With the imminent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you might want to refresh your memory by watching the earlier Star Wars films, or even the films and other related productions.

There are two or three philosophies on this. The most obvious is to watch the films in chronological order, or story order, so you are seeing the historical development of the things that happened. This is simple. Watch Episode I first, and work your way in order through Episode VI.

There are objections to this method, however, because the way the story was told, out of historical sequence, involves certain reveals that would be ruined if you watched them in historical order.

The release order of the films, which presumably reflects the intentions of the artist, is:

Episode IV
Episode V
Episode VI
Episode I
Episode II
Episode III

Then, of course, Episode VII, and eventually Episodes VIII and IX

Software expert Rod Hilton developed what come to be known as the “Machete Order” (called that because his blog is named “Absolutely No Machete Juggling”). Hiton argues, as noted, that the historical order (he calls it the “episode order”) ruins a key reveal that so and so is so and so’s father. Hilton rightly notes that this is a key feature of the entire story, and it is not a good idea to ruin that. If anyone watching the films does not know about this reveal, then watching them in historical, or episode, order is the wrong thing to do.

He also argues that the release order is fine for the first three films has its problems as well. His suggestion is a different order from either historical or episode, and it runs like this:

Episode IV
Episode V
Episode II
Episode III
Episode VI

Notably, you don’t watch Episode I at all. The reason? It sucks. Read the original (well, updated) blog post for all the reasons.

Another dude, Ernest Rister, suggests the same order but he leaves in Episode I, so you get this:

  1. Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  4. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  5. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  6. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

You can get the digital version of the existing films at Amazon: Star Wars: The Digital Movie Collection, or if you prefer hard copies, Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) in Blu-ray. There is also a non blue-ray version but since it is an import, I’m not sure if you want that for your DVD player.

You might want to go totally crazy and also watch and read the other things that are parts of the story but not in those movies, such as the TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, or the book A New Dawn. If you want to get those things in the right order, Tech Times has a list.

By the way, John Abraham wrote a review of the recently published novel, “Dark Disciple,” which fits near the beginning of the cannon, here.

A Guest Review by John Abraham

Wow! I just put down the best science fiction book I’ve read in a long time, and certainly the best Star Wars book I’ve ever read. Just like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones have made fantasy stories hip, the rebooted Star Wars franchise is making science fiction cool again for audiences of all ages.

The new book, which goes on sale today (July 7th), is called Star Wars: Dark Disciple (written by Christie Golden). It is part of a new series of stories that are part of the Star Wars canon and it involves nearly all of the characters we’ve come to cherish. It is a story about friends and enemies, good and evil, and relationships that evolve as we turn the pages. This book transforms how we view the Star Wars characters.

But let’s take a step back. For those of you not fully integrated into the Star Wars universe, all you need to know is that there are the six movies and two animated television series (Clone Wars and Rebels). And of course, there are new movies in the works now, with Episode 7 to be released December 2016.

Dark Disciple takes place between movie episodes 2 and 3, just before the conversion of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader. It is set during the infamous Clone Wars which was a multi-year battle between Jedi-led Republic and the Sith-led Separatists. The Clone Wars is devastating the galaxy, resulting in uncountable deaths of innocents. The Jedi leaders are desperate to try anything to bring the war to an end; this desperation led them to initiate a very un-Jedi-like assassination attempt. Perhaps removing the Sith leader (Count Dooku) would spare future bloodshed?

And it is here that this story gets into high gear. A very fast-passed story, it leaves the reader holding and then gasping for breath as events unfold rapidly. We witness many of the Jedi we’ve come to know over the years, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Plo Koon, and others deliberating whether and how to accomplish this assassination. Their decision requires the selection of a Jedi who is skilled enough to penetrate the evil circle around Dooku; someone with a history of subterfuge and clandestine skill; someone named Quinlan Vos.

For serious Star Wars fans, Quinlan Vos is a favorite. He is a Kiffar male (very much human like with a unique facial tattoo and dark skin) with a special skill. He can “read” objects by touching them, seeing, hearing and feeling the history of the object, witnessing scenes that have long since faded into history.

But the Jedi leaders are not convinced that Quinlan can complete this task himself so they launch a plan to obtain the help of a former student of Dooku, Asajj Ventress. Asajj was trained in the Dark Side by Dooku but then later was betrayed by her master. Because of the betrayal, she holds a bitter resentment and has twice before attempted to kill Dooku herself. Asajj Ventress is a major character in the Clone Wars animated series and she too is a fan favorite. Cunning and conflicted, physically powerful yet lithe, she presents contradictions that we see in the real world. She has carried out horrific acts in her past and is supremely ruthless to accomplish her tasks. However, she also has a strange code of ethics and a sense of fairness which is informed by her troubled past as a child. Asajj was born on a planet called Dathomir which is inhabited by only the female gender of her species. The Dathomir females are known for their warrior-like nature, ability to use magic, and their connection to nature and the force. Her entire clan was wiped out by Count Dooku; a fact which has formed and shaped Asajj’s hatred toward her former master. Finding herself alone in the galaxy, Asajj has become completely self-reliant and shuns alliances and relationships which have only led to pain and suffering.

