentation and talk about Star Wars from Princess Leia's point of view. And my mom made me a costume from a white bedsheet. I still have it to this day. We just, like, cinched this white bed sheet and I got these long ropes of red doll hair and wrapped them around my actual hair to make these giant Leia buns and I wore this costume for the presentation and I wore it for Halloween one year -- or I think actually a couple years. But it's just so near and dear to my heart that my parents took this thing that I was clearly just voracious about and kept helping me feed my love for it. You know, they bought the action figures, they bought the VHS, but especially helping me make that costume and, you know, supporting in that way is just so special.
Bria LaVorgna: Kristin, we can fix the “first and only cosplay” thing.
Dustin Diehl: Yeah!
Bria LaVorgna: You know people!
Kristin Baver: I know, I know. I have a list. It's well documented on StarWars.com that I really want to build a Boushh costume at some point. But now I live in San Francisco where no one has any actual space to store a Boushh costume. I know, Bria, you're like, “Hang on. It's not that big. We can take care of this.” You and I will talk when we're done here.
Bria LaVorgna: Yes!
[Bria and Kristin laugh.]
Dan Brooks: I feel like you don't see a lot of that costume at Celebration or Comic-Con, now that you mention it.
Dustin Diehl: No.
Bria LaVorgna: It's a hard one to do. Especially as far as the Leia ones go.
Kristin Baver: Of course the first one I want to do is the hardest one. Of course.
Bria LaVorgna: That cabinet behind me is all Star Wars helmets, so we got this.
Dan Brooks: I was wondering if those were costume sketches over your shoulder behind you. Is that what that is?
Bria LaVorgna: Yeah, that's for a different franchise though that I won't name.
Dan Brooks: Oh, let's not talk about that then.
Kristin Baver: We'll bleep that one out too. Even though you didn't even say which one it was.
Bria LaVorgna: I was careful.
Dan Brooks: Well, I'll share my story really quickly. I actually have a couple of different points of entry into Star Wars, or points of discovery. I don't remember when I first saw it and I was born in 1980. I know I loved it as a kid. I had tons of toys and vehicles but at some point I left it behind as I got into other things. And then I remember a friend of mine had the first Timothy Zahn novel and I had not thought about Star Wars in a long time, but I saw it at his house and I looked at it and I was like, “Oh, yeah, I remember that.” And you know, to put it into context, Star Wars really kind of disappeared from the public eye…
Kristin Baver: Because it was the dark times.
Dan Brooks: It was the dark times. The first…
Dustin Diehl: Dark times. [Laughs]
Dan Brooks: But then I remember I saw an ad that HBO was playing The Empire Strikes Back on like a Friday night and Return of the Jedi on a Saturday night. So I just thought, “Okay, I'll watch that.” And I think I was about 12 years old. And I just remember with Empire this real feeling… The only thing I can liken it to is like the first time you hear Abbey Road. Like it was this feeling of, “I didn't know movies could be like this.” And I remember feeling like I didn't know that people could come together to make something so good and so rich, you know? And it felt like there was a moment. It was, you know, my life before this screening of Empire and my life after. It taught me so much about what was possible. I loved it and, actually, then watching Jedi the next night, I loved that even more. And I would still say that, you know, I recognize the greatness of Empire. For a long time I've said it's my favorite, but I think when it comes down to it, Jedi is my favorite Star Wars movie and it's just for the way it makes me feel. It can take me right back to how I felt watching it that Saturday night -- like, every time I see it.
So, you know the next thing I wanted to ask on that note is why you all think you connected with it? What was it about Star Wars that hit you? Because, obviously, we all have movies that we love or TV shows that we love, but they don't reach us in the same way that maybe Star Wars has. So Kristin, let's start with you since you're stuck on my screen for some reason.
[Dan and Kristin laugh.]
Kristin Baver: You pinned me and you can't figure out how to unpin me.
