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Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our one hundred and fifteenth guest has been running his site Galactic Voyage since early 1999, over two decades of online fandom – Gary Willis.

Lightsabre – Gary, welcome to Lightsabre.

GW – Thanks Mark for having me! I had hoped that one day I would make it into your famous list of interviewees.

LightsabreStar Wars has had a profound effect on all of us but what started you off on your Star Wars journey?

GW – Well, I was 8 years old when Star Wars came out in 1977. I remember seeing shows like Star Trek and Space 1999 on television back then and that was my barometer for what a science-fiction show was. Then I remember seeing the Star Wars teaser and Star Wars trailers. I was blown away, and absolutely drove my parents nuts asking to see that movie. It was quite a controversy in our family at the time because it was a PG movie. Back then going to a PG movie was a big deal, unlike today.

I remember standing in line with my Mother to see the opening show. I still remember the chills that went down my spine when the music started with the Star Wars scroll. I was hooked from the moment that huge Star Destroyer flew overhead and chased the then Rebel Blockade Runner. The stormtroopers blasting through and the introduction of Darth Vader, man those were the days! When the movie ended, I begged to get back in line to see it again. Alas, it would be a couple of weeks before I got back to see it again.

Lightsabre – Galactic Voyage has been on the net constantly since early 1999. How fulfilling is it to be such a well respected site in online fandom?

GW – It seems like such a short time ago and such a long time as well. Once the Internet came into its own, I realized that I really wanted to create a Star Wars website; especially with the prequels leading us into the next chapter of the Star Wars saga. I wanted to share my love for Star Wars with other fans by providing information that they may not know about. I started by updating once or twice a week, but noticed I never had any traffic. Once I moved to updating daily, Galactic Voyage finally seemed to take off.

At this stage in the game it is fun to just do a search for Galactic Voyage and see all the places it appears. I still feel like (and it may just be me) the site is not as well known as Aldera.net or JediNet.com used to be, but we are getting there. I have always wanted the site to be a respectable resource of information and now media and by you asking the question it seems we have arrived. Many days, it seems a lot like work when you are operating independently, but the journey of growth and transition has been quite fulfilling.

Lightsabre – New Star Wars shows are on their way. What are your hopes for both the CGI and live action series?

GW – Anything Star Wars is great for me. In 1983 I never thought we would get another Star Wars movie and we did. Now I have the opportunity to see shows like The Clone Wars and the live action series and it is really exciting! I am so happy that I will be able to stand in line for yet another Star Wars movie at the theater. It is an experience unlike any other with fans that share your passion.

I am really looking forward to the meat of the story we had only heard Ben Kenobi talk about back in 1977. I know we have gotten a taste with Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and the Clone Wars micro-series, but I really want to get into that time period. I think they can go for a long time on those stories if it does as well as we Star Wars fans expect.

For me, the live action series still holds a lot of questions and wonder. There are so many things you can do in a world that no longer revolves around the Skywalker storyline. I truly hope this show re-defines Star Wars in a very positive way and gives us a wider understanding of the conflicts and stories of those that were involved in the galactic conflict. I hope to see character development, but also those fantastic epic battles we all love so much. Nothing would be better than to see X-Wings and Y-Wings dueling it out with the Empire to win their first major victory! I also have very high expectations for this show because it is focusing on a time period that I hold near and dear to my heart because it is where my love for Star Wars began.

Lightsabre – What is it like to be involved with such an integral part of the Star Wars phenomenon?

GW – You know, I have never really thought about Galactic Voyage being an integral part of the Star Wars phenomenon. I have been very selfish about providing information and media I thought fans would really like to know about and have always been focused on the next post, the next day, and the next week. I certainly hope twenty years from now that when someone delves back in time on how the Star Wars phenomenon evolved, they look fondly on Galactic Voyage’s contribution to that end. It is definitely an honor to be included with the many who have kept this engine running and moving forward for the last thirty years.

