Continuity in the Star Wars Expanded Universe
What is the
Expanded Universe and why is continuity such a major issue? The Expanded Universe, or EU, is the moniker for
the entire body of work that comprises the stories set in the Star Wars
universe ranging from novels, comics, cartoons, short stories, young adult
books, television shows, animated features and more... Continuity has
been and remains important to Lucas and Lucasfilm as it is the glue that
holds together the various and often disparate sources which strive to
tell multiple, but cohesive stories of the heroes, villains and fringe
characters under the one unified umbrella that is the Star Wars Saga. This history of the universe ranges from thousands of years
before Episode IV: A New Hope to 140 years afterwards and beyond.
As stated in the Guide to the
Star Wars Timeline above, this timeline strives whenever reasonably possible to be
inclusive. As can be seen from the
portion of this site (Infinities refers to stories outside
there are very few major contradictions that have found their way into the Star Wars
Universe since its inception in 1977. For a fictional universe in
which hundreds of writers have contributed, this is impressive. Minor continuity gaffes,
of course, do exist, and in every
strata of Lucasfilm's publication history of which I've noted three:
The Classic Trilogy (led by Ballantine/Del Rey and Marvel), which
featured Episodes IV to VI and the majority of stories that occur prior to
and during that period.
(heralded by Bantam and Dark Horse), begun with the publication of Timothy
Zahn's "Thrawn Trilogy" series of novels and Tom Veitch's Dark Empire
comic series, and covers all periods, but especially the years after the
events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
The Prequel Trilogy (Del Rey and Dark Horse again) covers the period
of Episodes I to III, the Clone Wars and the years prior to and during, and the twenty year gap
before Episode IV.
Contrary to a popularly-held belief begun in the early '90's, incongruities
were not solely restricted to the early period of expansion ('77-'85), but
in fact were more widespread throughout the Revival phase ('92-'99),
and certainly the prequel era has had no few incidents itself (often due to
the revelations of the Prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars animated
series). In the overall
scheme, however, most of these issues are relatively minor, and many have been and are in the
process of being
cleared up. For a great essay on continuity, this process and
the role Lucasfilm plays in keeping it all together, check out author Karen
Traviss' (Republic Commando: Hard Contact) excellent blog
Various Star Wars resources, sourcebooks, magazine articles and even later
novels and comics, have fixed a great deal of what were once considered
contradictions, and no doubt this will continue to be the case as new
stories unfold and reveal a clearer picture of Star Wars history. But
admittedly, that is not always the case. In the event that there are
irreconcilable contradictions, a stance must be taken as to what is and is
not historical, and this particularly important in cases where LFL is
silent. For the reader to be able to fully enjoy the vast, interconnected
web that is the Star Wars Expanded Universe, story and continuity must
remain paramount. When authors and editors fail to maintain continuity and
one story contradicts another, the general rule is to preserve the older,
pre-existing story, save for certain exceptions. Though subjective, these
decisions are not taken lightly or done arbitrarily, and are done because
there is no other option available at that time. This is, of course, open to
change as new information comes forth. Where possible, I'll endeavor to put
forth reasons for placing a story (or part of a story) into Infinities that
has not been officially designated as such.
Those who reject the Expanded Universe
on the grounds of their personal inability to allow for continuity errors (as
well as subsequent clarifications) fail in their reasoning to see that the films
themselves are subject to rather interesting incongruities, particularly between the
original versions of the Classic Trilogy and the later Special Editions. Change
happens. Now, Greedo shoots first and the Max Rebo band has new members. The Ewoks no longer sing Yub Nub (Thank the Maker!) and
the Sarlacc has a mouth reminiscent of Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors... In time, more changes and additions
may be forthcoming. The point: use your imagination, fill in the blanks and enjoy these
fantastic adventures for what they are. Those who are missing out on
the Expanded Universe stories are missing out on not only some of the best
Star Wars has to offer, but on some of the best that Science-Fiction/Fantasy
has to offer.
Lastly, for those not yet
convinced, a few years back George Lucas wrote a short
introduction to the reissue of Splinter of the Mind's Eye (the
very first book that told a story outside of the film) giving it and the
Universe his stamp of approval. It's what he wants, why
he had it commissioned
and why a large group of Lucasfilm employees, editors and
publishers were paid to monitor and maintain consistency with the films and each other.
