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‘Star Wars: Bloodline’ is Amazing. That is All.

Dear Mom: If you are reading this, I want this book for Christmas, and I also think you should read this book because I think you would love it. I think the boys and Mary Lynne would love it, too.

To my general readers: I haven’t read that many Star Wars books. I never touched the former EU/Legends material. So I couldn’t tell you fairly how it compares. But this is one of the best books I have ever read, period. And I think it needs to be read. And my fellow Star Wars geeks on Far Far Away Radio agree. Bloodline by Claudia Gray is that good. My review here contains a lot of what you would consider spoilers but Bloodline is not that fun to talk about without them. I have a lot of feelings for this book.

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Reading Watching Looking and Stuff

I don’t read Star Wars books so much for the stories as to explore more of that universe. Bloodline gives us a spectacular view of the political, social, and criminal climate of that particular galaxy far, far away about six years before The Force Awakens and gives us more context for some of the events in Episode VII. While the film itself probably needed to explain Leia Organa’s estrangement from the New Republic government a little better for its own audience, that kind of exposition probably goes much better in the format of a book than a film, as FFAR suggests. Hence why I think it is a good thing that Star Wars exists in multiple media formats. Different parts of the story go better with different mediums.

Getting back on track here, Bloodline is not only a great (and timely) social and political novel, it is also a spectacular portrait of one of the best and most beloved characters in the Star Wars franchise. This version of Leia is more hardcore than anything I could have dreamed up. I want to know how much Gray was channelling Carrie Fisher—Carrie has always influenced Princess Leia to some degree or another, but in Bloodline you can really see Carrie in Leia’s attitudes and mannerisms.

So here we are, six years (according to reports) before The Force Awakens. Leia is a member of the New Republic senate and she is a hundred percent DONE. The political body has become gridlocked in partisan debates between the Centrists, who want a more powerful central government, and the Populists, who want to minimize central control. Leia works with the Populists but she is clearly a maverick who sees the problems that the two-party system is causing. Leia sees a chance to make a difference when she volunteers to investigate a criminal cartel, but she also gets caught up in running for a political office she clearly doesn’t want. Thrown into the mix is Centrist senator Ransolm Casterfo, a young, vain politician who also happens to be a fanboy of the Empire. Yet as Leia gets to know Ransolm better, it turns out that he’s a lot more disaffected with his own party than she realizes—and just the man she needs to help with her investigation. Their effort is not so much bipartisanship but a teamup with the oddballs of both parties. I think their friendship kind of points out the danger in a politically charged environment of stereotyping someone just because of their political affiliations: you get so caught up in party politics that you forget that the people across the aisle are actually people.

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The Cantina Cast

Personally, I don’t think that the new Lucasfilm canon has to go so far as to dramatize that the whole galaxy knows that Darth Vader is Leia’s birth father, but you have to have a reason for her limited number of allies in TFA. And that plot point does make for an interesting read. When you think about it, would YOU be comfortable telling people that your birth father was one of the most evil people to ever live?

Moral of the story: it’s okay to trust people with your tough secrets. In fact, you should trust them so they’re better equipped to help you. Yes, Vader is Leia’s biological father but he also abused and tortured her. They had no father-daughter relationship whatsoever—unless you count torture, abuse, hurting her friends and blowing up her planet parental abuse.

But Leia not telling Ben—are you kidding me, Lucasfilm? Do you realize how much of the blame that puts on Leia for Ben turning to the Dark Side? (Not that I blame Leia for any of that, but still.)

So, I stand corrected, as far as we know in Bloodline Ben has not turned to the Dark Side (yet) and his turn probably isn’t linked to Rey being abandoned on Jakku. There is a lot of interesting discussion on FFAR and its affiliate podcast Legends and Lore about where Ben is at this time and how he reacts to the events in this book.

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NY Daily News

So, as far as Prequels-related material, I feel like Bloodline does actually fall kind of short in that category. We get 1-2 sentences or short paragraphs of Leia reflecting on the history of her birth parents and comparing that to her situation. It kind of hits the reader over the head and doesn’t flow as well with the rest of the text. It is good to show that Leia is conscious of following in the footsteps of her birth mother Padme Amidala. But maybe it could have been done differently. But on the other hand, we have a Gungan and a Toydarian making background appearances, and Leia gives a very awesome speech at the beginning about her adopted dad Bail Organa.

