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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

Portrait of a Professional

geller1I began my interview series Better Know a Fan almost exactly one year ago as a method of engaging directly with Star Wars fans who had very different backgrounds and points of view than myself; people whom I respected but couldn’t quite get my head around without a little extra work. If you follow this site on Twitter, you’ll know that there’s no one I struggle with more often than Eric Geller, current writer and editor for the Daily Dot news website, and like myself an evacuee of

I’ve never told Eric this, but part of the reason I mix it up with him so often is because he reminds me of myself at his age—restless, hyperopinionated, and as he would say, thirsty—except I didn’t have anything approaching the microphone your average young and excitable Star Wars fan has now thanks to the ubiquity of social media. Eric’s already gone much further as a real journalist than I have as a fake one (he met BB-8, for god’s sake), and while I feel compelled to impart upon him some of the humility and composure I’ve picked up in the last ten years, the fact is I’m also just a teensy bit jealous. Nevertheless, he indulged me with this interview. Read More

Unsullied: The (Utterly) Spoiler-Free The Force Awakens Experience


Dedicated readers of this site may be familiar with my friend Pearlann Porter, the “casual Star Wars fan”. She never really got into the Expanded Universe, but we’ve had no shortage of long conversations about the background details of the films, which ultimately led to the ETE series The Expanded Universe Explains.

Having once felt strongly as George Lucas did—that The Story ended with Return of the Jedi and nothing was worth getting into beyond that, she nevertheless decided to give The Force Awakens a go. Since she’d been so tuned out to current Star Wars output for so long (I dragged her to The Clone Wars in theaters and she’s never forgiven me), she made the decision early on to completely ignore all news relating to Episode VII; not just serious spoilers, but even who the cast was. No posters, no trailers, not a single luxury—and with almost no exceptions, she stayed that way right up until December 18th.

As rare an experience as hers was going to be, I knew I wanted to document it here. As we sat in the theater moments before the movie started, I asked her a few questions about her feelings thus far, and then a few weeks later she answered a few more looking back on the whole ordeal. She’s also working on a full review that I hope to publish here in the near future, but for now, enjoy our discussions. If you note a different feel between the two halves of the interview, that’s because the first really was conducted in the theater, and transcribed later—while the second batch was via email.

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Our Journey With Jason Fry, Part Two

jp2-cover2In part one of our latest interview with Star Wars dynamo author Jason Fry, we discussed his two recent Journey to The Force Awakens tie-in books, The Weapon of a Jedi and Moving Target (alongside Cecil Castellucci). Today we’ll move on to his most recent solo release, Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy (expect us to have more on that next week as well), but first, we caught up on Jason’s own original series The Jupiter Pirates, whose third book, The Rise of Earth, comes out next year—and whose cover Jason was kind enough to share with us for its world premiere!

Man, that was a lot of titles for one paragraph.


So Jupiter Pirates is, in many ways, the age of sail in space. There are some family tensions in the second book, Curse of the Iris, and the tension mirrors the long-running argument over whether the Hashoones are pirates or privateers. The family has done and does some shady things in this book, and Tycho is sort of the audience surrogate in saying “hey wait, this isn’t right”—but his family doesn’t always see eye-to-eye about it. How do you romanticize age of sail in space without necessarily romanticizing the awful things that pirates do? And that’s leaving aside people like Mox who are just the worst, of course.

Hmm. Good question. I suppose this is a case where the built-in guardrails of writing kids’ fiction are a good thing – you’re not going to see pirates woolding someone (Google that with caution – it’s upsetting) or raping/slaughtering people. Bad things happen, but they’re mostly offscreen or implied. Which is honestly the way I prefer to work anyway.

Anyway, I think the more interesting debates in The Jupiter Pirates – for a reader of any age – are about other decisions to be made about right and wrong. What’s the right thing to do when you discover you don’t agree with a cherished family tradition? How about when you’re fighting for a larger cause that may or may not justify unsavory actions? (Which is the same question Cecil and I addressed in Moving Target, come to think of it.) Read More

Our Journey With Jason Fry, Part One

weaponofajediJason Fry, author of more than thirty books in the Star Wars franchise, has already been gracious enough to grant us biannual interviews since Eleven-ThirtyEight’s inception; but this time was a challenge all around—not only did I have to cover his two different Force Friday releases, The Weapon of a Jedi and Moving Target, last Tuesday’s Servants of the Empire finale The Secret Academy, the upcoming third book in his Jupiter Pirates series, and any potential future projects in fewer than a hundred questions, but Jason himself was double-booked this past weekend (with appearances within a couple hours of each other at both New York Comic-Con and Star Wars Reads Day in the Maplewood Memorial Library in New Jersey). Luckily, we pulled it off—I assume it’s because he’s extra-pumped about the Mets being in the playoffs. Below we’ll discuss his Luke and Leia books; stay tuned for the latest on Zare Leonis, and more, on Wednesday.


Might as well get the Force Awakens business out of the way. I’m always very interested in the mechanics of how they tease things from an upcoming film, and my original question was going to be how you ended up using Sarco Plank specifically in The Weapon of a Jedi. Then I read your recent piece on the Official Site, and you say that by the time you came aboard, not just Plank’s role but the general outline of the story was already in place. Is that typical in a situation like this, to be handed not just a character but a rough plot? The TFA elements of Moving Target, on the other hand, remain a little more mysterious; how much of that book was decided before you and Cecil Castellucci became involved?

Every project is different, but I knew from the beginning that Weapon of a Jedi, as part of Journey to The Force Awakens, would be really different. For Weapon of a Jedi the basic plot was set, so I focused on figuring out Luke’s character and his arc – the book flies or dies based on how drawn in you are by Luke’s Force training and what he learns about the Force and himself. Contrast that assignment with, say, Servants of the Empire – for those books I had one episode to incorporate, a cameo to feature, and some story threads to include, but otherwise I had a free hand with the plots and characters. Read More