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Roel’s Replica’s – Shoretrooper Helm

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Eén van de eerste nieuwe troopers die we uit Rogue One te zien kregen waren de zandkleurige troopers die zich in veel van het promotie materiaal voor de film in een Caribbisch ogende omgeving bevonden. Los van de geweldige achtergronden zagen ook deze troopers zelf er naar mijn mening erg interessant uit, vooral de helmen spraken me erg aan en ik besloot al snel dat ik er eentje voor mezelf zou gaan maken wanneer ik hier de tijd voor kon vinden.
Ik kwam al vrij snel gratis 3D bestanden voor deze helm tegen, gemaakt door Sean Fields. Deze bestanden zagen er al vrij accuraat uit en waren al in handige delen opgebroken om het printen en verven zo makkelijk mogelijk te maken. Het wiel opnieuw uitvinden is nergens voor nodig dus ik ben met deze bestanden aan de slag gegaan. Wel heb ik de bovenkant van de helm en het vizier opnieuw gemaakt omdat de ronding hierin niet helemaal klopte in de versies van Sean’s bestanden die op dat moment beschikbaar waren.

Ik heb voor alle printbare delen mijn Wanhao Duplicator gebruikt, deze printer heeft een vrij standaard printvolume van ongeveer 20 x 20 x 20 cm wat meer dan groot genoeg is om alle onderdelen van de helm te printen. Alle onderdelen zijn geprint in Innofil3D PLA, wat achteraf eenvoudig met schuurpapier na te bewerken is en meer dan stevig genoeg is voor een helm die zelfs vrij intensief gedragen zou kunnen worden. Hoewel die van mij vooral als display stuk stof zal gaan verzamelen op een plank.

Okay, eenmaal klaar met printen had ik een aardige verzameling onderdelen opgebouwd waarvan er een aantal gelijk aan elkaar vastgemaakt konden worden omdat ze samen één geheel vormde. Het vizier, de ronde bovenkant van de helm en de achterkant bijvoorbeeld. Deze waren te groot om in één geheel op het printend te passen maar moeten wel netjes glad in elkaar overlopen. Om dit te bereiken heb ik mijn oude vertrouwde soldeerbout weer gebruikt om de onderdelen aan elkaar te versmelten. Met wat overtollig PLA, zowel gerecycled support materiaal als laatste restjes van rollen heb ik de kieren waar nodig opgevuld. Zo zaten al deze onderdelen muurvast aan elkaar. Met wat schuurwerk was niet meer te zien dat het ooit losse delen geweest zijn.

Nadat alle grote stukken aan elkaar zaten en alles netjes in elkaar paste heb ik alles met korrel 400 schuurpapier vrij glad geschuurd en met wat Bondo Spot Glazing Putty de nog goed voelbare printlijnen wat opgevuld. dat is met korrel 200 schuurpapier glad geschuurd waarna alles een dun laagje XTC 3D hars kreeg om de printlijnen echt als sneeuw voor de zon te doen verdwijnen en het eindproduct nog wat extra stevigheid te geven. Dat werd nog tot korre 800 bijgestuurd en kreeg een laagje grondverf. 

Nu was het tijd om het grootste gedeelte van de helm in elkaar te zetten. Alle onderdelen die dezelfde kleur zouden krijgen en dus al aan elkaar vast gemaakt konden worden werden weer met  de goeie oude soldeerbout versmolten. Het vizier en de bovenkant van de helm bleven nog los om zo ook de stukken die achter het vizier en tussen de opstaande rand aan de achterkant zitten gemakkelijk te kunnen spuiten.

Eventuele kiertjes werden weer met Bondo opgevuld en glad geschuurd en toen ik daar allemaal tevreden mee was kreeg de hele helm een glanzende zwarte verflaag. Dit was een simpele spuitbus van het merk ’T Stilleven, welke altijd goede resultaten levert.

 

De Shoretrooper helmen in de film zien er allemaal goed versleten uit, de zandkleurige verf valt er aan alle kanten vanaf, dus dat moest bij mijn helm ook het geval zijn, ik heb er wat duidelijke foto’s bij gepakt en ben met tandpasta in de weer gegaan. Overal waar de zandkleurige verf van de grondlaag af gebladderd moest zijn heb ik met een tandenstoker wat tandpasta gesmeerd. Dit natuurlijk zo veel mogelijk in een willekeurig patroon dat er uitziet als beschadigingen. Hier overheen kon de “Sahara Beige” verf van het merk Montana gespoten worden. Deze verf trok vrij netjes glad en is in meerdere lagen aangebracht. Toen de verf twee dagen later echt goed droog was heb ik met een vochtig doekje het meeste van de tandpasta van de helm af kunnen poetsen, daarna heb ik het geheel onder de kraan houden om de rest er af te krijgen. Zolang de tandpasta vrij dik aangebracht wordt droogt het niet uit en is het nog goed zichtbaar onder de verf. Door hier overheen te schrobben komt zowel de tandpasta als de verf er boven gemakkelijk los wat het uiteindelijke effect geeft van afgebladderde verf. En door de zandkleurige verf in een aantal lagen toe te brengen zien we nu ook gemakkelijker een hoogte verschil tussen de zandkleurige verf en de zwarte verf er onder, wat het effect nog realistischer maakt.

De zwarte rand van het vizier is netjes afgeplakt met schilderstape en heeft met een airbrush een glanzend zwarte verflaag gekregen. Het vizier heeft ook een rood logo, dat heb ik op plakfolie uitgesneden wat ik daarna als stencil kon gebruiken met de airbrush.

De bovenkant van de helm werd nu vast gemaakt aan de rest en daarna kwam een van de leukste onderdelen van het maken van een prop, het weatheren. De helm leek op dit punt aardig beschadigd, maar hij was nog helemaal schoon. Daar ging met behulp van wat kwasten, doekjes en acrylverf verandering in komen. Sienna Naturel, Omber Naturel en Omber Gebrand van het merk Amsterdam werden met wat ruwe kwasten over de hele helm gesmeerd en vooral goed in alle kiertjes en hoekjes geduwd. Met een vochtig doekje heb ik bijna al die verf weer weg gedept en geveegd en enkel op moeilijk te bereiken plekken laten zitten, door verschillende kleuren en vochtige doekjes te gebruiken geeft dit het effect van vuil dat zich op he helm verzameld heeft.

Door een velletje papier aan de binnenkant tegen de opening te duwen en deze van buitenaf langs de rand af te tekenen is makkelijk te zien welke vorm het plastic moet krijgen. Door rondom de aftekening wat extra ruimte te laten kan het plastic ook makkelijk met epoxy bevestigd worden zonder dat de epoxy door het plastic zichtbaar is.

