Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Star Wars/the literature


Inside Star Wars: Visionaries
On April 2nd, Dark Horse Comics will release Star Wars: Visionaries, a unique graphic novel collecting tales illustrated by the concept artists who helped envision the worlds, characters and story of Episode III.

It was their artwork that helped inspired George Lucas in the creation of the Revenge of the Sith.

Here's an advance look at the stories:

Old Wounds by Aaron McBride
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A dark menace has appeared on Tatooine, and one of the galaxy's last Jedi must stop it. Obi-Wan Kenobi defends the Lars Homestead from an old enemy he did not expect to ever see again.

The Artist of Naboo by Erik Tiemens
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Evocative paintings capture the tale of an unnamed artist from Naboo, who is captivated by Padmé Amidala after a chance encounter. Her beautiful features graces his artwork, leading to disturbing premonitions about her future.

Wat Tambor and the Quest for the Sacred Eye of the Albino Cyclops by Mike Murnane
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In this offbeat tale, the Techno Union foreman Wat Tambor embarks in a transcendental quest to discover a sacred artifact and to uncover his fate. Remember, "A heart in the eye is where compassion may lie..."

Sithisis by Derek Thompson
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This shadowy tale follows Darth Sidious through an arcane and monstrous Sith ritual, where he wallows and writhes in the dark side's embrace, shaping the galaxy around him.

Entrenched by Alex Jaeger
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with M. Zachary ShermanThe trenches of Hoth are the setting for this hard-hitting military action, as we witness the relentless Imperial attack from a young Rebel soldier's point-of-view.

The Fourth Precept by Stephen Martiniére
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Powerful paintings of cosmic scale make up this abstract exploration of the fundamental forces of the galaxy in their unending battle for balance in the Force.

Prototypes by Robert E. BarnesThe killer alien bounty hunter Durge undergoes a bionic upgrade, making him even more dangerous. Learn more about this mysterious predator in this tale from his past.

Deep Forest by Sang Jun Lee
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A Wookiee hunting expedition in the forests of Kashyyyk becomes something far larger than expected when a young warrior uncovers the pending Separatist invasion.

Celestia Galactica Photografica by Ryan Church
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A series of full page paintings capture the amazing vistas around the galaxy, including a battle on Mygeeto, refugees on Alderaan, an immense Jedi museum and much more.

Imperial Recruitment by Feng ZhuSo
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why should you join the Empire? These recruitment posters offer some provocative incentives.

The Eyes of Revolution by Warren J. FuA
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shuttle accident leads to the transformation of an alien warrior into the feared General Grievous in this story detailing the origin of Episode III's new cyborg villain.

Star Wars: Visionaries
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is edited by Jeremy Barlow with an introduction by Lucasfilm senior editor J.W. Rinzler.EDITOR'S NOTE: LOOKS PRETTY DARN COOL, EH?!

DK: The Ultimate in Star Wars Guides
With their detailed visual presentation and informative text, the books from Dorling Kindersley have proven to be the most insightful, authoritative and engaging tours of the Star Wars galaxy. This Fall, DK Books adds two more books to their library of guides.

Star Wars gets the "ultimate guide" treatment that DK has successfully delivered with other visually rich universes such as Spider-Man, Batman, and The Transformers. Author Ryder Windham writes Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide, an illustrated exploration of many aspects of the entire Star Wars saga. The history of the Star Wars galaxy; the key characters, technology and locations; the making of the films; the ever-growing Expanded Universe; the world of collectibles and Star Wars fandom -- it's all in here and illustrated with over 600 images.

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Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide is an ideal introduction to the galaxy of Star Wars for new fans, and an invaluable addition to every fan's collection. It is due out in October.

Also out in October is Star Wars: Complete Locations -- Inside the Worlds of Episode I to VI.

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The entire Star Wars saga is opened up for detailed, visual exploration through the amazingly intricate exploded view diagrams, illustrations and maps by Hans Jenssen, Richard Chasemore and Robert E. Barnes. This book includes maps and information from the previous Inside the Worlds of... books (written by David West Reynolds, Kristin Lund, Simon Beecroft and James Luceno) as well updated information and new text by Kerrie Dougherty and new illustrations by the same team of artists.

New Dave Wolverton Interview
TFN reader Jake Black recently submitted to us a nice interview he conducted with longtime Star Wars author Dave Wolverton, the man behind The Courtship of Princess LeiaEDITOR'S NOTE: FEEL FREE TO SPIT. (FEH)! OK, NOT FAIR? I MEAN, IT'S JUST LIKE A BOOK. IT HAS A FRONT COVER AND A BACK COVER. AND EVEN PAGES IN THE MIDDLE. and the Jedi Apprentice series. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND THEN OLE DAVE GOES AND DOES EXCELLENT WORK WITH YOUNG OBI-WAN AS HE APPRENTICES WITH QUI-GON. MUCH BETTER DAYS AT THE OFFICE, AND FOR THESE BOOKS, WE ALLOW HIM TO LIVE.

