Laura and I went to see the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota with her sister Kat and Kat’s husband (my fellow Wyrdsmith) Sean Murphy. It was entertaining—cool ship models and some of the props and costumes–but Laura and I felt that it just didn’t have the same impact as the Magic of Myth Star Wars exhibit, which Laura and I saw at the Smithsonian sometime last century.
We spent some time trying to figure out why that was and concluded that it’s got nothing to with the exhibit and everything to do with episodes I-III. After seeing what Lucas did with I-III we simply aren’t the same Star Wars fans we were when we saw the Magic of Myth. While there was some really cool stuff in the prequels, the incredibly inferior storytelling has tarnished the brand for us in a deep and abiding way, which is actually quite sad.
The one big exception to the simply not as cool as all this stuff used to be factor was the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon in the Jump to Lightspeed attraction, where the four of us got to go into a mockup of the Falcon’s cockpit and watch a short surround-projected film that included several jumps to lightspeed. We were all acting like excited nine-year-olds for that bit, hitting buttons, flipping switches, and just generally playing in a way that grownups mostly* don’t get to. It was thrilling because we all deep down loved IV-VI, and the Falcon by itself didn’t evoke the disappointment of I-III.
I’m sure there’s an important lesson in there for writers about not tarnishing your brand and learning when to stop, but I’m equally sure it’s actually quite hard to apply. I have no doubt that Lucas thought I-III were going to be great and that’s why he did them. He certainly didn’t need the money. There’s also a lesson in understanding that once a story has an audience and fans, it can never be entirely the writer’s toy ever again, no matter how much we might want it to be. Perhaps that’s all generalizable to something like the writer has to understand that the audience is part of the story and that’s true from the moment you start writing something you intend to share.
*I actually do get to play on a daily basis because my job is writing fantasy, but it’s generally make-believe in my head, and rarely involves toys.