In addition to giving us a look at Leia, Bloodline also increases my appreciation for Han Solo. Even as a side character who doesn’t appear much, he’s great. Han and Leia as a couple, well, to put it bluntly, they’re not really happy to be together a lot because they have so many different interests, but they are happy to be in each other’s lives.

Not going to lie, I love Lady Carise Sindian almost as much as I hate her. She is evil and beautiful and rocks at being both. But I love Ransolm Casterfo with all my heart. He doesn’t deserve half of the crap he has to put up with. He loves what the Empire stood for—order, strength, and centralized power—but not what it actually accomplished. Being a stormtrooper fanboy, he learns to his cost, has its darker side.

As for our other side characters, we get an interesting mix. The other politicians are boring, but I guess if that’s what Leia has to put up with then I understand what she’s dealing with. Leia’s assistants Joph Seastriker and Greer Sonnel are fun. And C-3P0, as the third major film character to appear in the book, is on point in every line. Seriously, I need Anthony Daniels to read his lines for the audiobook or I’ll want my money back.

Bloodline adds so much to the story of The Force Awakens, and on its own it is a rich and thrilling novel. Characters both old and new are written with depth and warmth, and the faraway galaxy we know and love is real and exciting. It’s the chocolate cake of Star Wars novels—a satisfying read from start to finish, with quality in every ingredient.

Read More:

Blastr: Bloodline Proves that it’s time for more Padmé Material

FFAR Blog Review of Bloodline by Chris Carey

Podcasts/Videos:

Collider Jedi Council Interview with Claudia Gray

Far Far Away Radio and the Implications of Bloodline on the Saga

Legends and Lore reaction to Bloodline

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Meet Utah’s Top Cosplayers (Part 1)

Introduction:

Utah has gained a reputation in recent years as a haven for geeks of all fandoms and degrees of interest. The rising popularity of Salt Lake Comic Con and the golden age of Geek on the internet has fueled the creativity and talents of many locals into pursuing cosplay. As a member of this vibrant cosplay community, I would like to give my readers a glimpse into what we do and introduce them to some of my fellow cosplayers. Some of us are part of major costuming organizations like the 501st Legion, others are part of smaller local charity groups. Some of us invest considerable time and money into making elaborate, screen-accurate costumes. Others can’t bring as many physical resources, but we make up for it with lots of heart and dedication. Some of us live outside of the Salt Lake-Ogden-Provo area, but thankfully the internet makes it easy to keep in touch on a daily basis and we can share ideas and post photos of our work.

The fourteen profiles I’ve collected–seven to be shared in this post, seven in a later post around Halloween–are a sampling of the different kinds of cosplayers that live and work right here in Utah. Some of them are my personal acquaintances, and a few are even my good friends. Utah’s cosplay community–the geek community in general–is special because it brings together people from different lifestyles, beliefs, and backgrounds to build each other up through a common interest. This week, our spotlights include Stephen McGarity, Benji Seekins, Missa Zane, Jason Flynn, Eric Allen Hall, Brittany Wilson, and Hannah Oberle.

Profile: Stephen McGarity

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I’ve known Stephen for as long as I’ve been in Kids Heroes. He’s a great guy and loves coming out to volunteer. He does other characters, but his go-to is Batman. When the Kids Heroes Foundation has an event, chances are Utah’s Batman will be there.

Profile: Jason Flynn

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How Did You Get Into Cosplay?

Stephen: I got into it to visit kids in hospitals and special needs kids

Benji: I was in a Marvel group on Facebook and asked everyone who they think I should cosplay from the Marvel Universe and most of the comments were the Winter Soldier because I had some resemblance to Sebastian Stan.

