Behind the Book: Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray

The Star Wars fandom can rejoice! Claudia Gray, author of Star Wars novels Lost Stars and Bloodline, has returned to that universe once again, with Leia: Princess of Alderaan which describes how a young Leia first becomes involved in the Rebellion. This Young Adult novel is Leia-centric, focused on the character in her younger years before Han Solo and Luke Skywalker entered her life. Her passion, dedication and the pull of responsibility are just getting honed in this precursor to A New Hope, and the novel in paperback November 6, is sure to excite Leia fans of all ages and genders.

Evernight, Firebird, Constellation, Spellcaster and Star Wars— you truly are the master of multiple genres. How does writing in Star Wars canon differ from creating your own series?
The main difference is that with my original work, the world building is all up to me–but the world of Star Wars is already out there, deeper and more developed than anything I’ve done on my own. The world’s greatest designers have already invented planets, ships, creatures and thousands of years of history. It’s a luxury to be able to call upon that when writing Star Wars books.

How do you do research for novels set in an established universe?
Being a big old nerd who already knows a lot of this stuff just through being a fan–that really helps. Beyond that, I’m able to call on my editors and the whole crew at Lucasfilm to ask questions or look at material that feels important to the story.

bookcoverLeia: Princess of Alderaan is not your first foray into the Star Wars galaxy. What makes it different from Lost Stars or Bloodline?
It’s a true young adult novel, for one–Lost Stars really is only YA in its first half, before the characters age into adulthood. Princess of Alderaan is firmly focused on the coming-of-age experience for Leia, as well as some of the people around her. Also, while Leia was the main character in Bloodline, in that book, readers spent time in the POVs of several other characters, getting a wider look at what was going on in the galaxy in the years before The Force Awakens. Princess of Alderaan stays with Leia the whole way, showing us only her understanding of people and politics—which expands over the course of the book, as she learns more. Continue reading

“Robot” Introduced 92 Years Ago: Top Three Film Robots

Okay, science fiction fans. I heard an interesting fact. Yesterday was the anniversary of when the word ROBOT was introduced into the English language. It was introduced by a Czech playwright, novelist and journalist named Karel Capek, who introduced it in 1920 in his hit play “RUR,” or “Rossum’s Universal Robots.” Being a movie buff, iI of course thought of famous robots in film. I could compile quite a list, but just to make it more refined, I’ve narrowed it down to the top 3.

C-3PO and R2-D2.
I know that these are two robots instead of one, but these “droids”(as Mr. Lucas coined them) must come in a pair. C-3PO, the protocol droid, is equipped with over 6 million forms of communication and hates adventure and space travel. His counterpart, R2-D2, is an astrodroid with a bold personality and bravery who serves many purposes throughout  Star Wars – from starship mechanic to computer interface specialists. Their popularity is unsurpassed by any other. After all, where do you think the name for the “DROID” phone came from?

The Terminator. Who can forget Arnold Schwarzenegger portraying the cybernetic organism (cyborg for short) T-800 series 101. This robot is sent back through time to terminate Sarah Connor, future mother of John Connor, who is destined to lead the revolution against the machines. The Terminator is a methodical killing machine and one of the great robots in film.

WALL-E. This robot, a Waste Allocation Lift Loader, Earth-Class (WALL-E for short) is the last of his kind on earth, left to clean the planet of trash. You wouldn’t believe there could be that much personality within a robot that befriends a cockroach, but then WALL-E later falls in love with another robot, EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). Wonderful characters, but what else would you expect from Pixar? This is one lil’ robot who stole our hearts.

There are my top 3 robots in film. Now, before you object, I want you to know that I considered Optimus Prime and Megatron from Transformers, but to me they were more memorable as toys than in the movies. Mashinenmensch from Metropolis also almost made the list — he was a big influence on George Lucas when creating the look for C-3PO.

Who is on your list as the greatest robots in film? Don’t forget where the word ROBOT came from, and more importantly… No talking or texting during the feature presentation.

— Jim

Top 5 Summer Blockbusters of the Past

With the temperatures consistently going into the triple digits for about half the nation and the theatrical release of Cowboys & Aliens, Harry Potter and Captain America now behind us, it’s obvious we are in the middle of the summer movie season. So, what makes a great summer movie besides getting out of the heat and the usual soda and bag of gummies? To me, summer movies have been about having a good time through loud explosions, funny moments and too many special effects to count. Here are my Top 5 Summer Blockbusters of the Past:

1. The Granddaddy of them all. The film that taught us “Don’t go in the water,” Jaws (1975). This really is the one that started opening-weekend blockbusters. Hollywood changed their thinking – instead of releasing limited prints of the film and going from city to city, they flooded the country with the film, creating lines around the block, box-office records and the first-ever “summer blockbuster.” On top of that, it is a truly remarkable film. Maybe I am showing my age here, but I remember when and where I first saw Jaws at the theater. Unfortunately, I also remember the nightmares of white teeth and refusing to swim at the Motel 6 swimming pool while on a family vacation. Robert Shaw gives a terrific performance and should have received an Oscar nomination for his “Indianapolis” speech alone. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary and Murray Hamilton – all spot on with their performances. Can’t recommend this film enough – it is as near perfect a movie as they come.

2. The runner up, from a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away… Star Wars (1977). What person my age didn’t see Star Wars a dozen times every time it came to town? Watching it again brings back memories of camping out all day with my brother just to be the first to get tickets. Maybe the older generation had the same rush of excitement seeing The Wizard of Oz (1939) for the first time (who knows?), but to kids in grade school at the time, Star Wars was pure magic. From the thundering opening credits to the final credits, as the type disappears in space, Star Wars took us all over the galaxy in this classic good versus evil movie. With the current day use of Droid phones, it is hard to deny that Star Wars is a piece of Americana.

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). I guess we should just refer to Mr Spielberg as Mr. Summer Blockbuster. There may not be any more recognizable character than Indiana Jones: Harrison Ford, sporting his fedora and leather jacket cracking his iconic whip. This film is pure entertainment – a great nonstop action movie with a fantastic story modeled after the cliffhanger serials.

4. An adventure 65 million years in the making: Jurassic Park (1993). I consider Jurassic Park one of the milestone movies for special effects. Just as Star Wars set the bar in the late 70s and Avatar a few years ago, Jurassic Park did the same for its time. Some really great work from Industrial Light and Magic integrating CG and live action. Great summer fun.

5. The Dark Knight (2008). After the success of Batman Begins (2005), director Christopher Nolan gets very dark and sinister with this sequel. This film was going to be a box office smash anyway, but the untimely death of Heath Ledger had the masses buying tickets in droves. What makes this one great is that between the car chases and crazy stunts, there is a well crafted story with all involved giving very good performances – and in Heath Ledger’s case, a truly great performance, earning him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

An honorable mention: Independence Day (1996) which had everything you would want for the summer – cities being reduced to a pile of rubble and plenty of entertaining visuals. Unfortunately, it also had every cliché character all packed in one film.

But hey, these are only my opinions. What are some of your favorite summer blockbusters of the past? Whatever you watch this summer, just remember, no talking or texting during the feature presentation.

— Jim