Take a look:He is known as Dave Wolverton and David Farland. But by whatever name you call him, he is one of science fiction’s most prolific authors. Known for his Runelords series, among many other projects, one of his biggest accomplishments was writing the marriage of Star Wars star-crossed lover, Han Solo and Princess Leia in The Courtship of Princess Leia.EDITOR'S NOTE: WHAT THE HECK, LET'S SPIT AGAIN!

In this exclusive interview, Wolverton tells Jake Black about his 20+ Star Wars projects, setting a Guinness World Record, and what the future holds for his many projects…including a new hope for working on Star Wars.

JB: You have accomplished what many fans have only dreamed of – writing Star Wars fiction. How did that come about?

DW: I was first approached by Bantam Books way back in 1992. My editor, Betsy Mitchell, was looking for some authors to work on some Star Wars books, and she asked if I was interested. I was told at the time that they wanted to make sure that they had good writers, but that they also were looking for nice guys. Hence, they asked me and Kevin Anderson EDITOR'S NOTE: THE OTHER CHIEF-HACK OF THE SW EU. THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BEING THAT WOLVERTON REDEEMED HIMSELF WITH THE JEDI APPRENTICE BOOKS. ANDERSON HAS JUST GONE FOR DRECK TO WORSE AS HE'S GONE ALONG. (LET'S SPIT AGAIN!!) at about the same time. So remember, folks, nice guys don't always come in last.

JB: Were you a fan of Lucas’ universe before writing The Courtship of Princess Leia? EDITOR'S NOTE: PTUI!

DW: Oh, yeah, I was a huge fan. When the first Star Wars movie came out, I was very excited to see it. But every time that I drove the 20 miles to the theater, the show was sold out. I happened to be in Corvallis morning early on a Tuesday, and heard over the radio that the theater was going to start doing early morning showings. I drove over immediately and got in line, then squeezed in between two immense, smelly loggers. But as soon as the movie started, I forgot all about them. I watched it about thirty five times in the next few weeks.Somewhere in my photo album I have a picture that I took at the time, dressed as a Jedi with my lightsabre. (I had decided that I wanted to work in special effects on movies after seeing Star Wars.) The shot was done in very low light at a long shutter speed. It came out rather nice, if I do say so myself.But after a few years of studying art and photography, it was my writing that took over, and eventually I turned that into a career. But I still have an interest in film-making on several levels.

JB: It is a pretty intense process to be approved for a project like this. Tell us a bit about your experience getting authorization.

DW: The folks at LucasFilm have always been very easy to work with. What they do first is to look at your work to see if you're writing at a high enough level so that they want to work with you.Once you get approved as an author, you are free to submit ideas for stories. So you pitch your outlines, make any necessary changes, and go from there.I've done maybe twenty projects with them, and really never did have any problems. Each of them got through with minor changes, if any at all.

JB: In addition to The Courtship of Princess Leia EDITOR'S NOTE: ALL TOGETHER NOW..... and the first novel in the young adult series Jedi Apprentice you also wrote a great number of projects for Scholastic’s Star Wars Adventures Club. What did those entail?

DW: Once again, the publisher solicited me. In most of those projects, I simply wrote a story--an opening and an ending. The middle part of the story was a role-playing game that was played with dice.In later editions, I wrote the whole story out, and then we made a separate book that let you play the story as a game. I much preferred that format. Interestingly, I think that in some of these little-known Star Wars books, I've done some of my best work. I felt really free to just have a good time.

JB: What are some of your favorite Star Wars moments?

DW: That's a big question. From the movies, or from my own work? Some of the scenes are of course classic--the Star Wars cantina scene, the assault on Hoth, the speeder-bike battle, and so on.

JB: In addition to what we’ve already discussed, you have written several other novels for both licensed products and your own creations. Tell us a bit about them.

DW: Well, I've written four young adult books for the Mummy series, helped design Starcrafts' “Broodwar” game, wrote for the videogame Xena: Talisman of Fate, and some other video games.In my own work, I've done a number of science fiction novels, in several different styles. My first book, On My Way to Paradise, was a Latin-American Cyberpunk novel. But my Serpent Catch series was more of a world-building adventure, and The Golden Queen series went a sort of literary space opera hybrid. But lately I've been mainly writing fantasy under the name of David Farland. My Runelords series has hit on the New York Times Bestseller list, and I've got a young adult series called Ravenspell that I've created. The first book in the series, called "Of Mice and Magic" will be out in May. I've got some plans for a new fantasy series, but I'm going to hold off news on that until I talk to my publisher.

JB: I hear you hold a pretty impressive record in the Guinness Book. What’s the story behind that?