Missa Zane

Missa Zane

Jason: After attending the first Salt Lake Comic Con in 2013, I was really excited to try doing cosplays myself so my brother talked me into doing Fix-it Felix with him as Wreck-it Ralph and it was so fun I’ve kept cosplaying, attending various cons and making new cosplays each time

Brittany: I have always loved dressing up but my love of cosplay came after I realized that I could use it to help with charity. After battling Stage 3A Melanoma and going through 12 months of chemotherapy and two major surgeries; I found myself in need of a some extra added financial support. A fundraiser was set up for me and after all of the support I received from the community I determined that I was going to beat cancer and strive to pay it forward. Now I go to charity events to help raise funds for other people in need and I love every second of it!

Photo courtesy of Brittany Wilson

Brittany Wilson

Eric: I grew up doing community theater with my mom, so I learned about costuming and makeup from an early age. I have always loved Halloween, and I made a robot costume out of empty bleach bottles, drier hose, and cardboard boxes when I was in the fourth grade. After college, I started to do big group Halloween costumes with my friends, and I kept going as I started to attend Star Trek and other scifi and fantasy conventions starting in the 90’s.

Hannah: My dad and I have loved making me costumes every Halloween, but really got into cosplay at the second Salt Lake Comic Con in 2014. My younger sister is also my partner in cosplaying, so it’s fun to do partner cosplays. We’ve done Mina and Zelda, Thor and Loki, we’re working on Black Widow and Winter Soldier; it’s fun to cosplay together.

Profile: Benji Seekins

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Benji joined Kids Heroes at the start of the summer, so I’ve had the opportunity to get to know him. Benji is always the first to jump in when other people are goofing off and having fun, and he doesn’t shy away from poking fun at his character. (And yes, Jake, he is a BYU fan). When Kids Heroes went to entertain at a homeless shelter in Salt Lake, he found a Captain America action figure in the toy bin and immediately claimed it. Hence the picture:

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Benji Seekins

Profile: Missa Zane

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What Gives You the Most Satisfaction in Cosplay?

Benji: Knowing that your hard work pays off and meeting people with the same interest

Jason: I love seeing the smiles and reactions or people who love the same fandom/character I am cosplaying.  When people take photos of my cosplays, I feel really proud that they liked it that much

Hannah O'Berle

Hannah O’Berle

Brittany: Seeing the smiles on the faces of those in need of an extra hand, hearing a laugh, or even the feeling that in that very moment they are completely free and happy. The fact that in some cases we are able to help financially is the cherry on top!

Hannah: When people want pictures with me and ask if I made it. Telling them I did is really satisfying! I also love when people seek me out of huge crowds to meet me or tell me they recognize me from another cosplay.

Missa: Seeing a costume come together then seeing how excited people are!

Profile: Hannah Oberle

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Profile: Brittany Wilson

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Brittany Wilson is Utah’s Captain Jack. Over the summer, the Orem Owlz baseball team had theme nights and invited cosplayers to come mingle with the fans. When they did their Pirates of the Carribean night, Brittany didn’t hesitate to drive down all the way from Ogden to Orem to come to the game, and she was over-the-moon about my Elizabeth Swann costume. At Salt Lake Comic Con, Brittany brought a Jar of Dirt, complete with the heart of Davy Jones, to display at the Legacy booth and share with friends.

Profile: Eric Allan Hall

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I met Eric Hall my first time at Comic Con, back in 2014. As it turns out, Eric is a local cosplay legend, who sports literally dozens of costumes and makes some for his kids, too! But he is also a great friend to everyone in the cosplay community, always willing to give advice and help other people make their costumes. We’ve run into each other a handful of times in person. Once was when Heroic and Kids’ Heroes teamed up for a charity event in Salt Lake. There was live music playing in the background, and Superman asked Scarlet Witch to dance with him for a few minutes–unexpected, but fun.

Mark Loerstcher/Eric Allan Hall

Mark Loerstcher/Eric Allan Hall

Advice for Other Cosplayers:

Stephen: Never give up on your dream of cosplay, big or small, short or tall. Keep the dream alive no matter what comes your way

Jason: Do it.  Don’t worry if you’re good enough.  Don’t compare yourself to anyone.  Don’t worry about if people will like your cosplay or if it’s good enough to enter a competition.  Just cosplay and enjoy the fun

Utah's Batman and Beyond Cosplay

Utah’s Batman and Beyond Cosplay

Brittany: The best advice I have to give is this; be kind to those you meet in this community. You never know what the person behind that makeup, mask, or cosplay is battling. That armor they wear and sword they carry might be battling much more that that of fiction.

