Resilience Squadron

Transcript: Resilience Squadron 8 – Visions of Disabilities

Transcript for Resilience Squadron Episode 8 – Visions of Disabilities.

Introduction: Welcome to Resilience Squadron, where we share and discuss adventures, challenges, and representation of disabled and chronically ill fans across the Star Wars universe.

Greg: Welcome to Resilience Squadron. I’m Greg.

Jack: And I’m Jack.

Greg: So I’m really excited for this episode. I think we’ve got one of our best interviews yet, based on one of the more interesting pieces of Star Wars media that I think has been released in a long time, because we’re talking to Emma Mieko Candon, author of Star Wars Ronin: A Visions Novel. This book is a continuation of a story that was introduced in the short The Duel as part of the Star Wars Visions animated series released on Disney+ in September, we’ve been eager to talk to Emma ever since the original book announcement on StarWars.com, which described Emma as a queer chronically ill cyborg. So that was like right up our alley. Emma actually worked many of those themes and their own experiences with them into the story. And the result is something really special. I can say the themes it touches on really resonated with me personally. Like the Visions series itself, it dives into themes that make Star Wars what it is, but told from another perspective than what we’ve starkly ever seen from Lucasfilm, but in Emma’s case with with Del Rey and Lucasfilm’s support, t hey also worked in these additional themes of chronic pain, prosthetics, disability and queer identity, and ultimately made a story that was uniquely Emma’s, which I think is what visions is really all about.

Jack: Yep. And we would also like to thank Del Rey, the publisher for providing us advance copies of the book. And on that note, here’s our interview with Emma.

Greg: This episode, we’re joined by Emma Mieko Candon, author of Star Wars Ronin: A Visions Novel. Welcome to our show.

Emma: Thank you for having me. I’ve been excited about you guys, since I glimpsed you. And so I’m really happy to be here.

Jack: Thank you.

Greg: Yeah, thanks a lot. That means a lot. And, uh like I mentioned to you before, like we’ve been excited to have you on since initially hearing about this project, which I mean, everything about Visions has been exciting from the beginning. And we’ve just been eagerly anticipating it. But once we heard about the novel announcement and your own comments related to your experiences in it, we thought, this is someone we really want to talk to, if we can, I finished the novel, and I’m not really enjoyed it a lot. I mean, it’s really it just blew me away. I can’t say enough great things about it.

Emma: I, I’m grateful. I, I wrote this book, hoping it that it would reach people in the fandom, who don’t necessarily always feel like they’re being seen by Star Wars. And because I share that place in the world. I was like, Hey, I see you.

Greg: Right.

Emma: I’m one of you…

Jack: And authentically too. Definitely authentically represented.

Greg: Yeah, because there’s a lot of cases and we’ll talk about some representation later on. But a lot of cases where certain elements of disability and illness and things like that are portrayed, not always in the best light

Jack: Or even in an accurate one…

Greg: Exactly. And it’s great to have something like this that you were able to put a lot of that into the story – it’s important to the characters, it’s important the story. It’s not just, you know, there are mentions of things off hand. And then there are all the things that are a core to what’s being told.

Emma: I’m glad that it seems like it felt inhabited. There there’s like a couple little things that I just sort of threaded into characters here and there that affected the way they live in the way they’re on the page and also that are informing, you know, there’s a character with elements of chronic pain stuff that I’ve had to deal with in the past. And I would not say that I’m particularly good at managing this chronic pain. That was, you know, like that’s sort of endemic to who that person is like, of course, they wouldn’t be good at it.

Jack: But it’s real.

Emma: I’ve also been bad at managing chronic pain, and had to learn to do things differently in order to respect my fragility. I was I was drawing here and there from bits and pieces of my own foibles.

Greg: Yeah right, I think that’s understandable. And yeah that’s something that when people are writing certain characters they try to work in – sometimes I don’t think they’re necessarily trying to address or work in representation or this type of elements. It’s more like… tropes, or characters things they know to use, especially related to disfigurement and prosthetics… that tend to represent for them otherness or difference or strangeness, without the experience of that. So it’s not really accurate or positive.

Emma: No, yeah. No, I definitely recognize what you’re talking about. That feeling like this has been made as a character choice, but it doesn’t really feel physical in a way that I recognize

Greg: Right. We want to ask a little bit about your background, and as much as you’re willing to share with us about your experience in writing, and what you’ve been through with your illness and your health and how that has connected to your writing.

Emma: Yeah, so we, we talked about this a little beforehand, just to make clear that, like, we established that this was all cool territory to explore. But um, yeah, so I got very suddenly very sick while I was teaching English in Japan. And it was meningitis. It was brain fever, which led to multiple organ failure. And they never could diagnose what virus had caused it. They just know that it was a virus. And it actually left my system pretty quickly. But I still had a major problem, which was that my lungs had stopped working. So I was in the ICU of a hospital for almost four months, on a respirator and on ECMO, which more people know about these days, because, somewhat tragically, we’ve all had to grow more familiar with this story, as what I experienced in 2012 has become much, much more common in 2020/2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. And it’s kind of miraculous that I survived. It was touch and go for a very long time, I was comatose a lot of the time either medically induced or just because my body was shutting down. They eventually sort of kick started my lungs with massive amounts of steroids. And that eventually got me strong enough to be downgraded to the emergency ward, and then to a therapy hospital until I was deemed strong enough to return to Hawaii to recuperate. And I spent sort of the next year and a half regaining the use of my body, because I had essentially been in bed rest for five months and then in a therapy hospital for another. And as a consequence, we didn’t know it at the time, but I was developing bronchiectasis, which is a kind of COPD, where essentially your bronchioles just are kind of like old rubber bands. They’re just not as good at doing what they’re supposed to. So I have massive lung scarring. Adnd hence, you know, like the raspyness of my voice is somewhat because I have a chronic cough. It’s somewhat because of the scarring of the respirator and the tracheotomy. And then what we discovered in 2014/2015, when I was in grad school in New York was that the massive amounts of steroids had had a side effect, which was avascular necrosis, which is when the marrow in your bones typically in your joints most commonly in your hips, as it was for me, no longer has access to blood and dies and just rots away. So I was essentially like hiking around New York, on these two hollow hip bones that were slowly caving in…

Greg: Not ideal.

