up your life!
It's not until we get to the
books, and the Star Wars canon is free of the confines of Hollywood, however, that there's
chance to explore the idea further, and to spell things out in black and white for the
first time. 'Spice' becomes more specific: glitterstim, yarrock, sweetblossom, pyrepenol,
Santherian tenho-root ... there are a plethora of recreational drugs mentioned throughout
the novels - in the worlds of Star Wars they are abundant and evidently not too difficult
to come by. The Imperials seemed far more concerned about controlling their flow than the
Rebels or the Republic. In fact, in 'Jedi Search', Han is sent to open trade negotiations
with the Kessel spice mines for the sole reason, it seems, to assure that if production
and distribution is going to go on, it might as well be regulated legally - an approach
that, thankfully, more and more European countries seem to be moving toward as authorities
begin to admit that the real problems lie in the organized crime caused by the
criminalizing of drugs, rather than the drugs themselves.
Why not indeed. There's never any indication that Han himself indulged in the glitterstim he smuggled (although surely he knows too much about its effects not to be first hand familiar with them and is certainly prepared to sell it himself rather than just deliver it to the Hutts, as he does in "The Paradise Snare" when trying to raise money quickly), but plenty of other people do. The attitude to glitterstim use seems to bear more in common with alcohol than anything else. Excessive indulgence can cause problems, but it's only in excess that the trouble lies. In Jedi Search, Han initially suspects that spice mine overlord Moruth Doole's blind eye is a result of hitting the glitterstim too hard, but in fact it turns out that the injury was inflicted by a henchman of Jabba's - Doole is clearly a long term, heavy user but the side effects have come from his involvement in crime, not his glitterstim indulgence itself. A similar portrayal is offered in the novel Planet of Twilight, by Barbara Hambly: when a Republic sergeant finds one of her crew slumped over in the mess hall, her initial thoughts are of problems with 'booze or spice or giggledust', again bracketing spice with alcohol. Planet of Twilight is perhaps the most liberal of all the Star Wars novels for establishing the position of drugs in the universe. In Leia's recollections of her conversation with Rebel pilot Greglik, her remembrance of him as "a good pilot but an addict" establishes firmly that being a user alone didn't preclude one from being a Rebel pilot, and the long list of narcotics Greglik describes to Leia - one of the leaders of the Rebellion - suggests that there's nothing very illegal in obtaining or taking them, otherwise he wouldn't be so open with his talk. Leia remembers him with pity, as a man trying to escape his depression by drowning himself in a quick and easy escape, but she clearly does not condemn his use, and does not move to have him taken off his duties when she finds out what - and how much - he's taking, although this would seem to be a mistake in retrospect. Greglik's words to her - "Few drugs are that deadly, it's what they get you to do to yourself that destroys you" again reinforces the attitude that only when the substances are taken to excess do the problems occur. Leia herself recognizes that her immersion in the Rebellion was her own way of shutting out the pain of Alderaan's destruction; Greglik's drug use was his way of forgetting all that he had been through. It was a means to an end, but not an evil means in itself, and it clearly gave a depressed and lonely man a great deal of pleasure.
In Children of the Jedi, also by Barbara Hambly, the expanded consciousness afforded by the drug yarrock is the catalyst brainwashed slaves need to escape their captivity; Drub McCrumb is able to reach freedom and warn Han (who once again is more than a little familiar with yarrock) of the danger posed during a moment of clarity resulting from taking the drug, and later in the novel Leia suffers no serious side effects from being pumped full of sweetblossom - here established as the most potent narcotic, with symptoms more than passingly similar to heroin - other than a sustained period of being too chilled out to actually do anything, an effect she easily shakes off once she sets her mind to it. It's also clear that Han still knows a fair bit about the spice trade and its major movers and shakers - in a novel set nearly 20 years after he's supposed to have left the game. He's had plenty of time to take down the criminals if he had a mind to, or the Republic wanted him to, but we all know that Han's involvement with his old friends is to regularly go drinking with them rather than threaten them with imprisonment. Han's judgment is that McCrumb would "need to be a millionaire to take enough [yarrock] to do himself that much damage;" in other words, in small amounts, yarrock's not going to do anyone much harm. People take it, and mostly they enjoy a bit of harmless mood enhancement. Welcome, science fiction, to the real world.
We have to go to the Rogue Squadron novels for
the only outright condemnation of the spice trade. Corran Horn, perhaps the most clean cut
of the recurring Star Wars characters and a former security officer, is the exception to
the rule, the one man who condemns Han Solo's past. Horn describes Han as a "blot on
Corellia's honor," because he "smuggled spice for a Hutt... he sunk pretty
low," but is quickly admonished by Wedge Antillies for this unforgiving and
judgmental attitude. Even Corran, though, is capable of putting things in perspective. In
'Side Trip', part 3, he describes the spice carried by the small time criminals with whom
he has inadvertently become involved as "strictly joy-dust grade", presumably
the cheap marijuana of the Star Wars universe that not even the security forces really
think is worth their time.
Webmaster's Note: Please read our interview with Star Wars author Rebecca Moesta, in which she talks about the intentional creation of a drug-addicted character in the "Young Jedi Knights" series.
(Jennifer Cole makes her living editing the weekly Official Star Trek Fact Files, sold in the UK and across the world, but her fangirl heart lies with Star Wars and American comics. She has never quite recovered from the shock Harrison Ford had on her seven-year-old hormones, but regular rewatchings of the Star Wars saga have proved to be a helpful coping strategy.)