Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our ninety-third guest was and still is part of one of the longest standing Star Wars sites on the internet, Club Jade – Tracy Duncan.
Lightsabre – Tracy, welcome to Lightsabre.
TD – Thanks for having me!
Lightsabre – Star Wars has had a profound effect on all of us but what started you off on your Star Wars journey?
TD – I wasn’t into it as a really young kid – I remember my cousins had all the action figures, but I wrote the whole thing off as ‘boy stuff.’ That wasn’t something that my parents encouraged (I come by the geekiness naturally,) so I’m not sure where I picked it up… I know I must have seen them. I knew some basic information – Vader being Luke’s father, Luke and Leia being siblings, but I didn’t remember that Harrison Ford was involved. In fact, the memory I have of Star Wars as a kid is a sort of muddled confusion with Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. I had this concept that Tina Turner was hanging out with Chewbacca on Tatooine. Which is, in retrospect, kind of hilarious.
The year I turned 13 my mother gave my father the trilogy on VHS for Christmas. We watched them and I was hooked. I remember staying up late and watching Return of the Jedi alone because I just had to know how it was going to turn out. And then it was just… Over. But my parents had this book hanging around that took place a couple years after ROTJ… Heir to the Empire, which had just come out the previous May. So really, it was kind of a doublepunch: First the movies, then Zahn. All within the space of a week. And it’s pretty much been my primary obsession – or at least one of them – since then.
Lightsabre – Club Jade started back in 1995 from a rec.arts.sf.starwars post, eventually growing into the Club Jade we know and enjoy so much today. What was it like back in those dark ages of both the internet and Star Wars online?
TD – We actually paid for the internet by the hour. Can you believe that?
I got online around the same time CJ started, though I didn’t join it until a few months later. The EU was fairly established – Darksaber had just come out, the quality of a lot of the recent books was bumpy, so you were seeing a lot of the same sort of angst that you see now in regards to Dark Nest and Legacy of the Force. I think it’s hilarious when people look back at the Bantam years as some sort of golden age of EU fiction, because we certainly weren’t thinking that then!
On the other end of the spectrum, one of the things I discovered online that absolutely blew my mind was fan fiction. People actually wrote this stuff and shared it? And that’s really how I found CJ – I wrote a praise-filled email to a fic author and he told me I should join the Club and so I did. And it turned out to be full of all my favorite funny and clever people from the AOL boards – though at 17 I was one of the youngest, which I’ve found is rather atypical.
The CJ site back then was basically a fan fiction repository, and much of the fic came out of disappointment with the profic. It wasn’t bitterness though, there was this humor and snark and satire about it, too. And without the fanfic I doubt there’d be a CJ site today.
A year or two before The Phantom Menace I’d learned a lesson about tangling with major fansites (one had hosted by my first website briefly and it went sour) and I’d officially taken over the CJ website duties.
The prequels, of course, changed everything. The fandom was suddenly huge.
I was in college by then, so my involvement was pretty much limited to CJ and a few fanfic lists. (I remember going to the TFN boards in 2000 and seeing they had a fanfiction board and realizing just how out of touch I was.) The fic-writing in CJ had tapered off a few years before and though I was still accepting submissions for the archive, they weren’t coming as often, since you were now seeing automated sites where people could post their own. And, to be honest, I didn’t really mind! Formatting text files was no fun at all.
In 1996 there were maybe only maybe five sites hosting Star Wars fanfic – now I wouldn’t even know where to begin. (And ironically, of those four or five sites, CJ is the only one still standing…)
As the site grew stagnant I started to think of ways to keep things moving, and that’s where the blog concept came in. I was visiting starwars.com on a daily basis, and seeing posts on the list about months-old news was bothersome to me… I’d been blogging on a personal site, so a fandom news blog was a no-brainer. We could keep ourselves informed and open up a bit to the fandom at large. I pitched the idea to the other CJers and it really took off.
Lightsabre – Which of the six episodes stands out as your favourite?
TD – The Empire Strikes Back. I’m something of a sucker for melodrama and angsty endings. Plus, y’know, gotta have a call-out to all that Han/Leia snark.
Lightsabre – What is it like to be involved with such an integral part of the Star Wars phenomenon?
TD – I don’t know if I’d call it integral… We’re just an old-school blog. We find stuff, we link stuff, we might say a bit about it but that’s it. And sometimes we get called on to serve cake and ask trivia questions. 😀
Lightsabre – As a fellow fan you must have many golden Star Wars memories. Tell us about some of them.
TD – Celebration III and VI were amazing. Exhausting, but amazing. (Cake or no cake.) Seeing all those people there just for Star Wars… It’s easy to forget sometimes in the midst of fandom that it’s so much more than just people complaining, but the atmosphere was amazing. A really good con, I’ve found, leaves you feeling like you’re just a little bit drunk. Maybe not dancing-on-tables-drunk, but certainly a touch of not-afraid-of-strangers. A friendly sort of tipsiness. I spent both cons going up to random people and asking them trivia questions, and I literally could not stop smiling.
Other standouts: I saw Attack of the Clones in Vegas with CJ and while the movie wasn’t necessarily my favorite film, it was a blast seeing it at midnight with all my geekiest friends. I really regret not being able to do that with TPM and Revenge of the Sith, though I did have a lot of fun seeing the Special Editions with my high school buddies.
