Let’s Talk Robots

Back on April 13, 2016, I saw a comic book on the shelves that bewildered me. It was a special one-shot for Marvel’s Star Wars line called C-3PO: The Phantom Limband it explained how everyone’s favorite protocol droid acquired his mismatched red arm in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The $4.99 cover price killed any passing interest I may have had, and I imagine, judging by how big that stack of copies was week after week, I wasn’t alone. I mean, it’s C-3PO — who honestly wanted to read a threepio-centric comic book? Let alone pay five bucks for it?

c3po-comic1It made me think though. Some editorial decision was made to tell this tale. Someone convinced a group of executives that people cared about C-3PO, that this one-shot would muster sales. If The Phantom Limb‘s number four slot for April 2016 sales is any indication, that someone wasn’t entirely wrong, either. Sure, it sat on the shelf at the comic shop I frequent, but that doesn’t mean my shop is indicative of the national comic book market. It just means my local comic patrons and I weren’t interested. Why?

Because C-3PO is a 60-year-old protocol droid that was built by a child on a backwater planet.

Think about it. By the time the events of The Force Awakens roll around, Threepio is pushing 60 years of active service, if not more, and he’s still considered useful. That idea doesn’t make sense. As an effective droid, Threepio was outmoded the day he was built by a child. As we see in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, little Anakin Skywalker doesn’t have much to work with. The kid’s pretty handy when it comes to building machines, but he’s living as a slave on a backwater planet where everyone trades in hand-me-downs and used tech. There are no factories, no R&D laboratories, and no science facilities on Tatooine. The parts of the planet that aren’t unending stretches of desert populated by moisture farmers, jawas, and sandpeople are nothing more than cutthroat spaceports. Tatooine is so hostile and backwards, the Separatists would rather put a droid factory on Mustafar, a planet that’s really just one gargantuan active volcano.

The point is, C-3PO was never an elite model to begin with, and after 60 years of existence in a galaxy where technology is most likely in a constant state of flux and progression, Threepio never really stood a chance. There are thousands, millions, billions of stores across the expanse of the Star Wars universe packed with newer models that have way better specs than what C-3PO’s packing. They’re also developed by companies and professionals who specialize in robotics. Not kids. So why keep him around? Why not toss that old hunk of junk in the trash?



The big flaw in our thinking when it comes to robots in science fiction epics is that we place too much emphasis on them. Since we don’t have robots as cool as the ones seen in the movies, we think they’re important. But they’re not. Robots are nothing more than glorified smartphones, and in a universe as rich and vibrant as Star Wars, for example, they’re wholly disposable. We see this with the way the Separatists’ droid armies are wantonly slaughtered. The attitude among the Separatist leaders is to keep pushing forward, no matter how many dumb droids it takes. They can always build another one.

When you crack your phone, what happens? You buy another one. When a more powerful laptop comes out, what do you do with the old one? You sell it, toss it, or donate it. These machines hold no sentimental value for us, and as soon as they stop performing at peak efficiency, we get rid of them.  Part of this is due to how our society works. When a new piece of technology comes out, it starts off super expensive, but as more companies try to duplicate it and as our ability to cheaply and affordably build it improves, the market price drops. It becomes second-nature to just go out and purchase a new one. We don’t stop to think about all of the good adventures, fun nights, or memorable moments we shared with those devices. The outdated nature of the technology overrides any connection we may feel. Why would robots be any different?

One movie that takes this idea to heart is I, Robot. In the film, there are robots everywhere, many of which are performing the menial labors we can no longer be bothered with (like walking the dog or taking out the trash). When a new model rolls out, the older ones are dumped into a shipping crate somewhere and forgotten about. Out of sight, out of mind. It’s a cruel sentiment, especially since the machines in I, Robot sport human-looking faces, but it’s one we collectively share every single day.

Let me ask you something. What happened to your first iPod?

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Spring Updates!

DMAWith the impending nuptials coming up (in just over a week) and everything else I’m doing at the Literary Orphans fun factory, I haven’t had time to sit down and write for the personal site. That said, I do have a few fantastic updates to share, the biggest one being the Drunk Monkeys Anthology! My essay on Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is included in the anthology, which is available on Amazon in PRINT and EBOOK.

