This past week I joined Star Wars in the Classroom’s Rogue Spec Ops Team. To be included among a select group of Star Wars personalities – which includes Vanessa Marshall, Consetta Parker, John “Dak” Morton, Ryder Windham, and Bryan Young – is an honor. When Thomas Riddle approached me about the team, he spoke about an effort to promote STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math). As a professional engineer, my artistic training has been invaluable. Music gave me a better understanding of math, and my dance performance experience helped me face the challenge of important presentations for engineering projects. My science and engineering background also has provided some important tools for worldbuilding, blogging, and fiction writing. As a blogger, my scientific training has given me an advantage when posting about topics like the perpetuation of negative storytelling tropes and the value of female fans. Just like in engineering, I use hard data to contradict statements from publishers and showrunners that are based on perceptions, feelings, and sadly sometimes sexist values.
While FANgirl Blog is known as an opinion site, the educational pieces on the Heroine’s Journey and storytelling fuel thousands of hits a month. In my Rogues Team bio, I provided pieces from each of my contributors. On my upcoming-on-blog list – next to “write Spec Team announcement” – are articles on the history of Steampunk, reviews of fan academic books, and an interview with a female journalist who has covered the relationship of pop culture and societal issues. I expect they will all become part of the toolbox available on FANgirl that allows young minds to learn about storytelling, its history, and Star Wars while they are at it!
From my bio:
How I Use Star Wars in the Classroom (of Life)
I founded FANgirl Blog as a platform to ensure the high visibility of the perspectives of female fans as supporters and customers of the entertainment industry. Stories and our reaction to them are better understood by evaluating the social and historical context in which they are told. Because so many people are familiar with Star Wars, it is the perfect lens for effectively explaining important points about storytelling, characterization, franchise brand management, and fandom relations. I highlight these variables through my writing and also public speaking engagements like podcasts, convention panels, and library events.
In 1977, Star Wars was a truly transformative work that broke boundaries, most notably by its encapsulation of Campbell’s monomyth and with the groundbreaking character of Princess Leia. Since then, the art of storytelling remains an evolving process. Storytellers today, for example, cannot avoid confronting issues like the agency of female protagonists and the objectification of female characters; at the same time, the Hero’s Journey is adapting to a shift from ancient myths to modern values and archetypes as the driving core of character arcs. The relationship between a franchise, the creators who work for it, and the fans who financially support its existence as patron-customers is changing, as well. I truly believe enlightened fans are better fans and that education is a never-ending process. Using Star Wars as an educational tool makes learning all the more enjoyable.
Similarly, I have used situations within Star Wars fandom to address topics of special significance to female fans. Bullying is countered by uplifting responses from across fandom. Campaigns for more representation of female characters in toys and merchandise have gained support from a wide range of fans, too. Just as it is important to highlight successful women in STEAM careers to encourage girls and young women to pursue their dreams to the fullest, emphasizing the longstanding presence of female Star Wars fans throughout the franchise’s history also can inspire girls to dream of becoming storytellers or creators, actors or animators, and directors and producers. Several years ago, I spoke to a group of middle-school aged girls at a public library about my path from professional engineer to novelist. In addition to my own education and background, I was able to point to many Star Wars fans and VIPs who followed their dreams into amazing careers in film, television, fiction writing, and science.
FANgirl Blog (selected highlights):
- Agent of My Own Destiny: A Discussion of Character Agency
- What is Strong?
- Heroine’s Journey Series (by B.J. Priester)
- Why Do We Write The Things We Do?
- GeekGirlCon 2013: Deconstructing the Mary Sue Myth Panel Recap
- Finding What We Need: Native American Heroines and the Creation of Historical Myths (by Priya Chhaya)
- Kay Reviews William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return (by Kay)
- The Heroic Games – Defining Katniss (by Mary Sheridan)
- Sharing Star Wars: Skylar (by Linda Hansen-Raj)
Star Wars Insider (selected highlights):
- “Ruminations on Padme” (Feature article analyzing Padme Amidala’s importance in the Star Wars saga): Star Wars Insider #142 (July 2013) (p.28-35)
- “Leia: Princess of the People” (Feature article analyzing Princess Leia as a new type of movie heroine): Star Wars Insider #144 (Oct. 2013) (p.14-19)
- “The Art of Wars” (Feature article interviewing cultural critic Camille Paglia), Star Wars Insider #147 (Feb./Mar. 2014) (p.26-29)
- “Fangirls Flying High” (Feature article highlighting the active role of female Star Wars fans from the franchise’s beginning in 1977): Star Wars Insider #151 (Aug./Sep. 2014) (p.20-25)
Fangirls Going Rogue (selected episodes):
- Episode 2: Rebellious Fangirls Love Ewoks (and Listeners!) (including interview with Ashley Eckstein of Her Universe and Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
- Episode 5: Fangirls, Friendships, and Speaking Up For the Future (including interview with actress Clare Grant)
- Episode 6: Great Hera! What’s Behind The Mask? (including interview with Andrea Letamendi, Ph.D.)
For a complete list of writing credits and podcasts, visit my Appearances page at FANgirl Blog.
Tricia Barr’s novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library’s successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena’s Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.