At long last, there has been an awakening... "Star Wars" is cool again! Some of us nerf herders and laser brains have been waiting for this for years, and now that "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is the number one movie across the globe -- and it's actually good on top of that! -- it's nice to be so invested in a universe that the entire world is currently rallying around.
But for those of you who've only just discovered the magic that is "Star Wars," getting hardcore into the fandom can seem like a super daunting task. After all, there's already 40 years of history to get caught up on, and that's not even including all of the Expanded Universe stuff that doesn't count in the main movie timeline anymore. What's a newbie to do?
If you need more "Star Wars" in your life like you need air and don't know where to begin beyond "The Force Awakens," then don't worry. We've got you. Here's a by-no-means exhaustive list of all the cool things you can read, play, watch and do to fuel your new obsession.
First, watch "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" again.
After all, there's probably a lot in there that you missed the first time around. Always worth a repeat viewing!
Then, clearly you have to watch all the other movies for backstory, right?
"The Force Awakens" is pretty great even if you don't know what the galaxy was like 30 years ago, but having seen all the previous movies definitely helps! If you're doing a marathon session, I personally recommend the Machete method -- you start with "A New Hope" and "Empire Strikes Back" and then sandwich the prequel trilogy in the middle before coming back to "Return Of The Jedi." That way, if you're watching them with brand new viewers who have no idea who Luke is and isn't related to, you can preserve some of the bigger twists -- and if you're one of those people who gets frustrated by the prequels, you'll have the final Leia-and-Han-filled installment to look forward to at the end of your viewing.
Maybe even try to get your hands on the Despecialized Editions, too.Lucasfilm
If the first time you ever watched the original three "Star Wars" movies was between 1997 and now, then you saw a very different set of films than the ones that premiered in theaters. That's because George Lucas famously fiddled with his iconic trilogy to add in more special effects and sync them up with the prequel trilogy -- and then never released the originals on DVD or Blu-Ray.
However, a dedicated group of fans led by "Harmy" have reconstructed the original versions of the movies in high definition, which you can download for free online. Even if you're not a purist who firmly believes that Han shot first, it's cool to see how the original special effects were designed. They actually hold up pretty well!
Then you can read all of the official novelizations for even more immersion.
Many of the novelizations for the "Star Wars" movies are full of little moments that don't exist in the movies, either because they were cut from the shooting script or were added in by the authors later. The "TFA" one is full of some especially great details -- for example, Kylo Ren totally recognizes Rey from somewhere...
Also, check out the "Star Wars" radio play.Lucasfilm
Want to be able to listen to "Star Wars" on the go? In the '80s, NPR commissioned a series of radio dramatizations based on the first two movies, and while only Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, and Anthony Daniels were able to reprise their roles, a bunch of other amazing actors stepped in too, including John Lithgow as Yoda (??). A third installment was also made in 1996, but of the original cast only Anthony Daniels was involved.
Each story is told over the course of several hours, so you get plenty of fascinating backstory into Leia's mission, Luke's life on Tattooine, and more -- although none of it is considered canonical today, sadly. You can download the whole thing on Audible.
If you're looking for more "TFA" specific content, read "Star Wars: Before The Awakening" for all the juicy New Republic backstory you could ever want.Lucasfilm Press
Set before the events of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," this anthology features stories from the lives of Finn, Rey and Poe (his tale in particular features a long breakdown of what the Resistance is) before their paths all crossed. It's meant for readers aged eight to twelve, so it'll be a quick and easy read -- and one you can share with any younglings you know who are new to the ways of the Force.
Make sure you read the "Shattered Empire" comic mini-series, too!
Heck, just read all the new comics because they're great.Marvel Comics
Marvel recently re-obtained the rights to publish "Star Wars" comics once again, and last year they've really hit the ground running with all kinds of awesome books. There's "Star Wars," an ongoing series that takes place between the first movie and "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Darth Vader," another ongoing series that follows our favorite Sith Lord as he navigates the day-to-day bureaucracy of the Empire. There've also been mini-series for Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, and Kanaan from "Star Wars Rebels," with even more on the way in 2016.
If you have Marvel Unlimited, which is sort of like a premium Spotify account but for comics, you'll be able to read all of these issues six months after they're published and sold in brick and mortar stores. If that's too long to wait, you can also catch up with them via Marvel Digital Comics or by seeking out the paperback trade editions.
And all the other books, too!Lucasfilm Press
"Star Wars" is pretty well known for its massive Expanded Universe of stories beyond the films, and while the new movie continuity is starting from scratch, it's already got a lot of side-material you can pour over.
First there's "Aftermath," a story by Chuck Wendig that features a imperial soldier (and the first gay hero of "Star Wars") who flees the Empire after the events of "Return Of The Jedi." Then there's "Lost Stars," A YA romance novel by Claudia Grey about two star crossed lovers on opposite sides of the Rebellion. And if you're down for more "Star Wars" regardless of reading level, there are also a bunch of short books about Leia, Luke and Han, as well as a bunch of awesome short stories available for $2 each on Kindle.
Binge watch "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," plus the "Clone Wars" movie.
