I don't remember a time before Star Wars. I have to wonder . . . Was there a time before Star Wars? The last of the original trilogy was released seven years before I was born, but almost all of my earliest memories include those amazing movies. I don't know how I got into it, but I don't remember my life without it. My childhood was spent (but certainly not wasted) playing Star Wars themed games (not games like computer games or video games. No, we used our imagination back then) with my best friend, most of which included us being twin sisters: Leia and Leah (we would switch off each game so we could each be the "real" character sometimes, and avoid nasty arguments). For a while, we honestly thought we were twins – destined to save the galaxy, armed only with the neighbor boys' toy lightsabers, left outside and neglected – at least, until they figured out that we were "borrowing" them every once and a while.

We spent rainy days inside, watching the trilogy straight through. (Occasionally skipping The Empire Strikes Back; we didn't like the "gore" of Luke's hand getting cut off. This was, of course, before we figured out that "gore" was cool.) We spent many days wishing with our very hearts and souls that there was more to it, wishing that good 'ol George would pick it up again. We didn't care what he did, or how he did it. We just wanted it – and soon.

When 1999 rolled around, and we caught wind of a new Star Wars movie, it gave us a new hope. (Ha, ha. I'm hilarious.) And, with our spirits newly restored, and the knowledge that our very dreams were coming true, we gratefully plunged into it headfirst. This was the introduction of something new, something wonderful, something so awesome, it could only be described as "holy": Expanded Universe. Yes, Jedi Apprentice came out, and we thought we had died and gone to heaven, but that was only the beginning. (Literally. Hah! I made another funny.)

That was back when we were nine or ten. It's really amazing when I think of that; it seems so long ago. Now we're fifteen, and even though I moved to a different state, she's still into it, and so am I – with a few new Star Wars Fanatic Friends. I've literally been waiting all my life for this moment, and it's finally come. I can now die a happy and contented Star Wars fan. Well, almost. First, I have to profess my undying thanks to the man responsible for this whole mess: Mr. George Lucas.

I'd definitely like to thank Mr. Lucas for doing a great job of appealing to the female audience. Guys don't realize that girls are just as – if not more – "hard-core" than they are. I say it's possible for us to be more into Star Wars than some boys because we can look into the plotline, and into the characters, and beyond the lightsaber battles to find a message. (I'm not saying that boys don't do this, and I'm not saying ALL girls do it either. One of my best guy-friends has spent long hours discussing the Jedi code with me, as if it were a philosophy, and psycho-babbling about why the characters did what they did.) While I'm here psychoanalyzing Anakin, my guy-friends are grumbling that the battle scenes should have been longer. Perhaps we are able to get into the story a bit more than the boys because we are a bit more sympathetic. Unfortunately, due to society, men are not supposed to feel worried for Luke when he's in danger, cry with Anakin when his mother dies, feel relieved when Han is (partially) saved from Jabba by Leia, or pretty much react in any other way than, "Dude, that was freakin' sweet!" Of course, there are men who have escaped the restraints of our confining social expectations, and actually let us know that they have feelings.

All of this said, I'd just like to applaud Mr. Lucas for actually providing a love plot (however cheesy it may be at times, though not often), exceptionally good-looking men (Hayden, younger Obi-Wan, and Harrison gave us something to look at in-between the action scenes we all love oh-so much), and providing us with two, incredibly strong female characters (along with the occasional glimpse of female Jedi kicking major Separatist butt in Episode II).

I'd like to thank Mr. Lucas for not continuing with any movies beyond the original trilogy. Why? Well, let's put it in the immortal words of my dear friend, Katie: "Do you really want to see Harrison Ford, at sixty, wearing leather pants?"

