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Continuity vs. Accessibility: The Struggle of Star Wars Writers

Assume you’re a Star Wars fan. It should be easy since you’re on Eleven-ThirtyEight. You’ve watched the movies and perhaps some of the cartoons. You may even own an action figure or two. However, one thing you haven’t done is read any of the books or comics.

Maybe you were too busy living a so-called normal life or perhaps you didn’t have a bookstore in your neighborhood. The latter is especially likely since there are fewer bookstores today than there have been since Star Wars opened in 1977.

Still, you’re open to trying new things and see a copy of a book called Star Wars: Crucible. The cover contains an image of Han, Luke, and Leia—somewhat older but still recognizable. You pick up the book and start flipping through it. Who is Ben Skywalker? Who is Vestara Khai? Lando is married? The Sith are back? What’s a Mortis? Crucible is actually one of the more accessible books because it stars the “Big Three” of Star Wars.

Compare Crucible to Crosscurrent. Read More

The Star Wars Expanded Universe: The Pithy Reader’s Companion Vol. II

Welcome to Volume II of the Pithy Reader’s Companion! This round takes us all the way up to the marriage of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade, and includes some of the biggest hits—and biggest misses—of the EU, most from what’s popularly known as the “Bantam Era”. Buckle in!

 


 

The Truce at Bakura – Curse your sudden yet inevitable betrayal! – @cavalier_one

xwrsThe Rebel Opposition – The introduction of a new roster of Rogues, as well as the beginning of the greatest romance in SW history- that between Wes Janson and Hobbie Kliv- I mean, Tycho and Winter. – @Todd the Jedi

The Phanton Affair – On a college campus infested with avian space-hippies and thinly-veiled Nazi analogies, a professor invents the GFFA equivalent of the suitcase nuke, which is used against Captain Blobface – the Joker of Wedge Antilles’ Batman-style origin story – and then never heard of again, even when it would come in handy against enemies uglier than its first and only victim. – @Darth_Culator

Battleground Tatooine – Bib Fortuna masterminds a plot that gets him out of his brain walker and is ready to take over the galaxy, but sadly his reign will be cut short by some sort of Viper. – @Lugija

The Warrior Princess – Despite what the cover wants you to think, Leia is not in this story — the princess turns out to be the beer-swilling, face-punching redneck who’s been in the squadron the whole run, allowing Stackpole to do a riff on the Anastasia story that’s just as bald as the princess is. – @Havac

Requiem for a Rogue – Hot Human on Bothan action. – @Gorefiend

In the Empire’s Service – Isard sets a trap for both the Rebels and Pestage, and they Fel for it. – @GrandAdmiralJello

Blood and Honor – Finally, a Star Wars story with a good guy as the protagonist! – @GrandAdmiralJello

Masquerade – By failing to see the disguise, Tycho proves that he’s not meant to be with Winter, as her one true love would have instantly known it was a trap. – @GrandAdmiralJello

Mandatory Retirement – There once was a lady named Isard
to whom a coup d’etat seemed wizard
so after gaining his ear
she betrayed the vizier
who played the decoy-clone-thence-to-Byss card. – @Parnesius

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Jay and Lisa Discuss Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge

Lisa: First off we’ll let Jay say some of his initial reactions to the book.

Jay: So in general, I thought this was a great story. At first blush, it seemed like a generic ANH-ESB bridge novel — random adventures of the Big Three, with mostly filmic references. And really, that’s my only major complaint — namely that this is a Big Three story. Leia was a Rebel hero before she ever met Luke and Han, and I really wish we had a chance to see her shine without the other two. That said, Luke doesn’t come in until the very end and Wells had a really fresh take on the Han and Leia romance. Maybe it’s because it’s different or maybe it’s because she’s a female author, but something about it felt more compelling than other authors’ takes on the initial stages of their romance.

