MakingStarWars.net — Twitter is a 140-character peek behind the curtain.
Earlier this year, Bria LaVorgna tweeted:The comparison — and LaVorgna’s reaction — provides good insight into the mind behind @chaosbria.
The 501st-reppin’, Doctor Aphra admiring’, prose editin’ social media slayer takes to the Internet each day. And when she does, it’s with all of the drive of her Imperial avatars.
In short, if you “step to her” in cyberspace she will fight right back – with intellectual fire.
Choose Your Weapon
For example, LaVorgna recently posted another tweet describing a spreadsheet she prepared to finish an argument; a tweet that carried the dispute-deciding power of a Death Star.
A spreadsheet? Makes for an interesting weapon for an Imperial, no?
“To put it bluntly, The Imperial Women in Canon spreadsheet came about because someone ticked me off,” explained LaVorgna. “I wrote a column for Big Shiny Robot about how very white and male the Empire was in Rogue One and Rebels despite the Empire in the canon books and novels being decidedly not so.
“I pointed out that the grander canon showed women and people of color within the Empire and with no one remarking on it and how numerous plot points would fall apart if this wasn’t the case. There were some people out there who continued to insist that we should not see Imperial women on the screen. That people like Rae Sloane were the exception who prove the rule.
“My solution was to go through the vast majority of canon and prove them wrong. Never let it be said that I put in no effort when trying to prove a point,” she said.
The Work Continues
At 41 lines long, it’s not the longest piece of research ever compiled, especially knowing that Bria’s first saga-based project was pretty comprehensive (“My first ‘real’ Star Wars project though would probably be the Waru Express, which was a 7-month-long project during which I read/reread 130 Expanded Universe books,” she said.).
However, LaVorgna — true to form — continues to work at it.
“The spreadsheet will never be done but it’s a fun project,” she said. “I wouldn’t so much as say that I have a mission specifically about Imperial women but rather about diversity in the saga as a whole.
“Growing up, there weren’t many women on the screen in significant roles in Star Wars and almost no women of color. I think it’s incredibly important for young girls and young kids of color to see themselves represented on the screen.
“Star Wars has certainly been improving on that front but we need to continue to hold them accountable,” she added. “The novels and comics have actually soared on this front but, as much as I love them, the films and TV shows have a far bigger spotlight on them and far more eyes. It’s imperative to continue to call out films like Rogue One when they have very few women around.
“And yes, I’m aware of the arguments regarding the Empire of Rogue One matching the Empire of A New Hope but frankly, it’s a big Empire and I’m fine with so-called continuity issues in this situation,” she said. “Plus, some of the best stories in Star Wars are being told about women of color who serve in the Empire.
“Why wouldn’t you want to see more of those on the screen?”
Bolstering her very correct point, Bria pointed to visual canon examples of female characters who provided her needed inspiration.
“I guess the most obvious way is that characters like Leia and Padmé showed me that women could take charge and get things done and be the heroes, too,” said LaVorgna when asked how Star Wars had affected her childhood imagination.
But Bria believes that Star Wars could inspire even more people by bringing additional, and more diverse, points of view to the screen and page.
“I’m a woman of color — half Chinese — and so yes, this is definitely something that is close to my heart. Growing up, a character like Sabine Wren would have meant the world to me and I can only imagine how inspirational characters like Sabine and Finn must be to young children of color now,” she said. “A lot of times, the campaign for more women and equal representation in Star Wars neglects to take non-white people into account and I think it’s incredibly important to remember that diversity should be intersectional.
“It’s not really ‘equal’ unless everyone has a chance to see themselves in the galaxy far, far away.”
A Never-ending Story
With that in mind, LaVorgna admits she has always had the saga in her life.
“My earliest memory of Star Wars isn’t actually a memory because apparently my uncle and his family introduced me to Star Wars and chocolate cake on the same day – it was a pretty great day,” she said. “The story has always just resonated with me and been cool. I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want a lightsaber and then once I discovered the books – yeah, I was in love with everything about it.”
Much like the characters she admires, Bria puts her soul into her passion.
“Right now, I’m the managing editor for Tosche Station and prior to that was a staff writer there. I’ve been writing for Tosche Station since August 2012 when I offered my friend a review of Mercy Kill and got a staff account in return,” she said. “It seemed a good way to pass the time. Of course, I didn’t expect that Disney would buy Star Wars a few months later and we’d be started down the path that we’re on now.
“I also co-run a geek fashion blog called White Hot Room and am an occasional staff writer for Big Shiny Robot.”
Right Here, Right Now
“As for how I got where I am now – I wrote,” continued LaVorgna, “and I kept writing like I was running out of time. I’m pretty prolific in terms of what I publish and also fairly consistent.
“I review most of the books and comics and like to keep a running blog series going. I’m also active on Twitter and talk to others in the Star Wars community on a daily basis.
“Generally speaking, I’m a pretty outgoing person. And I go to cons so that all likely contributes to getting me here. Wherever here is.”
And, wherever she is, members of the 501st Legion are not far behind. LaVorgna has a lot of costumes in her closet but wears black and gray cosplay most often.
“I’ve been cosplaying since my first convention in 2008 and making costumes/sewing for many years before that,” said Bria. “As for the 501st, I’ve been somewhat involved with the organization for about two and a half years. And I became an official member in November.
“I actually already have four approved costumes in the Legion with several others in progress. Currently, I serve as Garrison Tyranus’s Public Relations Officer. I pick costumes that I want to make for varying reasons but usually, they can boil down to one of two things: I really love the character or I really love the costume.
“I’m almost always working on multiple costume projects at any given time. So, when I get frustrated with or stuck on one, I can work on another,” she said.
Always In Motion Is The Future
That’s a life in star wars for you. Speaking of what projects she’s got in store, LaVorgna’s list was ready.
“Right now, in addition to all of the usual writing stuff I mentioned before, I’m working on Knights of the Old Replay. I’m working my way through reading the comics and playing the games again,” she said. “ I’m, as always, working on new Star Wars costumes.
“We’ll see whether I finally finish Seventh Sister or get version one of Commander Iden Versio done first.”
Beyond her current task list, LaVorgna isn’t sure where all this work will lead, say, five years down the road.
“I certainly wouldn’t say no if someone offered me the opportunity to work on Star Wars,” explained Bria, “but I don’t harbor any crazy ambition to do so. Mostly because I know it’s not a realistic goal to achieve “but
“As for where I see myself in five years, honestly, I don’t know. Three years ago, I was still very new to this entire blogging thing. I was only just starting to serve as a panelist/panel moderator.
“There’s been a heck of a lot that’s changed in those three years, obviously. And I honestly don’t know where the next five are going to take me.”
You Can’t Stop The Change
However, one thing won’t change. The love for that galaxy far, far away and the people the saga has brought into her life will remain.
“I wouldn’t have known most of my closest friends if it wasn’t for Star Wars,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d do without those people in my life.
“In fact, I’ve been friends with some of them for over a decade at this point. That’ll make you feel old.
“Star Wars is also something that I’ve been able to bond with my cousins over,” added LaVorgna. “That’s because while I may be over a decade older than them, Star Wars is the universal language.”
As for any issues she sees on the horizon, well, Bria seems to have her sights on winning those battles.
“I wouldn’t say that there are any negatives specific to Star Wars. But rather ones that stem from being a woman in fandom, on the internet, or at conventions,” she said. “You frequently feel as if you have to “prove” yourself as a fan which is frankly ridiculous.
“That attitude needs to die. Women have always been fans of Star Wars and always will be.”