In a recent interview with the associated press, Lucas again confirmed that
the spin-off novels, comics, and soon to be television series meet with his
approval. Here is an excerpt from that article:
Lucas: Ultimately, I'm going to probably move it into television and let
other people take it. I'm sort of preserving the feature film part for what has
happened and never go there again, but I can go off into various offshoots and
things. You know, I've got offshoot novels, I've got offshoot comics. So it's
very easy to say, "Well, OK, that's that genre, and I'll find a really talented
person to take it and create it." Just like the comic books and the novels are
somebody else's way of doing it. I don't mind that. Some of it might turn out to
be pretty good. If I get the right people involved, it could be interesting.
To read the rest of the article, click
For my recommended reading
list of Star Wars stories,
Infinities and Star Wars
A recent issue that has developed is that of the "Infinities" label that Lucasbooks
and Dark Horse Comics created in 2001 to designate and allow for stories
that fall outside of continuity. It encompasses both serious stories,
humor and parodies.
Some confusion has arisen in regards to the first twenty issues of Dark Horse Comics' anthology Star
Due to the Infinities label being placed inside the front cover, many have wondered
whether every story in the Tales series is "Infinities" and
outside of continuity. Compounding the issue is the fact that novel
and comic book authors have utilized details from some
of these stories as historical events in their works. The answer was finally settled satisfactorily by Chris Cerasi of LFL via Steve Sansweet's
column on the official site, which
indicates that Tales allows for stories inside and outside of continuity
to be told (a fact which harmonizes with the original concept of
the series and the thoughts of many of the writers who contributed to it).
"In order to allow unlimited freedom of storytelling, the Infinities label has been placed on the anthology series, Star Wars Tales. This means that not only can the stories occur anywhere in the Star Wars timeline, but stories can happen outside continuity. Basically, if an event happens in Tales, it may not have necessarily happened
in the rest of the expanded universe. For some stories, the distinction is
largely inconsequential. For others, it's the only way they could exist."
The Star Wars Expanded Universe
Timeline endeavors to
present those Tales stories which did and did
not happen in
the Star Wars Universe and have designated the page,
the latter stories which
outside of continuity. This includes earlier stories which existed
before the Infinities label even came about, but which cannot be made to
harmonize within the framework of The Star Wars Expanded Universe.
stories which are part of continuity are mixed in throughout the
various eras of the timeline itself. As of issue #21, the Tales
anthology has changed focus to tell in-continuity stories, and
each issue indicates the specific era in which the story takes place (including Infinites stories
which will continue to be presented albeit on a less frequent basis).
So enjoy the richness of the entire Star Wars Saga and use this timeline as
your guide through the eras, the five thousand years of adventure and
strife, from the reign of the ancient Dark Lords of the Sith and the terror
of the Imperial war machine to the scourge of the Yuuzhan Vong and beyond ...
For a recommended
reading list of Star Wars stories, click here.
Fiction Within Fiction:
The Star Wars Saga as "History"
Right from the opening page of the very first Star
Wars novel ever released – the then titled Star Wars: From the Adventures
of Luke Skywalker – we read of a back-story of the rise of the Emperor
culled from a document referred to as "The Journal of the Whills." In thus setting the stage for the story to come, George Lucas (via Alan Dean
Foster who ghost-wrote the novel) followed the paths of numerous
fantasy-literature authors before him who to sought to enhance the feeling
of verisimilitude by inventing the fiction that the story you're about to
read comes in fact from a lost historical source. L. Frank Baum, H.P.
Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Arthur Conan Doyle, J.R.R. Tolkien and others
used the fictional ploy that they "discovered" actual documents that they're
translating and/or transmitting to the readers.
With the Star Wars Expanded Universe having grown so
large and encompassing, it's also a great way to explain many of the
discrepancies and continuity-errors that occur from time to time within the
body of lore comprised by the books, comics, films, cartoons, video games
and more. There are various factors that can shatter the willing
suspension of disbelief, but none greater than the dreaded continuity
error. As has been stated in the article "Continuity
in the Expanded Universe", Lucasfilm and the many freelance authors that
work for them have oftentimes used continuity errors as a means of creating
far more interesting scenarios and new stories for the readers. For
authors like Karen Traviss and Abel Peña, creating imaginative and
believable "retcons" (retroactive continuity) is an enjoyable and rewarding
exercise. And the fans certainly appreciate it! But not
every continuity error and contradiction has been addressed. Star Wars
is a BIG galaxy, and well over a thousand stories have been written in it.