Lightsabre – As a fellow fan you must have many golden Star Wars memories. Tell us about some of them.

GW – My favorite memories of Star Wars are still those I had as a kid. I remember going to the local convenience store to try and collect the Star Wars wax packs. My favorite set is still the blue cards just because they were the first. It was so amazing to actually hold scenes from this great movie! How about those cards from Wonder Bread? I loved those! That experience is really lost today with the ability to see the movie on video, download pictures, etc. None of that was possible back then. Ahh… and to bite down on that hard piece of bubble gum that came in each pack. I was so excited years later to find out that I had gotten a rare “vulgar card” in my green series right out of the pack.

I also have tons of fond memories about playing with my figures, die cast ships, etc. My first Star Wars figure was the Stormtrooper. I remember how excited I was to buy that figure and how hard it was when my mother told me I could only pick one. It was the hardest decision I had made at that time because there was an entire wall of figures to choose from! The toys provided countless hours of escape from the real world into a wonderful fantasy land. The memories I have from Star Wars are endless like the Star Wars figures of today, so I will stop with those couple of early childhood thoughts.

Lightsabre – Which of the Star Wars character do you feel the greatest affinity for?

GW – When I was younger, it was definitely Luke Skywalker. He was the good guy and as a child the type of character I aspired to be. Once I got older and in my teenage years, Darth Vader took over the mantle and has kept that place ever since. He is just so bad and so evil you have to love him. I know the prequels put a different spin on his character and that he was a good figure fallen from grace, but all I can ever see is the Vader who walked into the Tantive IV, choked Captain Antilles, and threw him across the room like a rag doll. The evil Dark Lord of the Sith reins supreme for me!

Lightsabre – What would you change about Star Wars if you could go back in time and make alterations?

GW – I know there are many who have had ideas of how the Star Wars saga could have been done differently, or how they would have liked for the story to evolve. I am not one of those people. I truly love all episodes of Star Wars; some more than others. It is George’s world, and I have often thought how my life would have been profoundly different if it had not been a cornerstone for me. The only thing I would change is to put all the cut and unfinished footage back into the films. There were many scenes that were let go due to the pacing or story, but I think they all helped to enhance the characters and plot. I would love to see every frame of Star Wars that can be provided.

Lightsabre – One of the best aspects of Galactic Voyage is the video of the day feature, which brings fans clips and scenes from computer games, fan films and all manner of media. What gave you this unique and original idea?

GW – Over the years I have tried to keep everything I could get my hands on that was Star Wars related. Once things became electronic, there were so many more cool things to try and “collect” and in doing that, I have gathered hundreds of video clips on my computer. I love to go back and watch old commercials, game clips, fan films, cut scenes, etc.

I first started posting multimedia on occasion several years ago. It all started when I realized that and old fan film I enjoyed called “Duel” (the predecessor to Duality) was no longer available on-line. Then I noticed the fan film Duality was gone and that had been such a fan favorite. I figured as a good Star Wars citizen, it was my duty to provide these great pieces of art and make them available again to the public.

At the beginning of 2008, I had become very frustrated with the way video was being made available for the fans through sites like YouTube. You could watch them, but not save them for later. It also finally dawned on me that I have so many clips, that it would take years for me to get them on the site even if I loaded at least one clip a day. I enjoy all the multimedia I have, so I thought I would share it with others and there was no time like the present. So the “Daily Video Clip” was born in an effort to get all my clips on the site.

Unlike YouTube, Google Video, and others, my videos are able to be downloaded and kept with the quality and size of the video usually being much better. I always hated to see a good clip just disappear because the link was no longer available. So far this year, I have gotten very positive feedback to the feature and I am now getting more new clips sometimes daily than I can keep up with by posting on the site. The inventory never seems to shrink which means there should be plenty of great clips to see for a long time to come.

Lightsabre – Having started back in 1999, Galactic Voyage has evolved over the years. Tell us about that progression from infant site before the prequels to where the site sits now.

