Worldbuilding 101 with Jason Fry


The last time Jason Fry and I digitally sat down together, The Force Awakens was right around the corner and a deluge of Force Friday books had just swept away everybody’s mental real estate. Even in a two-part interview, it was a huge challenge to cover everything Jason was then involved with in the world of Star Wars without asking a hundred questions. So it was actually kind of a relief that this time the decks were nice and clear—we know he’ll have things coming out this fall in conjunction with Rogue One, but it’s a mite too soon for any real detail on those (hell, even any fake detail).

What, then, should we talk about? Well, he does have one thing coming out just around the corner (June 14th, to be precise), something with a long history of coming up in these interviews of ours—The Rise of Earth, the third book in his original series The Jupiter Pirates. Something that’s also come up a lot is Jason’s advice on designing a world like JP’s from scratch; how that process was informed by his Star Wars experiences, and vice-versa. I know a lot of us SW fans have dabbled in original fiction inspired by our fandom (some, like Bryan Young and Tricia Barr, have even released their own stories and gotten invited to do SW as a result), so I thought rather than do a straight interview entirely about a non-SW series, it would be fun to frame this as sort of a seminar in worldbuilding, covering everything from the first steps to the finishing details, and even post-publishing.

First up we’ll discuss the foundations of the Jupiter Pirates universe—why it is the way that it is—and how they inform the messages present in the work, both deliberate and happenstance. Then in the second part on Wednesday (we’ll be off for Memorial Day) we’ll look at smaller stuff like naming characters, and how to handle errors that come up once a book is committed to paper. » Read more..

The First Order: Old and New, Plans and Opportunities


Sometimes creative people are akin to magicians in that they like misdirection – and where Star Wars’ newest villains, the First Order, are concerned there is a lot of going on right now. I should declare here that this is a purely speculative piece, no inside information, nothing up my sleeves… It may be nuked to high heaven by the revelations of Episode VIII, whose bombardment begins December 2017. Or, it might bolster what I lay out here. We’re not going to know for ages so let’s have some fun instead…

In the wake of Bloodline, it seems everyone is going ‘ah, that’s what the First Order is!’  This is a major error because you’re looking exactly where they want you to look, even better you are focusing on one aspect, when the enemy is rather multifaceted. Looking at the pieces available the inescapable conclusion is the First Order is a combination of pieces. It is neither precisely this or that thing, at a surface level it defies easy categorization by being a supposedly chaotic assemblage.

What are the pieces we have? There is Bloodline’s political cabal, lusting after more of everything. There is, way in the background, the successor to Brendol Hux’s Arkanis Academy. (Rebels: Servants of the Empire quartet of course, and no, I’m not going to stop mentioning it) There is a disappeared Imperial Fleet. There is the move to the Unknown Regions of much Imperial resource and materiel. There is, from Aftermath, the desire to find the source of the dark side in the Unknown Regions too. Old and new elements are all jumbled in a crazy patchwork. For something that calls itself the First Order where is the order in all this? » Read more..

The Quick and Easy Path: Politics and the Force


Politics have been part of Star Wars since the opening pages of Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of A New Hope told the story of how the Old Republic became the Empire not through a military coup, but because it rotted from within due to corruption. With the publication of Claudia Gray’s political drama Bloodline, and the revelation that its central conflict arose from suggestions by Episode VIII director Rian Johnson, politics are once again at the forefront of the Star Wars universe. But does the saga have a core political philosophy, or make a political statement? If it does, how does it relate to the overall philosophy of Star Wars? And can we use it to predict where the franchise might take us next?

Harmony and corruption in the old Republic

The Phantom Menace is the clearest statement of George Lucas’s political outlook, and we can use it as a starting point to follow this thread through the rest of his six-episode saga. On a narrative level, TPM is the story of Padmé Amidala, told mainly through the eyes of Qui-Gon Jinn: the core conflict against the Trade Federation is Padmé’s, and it is her choices – first to leave Naboo and appeal to the Senate, then to return and unite her people with the Gungans – that drive the story and give it shape. It is unlike any other film in the saga – not the mythic hero’s journey of a Jedi-to-be, but the story of a young woman’s political coming-of-age.

