Which Traveler’s Guide to Batuu?

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: Traveler’s Guide to Batuu by Eloc Throno (the galactic pseudonym of author Cole Horton) is a reference handbook to the fictional planet created as the setting for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the Disney themed land. But which world does this unyieldingly “in-world” guide reference?

While the book itself cannot reasonably be described as an advertisement for the parks (any more than the other Galaxy’s Edge multi-platform story extensions could be), due to the ambitious desire to be similarly diegetic, they do share language used to simultaneously describe fictional lore and real-world consumables in advertising copy.

This is an admittedly unavoidable linguistic overlap in such an immersive endeavor, but it also falls victim to otherwise avoidable lapses in experience design consistency. As this book describes a location that is both a fictional storyworld as well as a literal space one can visit in physical reality, the use of interactive language to describe story elements that are not afforded for in the otherwise interactive space, experiential confusion is inevitable.

Unfortunately, in this case, it seems the book may have been drafted from early design documentation including legitimately planned interactions which have not manifested in the land in any meaningful way, either through eleventh-hour budget cuts or holdbacks for future event-based content. (Hope springs eternal.)

Although it is delightful to finally see official evidence of long-rumored plans for Life Day decorations, this along with the designation of the Earth-centric date May the Forth as the “Batuuan Harvest Festival” both conflict conceptually with the otherwise stringent enactment of Black Spire Outpost as a single resetting day with a specific point on the galactic timeline, regardless of when you visit on our calendar. This was a story justification made to enable the canonization of the events taking place within the land, mainly those depicted in the flagship attraction Rise of the Resistance, but becomes difficult to reconcile with the evolving needs of a physical, shared story space. Particularly those that will be visited repeatedly by many guests.

Will special events be treated as separate story days, such as the recently postponed Twin Moons Eclipse Day which goes entirely unmentioned in this book’s “Local Holidays” section? What about entire seasons of time during normal park hours? In a world where the most interactive ride system ever developed still only features a single unbranching mission, it is unlikely that there would ever be an alternate mode for Rise of the Resistance during Life Day, or any other day, and a single repeating day can’t conceivably encompass multiple seasonal holidays at once — replete with alternate decor.

For the devoted, this guide offers a few isolated pieces of otherwise unconfirmed story, along with hitherto unpublished illustrations, but the overall package is far from a comprehensive resource, even in sections for which park-exclusive designs would be intuitively included. For example: there is an entire section listing the troopers of the First Order who have occupied Batuu. Notably absent is the Mountain Trooper, which was designed exclusively to appear in Galaxy’s Edge.

While it is possible this was omitted intentionally, to reflect the fact that these troopers never physically manifested in the parks outside of merchandise representations, it is curious that the same courtesy was not offered to other unrealized characters who are featured prominently. Harkos the bounty hunter, and Bubo Wamba the milk stand proprietor being two popular examples of long-touted aliens who have yet to be spotted. They are described here, as they were in the years leading up to opening day, using the same language used for characters who are actually present to be interacted with in the land.

These liminal narrative definitions and negligent language overlaps inspire the question: Who is the intended audience for this book?

It is an ill fit for those who haven’t yet visited the land, for it will instill the same sense of false expectations as the marketing copy and convention panel claims did for initial park goers.

Likewise, if it is to be an in-universe “souvenir” for those who have already visited, then it is a souvenir from an experience that does not exist, and serves only to highlight that which was never allowed to exist.

The only audience I could reasonably identify for the current form of the book are those who not only haven’t visited the park, but will never visit the park. (And, naturally, Batuuan completists such as myself, for whom any glimpse into this world, regardless of how few new nuggets it offers, is more than worthwhile.) For those never-travelers, Black Spire will always exist as a purely fictional place, populated by people with whom they will never speak. The language of interactivity is of no experiential concern to them, because it is a space with which they will never interact.

I trust this group will prove to be the largest of the three, and the concerns of the others will make no impact on the book’s success. For despite these observations on the experience as a whole, they are of no fault to the publisher nor the author, who were tasked with threading an unthreadable needle, in a cross-section of media few have occupied.

The book is beautifully designed, skillfully balancing the needs of earthly layout with the graphical eccentricities fans associate with the visual language of Star Wars. As an object, it is lovely, complimenting the already exceptional lineup of in-world artifacts from Batuu.

Its embossed cover is slightly too large to be pocket sized, but would fit comfortably in an adventurer’s satchel or leg holster bag should anyone desire to read it onsite. For first-time travelers, I would recommend entering the outpost blind, letting your curiosity guide you through its intentionally curved paths and story-filled nooks. Treat this reference text as an additional piece of Batuuan research alongside the Datapad app, the Galaxy’s Edge comic miniseries, the Black Spire novel, A Crash of Fate, Bina’s Guide to the Creatures of Batuu, Myths & Fables, Thrawn: Alliances, Pirate’s Price, Force Collector, and yes, even the surprisingly narrative-rich Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook.

The double-coloned and emdashless title Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: Traveler’s Guide to Batuu by Cole Horton is scheduled to be published by Quarto Publishing Group’s becker&mayer! imprint on July 21st, 2020. It is available digitally now.

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