Emma: Yeah, not ideal. So I that was when I was badly managing my chronic pain. My fiance and my dad thankfully convinced me to go see a doctor, which was when I was diagnosed and they essentially have no way to fix avascular necrosis with current medical technology. There’s no way to reverse it. There are some things they can experiment with, like filling the hip bones witha kind of concrete. But typically, they are sawn off and replaced, which is eventually what happened for me at the beginning of 2017. So, ever since then, I have been a cyborg.

Jack: I’m getting there.

Emma: Yeah,

Jack: I lost my I lost my leg. In July, on July 2. Oh, yeah.

Emma: Uh huh. So are they… have you gotten a prosthetic? Are you experimenting with that?

Jack: I’m not going to, because I mean, well, my disability is Spina Bifida.

Emma: Uh huh.

Jack: And so, I can walk with full leg braces and crutches. Yes, but I’ve been using… and I’m 45, I’ve been using a wheelchair since about eighth grade. So um, you know, if I do get one, it’ll be more, it’ll be more cosmetic. But also too, it will definitely help me like, with my balance, because now I’m balancing on one leg, even I’m sitting down, or even like, want to transfer from like, my chair to the bed or whatever. It is a lot different now. And now I only have half a lap. No, I put everything on my lap to carry it because I you know, I’m pushing with my hands in the chair. I relied on my lap. So now. I think once I do get the prosthetic it’ll be a lot easier. Because it’s been a big adjustment, obviously.

Emma: Yeah, yeah, that’s a whole big thing. Getting juggled around.

Jack: Exactly.

Greg: Those are good examples of things where like, I never thought of that. I don’t know if Jack had thought of much of it. As far as like, effects. There’s a lot of those those things you don’t realize, like that are gonna affect you once you get that change. Because,

Jack: Right. Well, cuz like Greg and I were talking like, again, like, I didn’t have to necessarily worry about never walking again. Because again, I was born disabled, or having to go through months and months and months of therapy to learn how to do things again. But now I am experiencing again. Yeah, it is imbalanced. And so there are a lot of things. Well, there’s a lot of things I don’t have to deal with where, oh, maybe a lot of people would. There’s some things I’m like, no, no. Okay, this, this is an issue. So…

Emma: Yeah, no, there’s I think, a lot of the time, people don’t really consciously understand the difference between a congenital problem and a thing you run into during your life. Yeah. Until they run into it, because that typically means they have no experience whatsoever with illness or disability.

Greg: Right. Yeah.

Emma: And it just, there’s so much nuance and diversity within that experience. And so,

Greg: Even within the same, same experience and conditions, yeah.

Jack: Or even like you were talking about how you handle it.

Emma: Yeah.

Jack: Because some people, some people might go through the exact same thing, but then Person A is gonna for their experiences, their personality, whatever, is gonna handle it completely different from person B.

Emma: Oh, yeah, no, absolutely. The inherent diversity of the experiences that we have. We do have some shared feelings and like, Oh, yes, I recognize that experience, and it’s some dimension, but it impacts us all differently, and it’s based on so many different factors. The monolithic disability experience does not exist.

Greg: Yeah, because I know that I’m sure Jack got a lot of different impressions from people as far as what they perceived in terms of his experience with that when they heard about it, versus what Jack’s life has been and his attitude towards things. You know, I’m not I’m sure not everyone who who loses a leg plans to make one encased in carbonite to put on his wall.

Emma: I really wanted to keep my hip bones.

Jack: We are working on it – a friend and I are making we’re making… We both have 3d printers. So I’m going to 3d print my leg in carbonite.

Emma: Yes. I love it.

Greg: I told him that I mean, you’re you’re overly committing yourself to the cosplay possibilities.

Emma: Oh, it’s so good.

Jack: I’m Cleigg Lars right now. And a couple of years I’ll be Anakin. [Laughter]

Greg: Got a couple more to go.

Jack: Yep.

Greg: So yeah. So I mean, you’re talking a little bit about your experience with like, dealing with the respiration issues. And well, first, let me ask you like, so where are you at now, as far as I know, you’ve heard you’ve had some chronic cough…

Emma: Yeah. So now I have about 50% lung capacity. So I get things that I know of one of my my lung doctors called me a half pint the other day, which is essentially, you know, like things that don’t exhaust other people. I’m theoretically not exhausted, but I am breathing hard, after I’ve done something, and I just have to sort of like, sit down and regain my breath. And I’ll be like, up and Adam, again, fairly shortly after, but I’m just very vulnerable in that sense. If I catch a common cold, like, it takes my wife out for a few days, it takes me out for two months, just because my lungs are so fragile. I’ve also got some lasting mental whatnot from it, like I actually probably have handled, whatever anxiety I developed out of this much better now than I ever have at any other point in my life. Because I’m much more sensitive to and aware of it.

Greg: I really like “mental whatnot.”

Emma: Yes, I’m also I do have some trauma in my brain, in that very, you know, like, it’s charmingly mechanical, almost, because it only happens, when I am in a healthcare situation…

Greg: Okay.

