My first book is on store shelves now: And it’s a Star Wars book!

I tend to keep my LEGO hobby fairly compartmentalized — with a handful of exceptions, I don’t write much about little plastic bricks here on Andrew-Becraft.com. Topics here on my personal/professional website tend more toward science (archaeology in particular), poetry, software design methodology, and occasionally the convergence of multiple interests after I have some kind of late-night epiphany.

But writing and LEGO have converged today with the release of my first book, Ultimate LEGO Star Wars. Written together with Chris Malloy, one of my team members from The Brothers Brick, Ultimate LEGO Star Wars is a coffee table reference book from British publisher Dorling Kindersley (DK). You can read more about the book itself and our experience writing it in an interview over on The Brothers Brick, but I thought I’d reflect here on my personal experience today as the book begins hitting store shelves.

Andrew at Third Place Books

First off, and this really does deserve all-caps, I WROTE A STAR WARS BOOK! As someone who still holds to some modicum of hope that I’ll get published again someday as a “serious poet,” I tend to minimize this achievement quite a bit. I tell myself things like, “It’s really just a LEGO book — nothing serious or artistic. And it’s only a reference book, the result of a collaboration among co-authors, the DK editorial team, and their designers.” But then I slap myself and realize again, it’s A FRICKIN’ STAR WARS BOOK! Put another way, Chris and I literally wrote the book on LEGO Star Wars, the most popular line from the best-selling toy company in the world. That’s some hardcore geek cred. But it’s not High Art.

Ultimate LEGO Star Wars book from DK

Despite those self-deprecations about the pop-culture subject matter, the book represents a huge accomplishment for the whole team who worked on it, and I’m humbled to have been asked to write some of the book’s text. And there’s something intensely satisfying about going to my closest bookstore and seeing a book I wrote on the shelf, available for anybody to buy. Of course, the book is also available online, and it’s been fascinating to watch it climb Amazon.com’s rankings in a variety of categories, based on pre-orders. As of the day of release, it’s moving through the mid 2,000s for all books on Amazon.com, and already the #1 new release in Collectible Toys and Product Design.

I stopped by a big box book store while I was in downtown Seattle earlier today, but that particular location hadn’t received their shipment yet. After I got home, I called Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park to ask if they had the book in stock. The guy who answered the phone asked if I’d like him to set aside a copy for me, and I explained that I was one of the authors and just wanted to see it “in the wild” for myself. He laughed and asked if I’d like to come in and sign their copies for them, so I was there in under 15 minutes — would’ve been 5 but for rush hour traffic on Bothell Way.

The team at Third Place Books was very kind with this overly excited new author, and after I’d signed the store’s copies and they put “Autographed” stickers on their covers, they even offered to take a picture with the book on a neatly rearranged shelf, alongside my friend Rod Gillie’s own LEGO book. We talked about doing an event with both authors, and I told them that DK’s marketing team would be in touch to make the arrangements. My people would call their people. It was all rather surreal — certainly not something I would have expected to be experiencing a year ago, before we started working on the book.

Now, I’m off to hit Refresh on the Amazon.com page like the insecure, self-obsessed writer I’ve apparently become…

Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahari in LEGO

Cross-posted from The Brothers Brick.

When I visited Deir el-Bahari back in 1994, our Egyptian guide told us an easy way to remember the name of the pharaoh who had the colonnaded temple built for herself near the Valley of the Kings and Luxor. “Hot sheep suit,” he said. “You know, hot, like the sun, with a suit made from sheep.” The weather forecast placard in the hotel lobby had informed us it was going to be 45° C (113° F) that day. Standing there in the blazing desert sun, it was hard to imagine wearing a wool suit. And today, it’s hard to forget how to pronounce Queen Hatshepsut’s name.

Similarly unforgettable was her mortuary temple, here recreated wonderfully in LEGO by Harald P. (HP Mohnroth).

lego_architecture_deir el bahari

See many other wonderful LEGO models of historical structures in Harald’s LEGO Architecture set on Flickr.

Petra’s Al Khazneh in LEGO

Cross-posted from The Brothers Brick.

One of my dearest memories of the summer in 1994 that I spent working on an archaeological dig in Jordan was a weekend trip to Petra. We arrived from Amman late in the evening, but several of my fellow archaeology students couldn’t wait until morning to see the amazing structures carved from the sandstone 2000 years ago, so we snuck across wadi after wadi, avoiding the main paths. Once past the guard posts, we walked through the narrow gorge known as al-Siq — pitch black at night — until the passage opened in front of us to reveal Al Kazhneh, lit only by starlight.

ArzLan built his LEGO version of the Treasury for the Hong Kong Animation Festival, and features Indiana Jones in his Last Crusade visit to this UNESCO Heritage site.

Al Khazneh

The Anglo-Saxon pit-house was a big step backward from the Roman villa

Cross-posted from The Brothers Brick.

I just finished reading Peter Heather’s excellent The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians. After my visit to Room 49 in the British Museum a couple summers ago, I wrote in my Moleskine “Post-Roman Britain=Post-Apoc.”

So, does this diorama by Harry Russell (Karrde) featuring an Anglo-Saxon pit-house fall under ApocaLEGO?

LEGO Anglo-Saxon Pit-House

Nah. But I’ll use any excuse to blog an archaeologically inclined LEGO model.

(Hat-tip to Legobloggen for helping me to catch up after a busy, busy month.)

Speedboat to Polynesia!

Cross-posted from The Brothers Brick.

From Madagascar to Rekohu and from Hawai’i to the South Island of Aotearoa, the people we know today as Austronesians have occupied more of the surface of our planet than nearly any other group of related human beings.

This remarkable ocean-going culture expanded at an astonishing rate across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, resulting in hundreds of scenes like the one illustrated in LEGO microscale by Eldert (evhh):

LEGO outriggers and island

The volcanic island dwarfs the tiny outrigger canoes, and for me symbolizes human ingenuity in the face of what might appear to be insurmountable odds. It’s achievements like this that make me proud to be human, and makes it easy to imagine tiny outrigger spaceships arriving on the shores of a distant island in the sky not too far in the future…

(Post title courtesy Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, And Steel.)