Charity in the Star Wars Fandom

As of an hour of writing this post, I launched my Patreon account for this blog. As some of you know, I recently moved and am currently looking for work. Right now my writing here, my game design stuff, and my novels are what are currently keeping me sane.  As writing is my major export these days, I’ve opened up the tip jar. If you would like to subscribe, that would be amazing. If you’d like to do something short term, you can buy me a coffee here:Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

There was a lot of discussion and deliberation about opening a patreon for this blog. I wanted to share it because the discussion is at the very heart of the Star Wars Fandom, and deserves to be discussed. This is my own opinion on the matter, I welcome other views.

One of the major issues is the obvious one. Disney and Lucasarts are notorious for protecting their brand from anything that may conflict with it. There is a lot of back and forth on the subject in the fan community. Some claiming that it’s censorship of artistic endeavors. As a writer, and someone trying to break in to the game designing world, I am surrounded by the constant awareness of Intellectual Properties. You can do a lot with the IP of someone else. Make a fan video, a homebrewed game, a commentary blog (*cough*).

The problem comes when you try to sell it and make money from it. There is a lot of legalese that can be argued, but it ultimately boils down to this: It is not yours to sell. Maybe the owner was planning on doing something similar, maybe they didn’t want people to think your product was tied to them, maybe they just flat out didn’t want you to do it. The short version is if a person owns it, who are you to make money of it it?

This problem came to the fore for the lightsaber community when Disney and Lucasfilm filed a legal complaint against the owner of two lightsaber groups over the attempt to trademark images that were heavily similar to LFL and Disney images. A lot of groups panicked early on, afraid that the suit would lead to the hammer being brought down on all of them. It won’t. Mostly because no one makes money off of this. I’ll get back to the why in a minute.

I would be remiss to mention I was associated with the above  group as a member. I, and the entirety of its staff, have since left to form another group without the same management. Because of these factors, I would like to state this: My blog is a commentary on aspects of the Star Wars Property, and therefore should not infringe on the IP. If asked by the owners of the property, I will cease my Patreon account. This is meant to be fun, a Cease and Desist order is not fun.

I mentioned earlier that the lightsaber community doesn’t make money off of this. I think a lot of people need to realize the cost of running or being a member of this community. Prop lightsabers that are combat ready are, at the lowest, in the low 100 range. At the highest, possibly a grand for some of the more audacious custom pieces. Then there is costuming, the maintenance of lightsabers and costuming,  finding and renting spaces to hold meetings and classes. If you’re a performer there is also costs of attending conventions, which at best nowadays might involve a discount otherwise you’re paying to perform. There’s also gas, tolls, all the fun stuff with having an active hobby. More often than not, we’re all doing it at cost.

All that in mind, the most natural question is “Why?” Why do any of this if you’re paying money and getting nothing in return. I can only speak for the handful of people of spoken to in the fandom. But we’re here for something that’s a bit more intangible than a few banknotes and a deposit slip. For some of us it’s the cheer of the audience, the look of glee in a child, of seeing someone who didn’t think they’d learn martial arts start teaching people. This community is built on the betterment of ourselves and others.

That sounds trite, actually it sounds like something from Star Trek, but the principle exists  in both franchises. I’ve found that running a group in a niche community, be it lightsabers or larping, or game design, you need to have a Jedi attitude about it. This is about what you can do for others, more than what it can do for you.

Running parallel to this point is the second reason I was hesistant about my Patreon. The Star Wars community was built on the concept of charity. The 501st and  Rebel Legions are groups that work primarily for charity. Any time they make an appearance at an event it is in the name of charity, if they show up on a tv show that money goes to a cause or hospital. They  put the 501 in 501c3. If you think buying a lightsaber puts a dent in your pocket, check the expenses on kitting out and maintaining stormtrooper armor accurate enough to be in the movies. Now tack on transportation of said armor to events. They aren’t doing it for money, or notoriety (seriously, they are an organization of literal faceless minions!). They, and most of the Star Wars community, is in it because they were affected by the draw of these stories and are using that draw to affect others in a similar measure. Altruism isn’t dead, it just stopped by the armory.

But I want to point out something, something that I think gets confused in the shuffle. Not just in the community but in every day life. Just because someone is providing a service, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be thanked. Those shows that you see took dozens to hundreds of hours of writing, rehearsing, and prepping. Those youtube videos you see of people giving instructions, someone poured over their work to make sure they put out exactly what they wanted to convey (or they should). This community is built on charity, on paying it forward, and on paying it back.

Thank you, and thank you for your support.

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