Enige tijd geleden raakte ik in contact met Star Wars auteur Jason Fry. Zijn CV is behoorlijk indrukwekkend: hij schrijft al jarenlang Star Wars boeken en verhalen en titels als The Essential Atlas, The Weapon of a Jedi en The Force Awakens: The Incredible Cross Sections zijn allemaal van zijn hand.
Jason Fry was meer dan bereid om mee te werken aan een interview en hieronder kun je het resultaat lezen! Hij wist zelfs (en dit is echt een primeur) iets te vertellen over een personage uit The Force Awakens wat nog nergens anders te lezen was!
Interview met Jason Fry
How did you become a Star Wars fan?
I was eight years old when A New Hope – which back then was just Star Wars – hit theaters. I went with my folks to see it in a crummy theater in Lake Grove, N.Y., with no idea what to expect. Princess Leia’s ship came roaring across the screen, which was cool, but then Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer came across the screen chasing it – and kept coming and coming. By the time I saw that Star Destroyer’s engines I was hooked and knew my life had changed.
How did you land the job in the Star Wars industry?
I got to know my friend Dan Wallace through the old America Online Star Wars discussion boards in the mid-1990s. Dan and I both loved Star Wars geography, and he’d landed a gig writing The Essential Guide to Planets and Moons for Del Rey. I had a database of Star Wars planets that I’d created, and wanted to send it to him but hesitated because I was worried he’d think I was trying to step on his turf. When I finally did send it Dan was basically done with the book, and he was like, “Man, this would have been really helpful – why didn’t you send it before?”
So lesson learned.
Dan very kindly suggested that we team up to work on some articles for the old Star Wars Adventure Journal from West End Games, and I got vetted by Lucasfilm as part of that. I was so excited – and then the Adventure Journal folded. And I thought, “Oh no, there goes my big chance!” (We wound up working together with our friend Craig Carey from WEG to write articles for the short-lived magazine Star Wars Gamer.)
Happily, I got another shot – the Star Wars Insider was looking for a books columnist, and took a chance on me. If I recall correctly my first column was about Vector Prime, which I read under a strict vow of silence before interviewing Bob Salvatore. That was my first Star Wars publishing credit, back in 1999.
From there I put my hand up for any Star Wars job I could get. I wrote RPG material for Wizards, relying on what I could remember of first-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and spent years as the Insider’s book columnist. All of that was fun, but I got my big break when DK hired me to write the Clone Wars Visual Guide (which came out in 2008) and Del Rey gave in and let me and Dan try to turn our crazy idea about mapping the Star Wars galaxy into an actual book.
You have written a lot of Star Wars books and stories. Really a LOT. Which book/story are you most proud of?
Hmm. That’s a tough one, because my projects have been so different. I loved writing The Essential Atlas with Dan. That book was quite literally a dream come true. Back when I was 13 or 14 I dreamt I’d gone with my parents to the bookstore in our mall and bought a book called The Atlas of the Star Wars Galaxy, which I’d read avidly in the back seat of the car on the way home. It was one of those vivid dreams that leaves you a bit confused when you wake up about what’s real and what’s not. I was lying in bed and thought happily about my cool new book, figuring that I had school and track practice but then I’d be free to come home and read some more. Which was when I had that “Oh no” moment and realized it was just a dream.
Years later Dan and I made that dream a reality. I mean, sure, it took 30 years, but it happened! So that book will always be really close to my heart.
I also loved writing the four-book Servants of the Empire series, about Zare Leonis. Those books got into some pretty deep stuff while being entertaining adventures, and I really liked Merei, a character I invented as a foil/ally for Zare. And I loved working on Weapon of a Jedi and Moving Target, because they gave me a chance to tell stories starring two characters I’ve loved since I was eight years old.
If we can step outside of Star Wars for a moment, I think the second book in the Jupiter Pirates series – The Curse of the Iris – is the best thing I’ve ever written. (If you’re not familiar with Jupiter Pirates, I hope you’ll check out jupiterpirates.com.)
Of course I hope to top that someday soon, whether it’s with a Star Wars tale or something else – you always want your most recent book to be the best thing you’ve ever written.
Honestly, it’s pretty rare that I have a Star Wars project I don’t love. I pinch myself every day that I get to do this. I’ve been insanely lucky.
On Force Friday your book ‘Weapon of a Jedi’ was released. I’ve read it and (just like everyone else) love it. It is already a fan favorite; every review I’ve read is very positive. What is your secret? How did you approach the task of writing this novel and why do you think it’s so popular?
