The smugglers' world in Star Wars is vicious. Take Han Solo for instance. In 1977's "Star Wars," we learn that he dropped his shipment to Jabba the Hutt for fear of Imperials boarding his ship, the Millennium Falcon. Jabba wasn't pleased, so he put a death mark on Solo. When "The Empire Strikes Back" arrived in theaters three years later, Boba Fett, with the help of Darth Vader, captured Solo and delivered him to Jabba.
It was about that vicious when it came to rumors about "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace." Just ask Lou "T'Bone" Tambone, webmaster of starwarz.com since 1996.
When rumors started showing up in his e-mail inbox, Tambone accepted everything.
"Hey, I'm a fan," he said. "If there's info out there, I gotta have it."
But he did verify it through his friends who themselves had good sources. One source known as "Shug Ninx" (in the comics, Shug Ninx is a mechanic friend of Han Solo) became one of Tambone's first "real" sources. The earliest reports from Shug Ninx started coming in January of 1998, which included descriptions of the Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as the Sith Lord Darth Maul.
"I don't think people really believed it until they saw the pictures, but this guy was RIGHT ON with his reports to me," Tambone said. "These were big posts back then, and when I read them now, I am amazed at how good they are."
When Tambone posted the rumors, he didn't create an elaborate way to read them. Some fans went so far as to tell him he had done a disservice to Star Wars, but the majority of the responses were positive.
"I am of the opinion that if someone goes to a prequel-related site," Tambone said, "they run the risk of finding something out no matter what. It's all self-control. Don't go to the prequel sections if you don't want to see the rumors."
Tambone's main concern was to post as much unique news as possible because "there's nothing worse than going to 10 prequel sites in a row only to find the same story repeated over and over each day."
But he has posted items that appeared on other sites, always giving them credit. He said he finds it frustrating when he sees his stories repeated on another site without the proper credit. Lucasfilm never sent Tambone any correspondence to stop posting Episode I rumors, but if it did take any legal action against him, Tambone said he would have stopped.
Regardless of the potential consequences from posting rumors, Tambone appreciates the overwhelming amount of people who stopped by to catch the latest news on "The Phantom Menace" and visit his other Star Wars-related sites.
"It was great because I now have a good, steady following who really enjoy the site," he said. "Before, it was more luck than anything."