Now as I just said, the story was better than the original impression would suggest. I like the high ratio of female protagonists to male protagonists, because it’s something we don’t see often: most generic soldier characters are males in EU works. I also like the way that Wells used EU: there are some nice, unobtrusive references that belie the notion that the Rebels series is not really focused on the EU. Yeah it’s mainly a filmic focus but it’s a filmic setting too — I didn’t think it too casual, or setting the stage for a reboot. I also especially liked the sense of scale, and the drama of the war. The main Imperial villain is a guy in a small customs corvette. He’s small fry — and he’s still a big threat. It gets the scope of the war right!

Lisa: Did you notice any EU references?
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The Star Wars Expanded Universe: The Pithy Reader’s Companion Vol. I

It’s pretty well understood at this point that this site is populated wholly by long-time members of TheForce.net’s Jedi Council Literature forums. Having been there myself for fourteen years now, I like to think of my role here as something of a curator—seeking out the best and brightest voices on the forums and giving them a more direct spotlight than a message board might offer.

Sometimes, of course, the best and brightest are also pretty damned snarky. So just over a year ago, inspired by the then-imminent release of Pablo Hidalgo’s Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion, I started a discussion thread called One Sentence or Less, wherein I would pick a story from the Expanded Universe—not quite at random, but not in any specific order either—and forumers would have two days to summarize it in one sentence (four words minimum). Readers then voted for their favorite entries via the forum’s “like” system, meaning that the winners were pretty much out of my hands (though you’ll notice many were penned by “Havac”—ETE staffer Lucas Jackson, and “GrandAdmiralJello”—staffer Jay Shah, proving I have impeccable taste in cohorts). The result is an extensive (but not yet comprehensive) synopsis of the length and breadth of the EU—with a couple imaginary stories thrown in for good measure.

So for you casual fans out there who might want to try out some of the EU, consider this sort of the polar opposite of The EU Explains—some of the winners are serious, many are sardonic, and one may even be an elaborate Gilbert & Sullivan parody—but any truly helpful information is purely coincidental.

Lastly, please note that while I have handed the reigns over to stalwart Lit forumer @instantdeath, the One Sentence or Less thread is still ongoing, and there’s much more left to cover. For my part, I’ll continue updating the articles here from time to time with new winning entries.

And now, with no further ado, I present Volume I of what will be the three-volume Pithy Reader’s Companion: Dawn of the Jedi through Return of the Jedi

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Jason Fry Talks Jupiter Pirates, and the Highs and Lows of “Non-Fiction Fiction”

jason

In addition to being one of the reigning kings of what he calls “non-fiction fiction” in the Star Wars franchise—meaning reference books like the Essential Guide series and even explicitly in-universe books like the forthcoming The Bounty Hunter Code: From the Files of Boba Fett—Jason Fry is a prolific sports and media writer whose must-follow blog, Jason Fry’s Dorkery, is every bit as diverse as his professional résumé, and every bit as minutiae-heavy as the title suggests.

Now, after over a decade of experience improving other people’s IP, Fry is on the verge of releasing his first work of original fiction with the HarperCollins young-adult series The Jupiter Pirates. He was kind enough to answer a number of our questions on both his original and Star Wars work, and on the trials and tribulations of continuity.

 


 

Eleven-ThirtyEight: In both the Essential Atlas and the Essential Guide to Warfare, one common theme is the difficulty of maintaining a galactic union on the scale of the Republic, Empire, Galactic Alliance, etc. You have spilled more ink on the subject than most, so what are your views on how to make galactic government work? Would you be Emperor Fry or Supreme Chancellor Fry?

Jason Fry: This is one of those things that’s better looked at quickly, as it tends to break down under thorough scrutiny. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, mostly with Dan Wallace, to imagine how 1,000-odd regional “prequel” sectors and millions of “West End Games” subsectors could work together, and to explain the many oddities/contradictions of the Senate, but that’s really playing the hand that’s been dealt, not imagining things from the planets up. Read More