The former Director of Fan Relations for Lucasfilm penned “Star Wars Memories: My Time in the (Death Star) Trenches,” which details his tenure with the company from the late 1970s through the release of “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980.
Coming off the theatrical run of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and the conclusion of the recent Star Wars sequel trilogy, most everyone seems to have formed a strong opinion — good or bad — on the new film additions to the franchise, which Disney purchased from filmmaker George Lucas in 2012.
With mixed personal feelings about how Disney has handled its acquisition of Star Wars and its associated intellectual property to date, one thing I find myself clamoring for is untold stories and new anecdotes which date back to the original trilogy — specifically from those who were at Lucasfilm and were involved in the production of the original movies from the mid-1970s through the release of "Return of the Jedi" in 1983. Craig Miller’s nonfiction book, “Star Wars Memories: My Time in the (Death Star) Trenches” provides such a read.
Released last November by Fulgens Press, Miller’s 430-page publication dives into his history at Lucasfilm as the company’s director of fan relations.
Miller is a Los Angeles native who was hired full time at Lucasfilm as he was wrapping his undergraduate studies at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), which happened to be around the same time that “Star Wars” was hitting theaters.
He stayed with the company through the premiere of “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980, working as an editor, writer, publicist and producer. He attended science fiction and comic book conventions, as he presented slideshows, worked booths and handed out swag to promote the films. He also spearheaded the creation of the Official Star Wars Fan Club, had a hand in licensing projects, and much more.
With a foreword from the late Gary Kurtz, producer of “American Graffiti” and the first two Star Wars movies, the appeal of Miller’s book is articulated. Kurtz, who passed away in 2018, writes, “It’s a book of stories you haven’t heard before; an insider’s look from someone who, himself, is a fan and found the whole experience joyful and exciting.” He continues by stating Miller makes the reader feel like they’re in the story, which is very true.
Whether it’s his chronicling of convention adventures, sharing interview transcripts with Lucas, actors Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), or diving into production complications faced on the set of “The Empire Strikes Back,” Miller writes with clarity and concision — even delving into topics that relate to the business side of Lucasfilm, ranging from office relocations to shakeups in personnel.
Want to know about the original Star Wars Kenner action figures, old fan club membership kits, or how Lucas doesn't like giving autographs? Miller’s got you covered.
So, why the almost-40-year wait for Miller to publish his memories?
In his introduction, he states he wasn’t initially sure he had enough material to write a book. Thankfully, he likes telling stories and as someone who’s still active on the convention circuit, frequently sharing his Star Wars-related memories, he was finally inclined to pen his manuscript.
There are quite a few previously untold nuggets to sift through within, with prose longtime Star Wars fans should devour, with Miller’s unique perspective adding depth, personality and richness to the early legacy of Lucasfilm.
Though there are terrific tales to read — ones that could only come from Miller — there are also a few undeveloped anecdotes which slow the narrative without offering more than seems to be filler. Another disappointment is the publication's formatting errors and layout issues which ruin much of the photography — with some photos sized incorrectly — as many images are grainy and difficult to see clearly.
Though no one expects 1080p high definition when looking at art from four decades ago, there’s no reason to include it if the subject is blurred, especially when the author has such a clear recollection of events.
Production issues aside, Miller’s commitment to sharing such personal stories of his time at Lucasfilm is both enjoyable and educational, and his shared memories are must-read material for any true fan of “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Interstellar Intersection recommends shopping independent booksellers. DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis sells physical copies of "Star Wars Memories: My Time in the (Death Star) Trenches," and is the suggested retailer for this title. DreamHaven Books is well known for its unrivaled selection of fantasy, science fiction, and other genre books.