It’s truly a phenomenal honor to appear alongside such a wonderful line-up. Much respect and appreciation is owed to Matthew Guerruckey and the entire Drunk Monkeys staff. They’re wonderful, warm and friendly people, and I’m happy to call them both colleagues and friends. Whether we’re talking shop or racking our brains over comic books, it’s always a great time.



Star Wars, Updates & General News

I saw SPECTRE with my brother over the weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Before the film, however, the new trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens played. It was one of those rare moments in a theater where I was overwhelmed with emotion. When that slowed down version of Han and Leia’s theme hummed as the Millenium Falcon weaved through Imperial debris, I’ll admit, my eyes watered. I looked over at my brother, and I could see it in his eyes, too.

There we were, two grown men in a matinee showing of a James Bond film, succumbing to a flood of imagery reminiscent of another time, so very long ago.

I never thought I’d see the Millenium Falcon (or its crew) on the big screen again. After the original Star Wars trilogy ran in theaters for the last time in the mid 90’s, I thought that was it. No more. Finito. Finished. Adventures with my childhood heroes would be relegated to the whims of my imagination at home. I’d have to carry on the tales alone with my action figures or pretend when reading a piece of glorified fan fiction. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew and Billy Dee Williams were still around, but they had moved on to different things. Indefinitely.

But here they were again.

I know many people feel the same. The Internet is overflowing with reaction videos, blog posts and articles about this, and it all boils down to the same idea: our old friends are back.

They were a big part of our collective childhood. They were our heroes, teaching us the ways of the galaxy, the power of attitude and ability to reach out and overcome the impossible. These heroes were plucked from the richest well of imagination, and they were given to us to share visions of another way of experiencing the world around us. To put it simply, they brought us magic and the gift of perspective.



I’ve been away for some time, learning the ropes of my new promotion as manager of my copy department (at the day job). I’m back now, bringing with me a wonderful discussion with the fine folks at Drunk Monkeys about Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I’m not a fan of the prequels, but I do my best to make amends, to find peace with this lackluster trilogy.

I have more in the pipeline, too. At the end of the month, a “writing tips” column will pop up at Drunk Monkeys. With any luck, some more short stories should start appearing on the Internet.


GEEK PITCH: Star Wars Spinoff


We already have a Star Wars movie coming out about the theft of the original Death Star plans. It’s called Rogue One, and it’s been described as a “heist” film. Other than that, we have little to no details on the story, characters, or structure of the film. It’s doubtful Disney will utilize the Expanded Universe (now called Legends) as a source to pull ideas from on this endeavor, but that doesn’t mean fanboys and fangirls can’t dream. With that in mind, I’ve presented a fun film pitch below incorporating one of the Expanded Universe’s most legendary characters, Kyle Katarn, into this new Star Wars canon. This won’t be a dream pitch for Rogue One, mind you. It’s a pitch for an all-new film to fit alongside Rogue One and the rumored direction of the new trilogy.



Open on a prisoner in some remote Imperial facility. He’s a human, male, with brown, disheveled hair and a scraggly beard. Day in and day out this prisoner finds himself working in the mines, dreaming of a handful of times in the past when life was tolerable. One of his recurring visions is of a woman, a redhead whose name he never learned, with whom he boosted stolen goods on the lawless world of Nar Shaddaa. There was the briefest of intimacy between them, one that’s all but gone, looping itself like a waking nightmare as time blurs the days together. The only breaks in his mental torment are when some of the other human-hating inmates pick fights with him. He fights back some days. Other days, our protagonist takes the pain. Because it’s all he’s got left. His is a life sentence.

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Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope


“If the real world is a crisis of confidence and limitless possibility, Star Wars is the cure. It always has been. Since 1977, this film has been rousing the human soul from its slumber and demanding that it snuff out the silent acquiescence of fear. Because fear is the mind-killer. Because fear is the manifestation of evil.”

My Star Wars write-up is LIVE over at Drunk Monkeys today. This was one of my favorite film essays to write, and it was also one that took me forever. I wrote several different drafts before deleting them all and trying again, eventually consolidating all of my thoughts into this hopelessly optimistic reading of one of the greatest films ever made. Please read it. Please share it. Please enjoy.


UPDATE: The discussion around Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is now LIVE as well. In it, a few of us have an in-depth conversation about the film, its lasting impact, and key memories we took away. Check it out HERE.