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Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our eighteenth guest is an author, a huge fan of the Star Wars saga and a strong advocate of The Phantom Menace, as shown by his book Anticipation – The Real Life Story of Episode I – Jonathan L Bowen.

Lightsabre – Jonathan, welcome to Lightsabre.

JLB – Hey Mark, it’s great to have this opportunity!

Lightsabre – You chose your first Star Wars work to be a book on the cultural impact of The Phantom Menace. What do you think it was about Menace that divided the fans so much? ?

JLB – I think Menace was naturally a lot harder to fit into the bigger Star Wars picture because fans had to judge it before they saw how it connected to A New Hope and the Original Trilogy as a whole. Also, it is more light-hearted and kid-centered because its protagonist is a young boy, but when we see Anakin turn to the Dark Side in Revenge of the Sith, I think imagining him back as a boy is much more powerful than if Lucas had started The Phantom Menace with Anakin as a teenager already. Despite its kid-friendliness, as some fans would say, I think The Phantom Menace is in many ways the most subtle and sophisticated of the six films because it appears to have such a happy ending, but we know the first seeds of evil have been planted. Hopefully looking at the entire six-part story will convince some fans that The Phantom Menace, while not the meat of the story and thus not the most important of the Saga, is to Star Wars what any first chapter is to a book: A suitable introduction.

Lightsabre – Which of the other five episodes stands out as your favourite?

JLB – I usually do not pick a favorite Star Wars movie because I look at the saga as one six-part story, so each part is necessary in the greater Star Wars mythos. Another tough aspect of answering the question is that my favorite film to watch at any moment is different. Sometimes, I really want to see the Battle of Hoth and Cloud City, other times I want to see the good guys win in Return of the Jedi, or I want to see the pod race, my favorite speed scene in the Star Wars Saga, or Yoda fight Dooku, so my mood entirely decides what film I want to watch at the time. I will say that as a kid, I liked Return of the Jedi the most, and as a teenager, I liked The Empire Strikes Back the most.

Lightsabre – Tell us something of your fandom. What other things do you do in the Star Wars community?

JLB – I’ve spent quite a bit of time since ‘98 posting on various Star Wars messageboards, like at TheForce.net, just talking with other fans about the films, the box office, and the collectibles. I’ve also been to all three Star Wars Celebrations, though my first Star Wars trip to was to Washington D.C. during the second week of the Star Wars Magic of Myth exhibit. I am a big Star Wars collector, but I do not know much about toy collecting. I have every Master Replicas prop replica and a pretty big lithograph and art collection. My newest addition and perhaps my favorite is Sarah Wilkinson’s original painting from which she made a Celebration III official lithograph. I am framing the painting alongside its lithograph to hang on my wall now.

Lightsabre – What is it like to be a part of the Star Wars phenomenon, now you are a published author?

JLB – That is a strange thought! I really have not considered it a lot, but certainly I am happy that for all Star Wars has given me over the years, I can finally give something back to the fans and can hopefully add to the phenomenon.

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

JLB – Oh boy, another tough question because I have so many of them! I think one of my fondest memories was what really made me a big fan, which was the Special Edition re-releases of the Original Trilogy. I remember going to see A New Hope on its first Saturday, not really being a Star Wars fan at the time but I had enjoyed the movies as I was a kid just like anyone my age, and I was already amazed because the theater my mom and I went to downtown was sold out of every showing for the day except the 10 p.m. and it was only 2 in the afternoon! We bought four tickets to see the film, my parents, my sister, and myself, and returned later that night.

I really had no idea that a film franchise had “fans” or that there even were Star Wars fans. I was only 13 and was really surprised by how many people were in costumes. The energy in the theater was incredible. At first, I thought, “Who are all of these freaks? It’s just a movie and they’re all yelling and screaming.” But then the opening crawl came on the screen and I felt a tingle, then goosebumps, and I watched a movie I had seen many times but never really seen before — not like this, anyway. I knew on that day, I had become a fan. I soon realized Star Wars was not just a movie, but a part of life!

