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My Summer in Outerspace

One week ago, I was back on the Halcyon for my second and final voyage. Like so many of you, I have all the feels. Complicated feels. This is going to be a long one, which is why I’m doing it on my website, but the link will get you there if this is the kind of thing you like to read.

***

Our first voyage on the Halcyon was exceptional. Bryon and I went with our good friends Mark and Michelle, and I approached it very much as I would any LARP I was involved with. I had a great time. There were scenes that I will remember forever, like my interactions with Saja Kyr, or when Bryon and I helped Captain Keevan blast the First Order ships. It was atmospheric, we had pictures, we were absorbed in the story, and we loved it.

And like so many people, I got home, and I had Drop. It wasn’t long before I figured out that I could afford a second trip if I taught some overtime this fall and spring in my secret identity as an English professor. Then, after four days of nigh unto constant calling, we scheduled our second trip at the end of July, the perfect trip for me–not too close to the time I called, because I live in Iowa, and not into the school year, because a professor’s gotta do what a professor’s got to do.

Bryon and I had invented these really rich characters, kind of complicated, but that was mostly for ourselves. Full disclosure: I’m an author of fiction, and my characters usually have a lot of levels. Bryon and I both are long term gamers, running and acting in games for around 30 years or so. Mostly, Master Huli Jing (Bryon) and Eden Arborlane (me) had these rich backgrounds we didn’t explore on the ship, because we figured that would be too much. This time, however, we decided to explore other aspects of the characters we hadn’t before.

I had become active in several Halcyon groups online, and was listening to Heroes of the Halcyon. One of the things I kept hearing was that if you put the stories out there, the cast would read them. Yeah, right, I thought. However, I decided to plant seeds about our characters. I won’t lie. This was largely for me, because I love to write. I mean, where you’re reading this right now? This is my author website, so yes. I also love to act, and the commonality of all my escapes: reading, writing, role playing, and even teaching, is that I am looking for an immersive interaction with creativity. I’m not the writer looking for attention. I’m the writer looking to feel alive and to lose myself in someone I’m pretending to be. I accept my addiction and welcome the voices in my head.

Moving on…I did several pieces to set the scene. For Bryon, I wrote a piece about Alopex the Fox, his character’s vigilante alter ego, being on the loose. I wrote a historical piece about Master Huli Jing. For my character Eden, I wrote a piece about the World Between Worlds, another fiction scene about Eden transferring the guardianship of the World Between Worlds to the Saja, and finally, an interview with Coruscant Look. These were all fun pieces to write, and helped us both get in the mood for the ship. I also figured that maybe other players would see them, and we would be able to play with some of these elements a little.

Some cast members noted the materials, and that was fun. And then we went to the ship. I expected an experience as good as the first time.

Ummm…

When they tell you the cast will read your materials, believe them. BELIEVE THEM! What happened to us was an amazing stroke of good luck, coupled with some work put in before the adventure.

Bryon and I each had a gimmick. My cover was Eden Arborlane, fashion designer, and in my article, I told readers I was on the voyage for the Halcyon’s 275th in conjunction to celebrate House of Arborlane’s 500th. I was giving away cards for custom designs. The real reason for Eden’s visit? She’s a prophet Jedi, and in a vision she sees that Lt. Croy needed to be set on the path to his heroics as one of the bravest heroes of the Resistance. Eden also plans to pass the guardianship of the World Between Worlds to the Saja, and she has maps for them: a glowing galaxy globe and a compass.

Bryon’s gimmick was that, as Alopex, he was trying to help steal the Hayananeya Stone to right a wrong that his buddy, Shug Drabor, accidentally made when using it in the Halcyon’s compass. Alopex was recruiting members of the Associates of Alopex using rings and leaving cards around the ship, daring people to stop him.

Here’s where things get interesting. We were blessed with the same amazing actress playing Captain Keevan. She remembered us from our first journey, and was gracious and friendly. It turned out that she and the Raithe Cole on this trip had read the Alopex offerings I’d written, and worked them into many of their scenes. It was magic. During one pivotal scene in the Scoundrel arc, Alopex is one of the main subjects of discussion. We were floored.