Emma: And my mind starts to think… “you, you can’t leave whenever you feel like it.” So typically, it happens when I’m in the hospital for some sort of treatment. And, you know, I know I’m going to have to be there for, you know, a day, maybe more, and at things, so I try to be aggressively pleasant with all the nurses of other health care people. Because I’m like, there’s going to be a point when I stopped being a human being, and I just start being the trauma, and I’m gonna cry, and I’m gonna scream, and I’m gonna beg and I’m sorry, but I can’t help it…

Greg: I’ve heard that referred to as medical trauma.

Emma: Yes. That’s exactly what it is. So it can happen to me, if I’m at the hospital and there and they tell me, you have to stay for a couple more tests, I have to be very careful because it could potentially be triggered. So even if it’s just like, a couple hours, because like, that’s where it is. It’s just mechanical.

Greg: Right.

Emma: So it’s almost interesting to study in that regard. Like, oh, I have no control over that.

Greg: Interestingly, that’s kind of I can really feel a bit because not from the medical facility, hospitalization stuff. But that was a bit about how I’ve dealt with my own anxiety because I have I have dysautonomia pots postural tachycardia. So my heart rate likes to just act up sometimes for no…. Well, for sometimes for triggering reasons for physical or mental reasons, but also just randomly. Yeah, so suddenly, I’m just some of the super anxious! And, you know, I get treatment for it and stuff. But also at times, there are things where I’m just, like, just suddenly anxious about something or something will happen that will trigger me and but I will, once I actually started learning how to recognize it, especially with treatment and also with with therapy, when I could recognize it coming on to recognize that the biological function that like, okay, it’s just my, my thing going off my, my amygdala is acting up. [Laughs]

Emma: There we go.

Greg: I mean, my, I always refer to this like… my fight or flight it is broken.

Emma: Yes.

Greg: It doesn’t know how to work, right. So like, when I put I’m aware of that, so when I’m conscious of it, and it starts happening, I can catch myself and that stops the cycle from spiraling out of control. And I have the same thing where I can like, I can like, step back and observe it like, Okay, what is this? How long is this going to take? And here’s what I’m feeling right now. And I know what I need to go drink something or eat something to help with it. But yeah, it’s like, some kind of mechanical thing now, which it always hasn’t been for me.

Emma: Yeah. The way this relates to my writing, is that when I was in the first stretch of major recovery, because I’ve had a couple stretches of that due to… In 2017, when I was getting my hip replacement, I was also being treated for a deeply embedded lung infection that I had picked up somewhere. It’s Mycobacterium Avium Complex, which is very similar to tuberculosis, they didn’t actually know there was a difference between them. They could like study them on like the molecular level. But, it’s actually pretty common for people with bronchiectasis to get it, because we’re very easy to infect. So I was on a lot of antibiotics, I was getting major surgery, and then I had to get major surgery at the again at the end of the year, because my gallbladder just quite… done. So I also spent 2018/2019, in recovery.

Greg: Wow.

Emma: But I had a very tight control over it, like, oh, you can do this thing that you like to do, but only if it’s ever going to serve you in building your life in sort of like this capitalist mindset of like…

Greg: How to make a living off of it.

Emma: Yeah, you can’t indulge it, you know, do it if it’s going to mean something. And it wasn’t until I was writing during recovery. And I was fortunately an agent and author at that point. But I had to give up writing the book that I was working on, prior to becoming sick, because I just wasn’t that person anymore. I couldn’t accept it that was partly getting older. But it was partly right, I had just changed so much. But writing was also the thing I did that sort of recovered by sense of being alive, and being a human being. So it’s a thing that I do on a regular. For myself, it is a gift to myself, but it’s also something I owe myself in a way that if I expect other human beings to be treated with respect and tenderness, then I owe some of that to myself. And this is one of the main ways by which I do that I owe myself my time to write and to do this creativity. And even if I’m not doing the actual act of writing, maybe I’m doing the thought work. Maybe I’m doing the consumption, that’s part of it. But it’s a very intentional thing now, that’s part of my mental health. Because it it is, you know, part of how I went from being just in recovery to feeling more alive.

Jack: I can totally relate to that. Because I’m an artist. And before the pandemic, I was at a point where I was just like in a real slump. And I just was, I don’t know, it’s probably a combination of my depression. There’s a whole bunch of factors, but I just wasn’t loving it anymore. And it felt like a chore. And then the pandemic happened. And same thing, I’ll say it’s not a mental thing. But I mean, still a situation, where, you know, I was forced to stay at home because I was laid off for six months. But then that’s when my love for art, and my motivation and everything kicked in. And I just had almost like a huge self renaissance of my art. And it was just, it definitely was my way of like you said giving back to myself. But also to since I do sell it… you know, it was it was twofold. It was it was self fulfilling, but then also, I can make other people happy. By creating it.

Emma: Yeah.

Jack: And it just it was it was taking a bad situation and making something good out of it.

Emma: Absolutely. I love that. I’m so glad to know that. Congratulations.

Jack: Oh, by the way, too. Oh, thanks. I just bought most of the materials – I am making B4.

Emma: Oh my god. Yay.

Greg: B5.

Jack: Yeah, B5.

Emma: I knew! I knew! Hat droid. Good boy.

Greg: Yep. Exactly.

Jack: Eventually the gonk as well.

Emma: Oh, perfect. Yeah. that cute gonk.

Greg: The one thing I want to ask your feelings about. You especially have had this experience with your respiratory system, with your lungs, your lung capacity, I imagine… and even talked about your recovery you reached in 2018/2019. Well, that leads right up into 2020.

Emma: Yup!

Greg: I imagine, tough year. Can you share some thoughts about what it’s been like for you?

Emma: Yeah, I have a couple thoughts. One is that I feel like in some ways, I was better mentally prepared for lockdowns and for social distancing than a lot of people I know. And very early on, what the entire setup reminded me of was those periods of recovery that I had, where I had been, you know, in a lot of ways vulnerable, and had to confine myself or been physically confined by how far I could physically get without help.

