Happy Birthday, George

Hello, all. Justin here. If someone were to ask me who my creative heroes were, who inspired me and made me want to be a storyteller myself, I could rattle off a laundry list of names for them. People like Robert Heinlein, Joss Whedon, Stephen King, Gene Roddenberry, and Bill Willingham would all feature very highly on that list. Each one of them has impacted me creatively, sometimes personally. But, there is one person above all others who shaped me and helped make me who I am today, and that person is George Lucas.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Everybody hates the guy now. Once upon a time he was the god all geeks worshiped, but after the prequels (and really, I think starting with “Return of the Jedi”) his star fell from the cultural firmament, and he became a bit of a joke. Now most people say his name with scorn, if not outright hatred. You won’t get that from me, though. No sir. All you’ll get from me is love and appreciation for the man.

You see, I will never forget that it was George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” that first hit my young brain and woke it up to the possibility of myth and story. I remember watching the movie as a child, marveling at the space battles, the sword fights, the music, the emotion, the drama. I remember the fear I felt at seeing Vader walk into that smokey spaceship corridor, the elation at Luke’s swing over that chasm, the childlike affection for Princess Leia. I was five years old when “Star Wars” came out, and I was never the same afterward.

And then came “The Empire Strikes Back,” which took everything I loved about “Star Wars” and rose them to new heights. I wasn’t as big a fan of “Return of the Jedi,” but I still appreciated the story Lucas was telling, and watching Anakin redeem himself was the perfect end to the trilogy. But the train didn’t stop there. After that came an endless procession of comic books, video games, and novels. The Star Wars universe had no end to it, and I found myself exhilarating in so much of it. Whether it was the “Knights of the Old Republic” games, or the Thrawn trilogy, or the “Dark Empire” comics, there was always something new for my creative spirit to hold close and draw strength from, and none of that would have been possible if it weren’t for what Lucas created. Say whatever you like about how he handled the prequel trilogy, none of that takes away from the fact that the man created an entertainment empire (pardon the pun) that has thrilled and excited hundreds of millions of people for over thirty years. Not many people can make that same claim. He is the wellspring from which all this started. I owe him more than I can ever say. I am who I am — for better or worse — because once upon a time George Lucas wrote the words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”

Happy Birthday, George. I hope you have many more to come.

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