How does the Star Wars fan deal with irreconcilable issues of continuity
that haven't yet been addressed? And how does an appreciation of Star
Wars-as-History aid in this regard?
The answer may come right from the films themselves.
The start of every opening crawl of each of the six films begins with the
words, "A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away." Lucas used this to
set the stage for his saga, indicating rather openly that this is a fairy
tale, a "once upon a time" space opera, and neither a "realistic" drama nor
a hardcore tale of science-fiction. And while that might seem
to destroy the feeling of verisimilitude, it also conversely paves the way
for it, utilizing the same kind of literary power the "Journal of the
Whills" imparts. This indicates on an almost subconscious level that
not only are the rules of this universe different, but that this is ancient
history, something that has already occurred, albeit elsewhere, a long
In other words, George Lucas is spinning the yarn of
Star Wars as History, telling us a story based on past events, which
the novel indicates derives from an ancient tome, or perhaps a cache of
ancient tomes, the mystic Journal of the Whills. Like the
Red Book of Westmarch which Tolkien "discovered," which told us of an
ancient world of Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves and Men, the Journal of the
Whills has somehow come into the privileged hands of George Lucas. A quote from him in the reissue of the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye
indicates his awareness that there are "thousands (of stories) that could be
told about the characters who inhabit its galaxy" and that "these were not
stories I was destined to tell." Thus, Lucas hired a team to oversee
the telling of these stories. That team of course is Lucasfilm.
Utilizing the theory of Star Wars-as-History, it's clear that they are in
possession of the Journal of the Whills. But what of the
various writers who go on to create all the novels, comics and games? It's common knowledge that everything, from the proposal to the
plot outline to the finished product goes through Lucasfilm. We know
from real life, which could be called the Star Wars-as-Literature
perspective, that this is done so that everything accords with Lucas' vision
and Lucasfilm can maintain a high quality standard. All well and good.
But from a Star Wars as History perspective,
the most important reason this is done is so that Lucasfilm can coordinate
each author's stories with the history that is presented in the Journal
of the Whills and other historical texts.
The roleplaying game company West End Games which
held the Star Wars license for some years introduced in-universe historian
Voren Na'al as the "author" of several of their sourcebooks. This was
done so to allow for a degree of error in case continuity conflicts arose or
so if gamers wished to ignore a point for their personal campaigns it could
be deemed historical error. But it built upon the notion that Star
Wars stories are based off of "historical" documents. Thus, it appears
that many of Na'al's journals survived intact, and in fact, he rose to
the prominent position of Archivist Emeritus on the Historical Council of
the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances (as recorded in his body of work
that makes up The New Essential Chronology.) Other surviving
documents are those of Na'al's teacher Arhul Hextrophon. And more
recently Lucasfilm has revealed that journalist Janu Godalhi and his son
Palob's highly regarded historical texts are also extant. What this
gives Lucasfilm is a body of work from which freelance authors can expand
turning only the briefest of annotations within such historical documents
into full flesh-and-blood prose stories.
Of the Journal of the Whills itself, we've only seen a few paragraphs presented to us,
and only once in the very first Star Wars book published,
and in it we find what is but a brief overview of events. We also find
a quote from a character we've come to know well, Princess Leia. But
from this small bit of evidence, it's safe to deduce that the Journal
is a compilation of historical events written possibly years after the fact
(and likely utilizing even older historical sources), and they're presented not in prose form (which would
be both unwieldy and unlikely), but annalistic form (a style akin to
The Silmarillion, portions of the Bible, and countless history
books) which means that the Journal does not feature fully detailed
narratives. So too with the surviving documents of Na'al, Hextrophon,
and the Godalhis. The New Essential Chronology and other modern
sourcebooks may represent wholly intact recordings of these men which
substantiates the idea that these works are presented in almost exclusively
annalistic style. And that's where the modern authors come in.
also where continuity errors arise.