Actually, I've thought a lot about this because, Katie, I think you made this point, but a couple of you have said something to this effect -- my trajectory with Star Wars was also kind of fading in and out sometimes. Because I got super hardcore into it, and then I remember the Special Editions came out and I loved those and I really liked the prequels, but I was starting to get into my teen years at that point and I was starting to feel like “Oh, maybe I'm getting too old for this,” which is hysterical now. I get it, I hear it, I hear the irony. Then I remember kind of being away from it for a little while after that and getting excited when Disney bought Lucasfilm and realizing that we were getting new Star Wars movies. That had been my own -- I think that was the dark times for many of us when after the prequels there were no new Star Wars movies and we didn't expect to ever see one again, necessarily. And then just going to The Force Awakens with my best friend and crying so hard at that moment -- which I still feel like is a spoiler if I say it out loud. I don't know why.
But I think what initially connected me to Star Wars and probably what keeps bringing me back is this feeling like I know these characters, like these are a real characters. They resonate with me…and I think it's because they have that modern mythology backbone. They are based on these timeless archetypes. But, you know, when you really drill down to it, even though I was a Han kid -- and I've said this many times and, Dan, I see you nodding because we have had this back and forth in our office because you're a Luke kid. But even though I was a Han kid, what I have come to realize is part of what made A New Hope feel so compelling to me as a kid was that I was a rural Pennsylvania farm kid, essentially. I was raised either on the property or across the street from the property where my grandparents had their dairy farm, and I had no interest in farming whatsoever. And when you see Luke experiencing life on Tatooine and just desperately wanting to get out of there, I feel like that spoke to me on a level that I hadn't even recognized in myself yet at that point. But when you look at Tatooine farmers, to me, those personality types are not that different from the farmers that I actually knew in Pennsylvania, you know, my grandparents and other people in that industry. So I think it just really captured something raw and real and authentic.
Bria LaVorgna: I think for me initially it was Leia because I've always loved the badass, take-charge, get-things-done lady types. And that's who you see Leia being in A New Hope, especially. Like, I love her whole, "Into the garbage chute, flyboy," and off they go! And then again, not long after when I found the books and I found Jaina Solo and I found Tenel Ka, I latched onto both of them because they were similar archetypes, both kind of a little bit tomboy, if you can use that term in the galaxy far, far away. I kind of grew up with them. They are a little older than me. I was thankfully not fighting a galactic civil war at the age of 16. But at the same time as I was in middle school and high school, I was finding the online community. So between that and then finding stories like those of Jaina and Tenel Ka, and the X-wing books, like, I latched onto those super hard. That's where I found friends. And some of those friends I made when I was 13, 14 years old -- I'm still friends with some of those people now and I'm 31! So I think it was that community aspect and that's what keeps me coming back to Star Wars even now much older.
Katie Barnes: Yeah, I think for me, since...my fandom has deepened over time and especially as more of an adult. That's so ridiculous. I'm like, I really like the politics. I love it. Like, I am really motivated and animated by politics and lore and the opportunity to go be in a world. And I think the thing I really love about Star Wars, and have loved as I've sort of rediscovered it, is that I've been able to define that fandom for myself. There's so many different entry points into a galaxy far, far away that it doesn't mean the same thing to everyone and that's okay. Like, five years ago, even just being a part of this conversation, I probably would have run and hid and been like, “You don't really want to talk to me.”
You all are talking about action figures and I'm like, “Did I have an action figure?” No. But now I'm just like, “I like Star Wars a lot and it's different for me than it is for other people,” and what keeps me coming back is different because I don't have that really visceral childhood nostalgia. But I think that’s what is so great about it, is that you don't have to have discovered it when you were two years old -- though it's great if you did! And all of the stories and the richness around fandom of Star Wars, you know, is as diverse as the community itself and that is something I really, really love about it and have come to understand as I've gotten older and started to just admit that I really like the machinations of trade policy. That's just who I am.
Kristin Baver: Katie, I don't think I've heard anyone give that answer. “I come to Star Wars for the politics.” And I'm here for it and I love it.
