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The Kessel Run

Every couple of weeks I get an email saying how the line about the Kessel run in Star Wars can actually be correct. They usually say that the Kessel Run is a timed run (or possibly occurs in heavily curved space, like near a black hole), so that the goal is to make it in as short a distance as possible, or that Han Solo was simply bragging without knowing what he was talking about.

This sort of thing is called a "retcon", for retroactive continuity. It means explaining a scene in a story after the fact so that it fits in with previously established facts of the plot. [Note added July 5, 2002: I originally stated that retcon means "retroactive configuration", but Bad Reader Chris Bovitz set me straight. The term comes from the comic book culture, but is now so mainstream you can find it at and read a history of the term at the Justice Society of America website.]

Star Trek fans are notorious for it, as you might imagine. It is fun as a logic game, but it can get you into trouble: at some level, the facts will simply contradict themselves. This happens all the time in Trek; some later show will directly contradict something already established (or vice-versa).

For the Kessel run, the point I make on my web page is that when it was originally written, Lucas (or whoever) did not know that a parsec was a unit of distance, not time! You can easily change the meaning of that scene after it has been aired, but not how it was originally meant, and it was incorrect as originally meant.

I appreciate the point, but stand by my original conclusion!

One other thing: what the heck are the characters from a galaxy far, far away doing using a measurement based on the size of Earth's orbit anyway?

©2008 Phil Plait. All Rights Reserved.

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