I’ve read some negative reviews of it! But that’s OK – as an author it’s really important to understand and accept that you cannot win them all. One person will think your book is an instant classic and another person will hurl it across the room. That’s showbiz, baby.
Lucasfilm gave me the basic plot of The Weapon of a Jedi – Luke explores mysterious ruins on a jungle world in search of Jedi lore, and winds up dueling a determined enemy – and we went from there.
Which definitely meant some pressure. Luke is such a beloved character – there are many Star Wars fans who have spent their whole lives watching and reading his adventures, and they have superb radar for how he thinks, speaks and acts. If you get that wrong, they’re thrown out of the story. I should know because I’m one of those fans, and Luke is a tricky character to get right – one I’ll admit I’d never felt I had a handle on. To figure that out I went back to the movies, to Mark Hamill’s performance and how that shaped the character George Lucas had created. I watched how Hamill held himself, and how he reacted to other characters, and delved into Hamill’s stories about interacting with Lucas in finding the right tone for the character. That helped, and so did a fan’s note on TheForce.net discussing what an odd action hero Luke is – he’s more reactive than active, almost gentle. Which is absolutely right. Think about it: In A New Hope Luke destroys the Death Star by letting go and allowing the Force to guide his X-wing’s proton torpedo. In Return of the Jedi he defeats the Emperor by throwing his lightsaber away and appealing to his father. It’s only in The Empire Strikes Back that he behaves like a conventional action hero – he rushes off to fight Darth Vader and save his friends. So what happens? He nearly gets killed and his friends have to risk their lives all over again to save him. That exploration turned out to be really rewarding. It unlocked Luke for me in a way that hadn’t happened before, and that was simultaneously helpful as a writer and a lot of fun as a fan.
As for why the book’s been popular, it has nothing to do with me. I mean, come on — it’s a Star Wars book about Luke Skywalker! My name is far and away the least important thing on that cover.
In ‘Weapon of a Jedi’ we meet a new character: Sarco Plank. Could you tell something about how you created this character? And will we see more of him in upcoming books or comics?
The character started with Lucasfilm, and was always intended to be Luke’s antagonist. I originally wrote him as a kind of placeholder – known just as “the Scavenger” — because I knew I wouldn’t have access to any art or descriptions of him until later in the process. That turned out to be pretty interesting: I tried leaving the character essentially as a “blank” in the narrative but found I couldn’t do it, because having him undefined messed up the dynamic between him and Luke and the droids.
So I shrugged and made the Scavenger into an old, scarred Devaronian outcast. His first name was mine – I was riffing on “sarcoma” – and I’m pretty sure the last name came from Lucasfilm. The funny thing is I knew that Sarco’s description would change, but I still felt a little sad when I got the art reference and had to switch out the old Sarco for the new one. We get really attached to our characters, even when we know better.
Another unexpected aspect of that process was there are pretty profound differences between how the original Sarco perceived the world and how the character you’ll see in The Force Awakens does. Sorry to be vague, but you’ll know what I mean soon enough. That was an interesting challenge given the interplay among the characters – some scenes still worked fine, some had to be tweaked, and a few had to be rethought. Something similar happened with the mounts Luke and Sarco use in The Weapon of a Jedi. There, once again, I was a little bummed to sub out the cool creature I’d thought of as a placeholder even though I’d known that was going to happen. Fortunately, I found myself needing mounts for scenes in the fourth Zare Leonis book, The Secret Academy. So the creature I’d invented – the diplopod — got to live another day.
With Cecil Castellucci you co-wrote another new Star Wars novel: ‘Moving Target’. What in this novel are your ideas/influences?
Collaborations are interesting things that can be pretty personal for the authors involved. So sorry, but I’d rather keep that one between me and Cecil. We relied on the Force, let’s say that. Well, the Force and the kind folks at Lucasfilm and Disney. What I will say beyond that is Cecil and I both had spent our whole lives loving Leia Organa as a character – she deserves so much credit as an assertive, no-nonsense boss who did a lot to break down the traditional confines about gender roles. We were both thrilled by the chance to work together in telling a story that would dig into Leia’s thoughts and her character.
Suppose there are readers who want to write official Star Wars books as well; what advice would you give them?
No one wants to hear this, but it’s my duty to say it: If your starting goal is to write Star Wars, stop.
I got really lucky and even then it was years and years before I got to write anything in that setting, let alone tell stories of my own. If you start off as a writer with Star Wars as your goal, you’re almost certainly going to wind up discouraged because it will take so long and so much has to go right no matter how hard you work.
