I remember sitting in a cold, cavernous cinema with one of my aunts and one of my brothers when the first refrains of John Williams’s score for A New Hope thundered out across the theatre. Speechless I sat, wide-eyed and rapt, and watched a film that helped put my feet on the path to becoming a storyteller.
It was 1977 and I was 10 years old, going on 11. And I wanted to be a Jedi Knight.
Jedi. Knight. The name strikes a chord, evocative of bravery, mystic powers, chivalry, justice . . . and lightsabers. A modern telling of a classic role, the hero with the magic sword, fueled by honour, virtue and the desire to do right in the world. Here were space-faring versions of Merlin and Gandalf in old Obi-Wan Kenobi, the mentor and guardian. There were glimpses of Galahad, and other young idealists in the destiny-driven Luke. And the antagonists! Who could forget the ominous shadow of Darth Vader, broken and driven to terrible purpose? Or the evil of Grand Moff Tarkin, so lean it seemed as if all the good had been leeched out of him. What of the anonymous facelessness of the stormtroopers, or the crushing might of the Star Destroyers, or the Death Star? These were enemies that seemed so much larger than life, so insurmountable, that they called for nothing less than a dauntless hero to topple them.
The Jedi Knights are entrenched in our mythology now, and still hold a special place for me. I watch the Star Wars saga every year, the way I do The Lord of the Rings, and read Dune. There are some stories that stick with you. If somebody asked me today whether I’d still want to be a Jedi Knight, I’d have to say yes. But then again, I’m a sucker for heroes in their imperfect glory. It’s why I write them.
Mark Barnes lives in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of the epic fantasy Echoes of Empire series, published by 47North. The series includes The Garden of Stones and The Obsidian Heart. The Pillars of Sand is the third part of the series, and due for release in May 2014. You can find out more at www.marktbarnes.com, his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/marktbarnes.author, or follow Mark on Twitter at @MarkTBarnes.