Daedalus Howell: A Star Wars Story

Daedalus Howell: A Star Wars Story

Ever since the new Star Wars trilogy became a reality, the Internet has been abuzz with speculation about what new Star Wars plots might contain. So far, so good — the team doing the latest threequels clearly learned a few lessons from the prequels: Don’t use kids. Don’t use amphibians. Bravo. And the A Star Wars Story spin-offs movies, Rogue One and Solo — also well done.

Given the sense of ownership fans have for the Star Wars universe, producer Kathleen Kennedy might consider somehow including a fan or two in other Star Wars-set films. A fan, say, like me. To help out, I’ve written up some notes for my own A Star Wars Story spin-off sure to make writing me into one easy as shooting womp rats back home.

A long time ago, in a pipe dream about 15 minutes from here…

Obviously, anyone who’d pitch a Star Wars flick based on themselves would hail from the oilier side of the galaxy. I accept this. There you’ll find me as Lando Calrissian’s PR guy, having somehow discredited myself as a reporter at the Dagobah Post Dispatch (we’ll get back to that). I’d have my own humanoid protocol droid (“E-3PO,” the snarky silver one from The Empire Strikes Back the tells C-3PO to eat his heart out) and maybe a pet Ewok with a drinking problem (for comic relief).

Things are copasetic, that is until house-sitting Lando’s bachelor pad gets out of hand. Let’s just say a small house party for a couple hundred close friends turns into mayhem when some Wookies crash it. Meanwhile, Rivoche, the ravishing adopted daughter of Grand Moff Tarkin seduces me and makes off with my boss’s prized Kyber Crystal, the ultimate McGuffin in that it enables practitioners of either side of the Force to raise the dead. But we don’t know this yet. No one knows this, which is why it’s just sitting on the mantle.

So, I’m basically screwed when the boss comes back unless… Rivoche calls – she’s blackmailing me for the crystal. She agrees to meet me and my droid at some fancy Coruscant bar to discuss a price. And she brings her partner in crime, Boba Fett. Unfortunately, he’s all business. Our negotiations don’t go well (Boba doesn’t negotiate so much as nod his head a lot and shoot stuff). E3 panics and farts a smoke bomb. We run. They follow. We get in the Millenium Falcon (Lando left the keys) and they get into his Slave One. Space chase!

Some Wretched Jive about Bums and Japery

E3 and I crash Lando’s beloved Falcon on some desert shithole called Tatooine. There, we evade capture by Boba by disguising ourselves as Jawas. This leads to the inevitable line, “Aren’t you a little tall for a Jawa?” from the plucky gun moll and eventual love interest we meet at Bib Fortuna’s nightclub while on the lam (Note: At some point, Boba should fall into the Sarlacc Pit again and say something pithy like “Deja vu all over again!”).

I try to do something chivalrous for the gun moll, like light her space hookah,  but quickly learn that my mere presence is messing up her months-long investigation. Turns out she’s an undercover space cop for the New Republic. And a probably a princess. BUT NOT MY SISTER. She’s been tracing a Sith-led conspiracy to bring Darth Vader back from the dead. And they need the Kyber Crystal. Hijinks ensue in which I make the Kessel Run in 11 parsecs (that’s right, 11, suck it Solo) and I blow up the third death star (“Third time’s the charm”) and then, you know, I defeat a reconstituted Darth Vader with – get this – Ben Kenobi’s lightsaber (the irony!), which the slave-girl-space-cop-princess gave to me. Also, she tells me …wait for it… it was her dad’s. Chills, man.

By the end, E3 is shined up, the Falcon is repaired, my Ewok gets sober and I put the Kyber Crystal back on the mantle just as Lando opens the door. He walks up to the crystal, takes a hard look at it, then says to me: “Why, you slimy, double-crossing, no-good swindler.” Then he laughs and gives me a big hug. The Force is with me. Fade to black.

Yeah, it’s basically, it’s Risky Business with the latter half of the Harry Potter series and some other shit I liked. But, you know, set in Star Wars. So, Kathleen, whaddya say? Help me, J.J. Abrams, you’re my only hope.

I’ve Seen the Action Figure and He Is Us: Blue Snaggletooth

Blue Snaggletooth

Officially, he doesn’t exist. He has no past, no story — he’d be prime black-ops material if he wasn’t part of the most visible cultural phenomena of the past two centuries. And, then again, he isn’t really visible at all. They say he’s a mistake.

Who is Blue Snaggletooth?

Ever see Star Wars? Yeah, well, he’s not in it. But he’s of it. He’s an action figure — a totem, an idol, a symbol — without a referent. In the world of Star Wars, let alone the world at large, there was never meant to be Blue Snaggletooth. He isn’t in the movie, he’s not “canon” and he was pulled from the market as soon as the mistake of his existence was realized. He does not belong.

Click to read the rest at my Medium magazine.