Katie Barnes: Sorry, I just do! I love The Mandalorian because I'm like “Yes, what is happening?” Not even just “Who are these people?” But like, “No. What is happening?” Like, where are we in terms of the timeline and who's in charge? My friends all told me I needed to watch other shows because of the geopolitics. That's what they sold me on, and that's just the person I am. I read Supreme Court cases for fun and I don't have a law degree, so…
Bria LaVorgna: Please tell me you've read Bloodline by Claudia Gray because if you love the Star Wars politics you'll love Bloodine.
Dustin Diehl: Yeah.
Katie Barnes: I'm taking all recommendations for the things that I need in my life.
Bria LaVorgna: Bloodline. [Bria points to a promotional poster on her wall from the book’s launch.]
Katie Barnes: Thank you.
Dustin Diehl: I’m glad everyone else went first because I feel like my answer would be shades of everything. But what I thought, Kristin, you said that hit me, but also then on the flip side of the same coin, you do have those archetypes in those characters that you recognize and you can latch onto. I think for me it was also recognizing that and having that as a stable entry point. But then, the thing that keeps me going is the in-between characters. It's such a huge franchise in a huge galaxy and there are so many different stories. It's unlike other franchises in that way, at least for me, in that you're not stuck with just this limited number of characters. There's an infinite number and there continues to be infinite numbers of characters, hopefully, knock on wood forever and ever. That even if you don't see yourself right away, there's the chance so you haven't...and I think as a kid, I had in the back of my head, like, even if I don't necessarily see me, I know that I can exist in this world because there are infinite possibilities. The fact that a side character that had one second of screen time could end up as an action figure, it's like, “Hey, you can have your own story in Star Wars and never have to cross paths with Luke and still have your own adventure.” And I think that's what keeps me coming back. There's enough adventure and enough space for everyone. No pun intended.
Kristin Baver: Well, and Dustin you just mentioned something that struck me. I think part of what was important for me with the action figures growing up was the ability to kind of write your own Star Wars stories with that playtime.
Dustin Diehl: Yes, yes!
Kristin Baver: And I like how you put it that if you don't see yourself, it's not that you don't exist there because you definitely could. Star Wars is for everyone and the galaxy is filled with more characters than we can possibly imagine it seems.
Dan Brooks: On that note, one thing that I think Star Wars is really successful at is having these kind of grand macro plots but personal stories inside of that. I think George Lucas was especially brilliant at that. I think the prequels, frankly, don't get enough credit for it. You've got the story of, “Well, how does a democracy crumble?” But within that you've got this deeply personal story of, “How does a man turn evil?” and just a handful of characters that it's focusing on. So, you know, on one hand if you're interested in the politics side you're getting that, but if you want the character drama, it's giving you that also. It's just dressed up with lightsabers and fast ships, and it's just an amazing mix in the end.
Kristin Baver: And one thing that Star Wars also does really well is, it asks “What does it take for a man to become evil?” but then it also asks “What does it take for that man to be redeemed?”
Dan Brooks: Yeah.
Kristin Baver: And it allows you to experience the full breadth of that story without having -- other than, arguably, Palpatine -- characters who are very clearly good, very clearly bad. Everyone has the capacity for good and evil except, I'm going to say, Palpatine. Palpatine is just only bad.
[Dan and Dustin laugh.]
Kristin Baver: He's evil all day.
Dan Brooks: He's the only one.
Kristin Baver: He's the only one. And I'm sure some folks would disagree with me there, but…
Dan Brooks: Watto was a pretty irredeemable jerk, I would argue.
Kristin Baver: But there's a difference between being a jerk and orchestrating the entire Clone Wars so that you can take over with the evil Empire. Like two different levels.
Dan Brooks: Yeah, that’s true.
Kristin Baver: I mean, Watto also had slaves. Not a great look.
Katie Barnes: Yeah, not great.
Kristin Baver: Yeah. Really awful and repugnant. But not Palpatine level for me.
Dan Brooks: No.