Greg: Right.

Emma: And, yeah, so I had developed a lot of deep internal life and deep internal projects and things I can do, to sort of nourish my mind and self in the confines of my home. Like, part of my recovery during 2018/2019, because I got a cold at the beginning of 2018 that knocked me out for two months…

Greg: Right.

Emma: And that was the process during and during that time, I sort of it took me a while to accept, but it was around the beginning of 2019, when I accepted like, I don’t know that I can have a traditional job, because you catch colds in the office. And if I catch a cold, I’m going to be out.

Greg: Right. Yeah.

Emma: So I guess I have to figure out how to work from home. So you know, like, now I do have my full time job from home.

Greg: Right.

Emma: It’s probably remote. I started it like a month or two before the pandemic started. The whole company’s remote. So we were like, well, I guess our jobs haven’t changed. Yeah, in, I saw a lot of people being very, like, stressed out about what they couldn’t do. And feeling the loss of that. Yeah. And so I was touching a lot of my loved ones and my friends through it, just because I had been there before I had kind of been over that hump. So it felt more like returning to that space. And I was less distressed by it. But the other thing is I like, I’ve had a lot of moments where I’ve just sort of like had to sit with the weight of everything that’s happening. And I’ve… I feel like it’s building in me right now. And I just cry, because I have gone from having to explain in detail, what I endured in 2012, 2013… to not having to go into nearly as much detail. Because all I have to say is, you know the worst case scenario in COVID – I lived through that.

Greg: Right.

Emma: The only reasons I did was because I got sick in Japan, which has nationalized health care. And so my catastrophic illness, which is what it was categorized as was nearly entirely covered by the state. And too, I was at a research hospital, where the doctors were used to thinking inventively and they were willing to take those ambitious risks…

Greg: Right.

Emma: To save a patient. And three, I was the only person who was that sick under their care.

Greg: Yeah.

Emma: And we are facing a situation where we don’t have nationalized health care, where our doctors are spread thin. And we are seeing massive health care worker attrition, because they’ve been treated terribly.

Greg: Right.

Emma: Or they’re dying, or they’re sick, and they’re in recovery themselves. And it’s not just me, it’s 1000s upon 1000s of people, and it’s just devastating. You know, it’s like, now I’m gonna have to get used to hearing about in five years, all the people who have bronchiectasis and replaced hips, you know, like, okay, cool. I was the precursor. I didn’t even have COVID.

Right.

But it’s just and I know, because I have a degree in clinical psych. There’s facts don’t compel people. Because… unless the facts align with where they are emotionally, but I wish there was some way to convey to them how lucky I was to survive what is now rampant… and how many people are… even if you do survive, I am the best case scenario, my life completely changed. So…

Greg: From what you described what you went through, it’s remarkable where you are. Understanding… I understand you’re still dealing with a lot. And it’s still…

Emma: Yeah, no, it is. I understand I’m very fortunate and I’m very grateful for that. And it just kills me that there are gonna be so many people who share my problems in five years.

Greg: Yeah, I have to say to like, everything you’ve just described, is very relatable for me. I have a genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, EDS, it’s some issue with production of collagen. And so that affects nerves and joints and muscles and everything basically. And one of the main problems that develops out of it, dysautonomia, which also have so that came out of… my understanding is you know, because we don’t know all the answers, but I know that I had like a case of mono as a teenager. So my dysautonomia, like a lot of cases, developed out of like a post viral thing, where it was likely the EDS made me susceptible to problems, and then I get hit by a virus and that caused all these issues with my nervous system. Essentially, what’s happening now with, their finding with long COVID is dysautonomia… is what I have. So what I’ve been through and what friends of mine have been through, and other patients in the community I’m in it’s like, all these Long COVID cases – I don’t know what it is. Now they’re, like 30% of cases, whether they’re hospitalized or not. It’s heartbreaking to me. And I’ve been in a similar boat as you where it’s like, I sit back sometimes, and I’m reading stories or something. I’m just like, it just puts me on the verge of tears, or I’m just like, I can’t imagine these millions of people are now going to be going through what we’ve gone through.

Emma: Yeah.

Greg: And a lot of that is why we bring these things up on the show to talk about because hopefully, you sharing your experience with that kind of situation and me sharing, what I’ve gone through… hope just some more people can be listening – Star Wars fans – checking this thing out. Like, you know, wow, that’s… I really don’t wanna…

Emma: Yeah, because the way I tried to put it these days is do whatever you can to not get COVID.

Greg: Yeah.

Emma: Yeah, make your choices. Just try not to do it.

Greg: Yeah.

Emma: It can get so bad.

Greg: Yep. And I mean, and I’ve… that’s part of why we’ve been so cautious to you know, like you said, with your being compromised… having avoid any kind of illness. God forbid, COVID. But even any kind of cold can knock you out for a while. Yeah, that’s been… that’s left us in my family and even more state of isolation, even as things start opening back up. So that’s why I’m really glad you share that.

Emma: Yeah. Yeah, no, I, I appreciate that. You guys are so open to talking about it and so dedicated to doing so because I’ve often found myself when I’m, you know, making the rounds. I kind of had this discussion with my wife, like, am I gonna talk about this? Because, you know, it’s such a sensitive topic in a really unfortunate way. But I feel very strongly about the right to health for not just you, but the people around you.

Right.

Don’t be a jerk. Protect people for God’s sake. So I really appreciate your dedication to that, because it’s something that I’ve been hoping to articulate in places, and I’m really glad that you’re open to it and not just open but championing it.

Greg: Hope so. Appreciate that. Yeah.

