Poetry Corner – The (Other) Raven

RAVEN, from the dim dominions 
    On the Night's Plutonian shore, 
Oft I hear thy dusky pinions 
    Wave and flutter round my door- 
See the shadow of the pinions 
    Float along the moon-lit floor; 

Often, from the oak-woods glooming 
    Round some dim ancestral tower, 
In the lurid distance looming- 
    Some high solitary tower- 
I can hear thy storm-cry booming 
    Through the lonely midnight hour. 

When the moon is at the zenith, 
    Thou dost haunt the moated hall, 
Where the marish flower greeneth 
    O'er the waters, like a pall- 
where the House of Usher leaneth, 
    Darly nooding to its fall: 

There I see thee, dimly gliding,- 
    See thy black plumes waving slow,- 
In its hollow casements hiding, 
    When there shadow yawns below, 
To the sullen tarn confiding 
    The dark secrets of their woe:- 

See thee, when the stars are burning 
    In their cressets, silver clear,- 
When Ligeia's spirit yearning 
    For the earth-life, wanders near,- 
When Morella's soul returning, 
    Weirdly whispers "I am here." 

Once, within a realm enchanted, 
    On a far isle of the seas, 
By unearthly visions haunted, 
    By unearthly melodies, 
Where the evening sunlight slanted 
    Golden through the garden trees,- 

Where the dreamy moonlight dozes, 
    Where the early violets dwell, 
Listening to the silver closes 
    Of a lyric loved too well, 
Suddenly, among the roses, 
    Like a cloud, thy shadow fell. 

Once, where Ulalume lies sleeping, 
    Hard by Auber's haunted mere, 
With the ghouls a vigil keeping, 
    On that night of all the year, 
Came thy sounding pinions, sweeping 
    Through the leafless woods of Weir! 

Oft, with Proserpine I wander 
    On the Night's Plutonian shore, 
Hoping, fearing, while I ponder 
    On thy loved and lost Lenore- 
On the demon doubts that sunder 
    Soul from soul for evermore; 

Trusting, though with sorrow laden, 
    That when life's dark dream is o'er, 
By whatever name the maiden 
    Lives within thy mystic lore, 
Eiros, in that distant Aidenn, 
    Shall his Charmion meet once more.

- Sarah Helen Whitman, something of an interesting character in and of herself.

Star Wars: I Could Do It Better – Part IIIa

So I realize there might be a tinge of hypocrisy in putting an “I could do it better by re-writing it wholesale” post directly after a post on how the BBC’s The Watch adaptation just did exactly that and failed. But I submit in defense that it’s very different for impatience and anger at a franchise to come from a place of love and high expectations, rather from pure malice. (AKA: the BBC’s The Watch adaptation.) I really like Star Wars. I really quite like aspects of the prequels. But: because I like it and want it to be perfect, I have severe problems with the areas that aren’t.

Notice: I don’t have any such issues with things like The Mandalorian, for which I have only a moderate opinion and extremely low expectations. I don’t try to make The Mandalorian better–the mental effort isn’t worth the reward. I don’t have any issues with the Original Trilogy, because there’s no point. I find it perfectly satisfying the way it is.

But I like Star Wars (the real one.) It inspires me, and I want to create something like it: something wholesome, and fun, funny, exciting, romantic, adventurous. I want it to be smart and clever; to avoid the pitfalls that always annoy audiences (me). I want to correct the things it did wrong once and for all, and I want to copy out the things that it did right, except better and bigger and more impressive and with 1,000 elephants.

And anyhow, that’s my defense of fanfic authors re-imagining their favorite worlds and in particular the never-to-be-filmed epic, The Wars Of The Old Republic.

Except for the bit with the severed heads in the mail. I actually don’t know where that came from.

Star Wars – I Could Do It Better – The Clone War Saga

Once upon a time in a galaxy far way, a mad scientist discovered a way of injecting alien DNA (MIDICHLORIANS!) into the neural tissue of cloned children, warping their growth and lifespan, but creating in their misshapen bodies awesome powers. In defiance of Republic law, which decrees clones are the legal children of their creators, the scientist continues further, fusing clone brains into cyborg bodies, making of living beings mere machines to be programmed and controlled. (The Trade Federation robot soldiers.)