If, on the other hand, you love to write and tell stories and your goal is to do that, full speed ahead. Develop a professional track record and start figuring out your own stories and characters and bringing them to life. It will take a long time to get openings and to get command of your craft, but if you love what you do you’ll enjoy the journey. If things go well and you get some breaks, you might eventually be offered the chance to play in someone else’s universe, whether it’s a galaxy far far away or something else. And if not you’ll still be having fun and hopefully seeing a little success.
The biggest reason I got hired by the Insider back in 1999 was I had years of newspaper experience, which meant I had a track record of writing successfully, meeting deadlines and being easy to work with. Yes, I was a Star Wars fan, but that was essentially a coincidence. It was my professional background that got me the shot.
For anyone I haven’t scared off, the good news is it doesn’t particularly matter what you do to get that professional track record – you can work for a local newspaper, magazine, website, etc. Editors want to see that you can write and are reliable — the subject matter isn’t so important. So go out and write. Do good work, prove you’re reliable, and enjoy yourself. Success – in whatever form it takes — starts there.
What can we expect from you in 2016 and beyond? I love scoops (especially when they’re Star Wars related) so please tell us!
Sorry, I can’t reveal anything before it’s announced by a publisher. I do have two things in the works, but they’re still under wraps. Also, the third book in the Jupiter Pirates series comes out in June, and I’ll have a free short story on jupiterpirates.com, probably in January. And lots more, I hope!
Finally, the readers of StarWarsAwakens.nl could post questions for you on our website. I’ve selected 3 of them:
What is your favorite Star Wars planet you’ve created?
Anaxes, which I created way back at the beginning of my Star Wars career for Coruscant and the Core Worlds, a roleplaying book for Wizards of the Coast. I’ve always liked the Imperial Navy and its traditions, so I thought it would be fun to create a planet that was basically its Annapolis – an “Officer and a Gentleman” type setting steeped in tradition, history and the lore of the service. So I proposed that and Wizards and Lucasfilm said yes.
It was really cool when the Clone Wars production team decided to use Anaxes as the setting of an arc – it’s in the “Bad Batch” series of animatic episodes on starwars.com. Though they did decide that Anaxes then got blown up somehow. Oh well!
Is there a Star Wars character you’d love to write a book about?
Han Solo. The funny thing about writing The Weapon of a Jedi is I was a Han guy as a kid. I didn’t really get Luke – I thought he should have joined Han and Chewie at the end of A New Hope instead of becoming a rebel. I mean, Han and Chewie get to hang out in cantinas and blast bad guys and play pirate aboard their cool starship – how is that not more fun than taking orders as a soldier? (Yes, I would have made the worst member of the Rebel Alliance ever.) I admitted this at New York Comic-Con on a panel where I was sitting next to Greg Rucka, who wrote Smuggler’s Run. And Greg looked over and said, “the funny thing is I grew up as a Luke guy.”
What is your favorite Star Wars book that was written by another author?
The original Han Solo adventures by Brian Daley, written in the earliest days of what was not yet called the Expanded Universe. They’re just great – exciting, fast and funny. And I still think they’re the best portrayal of Han Solo outside of the movies.
Mr. Fry, thank you for this great interview!
Wil je meer Star Wars Interviews lezen? Check dan deze site. Toekomstige interviews zullen voortaan zowel op deze site én op StarWarsAwakens.nl verschijnen!
Exclusief interview met Lesleh Donaldson (Kea Moll)
In september 1985 verscheen de eerste aflevering van Droids op de Amerikaanse TV; een 13-delige animatieserie over de droids van Star Wars: C-3PO (opnieuw met de stem van Anthony Daniels) en R2-D2. Op Boba Fett en een cameo van de Max Rebo band na waren alle overige personages nieuwe creaties.
Zo ook Kea Moll, die in de eerste vier episodes te zien was. Haar stem werd ingesproken door de Amerikaanse actrice Lesleh Donaldson die ook aan de andere animatieserie, Ewoks, haar stem verleende.
Interview met Lesleh Donaldson
How did you get started in the entertainment business and what got you started as a voice actor?
I started out as a child model and after doing my first commercial at 11 I just progressed from commercials to tv to movies then voice acting.
For the Droids and Ewoks series you voiced characters various characters including the heroine Kea Moll.
How did you get your parts for these series assigned?
I auditioned. To be honest I have no memory of Ewoks probably because I was one of many voices and it held no memory for me, as for Droids I replaced an actress whose voice they decided they didn’t like so they cast me and rerecorded my voice.
I played Kea Moll and like I said I have no memory of what I played in Ewoks probably various background voices; it was a paycheck sorry to be so off the cuff but I speak the truth.
What did an average day working on Droids/Ewoks look like?