And I do want to circle back on that. But by starting with asking – tell us a little about your Star Wars story. Cause eventually I want to get into how does that bring… What did you bring of all those experiences into this story?

Emma: So cool. Okay. They asked me to write a Star Wars story inspired by Japanese stuff. And it was very vague. They didn’t give me a lot of guidelines. So I had the script and then pretty early on, I had the actual short, or a draft of it, and I had the character art that they started with, right, so I knew off the bat, alright, this is the medium they’re working with. This is the genre they want to be in. So I’ll stick with that. It’s not going to be contemporary Japan is going to be this Japan. And because I’m very much a social sciences person. That meant not just the history but also the narrative, the narrators the people who are making those stories, right? So it’s the combination of a sort of Shogunate Japan, and a post-war Japan. Yeah, like both of those anxieties are present. And they also gave me the Ronin – this big man. And I learned a little bit later on, but I was thrilled to learn that like, one of the pieces of his character design, the studio was like – his jaw thing is a prosthetic.

Greg: Right!

Emma: And I was like – Bingo! Excellent.

Greg: You were already into it at that point, right. From what I heard that was a bit later…

Emma: Yeah it was a bit later, but I was so excited to be able to, like add that in because they had not made clear what it was before, right? Face guard? Men-yoroi, which is literally face armor? Like, okay, but no, it’s a prosthetic. So I layered that into the story. And I was so happy to do that, because I had already, like, I already had this character, and I do some things to him. In the story like, this is consistent throughout all my work. When a character gets hurt, they get hurt. And Star Wars has bacta. But I didn’t. I don’t like to use tools like that to fix things really. And to also bacta can’t do anything about your brain. So…

Greg: Right.

Emma: I think most of these characters are carrying some sort of mental burden with them. Because one of the things that changed about me as a writer is I almost don’t know how to write someone who doesn’t have some kind of break problem. Yeah, so the Ronin is definitely carrying things. So our most if not all of the characters can be, however good… they are at handling whatever’s going on with them. Some of them are much better at it than others, and therefore some of them are quite bad. Yeah. Being able to layer in that element. Like, well, he has a prosthetic, that means he’s injured. How is he about that? Like, what’s his relationship to the fact of his injury? And the fact of the prosthetic, and I won’t talk much about that. I’ll let people discover that but like negotiating that relationship was as soon as I knew it was a thing to play with. I was like, I have to, I just do.

Greg: I had a… yeah, right. This is where we’re kind of like a little borderline. We’ve talked before and we’re not we’re not going to get into real spoilers. But like a couple of those subtle things I noticed and I did note that there’s the whole thing about he does stroke his jaw stroke that prosthetic.

Emma: I used to touch my throat a lot like when I was coming out of the hospital, my tracheotomy scar, which is right in the divot. I would like I still neurotically sort of touch it. And it’s not that I’m anxious necessarily just thinking. So. Yeah.

Greg: Maybe that you subconsciously go to that place.

Emma: Yeah.

Jack: No joke. While we’re doing this, I was kind of rubbing my stump. [Laughter]

Emma: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. It’s the little things like you’re just, you’re aware of your body.

Greg: Right. Exactly.

Emma: Yeah. And no, like, Yeah, go on…

Greg: Let me ask you this, along those lines, and this is where you tell me if this to you feels too spoilery. But do you feel like he connects? I won’t get into the details about the jaw, how it came about, which was kind of vague also. Does he relate that itself to his background? People connect, like injuries to trauma, and things they’ve done? You know, he’s somebody who’s dealing with the dark past and the things he’s done in the past – is he connect that to that? And he’s like, subconsciously…

Emma: I mean, I very deliberately, when when the studio made clear that this is the thing, I went back, and I added a whole scene, actually, that dug into sort of the specific moment of his injury.

Greg: Right.

Emma: And there’s not a ton of details because again, he’s not a very forthcoming guy. But like, the, the history is there on the page. And that was very deliberate on my part part like… Because I don’t think it’s an injury of shame for him.

Greg: Okay.

Emma: So it is very much connected to a choice he made. And it’s a choice that had a lot of complicated outcomes. And so yeah, no, like, that prosthetic then becomes something connected to that choice and that history and everything that’s come out of it. But yeah, no, I did that very on purpose.

Greg: Yeah. Yeah. And it was one of the things were like, Yeah, you said he only he’s explains just what happened, but he doesn’t give the details. And that’s left me like… I want more of that story.

Emma: I mean, if they asked me to I’d write it!

Greg: Um, but yeah, there’s definitely, there’s more there there. But, uh, yeah. And then also the fact that… and again, so this is very early in the story. So it’s not really it’s not a spoiler-ish thing. But It is described as a bit outdated. And then he’s kind of reluctant… seems to be at least reluctant, whether costly or not to get it fixed, or replace it. And even B5 gets on his case about it. Like, why haven’t you fixed that thing yet?

Emma: Yeah. And early on, I don’t think it’s spoilery.

Greg: Yeah. Jack and I talked a little bit about this, because we were discussing some things along these lines. And we were thinking about the fact that he… is this part of a pattern that he has of… he sort of subjects himself to hardship? Is he… Is he kind of punishing himself?

Shall we call it self harm?

That is actually – yeah, that’s what I was trying not to say…

Emma: I, I had that in my mind, in terms of, you know, like, there’s a lot of reasons that we can end up not giving ourselves treatment, or not even seeking diagnosis for a problem we’ve had. And that, again, was me pulling from my own behavior. Like I walked around, like, I had pains in my hips for over a year, before I went to a doctor about it.

Greg: Yeah,

Emma: It had just reached the point where I was like, once again, sobbing in pain. My wife was like, you have to go, right? I’m drawing the line, you’re going and my dad came all the way to New York to escort me there…

Greg: It sounds like an intervention.