DW: Oh, I wrote a book called "A Very Strange Trip," based on a screenplay by L.Ron Hubbard. I guess that that's a licensed property that I forgot to mention. As part of the launch of the book, the publishers threw a huge party in Hollywood, with bands, celebrities, and free hot-fudge sundaes, while I signed books. And signed books. And signed more books. And eventually set a Guinness Worlds' Record for the largest book signing. I signed about 2800 books in the four hours that the Guinness judges were there, so that's the record, but I believe that I signed an additional 4000 books that day.Really, I think that it was a pretty easy way to get a world record. I don't envy the guy that, say, tries to catch cannonballs in his mouth at three hundred yards. The only ill effect that I had from the signing was a terrible cramp in my index finger that struck a week after the signing. Oh, and between the fast signings, my suit coat, and the hot lights, I sweated more than a human should ever sweat in public. It was an ugly sight.

JB: What’s on the horizon for Dave Wolverton? Will we see you again in the Star Wars universe?

DW: I'm just finishing a new Runelords novel, and of course have Ravenspell books coming out. But I've got several other projects of interest. Mostly, I want to concentrate on my fiction for now. I've been working on a Runelords movie, and after getting stalled for several months, I think that that is coming back on track, but mainly I'm just having fun with my writing.As for Star Wars, of all of the properties I've worked with, it has easily been the most fun. I may be working on some comics in the near future, and of course if any of the publishers would like me to write another novel in the Star Wars universe, I'd be eager to hear from them.

JB: Thanks for you time!

First Look: The Last of the Jedi
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Following the events of Episode III, the galaxy is a much different and much darker place. The Republic is no more, replaced by the seemingly unstoppable Galactic Empire. EDITOR'S NOTE: OH DRAT. NOW THEY'VE GIVEN THE STORY AWAY!

As far as the wicked Emperor Palpatine is concerned, the Jedi are all but extinct.

But on the remote planet of Tatooine, one Jedi Master remains. Obi-Wan Kenobi is in hiding, mourning the loss of his fellow Jedi, and devastated by the betrayal of his former Padawan. He has been tasked to watch over and protect a young child who may hold the key to the galaxy's salvation.

But when Obi-Wan finds out that a former Jedi apprentice has survived, he must make a painful decision: whether to stay on Tatooine to preserve the future of the Jedi, or voyage into the heart of the Empire on one last desperate mission. EDITOR'S NOTE: TOO GROOVY! WE FINALLY GET TO SEE WHAT ALL THOSE YEARS WERE LIKE FOR OBI-WAN. WE FINALLY GET TO FILL IN THOSE YEARS BEFORE ANH. AND READERS OF THE EU SHOULDN'T POOPOO THESE YOUNG ADULT BOOKS. (AS I'VE MENTIONED BEFORE, I'M SURE). SOME OF THEM HAVE HAD THE MOST INSIGHTFUL AND POIGNANT FLESHING OUT OF THE SW GALAXY OF ANY OF THE STORY SOURCES.

Thus begins The Last of the Jedi series by Jude Watson, the New York Times bestselling author of the Jedi Apprentice and Jedi Quest series.

The series, published by Scholastic Inc., begins where Episode III leaves off. Here's a look at the first book, The Desperate Mission, with cover design by Louise Bova. It is scheduled for release on April 2nd.

James Luceno: Navigating the Labyrinth of Evil

Setting the Scene

Making the wait for Episode III's cinematic debut easier for Star Wars fans is Del Rey's release of Labyrinth of Evil, the new Star Wars novel that directly ties into the beginning of Episode III.

Author James Luceno writes this new adventure, with access to detailed Episode III information from Lucasfilm, ensuring an authoritative prelude to the final Star Wars chapter.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker embark on their last big mission together before the events of Episode III. It is the Chosen One's first assignment with Obi-Wan as a full-fledged Jedi Knight. The Clone Wars are nearing their climactic resolution, with the Jedi investigating tenuous leads as to the location of Darth Sidious, the long-rumored mastermind behind the dark events clouding the galaxy. But such a search leads deep into a web of lies, and an explosive adventure that sets the stage for Episode III.

Author James Luceno answers a few questions.

Labyrinth of Evil is said to be the prequel to Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Does the novel take place immediately prior to the film? What will audiences who see film without having read the book be missing?

Labyrinth of Evil takes place in the final month of the Clone Wars and leads directly into the opening moments of Revenge of the Sith. It supplies plot and character backstory that George Lucas didn't have the time -- or inclination -- to include in the film. In addition, the novel addresses a couple of story points that remain unresolved from Attack of the Clones. With regard to whether audiences will be missing out by not reading the book, Sue Rostoni, of Lucas Licensing, put it best when she asked fans to consider whether knowing precisely how Princess Leia received the Death Star plans is essential to enjoying A New Hope. EDITOR'S NOTE: ESSENTIAL? NO. TERRIBLY SATISFYING? WOW, YES! Personally, I like the fact that Star Wars films always begin in the midst of the action and leave the backstory for audiences to fill in. But I jumped at the chance to provide the back-fill.

Did you have access to the shooting script for Revenge of the Sith in writing Labyrinth of Evil? Were you able to look at any early rushes from the film?