Door een velletje papier aan de binnenkant tegen de opening te duwen en deze van buitenaf langs de rand af te tekenen is makkelijk te zien welke vorm het plastic moet krijgen. Door rondom de aftekening wat extra ruimte te laten kan het plastic ook makkelijk met epoxy bevestigd worden zonder dat de epoxy door het plastic zichtbaar is.

Nu zag de helm er al aardig uit en was het tijd voor een vizier, hiervoor heb ik een plaat transparant PET plastic genomen wat ik aan beide kanten beplakt heb met verduisteringsfolie dat voor de ramen van auto’s bedoeld is. Dit maakt het spiegelend zwart van buiten terwijl er van binnenuit nog prima naar buiten gekeken kan worden. Dit plastic is in de just vorm gesneden en aan de binnenkant van de helm bevestigd met epoxy.

In de helm zitten verder nog een aantal ventilatiegaten die aan de binnenkant van de echte helmen die voor de film gebruikt zijn dichtgemaakt zijn met een zwarte stof. Zo hadden de acteurs het niet zo warm in de helm, konden ze goed ademen en kon er van buiten toch niet naar binnen gekeken worden. Wat voor de film werkt is natuurlijk ook goed genoeg voor mij, dus ik heb hetzelfde gedaan. Ik heb simpelweg wat stukjes zwarte stof op maat geknipt en met een lijmpistool strak over de gaten vast gelijmd.

Toen dat alles geregeld was konden de laatste losse stukken vast gelijmd en gesmolten worden, de binnenkant van de helm is nog zwart gemaakt en dat had dit als resultaat:

Niet geheel onaardig, al zeg ik het zelf. Deze Shoretrooper helm misstaat zeker niet in mijn verzameling. Hoewel ik hem nooit zal kunnen dragen omdat hij te klein is voor mijn hoofd (of mijn hoofd is te groot voor de helm, het is maar hoe je het bekijkt 😛 ). Dat was weer een goede les voor me om niet blindelings te vertrouwen op maatvoeringen van anderen, maar om vooraf altijd eerst even te controleren of de afmetingen van de digitale bestanden overeen komen met die van mijn hoofd en de rest van de helmen in mijn verzameling. De kans is dus vrij groot dat ik op den duur aan een tweede Shoretrooper helm begin, en dan was dit wat mij betreft meer dan een goede voorbereiding!

Levenslange Fan. Leest veel boeken en comics. Maakt replica props in zijn vrije tijd.

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De 10 van Dennis: Star Wars videogames (1982-2003)

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De afgelopen vier decennia zijn er enorm veel Star Wars games verschenen. Het begon ooit in arcadehallen maar al snel kon men op onder andere de Atari 2600, Nintendo, Commodore Amiga en PC ook thuis epische gevechten naspelen in ‘A Galaxy Far, Far Away’.

Vanaf de jaren 80 (mijn eerste Star Wars spel was The Empire Strikes Back op de Atari 2600) tot begin deze eeuw heb ik bijna elk Star Wars spel wel gespeeld. Tijd dus voor een nieuwe editie van “De 10 van Dennis” waarin de mijns inziens beste Star Wars games uit de periode 1982 tot en met 2003 aan bod komen.


Yoda Stories (1997)

We trappen af met Yoda Stories, een ‘eenvoudige’ desktop game gecreëerd door Hal Barwood (die ik nog ooit interviewde). Het principe is simpel: de speler (Luke) bezoekt Yoda op Dagobah en krijgt een missie die hem naar een planeet (bos, woestijn of sneeuw) leidt. Daar aangekomen moeten puzzels worden opgelost terwijl troopers, aliens en imperials uit de weg worden geruimd. Ondanks de simpelheid heb ik dit altijd een verslavend spel gevonden dat de sfeer van old skool Star Wars goed wist na te bootsen.

Return of the Jedi (1984)

Oorspronkelijk een spel voor de arcadehallen maar ook op de Commodore Amiga verschenen (ik zette in de 80’s als 13 jarige de wekker extra vroeg om deze nog voor schooltijd te spelen). In feite is dit spel een Star Wars versie van de klassieker Zaxxon, dat bekend werd vanwege de diagonale scrolling. Nu zijn het achtereenvolgens Leia (op een speederbike), Chewbacca (in een AT-ST) en Lando (in de Falcon) die door het beeld heen schieten.

Dark Forces (1995)

Medio jaren 90 waren de First Person Shooters populair. Wie was er geen fan van Duke Nukem? In 1995 kwam LucasArts met Dark Forces waarin de speler als Kyle Katarn op diverse missies werd gestuurd. De meest bekende is uiteraard die waarin Katarn de plannen van de Death Star moest stelen. Spectaculairder dan Rogue One!

Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight (1997)

Na het succes van Dark Forces kon een vervolg niet uitblijven. In deze game keert Kyle weer terug, nu om een Jedi te worden en de Valley van the Jedi te vinden. Uniek aan dit spel waren de zogenaamde ‘cutscenes’ waarin echte acteurs in speciaal voor dit spel gefilmde scenes te zien waren. Jason Court (die ik in 2010 sprak voor een interview) speelde rol van Katarn.

Rebellion (1998)

Indertijd keek ik erg uit naar deze game die in het algemeen niet best werd ontvangen. Het was voor die tijd dé ultieme Expanded Universe game omdat er verschillende personages uit de boeken (onder andere Judder Page, Talon Karrde, Borsk Fey’lya) en zelfs de Droids animatieserie (Admiral Screed) voorkwamen. Als speler heb je (nadat je gekozen hebt om als The Empire of Rebellion te spelen) de taak om heerschappij over het heelal te krijgen. Een zeer strategisch spel dat twintig jaar geleden zijn tijd ver vooruit was.

Shadows of the Empire (1996)

In 1996 was Shadows of the Empire hét multimedia project van Lucasfilm. Een game, een boek, een soundtrack, speelgoed, een strip… eigenlijk alles wat bij een filmrelease hoort, alleen was er nu geen film. Het boek (en de strip) waren al geweldig en het spel voldeed aan de verwachtingen: urenlang bracht ik als Dash Rendar (het hoofdpersonage) door op de PC en de Nintendo64.

X-Wing (1993)

Nadat er in de jaren 80 al enkele vliegsimulator spellen waren verschenen (in arcadehallen en op de Amiga) was X-Wing hét spel waar de Star Wars fans van dit spelgenre op zaten te wachten. Het voor dit spel bedachte personage (Keyan Farlander) zou later zelfs in de New Jedi Order boeken een rol spelen.

TIE Fighter (1994)

Een jaar na X-Wing wist LucasArts het spel te overtreffen met een nieuwe Flight Simulator: TIE Fighter. Nu stond je als speler zijnde aan de kant van de Empire en werd je op missies gestuurd. Ook deze titel heeft e.e.a. nagelaten: zo zijn de in dit spel geïntroduceerde TIE Defender en piloot Marek Stele gebruikt in diverse Legends boeken en is de TIE Defender als miniatuur uitgebracht voor het bordspel X-Wing.

Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire (1995)

Qua gameplay zeker niet de hoogvlieger in deze lijst, maar indertijd wel uniek vanwege de filmbeelden. In deze zogenaamde ‘rail shooter’ kruipt de speler in de huid van Rookie One (gespeeld door Jamison Jones – zie hier mijn interview met hem) en gaat op een missie om te ontdekken wat de nieuwe mysterieuze schepen van de Empire zijn.

Knights of the Old Republic (2003)

Vraag mij wat (buiten de originele trilogie) het beste is wat er ooit op Star Wars gebied is verschenen en ik zal als antwoord “Knights of the Old Republic” geven. Niet alleen qua gameplay en visueel een topper maar het is vooral het fantastische verhaal (met een twist!) dat blijft hangen en fascineren.

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De 10 van Dennis: Star Wars naslagwerken – Deel 2

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Drie jaar geleden verscheen er op deze site een artikel waarin ik kort de -mijns inziens- 10 beste Star Wars naslagwerken deelde. Maar de afgelopen 42 jaar zijn er meerdere boeken verschenen die absoluut de moeite waard zijn. Klaar voor 10 andere titels die in de kast van elke echte Star Wars fan moeten staan?

George Lucas: the Creative Impulse (1992) – Charles Champlin

In mijn eerdere top 10 noemde ik dit boek al even. Er zijn in mijn optiek twee geweldige naslagwerken over de films van George Lucas verschenen. The Cinema of George Lucas is (mede omdat deze ná de prequels verscheen) completer, maar The Creative Impulse is ook een absolute parel.

Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie (2016) – Brandon Alinger

Ook deze werd kort genoemd in de eerdere Top 10. De reden dat deze er toen niet in stond was simpel: deze bijna 10 kilo wegende stoeptegel was nog nét niet verschenen. In mijn uitgebreide review geef ik het al aan: “adembenemend” en “zonder twijfel een van de beste Star Wars boeken ooit”.

The Star Wars Archives (2018) – Paul Duncan

Afgelopen jaar verscheen The Star Wars Archives van de originele trilogie (een prequel editie staat gepland voor eind 2020). Met zijn 7,5 kilo en formaat van 33 x 7 x 48 centimeter een nachtmerrie voor elke boekenkast. Zoals ik in mijn review al aangaf: “Visueel is het absoluut een van de 5 beste”.

From Star Wars to Indiana Jones: the best of the Lucasfilm Archives (1995) – Mark Cotta Vaz

In de jaren 90 was dit een van de meest populaire boeken op Star Wars gebied: een trip door de archieven van Lucasfilm waarbij talloze props uit de originele saga én de Indiana Jones reeks aan bod komen.

Secrets of Shadows of the Empire (1996) – Mark Cotta Vaz

Medio jaren 90 stond Star Wars in het teken van Shadows of the Empire. Een ambitieus project over de periode tussen Empire en Jedi waarbij werkelijk vanalles verscheen… behalve een film. Wél kregen de fans een videogame, strip, boek, actiefiguren, tradingcards, een soundtrack… én dit boek waarin men uitvoerig ingaat op het gehele project; van de eerste prille ideeen, de creatie van personages als Dash Rendar en Xizor en het uiteindelijke resultaat.

Star Wars Chronicles: the Prequels (2005) – Stephen Sansweet

Hij viel de vorige keer nipt buiten de 10, maar eigenlijk had deze daar al bij gemoeten: Star Wars Chronicles: The Prequels.

Zondermeer hét ultieme boek van de Prequels met afbeeldingen van elk personage, voertuig en planeet.

The Star Wars Vault (2007) – Stephen Sansweet, Pete Vilmur

Een bijzonder boek, aangezien het een van de weinige naslagwerken is waar ook een vertaalde Nederlandse uitgave van is. Zoals op onderstaande afbeelding te zien is bevat The Star Wars Vault vele uitneembare elementen (of beter gezegd: replica’s en reprints); posters, filmcells, entreetickets, een Kenner cardback en zelfs twee CD’s met daarop onder andere de soundtrack van de Star Tours attractie en Carrie Fishers lied uit de Holiday Special.

Art of Star Wars: A New Hope, The (1979, 1994, 1997)

Art of Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back, The (1980, 1994, 1997)

Art of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, The (1983, 1994, 1997)

Als je er één in deze lijst zet dan moet je de andere twee ook vermelden: de Art of Star Wars reeks waar enkele heruitgaven van zijn (in de 1997 editie zijn de special editions meegenomen).

Eervolle vermelding:

The Sounds of Star Wars (2010) – JW Rinzler

Een verrassend boeiend boek over (de titel geeft het al aan) de geluiden van Star Wars. Bij het boek zit een module die 250 geluidseffecten afspeelt uit de originele en prequel trilogie welke in het naslagwerk besproken worden.

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Star Wars Studies: “Ontwerp BB-8 geen slecht idee voor planetaire verkenning”

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Het bolvormige lichaam van BB-8 is nog helemaal geen slecht idee voor een robot waarmee andere planeten worden verkend. Dat meent Wolfgang Fink, een voormalig wetenschapper voor de Jet Propulsion Laboratory van NASA. (meer…)

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Exclusief: 16 pagina’s van het nieuwe boek van Dark Empire auteur Tom Veitch

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Dark Empire

Voor velen is het wellicht moeilijk voor te stellen maar eind jaren ’80, begin jaren ’90, was Star Wars ‘dood’. Films stonden niet op de planning, de Droids en Ewoks animatieseries behoorden (net als de Marvel comics) tot het verleden, de Expanded Universe bestond nog niet en in de speelgoedwinkels was ook niks te vinden.

In 1991 kwam echter een ommekeer toen Lucasfilm de franchise nieuw leven in blies: een boektrilogie én een nieuwe stripboekenreeks waarin de avonturen van Han, Leia en Luke in de jaren na Return of the Jedi te lezen waren.

Voor de stripboekenreeks (die Dark Empire) heette werden tekenaar Cam Kennedy en schrijver Tom Veitch ingehuurd. Samen met Timothy Zahn (die de befaamde Thrawn trilogy schreef) zijn deze heren als grondleggers belangrijk geweest in deze Star Wars Renaissance.

In de volgende jaren zou Veitch nog meer doen: scenario’s voor de comics Dark Empire II, Tales of the Jedi en Empire’s End en daarnaast ook nog het korte verhaal over Greedo voor het Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina boek.

Enige tijd geleden heb ik meermaals contact gehad met hem en tot mijn verrassing vertelde hij dat hij bezig is met een boek waarin zijn Star Wars memoires te lezen zijn. Dit boek zal later dit jaar verschijnen, maar… Star Wars Awakens heeft (samen met mijn eigen site StarWarsInterviews.com) een speciale wereldprimeur: van Tom mogen we (als eerste!) een selectie van 16 pagina’s uit dit boek publiceren.

