I am a proud member of the Star Wars generation. It is the single most impactful aspect of my childhood. The movies always came out in May, which meant these were perfect summertime movies in a time before people really thought of summer blockbusters. Later, my brother and I received the movies on VHS for Christmas. This meant Star Wars would be a common pastime (sometimes daily). I loved the movies so much I would get sad when the third (or sixth—depending on how you look at it) was over. With the new Star Wars movie coming out, I find it so amazing the toys I played with as a kid are basically on the shelves again. Talk about a time warp.
It became “not cool” to love Star Wars as I got older. I never stopped enjoying Star Wars, but I kept my fandom a little quiet. As others moved on and people started declaring Star Wars was dead, I still popped in the VHS tapes to visit the galaxy far, far away. In the days before the Internet, there was no way for me to know if people still liked Star Wars. I started to naively believe I might be the last fan and the movies were all I would ever have to enjoy.
This all changed on a summer vacation with my family.
We went to MGM Studios in Florida. I had heard there was a ride called Star Tours and found it hard to believe enough people would still be interested. However, I was as excited as a child on Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait. Of all the things we planned on doing for vacation, seeing a real life Star Wars ride topped everything else.
I still remember rounding the corner and seeing the AT-AT looming between the trees of Endor. I remember glimpsing C3PO and R2D2. I was speechless. It might the only time in my life I didn’t mind waiting in line. The ride itself was awesome and I still remember joining X-Wings on the Death Star trench run.
At the risk of sounding like a late night TV commercial, it gets even better.
In the gift shop, I saw something that would change my life forever: a Star Wars book.
Not just any Star Wars book, a novel with a new adventure after Return of the Jedi. I begged for the book, but was told not now.
After an afternoon of being able to think of nothing other than that book, I was given some cash and allowed to run back as the park closed and shot off fireworks. I was so excited. I sprinted through the crowd, hoping the store would still be open. I weaved through families watching the fireworks display. I didn’t look up. I only cared about getting that book.
I burst through the doors. A man greeted me.
“Are you still open?” I asked, breathing heavily.
“I’d like to buy the Star Wars book.”
“Here you go,” he said, handing me the gorgeous hard copy of “Star Wars: Heir to the Empire,” by Timothy Zahn. The guy continued speaking, but it took me a moment to rip my attention away from the book. “Did you know George Lucas is making more Star Wars movies?”
“That’s right,” he said with a smile, as if he held the only secret in the universe worth keeping. To me at that moment, he actually did. “He’s going to make one in 1994 and two more in 1996 and film them back to back.”
“Wow,” was all I managed to squeak out.
I ran back to my parents, filled with the promise of more Star Wars movies. While the man’s predictions of movies in the mid-1990s did not pan out (we had to wait until 1999 for more), I was thrilled to know Star Wars was not dead. As the fireworks sizzled and popped overhead, I still vividly remember being so excited to have more Star Wars in the future. It’s the type of excitement you can only truly experience during the magical years of your youth, the happiness and joy simply surged through my body … all a result of a simple Star Wars book.
I still have the worn copy. I had finished it before we even made it home from Florida—rarely had a book engulfed my attention like this one. It was the first time in my life I remember impatiently waiting for the next book to come out. I remember my friend and I wondering what the cover would look like and what would happen to Luke, Han and Leia.
It wouldn’t be the last time I was caught up in the magic of the written word, but it was certainly one of the most powerful.