Padmé leaves Naboo because she believes in the ability of the Senate to save her people from the Federation. Arriving on Tatooine, however, Padmé is shocked to discover that there is still slavery in the galaxy, and that there are places where the laws of the Republic simply do not exist. Even Republic money is worthless out here, and the entire planet is controlled by gangsters. The implication is clear: the Republic doesn’t care about what happens on the galactic frontier. When we reach Coruscant, we discover that the Trade Federation, a corporation driven by profit, has its own seat in the Senate, giving it a voice in galactic affairs that is equal to any Republic system, and stronger than worlds such as Tatooine. Taking advantage of legalism and bureaucracy, the Federation is able to stall the Senate’s actions. » Read more..

Fatal Faves: Children of the Jedi

You want Star Wars? I got you, fam.

You want some primo Star Wars? I got you, fam.

So, this is my thinkpiece on why Bloodline is the greate– nahhhh, let’s talk about Children of the Jedi.

Picture yourself on the Internet, and try to imagine that everyone hates something that you love and hold dear. I know, unthinkable of, right? That kind of online hate? Who would do that? So you won’t believe how offended I was when Mike said that this new section, Fatal Faves, was going to spotlight indefensible areas and works of the Star Wars universe that we still love anyway, because fuck it. Because honestly, I feel like I’ve been defending Children of the Jedi for the last twenty years in a pretty badass lonely crusade, like some long-haired Toshiro Mifune ronin or some overweight Leonidas yelling “Roganda!!!!” before charging alone against the masses of the haters. So yes, I’ll say it here: I love Children of the Jedi and I don’t hate myself for it. Not most of the time. Sometimes. Only when it gets dark.

In this fandom saying that you love Children of the Jedi is like playing a selection of the best moments of RuPaul’s Drag Race before a Westboro Baptist Church congregation. If you admit that you drink the Kool-Aid of the Eye of Palpatine, you are hated by the Legends fans, you are also hated by the movie purists, hell, you are probably hated by people that have never read a Star Wars book but just found out that the book has a tuberculous plant called topato and a pet called pittin. “What’s wrong with you, freak!? Didn’t you recently throw a fit over the use of stupid words like flimsiplast instead of human words like paper? Why don’t you go back to your stupid continent? God, I’m a staunch Hilary supporter, but I’m voting Drumpf just to see you walled out of my country!” » Read more..

Fatal Faves: Shadows of the Empire


A long time ago, in another millennium entirely, I had only just discovered Star Wars via the Special Editions and I was hungry for more. The Paradise Snare, book one of A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo Trilogy, was my first SW book, but I didn’t actually choose for it to be—it was the summer of 1997, my fifteenth birthday was coming up, and I asked my mother to get me what seemed like the most exciting, natural entry point into the world of the Expanded Universe. No, not Heir to the EmpireShadows of the Empire. I don’t even know how I actually managed to hear about it, since I didn’t own a single piece of merchandise at this point, but somehow there were enough remainders of its huge multimedia bonanza the previous year that it got through to my young, ignorant brain that this was an Important Story.

Exactly how hard my mother looked for it—it would’ve been out in paperback by this point—will forever remain a mystery, but one way or another she eventually settled on Paradise Snare instead. I can only imagine what was going through her head as she browsed through things like The Crystal Star and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye before deciding for some unknowable reason that that was the right call, but in retrospect, it actually was a pretty good call. Not only was the HST a great story, but Paradise Snare being set as early in the timeline as it was led to me reading the entire Bantam era pretty much in chronological order, which had a huge impact on how I ultimately became familiar with stories like Dark Empire, the Corellian Trilogy, and yes, Shadows of the Empire. » Read more..

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