Bria LaVorgna: There's a really good quote from Battlefront II. I know I'm being so on brand right now.
Kristin Baver: You are!
Bria LaVorgna: But there's a great Luke Skywalker line…
Dan Brooks: Your check is in the mail, Bria. Don’t worry.
Bria LaVorgna: But there's this great quote that Luke Skywalker says to Del Meeko. He says: "A choice to be better." I think about that a lot because Star Wars shows us that there's good, that there's evil. It shows us that you make that choice and then above all...just the underlying message for me is that of hope. There's always hope that things will get better and that people will make the choice to be better and that's something that I really, really like about the franchise.
Dan Brooks: Yeah, that's funny, because I was gonna say, that's the thing for me. The reason I think that I connected with it and why I still love it and get something out of it is, it makes me feel like I can do anything. I get that from the behind-the-scenes, real-life story of Star Wars and George Lucas, and from Luke Skywalker, who has always been my favorite character in anything. On all levels it's just inspiring for me.
Next thing I wanted to ask: What is your favorite Star Wars anything? It could be a movie, a comic book, a toy, whatever.
Bria LaVorgna: This is too broad a question. How can I possibly answer that?
Dan Brooks: Just pick the one thing you love the most! It could be anything.
Kristin Baver: [Laughs] Wow!
Katie Barnes: Okay, this is very specific.
Dan Brooks: Go ahead.
Katie Barnes: I really like the starfighter mode of Battlefront II.
Dan Brooks: Okay.
Katie Barnes: In a TIE fighter. I don't love flying an X-wing nearly as much. [Laughs] And I don't know what that says about me, but it is [true]. My favorite thing is flying a TIE fighter and shooting stuff.
Dan Brooks: Why?
Katie Barnes: I don't know. I don't know what it is. It's just like…I hate the noise that they make, it sounds like people screaming. It's terrible. But I just love it and I get so amped. And I love the stars and I think that's why. I would play that mode any day, every day.
Dan Brooks: That's awesome.
Katie Barnes: Yeah, I know it's a little weird, but here we are.
Bria LaVorgna: I'm gonna stare at my Star Wars bookshelf. I can't…
Dustin Diehl: Yeah, I was gonna say, while Bria looks for a favorite…
Kristin Baver: This is so hard!
Bria LaVorgna: This isn't fair, Dan!
Dustin Diehl: I think I'm gonna cheat a little bit and not have it be a physical thing, but more of like a memory. I think my favorite Star Wars thing was my first Celebration that I ever went to, which was Celebration V in Orlando. I was already into Star Wars and it wasn't like a reignition necessarily, but similar to your story, Dan, it was like a turning point for me. I felt an immediate camaraderie with everyone there. And it was just so nice to be like, “I don't know what these people do for their day jobs. I don't know who they are in their personal lives.” But we were there and we were together and it just felt great. I met so many amazing people. And yeah, that was crazy for me. I did the overnight line to see Jon Stewart interview George Lucas and I got one of the last wristbands. Like that whole experience for me was just what Star Wars for me is about -- it's just being there with people, lack of sleep, really good content.
[Dustin and Dan laugh.]
Dustin Diehl: That will, I think, stick with me as like, my favorite Star Wars.
Dan Brooks: Yeah, I have to say, the first time I went to Celebration, and I'm not -- I know I work for Lucasfilm, I'm not just saying this -- I was really struck by the positive vibe that you just pick up on walking around, you know? I've been to a lot of different conventions. I can't say that I got that feeling in every single one, but I think the difference is people who have something that they share, all being together. It's just a powerful thing. I don't think I've ever really felt that anywhere else.
Dustin Diehl: And it's good to be reminded of that because I feel like the in-between times it can get a little dark, right? Online is a terrible place sometimes and people, you know, you just get pulled in, I think, to some of the negativity, unfortunately. But I think going to those events and being back with your people and getting that energy again, it reminds you that there is hope…back to Bria's comment.
