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‘Star Wars Memories: My Time in the (Death Star) Trenches’ – Book Review

Over the past four decades, there have been hundreds of non-fiction books written about all aspects of Star Wars: making-of stories, behind-the-scenes accounts, scholarly analyses, picture books, encyclopedias, biographies, and so on. While this gives the impression that everything that could possibly be said about Star Wars has been said, there’s always a new text that shines a new light or perspective on the beloved franchise.

Craig Miller’s Star Wars Memories: My Time in the (Death Star) Trenches is one such book that proffers new illumination on Star Wars, specifically around The Empire Strikes Back. Miller, who worked at Lucasfilm from 1977 (shortly after the original film had been released) to 1980 (the Friday after The Empire Strikes Back was released) as the Director of Fan Relations, brings in a unique and fresh perspective by offering personal anecdotes during his tenure at the company.

While at Lucasfilm, Miller performed a variety of roles to not only help promote Star Wars, but to keep fans informed and engaged. This included traveling the world to different genre conventions giving presentations on Star Wars, creating the official Star Wars fan club and associated Bantha Tracks newsletter, setting up a 1-800 number to promote The Empire Strikes Back (that subsequently brought AT&T down to their knees), and penning press material. Miller provides insight into these tasks, such as how fan mail was handled, how he dealt with movie theaters that were reluctant to show/promote Star Wars, how genre conventions operated back in the day, and how production worked when Star Wars characters appeared in other avenues such as the beoved children’s program, Sesame Street, and TV commercials. He also provides great insight into Lucasfilm company culture and office politics at the time, as the company’s offices moved about and brought in new personnel in response to Star Wars becoming a behemoth.

In addition to corporate stories, Miller peppers Star Wars Memories with personal and amusing stories, such as pranking Mark Hamill with a death scene, fielding convention questions such as, “What happens to the Star Wars opening crawl as it flies into space?”, playing Asteroids against Steven Spielberg much to the chagrin of his assistant, and making a parody radio announcement about his boss, Sid Ganis. Miller even devotes a few sections to activities outside Star Wars, such as developing promotion of the cult horror film, The Wicker Man.

Welcome additions to Star Wars Memories are interviews that Miller conducted with Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, and George Lucas. Originally recorded on tape to be used as part of Bantha Tracks, Miller found his forty-year-old tapes and had them salvaged, transcribed, and presented in his book. Ford’s and Daniels’ interviews are the two biggest highlights, both being extremely in-depth and detailed with each actor diving into what it was like working on Star Wars and playing their characters.

If there are any recommendations to strengthen Star Wars Memories, there would be only two. First would be to devote a passage or two as to why Miller chose to leave Lucasfilm. While Miller spends time providing insight into his other adventures, projects, and accomplishments post his employment at Lucasfilm, the big mystery as to his departure remains absent from Star Wars Memories. Secondly (and easily fixed in the instance of a second edition) would be employing an editor to solve any pesky grammatical issues found within the volume.

Despite these two recommendations, Miller’s book is a quintessential text for a Star Wars library, and its timely publication during the release the sequel trilogy couldn’t be more fortuitous. With the release of the last three Star Wars films (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker), Star Wars fandom has become increasingly divided, with a minor, yet vocal, segment acting as gatekeepers, harassers of cast and crew, and doing other counterproductive (or outright nefarious) activities. Miller’s book underscores the importance of fandom in Star Wars, and in its own way, acts as a call to a return to positive aspects of fan culture: having fun, enjoying the movie, sharing them with others, and being supportive of others and the films. Star Wars Memories both reinvigorates being a Star Wars fan while at the same time providing a new and unique perspective to Star Wars/Lucasfilm history.

Creative Team: R. Craig Miller (writer)
Publisher: Fulgens Press
Click here to purchase.


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