Title: Star Wars Memories: My Life in the (Death Star) Trenches
Author: Craig Miller
Genre: Non-fiction memoir
Spoilers: none, if you’ve seen Star Wars
Content warnings: none
Release date: out now, available on Amazon
When I reached out to Craig Miller about reviewing his book, I did not know that his book would surpass whatever expectations I had. As a lifelong Star Wars fan who has read many a biography about the people involved in the making of the film, I was thrilled to read one where the same stories were not repeated. Almost everything I read in Craig Miller’s book was new to me, and as a super-fan myself, I could understand a lot of his obscure film and Star Wars references. It’s a spectacular book, filled with stories that you’ll only read here.
Here’s a short summary from Amazon.com:
Craig Miller was the original Director of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm, working on "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back". As part of that, he was a publicist, a writer, an editor, and a producer. He wrote press material and articles, created and ran the Official Star Wars Fan Club, oversaw a staff who opened and responded to the seeming tons of fan mail the films received, worked with licensees, created a telephone publicity stunt that accidentally shut down the state of Illinois’ phone system, was the producer on projects ranging from episodes of "Sesame Street" to commercials for Underoos (“underwear that’s fun to wear”), operated R2-D2, and spent weeks hanging out on the set of "The Empire Strikes Back".In “Star Wars Memories” he talks about all of that and more, including Mark Hamill barbecuing him a burger in London, having lunch in a Sunset Strip restaurant with Harrison Ford while he rolled and smoked a joint, and watching Carrie Fisher introduce "The Empire Strikes Back"’s British production crew to tacos. In the words of Gary Kurtz, producer of "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back", “’Star Wars Memories’ gives a look at the original Star Wars films and Lucasfilm from Craig Miller’s unique perspective. This isn’t another ‘making of’ book with the same stories and information that have appeared in other books and countless magazine articles. 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. These stories are told in a way that brings you in and makes you feel like you were there.”
I was very excited to read Star Wars Memories because I was crossing my fingers that it would live up to two sentences on the back-cover blurb: “This isn’t another ‘making of’ book with the same stories and information that have appeared in other books and countless magazine articles. It’s a book of stories you haven’t heard before…”
You name a Star Wars auto/biography or “making of” book, I’ve read it. Unfortunately, I have read a lot of the same stories over time, and was really hoping that this book would deliver. And it did, more than I ever would have expected. Miller was actually present when most of these events happened, and they’re told from his point of view.
About 95% of Miller’s stories, I had never heard before. Why? Because they were all about his experiences as Director of Fan Relations, and beyond. He tells his stories in a way that sounds like him telling them to a friend, and you just happened to be fortunate enough to listen to them. They also follow a easy-to-understand timeline, starting from Miller’s childhood and going all the way up to The Empire Strikes Back (and even some of the work Miller did after Star Wars).
I loved the fact that Miller included some photos - I, for one, had never seen a Star Wars Fan Club patch, or the early yellow Star Wars tee shirt design, and absolutely loved seeing them and others. The photo I liked the best was one I had never seen before - a publicity shot of Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher recreating the epic Star Wars: A New Hope pose in their hotel room with whatever they had on hand.
One of my favorite Star Wars books is George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones. While it’s a superb book, it never gives any of Miller’s stories of funny encounters with Lucas or things that a person looking on saw him do. And what’s great about Star Wars Memories is that it actually doesn’t focus on Lucas, even though there are a few stories about him. Sure, we read some stories about interactions with him, but it doesn’t overwhelm the book. One of my favorite things were reading Miller’s interviews with Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, and reading about his interactions with the cast.
As you all know by now, I am an avid Star Wars fan. (In fact, my collection just surpassed 1,000 collectible pieces.) I’ve read or watched almost everything there is about Kenner’s Star Wars toys, but in Miller’s books, I still found some new information about it. That’s what’s great about this book - there’s new information on every single page. Something really neat was learning that George Lucas created another visual effects company after he sold Industrial Light and Magic...unfortunately, nothing ever happened with it, but I absolutely never knew that. And if you’re a hardcore fan, there are also some stories about THX-1138 that are extremely interesting. Stories I know fans will love are fun ones about what happened when C3-PO and R2-D2 appeared for a Sesame Street episode, or when Harrison Ford got stuck on the train on the way to a location shoot. Plus, Miller’s experiences as being the Director of Fan Relations meant that he worked on the Star Wars fan club team, wrote Bantha Tracks, and dealt with some publicity. All of that was very exciting to read, and his unique tales will capture you from the beginning.
Sitting at about 450 pages, Star Wars Memories is one of those books that you can race through or sit back and take your time with. I found myself trying hard to put it down, and eventually after saying to myself “just one more story,” it was nearing 2am in the morning. It’s also a great re-read book, because I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find some new information that you missed on your first read-through.
Star Wars Memories is a splendid book, and one that I look forward to adding to my collection. You’ll chuckle at Miller’s wit and relate to him as a fellow fan and science-fiction aficionado. You’ll also wish you had been there when George Lucas signed some comic books that they never gave out. All in all, I highly recommend Star Wars Memories to any Star Wars fan looking to broaden their behind-the-scenes knowledge.
Star Wars Memories receives 5 stars out of 5.