Emma: Yeah, it was basically and it wasn’t that I was like, punishing myself or anything. I just thought I can get through this. I have to get through this. I’ve gotten through other things. I’ll get through this too.

Yeah that sounds like Jack.

Jack: Exactly what happened to me. Exactly what happened to me. I developed a, an ulcer on my foot. Uh, and I tried to take care of it myself. I was like, Oh, I’ll take care of myself. I’ve dealt with them before. Oh, it’s getting bad, but you know, it’s okay. Oh, yeah. And then finally, it was really bad. And like, No, you. You need to go to the emergency room right now.

Emma: Yeah. Yeah.

Jack: And it was too late. But I mean… Yeah, same thing. I feel you.

Emma: So that was something I was working with this guy because it’s just seemed natural for that to be a problem he had.

Greg: Yeah. It makes so much sense for his character.

Emma: Also, just like he’s not a person who even wants to ensure that he has money for food. There’s so much about him. Just built into this sense of like, what he thinks he deserves. And therefore when he is doing all these…

Greg: Punishing himself.

Emma: Yeah, tiny little micro choices he makes to make his life harder.

Greg: Jack pointed out that he’s sleeping outside…

Jack: Sleeping outside.

Emma: Yeah, uh huh. Yeah.

Greg: And just dragging B5 along with him going “Come on…” the whole time.

Emma: I told other people before like, B5 is doing his best to keep his human alive, and his human is not making it easy.

Greg: Is B5 in a sense, in that way, you know – your friends or family? Who were doing that?

Emma: Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. Like, it’s important to me to treat droids as people unto themselves. And B5 is that caregiver going oh, my god, please eat…

Greg: Right caregiver. Yeah. That’s a really good word use for him. That’s interesting.

Emma: Yeah, that’s a… my wife and I have had a lot of conversations about that. Like, she likes to joke that she takes care of my body and I take care of her brain.

Greg: Nice.

Emma: But like curve, giving is pretty like a cornerstone of the way we understand and define our relationship. And I think it’s part of why it’s so easy for one or the other of us to go into the mode of like, No, I’ve got you. You just sit there. I’ll take care of it.

Greg: Yeah. Yeah, I’m a little bit similar situation. My wife, she gives me operating so that I can work.

Emma: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s there’s a giving there. Yeah. And it’s intentional. It comes from care. Yeah.

Greg: Interesting. Essentially, I hadn’t thought about that as his… of that droid character until you said that… that light. That’s interesting.

Emma: The Ronin at the beginning of the story is just like with using any kind of improvement. Like no, this is where I am.

Greg: Another quick little like one line thing I caught that boy, I know this is knowing more about your story. Now this is definitely your personal experience. But there was a line about his his jaw, he woke up with his jaw aching from from pain due to the damp.

Emma: Yeah. That’s also pretty early on, but it’s just yeah, you know, like, making clear that this is a man who is not taking care of himself.

Greg: Right. Yeah, I have issues with my, my system based on the, you know, I’m a human parameter. And all that. And I know, people I know with knee issues and other pain problems, that boy, they just fire up when…

Emma: Yeah, my lungs know the weather before I do.

Greg: Right. Yeah. The thing. Story point I noticed that I was thinking of and this isn’t a spoiler either. I don’t think I’ll mention it. But you’re talking along those lines is that at some point, someone offers him some painkillers. And he’s like… and literally his responses is – Why?

Emma: I know! Just…

Greg: Oh, yeah. Okay.

Emma: Oh, that was on purpose, too. Yeah, I’m writing him… and I’m thinking the whole time this jerk….

Greg: You just want to grab him and shake him. Come on – you can do better. What, what else – I’ll pose as a general question to you. Because like, yeah, I picked up things here and there. What other experiences do you feel you brought into the story once you got into it?

Emma: So there’s a number of points where, like I mentioned, a lot of the characters are dealing with different kinds of brain weird, whatnot….

Greg: Right.

Emma: And all that happens, it explodes on the page in different ways at different points. So like, that’s, that’s something I did very deliberately like these. A lot of these people are people who have done a lot of violence.

Greg: Right.

Emma: And when I was getting my master’s, we have a, a lab that’s devoted to studying trauma in veterans. And so it’s very hard for me to conceive of people who do violence who come away from that fine. So when we’re talking about, you know, Jedi or Sith, or anybody who’s wielding a lightsaber, or anyone who’s like, expects to meet them on the field, all of these people are hearing something with them, whether they are diagnoseable, or not, and some of them are not, some of their are fine, they’re able to compartmentalize, and they don’t carry it with them. But a lot of the people on this page on these pages, like do have something that’s like, haunting them in a very real physical way. Um, there was, there’s another element in the story where… I’m not gonna spoil this, but like, there’s a collection of people who, I didn’t get deep into it, but it’s implied like that they are grouped together because they are in various ways, chronically ill. So that’s why they’re categorized in this particular way, and why they are potentially not going to be valued in the same way that other people are. It’s a kind of a subtle one, but it’s…

Greg: I must have just missed that…

Emma: Yeah, no, it’s, it’s embedded in the text and I have one point was going to do more with it, but it just ended up not being quite the space to do it. Like, if I was going to do it. I wanted to like make more of a thing. So it’s just lurking in the background, you can read into it. And if I told you what it was, you probably go “Ohhhhh” So like, just the fact of bodies, and their fragility is something I’m thinking of a lot when I’m writing. The one thing I was sort of like thinking at the end of this was like, man, I wish I had given one of these characters, like, more of a chronic illness instead of just like, hurting them all the time. Like, they do, they are chronically ill in their brains, but like, they don’t have, like, these symptoms in the same way that like I live with on the daily. And like, that was an opportunity. That was a missed opportunity. If they let me do another one, I was gonna say, prioritize that.