Hieronder doet Tom Veitch uit de doeken hoe Dark Empire tot stand kwam. Hoe met de kritiek van Timothy Zahn op zijn verhaal werd omgegaan, hoe een oudere Luke, Han en Leia werden neergezet, de creatie van Anakin Solo, waarom Thrawn onorigineel was en waarom de clone van The Emperor een goed idee was.

Een absolute must-read voor fans van Dark Empire, de oude Expanded Universe en alle andere Star Wars fans.

The following is a section from my new book about my experiences creating expanded universe Star Wars comics in the 1990s. (Dark Empire & Tales of the Jedi). The book will be released later this year. ~ Tom Veitch

A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY NOT TOO FAR AWAY…

For about five years in the early 21st century I owned a bookstore in Bennington, Vermont. We specialized in old and rare books. But our shop also had lots of interesting books in every category, about forty thousand books altogether.

One of the highlights of those years was a series of talks I gave on the Star Wars movies and my experiences working on Star Wars comics. Guests at these talks generally numbered about ten, sitting in captain’s chairs around a big rustic mahogany table that was a replica of a table where Ernest Hemingway entertained guests at in his house in Key West.

These were free-wheeling talks, focused mainly on my ideas about the Jedi Knights and the two sides of the Force — light side and dark side. The talks also morphed into question and answer sessions in which my “students” would argue Star Wars trivia. And frankly, that was a lot of fun!

What follows is based on a transcript of a session in which we discussed Tim Zahn (author of the best-selling Star Wars novel Heir to the Empire) and the back-and-forth he and I had while we were writing our respective works.

__________________________

Q: So how did Dark Empire evolve, from your first proposals to when it was finally published by Dark Horse Comics?

TOM: As I already mentioned, I first approached Mr. Lucas in November of 1988. After a year of discussion, negotiation, and story treatments, on September 25, 1989 I submitted to Lucasfilm a 50 page synopsis for 144 pages of Star Wars comics, to be drawn and painted by Cam Kennedy and published as three 48 page books.

Q: This was before Tim Zahn proposed his novels?

TOM: Yeah. In terms of the creative timeline, the basic concepts for Dark Empire were proposed and accepted a year before Tim was hired by Bantam. And our project was fully outlined and plotted and approved by Lucas about a month before Zahn came on board.

Q: Can you give us more detail?

TOM: Sure. The way it went was like this: After our outline for three 48-page issues was approved, in October 1989, Lucasfilm told me they were going to approach Bantam about doing a new Star Wars novel, and they asked me if I would like to write a novelization of Dark Empire. I said sure, absolutely, and got very excited about the prospect.

Then, when they talked to Bantam, the editors there said they would love to do a new Star Wars book, but they would prefer to have one of their contract writers invent his own Star Wars story. In fact they had somebody in mind — Timothy Zahn, who was a rising star in the world of science fiction.

Zahn is quoted as saying, “It was just after four o’clock on November 6, 1989, and I was three days into writing my first novel for my new publisher, Bantam Books, when the phone rang. It was my agent. ‘Tim,’ he said after the usual pleasantries, ‘we have a very interesting offer here.'”

After that, Lucasfilm called me and said that Bantam had hired Zahn to do a book, also post-ROTJ, but different from Dark Empire. I was disappointed, but I offered to talk with the new writer and co-ordinate ideas and plotlines.

That didn’t happen. Instead, as I gather, somebody at Bantam suggested to Lucasfilm that they be allowed to generate their own comics and graphic novels, beginning with an adaptation of Zahn’s book! At the time it was public knowledge that graphic novels were making a lot of money — DC’s Arkham Asylum (by Grant Morrison, published October 1989) reportedly grossed $4.5 million in direct market sales.

Thankfully Lucasfilm honored our agreement. Besides, they were already in contract negotiations with Marvel at that point, so Bantam’s suggestion was a non-starter.

Q: So Dark Empire was still at Marvel at that point?

TOM: Yes it was. Archie Goodwin was our editor and we were rolling. …But then a curious chain of events began.

Bantam decided to keep Zahn in the dark about the existence of Dark Empire until he had finished plotting Heir to the Empire. My suggestion that we collaborate on the post-ROTJ timeline fell on deaf ears.

Indeed, when he turned in his own synopsis for Heir to the Empire, he was apparently unaware that the comics project even existed. Then, once his synopsis was approved, somebody got the idea of asking him to critique the story treatment I had written for Dark Empire.

Q: That sounds like one of those situations that people in the movie industry like to get into – everybody “giving notes” on projects that are already in motion. …Was that a big problem for you?

TOM: Not really. It was just a pain in the ass. And it reminded me that the “carte blanche” we had received initially had caveats – even after our outline was fully approved!

Anyway, one fine day I received a copy of Zahn’s detailed notes on Dark Empire. Along with it, I received a copy of his synopsis of Heir to the Empire. And Lucasfilm asked if I would respond to Tim’s critique and as write my own comments on his plot!

Q: Amazing.

TOM: One problem was that neither Archie Goodwin nor Cam and I liked Tim’s plot. It seemed rather pedestrian and unexciting. It wandered through a lot of scenes that were a rehash of the movies, but the pacing was non-cinematic and not much fun, visually speaking. Worse yet, the new characters were clearly knock-offs of characters from the films. For example, the character “Talon Karrde” was a Han Solo/Lando Calrissian clone. And “Admiral Thrawn” was a substitute for Darth Vader and Peter Cushing (as Grand Moff Tarkin). Another character, the dark Jedi “Jorus C’baoth” shared the qualities of both Vader and The Emperor.

Substitute villains who are similar to well-known villains can be o.k., but usually you have to spend a lot of time making people believe in them. Our idea was to build on the tremendous power that the Emperor, Jabba the Hutt, and Boba Fett already held over the viewer’s imagination. And rather than having a new character try to convert Luke to the Dark Side, we would show that the very essence of the Dark Side — the Emperor — still lives, more powerful than ever.

Q: And Luke falls under his spell. Which is cool, but as you know, some people didn’t like that you brought back the Emperor.

TOM: I sympathize…but these folks were probably unfamiliar with the history of movie serials and comics, where great villains never completely die — they always return. Star Wars, as you know, was partly based on Flash Gordon, a movie serial and comic strip in which the principal villain, the evil emperor Ming the Merciless, is never completely killed off. For instance, consider the 1980 Flash Gordon movie where Max von Sydow as Ming is impaled by his own war rocket (of which Flash had taken control). After a vain attempt to stop Flash attacking him, Ming ultimately points his ring at himself and he vanishes. Then, just before the credits begin, his ring is retrieved by an unknown individual, and the words “The End” and a question mark appear, as Ming’s evil laughter plays in the background, hinting he isn’t really dead. (from Wikipedia)

Q: Zahn said in an interview that bringing back the Emperor goes against the story of Return of the Jedi, where we see the Emperor destroyed by Darth Vader.

