I was five when Empire Strikes Back came out in theaters, so I completely missed out on that whole experience, but over the next few years, Star Wars (later called A New Hope) was shown on network television. We didn’t have cable in my house, but I did watch ANH, commercials and all, and was absolutely enchanted. I guess Empire was shown on cable, but I never saw it. As 1984 and the release of Return of the Jedi approached, I furiously, desperately printed letters on notebook paper — because I didn’t know how to write in cursive yet — and sent them snail-mail to the local network affiliate, begging them to screen Empire before Return of the Jedi’s release in 1984. No one ever replied, and of course it wasn’t shown.
With the clock ticking down, there was really only one thing for an eight-year-old to do. I saved up my birthday and newspaper-delivery money and bought the novelization. This was fairly heavy reading for such a young kid, and it was probably my first book completely without pictures, but I inhaled it, sighed, and then dove right back in for a second read. I memorized whole passages. The cover hung on by a splinter.
It was the first book I ever read that had kissing on the page. Crazy! Revolutionary! I didn’t even know what a date was, and here Princess Leia was kissing somebody. Whoa.
People, I was beyond ready, when Jedi came out, to stand in line to get into the theater and then wait, breath bated, to see if Darth V had been lying his mostly-mechanical booty off. (Spoiler: he wasn’t! Obi-wan, that fibber! It was unbelievable to a second-grader that the villain would be telling the truth and the hero would be lying. My world was rocked.)
So say what you want about merchandizing or movie novelizations, but that particular one initiated me into a whole new galaxy of fandom, reading, and relationship goals.