I read the first version of the script, and was kept updated on revisions until the last possible moment -- that is, until no further edits could be made to the manuscript. I read the novelization as it was being written, and, because I was also working on the Episode III Visual Dictionary, had access to film stills and props, and spoke frequently with Sue Rostoni, Pablo Hidalgo (Episode III Set Diarist), and Jonathan Rinzler (author of The Making of Revenge of the Sith), all of whom were either attending dailies or seeing screenings of the rough cuts. Even so, Labyrinth contains a few minor continuity errors, owing to my attempts to be specific when I probably should have been vague.

Can you set the scene of the novel for us?

Following on the heels of events in Jedi Trial and Dark Rendezvous, Anakin Skywalker has been dubbed a Knight, and Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has been named to the Jedi Council. The Separatists have been pushed from the galactic core, and the war has taken a toll on everyone. The Outer Rim sieges have been going on for four months, and Anakin and Padmé haven't seen each other for at least that long. Labyrinth is the first chance to focus the action on Anakin and Obi-Wan, both as warriors and close friends. The first half of the book takes them through a series of adventures, during which they gather clues which coalesce in the second half, setting the stage for the opening sequence of Revenge of the Sith.

Some have commented that the war the Republic faces parallels the uncertainty the U.S. faces in its current war. Were these intentional parallels or is this a case of reality mirroring art?

Views espoused by the characters do not necessarily reflect those of the writer, and no intentional parallels are made. So it must be a case of reality mirroring art. In public and in private George Lucas has said that the prequel films show the way in which democracies fall and dictators come to power. But galactic politics, even the war itself, are backdrop. Ultimately, Star Wars is a family saga about loss and redemption, and the repercussions that spring from cutting deals with the devil. Revenge's political scenes will probably end up on the cutting room floor, in any event, though they are included in the novelization, and with luck will show up on the DVD. EDITOR'S NOTE: AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO THINKS THE POLITICAL STUFF IS CREEPY/FASCINATING?

It's interesting to see how the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan has evolved over the course of the films and novels since Episode I The Phantom Menace. How would you describe that relationship in Labyrinth of Evil?

Jealousy and concern undermine the depth of Anakin and Obi-Wan's friendship. Obi-Wan fears that he has failed to persuade Anakin of the danger inherent in anger, and to convince him to distance himself emotionally from Padmé. He also worries about Chancellor Palpatine's continuing influence on Anakin. By contrast, Anakin is torn between being the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan wants him to be and following his own destiny as the Chosen One. Anakin wants to have it all and has convinced himself that the Jedi are holding him back. More important, he no longer accepts that the Jedi can win the war. He wishes that the Senate would simply follow Palpatine's lead.

The Vision of the Jedi
Even though Padmé and Anakin aren't physically together in Labyrinth, they are never far from each other's thoughts. This relationship is obviously a source of great strength to Anakin . . . why does Obi-Wan fear it?

The relationship is an opening to the dark side, in the sense that attachment, of any sort, is a road to fear, anger, and suffering -- in the world according to Star Wars. Padmé is both wife and surrogate mother to Anakin, and any threats to her have a devastating effect on him. What happened on Tatooine in Attack of the Clones was only the beginning.

Darth Sidious, the Sith Lord orchestrating the collapse of the Republic and the destruction of the Jedi Knights, is always a step ahead of his adversaries, even powerful Jedi like Mace Windu and Yoda. Is this because the Jedi have grown too fearful of the dark side?

The Jedi appear to have forgotten that evil can't simply be stamped out, and that their mandate is to help maintain a balance between good and evil. Complacent for too long, they have dropped the ball. They dismissed Dooku as a political idealist, failed to prevent the Separatists from creating a vast army, and allowed themselves to be beguiled by Palpatine. Worse, they have placed too much trust in the prophesized Chosen One. Sidious, meanwhile, the culmination of 1,000 years of Sith training, has been watching the Jedi closely, and gaining strength at their expense.

Speaking of Dooku, it seems that you had a degree of sympathy for him.

Dooku started out as wanting to reform the Republic. He was disillusioned by the fact that the Jedi Order had essentially turned its back to obvious instances of corruption and vice. But Dooku ended up taking the easy path to power, by allowing himself to be seduced by the dark side, and, in the end, to be duped by Sidious. Perhaps, at 83, Dooku is beginning to lose his memory; or perhaps Sidious neglected to include a Sith history lesson in Dooku's training. Betrayal plays an important role in the Sith master-apprentice relationship, and Dooku just doesn't see it. EDITOR'S NOTE: METHINKS THAT WHEN HE FINALLY LEARNS THIS LESSON IT'S GONNA HURT BIGTIME? He also fails to grasp that Sidious is keen on recruiting Anakin, despite the fact that, where two Sith can coexist, three spells trouble.

General Grievous, destined to play a large role in Episode III, appears in Labyrinth. Who is he, and what makes him so dangerous?

