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2018 is just a day away, the 41st year of the saga (42nd if you take into account the novelization coming out December 1976) and one that’s set to be jam packed with even more amazing Star Wars treats.

2019 is looks likely to be the busiest year in Star Wars history, but that’s another galaxy, another time. Here’s to an awesome 2017 and bring it on 2018!

Paul Naylor

What a year you were 2017.

Star Wars turned 40 and I was one of the Brits who made the long journey to the Orange County Convention Center in Florida to Celebration Orlando. An amazing experience with friends old and new – many of whom are now members of the Fantha Tracks Team.

The Last Jedi took the saga in a new direction, but for me December 2017 will always be remembered for attending Dave Prowse’s last planned public appearance and more recently meeting Gareth Edwards for a chat about Rogue One, his cameo in Episode 8 and everything in between.

Moving forward into 2018, I look forward to the release of Solo and further adventures at conventions and beyond with my fellow Fantha’s.

It is truly a privilege to be part of such a highly regarded fansite, and just like a Fantha calf, this beast can only grow.

Carl Bayliss

With 2018 a day away, it’s time for a moment of reflection on the past year and the standout moments for me as a Star Wars fan.

Obviously, the year started with a mixture of emotions, having the recently released awesomeness of Rogue One contrasted against the sadness of the loss of our princess, Carrie. The first few months of 2017 were relatively quiet, although I did manage to take in MCM Comic Con in March. April was great as it saw the release of Rogue One on DVD & Blu-Ray and my birthday – a great source of Star Wars swag!! One of my favourite presents was the Tesco exclusive ‘big sleeve’ edition of the Blu-Ray, a nice presentation and some great art cards included.

Then the year really kicked in to gear with Star Wars Fan Weekend in Burnley. This fan run event was celebrating it’s 10th year, and is so well run it’s easy to see why. Great guests, great facilities and all put together with the love of true fans. I always find events like this recharge my fandom and I can’t wait for the Fan Fun Day this year.

Moving onto the second half of the year and things took a massive upturn for me – I was invited by Mark to become a contributor to his new site. I’ve been around the fringes of some of Mark’s previous endeavors and as a fellow Midlander often seen him at local shows, but to be asked on to the team was a massive honour. This in turn led to some more events – the vintage-focused Echo Base Live, SW40 in Coventry and a first official Fantha Tracks meet-up at MCM Birmingham in November, along with my first interview for the site, with Gav – The Retro Draughtsman.

So almost two months after launch, we’ve seen the release of The Last Jedi, the site and social media profiles growing by the day and some wonderful experiences, the pinnacle for me being interviewing Gareth Edwards with several of the team. I’ve also enjoyed sharing the experiences of my fellow contributors as they cruised the red carpet at the European premier, and the fantastic coverage provided by Paul McQue from the Chinese Theatre in California as part of the LiningUp.net event.

So, 2017 was great – 2018 is going to be even better, so give us a follow –  you’d hate to miss out wouldn’t you!

Clair Henry

With the passing of Carrie Fisher at the end of 2016 the edge of my Star Wars enthusiasm was tainted,how could it be the same I asked myself? Then 2017 hit me like an asteroid striking the Falcon!

I began to listen to more podcasts; I felt I needed to hear people say what I was thinking! That opened a new door into my Star Wars life, I had listened on and off to RFR but the discovery of Fangirls Going Rogue, Skywalking through Neverland, Lattes with Leia and Galactic Fashion really were the Star Wars fan company I needed.

It was with this new found enthusiasm I took myself off to the Star Wars Identities exhibition in London at the O2. My breath was taken away with the journey I took through this exhibition, looking at props from the OT & Prequels with a few from The Force Awakens. The fact that only the eyes of Jabba the Hutt were left fascinated me. The sketches from those artists including originals from Ralph McQuarrie, Doug Chang and Dave Filoni were a joy to see. The interactive element of this exhibition added an extra dimension to the exhibition; I was determined to be Leia by the end! I succeeded!

With this new enthusiasm I was now looking forward to Celebration in Orlando, we made it into a family holiday as we were staying in Disney for the 2 week Easter break. The lead up to Celebration was very exciting as guest after guest and panel after panel being announced! With the news that Felicity Jones was signing and a special  40th anniversary Panel was happening fuelled my excitement even more! The Henry itinerary was mapped out for the 2 weeks and especially the Easter weekend with military precision that the Empire would have been proud of. We hadn’t told our daughter where we were going so after the big announcement on the Saturday we headed off to Disney!

After several days in the parks armed with sleeping bags and snacks we headed to the Orange County Convention centre on the Wednesday at 2.00pm determined to secure our place at the 40th panel the following morning! We joined the line at number 112-114, we were confident that the force was string with us! We got into the lining up hall and we were the front of the second chute safe in the knowledge we were going to make it Marcus and Sophie went to sleep and I enjoyed sharing SWAG, chatting to people from the Fb groups I had chatted to online and then meeting Ashley Eckstein who gave out cupcakes!