Eric: Philosophical advice: It’s good to accept feedback from others, but stay true to your vision of the character as you construct your cosplay and as you bring your character to life. Practical advice: Shop thrift stores frequently for clothing, shoes, belts, hats, and toys and props you can use or alter for your cosplays.

Chiseled Light Photography

Chiseled Light Photography/Jason Flynn

Hannah: Don’t be afraid to try an advanced character! There’s always creative ways to make pieces with the simplest of materials! My Zelda armor is made out of foam, caulking, modeling magic clay, and gold paint. Also don’t let gender, size, age, race, or anything like that stop you from cosplaying your favorite character.

Missa: Just dive in ^_^ push your limits. We are our worst critics and that will hold you back from a world of fun!

Read More:

The Jedi in Jeans: Liz’s thoughts on Cosplay, Salt Lake Comic Con 2016

Last Week’s Post: Livewire at Salt Lake Comic Con 2016

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Villain for a Day at Salt Lake Comic Con

You should never underestimate the power of cosplay in groups.  I’ve been a part of a charity group for a while, but for this Comic Con I planned to do something a little different. Livewire was my favorite villain in Season 1 of Supergirl. Since her outfit didn’t look too hard to imitate, I decided to cosplay her. Then a few months ago, one of my Facebook friends decided to put together a DC Villains/Arkham group for comic con. I decided to volunteer Livewire.

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Comic Book Movie

Friday night I did some reading up on Livewire’s history. She was a character originally created for the Superman animated series and in the comics she teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. So that boiled down my Saturday agenda to three points: pick on any Kryptonians I run into, fight the Flash, and hang out with DC’s more well-known female villains.

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It took about half an hour for everyone to arrive, but that was long enough for me to get my picture taken at the booth, bump into some friends at the Star Wars photo meetup, and start getting into character. I pointed out to our Batman, Travis, that Livewire wasn’t even at Arkham Asylum but she was still the first in the group to show up. But it was definitely worth the wait. In the end, we had a group that included Captain Boomerang, origins Joker, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, Black Mask, and Batman.

Brady LeSeur/Facebook

There was a whole group of DC Supervillains walking the con floor on Saturday. Not all of them were well known, but the selection of characters and quality of costumes was impressive.

We crashed the booths of the local charity groups Kids Heroes, Heroic, and Legacy.

Brady LeSeur/Facebook

And of course we got stopped by a lot of other DC heroes and villains and even just fans. We were THE group to get a photo with.

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Alexandra Marie Self/Facebook

The group probably wasn’t together for more than an hour or so. It was kind of a different experience, being a DC Villain. For one thing, it wasn’t half as fun without the group around me. I found myself geeking out over characters I normally don’t pay much attention to, notably Joker and Harley Quinn and a lot of DC characters I wouldn’t otherwise give the time of day to!

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But of course I couldn’t pass up this super-cute Joker and Harley!

Having two episodes in a TV series you’ve seen once isn’t a lot to go on. Furthermore, Livewire/Leslie Willis is a crude shock jockey who wants revenge for losing her job and becomes homicidal–not exactly traits I relate to. I tried to spice up my experience by saying “zap zap” to people around me. But it comes down to simply I don’t know the character as well as, say, Voldemort or Darth Vader—I’m not as emotionally invested. Being into Supergirl isn’t the same as being in the whole DC fandom, but that’s okay—fandom is a spectrum of different experiences. What made the experience fun was being a villain and having a costume that required fun makeup and a wig (seriously, though: brown lipstick. Beat that).

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When you’re cosplaying and trying to be in character, that is going to affect who you interact with at a con and how you interact with other cosplayers. My friends would tell you I’m a sucker for roleplay. When you roleplay on the spot, either you already have something in mind or you make up stuff as you go.

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Saturday was my first time out in public as Livewire, and I was trying to figure out the character as I went along. It felt off interacting with Marvel or Disney or Harry Potter characters. There wasn’t really a lot of time to improvise a crossover, especially when a lot of people haven’t seen the show. So not really a lot of interacting with people on Saturday, sadly.

