Already I anticipate the dreaded question for any writer not born with invincible instincts–so what? You’ve written you best, made your arguments, they stand up, and yet the reader finds herself asking, yeah, but so what? Your right. But who cares?
It so happens I love Star Wars, even though it’s partially a guilty pleasure because so much of it is bad. But there’s more magic in Star Wars than there is in Lord of the Rings, and perhaps even in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books. There is no Force in Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones (more properly referred to as A Song of Fire and Ice–the book series). There are no Jedi knights, no lightsabres, and no X-wing fighters to destroy any Death Stars. Mount Doom does not compare in ferocity with the Death Star. Anduril, with all its ability to summon the outcast undead warriors, Isildur’s oathbreakers, is no match for a single lightsabre in terms of sheer soul uplifting magic. Star Wars, for the sheer absurdity of the size of its fantasy world canvass (thousands upon thousands of worlds all part of one polity–how ludicrous!) invests itself with more potential for stories containing spirit transporting heroism and mysticism than any fantasy novel ever written. And I don’t even like George Lucas. This debate I will happily have at greater length with anyone on Earth who cares to write to me on this blog, but we have the magic of Y-wings to get to for now.
The Empire, with its glistening, polished helmets, perfectly ordered killing machines, the storm troopers, and Sith leadership is an evil so great and monolithic and anti-democratic that we might use it to compare with any such regime that exists on our world, whether they be corporate, like Microsoft, or political, like Russia or North Korea. The Empire always seemed to me to have the most limitless of budgets, and so their TIE fighters and imperial walkers seemed so powerful. Against a hegemonic force that taxed the known galaxy itself for its weapons and fighters we have the Rebel Alliance’s workhorse fighter/light bomber the Y-wing fighter, a collection of aging, long ago manufactured fighters that have, through years of maintenance and constant repair, come to the point where no one fighter offers the same repair and maintenance challenges as another. They are glued together with chewing gum in some places. And yet, they are favourites of Rebel pilots because, like the bombers of WWII Allied pilots, their craft will weather damage that would leave newer, shinier fighters in ashes. They are dead reliable war machines that don’t even have their armour any longer; it was removed up to the very cockpit of the ship to make repairing the crafts easier, with repair crew deciding it was easier to simply upgrade the shields and cast off armour.
Enough already, its time for a show.
Junkyard-worthy fighters, or so they appear. But they carry magazines of proton torpedoes, twin forward laser cannons, and pointing askew, the seldom operative ion-cannons (guns that freeze the operations of any ship they hit). When many people think of the Rebel Alliance, they think of the X-wing fighter. But they were the secondary attack craft in the assault on the Deathstar, carrying only two proton torpedoes apiece, because they were not assumed to be as likely to make it to their targets as the venerable Y-wings. What are the Rebels? Desperate but threatening to the Empire, and working with donated ships in rough shape, with the exception of Incom corporation’s twenty or so prototype X-wing ships and design specs. The Rebels are make-do. Get by. Make-it -happen-somehow fighters. The Y-Wing symbolizes this difference between the budgets of the brutal Empire and the Rebel Alliance.
Let me teach you a cool new term. Greebling. I’ve probably used the term before in reference to another build. Greebles are the minor details present on the surface of a build that hint at the functions underlying them deep in the build’s recesses. To the designer, they may be little more than meaningless embellishment–icing flowers on a wedding cake. But they convey a great deal of magic and are full of meaning. To the Y- wing, they show us how many crucial starfighter systems have been left to the mercy of mere deflector shields without the armour to intercept a laser cannon blast. I love greebling, and the Y-wing fighter has more greebling, or ship “guts,” than any other ship I’ve ever seen. It won my heart with greebling. Greebling showed me how the Y-wing was the stripped down old ship that would score knockout punches on the enemy every time.
This begins to lead me to the “who cares” point of the Y-wing. Because it has so much greebling to distinguish its appearance, there is that much more of a challenge in scaling down all that detail into smaller and smaller versions of the same ship. Before, in my last article about Godzilla, I talked about essence, and the incomparable value of essence in a build or fiction concept, and why it could not inhere in an entire show or world, but more likely showed up in a hotel, a ship, a weapon, a priestly character, or a pauper. The Y-Wing is the shared essence of the Rebel Alliance. The X-wing is simply too storied and heroic to be dismissed as other than an equal, but I’ve bought every Lego incarnation of the Y-wing ever released by Lego and let several X-wing iterations go unpurchased. The reasons I have stated; the Y-Wing is more the Rebel’s style than any other ship except perhaps the cobbled together T-47 snowspeeders.
Essence. That’s everything to me. What lies behind the special effects and writing and storytelling. What is the essence of the concept? And at the risk of preaching, essence doesn’t lie in anything as big as a world, usually (there must be exceptions), but in the smaller brighter, more concentrated things that give the world its flavour.
Now let’s reduce this glorious machine still further and see if the essence of the thing remains, or is lost to shrinkage.
Now, the evidence is all in. I’m going to show some close ups of the micro ship to judge if the Y-wing is gone or yet lives. Afterwards, I’ll show a collage of my favourite ship, the midi-scale (one smaller than the biggest Lego-designed ship).
And now some shots of the midi-scale ship I so love in a row.
So, all the evidence is in, and I have either made my case or not. You will all have your differing opinions. I think all the ships captured the essence of the Y-wing, from 28 bricks to 505 bricks.
I also hope I’ve managed to tell you all why you should care if I’ve made my point or not. Essence is always my metre stick to deciding whether an idea or concept and its realization have merit or not. There can be no merit unless the original concept has merit, and there may not be merit if the artistic execution of the concept is flawed, undernourished, or inept, even though the original concept be sound. There are two tests that must be passed by someone like me who dares to reverse-engineer a species of the world of magic and wonder like the Y-wing or Godzilla. Did you achieve an accurate, faithful inspiration by the essence of the concept, and did you succeed in execution of the form of that concept?
I’ve enjoyed these posts, folks. I hope you have too.
Good news. I’ve done enough work on this blog now to be able to open it up to guest posters who would like to write for this blog and submit their Lego work for my audience to appreciate.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss what you’d like to submit to my blog.