The "Star Wars as History"
perspective explains that discrepancies arises
because the the details are scant, leaving the authors to
have to surmise and deduce, utilizing reasoning, context and other hints left in the
Journal as to exactly what may have happened in certain instances. Perhaps Lucasfilm
is dealing with translation issues and later reached a clearer
understanding of the events. Or perhaps they simply allowed the
authors their own conclusions and conjectures on the matter, much as a
publisher might allow two competing historians to present their individual,
interpretive suppositions in their own books. Either way, the choice is
left to the reader to discern which of the two conflicting events, if
either, he or she feels is accurate. Sorting through contradictions with this method leads to a much less frustrating
The films themselves present an interesting and
unusual example. Taking a look at the Classic Trilogy (Episodes IV to
VI), not only do we have two variant versions of each of the films, but we
have a variant novel adaptation, a variant comic book adaptation and a
variant radio drama of each. Opinions are very divided as to which of
these six different versions is the true and accurate one, with most fans
siding with either the original versions of the films or the Special Edition
But the novel, comic book and radio drama adaptations hold
equal value as well, and should likewise be considered. Why? Well, looking at the Star Wars-as-History model, they're all
adaptations of the original source. Even the films. After all, the
audience isn't exactly seeing what occurred, as if a cameraman had followed these people
around thousands of years ago. We're seeing a dramatic recreation of
the events as interpreted by the actors and through the eyes of George Lucas
who holds the original story and wrote the screenplay based off it. Since
he's primarily a filmmaker, he views this as canon, however, based on his
own statements, that can't be entirely true since canon is what is said in
The Journal of the Whills. On page 72 of J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Star
Wars Revenge of the Sith, Lucas tells Rob Coleman (animation director), "the
story of Star Wars is actually recounted by R2-D2 to the Keeper of
the Whills, one hundred years after Return of the Jedi."
Thus the films are but another adaptation, and every adaptation of the
original story is valid to some degree. Which one you choose to
accept is up to the individual, but it's interesting to note that they were all
approved at some point or another by the very person who knows and holds the
original story. Now the discrepancies between sources are not
tremendous, but where they exist likely indicates that there are gaps in the
original source material, or that a different interpretation of events was
arrived at by Lucas.
Somewhere along the way, Lucas came to believe that Sy
Snootles actually had a much larger band. Or perhaps he knew it all
along but simply didn't have the budget or technology to include the other
band members in the first version of Return of the Jedi. Many
question whether or not Han shot first. And in fact there are now
three film versions of that incident. If Lucas' integrity is intact
and he's not changing the story to suit his own sensibilities, in all
likelihood, the Journal of the Whills merely indicates that a scuffle
ensued between Han and Greedo, and Lucas was left to fill in the details.
Viewing Star Wars in this kind of fictional historical
context is one way to allow for continuity errors to exist without disrupting one's necessary
suspension of disbelief. It also allows the fans the freedom to determine
which event is the real one. More importantly, it's a much more
enjoyable way to look at the Star Wars Universe (which is the primary reason
it was provided by Lucas to be part and parcel of the fiction that surrounds
the story) which trumps the blasé real
story which often involves economics, politics and sheer human error.
The Various Eras in Star Wars
for a full description of each era.
What is the Jedi Code?
Throughout the course of the
prequel trilogy, we hear the Jedi and the Jedi Council refer to the "Code."
Obi-Wan tells Qui-Gon that if he'd only follow the Code, he'd be on the Council.
Mace Windu upbraids Qui-Gon for wanting to take on Anakin as a second padawan as
being 'against the Code.' This begs the question for many fans, 'What is the
The Code is the Jedi's Bible, so
to speak. It is their basic belief system and philosophy which guides
their view of the Force.
It is deemed as truth, founded on the Will of the Force, and as such is
unalterable and unassailable. It's the sole course for any would-be padawan to
follow if he or she wishes to become a Jedi Knight. It stands in opposition to
the twisted views of darksiders and the Sith who mock and disdain it, and is the
very fabric of the true Jedi's life. While most of the Code is unknown to
Star Wars audiences, one core fraction is widely known:
There is no emotion; there
There is no ignorance; there
There is no passion; there
There is no death; there is
(An additional line was later discovered: "There
is no chaos; there is harmony" but it is unknown at this time if this was
a part of the original or introduced by later Jedi who appended the Code.)
In the book, "I Am a Jedi,"
Qui-Gon reveals another important part of the Code:
Jedi are the guardians of
peace in the galaxy.
Jedi use their powers to
defend and protect, never to attack others.
Jedi respect all life, in
Jedi serve others rather
than ruling over them, for the good of the galaxy.
Jedi seek to improve
themselves through knowledge and training.