Kristin Baver: Yeah, and Star Wars Celebration to me always just feels like getting one giant hug from the fandom in this weird way. My first Celebration, I actually went to cover news for StarWars.com in 2017. I had never gone before because I was not a big convention person. I hate standing in lines, especially for the bathroom. So I went to cover things and I was really struck by how much excitement there was, but also just how amazing it was that you could be walking from your hotel to the convention center and see a cosplayer and stop them and have a great conversation about Star Wars. It was like, being in a town where everybody who was there for that weekend also loved the same thing that you did and no matter who you ran into you'd be instant friends because you had an opening and an entry point and something to discuss.
Bria LaVorgna: My favorite things at Celebration are when everyone's in the bar or the hotels afterwards because everything is just sort of chill. Like, you've seen everything that's happened for the day and everyone there just loves Star Wars and you can turn around and, "Oh my god, there's Christopher Sean.” And, “Oh my god, there's Peter Mayhew." And everyone's just there because they want to hang out and talk and it's a very special environment you don't necessarily get at other cons.
Dan Brooks: Is that your final answer for favorite Star Wars anything? The bar?
Bria LaVorgna: Me? No, no!
Kristin Baver: [Laughs] The bar at Celebration! No, no! We just started talking about other stuff. We were hoping you would forget the question, Dan.
Bria LaVorgna: No! I got it, though! I got it. I have my answer. It is Aaron Allston's X-wing books, specifically the Wraith Squadron ones and Starfighters of Adumar. That is, if someone makes me answer my favorite Star Wars book it's Starfighters of Adumar. I was lucky enough to meet Aaron multiple times before he passed back in 2014, and he could not have been nicer. I mean me and my friends are a bunch of young 20-somethings who are like, "Oh my god, Wraith Squadron!" And he just took it with good humor and those characters always connected well with me because the race in particular were a bunch of misfits who just wanted to pull pranks with Ewoks and have a good time and who were working through all of their trauma and I just I loved them so much. And anytime I need a pick-me-up, I pick up Starfighters of Adumar and I just laugh the entire time and then cry two pages later and then I'm laughing five pages after that.
Dan Brooks: I've heard those books are really good.
Bria LaVorgna: So good.
Dustin Diehl: And Aaron is so great. I have a funny Celebration story with him. He was getting on one of the trams from the convention center back to the hotel, and a friend I was with was like, "Who is that kind of kooky-looking guy with, like, really thick glasses?" And I was like, "Come sit next to us! Come sit next to us!" He was such a sweet guy.
Dan Brooks: That's great.
Bria LaVorgna: I was at a con where he was about two or three weeks after X-Wing: Mercy Kill came out and it was the Monday morning of the con and it just turned into a panel where all of us would just be like, "Okay, but tell us about this thing in the book. We have concerns. Can you help us work through these issues?" And it was the best panel I've ever been to because it was just all of us nerding out about this book with this very kind man who was more than happy to answer the ridiculous questions we were throwing at him.
Dan Brooks: That's a great way to settle an argument about a book -- if you could just bring the author over.
Kristin Baver: He has the answer and it’s canon. You can't argue it.
Dan Brooks: I'll give my pick for my favorite Star Wars anything. I'm going with the first thing that comes to mind, and it's my original Kenner Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker. Again, it's like, the feeling it evokes in me and everything it represents. It's my favorite character from my favorite movie, and I remember...I told the story about watching Empire and Jedi, and after I did that I went up into the attic with my best friend to get all of my Star Wars toys that were stored up there for years. And when you're 12 and you don't look at something, from when I was maybe like four or five years old, that feels like such a long time. It feels like you're an archaeologist uncovering something ancient. That's like a lifetime when you're that young. And I remember we took the crates down and I didn't really know what was in there, and I took out my Darth Vader carrying case and I shook it. I could hear there was stuff in it, and when we cracked it open, every slot was filled with a toy. So it was like finding a treasure or something. And I remembered the Luke -- I remembered having it when I was a kid and he was still in there. So it's just something that I really cherish. And Kristin I'll pass it over to you.