I spent some time with Lt. Croy in the Sublight Lounge, and I told him about his future. It was a theme we would revisit back and forth on the voyage. I watched him have moments of vulnerability few other players seemed to notice, and it affected Eden greatly. We talked to each other in ways I didn’t expect, and during the special First Order scene on the Bridge, I was one of two people he told me he trusted on the ship.

I approached the Saja, each one of them, and on the second day, some friends and I had a Force experience in the climate simulator. After, I presented Saja Fen with the presents and my request about the World Between Worlds. She cried and I almost cried. Making a Saja cry was not on my bingo card for the trip. Saja Fen and I had a special and meaningful conversation about our lives, about the Force, about our mentors, and I have chills thinking about it.

And then, there’s what happened with Raithe Cole in the Sublight Lounge after the stone heist, when Alopex and Eden talk to him about what it means to help others, and then Raithe took on the mantle of Alopex.

Just, wow.

Okay. So, remember that the Starcruiser resets in a Ground Hog Day way, and these things just happened on our journey. BUT this my friends: we had a chance to change the course of the story, and the actors let us in to do it. We played scenes with remarkable cast members and crew and guests, and the adventure was something that they generously let us contribute to. It was crazy.

Now, I expect with a different alchemy of actors, or less groundwork, or even just unluck it could have been very different, but this experience? I can’t imagine how it could have been better. For two days I was Eden Arborlane, and I made a difference in the story. The actors were very generous when we wrote them thank you letters, and gave us insight into how all this had worked for them as well.

There’s a lot to unpack here about imagination and immersive theater, and what you can bring as an audience member to the game. There’s a lot to unpack here too about being willing to let the story take you. Right now, though, I write this because I am still gobsmacked and very grateful.

Coruscant Look Interviews Eden Arborlane

Interview with Eden Arborlane
By
Emeraux Da Cona

Coruscant Look sits down with Eden Arborlane, celebrating 500 years of the House of Arborlane, her new partnership with Chandrilla Starlines, and getting a sneak peek at the new High Republic Collection.

CL: Thanks for meeting with us today.

Eden: Glad you’re here.

CL: Outside your office, right now, is a Genosian hive of activity. Is House of Arborlane always this busy?

Eden: We’re always busy, but you’re catching us at a peak time. As you know, Coruscant Fashion Week is two weeks away, and we’re putting the finishing touches on our High Republic collection.

CL: I’m dying to see it. Why did you decide to use the High Republic as your inspiration?

Eden: The High Republic is a romanticized period of our history, and there is something for everyone in the High Republic. Jedi Knights explored the boundaries of the Republic, Chancellor Lina Soh daringly forayed into rich and undiscovered art and culture, and the new innovations of Hyper Space changed our galaxy. Mention the High Republic to anyone, even people whose political allegiances are with the First Order, and that person imagines their own ideal world. It’s fertile ground for a fashion movement. I’m surprised no one has designed with the High Republic in mind before.

CL: Agreed. I notice that the color palette is heavy with metallics, and the materials are ethereal. Would you say your designs are historically accurate?

Eden: Absolutely not. I’m designing dreams, not recreating history.

CL: One of the controversial parts of the collection is the weapon design.

Eden: There is a small segment of the collection influenced by the High Republic Jedi Order. Now, the colorful palette is the real color palette of the time. High Republic Jedis loved all the colors, unlike the final incarnation of the Jedi Order, which was almost monastic in its color choices.

CL: Monastic?

Eden: I joke that one of the reasons Jedis turned to the Dark Side was because they were bored with the color scheme. Wouldn’t you choose black and red over, what, mud and mustard yellow?

CL: You make a great point.

Eden: Back to the weapons. If someone wants to feel like a member of the High Republic, they need an elaborate weapon at their side, a filigreed, stylish hilt to match their amazingly colorful outfit. Now, having an actual light saber would be impractical, impossible, and dangerous. Think of these hilts as bags, theater glasses, jewelry. We have some hilts that are all these things.

CL: Are there other outfits beside neo-Jedi outfits?

Eden: Oh yes. The robes are more elaborate, with many layers, hoods and cowls are popular, and the materials are gain colorful. You’ll see how everything looks during Fashion Week.