Greg: That’s a little bit of what I… You mentioned chronic illness. And I was listening, looking for those things and listening for them. But I did feel like there were elements of certainly, clearly chronic pain is a big thing.

Emma: Yeah.

Greg: And… but also, there’s a certain element of the one thing I picked up on was the idea, like, like you said, and not spoilery – Ronin gets really beat up,

Emma: Yeah! I went to town on that guy!

Greg: Yeah, he takes a punishment, and not just himself, but others around him. And yeah, you even get that in the… I noticed it in The Duel. In the short, because he is obviously clearly like, this guy’s awesome. He’s a badass, you know, you don’t mess with him. But, you know, she gets the upper hand on him a couple times. And yeah, I got a feeling. Having watched that, again, this reading the story. There’s more of a clearer idea of picture of him, as you know, he’s described as older, even kind of maybe older than he feels in the short that he’s been around, and that he’s slower, more tired than he used to be. And he gets more and more tired as the story goes along. It’s more worn down. Um, but yeah, there are a couple of points where you know, the Sith Bandit gets the upper hand on him, and you felt like… he’s maybe not prime anymore.

Emma: Yeah, that was important to me. In part because, well, like, what if you watch The Duel, again, you’ll notice there’s actually like, a point when he gets thrown off the waterfall. When he’s dragging himself back out, he’s very clearly favoring one of his arms. So I took that as a cue, because I studied this short VERY in depth.

Greg: Right.

Emma: While, I was, you know, writing it to make sure I was honoring it. But when you have a badass as your protagonist, you do have to figure out how to threaten them.

Greg: Yeah.

Jack: Yes.

Emma: So I decided pretty early on like, this is a guy who’s like, alright, he be a Sith Bandit. Big whoop. And she’s a bandit. Like, she’s been beating up on people who have none of what she’s bringing to the table. Yeah. She’s beats a bunch of bounty hunters. Yeah, like, she’s, she’s a bully. How would he do against someone who has been like keeping up with themselves, who’s treating themselves better? Not so good, probably. And so part… and like, I also had this understanding of that I wanted him to have to, very much in like, a lot of different ways, become stronger and healthier. Because that was part of the story idea from really early on. Like, because when I was thinking about the nature of the Force, and the way I wanted to play it, in Ronin, part of it was like, I didn’t really like the idea that someone is naturally strong or whatever. Like, maybe they’re, they have a natural affinity for this or that. So like, he has that instinct for mechanical elements. He has like this sort of uncanny insight. But you can have that if you’re just a guy.

Greg: Right, yeah.

Emma: So like, the thing is, you can have a natural skill or talent, but you have to hone it. And you have to honor your body as you’re doing that or you’re not getting get very far. So here’s a guy who’s been bumming around, hunting down Sith, not treating himself right, getting through these battles by the skin of his teeth. Arguably any of them could have killed him at any time. He did make it. But if he suddenly gets pulled into a much bigger problem, he’s going to have to do more of that honoring of his body… to actually stand toe to toe with it. Like that was a thing I had done, because mechanically, it just made more sense to me in terms of the narrative. But it also fit really well into what developed out of his character, which is a guy who’s just punishing himself endlessly for his past choices.

Greg: There are some ways where you’re challenging the figure that a lot of fans might even perceive him as even watching the short… things they might not take away some of the elements from it, that sort of undermines might be the right word, but you kind of turn on its head as far as who this guy is, and what kind of guy he is. And in lots of different ways it develops into, like, this is not the kind of stereotypical, you know, lone killer samurai badass you know, that some might take him as…

Emma: Yeah, so part of that was because I’m not super interested in that archetype…

Greg: Right.

Emma: … treated as itself, in part, because I think part of that archetype takes violence for granted, which is never something I’m interested in doing. Because I think, and I, you’ve probably heard me talking about this in different ways before, but like I will, violence doesn’t just leave scars on the bodies, it harms, it leaves scars on the people who perpetrate it. And sometimes a perpetrator has done something just objectively cruel. But sometimes a person is like, with the veterans we were working with, at that lab. A lot of people get in the army, because it’s the only path forward they can see to any kind of economic future, they’re ruthlessly taken advantage of, and thrown at these problems and wounded not just in their bodies, but in, you know, their brains. Every act of violence poisons, you know?

Greg: And in their spirits.

Emma: Yeah, yeah. So, however, you know, like, I don’t want to impose on the way anybody understands their relationship to their soul and their their feelings. But like, yeah, no, it’s it’s a spiritual thing, right? So… if this is a guy, who’s defined by all the violence, he’s done, and to me, he’s a very wounded man.

Greg: Right.

Emma: And like, that’s the way I am interested in him. If they had chosen someone else to write the story, it would have been different. But because that’s my perspective, and the kind of thing that I am interested in, that was how he developed. And I think that was really in step, frankly, with the genre that he sits in. Like, they gave him to me, he’s like, already in jidaigeki. So I wasn’t going to take him out of jidaigeki and throw him into like, some other cut like – he’s in a sports anime now! No, we’re not doing that. We’re in jidaigeki.

Greg: And jidaigeki for anyone who doesn’t know, those are period pieces that people will know as like the samurai movies and things like that.

Emma: And there’s a lot of anxiety about violence in those movies. Because they’re about this other era, but they’re being made during post-war Japan, right, where Japan has won, perpetrated a lot of terrible violence, but two – suffered a lot of terrible violence.

Greg: Right, right.

Emma: And so there’s a lot of that pressure coming out in different ways in the way that artists create narratives. So a man who’s being situated as a character of violence in this kind of story is therefore going to be defined by that. And lucky me, I’m very interested in that. So I got to really unpack him.

Greg: Wow, yeah. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but like, I just can’t imagine anyone better to tell this story.