TOM:  Zahn misses something essential about that ROTJ scene: When the Emperor dares Luke to “strike me down”, he seems utterly indifferent to his own death! He feels that whatever the outcome of this confrontation with Luke, he, Palpatine, will conquer:

EMPEROR: Good. I can feel your anger. I am defenseless.  Take your weapon!  Strike me down with all your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete.

It was my thesis that in ROTJ the Emperor chose this moment to come out of his deep seclusion in the Imperial City, because he no longer feared for the safety of his physical body. His mastery of the Dark Side had become such that he was now ready to make a transition he had been working toward for many years — namely the replacement of his aging, diseased, and crippled body with a young clone! Tempting Luke to strike him in anger with a lightsaber could thus accomplish two things: It would bring Luke over to the dark side…and it would mark the moment when Palpatine made the transition to his clone body.

Luke, as we know, resisted the temptation to kill the Emperor. Then Vader hurled the Emperor down the deep reactor shaft, and we saw a series of blue flashes marking the Emperor’s demise. The blue flashes represented the Emperor’s living energy, his conscious dark force, leaving his body. And according to our story, his consciousness was translated across the Galaxy almost instantaneously and entered a new youthful body. Using cloned bodies Palpatine could live forever…and rule the Empire for thousands of years!

Q: It’s interesting, I think Palpatine alludes to living forever in the prequels.

TOM: That he does. Here’s a quote from Revenge of the Sith:

ANAKIN: Just help me save Padme’s life. I can’t live without her. I won’t let her die. I want the power to stop death.

PALPATINE: To cheat death is a power only one has achieved, but if we work together, I know we can discover the secret.

I believe Palpatine is referring to his own Sith master, Darth Plagueis, a canonical character who is supposed to have manipulated the midichlorians to achieve immortality and even create life.

Q: If the Emperor was going to continue to rule the Galaxy, he obviously was going to have to do something about his aging flesh.

TOM: Exactly. And if you ask me, the films nicely foreshadow Dark Empire and the Emperor’s scheme to live and rule the Galaxy … forever.

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GALAXY IN CHAOS

Q: Are you going to cover any more of Zahn’s criticisms?

TOM: Sure. He raised a few interesting points, as did some of the readers of the finished comic. I’d especially like to address the question of “Force Storms”, which appear right in the first chapter of our story.

Q: I thought the “Force Storm” worked, because it cuts to the chase regarding Luke and the Emperor confronting each other. But if the Emperor can make these energy storms, what does he need a Deathstar for? He could control the Galaxy by striking with raw Force energy!

TOM: Exactly. And that was one of the questions that Tim Zahn raised as well. But as a logical writer, he should have realized that since the Empire built two Death Stars, obviously the “Force Storm” must have limitations as an instrument of destruction!

In fact, in the Dark Empire Glossary which we provided to Lucasfilm (and to West End Games, for their Dark Empire Sourcebook), a Force Storm is defined thus:

Tornado of energy released by great disturbances in the Force. Also called Energy Storm. Unpredictable, but powerful Dark Side adepts have had limited success in purposely creating such storms.

And in my response to Zahn, I said:

“What is the mechanism of a Force Storm? I would suggest that it is a function of two powerful minds focused on each other: Luke and the Emperor. It’s as if a wormhole in the Force has opened between them, causing a massive release of energy. The Emperor, unlike Luke, has learned how to use this rare event to his advantage.”

That’s the explanation we used in the finished comic book. But in my letter to Zahn, I also mentioned there could be other explanations, equally as valid — for instance having to do with something (such as a Sith holocron) Luke found in the Imperial Palace. That’s just part of the fun, you know — dreaming up imaginative special effect sequences — and then figuring out the logic of how and why they can happen. If the logic can’t be found, then yes, the effects should be jettisoned.

Q: What if the use of the Force in this way was a recent discovery by the Emperor? He might have unearthed that bit of sorcery from ancient Sith archives, or from powers locked in Sith temples.

TOM: Sure. That works. And speaking of logic, I’ll tell you something else. In the films the Death Stars are portrayed as the ultimate technological weapon you would use to control a Galaxy of thousands (or even millions) of inhabited star systems. But did you ever consider that the logic of the Death Star is deeply flawed?

Q: You mean it was vulnerable to being destroyed by a tiny X-Wing?

TOM: No, not just that. The Death Star is an extremely impractical use of hyperspace travel. The realistic way to control a Galaxy (if I may use the word “realistic” relative to a science fiction fantasy) is by firing hyperspace missiles from stationary bases. You can build an untold number of such projectiles, each capable of destroying a planet. And when a system gets uppity or joins the Rebellion, you simply launch one of these faster-than-light missiles and they are obliterated.

Q: That sounds like your “Galaxy Gun” from Dark Empire!

TOM: Yes. My theory is that Lucas was so focused on the Death Star idea, that he missed the flawed logic and the impracticality of it.

Q: But so did everybody who saw the movie. I mean, it was so cool. And so big.

TOM: Definitely awesome. But once the Galaxy Gun concept hit the light of day in our comics, Death Stars became obsolete. In fact, in the J.J. Abrams film, The Force Awakens, they used our concept as the basis for the hyperspace superweapon mounted on Starkiller Base. This weapon is described as “capable of destroying entire star systems halfway across the galaxy.” It is also described as the result of an evolution in “hyperspace tunneling.”

Q: Then it’s really an adaptation of the Galaxy Gun?

TOM: Yes it is. But it’s not that difficult to understand that all kinds of hyperspace weapons are inevitable, once you posit hyperspace travel. Lucas overlooked that fact because he was hypnotized by the Death Star idea.

Q: You could say the same about Star Trek. I don’t think they have used lightspeed weaponry yet, but they could. If they haven’t, it might be because they are more about characters than technology.

TOM: I believe phasers and photon torpedoes can be fired while a warp speed. But as far as I know nobody has fully explored the implications of that. …The fact of the matter is that faster-than-light missiles or projectiles could truly master a galaxy. But they would also result in galaxy-wide wars between competing technological cultures. Sort of like the situation we have on earth right now, with a number of countries already armed with nuclear-tipped missiles. Extrapolate that situation to a galaxy – or THE Galaxy – and you have a truly explosive situation.

As a matter of fact, that’s another of the built-in flaws of the Star Wars saga. Thousands upon thousands of independent planetary systems would be functionally autonomous and hidden from the prying eyes of “the Empire”. It would take an unthinkably massive surveillance and control network to bring a Galaxy under a central government. You think we have trouble with Iran or North Korea developing nuclear weapons deep inside a mountain? Imagine the technologies of war being developed in secret — or even in the open — by independent civilizations on thousands, or perhaps millions, of planets!