Grievous was a fierce warrior long before he was transformed into a cyborg, as the result of what appears to have been an accident. Supreme Commander of the Separatist forces, General Grievous is far more cunning than the members of the Separatist council, and is able to deploy the droid army to better advantage. Trained in lightsaber combat by Dooku, and backed by a cadre of durasteel MagnaGuards, Grievous poses a threat not only to clone troopers, but also to the Jedi. He does, however, have a sniveling, cowardly side. EDITOR'S NOTE: MAKES HIM SORT OF C3P0'S DARKSIDE?

You mention authors Ian Fleming and Thomas Pynchon in the dedication of Labyrinth. Why these two writers, one famous for creating James Bond, the other a master of postmodern paranoia?

Both writers had a strong influence on me as a teenager. Along with Carlos Castaneda and Eric von Daniken, Fleming set me on the path of adventure travel, and is probably responsible in part for some of the tight spots I've gotten myself into along the way. Pynchon was a great companion to have on those adventures, first because it took me weeks, sometimes months, to get through novels like V and Gravity's Rainbow, but also because Pynchon has such a great facility for fusing the esoteric and the comic. I enjoy his take on history, and the fact that he succeeded in making himself into a man of mystery.

Are you working on any more Star Wars novels? What about projects outside the Star Wars universe?

At the moment I'm working on a book that will form a loose trilogy with Labyrinth of Evil and Matt Stover's adaptation of Revenge of the Sith. Focusing on Darths Vader and Sidious, along with a band of Jedi that survives the events depicted in the film, Star Wars: Dark Lord EDITOR'S NOTE: MORE BOOKS BY GOOD AUTHORS..YAY!!! begins before Revenge ends, and takes place over the course of the subsequent month or two. I've been so immersed in the Star Wars universe for the past six years that there hasn't been much time for other writing projects. When I'm not writing I'm usually making my way to some remote archaeological site, playing bass, or doing carpentry work on our log cabin in Maryland.

First Look: The Joiner King
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Luke Skywalker is worried: A handful of Jedi Knights, including his nephew and niece, Jaina and Jacen Solo, have disappeared into the Unknown Regions in response to a strange cry for help that only they could hear. The isolationist Chiss have angrily lodged a formal complaint, accusing the missing Jedi of meddling in a border dispute between the Chiss and an unidentified aggressor.

Luke has no choice but to head to the Unknown Regions in an attempt to stem the growing tensions before they spill out of control. Han and Leia follow, intent on protecting their children from what could be grave danger. But none of them are prepared for what they find when they reach their destination.

A colony of mysterious aliens is expanding toward the edge of Chiss space. The leader of the alien nest is resolute. Adept in the Force, he is drawing old friends to his side, compelling them to join the colony and meld their Force-abilities with his, even if it leads to all-out war....

Thus begins the Dark Nest trilogy by author Troy Denning. Here's a first look at the cover art by Cliff Nielsen. Dark Nest I: The Joiner King is slated for paperback release from Del Rey Books on July 26, 2005. And included as a special bonus: the short story Ylesia by Walter Jon Williams, previously only available in ebook format. EDITOR'S NOTE: LIFE IS RICH AND REALLY REALLY FULL. HP6 JULY 16TH, AND THEN A NEW CLASSIC CAST SW BOOK 10 DAYS LATER. SIGH..... (SO I DON'T NEED TO GET A LIFE BEFORE MID-AUGUST AT THE EARLIEST)!

Interviews with the Sith Scribes
On April 2nd, Star Wars bookshelves will grow with the addition of several Episode III tomes.

The most anticipated are the Episode III novel, by Matt Stover, and The Art of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and The Making of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, both by J.W. Rinzler.

Matt Stover's previously published works include Heroes Die, Blade of Tyshalle, and Iron Dawn. He has written two Star Wars novels already -- Traitor, a book in The New Jedi Order series, and the first hardcover of the Clone Wars novel series, Shatterpoint, wherein he examines Mace Windu's return to his war-torn homeworld. EDITOR'S NOTE: TWO OF THE BEST BOOKS IN ALL THE EU. (IMHO....)

With Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas's monumental epic draws to a close, tying together the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. How did you feel when you wrote the final lines of the novelization?

