Quite a title for today’s blog, but there were a few things I wanted to touch on today, in addition to getting up my review of the Star Wars Craft Book.
Certainly hardcore Star Wars fans who follow Twitter know Bonnie Burton is the most enthusiastic LFL employee out there. Her position gives her access to the wonderful imaginations of fans, who have taken the idea of having fun with Star Wars to whole new levels. And of course, Bonnie herself is quite crafty. So it was exciting to finally have all those cute and ingenious inventions compiled into one place. Sure to be hours of family fun; this book is heading straight for my nieces and nephews, who can’t wait to get started on some crafts.
You can check out my full review of the Star Wars Craft Book here.
This week Michael Stackpole, author of five Star Wars X-wing series novels, informed fans that it looks like Bantam won’t be running anymore reprints of these books. Considering that his fellow X-wing series author, Aaron Allston, is scheduled to release a new Wraith Squadron book next year, the decision on Bantam’s part seems counterintuitive.
Corporate executives, though, have become reliant more on spreadsheets and performance indicators, and less on working knowledge of their market and target audience, when making decisions like this. Not more than a week prior to all this, Stackpole had linked to a blog post written by fellow Star Wars alum Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in which she discussed the short-sightedness driving publishing house’s decision-making.
To be fair, this isn’t just Bantam’s fault. Star Wars books across the board aren’t selling what they used to. Major bookstore chains have reduced their Star Wars load from two cases down to a couple of shelves even while expanding their overall fantasy/scifi sections. When people aren’t buying, online booksellers can’t hit purchasers with the pitch – for more books like these, check out [more books by that author] – to generate more sales. If X-wing backlist books are selling poorly, it’s certainly not because they’re bad books.
In fact, there is plenty of evidence that the X-wing books remain some of the most beloved by fans. Stackpole and Allston are continuously touted as fan favorites. The X-wing series books have earned very high average scores in the TFN Literature forum book review threads, and in TFN’s January 2008 retrospective on the first thirty years of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Stackpole’s X-wing Rogue Squadron arc ranked #7, and Allston’s Wraith Squadron arc #10 (plus the standalone Starfighters of Adumar at #13), in the fan voting for the Top 100 EU Works out of 183 nominated works, including novels, comics, sourcebooks, and other materials. These books are popular even though the Big Three are only used sparingly within plots that focus less on tales of fantastical Force feats and more on the everyman fighting for a cause. That’s also part of the reason fanfiction writers are still producing plenty of squadron-style stories despite the fact that no new X-wing books have been released since 1999.
I think Star Wars and Del Rey will only gain momentum by teaming up with Bantam to reprint these books as the new Wraith Squadron approaches. From Stackpole’s surprise and the response on his Facebook, though, it gives the impression that Star Wars Books was caught a little flat-footed. Given the well-known fan enthusiasm for these books, I predict this won’t be the end of the X-wing series in print. Still, it’s important that fans continue to express what they’d like to see; it gives those working in the trenches something to take back to the corporate bigwigs making the decisions.
And one final interesting tidbit about superheroines and their female fans. The University of California at Davis recently released a study that delved into women’s perceptions of aggressive female movie characters, and particularly how those characters affect their own self-perception. The study was extremely limited in its scope, but has been popping up around the web this week, most often with slightly skewed misinterpretations.
As a woman and a fan of heroic storytelling, the findings at their core aren’t surprising to me. Having struggled with an eating disorder myself, though, I’m pretty certain that Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft and other assertive, confident female characters aren’t the core of the problem facing young women. The “superwoman ideal” creates a paradox in women’s lives that can seem almost insurmountable; heroines remind women that success is possible, just as heroes like Luke Skywalker embolden young men. The trouble is, once you move past the Disney princess age, heroines – as opposed to tomb raiders – are fewer and far between.
Women need to see heroines struggle with the “superwoman ideal” – balancing nurturing a family and saving the day. Movies, books, and television have tiptoed around this problem until recently. The primetime show The Good Wife on CBS is a current example of how successfully this can done on a “real woman” level. Prior to that, SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica proved female characters could be compelling to both men and women as stories wound around their struggles with their roles as nurturers while still fulfilling traditionally masculine positions such as fighter pilots and leaders of government.
For more discussion on this topic, feel free to join us in the Cantina.
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