A Few Thoughts on Bring Back Legends

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Hey everyone!

I wanted to send out a link to an editorial piece that Brian of Tosche Station did about the Bring Back Legends experiences he and many other Star Wars fans at Dragon Con (and on the web) had. While I don’t agree with everything Brian says, I’d ask Star Wars fans, and specifically fans who identify with the Bring Back Legends movement, to consider some of the following thoughts. Disclaimers: I don’t represent SWR in this. Also, please be respectful and kind in the comments. I am open to considering that I’m wrong, and the following is intentionally based on impressions I have of the BBL movement, and NOT detailed research. My experience and what I’ve heard is limited, so I may very well be missing details, or have a very different experience than others have. This is intentional because I wanted this post to be from the perspective of a random Star Wars fan, not a journalist who has extensively researched it. Secondarily, in an ideal world I would love to see more Legends material along with all the new material, so I’m not here to bash on Legends. Heir to the Empire will probably be my favorite Star Wars books for a long time to come.

I went to Dragon Con 2015 as a media guest, panelist, and huge Star Wars fan. I also went to Dragon Con this year disabled, as I fractured my heel and toe at Air Force summer training. Dragon Con fans and the disability services were all so friendly and helpful that I left Dragon Con thinking: “Wow, this is once again a reminder of how friendly, awesome, and supportive the geek community can be.” In contrast, I heard (and saw) some experiences from other con-goers, some of whom are good friends of mine, some just mere acquaintances, who did not feel that their experience reflected the supportiveness and friendliness that the geek, and Star Wars, community should be known for.

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Yes, a number of the Bring Back Legends people who handed out flyers were innocuous, simply trying to start a dialogue about something they’re passionate about (no harm no foul). But then there were others, people who made my friends and fellow fans feel a combination of quite uncomfortable to bordering on unsafe with the way they accosted panelists, fans, and staff at the convention. Generally though, I’d say from the first hand accounts I’ve heard, most of the BBL encounters were just a bit unpleasant or neutral, having someone talk about something you’re not interested in, or insisting on handing you flyers you may not want. (I did wind up getting one.) So yes, it may not seem that serious in the sense that it’s not some horrible crime to have someone insist on talking to you/taking a bit of your time/handing you their promotional material, but I wanted to make the following points:

  • The Star Wars fan community, conventions, and geekdom in general should be a welcoming, FUN place, where people are celebrated for their differences.
  • To try to ‘convert’ fans to your movement by being unpleasantly forceful in conversations, hijacking panels not at all related to Legends material, etc. is the equivalent to trying to make a kid eat a salad on their birthday….
  • To go farther and make people feel truly uncomfortable or even a tad bit unsafe is simply hurting your cause, and is behavior that is harmful for all parties and the SW community
  • To, as I’ve heard reported by three, separate, authors among others, flood an author with one star reviews on Amazon only an hour after his book has been released (I know I can’t speed read that fast), is cruel, as that could have had a negative affect on his actual livelihood!

BBL people reading this may say: “But that’s not me! I would never make someone uncomfortable like that. All I want to do is express my passion for these books, and bring awareness to them so that hopefully we can get more.” And that’s fine by me! Plus, I have friends who are very good, respectful, and nice people who really want to see Legends continued, and thus are in line with the movement. However, as a leader in training through AFROTC, and in my leadership classes, etc. I’m taught this: creating a good community/organizational culture is one of the hardest, and most important, things to accomplish as a leader, AND support creating as a member of a community. That said, there will always be a few members of a community who don’t represent it well. For example, a convention may be overall great, but there will be a few people who harass con-goers, or steal their stuff, simply because you can’t control thousands of people.

This image came from Furious Fanboys website, but is the exact same flier I got.
This image came from Furious Fanboys website, but is the exact same flier I got.

The fact that so many people are talking/writing about how unpleasant sectors of the BBL community is says something negative about the community, especially when actual fans of the Legends material are agreeing with it. I had a great Dragon Con experience over all, and only had a few BBL people try to talk to me or hijack panels I was on. That’s a very small portion of my overall, great convention experience. But because of it, and because of what happened with other fans there, I now associate a pretty big portion of the BBL movement with unpleasantness. Perception is reality to the people who are doing the perceiving… that is to say: if someone believes that the BBL movement is a hate filled, fan-accosting, horrible movement (which I DO NOT believe), than that IS reality for the person who believes it, even if it’s not actually true. This is why it’s so important to create a community that’s overall known for being awesome, because too many negative people can taint a movement, which will become associated with the negative.