The galaxy recoils in horror at the revelation.

That is, most of the Galaxy does. The outer Rim planets, where the welts of slavery still smart, and where most of the clones’ powers are flatly unneeded, public opinon wants him destroyed. The civilized worlds are also against it, but from a different angle: they want the clones destroyed. Raising the stakes, a handful of advanced prototype clones escape (accidentally killing dozens), and flee to sympathizing Naboo to beg aid and shelter.

Anakin Skywalker, now a junior Jedi Master, is sent to retrieve the escaped clones. He presents them a choice: to stand trial for murder—by extention granting their siblings legal status—or death.

The integrity of the Republic is called into question as the matter goes before the tribunal. The full might of the Jedi are needed ensure the safety of jury, witnesses, and judge as the fate of half a billion clone intelligences hangs in the balance.

Padme, representative of Naboo and leader of the Neutral Bloc (Federation assassins have eliminated the others), is sent to the vote. She knows that when she leaves Naboo she is going to her doom and that deals made are about to come due. For love and pity of Padme, her faithful servant, the Queen arranges for Anakin Skywalker—the Chosen One and the prophesied Healer—to protect her.

The Separatist faction makes the pro-clone position their line in the sand. The Remain faction frames their side of the issue as the rule of law: murder, theft, and destruction of property. (Anakin himself has definite opinions on property: it should stay put. However, he works for Padme).

The Jedi are deeply split and the Order lacks the ability to convince or compel its members to obey. Many simply leave–Obi-Wan among them.

Palpatine/Sidius has ordered Padme to vote Against. He has also called in his second bargain—her child with her choice of his lieutenants, Maul or Tyrannus. Palpatine’s plan is to force the Separatists into action, and trigger a short victorious war. Padme votes as ordered—but flees the Sith apprentices in terror, determined to die first. She can’t outrun her destiny, however, and Anakin convinces her to come with him, to the Separatist army, instead.

When the Senate overrides the jury and orders the clones terminated regardless of the trial, sympathetic worlds send ships to protect them. Shots are fired. The war begins.

The Separatists withdraw from the Republic and, aided by sympathetic Jedi, fight to free the clones. The Centrist planets, militarily weaker, react by consolidating their political power (aka, forming a central dictatorship), and counterattacking. Amid this dangerous landscape, the Sith are a shadowy presence, cutting deals and killing politicians, spying, sabotaging, informing, torturing. The war ravages from planet to planet.

Obi-wan Kenobi is a Separatist general; Anakin commands an elite flight squadron, his callsign Starkiller. (“I knew your father….”)

Some time into the war, Anakin confesses to Padme that he is in part responsible for starting it: he hates the clones as he hates himself, and his offer to them was false: he knew that the Senate would order their deaths, no matter what the courts decided. In atonement, he throws himself into the fight with renewed vigor, leading a reckless raid to the heart of Centrist territory, landing on the clone planet to rescue the remaining children and destroy the factories.

The mad scientist meets an appropriately ironic end in the rubble.

Anakin is covering the evacuee column when an attack fatally cripples his ship. As he is in the middle of his signature slingshot maneuver, the momentum, unchecked, will drag him into the sun. Trapped inside a dead ship, his screams, curses, prayers are heard by many others through the Force—and then, as his ship passes out of view into the brightness, go finally silent.

Star Wars: I Could Have Done It Better – The Fall of the Old Republic

The Trade Federation, invoking the vendetta rule of private war on the grounds of the oppression and disenfranchisement of the native Naboo….ians (the Ganga), attacks and invades. Their purpose is the acquisition of new genetic stock for their (clone-based) robot slaves. The human Naboo(ese?) population, which also has a high degree of Force sensitivity, is attractive to them, as are the Ganga themselves. Their ultimate purpose is the work of the Sith lords, who are searching for the Chosen One among the Force-sensitive races of every world, and considering breeding or cloning one themselves. An ambitious young Sith Lord may have started the process off already. But then again, if one Sith does something unethical secretly, it’s a cinch that everyone else has secretly done it, too, so perhaps not.

