“Always in motion is the future” – Yoda
By: Danny J. Smith
Now that it has been almost two months since the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I wanted to write about my experience in the months leading up to it, my experiences during opening weekend, and my experience since the release.
I never expected to be more than an observer in the Star Wars fandom. I didn’t necessarily want to be more an observer either. As I explained in my first blog post (which you can find HERE), it was seeing all of the hate and vitriol in other forums that prompted me to create The Alliance of Star Wars Fanatics. What started off as something for fun, something that mostly served to give myself a peaceful place to discuss the franchise I love so much, has turned into something truly special, and something that many people would consider to be the gold standard of Star Wars discussion groups.
Once I had a few like-minded people in place as administrators to help me, the group has flourished into what is now an entire social network of over 7,000 followers, and this amazing website. Choosing to do this at a time when we were getting the first Star Wars movie in ten years was something I hadn’t really even thought of until after it was done. I would say more than 50% of the discussion from June to December and since has been entirely focused on either The Force Awakens, a novel or short story from the post-Return of the Jedi era, or implications and theories concerning the future in Episodes VIII and IX. What a ride it was each day, maintaining order in a group of thousands of excited fans. The first official full length trailer dropped during a Monday Night Football game in October, and it completely blew mostly everyone away. Finally hearing some of the new characters talk, seeing Kylo without his helmet, it was all so much to take in. I must have watched that epic trailer over a hundred times in the next two months, savoring each and every frame.
Time passed quickly, more quickly than I thought it would. Before I knew it, it was time. I and the other admins had stated that we will go live with discussion right away, without the need for spoiler tags. This is because we are a group of fanatics, and we firmly believe that it is the responsibility of the individual, and not the group to avoid spoilers. We were not posting them on our timelines, we were having a place to discuss what we had just seen, a closed, private Facebook group in which all members were given the knowledge in ADVANCE of our plan. This did not go as well as I had hoped, and although we will keep our stance of discussion right away, we will be making some tweaks for next time including warning all incoming members, and posting so much separately and in all existing threads that it will become annoying. Just like we deserve a higher class of group, we also deserve a place to discuss and release our excitement, right away, after the first showing. We also screened all posts after the world premiere to prevent members from being spoiled before the stated time of December 17th at 9:15pm EST, and in doing so, all admins who participated were spoiled on Han’s death. This is only to showcase that with today’s society, the responsibility MUST be on the individual to avoid closed, private groups. I am sorry for anyone who was spoiled as a result of our actions, however all were supplied with ample warning. That is all I will say on the subject and we will not be changing our policy.
Back to the fun: THE DAY HAD ARRIVED. December 17th, 2015. My brother Steve had taken buses all the up from Hatteras Island in North Carolina just to watch this with me. I had purchased the tickets two months before, on the first night they were available. What a rush that was, scrambling to try to get tickets before almost every ticket purchasing site crashed. Luckily, I was able to secure two tickets for the very first East Coast showing at the IMAX at AMC in Clifton, NJ. In retrospect, I wish it had been at the newer AMC in Paramus, but I jumped on the tickets that were showing up. IT was raining hard when I picked by brother up from the bus stop, but nothing could hinder our excitement at that point. We got to the theater about five hours early, and only about ten people were already in line waiting. A combination of weather and amount of people led the staff to let us into the theater to pick out our seats, so we were free to come and go as we pleased.
We killed some time by getting some food, but it was still about 3 or 4 hours until showtime. There were only about 20 people total in the theater so far, but we started having conversations with some of them. Some of the conversations were typical: Han shooting first, the other Special Edition changes, Jar Jar, the prequels. However, the best conversations were the ones that spanned generations. There were fathers bringing their children to see their first Star Wars in theaters. Children who were under the age of ten, and have grown up watching six Star Wars films, just as I grew up watching three. Sure, there were some saying: “This better be better than the prequels”, but for the most part it seemed as if everyone loved all six, even if they loved the originals more. One thing was certain, everyone was excited as the minutes ticked by.
I can’t tell you how much fun it is, when the lights go out, and the cheers start from a packed IMAX theater. We were so excited we actually booed when the previews played, because we were all there for the thing that we had waited a long, long time to see. Finally, we saw the Lucasfilm logo. Goosebumps and tears came instantly for many, including myself. Was it strange not having the Fox fanfare? Sure, but it was quickly forgotten when the music started, and reality hit that we were finally watching this glorious movie. I had an ear-to-ear grin throughout the whole movie, it was funny, and heartbreaking, and like any good Star Wars movie (which is all of them, by the way), it leaves you with so many questions, and wanting more. The lines wrapped around the building when we left, and we drove home in a mostly silence and blissful glee of our experience.
Now it has been about two months, and life has somewhat returned to normal. My professional life has seen a fantastic promotion, and that has led to me not being as active as I was in the beginning. But I have the utmost confidence that the Admin team put in place, knowing they are every bit as dedicated to strengthening the fan base as I am. The Alliance of Star Wars Fanatics grows larger by the day, and we are attempting to bring you more fun in the coming months, including our work with Jeremy Williamson, and the hilarious Star Wars Expose podcast, and look out for yours truly on The Galactic Roundtable podcast with Pete Wadsworth later this month.
I never imagined being a part of the fan base to this extent, and I am forever grateful to everyone who has helped me, and stood with me in having a place of dedicated respect to this franchise which has made all of our lives better by existing. Guess what? We get to do this every year for the foreseeable future too!
Stay tuned for all the fun this year, and give us suggestions as well. This isn’t our property, the Alliance of Star Wars Fanatics belongs to YOU, and as you know, “Always in motion is the future.”
Danny J Smith is the creator of The Alliance of Star Wars Fanatics Facebook Group, Co-Founder of The Alliance Group, along with all their associated properties.