Q: And then there is the “illegal” arms trade. Out of sight out of mind. The possibilities are mind boggling.

TOM: Yes, I can imagine that in a real Star Wars Galaxy hyperspace weapons would be developed and traded all over the place. And every peaceful planet would have to worry about planet-busting missiles popping out of hyperspace at any time…with nobody knowing who launched them!

Q: I wonder if anybody on Star Trek ever thought a beaming a bomb aboard the Enterprise or from the Enterprise to another vessel?

TOM: I believe the concept was used at least once on Star Trek Voyager. Google “Star Trek transporter bomb” for lots of discussion on this.

Q: With the proliferation of nukes here on earth, what do you think is going to happen?

TOM: Oh, I think there is going to be a nuclear war. A big one. I have no idea when, but I think it is inevitable. Probably in this century. …Did you know they are already developing autonomous submersible nuclear torpedoes that will circle the earth’s oceans undetected? Imagine a coastal city suddenly demolished, and nobody knows who did it!

Q: That’s terrible.

TOM: And we are all praying it doesn’t happen. But it will. And we need to believe that, in order to do something to prevent it. …Now, can we get back to Star Wars?

Q: Definitely. Real life is too scary! … Can you say more about Zahn’s plot for the post-ROTJ Galaxy?

TOM: Sure. What’s especially interesting, from my point-of-view, is that Zahn’s plot provides a basis for saying that without the thousands of Jedi Knights who once formed the backbone of the Old Republic, the new confederation is a precarious one and “long years of struggle ensued.”

Q: I liked that you have the Rebels using captured Star Destroyers against the remnants of the Empire.

TOM: That idea was original with us. One of these captured Star Destroyers, commanded by Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian, crashes on the Imperial planet (now named Coruscant by Tim Zahn). And as our book opens, Princess Leia and her husband Han Solo, together with the Wookiee Chewbacca and the protocol droid C-3PO, are on a mission to rescue Luke and Lando.

Q: Tim didn’t like the idea that you could crash land a Star Destroyer?

TOM: Right. In his critique of my 50-page synopsis, he took a proton torpedo to that idea:

“A Star Destroyer is a mile long. If something that size crashed into the Imperial City, the city and more of the surrounding county would be gone, devastated by a combination of the direct impact, the ground and atmospheric shock waves, and the firestorm and probably earthquake. There most certainly wouldn’t be any fighting going on around it.”

TOM: Tim’s critique was interesting, but I strongly disagreed. I explained to Tim that hugely expensive Star Destroyers would be equipped with anti-gravity devices (also called “repulsor lift”) for emergency touch-downs and surviving crash-landings. The technology is widely available, and the ship designers would use it. Deflector shields (and even tractor beams) could also be incorporated into braking devices.

Q: I guess he hadn’t seen The Force Awakens.  (laughs)

TOM: Or Rogue One. My main point, however, was that the image of a Star Destroyer lying broken and helpless on the surface of a planet is just too cool not to use. All that technological power — now become so much junk. The creators of The Force Awakens clearly agreed, for the opening scenes of the 2015 movie show the heroine, Rey, scavenging parts for resale off a crashed Star Destroyer.

Q: And in Rogue One we see a Star Destroyer hovering over a city. That means they were definitely deploying anti-grav technology on those giant ships.

TOM: Tim had another argument about ships of very large size having to stay in space “well away from planet-sized bodies.” As he put it, “It takes an incredible amount of energy to move a quarter cubic mile of metal up and down a gravity well.”

Q: That sounds rational.

TOM: It’s based on the physics of energized propulsion and repulsion. …Nobody knows how anti-gravity will work, once it is discovered or invented. But it is very easy to theorize that it will involve some yet to be understood law of physics that allows you to reverse an existing gravity field. So, if you are over a planet, you potentially have the planet’s entire gravity field as your “power source”.

Q: Right. It also seems like Tim was inclined to give precedence to old-fashioned Newtonian physics over imagination!

TOM: Keep in mind nobody yet knows what we will ultimately learn about gravity waves. Will they be manipulated like electromagnetic waves?

Q: Yeah, and what about all the strange possibilities of quantum physics?

TOM: To give Tim his due, not every Star Destroyer would be able to survive a crash-landing. For example, can you imagine a ship that size hitting a planet point first!

Q: Cool Star Destroyer crashes have been used all over the place, in games, animated films, comics… I think I saw one or two in your comics.

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AGING THE CHARACTERS

TOM: Since Dark Empire takes place five or six years after the end of Return of the Jedi, the characters have matured quite a bit. Luke is now a fully realized Jedi, manly and battle-hardened.

Han and Leia are married. We wanted to move beyond the kind of teenage feuding that characterized their earlier years and bring out a new theme: the never-ending war has given them little time to enjoy their relationship. Indeed, months pass where they don’t see each other at all, and the brief reunions are intense and passionate. They care about each other.

Q: That’s interesting. They kind of used that in The Force Awakens too.

TOM: To good effect, I thought. These are people who have been fighting a never-ending war. They are both battle-hardened and battle-weary.

Q: But Han and Leia were estranged in The Force Awakens. I didn’t care for that.

TOM: Me too. …In any case, in Dark Empire Leia’s Jedi powers, under the guidance of Luke, have begun to develop — although she has yet to take up the lightsaber. My plan was to give Leia more intuitive and mental or psychic powers rather than the athletic abilities that Luke demonstrated. She didn’t really take to the idea of cutting off arms and legs in battle. That said, she would come to own a lightsaber, bestowed upon her by the “fallen Jedi” Vima Da Boda.

Tim Zahn complained about this too, saying that Leia should have a lightsaber at the beginning of Dark Empire, and be fully trained in its use. He also objected to Leia using the Force “to blow up droids”. I explained to him that the Jedi don’t “blow up” things, but they do use telekenisis to move the inner components of droids and assault weapons, causing them to self-destruct.

This is the same power Yoda used to raise the X-Wing in The Empire Strikes Back. So it follows that Luke doesn’t blow up AT-ATs. He uses his lightsaber to deflect and return their fire. Then he uses telekinesis to tip them over.

Q: I wonder if using the Force to blow up stuff should be totally off limits?

TOM: The question of “blowing up” came up in meetings I held early on with a local Star Wars club — a group of enthusiastic guys and girls who were deeply into the West End Star Wars roleplaying game. As we discussed and agreed, the Light Side of the Force is not explosive — although it is likely it could initiate a powerful concussion wave.

Q: O.K., but what about the Dark Side? The Emperor’s lightning bolts ought to be able to blow up a few things.

TOM: Agreed. The electrical discharges emitted by the Emperor, which seem to be a major power of the Sith Lords, could easily ignite rocket fuel or even start a fire in garbage compactor! So let me ask everybody here today — can the Dark Side “blow things up”?