Following on Twitter I could see lots of complaints and people angry about the lining up arrangements however we experienced none of this. After not much sleep we were in the room waiting for the panel to start! It was beyond my wildest expectations! The arrival of the maker himself on the stage took my breath away how could you follow this I asked myself? With the arrival of actors to the stage from the prequels especially Hayden Christenson I thought this could be it, Harrison Ford is actually going to show up and he did! It was tinged with a little sadness as Carrie and Kenny weren’t there but the tribute to Carrie by Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas and her brave and strong daughter Billy Lourde took my breath away.

With that I thought it was over but no the curtain right in front of me opened and revealed an orchestra leading the musical tribute to Carrie conducted by the maestro himself John Williams. If there was ever a time to be a Star Wars fan this was it!

With that celebration and all it had to fire at me went past in a whirlwind! How I managed to cram so much into 4 days I have no idea, the main highlights included:

  • The fantastic Drowning in Moonlight Gala
  • Spending a day with wonderful people on the convention floor, on the Friday morning.
  • The panel that launched Forces Of Destiny, where Daisy Ridley made an appearance
  • Galactic Nights at Disney Hollywood Studios
  • Being part of the SWAG crew
  • Meeting Felicity Jones to get her autograph
  • Skywalking Through Neverland podcast
  • 501st Bash
  • Sophie appearing on stage at the droids panel

I’m not sure how we got through it other than fuelled on caffeine and fast food! Our experience of Celebration was one that I will never forget. My fear that Carrie’s absence would overshadow the convention, it didn’t. There were nods and references where ever you went, this was enough for me and made it feel all the more special. The Henry clan were exhausted but one with the Force after an amazing time!

Ill health curtailed my Star Wars activities but with May the fourth and the build up to The Last Jedi I was able to enjoy Star Wars via social media. When I was truly unwell, unable to go anywhere or see anything it became a window for me to catch up!

It wasn’t until the end of August that I was fighting fit and sent on a secret mission for Fangirls going Rogue to London for the Po_Zu launch of their Rey Hi Boot just before Force Friday.

It was at the event I met 2 lunatics Mark Newbold and Matt Booker who were racing round London visiting everything that Force Friday had to offer! It was from that meeting at the Museum of Brands my fandom would take a new turn and on a trajectory I didn’t think possible.

From October it’s been a whirlwind most of which I’ve written about already or I am about to! Never in my dreams to have I thought I would end this year at the Royal Premiere for The Last Jedi or be part of the Fantha Tracks team to interview  top Hollywood director and writer Gareth Edwards in his hometown.

If Luke had spoken to me at the start of 2017

This is not going to go the way you think!

I wouldn’t have believed it and to quote Poe Dameron:

Happy beeps

Brian Cameron

2017 was my Annus horribilis. A year with few happy memories. One I would like to forget, but sadly its scars will remain.  Even a Star Wars “Celebration” failed to raise my spirits.
 
Family and friends always comes first, and that is something that can’t be edited, CGI’d or replaced with practical effects.
 
….
 
 
 
 
Sorry, I was just thinking who would be best suited as a puppet…
 
Enjoyment of a new film release was somewhat swallowed up by the entitlement of a tiny section of fans. Star Wars is a piece of entertainment, a subjective piece of art that some will enjoy, and some not.  Both sides of the divide must see that.  Negative opinions are valid, and many discussions on the weak parts of the film are very much valid. But the vitriol, and attacks on fellow fans never has any validity. It is the worst part of fandom. Sadly that culture will reflect for me 2017 in many ways, for Star Wars and beyond.  Stealing the words of a wise man, Star Wars fandom energy surrounds us and binds us. Lets be luminous beings in 2018, not the crude matter we have seen in 2017.
 
I spent around a 3rd of the year, removed from the fandom dealing with personal issues.  Physically and mentally removing yourself from the fandom makes you see things very much differently.  The opportunity to come back and be part of Fantha Tracks was something I could not pass up. Through this site, I want to build a stronger more united community. United by what we have in common, Star Wars, but free and able to discuss, analyse and disagree with a respectful passion.
 
We have many many tools and additions to the site that we are building now, and will be adding throughout 2018.
 
2018 may be the year of Solo, but let’s go on this journey united together.

 

Andrew Walker

2017 is almost over.

As I look back, what stands out the most? OK, let’s get it over with… I WENT TO THE LAST JEDI’S EUROPEAN PREMIERE!!!! I walked the red carpet with the stars and crew of the film, was among the first to see it and had an all-round amazing night. Of course, that was the high point but what else was there?

Well, I’ve been a lover of the Star Wars novels ever since Splinter of the Mind’s Eye in the late 70’s. This year the new Star Wars expanded universe has begun to grow. What I love about this is the books that don’t concentrate on Luke, Han, Rey, Finn and so on. Who is the girl who informs the First Order that BB-8 is at Maz’s castle? Why is she there? Where does her loyalty lie? All the stories that introduce new people or ones that we only catch a glimpse of, that’s what I love about the literary Star Wars galaxy.

