Chris Alexander wrote a great piece on the Star Wars Blog about how he got through waiting to see Star Wars by reading the novelization. And it took me back to my own similar experience.
Sit back, kids, and listen to an Old Fart Star Wars fan talk about life in the good ol’ days of 1977 and 1978.
I was nine when Star Wars was first released. It’s hard to describe the phenomenon of how quickly it became a part of everything in that first year. This was before the internet. So the fact that it immediately integrated itself into our culture is a wild situation that I’m not sure will ever be repeated. By the middle of the summer of 1977, my friends and I were playing Star Wars without actually having seen the movie. (Without any toys. Can you imagine?)
But my parents, bless their decidedly mundane hearts, had heard it was violent. And the clips of blaster battles with stormtroopers shown on news stories about this insanity did nothing to disabuse my parents of this notion. So I was informed, in no uncertain terms, that I would not be seeing this movie.
This is when my best friend at the time, Jennifer Libby (who was always one to come up with schemes and ideas), offered to smuggle me a copy of the novelization in exchange for my saved up allowance funds.
That gold colored novelization may as well have been made out of real gold. I desperately wanted to find out more about Star Wars. And the insert with pictures? Heaven!
I read that book so many times that it began to come apart. I became the neighborhood authority on how to properly play Star Wars. (And yes, I’m still bossy all these years later.) And I had it practically memorized.
When my mom found the book in the corner of my closet, I probably should have been in trouble. Instead, Mom realized that the tattered remnants of this book meant that I could handle seeing the movie. So my poor father had to accompany me and the neighborhood kids to the theater to watch the movie that would render me mute for two hours afterward. It was all the novelization described and more!
And that novelization hooked me into Star Wars again as an adult. The remains of that original copy had long ago been tossed during one of Mom’s patented closet purges. I had just moved to Missouri and on a particularly lonely afternoon, I wandered through a used book store and saw that lovely gold cover calling to me. It spoke of fun times and adventures and home. It was like getting in touch with old friends.
I had to get it!
And when, not too long after, Timothy Zahn reignited the flame in a good many other fans, I started to look for more Star Wars books in other used book stores. And now, it has taken over my basement. All the U.S. produced Star Wars books from baby board books up. And there are a lot of them!
So when it was decided that there would be a Star Wars Reads Day on October 6th, I got pretty excited. Because somewhere out there is a kid who maybe has seen Star Wars, but is a hesitant reader. And just maybe that kid will go to one of these events and pick up a book on Star Wars that will engage them like that original gold novelization did me. And maybe that kid will decide reading isn’t so bad after all and gain the joy that so many of us get from books. And the Force will be with them.