Few Star Wars fans need an introduction to Dan Wallace. Over the course of two decades, Dan has been one of the undisputed kings of worldbuilding, lore, and back history for the Galaxy Far, Far Away. In the old Expanded Universe, Dan’s Essential Guides were truly essential reading for fans who longed to know more about the characters, species, and worlds of the Star Wars universe. This trend continues in the new canon, with the book Star Wars: On The Front Lines.
Released this past week in the US, On The Front Lines is an up close and personal look at the major battles that defined the Clone Wars, Galactic Civil War, and the new war between the First Order and the Resistance. Dan was kind enough to take some time to discuss this book and one of his upcoming works, Journey to The Last Jedi: The Rebel Files. Without further ado, let’s get into the interview!
First off, thank you for your time, Dan! This is your first foray back into traditional guidebooks for Star Wars in a few years, correct? What was the main driver behind this guide and what was the development process like?
Yes, this is the first Star Wars reference book I’ve worked on since Ultimate Star Wars in 2015. But I’d done many reference books before then, everything from kid-friendly warfare guides like Star Wars: Battles for the Galaxy to dense, lore-heavy tomes like The Essential Atlas. So writing this was like putting on a comfortable pair of boots. » Read more..
When was the last time you met an adult who had never watched a single Star Wars film? What if you could introduce them to the series, one film at a time, and ask them their thoughts as they went along? That’s exactly the situation I’ve found myself in, as my friend Kelsey just started watching the Star Wars films over the past few months and has become increasingly engrossed. After viewing Episodes I, II, and III, Kelsey agreed to be interviewed to satisfy my curiosity about her experience and reflections on the series so far. After all, most Star Wars fans who started with the prequels did so as children, and it’s a rare pleasure to be able to ask thoughtful questions of an adult fan with almost no prior knowledge of where the series is headed after Anakin’s fall to the dark side. Stay tuned for a follow-up interview with Kelsey in a few months after she finishes the series!
What were your favorite things about the prequels?
I really liked in Episode III all of the complications between Anakin and Padmé (I was able to get over the “weirdness factor” of their age difference!). And I saw there is something good and genuine in how they love each other, but somehow in the midst of all these good intentions, all these horrible things happened. But it wasn’t random or mysterious, it was that Anakin consistently made the wrong decisions; there was a twisting on his part. It wasn’t just a tragic love story—there’s no doubt there were some evil things that happened in Anakin that I think will set up the next couple movies. I’m intrigued about that. There was a lot of gray area: it’s not just black and white that you latch a story onto, the canvas is already gray.
I think there was also just a lot of cool worldbuilding. Especially in the middle of Episode II, I started figuring out how their society and universes generally work. In other words, I knew there was intergalactic diplomacy happening, but I didn’t understand it in [The Phantom Menace]. It wasn’t until [Attack of the Clones] that I felt I understood the universe enough that I felt if I wanted to, I could come up with another planet or species consistent with this galaxy’s rules. Plus as a biology major I enjoyed starting to see new kinds of animals in the second movie. » Read more..
Today we conclude our week of Star Wars Propaganda coverage with the second part of our interview with author Pablo Hidalgo. This piece is a continuation of last Friday’s interview segment, where we discussed the development of the Propaganda book and how both it and its art was commissioned. Last Wednesday, I shared my own thoughts about the Propaganda book, particularly enthusing over how it used art and narrative to create an open and accessible form of world-building that enhanced storytelling seen in the Star Wars movies and novels. Appropriately, this second part of our conversation with Pablo focuses on narrative and in-universe storytelling.
My questions below are in bold, and Pablo’s answers are in plaintext.
Speaking of the in-universe work already done – one of my favorite parts of this book that it’s in-universe. I like in-universe work in general, whether it be travel posters or propaganda posters. How did it help in writing this book for it to be in-universe? You could have just as easily written it as an out-of-universe book like the Visual Dictionary. How does being in-universe help and what guided that decision?
