Phasma Skywalker

I don’t post a lot of Star Wars fan theories because, well, the Internet’s already overflowing with them. But this one doesn’t really seem to be out there, and I think it’s kinda interesting and also maybe kind of obvious. That is unless I’m completely wrong!

Of course, there are Force Awakens spoilers ahead. So if you haven’t seen the movie. I guess go away or, you know, have it spoiled a little.

So one of the big mysteries is “Who are Rey’s parents?” The Kenobi and Skywalker families tend to top the suspect list—rightfully so. Just to keep it quick, we’re gonna side with the Skywalker theory here. Now we’ve got a choice between Luke and Leia. Again, for the sake of brevity, we’re gonna side with Luke.

So mystery solved, right? Well, no. We still don’t know who her mom is! Assuming Mara Jade met the ultimate nullifier of continuity when the books were made non-cannon, she’s off the list. Who does that leave?

Let’s assume that Rey’s mom IS guessable. Meaning it’s not some character we haven’t met yet. That narrows the list a lot. Now let’s review a few givens.

First, Kylo Ren can influence minds

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Next we know that modern Storm Troopers receive some sort of brainwashing conditioning therapy at an early age to make them loyal to the First Order.

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And we also feel we understand that Kylo attacked Luke and Luke’s student Jedi and slaughtered whatever passed for the New Jedi Order. (I’m not gonna post a picture for that.)

Now’s where I go off into conjecture land. We need a woman old enough to be Rey’s mom, but not too old to be plausible. For instance, you could speculate that Anakin or Obi Wan are her dad, except that the original movies are set 30 years earlier and Rey appears to be in her teens. So that rules out most women from the original trilogy.

Who does that leave us with? (Hint: Look up ↑ ). Why would the makers of the Force Awakens go to all the trouble of hiring a fairly well known star and even include her in a lot of the press tours and promotional events for a Storm Trooper role with just a few lines? Maybe because she’s going to continue to be important. Remember, Han and Finn don’t actually kill her. They just throw her down the garbage shoot.

So here’s the theory. Captain Phasma is a brainwashed version of Rey’s mom. As Kylo attacked the New Jedi temple, Luke sent his lover away with their love child, his daughter. Kylo knew Phasma as one of Luke’s closest students or followers, but didn’t know Luke and Phasma had a child. Maybe Luke feigned chastity for the good of the order. After finishing off with the Jedi temple, Kylo chased Phasma. He finally caught her, but not before she was able to drop her daughter, Rey, off on the remote planet Jakuu where no one would notice her.

Kylo then stripped Phasma’s mind down and handed her over to the First Order who reconditioned her into a trooper. They all kept her around in case Luke ever surfaced again to use as a weapon against him by holding him emotionally hostage and perhaps by reinstating some of her mind to get more information about him.

This then would make Rey’s family tree look something like what’s below. I’ve added Plagueis at the top even though he’s not a Skywalker because he’s the one who kicked the whole story off.

Skywalker Family Tree

Alright, let’s trace that all out again quickly. Darth Plagueis teaches his apprentice, Darth Sidious (the Emperor), how to create life with the Force. See Revenge of the Sith—the opera scene—for reference. Darth Sidious used this power to immaculately conceive a child in the slave Shmi Skywalker. Shmi’s son from that Force event grew up to be Anakin Skywalker who had two children with Padme Amidala—Luke and Leia. Luke then met a strong warrior woman who we would come to know as Captain Phasma. Luke’s nephew Ben Solo attacked Luke’s Jedi Order, slaughtering them and sending Luke’s lover, Phasma, and their daughter on the run. Phasma was captured and brainwashed into joining the First Order while her daughter, Rey, remained hidden on the planet Jakuu until the Force awoke in her and brought her back to the family.

What a Card!

Saw a preview for Ender’s Game last night. I have to admit, I’ve never read Ender’s Game. It’s one of the most glaring omissions in my sci-fi reading list–initially mostly by chance. For some reason, I just never read it when I was younger.

Now I’m quite a bit older than the target audience for Ender’s Game. And there’s a problem. I can’t stand Orson Scott Card’s political statements. The man’s neo-conservative claptrap really rubs me the wrong way. Fiscally, I tend to be pretty conservative, but I’m excessively socially liberal bordering on anarchist at times.