I did what they asked, I guess my voice was well suited for Kea, again no memory of Ewoks. I came from a commercial voice background so not really an animated voice actor. You go into the Studio you record your voice and you leave it took no time at all. Also, I was starring in a hit play then so my mind was on that!
When you joined the Droids/Ewoks cast the Star Wars movies were the most successful movies ever. Had you seen the movies and what did you think of them?
I LOVED the first three Star Wars movies and had a huge crush on Mark Hamill so I was excited to meet Anthony Daniels. I took roles that they cast me in so there was no thinking about whether I wanted to be a part of it or not, I wanted to work.
How do you look back at the fact that you are part of the ‘Star Wars Universe’?
I don’t think I’m part of that Universe partly because it was animation and not the movie!
Besides Star Wars you done several other things like the movie Running with Michael Douglas. What do you regard as the highlight of your career?
The highlight of my career was in the 80’s when I had a career.
What would you give as an advice to someone who is reading this interview and wants to become a (voice) actor as well?
Like I said I’m not really a voice actor I got lucky because I had the right tone in my voice that producers liked back then but I would say that if you like doing character voices keep practicing and then make a tape and send it out because you never know!
What are you doing right now? Can you tell something about your current projects?
I’m currently still acting and I’ve written two scripts which are out being considered about to embark on a biopic of George Hislop a Canadian gay icon of the 70’s and 80’s.
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews
Exclusief interview met Bill Slavicsek
In 1987 was Star Wars op sterven na dood. Geen nieuwe films, de Ewok en Droids TV series werden niet vervolgd en ook aan de Marvel reeks was een einde gekomen. De redding van de franchise was gelukkig nabij want West End Games bracht in datzelfde jaar de Star Wars Role Playing Game uit.
Ter ondersteuning van dit spel verschenen en tientallen boeken waarin dieper en gedetailleerder werd ingegaan op de Star Wars galaxy. Voor het eerst konden we meer lezen over Bib Fortuna, hoe hoog de schuld van Solo bij Jabba was en kwamen we te weten dat Greedo een Rodian is. Kortweg gezegd: dit spel is de grondlegger geweest van de Expanded Universe en heeft de franchise tot 1991 (toen eerste boeken van Timothy Zahn verschenen) in leven gehouden.
De editor van al deze boeken is Bill Slavicsek, die ook nog eens de auteur is van A Guide to the Star Wars Universe. Als (hele) grote fan van de West End Games uitgaves (vorig jaar schreef ik er al over) stond een interview met Slavicsek al lange tijd op mijn wishlist en afgelopen week was het zover.
Interview met Bill Slavicsek
When was your first encounter with the Star Wars franchise and what did you think of it?
I know I followed the build-up to the film through Starlog Magazine, and I know I purchased the first issue of the Marvel Comic and the novelization when they were released shortly before the debut of the movie. It’s the actual day of release that remains fresh in my mind. May 25, 1977. For all that I had read, I can honestly say I wasn’t prepared for the movie I was about to see. I remember we cut school that day and traveled into Manhattan, to the Loews Astor Plaza, to get in line and wait for the first showing to go on sale. We were the first ones there, of course, and the line grew to an acceptable half-dozen or so other groups by the time the ticket booth opened. From the moment the words “A long time ago …” appeared upon the screen, to the opening scroll, to the Star Destroyer that went on forever, I was hooked. There was no going back. Star Wars (it wasn’t Episode IV or A New Hope yet) had a profound and lasting effect on me. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was going to become one of the biggest influences on my life and career moving forward—and I was still just in high school at the time! We stayed and watched the movie three times that day. When we emerged from the theater hours later, the line had grown to stretch around the block, and it never seemed to get any shorter that entire summer. I saw Star Wars on thirty-eight separate occasions that summer. What did I think? I thought it was the greatest movie ever made! Hey, I was a kid. But it remains one of my favorite films of all time, and it changed the way movies were made.
You joined West End Games in 1986, a year before the Star Wars RPG was released. How did you become the editor of so many Star Wars RPG books?
