Between 1999 and 2009 brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our one hundred and thirtieth guest was the webmaster of the fansite The Private Universe – Pete Hoccom.

Lightsabre – Pete, welcome to Lightsabre.

PH – Thank you for inviting me…

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

PH – I didn’t get into Star Wars when I first saw it, it was good, but I was 8 and big into Action Man and loved army things… It took till about a year later when I met a kid in my class at school called Ian, he had a Snaggletooth in his draw next to the crayons, and he lent me the Star Wars annual to read. It was from then I got hooked. We became best friends and Star Wars was all I wanted from then on… it’s all his fault. We played Star Wars figures all the time, re-enacting the films, and when we wore that out we made up our own characters and games. That is when our fan fiction was born.

Ian moved to Cyprus a couple of year later. Our games continued individually and we wrote to each other about them and then we stopped playing them and just wrote the stories instead. We are both still writing all these years later using the same characters from our childhood games.

Lightsabre – The Private Universe has been around for a good long while. How different is the fan scene today compared to a decade ago?

PH – Very different. Today’s fans are far better informed, mostly because of fan sites keeping them up to date with news, information and constant contact with official licenses and companies making the news. We opened up doors and changed the stereotypes of fans, we showed that we were not all ranting fanboys, we showed we were professional and wanted to create a positive two way relationship that would benefit the companies as well as the fans. We made it easier for sites that followed us.

Take Jedi News, James and Adam both came from The Private Universe. When I first met James in 2001 his understanding of the industry and fan community was blinkered, he was an ill-informed forum ranter. He joined The Private Universe in 2003 and left in 2007 as a well-informed fan with contacts gained from being part of The Private Universe. Jedi News wouldn’t be the success that it is without The Private Universe’s guidance.

Of course The Private Universe isn’t the only site to work hard over the last 10 years, Lightsabre has been a stalwart. Most other sites have some and gone, but all played a part in making a difference for the fans. I just know what The Private Universe has done for the UK fans, and I am proud to say we made a big difference and fans have enjoyed the fruits of our labour.

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

PH – It’s a toss up between A New Hope and Return of the Jedi… I love aliens, spaceships and robots and those two have them in abundance… very basic but true. The Empire Strikes Back is the only film I have fallen asleep during, embarrassingly true, it happened at my local cinema…

Lightsabre – What is it like to be part of the Star Wars phenomenon?

PH – Due to my geographic location, darkest Cornwall, as well as a number of personal factors, I have rarely had chance to cross the border (Tamar Bridge) and enjoy what a London fan can… so I have always felt like Luke on Tatooine, far from the bright centre of the universe. I am a Star Wars fan, it is one of the two biggest things in my life, the other being photography. I don’t really feel I am part of the phenomenon, just a fan of it, I see it, I enjoy it and I give back to it. I have no aspirations to write Star Wars books, or work for Lucas in anyway, I don’t want to try and become rich and famous off of it, I just want to enjoy it and help others enjoy it too, and thus far I have done that and that is enough for me.

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

PH – Most of my Star Wars memories evolve around friendships forged from sharing a love for Star Wars. My friend Ian who got me into Star Wars is still my closest friend, I was best man at his wedding and if it weren’t for the fireman strike and him being in the RAF (Royal Air Force) he would have been my best man also… Our friendship was based on a film and toys but has grown from that and will long out live Star Wars. I have made some wonderful friends from those who have stepped up to help on The Private Universe and those who are long term readers. We care about each others lives, and become part of them. One of the best moments is two of my staff getting together, Kat and Nick, I am just waiting for the wedding invite now 🙂

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

PH – You know I never really thought of this before… I am one of life’s background people who just get on with it, not trying to be a hero or anything, just this guy. So if I were to liken that to Star Wars I would probably be an unnamed Rebel pilot or a Rebel soldier. You don’t know their names, but they played a part in bringing down the Empire.