For one thing, it’s more fun because I get to play a character, rather than my usual character of the omniscient third-person narrator. By playing a character – I don’t really do a lot of fiction, though, this book is technically classified as non-fiction. It is a work of fiction though, because this book is describing a fictional space in the way that it does. So as a result, I don’t get to do a lot of character work in the material that ends up being published. So this is my chance to be a character, which is fun. The thing that it [does] is that it allows you to play with point of view, and it gives you a stronger ability to editorialize and duck out of conversations that you may not be ready to talk about. An example is, if I was going to tell you the history of any country—if I was going to tell you the history of the U.S.—I would edit that to tell you what I thought was important for you to hear. But sometimes when it comes to telling histories of fictional universes, there’s this weird burden to tell you everything. That would be the equivalent of me telling you the history of the U.S. and starting with, “When the Earth cooled, the landmasses distributed themselves…” but you don’t need that information. As a result, an in-universe narrator can take for granted what you as an in-universe reader should already know. And the funny thing is, those are things that maybe haven’t been defined, such as the origins of certain institutions and the origins of certain parts of history. But I can avoid getting into that detail because presumably you already know that even though outside that universe [you] don’t.
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On Wednesday, I shared my thoughts on how the Star Wars Propaganda book made wonderful use of the medium of an art book to tell a worldbuilding story about the Star Wars galaxy that was grounded in a sense of familiarity for the audience. I discussed how the in-universe method of storytelling worked well to discuss the subject of propaganda, and noted that the book was just plain fun. Since I liked the book so much, I wanted to talk to the author about how the book came together and what ideas went into putting the book in its final form.
Here’s Part One of my interview with Star Wars Propaganda author Pablo Hidalgo; join us Monday for Part Two. My questions are in bold, and his responses are in plaintext (except for anything inside brackets).
How did propaganda become one of the first subjects for a reference book in the new Star Wars canon? The book contains art and propaganda, but also narrative – in what ways is this a better (or just different) starting point than a more traditional Essential Guide type of book?
The idea of a propaganda book crossed my desk as a fully-formed idea. I’m not sure who originated it, but I first heard of it from my editor Delia Greve, who’s at Becker & Mayer (the company that packaged the book). Before she was able to talk about [it], she just kind of dropped me a line: ‘I’ve got something that I’d really love for you to work on. I can’t tell you what it is yet, but I hope you’re available.’ But when she had a fully-formed pitch that was approved by Lucasfilm, she basically gave me a run-down on what a propaganda book could be, and I was all for it. As to what this format offers in comparison to the old Essential Guide format…the Essential Guide format in the late nineties and early 2000s when it was thought that most of our spaces of time in the timeline as far as storytelling goes were already filled up. But now that we’re telling new stories on TV, in movie theaters, and in books and comics, we can’t take it for granted that there are big spaces in the timeline yet to be filled by stories. That makes it difficult to do an Essential Guide where you’re trying to fill in all these blanks. So instead we’re able to focus on very focused works like a Visual Dictionary or this book that takes a different conceit by being focused on a specific subject like propaganda and telling it from a specific point of view, like an in-universe author.
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Hello folks — I’m here to bring you an exclusive from the show floor of New York Comic Con. No, it’s nothing as banal as a news scoop or announcement. Instead, I’ve got the transcript of an interview I conducted this past Sunday with the one and only Veers Watch. If it sounds like I’m crazy, then you probably haven’t visited or followed his Twitter account. He has a very specific brand, which consists of watching/reading various Star Wars products and then announcing whether or not they contain an appearance of General Veers.
Riveting stuff, no? His dedication is certainly something to wonder at, and he’s kept it up for a while now. But who is Veers Watch? What makes him tick? Why Veers? And is there something else to him other than an admiration for a well-executed ground assault? Well, let’s find out! My questions below are in bold, his responses are in plaintext except for my interjected text in brackets.
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Why is Veers your favorite character?
Well, one of the reasons I love Veers is that he’s one of the only Imperial officers to actually survive the movies, which I thought was a lot of fun. The actor, Julian Glover, his ubiquitousness across a lot of series is also a huge draw. But I just love that out of all the Imperial officers, he always struck me as the most competent. He has his job, he gets it done. You know, he’s able to not necessarily stand up to Vader, but he offers his own insights. I thought that was a huge draw. And I like Imperials in general, so.
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