On May 9, 1977, I became a Star Wars fan. My brother-in-law had seen the film in April (I believe it was) of that year at a special pre-screening and had told me that I had to go see it. So I got a seat (after failing to get into the theatre on a couple of previous tries) and was totally blown away. Today, in a few hours, I get to go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
As a teen, I watched the first Star War movie some 35 times in the opening few months. I was interested in writing, and wanted to understand why the movie affected so many people in so many ways. Through my studies, I learned about things like resonance and the hero’s journey and writing for wide audiences. You can find much of that mentioned in my books on writing.
I also considered trying to get a job working at Industrial Light and Magic, so I began studying photography, emphasizing my work in special effects and macrophotography.
I made friends with folks in a writing group, most of whom were also huge Star Wars fans, and they encouraged me in my writing.
Eventually I was asked to write Star Wars novels for Bantam Books and Scholastic, and completed more than a dozen projects for them, which supplied a lot of money for my young family and really helped launch my career.
So, becoming a fan of a single work really helped direct the course of my life in literally hundreds of small ways.
In speaking with other writers, I find that all of us tend to be huge fans of one literary work or another, whether it be The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Shakespeare, Star Trek, Jane Austen, etc., and for each of us as fans, our love of some work or creator influences our own work.
I once had a literary critic suggest that the college professors and literary critics that comprise the “literati” are nothing more than “the fandom of the literary elite.” He’s right. Whenever you talk to one, you’ll find that they’re fans of Hemingway and Faulkner and Twain much in the way that I’m a fan of Tolkien or Star Wars. In fact, mea culpa, as I grew older I grew to love Shakespeare, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Steinbeck, and other great storytellers. Then I became fans of dozens of great poets—Yeats, Roethke, and Dickinson, then added painters and filmmakers and so on.
With each new author, actor, or creator that I discover, I deepen my understanding of the arts, of myself, and of humanity.
As we do so, we create fans of our own, and influence new generations of artists. I suspect that this new Star Wars movie is going to influence a vast audience of kids today. So I’ve put on my Yoda shirt, slept in late, and pretty much plan to dedicate the day to proudly geeking out.