For example: let us say that right now my experience with BBL people is more negative then positive, but after this editorial piece is published, a bunch of BBL people join in on the comments and very civilly and respectfully start a dialogue about what they want, and how they don’t want to be represented by some of the people who give them a bad reputation, and how they want to be able to enjoy both Legends and new material. My internal response will be: “Huh, these fans are all nicer than I thought! The convention experience and some of the things I’ve heard must be random off-shoots of the community, not truly representative of BBL.” But, if people claiming to be BBL come into the comments and diatribe about how stupid I am, or start flame wars, or name call and swear, then that will reinforce the negative perception I have, and I’ll think: “What was the point in writing this article; I should just stay away from all BBL people.”

I love the Heir to the Empire trilogy. I’ve read it several times, and have even recommended it to friends/family who aren’t even that into Star Wars. I’ve read around 20-30 Legends books, most of which I liked. What the BBL movement has done for me is to unfortunately lesson my enthusiasm for Legends. Some of my SW friends have been teasing me about reading the X-Wing novels for years, and I’ve been planning on it, but procrastinating. Now, I’m not really excited about the thought of reading them. I think I may not, now. Not because they’re not cannon, but because my enthusiasm for Legends has dimmed, lessened by how the movement I see as being the most passionate about it treating fans, friends, and even the AUTHORS who wrote Legends not very well (by hijacking many of the panels they were on at Dragon Con)!

While Timothy Zahn et al may be sad about the books they’ve written no longer being cannon (I would be sad!), most of them, in person at Dragon Con, have expressed that they would LOVE to write some of the new material.*** They are excited about the future of Star Wars, and if they can be excited about it, and be gracious about the fact that their books are no longer cannon, then I think as fans we can follow their example, and be gracious and respectful to each other and Del Ray/LFL/Disney. What the BBL movement needs from my perspective are more community members and leaders stepping up with guidelines on how you should promote your movement and promote the books that so many of us love. Instead, the movement, at least for me, has made me less passionate about Legends. Now, if Legends books are continued, I’m not sure if I would read them because of my association of them with unpleasant fans and recent experiences. I think I’ll go talk to my friend Mark Hurliman, a huge Legends fan and Star Wars fan in general to see if I can rediscover some of that Legends love!

Sincerely, Bethany Blanton

*** Bryan Dunn on Twitter pointed out that the Legends books never did have quite the same ‘level’ of cannon that the films did, and thus we should not have expected them to take precedence over a new film series/new LFL material. Plus, they still exist, so we are yet able to enjoy them, thus they aren’t being truly ‘replaced’ at all. As to any in depth discussion of cannon, I’d refer you to @SWFanWorks on Twitter, and start up a dialogue Nathan Butler, who has been studying the timeline and cannon of Star Wars for over a decade. For me, this doesn’t change the fact that, as of now, no Legends material will be continued (the main reason for the existence of BBL in the first place), and thus didn’t have much bearing on my blog post (since I’m writing from the perspective of a fan who is responding to the BBL movement).

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  • Zarm

    There will always be kooks at conventions. Judging the movement by a fringe is never wise. As someone who is a major fan of Legends- and only growing more so as disillusionment continues to pile on with new-canon publishing, I’m bothered by the idea that you have grown to like Legends less because of this.

    I can understand this phenomenon to a degree; the sanctimoniousness of fans of a certain sci-fi property at the con I used to attend put me off that show for some time; but when I eventually was forced by circumstances to watch a sample of it, I found myself enjoying it. When it comes to books you yourself have already read and enjoyed, actually lessening your own enthusiasm for what you’ve discovered and enjoyed because of how the fringe of a group of other fans who have read and enjoyed the same things… doesn’t seem like a good reaction. nor, as you take pains (to your credit) to point out in your post, of judging the whole of the movement by the actions of a few.

    Advocating for Legends while not denigrating current Star Wars is a tough line to toe. Me, I’ve had to withdraw from most Star Wars discussions on the ‘if you don’t have anything good to say’ principle; I am retreating into re-reading the ol’ Bantam era, and don’t figure I’m going to be much involved in the publishing or the fandom until the film comes out; right now, fans that are happy about the state of Star Wars and I aren’t speaking the same language. :-) But I do think that the great majority of BBL fandom (despite the vitriol they tend to *receive* from irrationally-angry movie-only fans, at least in the circles I frequent) tend to maintain their position with (sometimes-angsty, often morose) respect and courtesy. I can certainly understand those who don’t, and why they react badly, even if I don’t condone it… but I also think that they, like the worst of any social, political, or religious group, tend to be the loud-shouting minority; the most visible presence, but not the average representative.

    • The Star Wars Report

      Hey Zarm!

      Thanks for the long response! I’ve tried to have a few of these conversations on Twitter, and with the character limit that doesn’t work too well…. I agree that there are, and will always be, those stranger people at conventions, and the few you want to avoid as well.

