At their heart most of my stories, including role-playing game stories, are about being a teacher. In the Star Wars role-playing game, that manifested itself in the Master/Padawan relationship. According to the rules, a Jedi character becomes a Master at experience level ten. For Number One Son’s Jedi character, Juba Jubajai, that happened in the middle of a deep space adventure.
At the time the adventuring group was traveling in space in an interstellar tug boat, in trouble with both the enemies of the Republic, and the Republic itself for their actions on the planet Naboo. While traveling incognito in deep space, they came across a battle-damaged ship that was mostly wreckage and had no life signs. But as they investigated the ship, they found two children frozen in carbonite and still alive, even though the ship had been destroyed thirty years before.
The children were Trad and Verina Paddox, heirs of a noble house in Tapani Sector that had been reported assassinated years ago as aggressive House Mecetti had forced their noble family to give up most of their planetary holdings and killed their parents. Tracking down folks that it would be safe to return these children to was next to impossible. They ran into folks from House Mecetti with a shadowy agenda that probably included erasing the two children from history and existence.
Wraith was a scarred and ferocious agent for House Mecetti that seemed intent on finding out everything he could about the children. He had several run-ins with the adventurers and shots were fired. At one point he was seriously wounded by the Wookie. But he didn’t give up, and was apparently impossible to kill.
During the struggles with Wraith, Verina began exhibiting force sensitivity and immense power that needed Jedi training. So they located a friendly Jedi who seemed to overlook the adventurers’ wanted-criminal status. This dippy and jovial Jedi was named Jean D’Ark, who continually joked around, but would ask clearly inappropriate questions followed by a quick, “Never mind!”
He naturally became Nevermind, or the Nevermind Jedi. They began treating him like a jolly old uncle. It was assumed that he would train Verina as a Padawan and take charge of the children.
Fortunately, more than one character turned out to be the opposite of what he seemed to be. Wraith returned from the dead to reveal that Nevermind was a dark Jedi with Sith ambitions. He was working for Darth Sidious and the evil parts of House Mecetti, and intended to kill the children. Wraith not only revealed the plot, but helped Jubajai to drive the dark Jedi off. So Master Jubajai began teaching Padawan Verina Paddox. The player characters adopted the children and began to fight to reclaim the children’s birthright, leadership of House Paddox and possession of the planet Pelagia.
It is satisfying to tell stories where the teachers are the heroes. But, of course, role-playing games are on-going stories, and there is always more to tell.
On the Fritz
On this Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you) I am a little perturbed that practically everything, including Star Wars, is on the fritz. My computer is on the fritz. It starts all sorts of programs and actions within programs without being prompted by a keystroke or click command. The picture I posted at the start of this essay had to be downloaded from Google twice because it downloaded the wrong selection for no reason. And then it had to be pasted into the block editor twice also because the first attempt failed to finish the transition.
Of course, for something “to be on the fritz” and be well understood, it would help if we knew the origin of the phrase. Unhelpfully, no one really knows how it was initially used. Was it a reference to something about Germans? “Fritz” was a common nickname for German soldiers in two world wars. But probably not. Germans are not always haywire.
I think it far more likely that the word is an onomatopoeia for the sound a radio makes when there is a short, it sparks, and then malfunctions, if not catches fire. That seems to me to be a much more fitting image to use for the way my computer works today with its faulty keyboard, and/or mouse pad. It also is a fitting definition for the condition our economy is in due to the pandemic.
But on this Star Wars Day, it is the most apt phrase to describe what has been done to the Star Wars Saga. Don’t get me wrong. I am an uncritical critic. I loved the Rise of Skywalker in the movie theater. The images and the action were great. But the writer in me did not appreciate how wires were crossed in the making of the latest trilogy. The resulting dumpster fire, while colorful and visually entertaining, caused the power of the story to be definitely “on the fritz”.
Character arcs were ruined. Kylo Ren went from evil secondary antagonist to big bad to heroic turn-around to… what? His character dies and disappears at the end. Why? How did he complete his arc?
Rey went from child of nobody to Jedi to possible Sith Lord to…? Where does she end up? Palpatine tells her if she kills him, his spirit will infuse her with Super Dark Side Power. She kills him anyway? Will she now try to destroy the universe in the next trilogy?
And what did Finn do besides ride a horse-thing in space?
But I’m not complaining. Even if the pandemic is going to kill me shortly, I have had a good life. I have seen all the Marvel movies so far. I taught English to well over 2,000 kids in a thirty-year teaching career. I wrote fifteen novels that I published. And no amount of sparks, fire, or fritzing is capable of changing all of that.
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