CL: We’re looking forward to it. Can I talk a little bit about the history of the House of Arborlane?

Eden: As you know, Emeraux, we’ve been around for 500 years. In spite of what some of my employees think, I haven’t been around for 500 years.

CL: But the joke, of course, is that there was a daughter in the original Arborlane family who was named Eden.

Eden: My namesake. She never involved herself with the fashion business. She actually became one of those High Republic Jedis, which I have to admit captured my imagination as well.

CL: Any idea what happened to her?

Eden: That Eden Arborlane was posted at Oshiro, and I think she lived out her days in the temple there as an archivist. Not a very exciting life. But the House of Arborlane really took off about 250 years ago.

CL: Under the management of Hugo Arborlane?

Eden: Who had a head for business as well as an ability to design.

CL: One of the interesting parts of your history was House of Arborlane’s designing of uniforms for the Imperial Forces.

Eden: Right. Those designs made our reputation. We had always designed for socialites and senators, people who could afford it. This was our first foray into designing for the masses, if you will.

CL: Do you ever have regrets for your role in clothing the Empire?

Eden: I would have more regrets if we weaponized the Empire. And we have poured a great deal of money into Republic relief efforts, which has helped reform our image. We don’t deny that designing for the Empire is a part of our past. Strangely enough, one of our most popular men’s wear lines is based on the basic designs of those Imperial uniforms.

CL: You mentioned that Imperial uniforms were your first designs that weren’t haute couture. But now your emphasis is high fashion, correct?

Eden: I believe that everyone deserves fashion. We do design high end, one-of-a-kind garments. That’s not all we do. We have ready to wear clothes in finer stores. This year, we’re doing something special. Can I talk about my upcoming trip on Chandrilla Starlines?

CL: Absolutely.

Eden: Chandrilla and the House of Arborlane are teaming up for the 275th anniversary of the Halcyon, and our 500th anniversary. I am going on board the Halcyon to recruit designers from the Outer Rim Regalia. I’ll be modeling some of the Chandrilla jewelry collection on board, and I’ll be handing out Arborlane vouchers to the crew and passengers. We’ll be designing free looks for these folks as a promotion for our anniversary. All of those looks will be exclusive.

CL: Any chance I can get one of those vouchers?

Eden: If you’re on the Halcyon we can make it happen. What we want to do at House of Arborlane, always, is help people be their best selves. What you wear outside tells the world who you see yourself as inside.

CL: Will we get to see any of these exclusive designs?

Eden: There will be a 500th anniversary show at the end of the year, yes.

CL: Thanks for your time today, Eden.

Eden: Thank you for yours.

***

Eden Arborlane will be on the July 30th-August 1st sailing of Chandrilla Starlines Halcyon Starcruiser.

Prophecy

Eden bolted up, shaken.

The vision that haunted her dreams was more urgent tonight, sharper, an icicle driven into her head. She threw back the duvet of her bed, shrugged on a robe, and moved into the kitchen, still partly lost in the vision. The stone floor was chilly under her bare feet. She poured herself a stiff drink to dull the lingering pain, and more importantly, her lingering sense of…what? Fear? Hope? Mourning?

One thing was certain. Her life was going to radically change. While Force visions were hard to interpret, two things were crystal clear. Holding her drink, the sash of her untied robe trailing behind her, she padded her way across the kitchen to the plush carpet of her living space, and into her home studio. Two things.

“Ms. Arborlane? Do you require assistance?” The voice came from the air of the room, a pleasant gentlemanly modulation. T1-MG9N. Her virtual assistant.

“No, T1M.” Sipping at the drink and feeling the burn at the back of her throat focused her a little. “On second thoughts, pull up that brochure from Chandrilla Starlines.”

“Yes, Ms. Arborlane.”

Eden’s screen lit up, the bright colors from her avant garde collection flashing in front of her. She rifled virtual pages to the side. There it was. The invitation.