I was shaking, and I practically burst into tears -- but that probably had a lot to do with the book being about six weeks over deadline, and that I'd been writing twelve to sixteen hours a day, fueled by Hershey's dark-chocolate Kisses and vast quantities of coffee and tortilla chips!
Once the adrenaline rush had faded, the feeling was primarily one of tremendous satisfaction. Not only has Mr. Lucas succeeded in tying together the entire six-film cycle (and elegantly, too), but I've managed to weave in a significant amount of the Expanded Universe material in as well -- having started in the Star Wars realm as an EU author, after all. I was really trying to bring the whole Star Wars Universe together in this story, and while Mr. Lucas, in his line-edit, decided to excise a fair amount of the EU material, he also left a fair amount of it in... so I guess that makes whatever's left just a hair short of "G canon," for all the purists out there.
I also, as anyone who has read my Star Wars fiction -- really, any of my fiction -- knows, have an almost overwhelming desire to lead people to question their assumptions and preconceptions... to unsettle them a little bit. I think the film, when people really look at it and start thinking about what it means in the context of the entire Star Wars saga, will do exactly that. This is not just a cotton-candy movie. Which made writing the novel an intensely satisfying experience. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHILE I'M SAD TO HEAR THAT UNCLE G EXCISED A LOT OF THE EU TIE-INS....CAUSE I AM A TOTAL DORK WHEN IT COMES TO EU ARCANA (GO FIGURE AND WHAT A SURPRISE?)....I UNDERSTAND WHY HE DID IT, SINCE THIS NOVEL IS MUCH MORE LIKELY TO BE READ BY THE UN-EU-INITIATED. ON THE UPSIDE, STOVER IS BRILLIANT AT THE VERY HIGH-END SW PHILOSOPHIZING THAT DISTINGUISHES THE VERY BEST OF THE EU AUTHORS, SO I'M GLAD TO HEAR HE'S BEEN ABLE TO INCORPORATE SOME OF THAT INTO THIS BOOK. (AS THE EXCERPT ON THE BLOG CAN ATTEST). ONE OF THE BEST THINGS ABOUT HIS BOOK "TRAITOR", IN FACT, WAS ALL THE VERY DEEP THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE FORCE AND THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE DARK AND LIGHT SIDES.


Were you chosen to pen the novelization based on the positive reaction to your two other Star Wars books, Shatterpoint and Traitor?

Well... I'm not sure that positive is exactly the word. "Strong" might describe it better. While it seems that most fans liked the books, there's a sizable chunk of fandom that can't stand me or my work -- in fact, I think they have a club... EDITOR'S NOTE: THEY WOULD BE THE DIMMER BULBS OF FANDOM, AGAIN...IMHO. THE ONES WHO THINK COPL (SEE WOLVERTON INTERVIEW, ABOVE) IS ROMANTIC AND WITTY. PTUI! (FOR GOOD MEASURE)

The word I got through Del Rey is that LucasBooks thought I was the best writer to handle the darkness of this story. I mean, that's a lot of what I'm known for, after all: the psychological breakdown of characters under extreme moral pressure. After reading the script, I surmised that another reason they might have wanted me for this story is my reputation for having a... certain touch with personal combat -- because there is a buttload of fighting in this story. Am I allowed to say buttload?

Well, there's a lot. As I went along, I found myself struggling to figure out just how many different ways one can narratively evoke Jedi (and Sith!) in combat ... (It turns out there's a buttload of those, too, in case anyone's interested.) EDITOR'S NOTE: BUTTLOAD. 3 TIMES. GIGGLE. OOO...NOW, I'VE SAID IT. GIGGLE, SNORT!

Did you work from a final script, or was the script evolving as you wrote? How much freedom did you have to improvise or fill in gaps in action and character motivation?

I worked from the script as it stood at the close of principal photography, though there were some plot changes and rewrites that I had to adjust to as Mr. Lucas got into the process of editing and reshoots. I stuck to the script(s) as closely as I thought was appropriate for a novel; there are necessities in novels -- where someone can go back and read a transition again and take the time to think, "Hey, wait, what just happened here ?" -- that in a film you can scream on past and leave people to figure out later. Mr. Lucas gave me a great deal of leeway in dealing with the dialogue and the details of this and that, as long as I didn't alter the sense of the action. The one place where I really had no freedom at all was in the characters' motivations: Mr. Lucas had an exceptionally clear idea of exactly why everyone was doing what, and he wasn't about to allow me to mess around with that even a little bit. After all, the "Why" is what this story is really about... and the funny thing was, there didn't turn out to be any gaps in motivation. It was all there: a real depth of human insight went into the creation of this story, as simple as its shiny surfaces might appear to some people. When I couldn't understand why someone was acting in a particular way at a particular time, it turned out that I just hadn't been looking deeply enough. In the end, it all turned out so clear -- and for me, anyway, so true -- that the character arcs have the same tragic inevitability as the mechanics of the plot. In a very real sense, they are the mechanics of the plot. EDITOR'S NOTE: GOOSEBUMPS AGAIN.

When you met with George Lucas, what did the two of you discuss?

Mostly what I talked about above. I went into the meeting with a list of very detailed questions about "What was Master So & So thinking when he... ?" and "Why, exactly, would Anakin want to..." I had a list of questions from Jim Luceno, too, relating to Labyrinth of Evil, and so we managed to get into quite a bit of the direct backstory -- the details of the relationship between the Lords of the Sith and exactly how and why the Separatists had set up the operation we see played out in the opening minutes of the film. And, of course, we spent quite a bit of time talking about the specifics of Anakin's fall -- what, exactly, drives him over the edge, when it happens, and what has led him to it. And, of course, we had to talk a bit about the dark side...