Lately, it seems that directors feel the need to insert a little bit of "F-en-heimer this, F-en-heimer that" and an occasional scantily clad woman to bump that rating up a notch. They seem to think it will bring in more of an audience, but they're having a really hard time grasping the fact that it doesn't. Some people accuse Mr. Lucas of doing this with Episode III, and I'd like to have a nice chat with those people so I could tell them where to stick it. As an author, I see where Mr. Lucas is coming from. Your story has to be written the way you feel it should be written, and doing it any other way is a crime. I want to thank Mr. Lucas for staying true to his plotline, even if it meant breaking the hearts of a few of his fans. (My poor little nine-year-old brother included. Don't worry, Mr. Lucas, he'll get over it.)

I've discovered a few things through my experience with Star Wars: whether you're young, old, or in-between, whether you make it to all the conventions, or none of them at all, whether you're up to your ears in Star Wars trivia knowledge, or you've just seen the movies for the very first time, whether you're a classic nerd, the biggest prep known to the human race, a rocket scientist, a bus-boy at the local burger joint, a goth, a punk, a poser, or an "other", it doesn't matter. If you can truly say you enjoy the movies, are willing to let others know it, and don't care what other people say about you because of it, you are a true, hard-core fan.

Hard-core doesn't mean watching the movies almost religiously each weekend; hard-core doesn't mean buying or making the most realistic and accurate costume and wearing it every chance you get; hard-core doesn't mean having the whole script of every movie memorized; hard-core doesn't mean attending every party, convention, or other such social gatherings related to Star Wars.

Hard-core does mean doing what you think is extreme, doing it with pride, and doing it because you really do love the movies, and not just because you love the attention people give you when you do it. While hard-core to one person may just be wearing a Star Wars shirt every once and a while, another person might think hard-core is owning all the movies, having as many sound tracks as possible, memorizing personal stats on all of the characters (and possibly the actors that play them), owning vintage action figures and movie posters, buying really nice toy lightsabers for exorbitant amounts of money, and owning their very own cardboard cut-out of some random, obscure character that nobody else really knows – or even cares – about (but still rolling their eyes and sighing when others don't know its name).

I've found my hard-core: I feel I'm destined to protect the honor of Star Wars by inflicting stabbity, plastic lightsaber death upon those who call it "Star Trek", randomly arriving at my high school dressed as my Sith alter-ego: "Darth Extra", showing off my control of the Force by kindly opening doors for disabled persons (while my minions man the handy-capped button.), and educating others in the ways of the Force: it's okay to hyperventilate when you watch the newest Star Wars for the first time. I only wish that other Star Wars fans could understand that I'm a true fan, just as they are, and I wish they'd stop trying to prove their superior fan-ness by tossing random trivia around, and then deeming us all failures because we don't know every single name of every single spacecraft in every single movie. I want to thank Mr. Lucas for helping me to find my realm of fan-dom, and for making the movies that have taught me never to take the crap other kids give me for being a Star Wars fan. (Besides, once I've assembled a mini nerd-army, we shall attack them with our lightsabers and Force lightning! Hoohah!)

Even though I feel completely lost, now that the final installment has been made and the saga is complete, I am glad for it. And, no matter how disgustingly cliché it sounds, every story has to have an ending, and I must say this ending was sublime. Some say they're disappointed because they had an image of what would happen in the end, and the movie didn't live up to it. Well, personally, I think the disappointment they're feeling is simply the realization that there is no more. It's done. We've been waiting years and years for it, saying that we "couldn't wait until Episode III came out!" but when it finally got here, we realized that very, very deep inside our hearts, there was a small part of us that didn't want the day to come. We wanted Star Wars to last forever.

Well, cheer up guys, the end's only the middle, and good 'ol George left us one huge open ending, and it's up to us to fill that up. With what? With our own individual hard-core, that's what. Keep Star Wars going, people. There's a whole new generation just waiting to see it, and it's up to us to be the Luke and the Leia: rebuild the Jedi order step by step, and make Star Wars immortal. Because, no matter how disgustingly cliché it sounds, every story has to have an ending. But only the good ones have open endings.

May the Force be with you, and may it be Hard-Core.

Truly yours, forever and ever (You can't escape me.) –

Nyssa Towsley (Yes, Nyssa. As in Doctor Who.)