Q: Well, we know that Luke blew up the Death Star using the Force to guide a torpedo. Does that count?

Q: Concussion waves are good. A Jedi of the Light Side could hit something with one of those.

Q: Dark Jedi Exar Kun killed people with “Force blasts” in Tales of the Jedi, as I recall. I don’t know if good Jedi ever did that.

TOM: Not to my knowledge.

Q: I am thinking that the Dark Side of the Force could interfere with matter at the atomic level … maybe even cause a small nuclear explosion. Why couldn’t advanced Light Jedi do that?

TOM: Maybe a Jedi could do that in special circumstances, with highly focused meditation. Or by mastering the physics of Force Storms. This goes along with the idea that Dark Side powers are available to very advanced Jedi, if the need arises. Since the Force “surrounds and penetrates us”, terrible things may be possible to one who learns the Dark Side of the Force.

Q: There’s a rumor going around that Luke will create Force explosions in Star Wars VIII. But that is just fan speculation at this point. [Note: He didn’t.]

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CHILDREN OF THE JEDI

TOM: To continue, our plan from the get-go was that Han and Leia would have a child. The Jedi lineage will continue! As it turned out, Zahn beat us to it, giving Han and Leia two children, Jacen and Jaina. So our Solo child was the third, a son named after his grandfather Anakin.

Q: Ah, the famous Jedi Anakin Solo! …Why did you name him Anakin?

TOM: My idea was to call him “Anakin” because he would embody both the light and dark aspects of the Skywalker lineage and suffer great inner conflict in his life. As it turned out, this was how Kasdan and Abrams came to visualize Han and Leia’s son Ben aka Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. In their story, the Dark Side takes over the personality of Ben Solo.

Q: That doesn’t happen to Anakin.

TOM: My plan was that the Light Side would win out in Anakin after inner battles between the two sides of his being. As I understand it, subsequent Expanded Universe writers chose to make the Light Side consistently strong in Anakin, and that he died a hero. I have no problem with that, but a lot of stories about Anakin’s inner conflict didn’t get told!

Q: What about Chewbacca?

TOM: Our intention was that Chewie would appear essentially the same as he did in the films. So would Boba Fett for that matter! And the R2D2 and C3PO are in good shape, and fully functional, although C3P0 would complain about his “aging joints”.

Q: Did Tim Zahn have any more complaints about Dark Empire?

TOM: A few. One thing he didn’t like was my statement that “the power of all the Jedi who have gone before is focused in Luke Skywalker.” …Now, I can see how one could argue with that statement. But Tim’s critique was, I thought, curiously out of touch with the nature of both the Force and the Jedi. He said: “Knowledge of the Force is a highly individual and personal thing, coming from one’s OWN talent and efforts to develop that talent. To say that dead Jedi can pass on their power is to infinitely cheapen the concept, reducing it to little more than a spiritual bank account with transfer privileges…”

Q: And you disagreed?

TOM: I certainly did. Here’s my full response, which was passed to Tim. I’d be happy to argue it here, if you like:

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MY RESPONSE TO TIM

Now Tim doesn’t like the idea of “the power of all the Jedi who have gone before” being focused in Luke. I think it follows logically from the fact, shown in the films, that the Jedi don’t break off communication when they die. There would be a tremendous need, among the fallen Jedi, to right the great wrong done to their Company. They wouldn’t just drift off to the Elysian Fields (as Zahn shows Obi-Wan doing in his plot outline).

Thus the idea of focusing on Luke, the last of their kind — the last hope for the Jedi.

I disagree that knowledge of the Force is merely “a highly individual and personal thing”, a kind of talent that one develops. Indeed, we know the Force is “an energy field created by all living things that binds the universe together”. The Jedi Knights were trained to tap into this collective energy, and use it in combat or for other magical purposes.

Yes, that takes a certain talent and skill — and an individual relationship to this vast well of power… But the ultimate talent for using the Force comes not from the ego or “one’s own efforts”, but from “letting go” the ego’s need to control. The Force then “becomes strong in you”, suggesting a kind of mystical sharing, through feeling — a conscious relationship to this collective and all-pervasive energy.

I think it’s Tim who misses the mark when he reduces knowledge of the Force to a “highly individual and personal thing, coming from one’s OWN [his caps] talent and efforts to develop that talent.” He would (it seems) reduce what is essentially an Eastern idea to the ordinary Western struggle for heroic identity.

Needless to day, Tim’s idea contradicts the way Luke learned to let go of the need to control and to “feel the Force” in the very first Star Wars film.

Q: Hard to argue with that. Luke gives up his personal effort when he battles the remote aboard the Falcon … and when he destroys the Death Star.

Q: It sounds like Tim was on a mission to change Star Wars into an old-fashioned outer space shoot-em up.

TOM: I have no comment on that. But I would remind folks that the idea of “collective mind” goes back to the beginnings of science fiction, and was wonderfully expressed in the movie Forbidden Planet — a movie that had a big effect on George Lucas.

Q: You mean with the planetary machine that brings to life your unconscious demons?

TOM: Exactly. And who can forget all the stories of super-brained aliens whose shared consciousness is far beyond the knowledge and talent of earth’s greatest scientists. …Tim apparently wanted to reduce everything back to a safe and highly predictable level in which spiritual or transcendent forces are no longer part of the picture.

Q: Did you guys argue about any other things?

TOM: There were a few minor points, such as whether the spires on the Pinnacle Moon were geologically possible. And there was another big dispute about the Dark Side and the relationships of “dark Jedi” on planet Byss — the secret throne-world of the Emperor in the Galactic core, permeated with the Dark Side of the Force. Again, according to Zahn:

“The dark side of the force is a path of selfishness, a seeking for personal gain above all else. There cannot be, by definition, any kind of genuine friendship or cooperation between Dark Jedi; only mastery and subservience based on power. A stable society of them simply cannot exist. …An entire world of dark-side adepts would be embroiled in continual, violent war with itself as each member sought for power over all the others. There would be temporary alliances which, after achieving power, would disintegrate in internal battle and in turn be overthrown by a new temporary alliance of its enemies. Given that, there are only two ways that the Emperor could hold onto any kind of permanent power: either he is so powerful that NO combination of the others is stronger (which seems unlikely with a whole planet full of them to choose from) — or else he must be powerful enough to destroy all the others, in which case the whole concept of Byss goes out the window. …[Veitch] ignores the reality of what the dark side is. The “adepts of the dark side” would never have helped the Emperor get a new body and thus regain power over them.”

Q: I guess Tim never heard of Nazi Germany!

TOM: Yeah, in fact there are so many historical precedents of stable societies permeated by evil, what he says just seems silly.

