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The Case Against a Galactic Republic – Continuing Thoughts

Mike: Over the last few years I’ve started to wonder whether the Old Republic’s model of governance, even prior to the rampant corruption on display in the prequel trilogy, was doomed to fail just by dint of the scale of the Galaxy Far, Far Away and the idiosyncrasies of its countless worlds. On Friday I presented my case here, and in response I was pleased to hear a wide variety of other takes on the matter both here and on social media. Two of my fellow Eleven-ThirtyEight staff writers in particular, Nick Adams, and Jay Shah, had some very thoughtful, yet strong, disagreements with my conclusions.

While I suppose we’re going to have to agree to disagree, I felt that the conversation that ensued in the original piece’s comments section was worthy of a spotlight of its own—never let it be said that I don’t encourage a diversity of opinion here at ETE. As such, that conversation has been lightly edited and expanded and is “reprinted” below for your enjoyment.

Nick: Galactic history has already proven that when governance is weak evil rises. Without some central authority and military, what prevents powerful worlds from exploiting weaker ones? In your model, how would the “shining city on a hill” and Rey’s young school of Jedi stop Kuat from building a large navy to impose its will on its neighbors? Or stop the Corporate Sector from establishing control of trade in the Outer Rim?

If the answer is hoping that Chandrila will speak out, Mon Cala will build a navy to counter it, and Ryloth will send pilots, that’s a tad naïve. The galaxy has proven it can rally a few times, but is that really to be counted on? “Every village sending a warrior” isn’t a strategy, its a Pollyanna-like wish. We see this very risk in the sequel trilogy. If the “good worlds” don’t show up, do we just hope things will get better?

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Not Just a Walk in the Park: Why the Galaxy’s Edge Books are Worth Reading

Tie-ins have a bad name. The term isn’t neutral, and it frequently suggests low quality, or stories that are simple cash grabs. Discussions of the recently-released Galaxy’s Edge tie-in novels Crash of Fate and Black Spire have occasionally focused on references to locations and objects from the parks that come across almost like product placement or commercials for the Disney Star Wars theme park. To be certain, corporate synergies are at play when designing and creating products that tie into other aspects of a multimedia franchise, whether it’s a theme park or a newly-released movie. But are Star Wars tie-in novels published by Disney-Lucasfilm Press and Del Rey just commercials for other Star Wars products? I don’t think they are.

A lot of my favorite Star Wars novels published over the last few years have been tie-ins. Del Rey’s Battlefront novels are among the highest-regarded of the adult canon Star Wars novels, and they have the name of a video game plastered on the front of them. The Servants of the Empire series tied into the Star Wars Rebels television series, but they’re among the highest-quality middle-grade novels in Disney-Lucasfilm Press’s repertoire of high-quality middle-grade novels (I will always say that you should never miss out on the Star Wars young adult and/or middle-grade novels, because they are almost always superb). Heck, Rogue One was surrounded by well-regarded books from the film’s novelization to companion stories like Catalyst, Rebel Rising, and Guardians of the Whills. And I haven’t even mentioned any of the Marvel creations here because I’m focusing on the Del Rey and Disney-Lucasfilm novels.

These tie-in novels exist to do more than just promote a film or theme park, more than just making a quick buck out of people who are excited about a related product. They are genuinely good stories that flesh out and expand characters and locations from their baseline story. Think about the Canto Bight novella collection: we got a series of great stories about random characters we might see for just a moment in The Last Jedi. Those great stories are what you’re paying for.

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Saying Farewell to Thrawn (Probably) and Why it’s (Probably) for the Best

This piece avoids spoilers for Thrawn: Treason but does make vague mention of certain plot threads and new characters.

I fondly remember the day that Thrawn’s canon appearance on Star Wars Rebels was announced at Star Wars Celebration. There had been rumors and speculation that we’d be seeing Thrawn on the show, but nothing solid — and we didn’t even know if it would be the Thrawn we knew, or a new-canon Thrawn-inspired stand-in like Valen Rudor was for Soontir Fel. I asked a friend to text me if there was any official word — and we were pleased and relieved to hear that Grand Admiral Thrawn would be appearing on our TV screens. What none of us even came close to anticipating, though, would be that Thrawn’s TV appearance would be accompanied by a new Thrawn novel by the man himself, Timothy Zahn.

Years later, at the conclusion of a new Thrawn trilogy that isn’t officially a “Thrawn Trilogy”, it seems kind of strange that the Zahn Thrawn novel was the thing that blew our minds, instead of the TV appearance. We should have expected the books — that’s where he came from — and been surprised by his leap to the screen. Regardless, it was an exciting and wonderful time for old-school Expanded Universe fans and it was wonderful seeing Thrawn brought to life for new audiences young and old.