I started as an editor at West End Games, but before my first year of employment had ended, I was also writing and designing and developing products. I started on board games (such as RAF, Cosmic Encounter, and Kings & Things), then got to work on West End Games’ two roleplaying game lines, Paranoia and Ghostbusters. When Star Wars was presented to the staff, I wasn’t even scheduled to work on it. Someone had to handle the other product lines, and I was still the new kid on the block. It wasn’t long before I was able to demonstrate my love and knowledge of the property, and because I was good and fast at what I do, my first assignment was to team up with lead editor Paul Murphy to help develop and edit the roleplaying game rulebook. Initially, I was handed the introductory adventure and told to develop a format and get it ready for publication. After that, I followed behind Paul to make sure the book was as perfect as we could make it. About this time, Curtis Smith, the creative head of the studio at the time, was behind schedule on writing The Star Wars Sourcebook. He tagged me to be his co-writer to get the product finished by deadline, and I wound up writing the bulk of the book. As we finished the RPG and Sourcebook, West End Games was also in the process of moving the company to Pennsylvania. About this time, everyone above me decided, for one reason or another, to depart and seek their fortunes elsewhere. I wound up initially as the lead for Star Wars and shortly after that they promoted me to the creative lead of the company. After that, I wrote or edited much of what we were producing for Star Wars, and I developed everything before we sent it to Lucasfilm Licensing (LFL) for approval.
The Star Wars RPG came out in a time when Star Wars was more dead than alive. No new movies, no TV series, no comics and no books. Why release a game based on a franchise that wasn’t alive?
Prior to Star Wars, West End Games launched and had great success with another game based on a movie, Ghostbusters. We demonstrated that there was interest in a beloved but underutilized property if the product created to support it was good and true to the source material. We did that for Ghostbusters, and we certainly did that for Star Wars. In fact, getting to work on the Star Wars franchise at a time when we were literally the only people playing in that particular sandbox gave us a level of freedom that wouldn’t have been possible at any other time. With that freedom, we were able to lay the foundation for what would become the Expanded Universe—a foundation that’s still in place and being used in everything they’re creating today, from comics to novels, tv series to movies, even the new theme parks! Star Wars would have had a renaissance eventually, but I’m proud of the hand we had in helping it get there sooner rather than later.
Can you tell how the creative process of creating the Star Wars RPG went?
Greg Costikyan designed the RPG. For that product, I served as one of the editor/developers. All I remember about the RPG was getting involved in a ton of playtests, editing the pages as Greg handed them off, and playing the “Rebel Breakout” adventure over and over again to fine tune the flow. It wasn’t until I got pulled into The Star Wars Sourcebook that I actually saw the creative process from start to finish. Curtis Smith and I flew to Skywalker Ranch for a series of meetings with our contacts there. We presented our product plan, explained the nature of the products we wanted to create, and had to convince them to let us add details to what was in the movies and novelizations in order to develop the wealth of material needed for a roleplaying game. After that, the process was the same as it always was—create the best possible product you could for a property that you loved and respected. We had no idea at the time that what we were doing was going to have any effect at all on the greater Star Wars property. In fact, we were told repeatedly that George Lucas wasn’t beholden to anything we created. So, me and the West End Games creative staff would brainstorm product ideas, create outlines, and get them approved by LFL before assigning them to a staff designer or a freelancer. If I didn’t write a product personally, I either edited it or did a development pass to bring it up to standards before sending it to LFL for approval. That was the process, repeated over and over for the five years that I ran the line. At some point, our success had convinced LFL to expand their licensing opportunities, and a comic book and novel partner was brought onboard. That’s when LFL decided they wanted everything to match up, and our products became the reference materials for the other licensees.
In which ways was George Lucas involved?
We had very little interaction with George Lucas. We worked closely with the people in Lucasfilm Licensing, but Mr. Lucas was busy doing other things. We could occasionally ask him a question, but it had to be something he could answer with either a “Yes” or a “No,” and the question had to fit on an index card. Otherwise, our direction and guidelines came from LFL, and we were all kind of making it up as we went along. We were the first partner that was actually making new content for the Star Wars universe since the Han Solo and Lando novels and the Marvel Comics. And we were doing it in an unprecedented way by describing and expanding upon things seen in the actual movies. I know Mr. Lucas had our miniatures on his desk (we sent him a set of the metal miniatures that we had specially painted just for him), and he would purchase some of our art for display, but that’s really the extent of our interaction.
What was the hardest thing you’ve experienced while working on the Star Wars RPG and its books.
Probably the first conversations with LFL, when I had to convince them to allow us to create things beyond what we saw in the movies. I remember walking them through the aliens section of The Sourcebook. Presenting my arguments for why Hammerhead and Snaggletooth were great for helping a prop person find the right mask, but they were terrible names for intelligent species. That, and doing the research back in the days before the Internet. I had to comb through every novel (there were nine we were allowed to draw from and one we were asked to pretty much ignore), every “Art of” book and movie “Sketch Book,” the movie scripts, my collection of Starlog Magazines, the Marvel Comics (though we didn’t wind up using a lot from those), and the video tapes of the three original movies. I made reams of notes and jotted down loads of ideas as I poured through these resources over and over again.
