Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina: “Greedo’s Tale,” Part 1

will: Welcome back all! It’s Friday, this is Force Visions, I’m Will, the person hyperventilating next to me is Z (the first concert is next week), and we’re here for the start of the second story in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, “A Hunter’s Fate: Greedo’s Tale.” This story is longer than “The Band’s Tale,” but honestly it’s also more forgettable, so we’ll try to keep it short-ish.

z: [hyperventilates]

will: This story was written by Tom and Martha Veitch. Tom is primarily a comic book writer, and he wrote all fourteen of the Dark Empire comic books (the original six, Dark Empire II, and Empire’s End), meaning that someday his work may well be featured in a The Fuck Were They Thinking? segment and will get a specific shout-out, more like a shout-down, when Tim Zahn comes back with a machete.

As to Martha–and yes, they’re married–this is her only credit in the Star Wars universe, and as far as I can tell, her only professional writing credit at all.

z: I didn’t know these people, and haven’t had any exposure to the Dark Empire comic books, which may change (see what we sacrifice for you, gentle readers). My initial thought at the byline was “…oh, the writers who drew the short straw.”

Because, well, writing about Greedo is a fool’s errand in many, many dimensions. I don’t envy them. And given what comes right now, neither does Will.

will:

“Oota goota, Greedo?”

I feel for Tom and Martha on this one, I do. The band had basically no personality in the movie, so Tyers could invent them. Greedo, though, had just enough personality, and enough lines (read: any), that they were working within a framework. Mostly one of “there’s the line everybody knows, and then he dies” (and remember, this was pre-Special Editions, so there was only one version of the death). So they had to start this way, but damn, it’s annoying.

Especially because it doesn’t really fit. (We know that translates as “going somewhere,” but here it sounds more like “where are you going,” which…is not the same thing.)

We’re not in Greedo’s head; we’re in that of his brother Pqweeduk, a young boy, exploring a jungle cave that turns out to have three metallic shapes inside that are obviously starships. We can’t tell for sure how old the boys are, but they’re clearly children (and we don’t yet have a time reference anyway), but they read like twelve-year-olds, if they were Human.

The Veitches give us another line of Rodian before switching to English, with Greedo encouraging his brother to explore; they look around, and Greedo (we’ve now switched to his head) feels like this is familiar, but that can’t be so–all he consciously remembers is his home in the jungle, his mother is a harvester and his uncles are ranchers and we get a long description of “Manka season” when the local jungle-cats are in heat and the grown men of the village shoot them if they get too close.

And we also get told that despite the mostly self-contained existence, there is talk of the wider galaxy, and Greedo feeling the pull of something bigger and knowing that what he’s found is a starship, and basically this is trying to do yet another farmboy-hero’s-journey setup.

z: And therefore immediately starts Not Working for me.

Trying to make Greedo relate-able (I can’t very well write “human,” now, can I) was one of the particular tacks they could have taken, and they picked that one, okay. In my humble opinion, the way to develop that would then make this a story of wasted potential, so as when the end comes the reader would mourn. That would be a bit too heavy for an EU which hadn’t even heard the word “grimdark” at that, but it would be fictionally effective.

I don’t remember most of the story from my first reading, but I don’t remember being caught in such strong regrets. But… maybe. We’ll see.

At any rate, this opening section doesn’t lean into that tack very strongly, I think.

will: Greedo goes home and tells his mother he found the ships, and asks when she’ll teach him about them, and she gets the look–you know, the obvious one, “the secret is out, time has passed, why can’t things stay buried”–and gives him the inevitable: he wasn’t born in this jungle, but on Rodia, and his father died when Greedo was young and his mother was pregnant with his brother (if that term applies to the maybe-reptilian Rodians). She explains that Rodians are hunters and fighters and killers by their nature, and Greedo’s father was a great bounty hunter but wouldn’t participate in gladiatorial combat, and another clan leader named Red Navik for his red birthmark killed him and took his territory and a few survived and left to this world where they wanted to bury the past and I don’t actually remember this story at all but I’m still counting down until the village burns.

z: …you did a fairly credible job of summarizing it nonetheless.

And yes, we didn’t spoil anyone now did we?

will: Greedo asks what the Empire is, but his mother says time for bed, and Greedo can’t sleep but dreams of adventure.

z: I start naming the colors in this paint-by-numbers picture.

will: A month later, guess what happens?

Go on, you’ll never guess.

Thankfully Greedo, brother, mom, and a number of others make it to the ships, which one of the elders has been keeping in repair. They board, and we suddenly get told about “repulsor energy” and “fission-thrust” systems when before Greedo barely knew what a starship was, but anyway, only two ships take off, the third gets shot before it lifts. Greedo, though, is busy in the cockpit, “gawking at the starlines.”