Naboo has no navy and few spacecraft; though their ground forces are strong—due to the perpetual war with the Ganga—and they are far outmatched against the Federation. The priest-rulers of that tiny, isolationist planet, in defiance of their child goddess-queen’s wishes, attempt to negotiate with the Federation leaders—and are captured and massacred. The invasion, though slowed by the ferocity of the savage Ganga, by default now the reluctant allies of their former human enemies, begins. The Federation Viceroys, hounded on one hand by their Sith overlords, and taking heavy casualties on the other, deeply regret their overreach, but are stuck.

The Queen details her ten handmaidens to flee the planet in ten ships and beg aid and arms from their allied powers, the petty planets of the Thousand Nations bloc. Of the ships, only Padme’s escapes the system: the Blue Guul transport. The ship has no choice but to fly into the teeth of danger—“free” space—pirate territory. And the pirates get them.

Slavery is regarded with a particular horror on Naboo; enslavement means complete loss of face and status; exile—inability to return with full caste status to their  home world. The Naboon crew are prepared to suicide rather than face the risk, but are ordered not to by Padme. Their mission is paramount.

Anakin Vatto is himself a slave—valued for his mechanical abilities and priviledged beyond the ordinary lot—but still bound with an exposive collar, marked with radio-transmitting brands. He is pilot of the ship that captures Padme. He also protects her while she is on the ship, rather than letting the (nonhuman) ship owners simply toss her into the holding vats with the others….who would probably have eaten her. They go to Tattooine. Tattooine is a free port, and the Trade Federation ship after them cannot simply throw its weight around, though they try both threats and bribes.

At the latter, the pirate lords of the planet merely laugh, and display to the Traders their own wealth: ships, warriors, nubile dancers, star-gems, treasures and dainties of a thousand worlds—wealth greater, in their own understanding than the intangible “credits” and even less tangible “favors” which they are promised.

Equal parts stung and amused by the imposition, it so pleases these overlords not to sell Padme, but offer her as prize in the gladiatorial games—wherein slaves may also win their freedom.

With such a prize as Padme, many—even free men—wager themselves. Three emerge from the melee: the smouldering Anakin, the calm Obi-wan, and the Federation’s sponsored champion, a local brute hired for the occasion. Anakin faces the champion and defeats him, in a hard but largely fair fight. He then faces Obi-wan. With no other option, Obi-wan is reluctantly prepared to kill him. Anakin, burning with rage and lust, refuses to die.

All, however, is for naught—the games are merely a front for a massacre (not only of the gangs, but of many spectators when the starving feral beasts are turned loose from their stalls) by one faction: the Hutts.

The Jedi (“The Senate ordered the Council, and the Council orders it done”) have secretly thrown their weight behind them in return for Padme’s freedom. Anakin is forced at sword’s-point to relinquish her, and left behind. He walks into the deserts where he was born, not knowing whether the sun or his slave collar will kill him first…and then it begins, as it has only once in living memory (at the hour of his birth) to rain. (Because the orbital bombardment by comet in the opposite hemisphere has disrupted the air currents.)

To Padme, meanwhile, a choice is offered: The Sith want Naboo; they also want her—her genetic material. The mark of destiny is on her and her children. In return, they promise to dissolve the Trade Federation’s Charter, and they swear that no war will come to Naboo again. The Nabooiteans will be called to fight, but their home will remain untouched. There is no time to be lost: Naboo is about to fall. (Incidentally, there are many volunteers and aid shipments who come purely on their own account to help: the Lafayette Escadrille.)

Padme agrees without hesitation, and with only the slight caveat that she intends to wipe out her shame and die honorably in battle before they can get her “genetic material.”