In The Waste Land Between a Day Job and Dream Job

Wasteland

I work in the wasteland. Not T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land but a literal wasteland: My office is sandwiched between a dump transfer site and a wastewater treatment plant. So, yeah, I’m a writer, whose work manifests somewhere between garbage and shit.

And that’s just the day job — where I’ve been writing about school and prison design, which have more overlap than can be contained in a single joke, so I won’t even try.

Then there’s what I’ll call the Life of Brian-situation, you know, like the Monty Python bit with the warring “Judean People’s Front” and the “People’s Front of Judea.” I’m down the street from the Marin Sanitary Service and the Central Marin Sanitation Agency. Two different entities — and one poor little mail carrier. Someday, someone is gonna complain one too many times about getting the wrong shit mail and the carrier is totally going to go postal, to invoke the term of art.

Now, if this went down in a school or a prison, you could take cover behind a bufflehead, which is architectural parlance for a short, protective wall. It’s also a species of duck — and there’s some architectural wit in action — “bufflehead,” a duck, as in “duck and cover.”

Cheap humor, right? Nah. I just made that up. Or did I? Come back after going down that Wikipedia wormhole and we’ll compare notes.

So, just across the freeway from my wasteland is Kerner Blvd., which is meaningless unless you’re a nth-level Star Wars fan. Then you would know that it’s the thoroughfare where George Lucas moved his Industrial Light & Magic special effects studio — you know, where they pioneered the effects for the latter movies of the original trilogy.

The former, discrete location of ILM on Kerner Blvd. in San Rafael, CA (from The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by J.W. Rinzler. The former, discrete location of ILM on Kerner Blvd. in San Rafael, CA (from The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by J.W. Rinzler.

And it’s thinking about that crappy old office park, not unlike the one I do my day job in, that keeps the dream alive for me. Actually, the Kerner Blvd. location isn’t that crappy anymore, it’s been reborn as 32Ten Studios, whose new owner is a Lumavillain like me. And there it is, the hope of Hollywood North just across the eternal traffic of the 580. I think about crossing it everyday, like some existential, mental game of Frogger. Not that I want to work on Kerner but I dig what it represents — all the magic and mayhem of making movies.

But here’s my salvation, in three weeks, we begin production on Pill Head, my first feature film as a writer-director.

And you may ask yourself, well, “How did I get here?”

Nine months ago, I was out of a job, fricasseed by my own wee media market, and generally peeking down the double barrel of “destiny, interrupted.” I was at the lowest point I’d ever been, which is saying something since I was a teenage telemarketer. I was lower than Dante’s Inferno, I was Dante’s Intern, I was his mid-40s intern, filing broken dreams and lost self esteem in Hell’s circular file.

After one of my bipolar bottom outs, my partner and collaborator Karen Hell asked me what I really wanted to do. What did I really want to do? What did I really wanna do? And what did that really mean? I took it at face value…

Well, what I really want to do is direct, I said.

“Let’s do it,” she said. Let’s do it — those are the three, second best words your partner can say to you.

And now we’re doing it.

From “Fade In” to “Fade Out,” this was an act of self-preservation as I wrote myself out of the hole, handhold by handhold, word by word.

Like a cathartic spin on the old proverb, “Physician heal thyself,” as creative people, we already know how to do this, but sometimes we need a friend to come up with a prescription. I gave myself a 95 page dose of Pill Head. (Incidentally, in the movie, Karen plays a pharmacist).
Now we’re making the movie — me, Karen, and our 24 trusty collaborators. And maybe you, if you get behind our Indiegogo campaign, which you can reach via PillHeadMovie.com.

We’re not asking for much, but if you too are somewhere between the garbage and the shit, if you’re playing psychic Frogger, or in need of an imaginary bufflehead to hide behind, or you’ve been demoted to Dante’s Intern and need a leg up to what you really want to do — you’re one of us, you’re our people, my people. Come on down, throw us a few bucks at PillHeadMovie.com, and join the fray.

Because even if you’re in The Waste Land, mixing memory and desire, stirs more than dull roots, and maybe, just maybe with us, you might remember what you really want to do…

Han Shan Meet Han Solo

Han SoloWith the recent announcement that Harrison Ford will be reprising his role as Han Solo in J. J. Abrams’ Star Wars VII, all manner of Solo-themed notions have loomed large over the culture. It’s brought to mind another Han who has inevitably benefitted from a spike in collateral search traffic. Han Shan, the 7th century Tang Dynasty poet might see an uptick in Google-love but not just for being a typo.
Han Shan (wandering poet) and Han Solo (itinerate space cowboy)  share some biographical details as well. Both were traveling rogues and occasional heros, they both consorted with royalty and each had a trusty sidekick (though Shan’s was a hirsute poet named Shide instead of a wookie).

Continue reading “Han Shan Meet Han Solo”