Yet years (and possibly
centuries) prior to the era of the Naboo crisis, the Jedi Code began to receive
appendices by Jedi Masters attempting to explain the Code and define it in more
concrete terms, but which served instead to introduce elements that were never part of
A real-world parallel can be
found in the situation which saw the writings of Jewish commentators known as the
Talmud. These were documents written to interpret, explain or elucidate on
the sacred writings of the Torah. Over time, there were interpretations of
interpretations and a rigid set of rules that emerged which began to receive as much honor as
the Torah itself. Judaism changed to such a degree that many of the laws
found in modern Judaism are based not on Torah, but on the Talmud.
Similarly, the birth of Christendom as a marked organization apart from the
simple Christianity of the first century began with the publications
of the Church Fathers, primarily Augustine, who's Platonic-inspired doctrines
and interpretations were so embraced, it became the basis of much of what modern
Thus the writings of later Jedi that attempted to explain and expand the Jedi
Code began to receive as much weight as the Code itself, so much so that those
became indistinguishable from the Code itself to most Jedi. Prior to the tragedy of the Outbound
Flight Project, Master Jorus C'Baoth elucidated on this dilemma to Master
Kenobi. Referring to the subject of training Jedi only as infants, Kenobi
stated: "The writings of Master Simikarty are very clear on the subject," to
which C'Baoth responds: "Master Simikarty's writings are his interpretation of
the Code, not part of the Code itself... More traditions under a different
name." When C'baoth is asked if he does not approve of traditions, he responds:
"I don't approve of simply and blindly accepting it as truth."
Gruff and intransigent as Jedi C'baoth was, his view is many years later demonstrated to be the correct one (and likely
one reason Sidious
wanted him out of the way.) It's clear too that Qui-Gon held a
similar point of view. Qui-Gon's perspective (as seen in Episode I and the Jedi
Apprentice series) follows the Jedi Code in its original inception and as it
was intended, namely the spirit of the law. Qui-Gon was not concerned with
man-made traditions, but with the Will of the Force. And this prevented
him from being on the Council. Likely the Council's decision grieved him,
but not because of any personal desire for position or authority, but because
the Council could not see how far they had strayed from Living Force. The
fact remains that the Council would not see until it was too late.
By allowing interpretation and
commentary of the Code to become part of the Code and thus Law, the Jedi
Order came to have rules and regulations the Code never intended. Thus,
traditions were established demanding that the training of Jedi begin in youth,
requiring the separation of infants from their parents and heritage; the number
of pupils a Master could have was limited to one; romantic attachments were
prohibited and marriage was forbidden (with concessions made only in extreme
circumstances); and worse of all, the role of the Jedi became subservient to
that of the Republic (which became indistinguishable to that of the Supreme
None of these elements existed
with the Ancient Jedi of Nomi Sunrider's time (as seen in Tales of the Jedi
comics) And while in fact there was a measure of wisdom to some aspect of these
added regulations, their transition into unalterable Law is what eventually
doomed the Jedi. A Jedi with emotional attachments might be motivated to
act on fear if his loved one was threatened; A Jedi with attachments to family
might blindly favor his homeworld if a conflict arose between that world and another; a
Jedi serving the inhabitants of the Galaxy could do so in a more efficient and
organized way by working with the Galaxy's leader (the Supreme Chancellor.)
But by the same token, a too close relationship of Church and State (Jedi and
Republic) could bring about a conflict of interest where the State demands begin to supercede spiritual ones,
and the Jedi find themselves in a compromised position. Likewise,
preventing Jedi from experiencing love and family not only disregards natural laws of
and emotion, but invites resentment and frustration. It
also fails to prepare the Jedi for such difficulties should they arise.
The book Secrets of the Jedi shows how three different Jedi–Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Anakin–
handle falling in love: Qui-Gon prepares to leave the Jedi Order; Obi-Wan buries
and represses his feelings, and Anakin marries in secret.