You mentioned bringing questions from Jim Luceno into your meeting with Mr. Lucas. How closely did the two of you work together on your respective books?

We corresponded quite a bit. I needed to understand how he was going to portray the relationship between the Sith Lords, and some other details of the backstory, especially where Obi-Wan and Anakin had been and exactly what they'd been up to, and I showed him the Introduction (the section that fills in a bit more detail of what's covered in the film's opening crawl) I had written to Revenge, that sort of thing. Fortunately for me, Jim is such a professional craftsman that by the time I was polishing the climax of Act One, I had a full draft of Labyrinth to work from, to minimize continuity issues. As I said above, part of my aim here was to create a novel that would work as part of the EU as well as a companion piece to the film. In fact, I understand that Jim's follow-up will, in a sense, bookend Revenge to make it the pivot of an EU trilogy that begins in Labyrinth and ends in Dark Lord. I'm looking forward to it.

The term "novelization" is used to describe your book, but perhaps it's more than that. A novelization is a film that has been, as it were, translated into book form; but your book, while faithful to the script of Revenge, goes beyond the mere transposition of one medium into another, which, sad to say, seems the fate of most novelizations.

I was never interested in writing novelizations. I'm still not. Especially not for Star Wars. It's too important to me. I didn't set out to write a novelization so much as I tried to back-create, from Mr. Lucas's story and script, a novel as I think it might have been if he had been making the film based on it, rather than the other way around. I wanted it to be not just a good novelization, but a good novel. A great story on its own terms. You should remember that I started as a fanboy, many years ago; I saw A New Hope more than twenty times in the theater. I saw The Empire Strikes Back nearly thirty times. When I was writing Shatterpoint, I dropped in a little piece of my personal history, just for my own amusement: the numeric recognition code that Mace exchanges with the Halleck, translated into numbers, is -- to the best of my recollection -- the date I first saw ANH. It was, appropriately, a Saturday matinee. I was fifteen. I rode my bicycle to the theater...

This is the point: most novelizations are written under extreme time pressure. They hire writers who are good and fast -- and they have to be fast. Me, I'm not fast... but they didn't ask me to be. I got the script in December of 2003, and I turned in the novel in August of 2004 -- that's almost triple the amount of time given to the usual novelization. And we were still working rewrites and adjustments -- to smooth over changes Mr. Lucas was making in the film during editing, and to accommodate the changes he made in his line-edit of the novel -- all the way to the first of this year. Because everyone -- not just me, but Del Rey, LucasBooks, LFL and Mr. Lucas himself -- thinks Revenge of the Sith is important enough that the book should be as good as it can possibly be.

What were Mr. Lucas's line-edits like? Was he a tough editor?

Not tough so much as exceedingly detailed, though I suspect he would have been very tough indeed if I hadn't been quite so scrupulously faithful to the spirit of his story. I mean, he literally went over it word-by-word, even to the point of altering descriptives to adjust the characters' inflections. As I mentioned earlier, he trimmed a number of the EU references -- especially ones that harkened back to some of the older material that I'm guessing he'd rather not re-avow as part of Official Continuity, if you see what I mean. EDITOR'S NOTE: I KNOW THE SANDBOX BELONGS TO UNCLE GEORGE, BUT DON'T GO 'DISAVOWING' THE EU, MR. L! (DISDAIN THE GROUPIES AT YOUR PERIL! WE HAVE KEYBOARDS, AND WE'RE NOT AFRAID TO USE THEM!) There was only one cut -- actually a series of cuts, of a continuing metaphor of which I had been particularly proud -- that surprised me (and, in fact, upset me; I don't mind telling you that this was the first time in my career that I've thrown an actual Full-Blown Diva Hissy-Fit, in a conference call with LucasBooks, howling that they go back and tell Mr. Lucas that "He just can't do this to My Book!"). The funny thing was that after I had calmed down -- and survived the migraine I'd given myself -- I realized that not only was Mr. Lucas right and I was wrong (in the sense that making this series of cuts tightened the book and cleaned up the thematic arc), but that doing it his way also brought into much clearer focus a powerful moral point... and I found I had been arguing against something I actually really agreed with. Oh, it was embarrassing!

Many people see Star Wars as pure fantasy and escapism. But the books and movies seem incredibly relevant to the post-9/11 political situation in the U.S. Is this coincidental? Is there is a warning for us in the fate of the Republic?