There are eleven sections of this story, we’ve just blazed through two, and they will get longer. But so far, it’s very much nothing you haven’t seen a thousand times before…

z: Well, there’s quite a bit of stuff that could be taken as stellar contributions to the goal of Expanding the Universe–the parts about the Rodian homeworld, the Rodian culture, and the flora/fauna of the jungle world come to mind–except this is nominally a short story, so there’s no place to develop any of it, so it’s a bit wasted. Plot-wise, nope, there aren’t any twists to speak of.

will: Section 3 isn’t new either. The Rodian ships arrive at Nar Shaddaa, a spaceport moon orbiting the Hutt homeworld (or at least a major Hutt world) of Nal Hutta, deciding that if hiding in isolation didn’t work, they’ll hide in a crowd. Nar Shaddaa is a huge traffic sector and we get descriptions of it. We also get told how the moon is an interlocking grid of arcologies and buildings, much like Coruscant (a comparison that we’ll get later again; but Nar Shaddaa’s surface is like Coruscant’s seedy underbelly, while Nar Shaddaa’s seedy underbelly is a full grown oak tree of underbelly). The Rodians land in a Corellian-smuggler-controlled area, where the unwritten rule is nothing big when it comes to trouble: Bounties, duels, petty thievery are all fine, but genocide is right out.

The Rodians decide they’ll stay temporarily only. Just until they can find a new isolated jungle. The adults are sad that they’ve lost their paradise, but Greedo and brother are excited.

You can see it coming, and to their credit the Veitches don’t beat around the bush: four years pass and the Rodians never leave Nar Shaddaa. Greedo is nineteen now (so he was fifteen before; huh, he felt younger).

z: See, she said, possibly overstepping her bounds as commenter, if I was writing the story I would have started here, handled the jungle story in a two-paragraph flashback, and developed a tighter bond between Greedo and his mother and brother so as to make the denouement a bit more poignant. But I’m not.

will: And that ends section 3.

Section 4 opens with Greedo diving out of the way of his brother and two friends on speeder bikes, yelling at Pqweeduk to grow up, like Greedo himself has–trading his bike for some good quality boots and learning the ins and outs of small time street hustling from a “Siona Skup biomorph” named Anky Fremp, with whom he’s partnered up.

While Greedo waits, he people-watches, and infodumps that about half of the people in the crowd are legitimate traders and businesspeople, the rest are fringers. And among the fringers are the “so-called Rebels–political outsiders who had taken a stand against the despotic rule of Emperor Palpatine and his cruel military dictator, Darth Vader.”

z: I can’t decide whether Greedo really has those political opinions or this is the third-person omniscient narration messing with my perception. It really takes good editing to keep things like that straight if you’ve got omniscient narration, and here we have as an editor–

–oh.

Nevermind, moving on.

will: In fact, the Rebels have a warehouse on the same level that Greedo’s clan of outcast Rodians live. He idly thinks that it would be great, from a “pay a lot” angle, to tell the Imperials about that warehouse, but he doesn’t know anybody who he can tell–it’s not like he can just walk up to a random stormtrooper or officer. They’d just take the information and not pay Greedo. (That last part is assumed but obvious.)

z: See, this is what I mean. One paragraph later, Greedo doesn’t care about the “despotic” and “cruel” parts, because they were never his viewpoints to begin with, and argh.

will: At the sound of blaster shots, Greedo ducks under cover, then peeks out to see a man in a green uniform, an “Imperial spice inspector,” get shot by what turn out to be a pair of bounty hunters. They trade clunky dialogue about how they had been aiming to wound, how they used to bribe this guy themselves but when there’s an Imperial bounty out on someone… oy.

Greedo, envious of their fancy armor (“Dyzz” is wearing Ithullian armor, the Ithullians being an extinct race wiped out by the Mandalorians centuries ago; “Goa” has a hodgepodge of armor and camo) and big custom weapons, a third hunter, “Gorm,” shows up and basically tries to muscle in on the bounty. In the scuffle the big custom blaster rifle gets tossed aside to land right in front of Greedo, and Gorm looks to have the two on the ropes, until Greedo surreptitiously gets the rifle into position and blows the maybe-a-droid-maybe-not away. The bounty hunters offer to cut Greedo in on the bounty as a thank you, but Greedo has a better idea…end section 4.

z: This might have been a scene that worked to have an emotional impact. As far as we know, this is the first time Greedo has ever killed a sentient being. But he has no stated reaction to this whatsoever, not even a passing thought. You could say, okay, he’s a psychopath and really doesn’t feel a thing, but then the natural thing to do would be to have some other character react to it, have one of the two other bounty hunters say “damn, that was cold,” or something like that. What we get is nothing.

Character development, this story is doing it… weirdly.

will: Section 5 picks up with Fremp and Greedo, the former doing the Nar Shaddaa equivalent of chucking bottles from an overpass onto the highway, and the latter pointing out how childish that is, before the two of them make their way to the chopshop they like to hang out and sell stolen stuff at, Greedo all the while showing just how naive he is: he told the bounty hunters about the Rebels’ warehouse, and they’re going to cut him in on the take. Oh, and he’s going to get enough to buy his own ship, which he has all picked out, all it needs is new power couplings, and those are stealable.