Had the Jedi not adopted that particular interpretation of the Code as Law, none of the problems
that arose would have. Was this a concession to the Republic which may
have feared the arising of an elite subset of society, a powerful Jedi state
that could circumvent law, even lift itself above it? Possibly. It
makes sense, particularly in view of the Sith wars in ages past. "Normal"
society may have felt the Jedi were a potential threat, particularly if their
numbers grew to swelled proportions. What was to stop them from taking
over the Republic, particularly if they turned to the dark side? It was a
question even the Jedi may not have been able to answer. So in response,
did they choose to govern themselves, limit their numbers by forbidding
reproduction? Time will tell if such a story arises, but it would not be
Blind tenacity to traditions such
as these was something Palpatine knew he could exploit in the Jedi Council and
use to turn Anakin against them and against the Jedi mindset. "The
dogmatic views of the Jedi," indeed. In exposing the fallacy and hypocrisy
of the Council's regulations and traditions (which had become indistinguishable
from the Code), Palpatine destroyed Anakin's faith in the very principles of the
Jedi. And the Jedi Masters, led by Yoda and Mace Windu, walked right into
the trap. They became pawns to the dictates of the State, namely Supreme Chancellor
Palpatine, by taking on the mantle of generals and soldiers and taking up arms against what they believed
to be a clear Evil (in the form of Darth Tyrannus), oblivious to the fact that
they were actually fighting on the side of Evil (in the form of Darth Sidious) and
perpetuating evil ends by carrying out a grand Sith plot. Thus the Jedi
betrayed the Code (which states that Jedi are to use their
powers to defend and protect, never to attack) and lost their
connection to the Living Force (which as a result of their own actions became
veiled to them).
The 'Balance of the Force' was lost and the Jedi spiraled headlong into
disaster, waging a futile three year galaxy-wide conflict in the Clone Wars that
did little more than bring suffering to the populace and attrition to the Jedi. Finally, upon discovering their mistake, the Jedi
Order prepared to make
another fatal error: to eliminate the Supreme Chancellor and take over the
Republic! (This was in violation of other tenet of the Code: Jedi serve others rather than ruling them.) In
seeing what he viewed as the ultimate hypocrisy and a confirmation of Palpatine's words,
Anakin began to believe that there was no difference between the Sith
and the Jedi, except that the Sith promised him the power to save his wife,
whereas the Jedi would not only deny him access to that power (knowledge Anakin
believed was limited to the Masters—a
position Mace Windu denied him) but they would entirely remove him from the Order for having
In the end, after all was said and done and Anakin and the galaxy had gone over to the dark side and
the dominion of the Sith Empire, Yoda at last came to the realization that he
had been wrong. Blinded, he was, by tradition...
Years later, when Luke began to be trained by
a much wiser and older Obi-Wan (and a much wiser and older Yoda), the empty traditions that had
invalidated the Code were long gone, and only the essence of the Code remained. Gone
were all the prohibitions against forming emotional
attachments, taking Jedi as infants and separating them from their
families. Still, with their early deaths and too-short time with Luke, it
would be up to the young Jedi to discover certain truths on his own, apart from
the millennia of Jedi wisdom (and mistakes).
Luke begins a new Jedi
tradition, more akin to the Ancient Order, but unique all the same. And
with Balance of the Force restored, a new Jedi Order is able to arise. Yet with
a new Order came new challenges and new mistakes, but more importantly a closer understanding of
and bond to the Living Force was forged. Thus, the legacy of the Skywalkers is fulfilled and it
falls upon the next generation to use the truths of the Jedi Code to contend
whatever new evils may arise...
Star Wars as Literature
Amazon.com customers were treated
to an essay by Karen Traviss on writing Star Wars: Triple Zero, but which
spilled over rather nicely into a discussion of Star Wars as a valid art form
and worthwhile literary pursuit. As is the case with Traviss, her essays
are well-written, personal and strongly conveyed. They're also rather
quote-worth. Here is that entry in its entirety from 2/28/06.
If you saw my first blog here, you'll have a good idea how I feel about this
book. I don't get excited about seeing a book come out (journalism kills the
novelty of publication stone dead pretty fast, believe me) because by the time
it hits the streets, I'm writing something else, several books down the line.
There's a sense of disconnection and time-slip about it all.
But I feel differently about Triple Zero. Not excited: good.
Pathetically generic word for a writer to use, I know, but that's it. I feel
good about this book. It's usually unwise to love a piece of work, because what
you like might not please readers. But sometimes you can bear that in mind, step
to one side, and feel okay about being emotionally engaged with a job you've
This is Star Wars book and it saddens me that some people who love my
wess'har series probably won't read it because it's a media tie-in. But this
book is more of an example of the kind of writer I am, and the themes that
obsess me, than maybe anything else I've ever written. I almost worry that I
might not be able to do it again. I've written three more books since I finished
this one, and so far none of them has hit me so hard or made me feel that
I've...sorry, there's no other word for it...told a story that matters so
It's about exploitation, hope, dignity, and identity; it's about what's left
inside when everything is taken from you. It's about a group of people who
happen to be soldiers of different kinds, each in their way, and how they deal
with hard choices and painful revelation. This is the sequel to Hard
Contact, and I wanted to write it so badly that I would have dropped
anything, absolutely anything, to do it. I didn't even care if I got
paid. (Which I can safely say now I've cashed the advance cheque...) This book
had to get out of me or I'd burst. From the dedication to the last page, it hurt
like hell. It broke my heart when I finished it.
