Where Did I Start? | Meg
By: Meg Dowell
Youtini's Where Did I Start series will highlight the personal stories of a number of Youtini team members all focused on the all important question: Where Do I Start Reading Star Wars Books?
Along the way, we'll discover what books got us started as well as which ones have kept us going. If you're having trouble jumping into Star Wars books, we hope these stories will help light the way!
This week, Meg Dowell takes us through the unique twists and turns of her Star Wars journey that landed her right at the feet of one of the most interesting padawans of all time.
Not Just for Dads
Everyone discovers Star Wars differently, and follows a different path from that initial discovery to establishing their own love for the universe. I think I just happened to be in the living room one day when a Star Wars movie was on.
Something about it must have captivated me enough the first time to ask my dad to put in the A New Hope VHS tape (!) and watch it with me again. And again. And again.
I eventually stopped being a fan solely “because my dad thought it was cool” and made Star Wars my own fandom. Admittedly, it took a while, but it’s because of the books that I’m still a fan today.
My “Star Wars Story” -- my journey from almost accidentally discovering a weird movie about space all the way to practically begging a small company called Youtini to let me write about Star Wars on the internet -- wasn’t a straight path from movies to books to publishing.
For a long time, I distanced myself from a universe I loved. And if it weren’t for one book, I might have never returned.
But before that, I discovered a Legends series that launched a much deeper interest in a galaxy far, far away.
What is a Legacy?
The Legacy of the Force series takes place decades after Return of the Jedi ends. Though I’d seen the prequels and the original trilogy, I really hadn’t considered what happened beyond the fall of the Empire. I’d just figured the story was supposed to end there and we were supposed to imagine our own continuations.
I’m so glad I was wrong. Because Han and Leia being parents absolutely blew my mind, and I. LOVED. IT. And I almost couldn’t believe it.
What? You mean there was more Han and Leia and Luke after Episode VI ended? The story kept going? These characters lived long enough to be OLD? Are you SERIOUS??
This was a big deal to me. Because up to that point, I really hadn’t explored the Star Wars universe beyond the six movies that were out at the time. There wasn’t much else … besides the books.
So I started with Aaron Allston's Betrayal (Amazon).
These books tell the story of how one of Han and Leia’s kids falls to the dark side of the Force and the chaos that results. Technically ANOTHER Skywalker falling prey to the ways of the Sith? Tragic! But also awesome. It parallels Anakin’s fall in many ways, sending the galaxy into a downward spiral only our beloved heroes -- and their kids -- can hope to undo.
This series, and many others to follow, would change everything for me. They would even inspire me to write my own fanfiction, which I’m totally not embarrassed to admit 15 years later or anything. The point is, I wasn’t just excited...I was inspired. This was a world I could run to when my own seemed to fall apart.
And for a while, Star Wars was basically all I cared about. Until one day...I didn’t.
For a long time, I said it was because I was “busy.” College applications, extracurricular activities, school, school, more school. I stopped reading Star Wars books, stopped watching the movies, stopped keeping up with everything, even during the Lucasfilm acquisition. I just “didn’t have time.”
In reality, I was hesitant about continuing to spend so much time in something that wasn’t real. Somehow, I had convinced myself that I was “too old” for such things. I did watch a little bit of The Clone Wars -- enough to know of its main characters (particularly Ahsoka). But I wasn’t really invested.
I'd simply convinced myself it was no longer worth my time.
Returning to the Fold
And then, in 2016, I saw that they were releasing a new Star Wars book all about Ahsoka, a character I remembered liking and connecting with when I was younger. I was intrigued enough to buy the book. Curious enough to take the precious time I was sure I didn’t have to read it from cover to cover.
This moment marked my “triumphant return” to Star Wars literature and my first exploration of what had since become canon. More importantly, it changed the way I viewed Star Wars. Then, it became less of an escape, and more of a comfort amongst tragedy.
Ahsoka by E.K Johnston picks up where the original Clone Wars stories were supposed to leave off. After the Battle of Coruscant, after Order 66, a young former Jedi was forced to fake her death, leave her old life behind, and attempt to survive -- maybe even do some good -- under the dark reign of the Empire.
Throughout most of the book (Amazon)-- but especially in the beginning -- Ahsoka wandered the galaxy, trying to stay hidden, trying to find her place in the universe when her identities as a Jedi and commander were stripped from her violently.
In many ways, this was exactly how I felt when I picked up Johnston’s book in 2016. Lost. Uncertain. Isolated. Holding onto the ashen remains of a life I’d had no choice but to leave behind.
"Chewie, We're Home."
And this is one of the main reasons I found myself coming back to Star Wars after so many years away from it. To me, relatable characters matter -- even in a fictional universe. Even if characters are of different species facing much higher stakes than I might ever endure.
I realized I’d been wrong to allow myself to believe I’d grown out of something I grew up loving.
Star Wars still had something to offer me. There was still more to it than just space battles and strange creatures. The stories had depth -- maybe even more so now that I was older and perhaps just a little wiser.
The stories paralleled the real world in ways I’d never really noticed before. This became more apparent the more Star Wars books I read.
Kenobi, on the surface, is a story about a former Jedi who is forced into hiding while watching over a probably Force-sensitive infant refugee. But if you look deeper into it, it’s really about sacrifice, and the things we are willing to give up to protect the ones we care about -- as well as the things we aren’t.
Legends books set in the Clone Wars era dared to delve heavily into politics, the economics of war and its destructive aftermath … but also, there are lightsaber duels. It’s a delicate balance.
Since then I have almost made my way through every Canon book and a small portion of Legends material. Sometimes, Star Wars books are still an escape, but more often than not, they’re so much more. They’re relieve my stress, pass my time, and give me hope -- in what, I’m not always sure. But I feel it. It’s there.
The great thing about these books is that they have something different to offer every person that finds them. Maybe you want to learn more about a certain character’s backstory you didn’t get in a movie or TV show. Maybe a favorite author of yours just happens to have written a Star Wars book and you want to see what it’s all about.
Maybe you, like me, need a set of fictional characters who just “get” you. Who manage to triumph despite obstacles in a way you’re not sure you can. Who entertain you and inspire you and give you hope.
These books tell good stories, and I don’t know of anyone who can’t appreciate a good story every now and then.
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About Meg Dowell
Meg is a health science writer by day and a Star Wars enthusiast 24/7. What started out as one spontaneous movie night with her dad quickly morphed into a lifelong quest to read everything that has ever been written about the world’s greatest fictional galaxy. She lives in Illinois with her cat, dog, and medal-worthy book collection, and believes any conversation in which Star Wars references are applicable is one worth having.
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