The two arrive in the chopshop, passing by the assistant mechanic who is…

“[H]elping a smuggler overhaul the lightdrive on a beat-up YT-1300 freighter he’d won in a sabacc game.”

Really?

Really?

Did we need to get the tragic backstory behind “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time”?

z: Not to mention, unless Han’s wearing a T-shirt that says “Smuggler” and has hung a banner on the Millennium Falcon which says “I won this in a sabacc game!” this is omnipotent narration striking again. Yeah, you could say that the mechanic must have told the youths about this YT-1300’s provenance in an earlier conversation. But then it would have been much healthier to phrase the sentence as “the assistant mechanic had told them he’d be busy this afternoon helping a smuggler overhaul etc. etc.

Sorry, I seem to be in a very red-pen mood tonight.

will: Anyway.

The two teenagers drool over the ship which Greedo is planning to buy, which looks almost new, and Fremp predicts that the owner is going to stiff Greedo. Greedo says no, the owner knows Greedo’s going to be a big bounty hunter. See, Goa said he’d show Greedo the ropes, Rodians make great hunters. Fremp wants to learn too, but Greedo laughs–Sionan Skups are apparently famous as thieves, not bounty hunters. Oy, speciesism.

z: Subclasses: caricaturing and typecasting. Oy, oy.

will: They try to look inside the ship, which, quelle surprise, is locked, and on the way to find the keys (as it were), they pass by a pair of the most advanced power couplings available (remember, that’s the only piece Greedo’s future pride and oy apparently needs).

By the way, we’re told the prices. The ship, Greedo is going to get for 14,000 credits. The power couplings are worth 20,000. Would you put brake pads worth more than your car on your car? (And if you did, would you paint a horrifying picture of Goofy on it and sell ice cream? And will anybody but me get this reference?)

z: That’s a flat “nope” to all of the above, from me.

will: Naturally, the two idiots teenagers (but I repeat myself) try to steal them, Greedo wrapping them in his leather rancor-skin jacket.

And that’s when a Wookiee grabs them.

Han comes out, Chewie gives him the news, Han yells at the assistant mechanic, said mechanic explains that his boss has taken a liking to Greedo (in the way you take a liking to a mascot, of course. Wanna bet that 14,000 price was pure fiction?)–

z: Well, Luke thought he could buy his own ship in Mos Eisley for 17,000, and Han didn’t scoff at that number per se, just asked who’d fly it. So it may not be very unlikely.

Power couplings costing 20,000, now that is more unlikely.

will: –but the assistant mechanic also threatens Greedo with a fate worse than death if he ever returns, and then Han decides to “teach the little sneak a lesson.”

It amounts to a “trade”: he hands Greedo the old and thoroughly used up power couplings from the Falcon, which he drops the name of, as if we didn’t figure it out by now, and takes the rancor-skin jacket. Oh, and of course the couplings that Greedo tried to steal, that Han had bought–or at least paid for, who knows how.

Greedo gives some sort of “I’ll get you for this” and runs off, and Han says maybe he was rough on the kid, but you have to set them straight, and then offers the jacket to the mechanic as a birthday present. Who asks how Han knew it was his birthday.

z: …saving me from having to ask that.

will: (My read is he didn’t, it was just something he said to get rid of the jacket.)

And we’re out for now. The second half will hopefully go as quickly and without a need for much more detail.

So yeah, as you might have been able to tell, I’m not impressed. More, I don’t know why I’m bothering. It’s not necessary, any of it.

Z?

z: That is the crux of it, actually. This whole story is not necessary, because of all the characters in the Cantina, Greedo is the only one we know the provenance of perfectly well (bounty hunter sent by Jabba end of story) and also the only one whose eventual fate we know perfectly well (the stupidest attempt at a retcon in all narrative history notwithstanding). It’s a strange editorial decision to even include Greedo, but here we have as editor–

–oh.

Once we decide to go with a Greedo story, which, fine, the best way to do it in my opinion would be shameless manipulation of the readers’ feelings, because if you don’t overdo it you’re not going to get any reaction, given that we already know from where and to where. So show lost potential, a lost love, bad life decisions, or someone caught in the nets of fate–but nope. This story has got an even worse case of “The Plot Demands It” than the entirety of The Truce at Bakura so far, which is impressive. Of course, a good editor might have been able to give a certain direction to the story so that–

–oh.

Hrm.

Well.

will: (For those who don’t know, this book was edited by Kevin J. Anderson. He’s something of an…infamous figure as tie-in fiction authors go.)

z: Next week, as was before and as will ever be, Han will shoot first. Hope we didn’t spoil anything for you. Until then, may the Force be with you.

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