Common cultural consensus dictates that the prequels are irredeemable garbage and Anakin Skywalker is The Literal Worst™ -- but "The Clone Wars," an animated series that takes place between "Attack Of The Clones" and "Revenge Of The Sith" does a great job making you sympathize for the guy, along with all his Jedi pals that you know are going to end up dead eventually. It's all available on Netflix, so get cracking!
Don't forget "Star Wars Rebels!"
Created by the same people who brought us "The Clone Wars," "Rebels" follows a group of Rebellion fighters five years before the events of "A New Hope." Its second season is currently airing on Disney XD, and you can watch earlier episodes on DVD.
If you're really adventurous, you could even dip your toe into the "Star Wars Legends" pool.
Remember how I said that most of the "Star Wars" Expanded Universe doesn't really matter anymore? That doesn't mean there aren't some amazing stories in there that are definitely worth reading -- which is why they're still being published, just under the "Star Ware Legends" banner. You'll have to shut off the shared universe part of your brain and pretend you're reading an alternate reality version of "Star Wars," because that's basically what the old EU is now, but trust me: it's worth it effort.
By far the most celebrated EU series is the Thrawn trilogy, a set of three books written by Timothy Zahn that pick up five years after "Return Of The Jedi." Ever seen someone on Twitter loudly complain that the new movies won't have any Mara Jade in it? (Ahem, guilty as charged) This is the series where she first originated, along with a number of other iconic EU characters that captivated readers for decades. In it, our heroes face off against the Imperial Remnant, which is sort of like the First Order but a little scrappier, and their leader Grand Admiral Thrawn -- picture Sherlock Holmes but blue and also evil. It makes for some seriously great reading.
And if you're a total masochist, watch the "Star Wars Holiday Special."CBS
It's a laughably, hilariously bad TV special that only aired once, in which Chewbacca's Wookiee family sits around and waits for him to come home and celebrate "Life Day" with them. If you're a diehard "Star Wars" fan who loves terrible movies and Bea Arthur in equal measure, this'll be your new fave. Unfortunately it's never been commercially released, but you can find it in its entirety on Youtube. Don't say we didn't warn you.
Play some video games!
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" characters only appear in one game so far, "Disney Infinity 3.0" -- and while all those figures are great, buying all of them on top of a console game might be a bit cost prohibitive for some people. But if you're jonesing for any and all "Star Wars" there's also plenty of games to choose from. "Star Wars Battlefront" is the latest, but you can also go back to older non-canonical games like "Knights Of The Old Republic," "The Force Unleashed" and the "Jedi Knight" series, many of which take place in the Expanded Universe and are available on Steam. If you've ever wanted to use the Force for yourself, here's your best chance at it -- although it's not the only way to wield a lightsaber...
Go to Jedi training.Lucasfilm
Yep, this is a real thing you can actually do -- if you live within driving distance of the New York Jedi, at least. Their pool of dancers, martial artists, and cosplayers teach weekly lightsaber choreography classes so you can hone your swordfighting skills.
Learn to meditate.Lucasfilm
OK, yes, not a "Star Wars" story, but it's the closest you'll ever get to actually feeling the Force flow through you. Plus, meditation has plenty of health benefits beyond making you feel like a Jedi -- it can reportedly help to reduce anxiety levels and regulate emotions, and some studies suggest it can even lower blood pressure. Either way, you're going to need a way to cope with all the emotions you have about "Star Wars."
Start crafting the "Star Wars" way!
Sure, you could just buy all the amazing "Star Wars" merch that exists, but it's so much more satisfying to make it yourself -- just ask Bonnie Burton, author of the "Star Wars Craft Book," where you can find instructions to make these adorable felt finger puppets. There's also a "Star Wars" crochet kit, "Star Wars" origami, and lots of other ways to create your own galaxy far far away for yourself.
Learn Huttese, plus a bunch of other languages.Lucasfilm
OK, so "Star Wars" languages aren't as robust as other fictional nerd languages like Klingon, Elvish and Dothraki -- most of them were invented by sound designer Ben Burtt. But you can learn some key phrases and vocabulary using Burtt's "Galactic Phrase Book And Travel Guide," which was published alongside the prequels in 2001. There's also The Complete Werno's Guide to Huttese, a website full of movie dialogue translations and a lot more.
Visit some of the real life locations of "Star Wars."NBC
That island at the end of "The Force awakens" is a real location in Ireland, but it's not the only place you can pack up and go see for yourself. There's also the Del Norte forest in California, which plays the role of the Forst of Endor in "Return Of The Jedi," and Tikal in Guatemala, where they filmed the end of "A New Hope." You can find lists of locations on Wikipedia and on IMDB.
Get yourself a ticket to Star Wars Celebration.Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The yearly convention is held in a different location all over the world, so if you're already thinking about traveling to London this summer, why not check out the 2016 Celebration while you're at it?
Finally, get involved in the fan community online.
Sure, it's fun to dive into a new franchise, but if you don't have anyone to squee with then what's the point? You can write your own fanfiction or draw your own fanart, but at the end of the day you need someone to share it with. Places like Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit, and Ao3 can be great for that. Just, you know, be cool of other peoples' ships and try not to get into any flame wars.