Happy May the 4th, everyone! Remember when you took that first step into a larger world?
Below you’ll find some of the Tor.com staff reminiscing on their most vivid Star Wars-related memories, including schoolboy awkwardness, acid dealers, and things that really should have scared us more than they did.
Share your own memories in the comments!
Emily Asher-Perrin (Editorial Assistant):
So many memories from my childhood involve Star Wars in some shape or form, but I think the one that stands apart from the rest actually has very little to do with Star Wars at all. It happened in junior high; I was at my most awkward (most of us are around that age), in a new school and plenty of the kids thought I was a spectacularly weird. I eventually discovered that this was mostly due to the fact that I read between classes and actually seemed to enjoy being in school—apparently, that was very uncool.
Right before math class one day, I was sitting at my desk reading a Star Wars book. A boy approached me tentatively:
Me: Um. Hey.
Boy: That’s a good Star Wars book.
That was the entirety of the conversation, in all of its wince-worthy pre-teen glory. But that boy quickly became one of my very best friends and, all these years later, he still is. Just because he saw a girl at school reading a book that he liked. The tale of that first exchange has never stopped being funny to either of us and we get a laugh out of telling the story to people who don’t know us well, acting it out with all the floor gazing, confused blinking and half-stammers. I know that many of us often feel like there are certain people who we are “meant” to know, but sometimes the ways in which those people enter our lives are the most unexpected, inconsequential ones.
Sometimes, you just happen to be reading a Star Wars book before math class.
Ryan Britt (Staff Writer):
I have so many childhood memories associated with Star Wars that picking just one is almost as impossible as bulls-eying a womprat while doing a handstand with Jar-Jar Binks singing Lionel Richie songs in my ear. But here goes:
If you were into Star Wars at any point prior to the post-1997 hype, there was something a little purer about all the merchandising stuff. In 1990, I couldn’t buy a lightsaber toy even if I wanted to. This was just fine by me, as I had read that a true Jedi builds their own. Using pictures of Luke’s saber from my Return of the Jedi storybook, I hunted through my father’s tool shed for parts. (We fixed all our own cars at my house, and pretty much had a MacGuyver sensibility about any repairs.) This meant there was a lot of junk lying around in the shed; spare parts for all kinds of machines. The handle of my lightsaber was a discarded sprinkler shaft; the kind that would protrude up from the lawn and spray water all over the place. For the round emitter of Luke’s Jedi-era saber, I found an old engine piston and slipped it inside the sprinkler shaft. After spray-painting the whole thing silver, it was done.
Two things are great about my 10-year-old lightsaber creation. 1.) Anyone who sees it immediately knows it’s a lightsaber. 2.) It’s tiny. This lightsaber was made for a child’s hands, and as such is about as authentic as any lightsaber can get.
Carl Engle-Laird (Production Assistant):
In 1995 a set of THX remastered VHSes of the original trilogy were released. This was not, historically, one of the important re-releases of the Star Wars movies. It is far overshadowed by the 20th anniversary celebration edition that was released in 1997, in which George Lucas began to retouch his original vision with new dialogue and visuals. 1995 was, however, the more important release for me; it’s the release that spurred my parents to introduce me to the series. I was six years old.
My parents curated my early exposure to various media in a loving, but somewhat haphazard fashion, based on a program that I think was primarily determined by what was available at the local Blockbuster-knockoff store, a long-since-defunct brick and mortar called Sound Warehouse. But even through my youthful haze of near-total incomprehension, I could tell that my parents were presenting me with something special. We watched one Star Wars movie each week for three weeks, and I think that I’ve never been as anxious as during the six days between the end of The Empire Strikes Back and the beginning of Return of the Jedi.
A year or two later Sound Warehouse went out of business, and in the following fire sale I acquired two more great gifts: A VHS of Mortal Kombat and a VHS of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, each of which I watched upwards of twenty times. So thank you, Sound Warehouse, for giving me Star Wars, and for making my young tastes so weird.
Bridget McGovern (Managing Editor):
I guess it’s finally time for my dark secret to come to light: before I embraced my geek destiny as a Star Wars fan, I was in love with The Ewok Adventure. To be fair: I was five, and crazy about movies like The Dark Crystal, The Last Unicorn, and The Never-Ending Story, so the fact that the made-for-TV Ewok movies nudged the Star Wars universe even further away from its SF trappings into the more familiar realm of fantasy (complete with magic crystals and evil, parent-stealing trolls) made it a natural fit. And frankly, what kid didn’t want an Ewok best friend in the mid-eighties? It was only when I got a little older that I realized that the trilogy was actually far more interesting than whatever side stories were happening on the forest moon of Endor, but I still have to credit Wicket W. Warrick with sparking my interest in that galaxy, far, far away. (And it could have been way worse: luckily, I wasn’t exposed to the Star Wars Holiday Special until I was old enough to drink...).
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Editorial Director):
I saw Star Wars in the first week of June, 1977, about a week after it opened. I lived in Toronto at the time, but I’d been attending Disclave, the then-annual Washington, DC science fiction convention, over Memorial Day weekend, and I then traveled to New York City with miscellaneous fannish friends. We went to the Loews’ theater off of Times Square.
It was an unforgettable cinematic experience, I’m sure, but specific memories of it are much overlaid with memories of subsequent viewings, of other (and mostly lesser) Lucas films, and of later adventure SF influenced by it. What remains vivid in memory is less the film itself than the vignette, inside the theater, of New York City at the far end of its endless cycle of decay and regeneration. “Loose joints, loose joints,” cried a scruffy drug dealer as he ambled up and down the aisles, just like a popcorn seller at a baseball game. “Acid, loose joints, acid. If there’s a cop in the audience, gimme a break, I gotta make a living.” The air was thick, and not just because people still smoked tobacco in movie theaters in 1977. No cops presented themselves. From the row behind us came a stinging chemical smell. “Amyl nitrate,” a friend explained to me. “You know, poppers.”
This is the New York City that time forgot, the city cast adrift, FEDS TO NY: DROP DEAD. No money, no future, an overheated stew of decline looking forward to more decline. This was the New York City in which vast tracts of Manhattan that are today crowded with shoppers were then bleak stretches of “urban decay.” This was also the New York City of the high summer of punk rock, a time when real, working artists and musicians and writers could afford to crowd into Manhattan. This was the actual Wild West on which we’ve now built Frontierland.
In effect, I first saw Star Wars in Bellona. I remember Bellona.
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