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Controlling the Narrative — A Discussion with Pablo Hidalgo, cont’d

Star-Wars-Propaganda-Poster-Set_Page_06[1]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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Behind the Propaganda — A Discussion with Pablo Hidalgo

Star-Wars-Propaganda-Poster-Set_Page_05[1]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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NYCC Exclusive: Veers Watch Interview


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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“What is this?” – Interrogating the “Casual” Reactions to Rogue One

When the first teaser trailer for Rogue One was released last April, a whole bunch of people who would identify themselves as Star Wars fans on some level found themselves seeing for the first time evidence of a movie that was unequivocally connected to the franchise, yet had little in the way of familiar characters—no Rey or Finn, no Luke or Leia, no Anakin or Padmé. The only recognizable face in the whole thing was Mon Mothma, but she looked a lot younger than she was in Return of the Jediwhat was this?

While I have no interest in teasing or belittling these people for not following the ins and outs of Lucasfilm operations the way a lot of us do, I have to admit I found this oddly fascinating—not just confusion about the story and how it related to the existing movies, but even about whether it was an authorized Lucasfilm production, or some kind of off-brand remake a la Never Say Never Again, the unofficial James Bond movie.

So last month I came up with a short questionnaire and passed it out to several people, with a lot of help from the trusty David Schwarz, that you might call casual fans. The first couple questions revolved around The Force Awakens, with the goal of establishing their current perspectives on the franchise and its “main” story. Once that was done, I then got into their thoughts on the Rogue One trailer and premise in more detail; those responses are reproduced below with my own thoughts and conclusions peppered throughout. Read More

Worldbuilding 102 with Jason Fry


Welcome to the second half of Worldbuilding with Jason Fry! In lieu of imminent Star Wars news, this interview serves any aspiring authors out there as a primer on the development of a fictional universe, based on the lessons Jason has learned from his ongoing series The Jupiter Pirates. On Friday, we began with the broadest of strokes, namely the fictional history of a future-set story and how you get from Point A to Point B (spoiler: start with B), and moved on to original characters, and how to approach the morality of your protagonist and supporting characters. Below we’ll continue that line of thought, then move on to superficial details (or are they?) like character names, and what to do when you’re tempted to retcon something. Enjoy!

While we’re discussing morality, I want to close out this section with something that’s been in the back of my head since I read the first book, Hunt for the Hydra. Even in a universe that’s billed as space fantasy—meaning not especially subject to realism—it’s always sort of uncomfortable for me to read a story set in a future that’s not explicitly dystopian but nevertheless seems to have regressed in social areas.  What I’m thinking of specifically is the crewers aboard the Shadow Comet; they come across very clearly as a lower class than the Hashoones, often if not always less educated and mannered, and in some cases are even the second or third or god-knows-what generation of their family to serve as gunners or cooks or what-have-you for the Hashoone family. There’s no indication that they’re particularly unhappy or underpaid, but nevertheless it’s very easy to get a whiff of “indentured servitude” here—and I can only imagine how much worse it is on other ships.

In an historically-set pirate story I’m sure this kind of thing would be very accurate, but I have to admit it’s sort of depressing to read about a society this far in the future that still has such gigantic class disparities, and it’s always in the back of my head when Tycho and Yana are ordering around people two or three times their age, or visiting slums on what seems like every moon they come across, or fending off press gangs in your short story “The Trouble With Crimps”. Am I overthinking this? Do you see it as a necessary evil for a pirate story that you worked backwards to justify, or worse, do you think the story is subtlely making the case that this is something we’ll never get past? Read More