TD – Artoo! I love him. (Doesn’t everyone?) He’s resourceful and no doubt in my mind that he has the best comebacks, at least if you speak bloop. And, for some reason, Jawas. I actually have a minor collection of the things. But I don’t question that one too closely.
Ten years ago I might have had a different answer, but I’ve mellowed some. I think people probably expect me to say Mara here, but really I don’t so much (over)identify with her as I’m simply interested in her as a character – I think she makes for a good story, when handled properly. And yes, I do mean that in present tense – I’ve never really been a fanfic writer, but I sometimes think like one, and while the character is dead in canon that means very little elsewhere.
Lightsabre – What would you change about Star Wars if you could go back in time and make alterations?
TD – I don’t really have huge issues with any of the movies (no, not even the prequels!) so I’d probably wreck some major havoc with the publishing program. Cull down the 90’s EU, give the poor Solo kids some solid personalities from the start as opposed to the flimsy cardboard ones they were originally assigned, and cut the NJO/galactic invasion plot out entirely. Do a mix of trilogies, longer series (but not too long – five years was just insane) and stand-alone books. Keep continuity in mind from the start, but not so much that it stifles things. And this would never happen in the real world, but I’d let the comic folks have their own continuity, a GFFA-B that starts with Dark Empire. I haven’t always been a fan of Dark Horse but I’d like to see what the present administration would do if they’d been on their own all these years.
Also, mandatory MSTings of all live-action products, up to and including The Holiday Special, simply because that would be /hilarious./
Lightsabre – Club Jade is a regular haunt for us hardcore Star Wars fans, and is referenced often on the Official Blog. How does it feel to have your site be one of the regular reference points for so many fans and official folks?
TD – It’s a bit weird. Having folks from LFL reading, and being linked to by the official blog and TFN, and nearing two-hundred visitors to the homepage per day. Particularly when before the blog we were averaging 12!
But it keeps us on our toes. Certainly there have been mistakes over the years, but overall I’m pleased that we’ve been able to keep the tone light but not cloying. There’s a tendency in this fandom for folks to go a little overboard, get their panties in a twist, and forget that we’re basically obsessing about movies that are at heart Saturday morning serials. They’re supposed to be /fun/. And so is fandom.
Still, I’m honestly surprised I have yet to see any nasty comments about the ‘melodramatic space trash’ tagline.
Lightsabre – Club Jade is an eclectic site, but which piece of random Star Wars craziness tickled you the most?
TD – I have to say that the thing that most surprised me is LFL’s continued embrace of fandom. Coming from the fanfic community, my default attitude when dealing with the Powers That Be is this sort of ‘Keep your head down’ mentality. And seeing LFL flying out 200 members of the 501st for the Rose Parade last year was amazing,
But I think the thing that touched me most personally was when a bunch of fan-made videos were removed from Youtube after a request to delete some Hyperspace content, and Lucas Online actually went and asked that they put the fan stuff back up. In the grand scope of things it’s not much, and while it made the rounds on the blogs it didn’t get them even an fraction of the publicity that the Rose Parade did, but it says a lot about their perceptions of fandom.
Lightsabre – The television era of Star Wars starts in the autumn of 2008 with The Clone Wars and in 2009 with the live action show. What are your hopes for the shows?
TD – To be honest I’m still a little disappointed with the choice of focusing on The Clone Wars again – the period isn’t really my focus so the choice seems very ‘been there, done that.’ But if it keeps the franchise strong and in the minds of the public, carry on. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get my hopes for an animated post-Return of the Jedi EU remix someday because of it.
The live-action series, on the other hand, intrigues me. But it’s really too early to say. I just hope it doesn’t end up being just The Adventures of Young Boba Fett: I’d like to see a mix of things.
TD – To continue to be a place for folks to come knowing that there’s more to fandom than just action figures and video games. And for them to be able to get it all quickly and easily.
I really want to get more CJers blogging and we had some success with that before the holidays… But then I changed up the system on them! There are only a handful of us posting regularly but we have tons of talent on the list and I’d like to see more folks shine.
I have some plans for the fanfic area – nothing drastic, just adding a little something something to keep it fresh. It’s been neglected and there’s nothing that gets my fingers itching like a static page. Particularly one that remains the third or fourth most-viewed page on the whole site.
And we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on the look of the site, but it’s really just a basic WordPress template. I haven’t altered it much, just swapped in some more appropriate header images. It’s the first time ever we’ve really had a face that wasn’t custom designed, but it was a choice between waiting a year or half a year to hack out our own WordPress theme or going with something that was ready-made for prime-time… Well. So there will certainly be further tweaking on that aspect.
Lightsabre – A quick question about our site, Lightsabre. Any comments?
TD – I think you guys are amazingly brave for doing so many interviews. I don’t have the guts for that sort of thing, particularly not some of the big names you guys have talked to. Though I would make it a little easier to permalink things – but that’s the blogger in me speaking. 😉
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest on Lightsabre. Just one final question. Mara Jade, Lara Croft and Xena are thrown into an arena and told to fight their way out, without the aide of any weapons. Who wins and why?
TD – Thank you!
I can’t really see them fighting it out, but I can see them calling up Starbuck and going out for drinks. And maybe dancing. They are definitely all ladies who know how to swing off a chandelier in style.
This interview was originally published on www.lightsabre.co.uk on 20th January 2008.