The best one this year has been Canto Bight. Seeing the stories behind that one short scene in The Last Jedi really got me excited before the new move arrived.

For my low point, I’ll stay in the literary galaxy. Phasma should have been a great book. It was the back story of one of the coolest characters of the new films. This trilogy’s Boba Fett, low screen time but so bloody cool that you just have to love her. It started out quite promising, a bit of an outsider on a desolate planet, but descended into some sort of bizarre Mad Max wannabe which totally let me down.

So far, the new EU has struggled to find its feet. I hope they get it sorted out soon. Help me Timothy Zahn, you’re my only hope!

For 2018, I’m looking forward to the troubled Solo stand-alone movie. I also hope to get back home to Ireland and visit some of the filming locations especially Skellig Michael. Whether I make it will be down to how well fellow Fantha Tracker Clair and I can convince our long-suffering other halves, but I shall cross my fingers and trust in the Force.

Mark Newbold

Well, what a year 2017 was.

After a brutal end to 2016, the excitement of Rogue One tempered by the loss of Carrie Fisher, 2017 came with uncertainty. Would it still ‘feel’ like Star Wars, with one of the big three really, truly gone?

Thankfully the answer was yes, although not without reservations.

For me, the year kicked off as it has for the last three years with a trip to New York Toy Fair to cover the event for Jedi News with James Burns. It’s only looking back that I can  see that I wasn’t feeling it, the spark had somewhat faded from my fandom, and while Celebration Orlando had it’s moments (more on that in a minute) and Star Wars Fan Fun Day in Burnley was as much fun as it always is, it did feel like something had changed.

For me, that change manifested itself with the decision to move on from Jedi News and find a new challenge, something that  coalesced into Fantha Tracks and my other new endeavor, my first Star Trek site since 1995, Star Trek The Neutral Zone. 2017 also saw me begin writing for both the official Star Trek magazine and Starburst, the worlds longest running cult magazine. That change of direction has energized me and along with continuing to write for The Metro I’m ready and raring to go in 2018.

As highlights of not only 2017 but my four decades as a Star Wars fan, seeing John Williams in the flesh conduct Star Wars music is in my all-time top three (alongside visiting Skywalker Ranch in 2013 and interviewing Irvin Kershner in 2007). I was stood next to my good friend Kevin Schwoebel (AKA Big Kev) and seeing I was filling up with emotion he leaned in and said ‘Never forget this moment. You’re watching John Williams conduct Star Wars‘. He was right, and I still get a lump in my throat thinking about it now.

The other highlight was meeting and interviewing Rogue One director Gareth Edwards alongside my fellow Fantha Trackers Carl, Clair and Paul. We hoped for maybe 5 minutes of his time and got 30, and I’m beyond keen for that to see the light of day early next year when our podcast network gets off the ground.

Indeed, building the new site and seeing it grow daily has been a joy and we’re really only just getting started. New sections to the site are in preparation, a new app, the podcasts, more events….I’m honestly as excited about this site as I have been about any other online endevour I’ve been involved in since I started my first site way back in 1994.

2018 is almost here, we have Solo in just 5 months time, the conclusion to Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Fan Fun Day in May (but no Celebration) and a glut of other events happening around the world. Expect to see Fantha Trackers at a lot of them.

#fanthatrackersareeverywhere

Martin Keeler

Well 2017 proved to be a full on Star Wars year for me!

Celebration 2017 in April provided several bucket list ticks for me as I managed to get into the 40th anniversary panel and finally was in the same room as George Lucas and Harrison Ford! However, the real surprise for me was the appearance of John Williams and the orchestra.  Stuff of dreams for me and frankly I thought my year had peaked (I was wrong).

May meant that I was off to Paris (the first of 3 trips this year) for the Star Wars party at Disneyland.  A fine time was had by all and great to spend time with friends and enjoy the Star Wars goodness which included Star Wars rides, shows and parades.

Although much more than just Star Wars, going to the Royal Albert Hall to Michael Giacchino at 50 was a real highlight – Seeing Gonzo the great was almost as surprising as seeing Williams earlier in the year!

Back to Paris in October for Paris Comic-com meant I got to meet the legend that is Joe Johnston and what a nice guy he was as well.

At trip to San Francisco in early November meant another bucket list item ticked as I got to tour the Lucasfilm and ILM offices and then a great weekend in Petaluma followed for the amazing Rancho Obi-Wan gala.

And then of course in December it was time for The Last Jedi and the Royal Premier at the Royal Albert Hall – you will have read about the many adventures of the Fantha-Trackers had during this time but wow, what an experience!

Looking back, I have been so lucky to have done so much over 2017 but as always, the best bit is the friends I have made and the adventures we have had together.

Here’s to 2018 and what ever adventures await….