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Interview with Stephen Sansweet.

Stephen J. Sansweet is known for his great passion for science fiction as well as for being a writer and a collector.
He graduated from journalism, worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal as a reporter.
In 1996 he joined Lucasfilm Ltd. as Director of Content Management & Head of Fan Relations His task is to to promote Star Wars to fans.
Stephen J. Sansweet has written twelve books, the majority of which is dedicated to the Star Wars phenomenon.

The below short interview has been performed via e-mail thanks to the great help of Kasia Drabik - our common friend :)
I thank Kasia for help and Stephen for answers to the questions. And I also thank you all for wanting to read it!

You are an expert on fan relations thus, I suppose, you had opportunities
to observe various aspects of fandom activities around the world. Could you
try to make some kind of classification? Divide fans into groups taking into
consideration ways of fulfilling their hobby?

Fans never cease to amaze me with their differences-and their similarities-despite the fact that they comes from every possible background and every part of the globe. Some fans consider themselves "purists" and are just interested in the movies themselves. Some really get into the Expanded Universe and read as much as they can about the happenings in the world that George Lucas created. Others mainly are video gamers, delighting in immersing themselves in that far away galaxy. And, of course, there are the collectors of everything from action figures to autographs. But in a very real way, all fans are collectors... of experiences. And those individual experiences blend together and make up what we call fandom.

Are there any general differences between approaching Star Wars subject
among fans in different countries?

Not really, although I have observed fans in some countries-Mexico for example-translate their love for Star Wars into art, dioramas, vehicles built out of wooden sticks and tin plate, creatures made from papier-mâché, etc. That exists everywhere to some degree, but in the U.S., for example, there are a higher percentage of fans who are collectors. I've spent time with fans in many countries and one thing is universal-they love the camaraderie of fandom, which is being together with other Star Wars fans.

What does Poland look like against the background of entire fandom? Are manifestations of Polish fans actions visible to environments connected with Lucasfilm?

On the whole, Star Wars fandom in Eastern Europe has been slower to develop than elsewhere because of political and economic history. While the movies opened in Poland at around the same time as the rest of the world, the first legitimate screenings in Russia, for example, didn't occur until 1991. But countries such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have had a long fascination with science fiction and fantasy, so it hasn't taken long to catch up. The spread of the Internet has made all things possible! There are, of course, still language barriers that separate fans and keep the knowledge of what's happening in other countries fairly low. I think Poland has only recently popped up on the radar of most other fans worldwide.

Were you interested in the history of Fandom? The readers connected with site are most interested in "vintage" era - that is before 85'. As a person, who himself was a SW fan you must know precisely all the regalia associated with this phenomena in USA. But do you have any information about how it was like in more exotic countries, like Poland of that time and other Eastern European countries or Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, etc.

Yes, I am fascinated with the history of fandom all over the world, and this is something that I have explored. As part of my collection, I have early fanzines and fan newsletters from many countries and frequently talk to people about their personal introduction to fandom and what it was like in the "early days." There was a similar pattern of great enthusiasm, followed by a quiet decade after Return of the Jedi, and then a resurgence of interest around the time of the Special Editions and then Episode I.

Among Polish fans there are many persons who treat their hobby in a
creative way: they paint pictures, draw comics, write stories. What is their
chance for appearing as an author of the world of SW? E.g.: what should a
Pole do if he/she wrote in Polish language a really good novel which plot is
laid in the world of Star Wars?

Fandom started with "fanzines", stories written by fans that were mimeographed and later photocopied and sold at cost to other fans. They filled a need then, because there was little in the way of other fictional material out there for major properties like Star Wars and Star Trek. It was a way fans could really become part of the broader story by contributing to it. Today, all Star Wars novels are carefully planned out years in advance and Lucasfilm works with its U.S. publisher, Del Rey Books, to find the best and most experienced published authors to write the novels (these are then translated into up to 32 languages.) Neither the publisher nor Lucasfilm can accept submissions-manuscripts or even ideas-for legal reasons. I'd suggest that if there is are budding Polish authors who just have to write Star Wars fiction or they will explode, then the best outlets are non-profit fanzines and online.

Steve, his collection and some ugly kid.

What is your attitude towards then produced (before year 85) unlicensed
articles in these countries? E.g., for us - Polish fans who happened to explore Star Wars in the years of cold war - figure bootlegs, black and white photos of foreign toys, books copied on typewriters and on duplicating machines were the only hope for fulfilling hobby. Today, they remind us of years gone by and awaken nostalgia. Does Lucasfilm condemn this phenomenon or maybe sees it as the curiosity of former times that confirms the film popularity and its huge impact on people's minds around the world? What is your personal attitude towards such memorabilia?

This is history; there is nothing to be condemned by anyone. I know some U.S. collectors who collect only bootleg items, some of which have become very expensive! Certainly Lucasfilm has and will go after major counterfeiters of Star Wars products worldwide; it's not only a matter of lost revenue, but there can be safety issues as well as poor perceptions of Star Wars by people who don't know any better. I do indeed have some vintage, unlicensed items in my collection, and I consider them mostly historical oddities.

You are a collector yourself and your collection is huge. There are so
many items produced in the world that, surely, it is still possible to
expand it. In what branch of collecting are you interested most? Do you
still happen to find something surprising? Any object, you didn't know

I discover items I didn't know about nearly every day-either new ones I didn't know were being produced, or vintage ones-especially from outside the U.S.-that show up on eBay constantly. It'd be very boring if I had-or even knew about-everything ever produced! I think the things that I love the most right now are fan-made objects that show both the passion and skill of the maker. These are usually one-of-a-kind objects-some that I buy and some that are given to me as gifts. I also love the limited-edition items such as patches and coins that the 501st and Rebel legions make for internal distribution.

You present your knowledge on Star Wars stuff in numerous
publications. Any moment now your newest book will come out. What matters do you touch upon this time? Rumor has it that there are two CDs to be attached. What do they contain?

I think by now you know the answers to these questions, so let me answer a question that you didn't ask. The Star Wars Vault is, in a way, the culmination of many of the 11 other books I've written about Star Wars. It uses the 30th anniversary as a way to look at every facet of the Star Wars phenomenon-the making, marketing, merchandising, music, impact on fans, etc. It does so in "bit-sized" chapters, lots of new photos, and very cool replicas of actual items, such as a crew invitation from Alec Guinness to have drinks, or George's actual handwritten story treatment for The Empire Strikes Back. The two CDs contain very early and more recent interviews, very strange vintage radio commercials, and even Carrie Fisher singing the Life Day song from the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special!

Are you going to visit Poland ... some day?

Is that an invitation? I would love to visit Poland and meet Polish fans, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Tank you a lot for the answers.

Questions : Kuba Turkiewicz.