Thrawn’s fate remained unknown at the end of Star Wars Rebels, except that he was “taken off the board.” The three Thrawn novels — ending with the brand-new Thrawn: Treason — filled in the gaps before and during the third and fourth seasons of Rebels, never outpacing the TV show. It seems fair to say that Thrawn’s story is probably done — at least chronologically — until Dave Filoni sees fit to use him again. It’s not impossible that we’ll see Thrawn again in a post-Rebels story, but I wouldn’t bet any money on it. But you know, maybe that’s for the best?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m against Thrawn. He was a fundamental part of my EU fandom and I was and am glad to see him transition into canon. But after two seasons of television and a novel trilogy about him, it’s possible the story possibilities with him have run their course. At least, the stories of Thrawn the Imperial Grand Admiral (what happens to him post-Empire could be another story!). But that’s not a bad thing. My favorite part of the three Thrawn novels Tim Zahn has recently penned turned out to be characters who weren’t Thrawn: Pryce in the first one, Amidala in the second one, and a whole ensemble cast in Treason.

There’s a whole galaxy of characters out there, and I’m excited to see where things go from here.

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Yrica Quell’s Defector Shields: How Alphabet Squadron Plays With Expectations

The introduction of this piece is spoiler-free. If you don’t want details of Alphabet Squadron a warning will let you know when to stop.

We think we’ve seen this story before. But we haven’t.

There are certain types of stories in Star Wars that seem to recur again and again. Stories of Imperial defectors joining the Rebellion / New Republic tend to be among the most common of them. Even since the continuity reboot of 2014, we’ve seen stories of defectors more than once. Zare Leonis, Thane Kyrell, Sinjir Rath Velus, Alexandr Kallus, and Iden Versio were all Imperial defectors. It’s a type of story we know well: a character believes in the Empire and its mission, comes to a realization or crisis of conscience (often during an atrocity), and joins the good guys with their past seemingly forgotten and behind them. The stories play out a bit differently each time and the specific details vary — but the broad strokes are the same.

Those small differences do matter. In a galaxy-wide Empire, we would figure (or hope) that it’s a common thing for people in the Emperor’s service to recognize the error of their ways and defect. The details affect how the story is told, and even why it’s told. Famously, Battlefront II’s promotional materials led us to believe that Iden Versio and her Inferno Squad were helping to establish the die-hard First Order. When the predecessor novel Inferno Squad underscored the idea that Iden and her group were Imperial loyalists, we were surprised that Battlefront II would end up being a story about defection from the Empire. Rather than being “gotcha” subversion for the sake of a twist, it invited the reader to look again at the novel and look at the seeds that had been planted; it turned out that the story was less about defection and more about the whys and the hows and the what-nexts of defection.

Alexander Freed’s Alphabet Squadron examines all of this — the ideas and expectations we have for Imperial defectors and the idea of subversion of expectations less for its own sake and more for telling a more interesting story. Beyond that, Freed does what Freed does best — he grounds the story in reality and causes painful realizations through the characters’ emotional journeys. Sure, defection is common — but what does that mean in a post-Endor, post-Operation Cinder galaxy where the Empire really has outstayed its welcome? And just how trusted would an Imperial defector be by those who the Empire has harmed not just once, but many times? Is there such a thing as too little, too late?

Former Imperial pilot Yrica Quell is our window into all of this — we see things from her perspective, and from outside her perspective. She’s the leader of a fighter group, but she’s not the unifying squad leader that we’re used to in pilot stories. She holds herself apart — both because of her past and because of her actions, and that what makes her interesting. Alphabet Squadron is a story about many things — but I want to dig most deeply into Yrica Quell and the topic of Imperial defectors.

Article will contain spoilers after this point! If you have not yet finished the novel and do not wish to be spoiled, come back to the rest of the article later!

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The 20 Most Memorable Moments of the New Star Wars Canon, Part II

Welcome to Part II of our Memorable Moments feature–Part I can be found here! This thing is long enough already so let’s get right to it…

sloaneposter13. Admiral Sloane Orders the Retreat, “The Levers of Power” (Jay Shah)

Initially, my entire list of favorite moments consisted of key events from RAE SLOANE’s story across different media and throughout the timeline of novels in which we’ve seen her. That would have been a little silly for a list of moments, even though I believe RAE SLOANE’s journey through the new canon has been the most remarkable and every moment we saw her in another context was a surprise and a sheer delight. But if I had to pick a single moment, I would choose her appearance at the Battle of Endor in the short story “The Levers of Power” — it’s the pivot point around which her whole career orients and changes.

Before the Battle of Endor, RAE SLOANE is a dutiful Imperial true believer who does the right thing as she sees it but is unable to rise as far as she merits due to the Empire’s internal politics and her unwillingness to play those games. After the Battle of Endor, RAE SLOANE is one of the most powerful forces in the Empire and becomes the very face of its surviving military as a grand admiral (literally, in the case of propaganda posters).

“The Levers of Power” shows Admiral RAE SLOANE on the precipice, just as her Empire is. It is a harrowing story. The Battle of Endor felt like it could go either way, until disaster mounted on disaster and it couldn’t. We see all the classic hallmarks of RAE SLOANE: her tactical skill, her dislike for power games (exemplified by a particularly odious ISB loyalty officer), and her ability to cut through the expected to get things done. She does not suffer the loyalty officer’s second-guessing as she leads as ably as any Imperial officer could. More than that: when she has to make the key decisive call that the battle is lost and duty requires the fleet to be preserved, she shoots the loyalty officer dead and gives the order to retreat. She has to. Read More