You’re the author of the 2nd and 3rd editions of A Guide to the Star Wars Universe, a book that was seen on George Lucas’ desk when he was working on the Prequel Trilogy. Are there to your knowledge things in the prequels you created?
Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve seen information that says that the name “Rodian” made it into Mr. Lucas’s handwritten scripts and production notes, but it wasn’t used in the movies. It did eventually show up in the Clone Wars and Rebels animated shows, though. It also looks like some of our Force powers served as inspiration for what we see the Jedi do in the movies, the Jedi Code, and the use of Aurebesh script (we assigned meaning to the letters in one of our products). In the end, I’m just glad that the products we made inspired Mr. Lucas, in their own small way, to finally get back to the universe he created.
Which Star Wars West End Games book are you, most proud of?
I’m proud of all my products. Kind of like a parent with a lot of kids. But I always go back to the one that more or less made my name in the industry, The Star Wars Sourcebook. Even reading it today, thirty plus years later, there’s still a lot of great moments and information in that book. If that’s all I’m ever remembered for, that’s good enough for me.
30 years after the original release Fantasy Flight Games re-released the Star Wars RPG and Sourcebook. Do you know if there are plans to re-release more old Star Wars West End Games books?
I don’t have any specific insight into what FFG may or may not be planning. I know that they decided to pay homage to the original pair of books and I’m very grateful that they did. The reprints are beautiful and true to the original editions. I’m glad they’re available again for anyone who wants to see where all this started.
After three decades the West End Games books are sought after collectibles and still well loved by many fans. What do you think is the secret behind this?
All of the creators that worked with me on the original Star Wars RPG products loved Star Wars. We poured our hearts and souls into those books and tried our best to be true to the source material. And by having one vision that brought all those products together gave them all a focus and a voice that spoke to fans of the movies, whether they were gamers or not. In fact, we went out of our way to write the products as source material first and game books second. I’m just glad we were moderately successful in making the Star Wars universe come alive in those early West End Games products.
In the fall of 2018 your book Defining A Galaxy was released, a book about your time at West End Games and creating the Star Wars RPG. Why should every Star Wars fan buy it and read it?
I was feeling nostalgic as 2017 rolled around. It was not only the 40th anniversary of the original Star Wars film, it was also the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars RPG and Sourcebook. I attended Star Wars Celebration that year as a fan for the first time in forever, and when I got back I just felt that I had to collect my memories of how the West End Games products came together. To preserve the history, at least the way I remember it happening. Versions of what I was writing served as the basis for presentations I participated in that year at GenCon and the Lucca Comics and Game Fair. I tried to make it a fast and entertaining read while also telling the origin story, as it were, of what would become the Star Wars Expanded Universe. If you have an interest in Star Wars and where a lot of the background material comes from, or if you have an interest in the behind-the-scenes details that go into the creation of game products and worldbuilding, then I think you’ll get something out of my book. In the end, though, I wrote it so I would remember how all those products came together. It was written as much for me as for posterity. And it’s interesting to look back at a time when Star Wars wasn’t the focus of the public eye, when most of the world had decided it was no longer popular or relevant. Lucky for us, West End Games had a different idea and they let me take that idea and run with it. My book tells that story.
Thank you for the interview!
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews
Exclusief interview met Michael Stackpole
Vraag een Star Wars fan wie de meest belangrijke auteurs van de afgelopen 30 jaar waren en de kans is groot dat de naam Michael Stackpole valt. In de gouden jaren ’90 was Stackpole schrijver van de uitermate populaire en geprezen X-Wing reeks én van I, Jedi, een boek dat wordt gezien als een van de beste Star Wars werken ooit. Tevens is hij de geestelijk vader van Corran Horn; de X-Wing piloot en Jedi die zou uitgroeien tot een favoriet van vele fans.
Reden genoeg dus voor mij om hem op te zoeken voor een gesprek over zijn bijdragen aan de Star Wars saga.
Interview met Michael Stackpole
You wrote your first official Star Wars book in the mid 90’s; X-Wing: Rogue Squadron. How did you get this dream job?
Bantam Books had great success with the Timothy Zahn novels, and wanted to expand the line, but Lucasfilm didn’t want to extend the original deal because it was early days yet. So Bantam hit on the idea of taking a license out on the X-wing computer game. When Bantam looked through their stable of authors for someone who could write military Science Fiction, who understood computer gaming, who worked fast, who had done tie-in work and who could actually do a good job, I was pretty much the only author that checked all of the boxes. Bantam suggested me to Lucasfilm, Lucasfilm called Kevin J. Anderson to ask him if I could do the job. He said yes, so Bantam got to offer me the series. So, in short, I was VERY lucky.