      I guess I question the thought that this is a fringe group. I suppose it could be (a fringe group can be a very vocal minority that appears larger than it is precisely because of its vocal-ness, to make up a word). But one of my points in this post was to show that if half of the Legends fans I encounter online or in person are the ‘fringe’ group, they don’t seem to be fringe, they seem to be a very significant part of the Legends loving base. And, that perception shapes reality for everyone else. I could be journalistic, and research the fandom, do polls, get statistics… and I’d probably come to the conclusion that it’s a fringe group. But the point of this piece was to write from the average avid fan and con-goer’s perception.

      Part of the problem could be that non-book fans are identifying everyone who wishes to see Legends continued as being pestering, bitter BBL extremists, when really there are many like you (or my friend Mark H.) who love Legends, and want to see it continued, but are supportive of the fan community in general and behave nicely. And because of this, some of you are retreating; you don’t want to be identified as the above. This leaves more open air, if you will, for the ‘fringe’ group.

      The reason it affects my enjoyment of Legends material is not because somehow the material changed, or because it’s no longer cannon, but because a significant part of my enjoyment of Legends came through enjoying reading/discussing the books as a community. I could talk about the books I enjoyed with other Star Wars fans, argue about what characters were best, and generally have fun sharing the experience. I can’t really do that now…. The Star Wars books space online now is so crowded with the hyper BBL people that I wouldn’t be able to simply have a Twitter conversation about my favorite Zahn moments, or what character I’d most want to see in the movies from the books (even though we know it won’t happen), without it turning into a negative “look at the TRAGEDY LFL has perpetrated on us!” And then to see even worse said/done to my fellow fans and to officials at LFL and Del Ray is depressing. Star Wars was supposed to be fun. Legends was supposed to be fun. And thus, my enthusiasm wanes…..

      And I’m thinking: ” …. .. Well yes, I’m sad we don’t get more of those stories, but I am really excited that we’re getting new movies, and new books, and I can understand LFL’s decision even if I don’t like it. Hopefully some day we’ll have some more Legends material.” Then I realize that I can talk to fans of the new books, and movie-only fans who are excited about the new films without a lot of that negativity. We can get excited about it! We can talk about what we’ve seen so far! We can guess at where the new books will go plot-wise! And I realize that this is a safe and fun place/subject. I don’t have to worry about the 15,500 Twitter followers on SWR jumping all over me for talking about Legends.

      That said: I think this will blow over eventually. Once a number of the new books and movies are out, I think even Legends die-hards will come to enjoy some of those, and those who don’t will become less vocal and eventually move away from Star Wars. Then, we’ll be back at a place where we can enjoy the old Legends materials as a community again, and not just in the privacy of our homes/personal friendships. I know this movement that is, yes, more of a fringe than not, has not changed the books in any way. But they do make it harder for me to enjoy what was once a great community experience.

      ~ Bethany Blanton

      • Zarm

        I do understand that; ironically, I think that is some of what drives the BBL’s desperation; that they are losing- and foresee themselves progressively losing more- of that same ability to discuss as part of a community. (I know it’s one of the things I bemoan most about this whole situation). Ironically, it is the same root cause- but of course, some people are reacting to it in a… less rational manner. :-)

        • The Star Wars Report

          So kind of an Anakin dilemma: so afraid of losing his wife, he takes drastic actions that wind up making him lose her. (Not entirely relevant, but I couldn’t help but toss in a Star Wars comparison.) If I were an LFL/Del Ray/Disney employee right now I wouldn’t want to possibly ‘encourage’ the movement’s darker side by giving us all more Legends at this point…. :( But I digress. You make a very fair point about not allowing how other people behave affect my enjoyment of the books, and I will try harder not to. :) ~ Bethany

  • Bellarius

    And what about the other side of this? You cite here plenty of fans disturbing you or causing problems thanks to their behaviour here, but what about the ones who mock, insult and throw slander at anyone remotely showing interest in Legends?

    This isn’t some one-sided mudslinging activity here, with a few bad Legends fans causing problems. I’ve seen far too many people calling themselves fans insulting, mocking or effectively openly crapping on the Expanded Universe and anyone who enjoyed it. Shouldn’t that be addressed as well?

    • The Star Wars Report

      Anyone who engages in that sort of behavior (insulting, slandering, etc.) on either side is obviously in the wrong. At the time of this writing, I hadn’t personally encountered anyone who was engaging in that sort of behavior directed at Legends fans. Since then, I’ve seen it (had to block someone on Twitter the other day for that exact reason), but haven’t experienced much of it myself.

      There will always be a few ‘bad’ fans on different sides of issues, but my issue with the BBL movement was how pervasive it was in its negativity (in my experience). I had too many examples to cite, and yet I only had a few instances of the same type of behavior directed at BBL people coming from the other side. However, I think this has unfortunately grown more common place in recent months, and I’ve seen a rise in the antagonism directed towards BBL people grow.

      At this stage in the game, I wonder if the more extreme of both sides will calm down (or possibly get worse) after TFA releases.
      ~Bethany