Obi-wan, who believes (along with most of the others) that their mission is entirely legitimate (and that the censure of the Federation is politically dictated by the Thousand Nations and Chancellor Palpatine), disregards orders to accompany Padme and returns to Tattooine to search for Anakin–the mysterious born warrior whose untrained power was sufficient to almost defeat him.

Anakin, saved from dying of thirst, makes his way across the sands to rejoin the now-diminished slaver fleet, driven to hard times with the loss of their captain-general, and the growing Huttese monopoly on crime, demonstrated when the Hutts stage a raid on the unaffiliated encampment (which also homes one or two from Padme’s original crew,  collared, shamed, and burning with hatred).

Obi-wan broadcasts as the “relief fleet”—is entirely welcome to the hard-pressed defenders.

The Ganga, finding that their fiercest efforts meet with little success, have retired from the field, and instead gone into hiding. With Obi-wan’s help, Padme convinces the Ganga warlords to try for one last, all-out push (which she and the goddess will personally lead), which will be coordinated with the pirate fleet’s attack on the Federation ships.

They are triumphant; victory is celebrated. In the battle, the Queen is indeed killed—executed—but the Federation finds no victory.

“Did you believe that you had triumphed? Did you believe that a god can die?” declares her handmaiden and new avatar—a battle-stained amazon—who ascends the throne in her place. The Trader command who do not escape off-world are slaughtered before that throne, under her eyes. When the shooting is over, Padme stalks forward. “And now, Viceroy. We will discuss a new treaty.”

Romantic resolution (such as is): Anakin is at his ship in the hangar, doing a last minute check before take-off; when Obi-wan wanders by, he claims that they’re over and done with, he’s going his own way as a free trader. Obi-wan agrees pleasantly; he knows that they’ll be meeting at the Jedi Temple soon.

Then Padme shows up to talk. She wants him to name his price: when he won her at the tournament, he won her soul/karma/social credit. She wants it back. What will it take?

Anakin gives it about two nanoseconds’ consideration. “Give me a kiss.”

And then our hero jets off into the binary sunset, music blazing, etc.

Repost Week Continues

(I tell you what my own Star Wars ideas are like, some more)

The bath-house was not large. Its ceiling was low; the walls cut with false pillars for niches a servant or a guard might lurk in. Two pools, one steaming and languid with strewn flower petals, one roiling and cold, were narrowly separated by a strip of sand-colored tile. Between them stood the Queen: barefoot, hair loose down the back of an embroidered robe, hands folded; completely still, an unblinking stare fixed on Anakin.

He bowed without speaking. It was always the best option.

A slender hand gestured him to rise.

“Master Jedi. Do not be alarmed. I wished to speak with you alone.” Dark eyes, older by far than the rounded face that contained them, moved over him, cool and intent. He’d seen that expression before in the face of fishwives in the market stalls, contemplating which animal to buy for their dinner. But then her voice was, for a moment, that of a young girl as she explained, “–the Queen is rarely alone, save now and again, and here.”

“I am at your service, Your Majesty.”

“I have a task for you.”

He saluted with immense politeness and lack of enthusiasm. “Command me, My Lady.”

“I cannot.”

The Queen’s lips tautened around the words as she said them. She folded her hands back into her sleeves and there was the silence of flowing water about them.

“…that which I would have you do is according to the spirit, but not the letter of the Jedi Code. I cannot order you to do this thing.”

“Madam, the Code is the life of a Jedi. I cannot break it. Not even if ordered to.”

“A Jedi will never break the law. But Anakin Skywalker may save Padme Amidala, if he wishes.”

A pause was unavoidable; nevertheless, Anakin’s voice was completely level when he asked, “What are you implying?”

The gray-robed figure did not move, did not blink or sway or alter its breathing; but a flash passed through the glance that crossed his. “The shadow is over Padme. I would not have my faithful servant fall under this darkness. For her sake, and the sake of the ten thousand, her children not yet born, fated to be strong champions in a lesser age. The course is set. My hands are tied. The Jedi are no help. Will you protect her?”

“I have already sworn it.”

“No. You have only promised to save her life.”