Is a difference of political or moral opinion a fair enough reason for not wanting to get into Card’s writing now? It’s a question that comes up in most art. Should art lacking a political or moral agenda be judged by its artist’s political views or morality? For example, if Michael Jackson is guilty of some of the things that he’s been accused of, does that make Thriller a bad song or at least one undeserving of being listened to?

It’s not always an easy question to answer. In the case of Jackson, it’s a little simpler in that his music doesn’t reflect his alleged lifestyle choices. With Card, it’s more difficult because many of his books apparently directly espouse his vitriol. But Ender’s Game is a classic in the genre and, as far as I know, does not champion any homophobic agenda.

What do you think? Heck, do you think Ender’s Game is worth it? Am I wrong about Card?

There are several belief systems I’m sympathetic toward or downright champion myself that are unpopular in many sectors. Should those personal opinions and sympathies be reason enough for a reader to dismiss my writing?

Switching Gears? Too Obscure?

I got sidelined by some bad health the last few weeks. Nothing major–just some stomach flu and similar issues hitting me and mine. So, haven’t been working on the sequel.

I’m almost 200 pages in. For a 300 page book, that’s pretty much into the home stretch. But now my steam’s gone, and I’m having trouble finding motivation again. Any suggestions?

Also struggling because I have another idea kicking around in my head that I like better than the Catharsis series. Catharsis is fun, but I wrote it with no intention of publishing it. Really! It was just fun for me. Because of that, I think that it doesn’t play to a lot of people’s interests. Sure, there’s a nude nubile female or two, gun fights and sword fights and all kinds of fights, sex, intrigue, danger, scandal, etc. But the book requires a Masters in 19th-21st century Western Occultism and a strong working knowledge of 20th century sci-fi to really make sense to a reader. While the 2nd requirement isn’t all that rare–plenty of people know Lovecraft, Asimov, Anthony, and the other sci-fi writers referenced–the first requirement is pretty obscure. If O.T.O. or A.M.O.R.C. are just random acronyms to you, if Blavatsky and MacGregor Mathers are just random names, if Hivim and Ascended Masters don’t really describe anything you’ve heard of even after you look up what they mean, then you probably don’t get 54% of what I was doing in the book. And I don’t blame you. My experience is that Western Mysticism is about as good a subject to throw into a random conversation as model railroad building. There’s an off chance you’ll find someone interested at the table with you, but more likely than not everyone will find you a total bore! Does that happen with Catharsis? I’m betting so. I’m also betting that quite a few readers don’t even know what they’re missing or how hard I worked to get it in there. That’s artistically frustrating. But maybe I should soldier on. For some people, obscure references work wonders. Look at Madelaine L’Engle.

The other idea that I have for a book would be much more commercially viable and require much less in the way of obscure knowledge on the part of the reader. Might not be enough to turn me into Stephen King, but it could entertain a lot more people, which is a big part of the goal here.

What do you think? Keep writing on the sequel because I’m more than halfway through the first draft or switch to the new idea that I like better at the moment and think the audience might like better, too?

How do you make the call with your own writings?

Agents

I’ve started pinging agents about Catharsis in the hopes of getting the book picked up before the sequel’s ready. Long ago, actually, I worked for a literary agency. Nicholas Ellison, a division of Sanford. J. Greenburger Associates, Inc., was my first employer out of college.

Working as an assistant at a literary agency offers a lot of opportunity to learn about the publishing industry and meet key players in the industry. It also means serving as the front line between the unsolicited query letters that come in every day and the agent or agents you’re assisting.

I opened literally hundreds of letters for Mr. Ellison and another agent, Alička Pistek. Some of the query letters were ridiculous, some were from authors with projects that just were not a good fit, and some were great but lacked that certain something to set their projects or themselves apart. To those hundreds of letter writers, I sent hundreds of rejection letters. Maybe two or three authors were picked up by the agents out of the entire pile of queries over that year of employment. That’s three out of maybe thirteen hundred letters!