Kristin Baver: Man, this is still so hard! I've come up with seven different answers while you guys were all talking. I'm going to go back to my original answer though inspired, Katie, by your drilling down into something. I'm gonna say my favorite Star Wars anything is the introduction of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back because it completely subverts expectations and even now when I watch it -- and I've seen it countless times -- I just adore the weirdness of that whole sequence. He's arguing with Artoo about the little lamp and cackling to himself. And I don't know if he's just crazy because he's been by himself for a long time. He’s, like, super quarantined.
Or if he's just putting on this affectation to test Luke. I still can't decide because half the time when I watch it, I'm like, “Oh no, he's been alone too long with those snakes!” And then the other half I'm like, “Oh no, he's just messing with Luke to make sure that he's pure of heart. I get it.” But I go back and forth, but you know, just the brilliance of Frank Oz and also George Lucas putting so much of the emotional and spiritual weight of that sequel on the tiny, tiny shoulders of Jedi Master Yoda.
Dan Brooks: What does Star Wars mean to you today? And who wants to take that first?
Bria LaVorgna: You're giving us softballs here. Come on.
Kristin Baver: Wait, I know. Dan can go first. Dan should go first. It’s your question.
Bria LaVorgna: Yeah, Dan.
Kristin Baver: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Katie Barnes: Yeah. Yeah.
Dan Brooks: The tables have turned!
Kristin Baver: I love how we all dog piled. We all have teamed up. It’s all on Dan now.
Dan Brooks: Yeah. Well, what does it mean to me today? In many ways, I think it still means a lot of the same things. You know, it's a feeling that you can do anything. You're not limited. It doesn't matter who you are or where you came from. Work hard, be kind, and you can do it. And I still get that message from it. But it's changed over the years for me. I mean, I think one thread that I've picked up on here is the idea of community. I’ve had friends who were into it, you know, but nothing on the scale of like, going to a Celebration and meeting people who share that. When I was in college, my friends -- who are still my best friends -- none of them were into Star Wars. So I just had long stretches where I just enjoyed it as a solitary thing.
And the other thing I would say is -- I wrote about this on StarWars.com -- Luke's arc in Last Jedi, it was really interesting seeing that as I was getting older. Just the idea that he had regrets about things that he did. It was like he was still teaching me, you know, as I was getting older -- that you've made mistakes and it's okay and you have to learn from those things. And I think that's important. Especially for those of us who grew up with him, I just thought it was a good message to take from that character and just another way that that character can mean something to people.
But yeah, when it comes down to it, they're still my favorite movies. And I'm excited to share them with my kids now.
Kristin Baver: Hmm. Yeah, and to echo something that you just said, there is a great theme that runs through all of Star Wars about found family. And it doesn't matter, you can be no one from nowhere or you can be related to the greatest Force-wielding dynasty known in the age of the Empire. It doesn't matter. You're capable of good and evil. You are the product of your own choices and decisions and you get to decide also who you're going to spend your time with. Your found family are the people that you go on adventures with and you put your neck out and sometimes they save your skin and sometimes you save theirs and I think that's just such a fantastic theme to carry through. But also, the older I've gotten, the more I think that that resonates for me. And I think this was very true when I saw The Force Awakens and just seeing Rey coming into her own. I think I've said this before, probably on StarWars.com, but I think because Rey has that moment where she feels very lost and like, she's just waiting and waiting and waiting for years and she doesn't know really what to do next and she's just stuck. And I think probably when I saw that movie I was feeling that way but I didn't recognize it yet. Man, this is a meandering answer that isn't answering your question at all. I can hear it now.
Dan Brooks: Go ahead. Just go with it.
Kristin Baver: When I have to edit this later I’m going to be so mad at myself. So I think what Star Wars means to me now is that you get to make your own destiny. [Kristin drops an imaginary mic.] That’s it.
