Carly Lane
April 20, 2015 12:55 pm

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Today’s news that Rogue One officially has a plot — in case you’re having trouble keeping all the details straight, this is the movie starring Felicity Jones — sent ripples of excitement throughout the Star Wars fanbase. We’ll finally get to find out what happened to that group of Rebels who first stole the plans to the Death Star.

When you combine that with the thrill of the new teaser trailer for The Force Awakens, it’s safe to say that everyone is buzzing with renewed energy for this franchise that has enthralled several generations of diehards. For me, the resurgence is bringing me back to a memory of my own first trip a long time ago, to a galaxy far, far away…

It was the dawn of the Internet — at least in my house anyway. I was 11 years old, and my family had just purchased our first computer. It ran on dial-up and everything, and I remember being more than a little excited when I found out I would be getting my very own email address (with occasional parental supervision, of course). Prior to this I had never really ventured out onto the Internet before, with the exception of the allotted computer lab time at my school. But that had been in tandem with class projects and learning, and while it was thrilling in its own right it didn’t hold the same amount of anticipation that this did. It was a big World Wide Web out there, and I was finally beginning to venture in. And so, armed with a Yahoo email address and very little understanding of what lay ahead of me, I started surfing the Internet for the very first time.

I had always possessed a love for the Star Wars films, long before I even knew about fandoms or what they were. I had seen the original trilogy more times than I could possibly count, and when the box set came out on VHS, I quickly acquired it for my own library to watch and rewatch as many times as I wanted. The news that Episode I: The Phantom Menace was going to air in theaters propelled me into a frenzy. My family surprised me with a trip to the movies on what was supposed to be just another weekend outing, and I remember being glued to the screen from my seat only a couple rows back so as to better soak it all in. During the podracing scene, where young Anakin Skywalker competes to win his freedom, I was so engrossed in the film that when a piece of CGI debris flew at the screen, I actually ducked.

After the film came out, I quickly dove back into the Internet to find anyone else who had seen this movie, searching for anyone who possessed as much as a love for these films as I did. Since I had a Yahoo email address, it didn’t take me long to stumble upon the Yahoo message boards — which is where I finally came across the StarWarsChicks mailing list. It was a group meant for all ages, but solely dedicated to that percentage of fans who identified as female.

I couldn’t understand it at the time, but I was so fortunate to have found a group like this. It was a group of women on the Internet – just women supporting other women. There were female Star Wars fans ranging in ages from middle and high school to college-age and older, and we were all uniting under a single banner. At the time, I didn’t realize what a great place I had wandered into, but looking back on it now—and given the harsh reality that the Internet can be sometimes—I really did luck out.

These awesome ladies recommended all kinds of books to me — I had never even heard of the Expanded Universe, and because of the SWC group I was heading to my local library to check out every single Star Wars EU book I could get my hands on. I would buy behind-the-scenes guides that included storyboard artwork, scour over character profiles until I knew everything I ever wanted to about my favorite people, read every piece of trivia I could get my hands on. In short, I was obsessed. Thanks to the group I was a part of, I knew that there was absolutely nothing wrong with being a girl who was into Star Wars.

Most importantly, I was surrounded by women who encouraged me to find my voice, to start writing — granted, these were some of my first ventures into fanfiction, and thus were absolutely terrible — but it was through using someone else’s characters and placing them into new and different situations that enabled me to realize a dream I had possessed since I first started filling up notebooks with stories and dreams. Fanfiction eventually gave way to my own original writing, but I owe the genesis of my love for it with my very first fandom — and the women who gave me the courage to get started.

I’ve lost touch with many of the original members of the StarWarsChicks group, but a few of us still keep up with one another through various social media accounts. When the new teaser trailer for The Force Awakens was released online last week, I found myself on Facebook, and noticed that every single one of us “Chicks” had posted a link to it.

The love I have for Star Wars will never go away, and the women who have impacted my life through our shared fandom are just as big a part of that love as the films themselves. And the news that the Star Wars films to come will all feature more “strong women,” according to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, is even more encouraging to a lifelong fan like me.  I know that when The Force Awakens is released on Christmas, all of us “Chicks” will be watching it — separate from one another, but united in our fandom love.

[Featured image , via]