Naturally if you’re a DC villain, you want to fight DC heroes.

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Being Livewire, I took opportunities to get photos with and fight the Flash and Supergirl at every opportunity.  

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You also try to think of other characters that go well–or don’t go so well—with your superpower.  I did try to do lightning attacks on Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, but both of them were armed at the time so it didn’t exactly work.

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Not to mention it was Saturday and I was tired of straight-up everything. Most of the time it was just going around the con doing business as usual. But I kept looking for opportunities…and I was rewarded.

Livewire Action Figure. Based on the hit TV show Supergirl. Available Exclusively at Salt Lake Comic Con

Livewire Action Figure. Based on the hit TV show Supergirl. Available Exclusively at Salt Lake Comic Con

Don’t get me wrong: being a villain was a great opportunity to band together with other baddies. One thing that did pay off for me was running into my friend Matt Janovsky in his Deathstroke armor. We’re quite the team!

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I had a good experience being Livewire at Comic Con. I probably won’t wear it to a convention again, but I’m hoping there’ll be more occasions where the cosplay is a better fit. And I probably wouldn’t say no to a photoshoot.

Read More: The Jedi in Jeans at Salt Lake Comic Con

Salt Lake Comic Con in Review

Salt Lake Comic Con in Review

Who else is exhausted after three days of comic con goodness? Maybe you’re not exhausted now because hopefully you have had some time to recover. I’ll bet you were exhausted on Saturday night when you got home. Maybe I’m just saying that because I was so tired. I always am after Salt Lake Comic Con, but it’s always worth it.

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My 11 Favorite Stranger Things

While my wife and I were waiting in the delivery room for our sixth child (yes, sixth) to be born, I was looking for some kind of distraction to pass the time until the little guy arrived. We had brought along our laptops and iPads just for this sort of situation. It seemed like this delivery was taking longer than we thought it would, and I was beginning to get anxious, so I turned to Netflix.  I had finished most of the shows I had been watching, so I was looking for something new and good to watch. That’s when I turned to Stranger Things. I had heard people talk about it or read about it online, so I thought I would give it a try. After about five minutes I was hooked.

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The Geeky Mormon’s Guide to Salt Lake Comic Con

Salt Lake Comic Con is less than two weeks away, and it is the biggest geeky event here locally each year. I am excited to be going again this year and joining in the fun with the local geek community. I thought this would be a good time to take a look at the convention and what to expect. Maybe you’ve been before, or maybe this is your first time. Maybe you are going alone or in a group or with kids. However you will be attending the convention, I hope this post will be helpful.

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The Future of Captain America

We’ve have a few months to marinate. The hype and overreactions are over. We’ve had a little while to step back and evaluate Captain America: Civil War. The spoilers are out. So what comes next? It concluded the Captain America trilogy, but the story of Steve Rogers–the man who carried the mantle of Captain America–is far from over. Some of the ideas I will be sharing are things I heard at two Captain America panels at Salt Lake Comic Con FanX back in March.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: My Reaction

One of the biggest things that has happened this summer for Potterheads everywhere has been the debut of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Along with the play debuting in London, Scholastic has also released the script in hardback form. This play is being advertised as the eighth Harry Potter story, and is a sequel to the seven books previously released in the series. On Good Reads, The Cursed Child is getting mixed reviews, and a lot of fanshave been very vocal about what they did not like about it. I personally gave it four stars out of five, and I stand by that. This post will explain why.

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Have You Seen These Awesome Trailers?

It’s a wonderful time to be a geek right now. Lots of wonderful movies are coming out. In the last few weeks we’ve gotten a handful of awesome trailers from Star Wars Celebration Europe and San Diego Comic Con International. These are the ones for the things I’m most excited for.

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Star Trek Beyond: My Review

I know this is over a week later than it should be, and I’m sorry. Star Trek Beyond hit theaters on July 22, and being a huge Star Trek fan, I should have been first in line to see it, and I wanted to be. There were a few things that kept me from seeing it right away, and then writing about it right after I saw it. OK, not a few things, but one thing, or one person. The weekend Star Trek Beyond came out was the same weekend that our sixth baby was born. So, I was a little busy, and as much as I love Star Trek, the baby had to take priority.

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