So how do you get an agent? Networking helps a lot. Finding an agent who knows you or knows someone in your network really makes getting his or her attention much easier than trying to get in through the query letter pile. Also helpful is having a proven track record. If you can come to an agent with some already successful projects under your belt, you’re much more likely to get his or her attention.

Will I find an agent for Catharsis and its sequels? Who knows? I’m trying, that’s for sure. If any of you know a sci-fi agent interested in a new author, let me know!

Sequel

So I’ve started working on the sequel to Catharsis. Hopefully I can find the time and soldier through to get it all on paper. I’m about 120 pages into it now and moving right along, so all looks promising that I’ll have it out in the not all that distant future.

This one’s currently titled Exegesis and follows Bodhi and Kama as they gather one of three wise men needed to witness the birth of Djwhal Khul into the mortal realm.

I’ve already written a few big action sequences and you’re going to see a lot more of Bodhi being a dragon in this one. And this one breaks out of India to travel to Saudi Arabia in our post-apocalyptic 41st century.

I might have some chances for people to “read test” the book once the 2nd or so draft is done. The more advanced reads I get with feedback (even if it’s just minor points about what works in the plot and doesn’t) the better.

It’ll still be a few months before we’re at that stage, but I’m getting there!

The Reality of Invented Worlds

Not much of a surprise, I’m sure, that I play Pathfinder (Dungeons & Dragons 3.75 ed. for those unfamiliar with the game). The other day I read on a message board someone’s complaints about the Monk class in the game. The Monk class is often played–and arguably meant to be played–as a Shaolin type character. Pathfinder monks eschew armor and mostly use their limbs and basic, often Eastern, weapons. The complaint was that such a character didn’t belong in medieval Europe.

Other posters were quick to point out that Pathfinder is not set in medieval Europe but in Golarion–a world not unlike Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The OP, of course, rebutted that Tolkien’s world was a medieval European one. That received a response that, in fact, Tolkien incorporated elements like Oliphants and had far-East Asians in mind for some of the physical look of the Orcs. There was no real attempt on Tolkien’s part to make Middle Earth specifically European or set in the Middle Ages.

That had me thinking about how cohesion is created in mythical worlds. Most mythical worlds are tied together hodgepodges of other mythical worlds generated by a writer or collective of writers. But some, like Star Trek or Middle Earth, feel very organic and not necessarily dreamlike, whereas others like the Dark Tower seem completely mythical and purely worlds of the subconscious.

What makes the difference? I’m not convinced it’s strong writing or even believability. There’s some other element at work that makes Middle Earth seem like a specific place in a specific time while Narnia feels like a dream realm.

I wonder how well I did at mish mashing my hodgepodge together in Catharsis. I blended everything from Theosophic cosmology to medieval fantasy to Asimov’s robot series to create the world. Did I do it convincingly? I wasn’t aiming for a Star Trek level of “Oh yeah, that’s absolutely the real future,” but more a Star Wars “Oh yeah, I’d totally buy that I could go to this place.”

I can’t see my own invented world subjectively. And not being sure what makes the difference, I don’t have an objective gauge for telling. What do you think?

What Makes a Story Believable?

Buffy and the modern BSG are my top two, all-time favorite television series. Both created cohesive worlds and compelling characters that I couldn’t help but watch and felt totally invested in.

 

I often wonder, though, what made those worlds seem so real and engaging to me? Both series relied on absolutely ridiculous plot twists and disbelief that took an industrial crane (literally in the last episode of season 5 of Buffy) to suspend. So why did I never really question what happened. And why did I never walk away feeling let down by the twists and turns and revelations the writers came up with?

 

I don’t have a good answer. And what happened with series like Lost or (brace yourself) The X Files? Both series went to places that I felt were completely unbelievable and offered revelations that seemed counterintuitive and ill planned on debut. Why did Starbuck’s final scene in BSG seem magical and powerful while Lost’s strange twists and turns seemed hackneyed and corny?

 

I don’t have an answer to these questions, and I’d love one. Because I think that if I knew the answer, it would make me an invincible writer. As an author, I want to surprise my audience and keep them guessing. But I also want to satisfy them and never leave them with a puzzled “Why did that happen?” feeling when I pull the rabbit out of the hat.