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

PH – I think I would keep in some of the cut scenes, especially the Biggs at Tosche station scene, I think it was essential to establish the relationship with Luke to add meaning to Biggs death later on. If my childhood friend died then it would hurt hard, this was lost for me because Biggs was pretty much just another pilot. The worst part of the entire saga has been the limp script… I think I would most of all get someone else to write it. Sorry George Lucas…

Lightsabre – What interests do you have outside of Star Wars?

PH – My wife and daughter, are the centre of my universe. I prefer to spend time with them above anything else.

I also have a long running affair with photography, something that lead me down a career path I was forced off a few years ago. I was aiming at editorial and documentary, I loved investigating and explaining who people were and what they did, and why. Elliott Erwitt, Martin Parr and Cartier Bresson were my icons. I loved their perspective, eccentricity and honesty, attributes I put into my own work. It’s a part of my life that is returning back after a long absence, and hopefully it will embrace me once again.

Lightsabre – Tell us a bit about Thank the Maker, your new dedicated Star Wars site.

PH – Thank The Maker is something I wanted to do right from the very outset with The Private Universe but haven’t had the chance. Thank the Maker is a creative site, covering areas of Star Wars fandom that really excite me, like fan fiction, customising, fan films, costumes and so on. I love the creativity of fans, they can produce figures far superior to Hasbro and from their own imaginations. I want to use Thank the Maker as a base for showcasing what UK fans can create, and I will finally reveal my own customs and fan fiction to the www… I hope to launch the site next year 2009, I already have some willing helpers but am eager to find some more, hint hint 🙂 UK fans are so talented and I want to showcase that so we can celebrate them.

Lightsabre – The television era of Star Wars started autumn 2008 with The Clone Wars and expands again in 2010 with the live action show. What are your hopes for the shows?

PH – I hope most of all that they don’t share the fate of so many quality Sci-Fi series like Firefly, Angel, Farscape etc etc and be axed before it’s time… it’s a big grip of mine. I trust in Lucas to do a good job, and with the way TV Sci-Fi has gone, like Battlestar Galactica, I think we have potentially the best Star Wars still to come.

Lightsabre – What do you foresee for The Private Universe in the future?

PH – The future is fluid, not fixed. 2 years ago I wouldn’t have predicted the change to Sci-Fi content alongside the Star Wars stuff… but it happened and despite a few claims of abandoning our Star Wars readers, we have in fact had nothing but positive feedback from our long time readers…Star Wars is my first love, but I have many other mistresses… I wanted to be able to give UK fans one place to come for all their Sci-Fi interests, and going by the huge hike in hits last year we got it right. The universe is still expanding… and there is a major change coming soon, something totally lateral… can’t spill too many beans as I like to surprise people, but maybe a few spoilers as you asked so nicely… I have at least 3 Star Wars projects (Thank the Maker being one) coming, 2 international projects, 1 Sci-Fi project, a totally new direction for The Private Universe with a new look to go with it. It’s an exciting time planned… keep watching The Private Universe to see all these plans unfold.

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

PH – It’s great to see a site based on fan creations, the fan art, fan fiction and RPG etc, last the test of time, a testament to the quality of the content and the commitment by you and the rest of the contributors, you should be proud… and thank the Maker you changed the colour scheme as last! Seriously superb site and I have been dropping by regularly as a lurker for a long time…keep it up, you make a difference.

Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest on Lightsabre. Just one final question. Darth Sidious, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and The Emperor are stuck in a lift together. Suddenly a pack of Sabacc cards appears and the three start to play, but which one wins, how and why?

PH – Oh my… I spent way too long thinking about this, and felt that it must be Sidious as he is the only one who has his eyes hidden by the cloak hood so he wouldn’t give away in his eyes what his hand was… but being lateral it would be the invisible Wookiee who owns the cards as you always let the Wookiee win, even if you are a Sith.

It’s been a pleasure.

Interview originally posted on on 14th December 2008.