Emma: I really appreciate that.

Greg: And maybe more so than some others have mentioned. As far as the things we’ve talked about here. It’s like, you’ve got the academic background, and the writing ability, obviously, clearly. And then you’re also able to bring their own personal experience of what you’ve been through… Yeah, all together.

Emma: I mean, I think part of it is just that they gave me the freedom to do that, you know? Like the only stipulations were it has to be The Duel. What happens tomorrow. And so by my nature, I just started digging deep into the genre and what I remembered about it, and then also like refreshing my brain and reading up on it. And then also, like, inevitably bringing my own personal experiences to the table to interpret all of that information into a narrative. Yeah, I really appreciate that it feels like I conveyed the story that I was interested in well, and I’m grateful to have connected with people about that. And I’m really glad to have had this conversation about a man who I think is very deeply wounded and very, very sad.

Greg: I think we can also appreciate – I think Jack touched on it quite a bit. I’m the same… I’m in similar boat, but in different ways that… I mean…

Jack: Right.

Greg: Especially as both middle aged guys, we’re just we are both into situations where like, I can see that I can relate to those things. I think you’ve touched on a lot that really well…

Emma: Yeah…

Greg: … given the element brought to it, and the elements were given, put together a guy who goes through these things and has a certain attitude about them that he could do better and works towards doing better about those things.

Emma: I’m grateful for that. He struck me as an older character. Like I’ve seen people like go back and forth. And I’m like, I looked at him and I immediately thought early 40s at best! [Laughs]

Greg: Right. Yeah.

Emma: He’s seen some shi- some stuff.

Greg: Yeah, people of different ages are different ages, you know? If that makes sense? Yeah, it’s like, yeah, especially the people who’ve been through it one way or another. [Laughs]

Jack: It’s almost like Indiana Jones in a way…

Greg: That’s what I was about to say!

Emma: Yeah!

Jack: As Indy’s getting older, he’s, you know, not as physically adept at everything he used to be able to do it now. I mean, when he fights somebody, he might get his butt kicked, because he’s…

Emma: Yeah!

Greg: Were you just thinking of the quote when you said that? When that came to you just now? “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage?”

Jack: No, I didn’t actually, it just.. [laughs]

Greg: [Laughing] See this is the problem Jack and I have with sharing the same brain and it drives my wife crazy…

Jack: Exactly. We say the exact same things, so…

Greg: Just at the same time, go to Indiana Jones…

20-something year of friendship is gonna do that to you.

Emma: So beautiful.

Greg: And two different things about Indiana Jones at the same time, unrelated…

Emma: I love it.

Greg: Yeah, on that note, I mean, like I said before, like we could go on for so many hours. We really appreciate you coming on really, this means a lot. I think it’s been a very valuable discussion about this. It’s been special to be able to talk about your experiences and also it being such a great book to hear be able to hear you tell more of what you put into it.

Emma: Oh, so happy we… you know, I’ve done a bunch of these now. And it’s most special and I get to like, really go deep with the hosts about something they’re interested in. And we can really start unpacking something. And absolutely got to talk about our lead bad. The ronin in ways I have not been able to talk about it with other people right like I’m sitting here thinking my God I need to do a thread on this guy now.

Greg: Yeah, exactly.

Jack: Where can we find you?

Emma: So you can find me @EmmaCandon on Twitter. You can also theoretically find me on Instagram and Tumblr at EmCandon… and yeah, I’m currently working on revisions for my book The Archive Undying, which is about divine AI’s, giant robots made of bone, the post-post-apocalypse with people being dragged screaming toward revolution. That’s out in summer 2023.

Jack: Yes!

Greg: That’s fascinating, that’s great.

So yeah, that was our interview with Emma. I just feel really good about that discussion, it was great to hear Emma’s personal story, and to hear how it shaped her writing. And then how she applied it to this Visions story when it came to her.

Jack: Right.

Greg: I’ll say again, how great I think this book is, it stands sort of apart from any other Star Wars book that’s been put out in terms of content and themes and style. Like, like all the Visions shorts, it sort of up in everything you know about Star Wars, while also still being fully Star Wars. I will say though, that is fairly challenging book. And that could be especially tough for any of our listeners who struggle with cognitive issues that might affect their reading or listening ability. But Emma’s storytelling style is is sort of elegant and poetic. So a lot of story beats aren’t necessarily laid out for you. I personally listened to the audiobook twice, just to really wrap my brain around some of the events of the story before I really got it. But having said that, it for me, it was deeply affecting even on that first take, that first listen and even like more so on the second. So we highly recommend giving it a chance. You should be able to find it at all major booksellers, on Amazon, possibly your library. And if not, you might be able to request it there. You can also find on Audible. And I have to say the audiobook is a fantastic production with really great new music, and an awesome voice performance. But also, for me, at least like audiobooks are just a lot easier for me to process these days. And that probably did help me here. At the same time, though, the print edition is also probably the most attractive physical Star Wars book that Del Rey has ever put out.

Jack: Yep. And we also just want to thank Emma for taking the time to talk to us.

Greg: Yeah, exactly. I mean, she was very open, very honest, and very insightful. Really appreciate it. So thanks a lot for joining us for this episode. And again, we want to hear from you. We want to hear your story. Any thoughts or feedback you have about these topics we’ve discussed in this or any other episode. Feel free to reach out to us on social media, we’re Resilience Squadron on Facebook and Instagram and ResilienceSquad on Twitter. And also please consider leaving us a rating and review on iTunes or your own podcast network of choice. That would be a really big help to us. We are part of the Skywalker network where you can find other great shows like Talking Apes, Classic Marvel Star Wars Comics, the Max EFX podcast, Neverland Clubhouse and the flagship show Skywalking Through Neverland.