Category Archives: Star Wars

There Is Another.

A reviewer for The Washington Post once remarked that when it comes to choosing biographical subjects, I seemed to have a fondness for “slightly off-center American geniuses.” I liked that a lot, and I have to say that’s actually very true. And if I had to get even more specific, I’d say my particular proclivity — at least at the moment — would seem to be for Enigmatic American Pop Culture Icons. Once you’ve done Washington Irving and Jim Henson, then, I think the next one should be obvious.

With that in mind, then, I’m thrilled to finally Officially Announce The Subject of My Next Book:


C’mon, I don’t really have to tell you who that is, do I?

It’s George Lucas. And if I hit all my marks, you should have it in your hands in the Spring of 2016.

Project Blue Harvest Revealed

…well, not quite.  But for those of you who keep kindly asking me, “What are you doing next?”  . . . you’ll have your answer shortly. In the meantime, I’ll take a moment to address the next most popular question, which is: “What’s the first Beatles song to feature an Epiphone Casino guitar?”*

Ha ha! No, actually, it’s “What is this ‘Project Blue Harvest’ reference anyway?”

(My fellow Star Wars nerds can stop reading and come back tomorrow.)

Back in the early 1980s, when George Lucas was hard at work on Return of the Jedi — the final installment of the Star Wars series, until later, when it wasn’t — speculating on the plot of the final film was something of a parlor game.  Would Han Solo survive? (rumors were that he wouldn’t, since Harrison Ford now had the Indiana Jones franchise and was on his way to making Serious Films) Was Darth Vader really Luke’s father? (many argued that Vader had lied, and that some sort of change-up was coming down the line in the final film) Who was this other hope Yoda spoke of? (Leia?  Chewbacca? Or, god help us, the hopelessly cheesy Lando?)  To keep information from leaking out — and to throw nosy reporters and fans off the scent — Lucas and his film makers began production on Jedi under a fake working title, a horror film called Blue Harvest (tagline: “Horror Beyond Imagination!”) As Jedi producer Howard Kazanjian said later:

When shooting Jedi in the United States, we called the film Blue Harvest. Camera slates, invoices, hotel reservations, call sheets, production reports, and crew hats and T-shirts all read Blue Harvest. So when a visitor would ask, ‘what are you shooting’ and we said Blue Harvest, they went on their way. Can you imagine what would have happened if we had said, ‘We’re shooting the next film in the Star Wars trilogy’?

In fact, if you watch the special features on the Indiana Jones DVD boxed set, you’ll see Steven Spielberg in one scene wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with a Blue Harvest logo.  And I want one.

Anyway, since the publication of Washington Irving: An American Original in 2008, I’ve been pursuing another project, involving those Really Amazing People you keep hearing me talk about.  But until we could all make it come together, I promised them — and myself, since like most writers, I’m a notorious jinx — that I would keep quiet about it.  For a while, then, when asked what I was working on, I would hem and haw and deflect or say I wasn’t really sure.  Eventually, however, I settled into admitting that, yes, I did have a project I was pursuing, which I started referring to as “Project Blue Harvest.” And it just sort of stuck.

So, given the origins of the name, then, you might rightly ask if my project has anything to do with Star Wars?  Am I, perhaps, pursuing a biography of George Lucas?

The answer is:  No. While there is a remote Star Wars connection, my subject is not George Lucas.  It’s someone even more exciting than that. And I’ll tell you who it is this later this week.

* It was “Ticket to Ride,” and the jangly opening was actually played by Paul McCartney, on a left-hand strung six string.  Now you know.

Sailing to Philadelphia

On Wednesday, March 5, I had the great pleasure of making an appearance at the Central Library branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia — a really terrific venue, as you can see in the photo below. It’s one of those old library buildings (this one dates from the 1920s) that looks like the set of an old movie.

I took the train up to Philadelphia, only about an hour and some change away from the BWI station here in Maryland. The 30th Street station in Philly also looks like something off of an old movie set, with a departures/arrivals sign that still uses rolling numbers to indicate what time and at which gates trains are arriving, and the numbers flicker past with an audible whirr.

My reading wasn’t until 7:00 p.m., so my 10:24 a.m. arrival in Philadelphia left me plenty of time to do . . . well, something. I was considering heading straight for the library and spending the day just reading when I saw hanging above the south doors an enormous black banner advertising STAR WARS: THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE IMAGINATION over at the Franklin Institute. Decision made.

I found the Franklin Institute — which happened to be cattycorner to the Central Library — paid my sheckels, and headed straight for the exhibit. C-3P0 and R2-D2 (or, as it was always spelled in the Star Wars comics, Threepio and Artoo) stared down at me from another enormous banner, practically begging me to step inside. Who am I to ignore the icons of my childhood? In I went.

And I loved it. Much of the exhibit was geared towards hands-on exhibits for the younger set (“Build your own hovercraft using electromagnets!” one sign dared — this was, after all, a science exhibit) but to me, the real goods were the models and costumes. There was the actual landspeeder from the movie (on three wheels, ready for driving!), costumes for Threepio, Artoo, Darth Vader, and a Stormtrooper, even a display of their guns (though to my disappointment, Han Solo’s way cool pistol was not included).

Oh, and there was also this:

It doesn’t get much cooler than a four-foot model of the Millennium Falcon (or “Fulcun” as Harrison Ford — and even the model builders in the accompanying video — always pronounced it). My museum experience was complete.

As for the event I came for . . . well, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer, more responsive crowd. I spoke for about 30 minutes (hey, they came on a Wednesday evening, and I wanted to give them their money’s worth), mainly about Irving’s work on A History of New York and the hoax he pulled off to promote the book, then took questions for an hour. (The first question I got: “How come they don’t teach us this in school?” I couldn’t answer it.) All in all, a good time all around.

I walked back to the train station (passing on Market Street the first adult movie theater I can remember seeing in years) and was lucky enough to catch an earlier train back to Maryland than the one I had reserved. I made the 70 minute drive back home, finally crawling into bed around 1 a.m. And I still had to get up for work the next morning.

My thanks to everyone who came out to see me on their Wednesday night — and a special thanks to Lee Fishman at the Philadelphia Library for helping make the event possible.