So we see Quinlan has great hurdles to overcome if he wants to complete his task. The plot setup puts Quinlan and Asajj in the center of an “ends justify the means” pathway of the Jedi – a pathway that threatens the very nature of the force users. It is also a pathway the puts the two main characters in situations that try their inner person. A crucible from which the real Quinlan and Asajj emerge.

Christie_GoldenFor an audience that reads star wars novels, this book is unique for a number of reasons. First, many stories are told in three-book trilogies. This single book is necessarily packed with action. There are very few slow moments, but at the same time, the author does a fantastic job of developing the story and the characters in an engaging way. She also balances telegraphing with surprise. Throughout the book, I found myself saying, “oh no, she is not going to do this… this can’t happen…. It did!” Other times, quick twists and turns occurred in the story that kept me guessing.

What was particularly nice to a Star Wars fan is that this book fills in important gaps for some of our favorite characters. Because this book is considered canon, the plot line may interfere with other story lines from other books or comics. Initially I was concerned about this; would my other favorite stories and characters be written out of history with Dark Disciple? It turns out not really; Dark Disciple may introduce only small changes to our favorite characters and their past.

For people who aren’t as devoted to Star Wars as I am, this book is a great way to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with characters in advance of the new movies. Since this book is largely self-contained, readers won’t have to worry about learning the backstory of its main characters. Finally, because the story is contained in a single book, readers can get through its entirety quickly (I read it in one sitting); you don’t have to commit to a more typical three-book trilogy.

So, for those of you who want to try something new, revisit past stories, or prepare for the next generation of a great science fiction story line, this is where you want to begin.

Dr. John Abraham
University of St. Thomas

I’ve written about The Recompense here, and that writeup includes interviews with the creative team putting the film together. This is just a quick note to remind you that The Recompense has a kick starter project with one week left. So, now, you have to go there and kick in a few bucks!

The graphic above is the budget breakdown for the film, indicating what has already been invested and what the Kickstarter campaign will fund. Here is a note from the film’s team:

With just over one week left in our campaign, we wanted to show you how your contributions, if our project is successfully funded, will affect the production of our film.

Your support enables us to finish building our sets, create the first ever live-action Bothan, bring practical, tangible effects to the film, and provide comfort and a place to rest for our cast and crew to stay in top shape throughout the production of the film.

In order to make this project a reality though, we need your support now more than ever, as we enter into our final week tomorrow.

Spread the word on social media, and share our page with friends and family. Chances are, someone you know is a Star Wars fan! Show them what we’re trying to accomplish, and encourage them to contribute even as little as $1. The more backers we have, the more popular our project becomes, and the better chance we have of bringing this tribute to Star Wars to life, and having you all along for the ride.

Remember – if our project does not reach it’s fundraising goal, we receive none of the funds, and this film can’t be made.

Strap yourselves in…. Time to make the jump to lightspeed.

– The Recompense Team

So, here is the kickstarter you are looking for.

I remember joking with my friend Ana about how her name would be attached to the first named storm in the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season. It turns out Ana is an exceptional individual. Both of them.

Ana Miller as Aisha Lefu in "The Recompense: A Star Wars Fan Film."
Ana Miller as Aisha Lefu in “The Recompense: A Star Wars Fan Film.”
Ana, my friend, is an actor and is currently engaged in a project I’ll be telling you more about later. But in the meantime, you can visit this page and find out about a new and very interesting Star Wars related crowd-funded production called The Recompense. Give them money.

Meanwhile, back in the Atlantic Ocean, Tropical Storm Ana has formed, nearly three weeks before the official start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. A few days ago Ana was a disorganized disturbance (I’m talking about the storm here) and now Ana is a full on tropical storm tracking the very warm Gulf Stream. Winds are steady at 60 miles per hour, gusting to 70.

From the National Weather Service:

Deep convection has increased somewhat near the center of the storm, and SFMR observations from the Air Force Hurricane Hunters continue to support an intensity of 50 kt. Ana will be moving over the cooler waters to the northwest of the Gulf Stream later today, and water vapor imagery shows a belt of upper-level northerly flow advancing toward the tropical cyclone. The decreasing sea surface temperatures and increasing northerly shear should cause Ana to weaken as it nears the coast. The official intensity forecast is similar to that from the previous package, and very close to the latest intensity model consensus, IVCN.

Tropical Storm Ana, the first storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Tropical Storm Ana, the first storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.
The initial motion estimate is 320/3. The track forecast reasoning remains basically unchanged from the past few advisories. Global models continue to predict that the blocking mid-level ridge to the north of Ana will shift eastward and weaken over the next couple of days. These models also show a broad trough moving from the central to the eastern U.S. over the next 72 hours or so. This should result in the cyclone turning northward and north-northeastward with a gradual increase in forward speed. The official track forecast is similar to the previous one and in good agreement with the latest dynamical model consensus, TVCN.

Hey, good news, the NWS is implementing the long-ago announced policy of GETTING RID OF ALL CAPS!!1!! Meanwhile, Ana the Storm is expected to strike the coast of South Carolina, and/or North Carolina, tonight. The storm, once over land, will turn northeast and make its way back out to sea off Delmarva, and eventually menace, a little, southern New England. The middle of the storm will probably be crossing the Carolina coast about 8:00 AM Sunday, and what is left of it will be re-joining the coast and the Atlantic early Monday.