Q: And who can forget Lord of the Rings, for godsakes! The One Ring holds a mystical dark power to bind whole populations. In a way, a Dark Lord of the Sith, such as Palpatine, is a mirror of Sauron, ruler of Mordor.

TOM: We could have a long discussion about the parallels of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars …In any case, Tim and I disagreed. And I tried to ground my answer to him in the Star Wars movies themselves, which, curiously enough, are built around the idea of a stable society ruled by the Dark Side — a society called “The Empire”!

Q: Whoops. Sorry, Tim. No Death Stars for you!

TOM: To complete the discussion here’s a portion of my long response to Tim:

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RESPONSE TO TIM ON COOPERATION OF DARK JEDI

Tim says there cannot, by definition, be any kind of cooperation between Dark Jedi, and a stable society of them cannot exist.

I disagree. The attempt to create a stable society based on the power of the Dark Side is what the Emperor — and STAR WARS — is all about.

The Emperor clearly has an ongoing relationship with Vader (”my friend” he calls him). The Emperor also confers with other strangely garbed figures in Return of the Jedi. Like all “dark side politicians”, he is a man of relationships — when he needs them.

The respect the Emperor shows for anyone who can use the Force is based on the hope that these powerful people will capitulate to his will and become useful to him.

The same principle would be behind the “society of Dark Adepts” on Byss.

Now, why would a whole group of Adepts submit to the Emperor, when they could overthrow him, etc., as Tim suggests?

Why did the Assassins Guild submit to Hassan I Sabbah? Whey do the dark angels serve Satan? Why did the Gestapo serve Hitler? Why did Caligula reign over Rome? What about Genghis Kahn, Alexander the Great, the Pharoahs, etc. etc.?

A dark magician can have trusted servants. Lesser power users will serve one who is clearly their superior. Sometimes, yes, they will scheme against him, attempt to bring him down, and so forth. But from the three existing STAR WARS films we get a distinct impression that the Emperor is secure in his inner circle. And it is this security that gives him the confidence to reach out to control a galaxy.

A strange peace reigns on Byss … the peace of satiated vampires. All rewards flow from the center — and each Adept receives exactly what he desires. If he should desire too much, then yes, then he can be eliminated.

It’s all written in human history. Byss can be nothing more than the experience of men. (And, it should be noted, not everyone on Byss uses the Force, although all (or most) are under the spell of the Dark Side. Most of the inhabitants of the Emperor’s throne world are ordinary galactic citizens who have “earned the privilege” to move to Byss … or else were lured here by the promise of an “idyllic refuge”.)

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THE SECRETS OF THE FORCE

TOM: Tim had what I considered to be a conflicted understanding the hero and his quest. For him, being a Jedi came down to “individual talent and effort”.  But Tim also understood that “learning dark side secrets” meant surrendering to the dark side of the Force:

“The dark side has no ‘secrets’ that Luke can learn and use, not  unless he goes to the dark side himself. The dark side is about motivations and ethics, not something as simple and neutral as technique. It would be like Luke deciding to learn judo from the Emperor…”

Q: I get the feeling Tim wouldn’t approve of the blind warrior monk Chirrut Îmwe, the character in Rogue One who takes on opponents with his staff, with great skill, despite being blind.

TOM: Good point. It seems that for some writers, Eastern martial arts are “techniques” separate from a spiritual and moral core. The opposite is the case, of course. And that’s the essence of Star Wars. That connection between inner and outer worlds was what our story is about. It was always about mental and spiritual conflict — not simply learning tricks and techniques.

Q: But in your story, Luke believed he could apprentice himself to the Emperor and not “surrender to the dark side”.

TOM: Exactly. But Luke also knew that he carried the heritage of Darth Vader in his blood. From The Empire Strikes Back onward, his struggle was very much about human psychology and “the inner war with the Shadow” — the Shadow being an aspect of himself !

Q: Who can forget Luke’s confrontation with himself in the Dark Side Tree on Dagobah? He saw his own face inside Darth Vader’s helmet!

TOM: It’s all there in the films, in the relationship of Luke and his father, and the teachings of Yoda. The war of good and evil is as much inner as it is outer. If it is only outside yourself and your “techniques”, there is only endless combat and numberless deaths.

Star Wars is as much about a war in the mind and spirit as it is about ships blasting each other with death rays. That’s what makes it the films the huge success they are. Star Wars is about the use of cosmic energies — the Force — through the awakening of intuitive knowledge.

Q: One thing your exchange with Zahn proves to me — Star Wars is many things to many people. Everybody finds what he wants in it.

TOM: That’s very true. And in fact, if you read a lot of the Expanded Universe stories, you can see how most writers project their own psychology and personal narratives into the work.

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LIGHT MIND / DARK MIND

TOM: At the time I sent in my original proposal, I didn’t quite know how the story would end, except that Luke and Leia would overpower the Emperor by joining their minds in the Force. Tim had a problem with that, of course. He said my idea was “an insult to the Star Wars philosophy”. He said that the idea that Luke and Leia would use mental power to destroy the Emperor was “completely and absolutely WRONG.” [his caps]

Q: Weird.

TOM: Well, I think he might have misunderstood what I wrote in the proposal, about “whole areas of the dark mind falling to the light side of the Force…” I also said that at that moment “everything Luke has learned about the dark side is transmuted and turned against the Emperor.”

Q: He must have missed the word “transmuted”.

TOM: I don’t know. He accused me of violating the code of the Jedi by “tampering with the very soul” of the Emperor — as if Palpatine had a soul!

Q: You know, your feisty exchange with Tim Zahn makes me think of a couple of twelve-point bucks battling for dominion in the forests of Endor.  (laughs)

TOM: No doubt there was some of that in it. But basically it was a clash of two different views of life … and of Star Wars. Readers will have to decide the argument for themselves.

Q: And did you write a critique of Heir to the Empire?

TOM: I wrote a short critique. I really didn’t like the idea of subjecting Tim to a long list of “notes”. Overall, I was disappointed with his book. As a story it seemed derivative and uninspired. But my main problem, which I wrote to Lucasfilm, was that I found his book curiously uncinematic. I felt (and still feel) that all Star Wars novels need to be highly visual and give you the impression you might be sitting in a theater. I told him Heir to the Empire didn’t feel at all like watching a movie. Fortunately Tim took that criticism to heart and his subsequent work was a definite improvement.

Q: You saw those books before publication?

TOM: Yes, they sent me the manuscripts, so that I’d make sure our stories were coordinated. But I wasn’t asked to give any more notes — nor was he. The one good thing from our spirited exchange in 1990 was that everybody backed off and let Cam and I finish Dark Empire. A couple years later somebody at LucasArts complimented me on my responses to Zahn’s critique. “Boy, you two guys really got into it,” she said. “It was like a lightsaber duel. He was out to destroy you, but your comebacks to Tim were spot on.”

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