There’s the old adage that says “write what you know.” That’s why I wrote a giant book about Star Wars novels. I know them well, for I’ve been reading them for over 30 years, for pretty much my whole life. They introduced me into a galaxy of reading, and I figure I’d return the favor by penning a tome – Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion – that is meant to help introduce readers into the Expanded Universe of Star Wars novels.
I was probably around five years old – maybe even younger – when I first read the Star Wars novelization ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster based on the screenplay by George Lucas. I had The Star Wars Storybook from Random House. I had some version of the Marvel Comics adaptation as well. But I also had the paperback novel, something that gets branded as an “adult novel” by those sorting such things. You’d think it would be beyond the reading level of a child. Certainly, it was… but my hunger for Star Wars made me keep working out the words and language, instilling in me a love for conjuring images by reading the printed word. The full color photo insert in the middle of the book didn’t hurt either.
To this day, I can still recall the words I learned by reading Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. When I come across the word “patina,” I know that I read it first in Star Wars, describing a battle-tarnished C-3PO: “a patina of metal and fibrous dust coated the usually gleaming bronze finish…” I know what “recalcitrant” means, because Foster used it to describe a stuck piece of machinery on a moisture vaporator on Luke Skywalker’s farm. The word “capricious” came into my vocabulary, because Foster assures readers that the lines that mark the surface of the not-a-moon Death Star the Falcon approached was not caused by anything as capricious as volcanic activity.
As you can imagine, I talked oddly for a first grader.
Reading Star Wars, and puzzling through its grown-up sentences, filled with exotic words arranged in intriguing structures, made me appreciate the power of reading. The work required for my young mind to comprehend those words was worth the reward of experiencing the energy that supercharged a young imagination like only Star Wars could. In this way, Star Wars was a gateway to reading.
That’s definitely something I keep in mind at events like Star Wars Reads Day, or at book signings and fan conventions. At these gatherings, I see kids pick up Star Wars books well beyond their age range, driven by the desire to explore this galaxy. And, I’m delighted that the reverse effect happens as well, where adult fans devotedly buy Star Wars children’s books, not only to share it with their kids, but also to ensure they don’t miss a single element of the ever expanding universe and to re-experience the magic of their first step into this larger universe.
Pablo Hidalgo is the author of Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion, which went on sale from Del Rey Books on October 2, 2012. He is the co-author of Star Wars: The Complete Encyclopedia, and has a full-time job at Lucasfilm as a Brand Communications Manager, where he’s able to apply his deep knowledge of the saga and its history across the company. He lives in San Francisco, and you can follow him on Twitter as @infinata