Bria LaVorgna: I feel like you guys have covered a lot of what could possibly be in my answer because Kristin did a lot of the stuff about found family and that's always been a huge thing that I've really, really loved about Star Wars. And like you said, again, coming back to the Battlefront II quote because that's what I do.
[Dan and Dustin laugh.]
You have the opportunity to make the choice to do better. That's something I've thought a lot about getting a tattoo of just because the words resonated so heavily with me. And I guess to me Star Wars, it's hope and especially over the last couple years, hope has been something that almost feels like it's been in short commodity. So being able to come back to stories like this where, you know, the good guys do win and democracy and justice can be restored to the galaxy is something very meaningful. And then also, like Dan said, the community. I've made so many friends because of these space movies! Like friends who I've started only knowing online and then at Celebration Chicago I see them standing by the AT-AT. And you just see [a fan dressed as] Iden Versio sprinting across the con floor to tackle hug someone. True story, by the way. It's, you know, it's those bonds you make. And even though online can be a little tricky to navigate some times, I would never want to give up being part of this community because it has brought so many good things to my life and so many friends who I hold very dear to my heart.
Kristin Baver: Bria, I love that what you just said was essentially you love the found family in the story and then you have also found a found family among the community. Look at that synergy.
[Kristin and Katie laugh.]
Dustin Diehl: Mmm hmm.
Katie Barnes: I think for me as a writer in particular, Star Wars is a place that implores me to be creative and encourages me to think about things differently. To go and play in a different space and to think about the shapes that storytelling can take. And I think that's something that's been really important for me in my professional life when, you know, I'm just bogged down with my job, which is writing. And then I can watch an episode of The Mandalorian and just think about how powerful and impactful good writing can be. You know, which in some ways, I mean, I'm the person that talked about taxes and trade policy so I am the boring person but…
Kristin Baver: You love what you love!
Katie Barnes: [Laughs] I am who I am. I like it because it helps me be better at my job. But, you know, writing is, of course, it's not just a job, it's who you are. And in that sense I really love that Star Wars has become an integral part of that process for me in both being personally and also professionally fulfilling and essential. Yeah. Disney will love that answer. Synergy.
Kristin Baver: The check is in the mail, Katie.
Katie Barnes: Yeah, great.
[Kristin and Katie laugh.]
Dustin Diehl: I don't think mine is going to be that creative because I was gonna go with the family one, too, which has been taken. But it is, like, I think that's what it means for me, right? I have not only my real-life, real-world family with my dad being the one who introduced me -- he's still the one who I always go to all the midnight showings with. I bring my family along. So to me Star Wars will always be my real family. But then to the point that was made about the found family, I have expanded that definition of family through Star Wars. It's not just the people I grew up with and the people I'm related to, but it's the people that I've connected with through this franchise, whether they be personal friends or co-workers that I've been able to hook in to the fandom or ones that I've met through online communities or through Celebration. So in the obvious way that theme fits really nicely with Star Wars as well, and, Kristin, your new book!
Kristin Baver: I worked so hard not to shill it this entire time. There were a couple moments where I was like, “I could say Skywalker: A Family at War. But I'm not gonna.” Not gonna say it… [Whispers] Available now.
Dustin Diehl: We got you. We got you.
Kristin Baver: Thank you. Thank you.
Dustin Diehl: But yeah, it still means that to me, I think.
Dan Brooks: Very nice. [Dan’s kids open the door and squeal with delight in background.] There it is. I think we gotta say goodbye. They're excited.
Bria LaVorgna: Okay, what does Star Wars means to them? Come on.
Kristin Baver: Yeah. Put ‘em on the spot.
Dan Brooks: Well, for Ben, if it means he gets to skip naptime, then he'll say it's his favorite thing in the world. That's what most things revolve around.
Kristin Baver: Nice.
Dustin Diehl: He's gonna miss those naps in about 10-15 years, man.
Dan Brooks: Yeah.
Bria LaVorgna: I want naptime back.
Kristin Baver: Kids don't know how lucky they have it. Honestly.
This discussion has been edited and condensed for clarity.