The first thing. The man on the pleasure ship whose life was going to upend itself. He wouldn’t understand the moment until it came to him, and the vision was clear that she needed to be on hand to smooth his way. Right now he didn’t understand the role he would play, the impact he would make in regard to keeping the galaxy free. She smiled briefly at the thought of his metamorphosis. He’d hate the idea, see it as a betrayal of everything he was. Eden was not above enjoying watching him squirm. There might be some karma in the Force. In the end, it was a decision upon which the future of the galaxy hinged for years.

She studied the knickknacks on the shelf below the screen. Pens, datapad, crayons, fabric swatches. Ah. There it was. The compass. The second thing.

Not only would the next people need the compass, but they would also need the map. She’d have to go back to Oshira and find the map. Then she would need to marshal them to the new reality, to something they’d been hoping for a long time. They were…what were they called? The Saja. Perhaps passing on the map and the compass to them might be more important than steering the man. Perhaps.

The man. The map. The compass. She glanced back at the invitation. There it was. The invitation to recruit talent to the House of Arborlane on the Chandrilla Lines Halcyon at the Outer Rim Regalia. Perfect. That would put her where she needed to be, give her a reason to be there. The invitation would cover her tracks, and who she was would remain secret until such time as it suited her purpose.

Tomorrow she’d contact Reynard. He’d have her back once she confessed fully about the prophecy. “T1M?”

“Yes, Ms. Arborlane?”

“Tell the Chandrilla people I will come. And set up an interview with Coruscant Fashion Weekly.”

Master Huli Jing

As one of the Jedi masters of the High Republic Era, Huli Jing was known for being in tune with the force at a level few ever achieve. He encouraged his students to meditate with the goal of becoming one with the force. Some of his famous quotes reflect his beliefs.

“The force is a mighty river. It does not flow through us, we flow through it.”

“Most Jedi and Sith can detect disturbances in the force. Do not be one.”

He was also know for rarely using his lightsaber in combat. Instead, he would rely primarily on his martial art skills, complimented by the force. He admonished his pupils not to become too dependent on their lightsabers. “Some will tell you that your lightsaber is your life. If so, what do you become if you are deprived of it? It is a useful tool, nothing more.” It is said that many of his pupils did not even know what color his saber was. It was believed to have been teal in color. Master Huli Jing also professed a lack of interest in worldly affairs. He asserted that the Jedi should refrain from interfering in the day to day affairs of the Republic and should commit themselves to meditation and study.

After Master Huli Jing disappeared, a rumor started by his Padawan Rena Lisek suggested that Huli Jing had been Alopex the Fox. This historian finds that connection unlikely, given the temperament of the Jedi master.

Jedi Heresy

Jedi Seeker Mordaunt Kreel was an unconventional thinker. In his capacity as a Seeker, he aided those on different planets, and fought the Dark Side wherever he found it. His constant encounter with the Dark Side made Master Kreel reflect upon the unnatural, fractured nature of the Force.

During quiet moments of space travel, Master Kreel wrote a treatise called The Force in Unity, which posited that those who were Force wielders would be healthier if they stopped repressing their feelings and releasing their attachments to family and friends. One of his most important ideas was that Jedis who repress themselves are the cause of the Dark Side, and if Jedis supported the whole range of emotions, the Dark Side of the Force would no longer exist.

Most Jedi regarded Master Kreel’s pamphlet at best as naive, but some more fundamental Jedi saw the tract as blasphemous, which is why the tract soon became called Jedi Heresy. Master Kreel was censured by the Council for positing this opinion, but since he was scheduled to return to his wandering ways, the Council thought the matter closed.

There remained the matter of what to do with Master Kreel’s Padawan. As is the case with Padawans, Eden Arborlane embraced her master’s philosophy and became one of its biggest proponents. The Council felt that since she was young, she could be reformed. She was promoted to a full Jedi, but like her master, it was felt that she should be banished from the temple on Coruscant, and she was assigned to archive a newly discovered Jedi Temple on the isolated planet of Oshira.

Shortly before Eden left, Master Kreel was killed in a hyperspace accident. Eden always believed the Jedi Council arranged the accident because of Master Kreel’s beliefs, and going forward, Jedi Heresy was removed from the temple library.

