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My Fantasy Flight Star Wars Experience

I’ve been a Star Wars fan since the days of the original trilogy. Since then I’ve collected and been a fan of the books, toys, comic books, and video games. However, the one area of Star Wars that has deftly evaded me over the years is the role-playing games. Sure, I was aware of them back when West End Games held the license and I even have accumulated several of the sourcebooks, but for some reason I couldn’t find anyone else who played. I blame it on small town life and a role-playing environment that was dominated by Dungeons & Dragons. Nevertheless, my theory was that even though I’m not using the books for their primary reason, I’ll use them for reference books for any fan-fiction I might want to write about. Back then I wanted to know everything there was about the Star Wars universe. Nothing has changed.

 

After decades of waiting I finally found someone to play with, when I discovered a comics & games shop not far from where I live called Great Stories. This long awaited discovery came doubly useful as I was told participating in a RPG campaign would help me with developing story ideas as I am majoring in creative writing as well. Anyway, it was such a relief to find other fans of RPG games and Star Wars, I couldn’t wait to start playing.

 

For a first timer, let me first tell you, I had no idea how involved Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars Core rulebook was. Learning the dice and what they mean, how to determine what happens when you role, spending your experience points, how to allocate your ranks and characteristics. It’s no small feat. Luckily for me, the group I play with are all very patient with me and help me along. I still haven’t quite mastered it, but I’m definitely learning. Like Anakin, I too, am a slow learner. The best way to learn is to just play and read the rulebook when you have time afterward.

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Our group meets once a month on the first Saturday of the month, and typically goes from 6-9 but times can vary as it is pretty flexible. So before my first campaign in Edge of the Empire, I had to choose a species and a specialty. I chose a Wookiee whose name is Chalarra and he’s a scout. My group consists of an ex-imperial medic, a blind hired gun, a human marauder, a pilot, and a pit droid who’s married to our YT-1300 freighter. Yep you heard that right. Every campaign is a blast and I look forward to playing every month.

 

The way Fantasy Flight Games and Star Wars has brought me together with other fans has been a real gift. I’ve wanted to learn this game for so long and now that I’m finally involved with one I couldn’t more excited. Thanks to Chris Mills and Great Stories, I finally found a place that gathers people from all over the area.

Eric Onkenhout

@EricOnkenhout

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I Was Among my People at Star Wars Celebration Orlando

Last week I was in Star Wars heaven. Four lovely days of everyone around me knowing exactly what I’m talking about when I mention names like Hondo Ohnaka, Cad Bane, Rae Sloane, and Momaw Nadon. Everywhere I looked, my eyes landed on a Star Wars shirt. They were like finger prints—I don’t think I saw the same one twice. Entire families were cosplaying Star Wars characters.

People just like me teared up when George Lucas arrived on stage, and when Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd spoke at length about her mom’s connection with her character Princess Leia Organa and most of all her connection with the fans. But most of all when John Williams appeared behind a curtain to conduct the Orlando Philharmonic into renditions of Princess Leia’s Theme, The Main Theme, and The Imperial March.

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Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017 ran from Thursday 4/13 to Sunday 4/16, and had nearly done me in by Friday afternoon. The folks at ReedPop and Lucasfilm give the fans so many panels they’re going to want to attend the only way to attend every one is to pull a Darth Maul and cut yourself in half so you can be at more than one at a time. I quickly learned that attending every one was impossible considering I had to, you know, eat and sleep. Much to my chagrin I had to skip out on the Lucasfilm Publishers Roundtable so I could actually eat lunch. For a lover of Star Wars lit that pained me. During that panel was announced a new Captain Phasma novel written by Delilah Dawson releasing this September along with a Phasma mini-comic series written by Kelly Thompson with art by Mark Checchetto. A novel called Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Grey (if you haven’t read her other Star Wars books Lost Stars and Bloodline you should) and Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu are set to release later this year.