Lightsabre – Which of the Star Wars characters is the closest to you?

JLB – I think Yoda is my favorite character, though I certainly do not embody Yoda’s wisdom and power! Sometimes, I feel like Yoda, other times like Anakin on Mustafar (for instance if there is a problem during a Revenge of the Sith screening, I feel like force-choking the employees!), and then there are those times where I feel like Jar Jar because nothing is going right!

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

JLB – Actually there are just two tiny little things I would change and they are both to the revered first two films of the saga by production year, A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. In A New Hope, Luke ignites his lightsaber on the Falcon and when he turns it off, he seems to teleport on the screen a few pixels. I really do not understand why ILM couldn’t take a few hours and fix this mistake! Maybe for the 3-D re-releases? Then in The Empire Strikes Back, since people talk about bad acting in the prequels (I love the acting in all six films for the most part), I hate the delivery of, “Two fighters against a Star Destroyer?” This guy had one line and he couldn’t even get it right! He sounds like he is reading the line from a teleprompter. Those are my tiny nitpicks.

Lightsabre – In Anticipation you clearly show a great love for The Phantom Menace, and a respect for what Lucas was aiming for. The book must have taken a great deal of research.

JLB – Anticipation took an amazing level of research over several years. Overall, I collected 1,500 articles from more than 100 sources. I then wrote a 92 page bibliography, which became my way of finding articles relating to each chapter I intended to write. In the finished book, I have a 30 or so page bibliography of the articles I actually cited. Research can be frustrating when you’re looking for that one piece of information you know you read, but can’t find, though usually I love doing research and find it quite gratifying.

Lightsabre – Now that Revenge of the Sith has been released, any thoughts of following up Anticipation with a book on the equally interesting phenomenon leading up to Revenge of the Sith?

JLB – I definitely am planning to write a follow-up book on Revenge of the Sith. I am thinking the introduction will cover Attack of the Clones and its various innovations (first major feature film digitally filmed, for instance), then the rest of the book will focus on the final Star Wars prequel and its success with fans and at the box office, not to mention how it fits into the general Star Wars phenomenon. I think the sequel book will be a bit differently organized, but I look forward to writing it. I am actually collecting research articles each day now.

Lightsabre – What do you foresee for yourself in the future? Now you’ve been published the skies the limit.

JLB – I’m currently working on a chapter in an upcoming Star Wars book by Matthew Kappell (Jacking in to the Matrix) and Jonathan Shelton Lawrence that focuses on Star Wars and its ties to religion. The book itself focuses on many aspects of the Star Wars franchise, but I happened to get the task of writing one of the Star Wars and religion chapters. I am also working on my own short book relating to Star Wars and religion, but I will save the details of the project for later. It is my surprise, but I intend to release it in the early part of 2006. Besides my Star Wars book work, I am moving to Los Angeles in the summer of 2006 to pursue my dream to become a writer-director.

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

JLB – I really enjoy checking out Lightsabre, especially the interviews with various influential people in the Star Wars galaxy. I feel humbled being interviewed alongside the actual people who made Star Wars what it is today. I also like the feel of the site graphically; it has quite a nice aesthetic appeal to it that sets it apart from the other fan sites.

Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question. Darth Maul from Menace, Darth Tyranus from Clones and Darth Vader from Sith are on a bouncy castle at a funfair with their lightsabers ignited. Which one of them is the first to burst the castle with his blade?

JLB – I was going to say Darth Maul because a double bladed lightsaber is tougher to control, but I am going to pick Darth Vader instead. My reason is simple. In the six Star Wars films, Anakin / Vader loses at least one limb in half of the films, which indicates a concern almost entirely for offense and not defense. In turn, the offensive strategy would lead to reckless swinging about inside of the bouncy castle and no more fun for the other two Sith!

This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 12th June 2005.