Confidential First Order Security Bureau

Eyes Only Classified
Subject: World Between World Operatives
From Lieutenant Weel

Force sensitives have accessed a World Between Worlds Hub and are likely using it for time travel.

It was believed by the Galactic Empire that the destruction of the World Between Worlds on Lothal closed access to the knowledge of the Jedi ancients. Since the intensive study of the temple on Lothal, the First Order Science Division has continued to seek another hub. Traces of time travel energy have been found at the site of recent artifact thefts, and the re-emergence of High Republic figures such as Alopex the Fox and the Gray Jedi Winterbourne Wren, suggest the existence of another hub.

The First Order Security Bureau will continue to update Supreme Leader Snokes on future developments in this case.

Chandrilla Starlines Alert: Return of Alopex

Coruscant authorities report the return of the masked vigilante Alopex, and Chandrilla Starlines advises crew members to be on the lookout for Alopex the Fox on the Halcyon’s anniversary sailing on July 30-August 1.

“We know for certain this Alopex cannot be the original,” said Tan Divo, retired Coruscant Security Force. “The original Alopex emerged on Coruscant during the period of the High Republic and was active for several years before an abrupt cessation of activities. No one knows why Alopex disappeared. He probably got what he deserved. Apparently, the mantle of Alopex has recaptured the imagination of some foolish individual, and galactic citizens should remember that laws should be enforced only by local law enforcement.”

If any crew members see Alopex, they should report the sighting to Captain Keeven immediately.

The Kauai Writer’s Conference

Thanksgiving Break has almost come and gone for another year, but I didn’t want to let it go by without talking about the Kauai Writer’s Conference. Once again, my college Kirkwood was kind enough to ship me off somewhere cool, and this time I proposed that I hang out with a bunch of other writers in Hawaii.

For those of us who are genre writers, conventions can be fannish events, or where we meet lots of other writers higher on the publishing food chain than we are. This conference was unusual for me, inasmuch as it wasn’t a genre conference, but rather tended toward the literary. There were a great many people there who were working on literary writing and memoir, and very few writers like me, a horror/fantasist.

I had a great time. The purpose of this conference, for me, was to recharge. It hasn’t been the best year for me, writing wise. School in the time of Covid has become an amazing time sink. I miss the days before, when most of my spare time wasn’t concerned with navigating a new work environment, unknown student expectations, and what seems to be a general malaise in the occupation, given the levels of burnout. I’m not going to talk about all this. There are REASONS, and I have OPINIONS, but what I want to say is that sometimes there is no solution to a problem, even when you can see the causes of the problem. Yes, I know, it would be so cool if everyone would listen to me, because I have all the answers. Honestly, I don’t have the answers, but I can say that it was nice to take a break from all of it.

Kauai then. Kauai is perhaps the most untouched of the Hawaiian Islands they tell me. There are many, many chickens which roam the island like they own the place. I didn’t stay at the uber resort where the hotel was, because I received permission to go to the conference much later, but I had the very satisfying experience of staying at a local hotel in the town and lyfting to and from the conference, which meant I hung out with townies for saimin (noodles!) and enjoyed the local vibe.

At the conference, there was a lot of conversation about why you write, artistic writing, what writing meant as an individual doing art, and a lot of other things that just aren’t as popular to talk about in a circle of genre friends that don’t see the point of writing as much but publishing. That is not to say I only hang out with publishing friends. But you are all aware how long ago I decided my writing wasn’t going to support me, so I was ready for some of the art talk

The conference was kind of gray, with me at 57 being one of the younger attendees. Well, I guess if you’ve retired from a profession, and now you’re writing books, you might be able to afford to take yourself to Hawaii for a nice conference? My fellow attendees had been/were professors, journalists, people from various walks of life who now wanted to write.

There was conversation about the state of publishing, and how it was changing. There were awesome conversations about why we write. There was plenty of beauty to look at, a luau to experience, some conversation about books with personal purpose, and in general just a very good vibe. I don’t know if my travels will ever take me back, but I’d recommend it as a gentle conference, especially if you need to hear that writing is enough, without all the other bells and whistles attached. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey kind of stuff.

Here’s a picture of Hawaii. Because you know, it’s good to look at pictures of Hawaii.