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My only regret of this Celebration was not meeting as many people as I would’ve liked. My excuse is it was my first con and I really wanted to hit up as many panels as I could. Next time I want to make more of an effort to say hi to more people. I was lucky enough to make a couple new friends while waiting in those endlessly long lines! Oh yeah, before I forget, I cannot emphasize how pleasant everyone was. Star Wars fans are literally the best. Everyone was is such good spirits—not a frown, whiny kid, or attitude to be found. That was so nice to experience.

Since 2015, there has been a Celebration yearly, except it was already announced that this is the last until 2019. I’m sure Disney/Lucasfilm have their reasons, and I’m sure the Star Wars themed park at Disney which is scheduled to open in 2019 is one of them. I can’t wait!
@EricOnkenhout

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A View From Above: Where to Spot Good Writing

As a student of writing, I’m constantly on the lookout for good quality work. Most of the time when we think of good quality writing we think of the classics like Shakespeare, Chaucer, or Milton. Similarly we also think good writing comes from novels and/or plays; forms that are generally thought of as a little highbrow and difficult to connect with. However, good writing can also come from film, television and even comic books.

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I’ve read a lot of classics from Homer’s The Iliad to Beowulf to Paradise Lost. From Edgar Allen Poe to Bram Stoker. They’re all great if you want to learn story structure and expand your vocabulary and I highly recommend you start at the beginning. On the other hand, I’ve also read and watched things that were recommended to me with the thought that I’d like them, but alas poor Yorick I did not. They just didn’t do it for me. Breaking Bad, for example, which is consistently rated as one of the best television series’ of all time. I couldn’t get through the second episode. Don’t get me wrong, it was an interesting premise, but just not my thing. Just the other day I got caught up in a twitter debate about how “great” The Expanse is. Is it? I found the characters boring, and the dialogue weak. I muddled my way through the first season and don’t plan on continuing. How it got renewed for a third season is beyond me. I simply cannot watch anything produced by the SyFy channel. Can anyone tell me why everything looks blue on that show? Ender’s Game was another recommendation. This was one experience where I rather enjoyed the movie more than the book. No. Just no.

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The theory is that I like science fiction. Everyone knows my love of Star Wars. The thing is Star Wars isn’t science fiction. I’m not a fan of any specific genre. I like what’s written well. Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Preacher (the comic not the show, please…not the show), are all very different. This is how I can tell if I really like something; I cannot physically put it down or turn it off. It’s impossible And if I can remember what I’m reading, that’s a sign. The best part of good writing for me is the dialogue. Which any writer, no matter their skill level, will tell you is the most difficult to get right. Garth Ennis, the writer for Preacher gets the dialogue down so perfectly, with speech inflection and all like nobody’s business. Yes, it may take a couple readings to get through a speech bubble, but it pays off later on when you realize it becomes part of the character and their development.

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What I like about GoT and HoC is not only the dialogue, but the delivery of it by the actors. It’s quick, yet forceful. It’s serious but not overly dramatic. The multilayered storylines give both shows an extra level of intrigue. This made me realize my own novel is way too simple (editors note:  Eric is in the process of writing his first book).

Another show I respect, but am not completely enthralled with is Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The Legend of Korra to an even lesser extent. I know it’s blasphemy to not love these shows. I really like them, and love how the story and characters develop. I think it’s because it’s animated, which doesn’t make sense at all because I love Star Wars Clone Wars and Rebels.

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I had just caught up with Saga, the comic series written by award winning comic writer Brian K. Vaughan. I’ll say this; it’s definitely original, which is a big plus in my book. It’s well written, but didn’t pull me in as much as Preacher did. I’m also reading his other series, Paper Girls which is also very original. Y: The Last Man, from what I read is really good too! I’ll stay with both for now. A few more examples of good writing came from a recommended comic called Wytches by Scott Snyder. Wow! If you like creepy comics, in the vein of Stephen King, I cannot recommend this one enough. I read the entire trade in one sitting, something I never do. Lastly, Transmetroplitan and Planetary also came recommended, both written by Warren Ellis. I’m excited to dive into those!

I’m all ears for more recommendations. I can’t guarantee I’ll like it, but I’m willing to try. Movies, books, or comics!

Eric Onkenhout

@EricOnkenhout or @WritingEric

Facebook.com/eric.onkenhout