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Internet Column from Science Fiction Age,
March 1999

Cory Doctorow

I've got to come clean. I'm not a Star Wars fan. I mean, I like it all right -- it was the defining event of my sixth year on Earth, but I'm not crazy about it. I thought the "enhanced" reissues were goofy cut-and-paste jobs, motivated by greed rather than art.

That being said, when I downloaded the enormous trailer for Episode I: The Phantom Menace from http://www.starwars.com, I was gobsmacked. I now have one burning passion to consume me between now and next May: obsessive Internet-based research on Phantom Menace.

starwars.com is a terrific place to start. I'm derided film-company sites here in the past, but starwars.com is all gold, baby. Part series-bible, part concordance, part coffee-table book, starwars.com presents rich, detailed content without requiring a hopeless morass of plug-ins.

Roderick Vonnhogen is my kind of freak. I'm met some obsessives in my day, but Roderick takes the cake. His site, The Virtual Edition, at http://www.virtualedition.com/ is far, far more than a fan site. Vonnhogen gathers up publicity stills, multimedia, and leaked tidbits, and pieces it together, laboriously plumbing the shadows and hints, armed with computer-enhancement tools and far too much free time. He's put together a "trailer" for Phantom Menace that's yards beyond anything you'll find at starwars.com -- spoilers ahoy!

http://www.jedinet.com is a more general undertaking. They're not trying to piece together a virtual trailer, they're just counting down the seconds until the official release, passing the time by editorializing on the rumoured toy-lines, mainstream reportage, and scurrilous rumours.

If you're still hungry for news, brickbats and laurels, visit http://www.theforce.net. (You know, it's amazing that Lucas didn't snap up all these tasty, Star Wars domains, and even more amazing -- even visionary, that they don't appear to be working to shut them down). Especially impressive is the series of exclusive interviews with artists, writers, actors and designers.

Now, you know that Lucas is going to make a hat-full of dollars on Phantom Menace, but there're plenty of piggies at that trough. You could fill a largish warehouse with the goods on sale at http://www.collectorsempire.com. They take credit-cards, and also lend server space to the Parts of Star Wars collective, who have more info on film props than you could possibly digest.

You know, I'm just blown-away by how free-and-open Lucas has been with the Star Wars media empire. Check out http://www.concentric.net/~Creiff/s.html, a personal site for "Safety Pup," the lucky industrial designer who got to work on a series of collectible miniature Star Wars helmets. 'Pup lets us in on the insider's scoop, something that film houses usually keep very quiet.

Lest you think that Star Wars is strictly about crass commercialism, be aware that no less an auspicious agency than the Smithsonian has deemed it worthy of study. http://www.nasm.edu/StarWars/guide.htm is the online home of the National Air and Space Museum's exhibit, Star Wars: The Magic of Myth. This is what an exhibit site should be -- detailed, rich, and compelling.

Anything as earth-shattering as Star Wars inevitably inspires serious academic and scientific study, because scientists and academics are smart enough to know that getting a grant to study Star Wars is way more fun that dorking around with, say Jane Austen or sun-spots. Hence, the Star Wars Technical Commentaries, deep physics from Curtis Saxton, an Australian Theoretical physicist (http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~saxton/starwars/index.html); and The New Mythology, inscrutable literary criticism from Dominic Sagolla (http://www.dom.net/wrd/new/).

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Click here for info on my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom