Craig Miller worked for Lucasfilm for just a few years, yet he was able to write an amazingly exciting and readable book about his experiences.
Star Wars Memories: My Time in the (Death Star) Trenches – this is the title of Craig Miller’s 433–page book, published last November. The volume – for which no one wrote the preface but the late Gary Kurtz, producer of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back – is made up of loosely connected stories, mostly from the 1976–1980 period when Craig Miller was an employee of Lucasfilm.
Miller was Lucasfilm’s first director of fan relations, and in that capacity, he was involved in many tasks during perhaps the most exciting period of Star Wars. He founded the first official Star Wars fan club, and he wrote its newsletter, Bantha Tracks. He also invented and operated a system designed to respond to fan letters. He has been involved in many promotional and marketing assignments, giving lectures at sci-fi and comic cons. He also invented and wrote the crucial telephone advertising in The Empire Strikes Back campaign, which shut down the telephone network of Illinois. In the course of his work, he wrote press releases, attended the filming of The Empire Strikes Back, and spoke to many of the characters and crew members of the classic trilogy – some exciting interviews made at the time are also in this volume. When he talked to Harrison Ford in a restaurant, for example, the actor lit a joint – so the actor who played the spice smuggler sometimes didn’t despise such pleasures. But Miller, for instance, also recounted how George Lucas thought about the green rabbit in the galaxy far far away, and how Jaxxon affected the franchise.
Among the many small stories, there was also one related to my country, Hungary. A few days before the premiere of The Empire Strikes Back in May 1980, Miller went to work when he saw people queuing up next to the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. After talking to them, it turned out they were in line for a midnight screening of the film several days later. Miller, who handed out business cards to the people waiting in line, then spoke to newspapers and TVs to send correspondents to the scene, as there was no such level of interest for movies at the time. Then he got a phone call from one of the queuers that the man running the cinema (which he did not otherwise own), a certain Mr Szabo, wanted to drive them away. Miller also spoke to Szabo, whom he described as very arrogant, who only wanted to be called “mister” but could not convince him. Miller eventually had to talk to the owner of the cinema, so the fans stayed, and the pre-premiere publicity for the film came together.
The book of Craig Miller – who was introduced to the world of sci-fi as a teenager by the legendary Ray Bradbury – is excellent in two ways. One is that one can learn a lot through his stories about the workings of the film industry and Lucasfilm – and many of the internal rules of the 1970s and 1980s still apply today.
The other is that Miller writes in a very humorous and readable way. Compared to myself, I read through his book pretty quickly, which remained enjoyable throughout, even though it only tells a couple of years.
The book has perhaps only one flaw: it would have taken some more editing. It can be felt that the author concatenated anecdotes, written at different times into one volume. At various points in the book, there are repetitive stories. This doesn’t substantially diminish the value of Star Wars Memories; however, a fresh eye could have spotted repetitions.
Gary Kurtz – with whom Miller worked on several other projects after leaving Lucasfilm – summed up perfectly in his preface to the book before his death in 2018 why Star Wars Memories is so good:
“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.”
Overall, Star Wars Memories has become a great book, which would be worth reading for all Star Wars fans, and from which we will write articles here at Ziro.hu. And we can only hope that there will be a Hungarian publisher that sees fantasy in its release – if so, I would be happy to translate it.