Your book I, Jedi was written in first person, which no other Star Wars book at the time had done before, so I wonder if that was something you had to push for or was it something Lucasfilm suggested?
I’d had a talk with Tom Dupree, my Star Wars editor about I, Jedi and wanting to tell it in first person. This was just a pipe dream we discussed while walking around in Baltimore at a convention. There was no contract or even the inkling of a contract. Then Bantam talked to Lucasfilm about a new set of a dozen books, and Tom offered I, Jedi as one of them. Lucasfilm liked the idea, and I got a phone call.
I, Jedi is about Corran Horn, who was created by you and became of the most popular Expanded Universe characters. Since he’s one of my favorites as well I’d like to know ‘everything’: how did you create him?
Wow, you want me to reveal all of my secrets for character creation.
Because I was writing about pilots, I did research. The best pilots are shorter than average, with light colored eyes. So Corran is about 5’7” and has green eyes. I knew having him be a Corellian would immediately give him a link to Wedge, so that made sense. But Wedge and Han both had smuggling backgrounds, so I made Corran someone from the Law enforcement side of things, to provide contrast and some tension between him and Wedge. That also let me use Wedge’s smuggling background to bring Booster and Mirax in. As for the name, well, at the time for Corellian last names we had Antilles and Solo, both nouns. So I picked Horn for no particular reason I can remember. Corran came because I wanted that hard K sound, which is good for characters. Makes them seem more heroic.
And, tangentially, I gave Whistler his name because it’s kinda obvious for an R2 unit.
Besides I, Jedi your best known Star Wars book is of course the X-Wing series. What was your inspiration while writing these books, and what directions did you get from Lucasfilm?
From Lucasfilm and Bantam what I got was this for direction: Write military Science Fiction set in the Star Wars universe. You should probably include Wedge. Everything else was me putting things together. Specifically I wanted to set the series during the conquest of Coruscant. In Tim’s books the New Republic already had it, so I asked if I could do the conquest of it. I figured, that way, that even if folks weren’t interested in the new characters, they’d at least want to read about this critical piece of history. A bit later I made references to Black Sun from Shadows of the Empire because tying things together is always fun, and given the timing of the books/events, it was just natural to do so.
As a writer of Star Wars books you have certain restrictions when it comes to the main characters. For instance, you can’t have Han Solo die. How do you deal with this and do you feel restricted a lot because of this?
I never felt restricted and I even asked for a clarification at the start because I was using a different license than the mainline books. So I asked, “I can’t use any of the major characters without permission, right?” And I was told I was correct. Which was fine with me because I really didn’t want to involve the major characters. These books were about the everyday people who made the Rebellion work. Having Luke, Leia and Han around for cameo appearances was fine, but I didn’t want them to dominate the books.
Which existing Star Wars character and which character created by you did you enjoy the most writing about?
Wedge was a pure joy to flesh out, so I really liked working with him. We all knew who he was, but I had to work out why he was like that, then present it in a fun way. Mara Jade was also a blast to work with. Tim was very generous in reading over the manuscript to make sure I’d gotten her right. Clearly creating and writing Corran was a lot of fun. In the eight books he really grew up a lot. In that aspect, I, Jedi was the most fun to write, but I enjoyed it all. And it was an added treat to be able to bring him into the X-wing comics without spoiling continuity.
Were you a Star Wars fan when the movies came out?
My first encounter would have been 24 December, 1976 when I saw the trailer for Star Wars at a showing of Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet. Within two days I bought the novelization of the movie, then was at the first screening in Vermont when it came out. So I’ve been a fan for a LONG time.
In 2014, Disney declared that the Expanded Universe was no longer canon. It became ‘Legends’. What do you think of this, seeing all of your work suddenly become non-canon?
No one gets past their outrage to read the second paragraph of the Disney statement. In it they said that the Expanded Universe would continue to be mined as a source for material. And they have been true to their word. Thrawn is back. When ABC needs a good series on Thursdays, or as part of the new Disney streaming service, we could easily have an X-wing series and the whole crew could go back. Nothing in those novels contradicts the things in the new movies—at least not in any way that can’t be easily tweaked.
As for the Legends label, when the largest entertainment conglomerate in the world wants to declare what I’ve done is Legendary, I’m good with that.
What is the greatest Star Wars related anecdote you can share?