And I'm the least emotional person you're ever likely to meet. I'm a sour old
news hack who really isn't a people person and thinks Rochefoucauld was too damn
positive about human nature.
I'm telling you this to show what a disorienting and overwhelming experience
this book was for me. I wrote 200,000 words in five weeks and slashed it to
165,000 - a big book for a tie-in. I ate, slept and breathed it. Some of my
friends asked why I put so much effort into a Star Wars book; they
couldn't grasp why I went for broke on this when I could have been putting the
same sweat into another "serious" book that would win me awards and intellectual
respect. One of them described it as "a waste".
Now I take issue with that, friend or not.
Emotional reasons apart, why would a writer not want to do their
best for the biggest audience? Tie-ins sell to hundreds of thousands of readers
each time. Don't they deserve your best shot? What's better about doing
a fabulous piece of work that a handful of people will read? I put 100% into
every book I write because that's my way of working; but the fact that more
people will read Triple Zero than City of Pearl is actually
not a "waste" of my skills, such as they are, but a positive use of them. I
reach more people. When I write a book, I'm storytelling. That's a
communal process that requires an audience. I'm not an artist. Without readers -
experiencing the book, talking to me, talking to each other about it - my book
doesn't exist: it would be just thought on paper. It wouldn't be a story at all.
The fundamental themes of Triple Zero - the erosion of moral
legitimacy by expedience, the politics of identity, the personally ambitious
pursuit of wars, the nature of rights - are common to all my books. I think
they're the most pressing questions any of us can ask today. I'm not sure I have
any answers, and I'm not the kind of writer who tells readers what they should
think anyway: you can make up your own minds. But the questions have to be
So maybe it's more important - if you believe books have another purpose
beyond entertainment - for me to put those issues before as many people and as
wide an audience as I can. Star Wars is the perfect medium for that. If you're
not a Star Wars reader, you might not realise how the universe lends itself
to the debate of fundamental moral issues. But it's always been about
good versus evil, and the definitions of both, and how we fall from grace. And
its mythic roots enable a writer to go beyond the confinement of strict realism
- like my usual safety zone of hard science - to a more extreme world verging on
brutal parable where you have nowhere to hide from the limits of a question. Why
did the quintessential good guys, the Jedi, agree to use this slave army of men
bred to die? Why was there no protest? What went on in the minds of those
enslaved clones as they saw the war unfold and wondered - why is this my
Do issues come any harder or heavier than that in "serious" fiction? I don't
I write primarily to entertain. Triple Zero is designed to be a
"good read," something that would be called a military techno-thriller outside
of SF: this is essentially the SAS operating in the Galaxy Far Far Away.
But judging by the feedback I've had from readers who found early copies,
it's also a very emotional read. It was certainly an emotional book for me to
write - not because of any personal context, but because the characters into
whose minds I had to place myself to tell the story endured things that I think
I would find almost unbearable. They also changed my long-held opinions on some
fundamental things that I thought were an integral part of me. That kind of
experience isn't easy, and it might not transmit to the reader: but it happened,
and I found it in what many would think the least likely of places - a media
As is the case with the Internet, from time to time,
erroneous information gets passed and perpetuated that has little to no
basis in truth. One of these is the notion that continuity in the pre-Zahn
or pre-West End Games days was non-existent. Such statements are made to
back up the claim that the Marvel series, Splinter of the Mind's Eye
and the newspaper strips are somehow not as official as modern material or
suffer from continuity problems. Of course, anyone who's read that material
knows better, but the fallacy continues in print, if for no other reason
than the fact that internet culture is made up of people who like to repeat
what they hear without checking first the facts. The truth, of course, is
that the writers of the early Del Rey novels, Marvel and the newspaper
strips all had to go through approvals.
This article from
Archie Goodwin, taken in 1996 highlights that veracity of that. Star
Wars Insider #91 contains an interview with Jo Duffy (writer of the latter
third of the Marvel series) who adds her experiences with working with LFL.
Thus, continuity was held as in high a regard as it is now, with in fact far
less continuity-discrepancies as we find today.
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