GW – Well, to start off the size and scope has definitely grown. The focus back in 1999 was to provide the latest news about the prequels with a strong focus on two of my favorite things… Ships and Characters. A lot of the reason for the smaller website scope and size at that time was dictated by the web space available and the speeds of the download. At that time having a 56k modem was a great thing! Many of my friends were still on 28.8. I started off with only 50 Mb of web space, so multimedia was never really a consideration. I had to even “crunch” my images for the site so I would not go over my allotted limit. Luckily, server space and download speeds have grown exponentially in the last several years creating opportunities to really add to the site and enhance the features I can offer.

As my computing skills grew, so did the sites look and content. There are now lots of cool sections to visit, things to read, listen to, download, and see. Galactic Voyage is the first (and only as far as I know) Star Wars site to offer Character and Ship profiles using Flash video. That has been a big success. Through the years, the Ships section has become the most visited and well liked feature. “Star Wars Ships” on a Google search is second only to Wikipedia which is a major accomplishment for me. Now with the major push in Video on the site, I believe that has quickly grown to become the second favorite feature. I can only imagine what the next several years will hold.

Lightsabre – Which of the original six Star Wars films is your favourite?

GW – Hands down it has to be Star Wars, better known as A New Hope these days for the younger readers. It is where Star Wars began for me and it is where it will end one day when I die. The story was perfect by itself and could have gone no further. It has truly stood the test of time and weathered quite well. It is the one film many have imitated, but have not been able to copy. There are many fans who will say The Empire Strikes Back is the best, but that movie would not have had the meaning or feeling it does without the original.

Lightsabre – What do you foresee for Galactic Voyage in the future?

GW – Clouded the future is… Sometimes it is hard to see the trees for the forest. I can’t believe that next year will be ten years of working on the site. There are now young Star Wars fans that have grown up on the computer with Galactic Voyage always being there. I hope to have the energy and creativity to continue on for many years into the future. I would also like to see the site continue to grow and be a valuable resource for fans. I want the site to grow up to be big, but never so big that it goes to anyone’s head, especially mine. Look for more special features in the future like “TIE Week” or “Obscure Characters Week” and other new and great things!

Lightsabre – A quick question about our site, Lightsabre. Any comments?

GW – I plead the 5th amendment on the fact that it may incriminate me! Just kidding. Actually, for me, Lightsabre is on of those quintessential sites that began last century like Galactic Voyage. It has always been there for fans through thick and thin and the quality has always been as you blokes might say spot on! Lightsabre seems to have been given a fresh crystal in the last couple of years because the popularity and value of the site has really grown by leaps and bounds. You (Mark) have gotten to know so many fans and those involved with Star Wars, that you’re a household name. Need the scoop on what someone is thinking? Lightsabre has the interview! And don’t even get me started on the originality of the Setnin sector! As a Star Wars fan, I am grateful to have such a quality site like Lightsabre around.

Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest on Lightsabre. Just one final question. You are lining up on the front row of the grid in the Boonta Eve Classic. Alongside you to the left is Sebulba, and to your right is Anakin Skywalker. You must win the race in order to buy parts that will allow you to fix your ship and leave Tatooine. Given that the odds are against you, how will you win the race?

GW – Well, I created a false bounty entry on the Holonet and tipped off Boba Fett and Aurra Sing that Sebulba was wanted for 10,000 credits. They will take care of him on the course. As for young Skywalker, I saw that old Jedi manipulate the chance cube on Watto and have told him about the deception. He agreed to let a few Jawas replace the vital parts of his racer over to mine in order to be given a cut of the profits made from my merchant trade route once I am back up and flying from system to system again. The young tyke is in for a surprise when he punches that throttle! “Oh, I’m afraid the shield generator will be quite operational when your friends arrive.” 🙂

It has truly been a pleasure and an honor to be included into your hallowed interview gallery for all posterity. Thanks for the opportunity!

Interview originally posted on www.lightsabre.co.uk on 20th July 2008.