There are so many. Aside from making folks happy with the stories, and having kids write me that Rogue Squadron was the first book they ever read through by themselves; or other folks telling me that I, Jedi is a book they return to when they just want to escape for a bit; what I’ve enjoyed the most out of the association with Star Wars is meeting folks from all over the world. Because of Star Wars I’ve gone to Australia twice, Belgium, England, Ireland, Germany and Russia. It’s very cool to see Star Wars and the love of Star Wars uniting people on levels that, if you read the headlines, would seem to be impossible. It has been an honor to be part of that family.
Looking back at all the things you have done for Star Wars: what are you most proud of?
Again, so much. But I guess the best thing I ever did wasn’t in writing. I introduced Aaron Allston to Tom Dupree, and we all know how wonderfully that turned out.
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews
Exclusief interview met Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Het is alweer 22 jaar geleden dat The New Rebellion, een Star Wars boek van de Amerikaanse schrijfster Kristine Kathryn Rusch, verscheen. Gedurende haar lange carrière schreef ze ook voor franchises als Star Trek en Alien én won ze een HUGO Award.
Onlangs sprak ik haar over haar bijdrage aan de ‘Expanded Universe’ en had ze een boeiende onthulling over een geannuleerd Star Wars project…
Interview met Kristine Kathryn Rusch
When and where was your first encounter with Star Wars? And what did you think of it?
I saw Star Wars: A New Hope the night it premiered. I was in high school, and a group of us went to the movies, with no idea what we were going to see. I was hooked from that moment forward.
What was your inspiration while writing The New Rebellion, and what directions did you get from Lucasfilm? How did you come up with the story for The New Rebellion?
I wasn’t all that fond of the way that the previous books had gone. I hated what the male writers had done to Leia (making her a wife and mommy instead of the strong woman that she was), and so I just went back to the first three films, which I really, really loved. I worked as well as I could within the framework of the previous novels, ignoring as much of them as possible, and restoring as much of what I loved about Star Wars as possible. Lucasfilm was very supportive. They gave me pages of detailed notes when I was done, but those were mostly terminology nits, not actual changes.
Which existing Star Wars character you enjoyed the most writing about?
Han Solo. He is, by far, my favorite.
Could you explain why?
Han? The ultimate bad boy with a heart of gold? The true hero of the piece? The one who actually rescues people? Has a sense of humor? Fights despite his cynicism, even though he has no dog in the hunt? That Han? Yep. That’s why I like him.
Which Star Wars character created by you is your favorite?
I never have a favorite among characters I create.
Although you did get to write a Star Wars trivia book, The New Rebellion was unfortunately your only Star Wars novel. What was the reason for this?
The Science Fiction Writers of America -which I did not belong to- went to war with Lucasfilm over royalties. I strongly disagreed with SFWA and told them so. I was working hand-in-glove with Lucasfilm on a bible for the books…when SFWA sent Lucasfilm a cease-and-desist letter over their royalties and- without my permission -signed my name to it. They signed a number of Star Wars writers’ names to the petition, without permission. Lucasfilm did not believe me when I told them I wasn’t involved (I don’t blame them). I really should have sued SFWA. They cost me over $100,000 with that action. And they cost me the chance to work in a series I loved.
You just referred to a ‘bible for the books’ you were working on. What kind of book was that? Something like 2012’s Essential Readers Companion; a book with descriptions of every Star Wars story?
In TV, in particular, and in film sometimes, the people who produce the show develop a “bible” which allows anyone who writes to know what’s going to happen next. Kevin J. Anderson and I were putting together a large bible for the series of books along with Lucasfilm to determine what direction the books would take over the next several years. It’s more complicated than what you’ve described, and would have taken us a great deal of work by the time we finished. We had just held the preliminary meetings when SFWA nuked everything.
In 2014, Disney declared the Expanded Universe was no longer canon. It became ‘Legends’. What do you think of this, seeing all of your work suddenly become non-canon?
It doesn’t bother me at all. I did work-for-hire, so the owners of the property can do whatever they want with it. I knew that when I signed on.
You have written books for other Sci-Fi franchises like Alien, Quantum Leap and Star Trek. In which ways was writing for these franchises different? And what is it –according to you- that makes Star Wars so unique?
The smaller franchises (Alien, Quantum Leap) really didn’t get involved in the books. We could have written anything, and no one would have cared. Star Trek and Paramount are very involved, and the same with Lucasfilm back in the day. I prefer that. I liked being part of the organization.
Final question: How do you look back at your Star Wars work?
I think I was lucky to have the chance to play in that universe. My 16-year-old self would be very proud.
Meer unieke interviews vind je op: Star Wars Interviews – ‘Mem-Wars’ from a galaxy far, far away…