I guess the easiest way to answer this is to remind people that George Lucas is a serious filmmaker, who has always used the pop adventure of Star Wars to thoughtfully address BIG Issues. Under all the flash and adventure of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, he managed to introduce into American popular culture -- into Western mass culture generally -- one of the most important and most difficult (for the Western mind) concepts in world thought. Even today, nearly thirty years later, people who have no concept of the Tao know instantly what you're talking about when you speak of the Force... When, in Return of the Jedi, the true victory comes not through the battle of the Rebel Alliance, but through Luke's renunciation of violence in the name of love -- does anyone still think that was an accident? So it comes down to this: I don't pretend to know Mr. Lucas's mind, but I sincerely doubt Palpatine's government was written to intentionally reflect our own. After all, this decay of democracy was laid down, in broad outline at least, thirty years go. If we see the echoes of Palpatine's rising tyranny happening around us today, it's because Mr. Lucas has, in Palpatine's rise, tapped the elemental nature of tyranny itself, just as Luke Skywalker tapped the elemental nature of youthful, idealistic adventure. So the answer is yes: there is a warning for us, and it's anything but coincidental -- but I don't think it's there because Mr. Lucas is trying to criticize anyone personally, or anything like that. Just the opposite. He's only telling the truth about power. If we see a reflection in America, it's because of what's out here with us, not what's in the films and the books. EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL PUT!

A lot of people see the dark side as the opposite of the Force, something antithetical to it: a black-and-white dichotomy like evil and good. What is your view of the dark side after writing three Star Wars novels? How has it evolved?

All I can really say about this is that people need to remember it's the dark side of the Force, not the dark side and the Force. This is a crucial distinction. I could go into a great deal more detail -- after all, my understanding of the dark side was critical to both Traitor and Shatterpoint, and it was part of the reason I was hired to write Revenge, and I got a chance to chat about it a little with Mr Lucas -- however, due to the nature of the story, I'd prefer to just wait until people can read it for themselves. After all, in Revenge of the Sith, readers are going to get a look inside the heads of Sith Lords; you'll get to feel the dark side as they feel it, which makes it all a great deal more clear than just talking about it... EDITOR'S NOTE: OOO...TOO COOL!!!

One of the ironic things is that for all the talk of anger, fear, and hatred being the path to the dark side, what really does Anakin in is love.

Well, y'know, there's love and then there's love, if you know what I mean. There's a reason why anger, fear, and hatred are paths to the dark side: they all spring from a single source -- the same source as a certain flavor of love. A dangerously sweet, addictive flavor...

If Anakin's purpose as the Chosen One, according to the Jedi prophecy, is to restore balance to the Force, then isn't he just fulfilling that prophecy by going over to the dark side and serving Palpatine? Isn't he simply doing what he was always meant to do, and doesn't this absolve him of responsibility for his actions? EDITOR'S NOTE: NO.

Huh. Tell it to the theologians. By that argument, Judas Iscariot shouldn't be in Hell. Perhaps more appropriately, in this case, you can also try to tell that to the Greek tragedians, since the Prequel trilogy has more in common with Greek tragedy. Oedipus is still guilty of each of his crimes, despite the fact that he didn't know they were crimes -- despite the fact that he was destined to commit them. We are responsible for what we do. Everything we do. Period. End of story. No excuses. Ever. In Anakin's case, it's even more clear: the prophecy says nothing about how he will bring balance to the Force. Without giving away anything (spoilers give me a rash)EDITOR'S NOTE: GIGGLE, let me just say that there is more than one place in the story where Anakin has the chance to fulfill his destiny without falling. He chooses not to. But he doesn't exactly escape punishment for his crimes, either...

Anakin is the Chosen One, the most powerful Jedi ever. Yoda and Mace Windu are no slouches either. And later, of course, Luke Skywalker will resist the temptations of the dark side to which his father succumbed. What about Obi-Wan Kenobi? How does he stack up, in your opinion?

I believe my opinion is made very clear in the text of Revenge. I believe, in fact, that it's not just my opinion. I believe that it's shared, at least to some degree, by Mr. Lucas himself -- seeing as how his line-edit left all references to it intact -- which makes it about as close to plain Star Wars fact as you can get. Want to know my opinion? Read the book.

A lot of terrible things take place in Revenge. Beloved characters die, a hero becomes a villain, and tyranny rises from the ashes of democracy. What was the hardest scene for you to write, from an emotional standpoint, and why?

There were a number of scenes that were extremely difficult for me; there are things in this story that are so shattering for the characters -- and thus, for me, since I'm writing from inside their heads -- that no words can possibly do justice to them. The only answer was an almost cinematic approach: to suggest the immensity of their pain through details of gesture and inflection. The hardest scenes for me -- ones that I still can't think about without choking up a little, though I can't offer any specifics -- were the ones where Obi-Wan learns the truth... EDITOR'S NOTE: MARK MY WORDS...AND I'VE BEEN SAYING THIS FOR SOME TIME...OBI-WAN IS THE TRUE TRAGIC FIGURE IN THE SAGA. POOR BABY.

Do you have a favorite Star Wars movie?

My favorite film has always been The Empire Strikes Back. Though, from what I've seen of Revenge of the Sith, that may very possibly change... EDITOR'S NOTE: TRYING NOT TO GET MY HOPES UP TOO MUCH......

What about a favorite character?

Obi-Wan. Always has been (though Han runs a close second). I was a fan of Alec Guinness already -- he was part of the reason I went to see A New Hope in the first place. And his performance... that scene where he gives Anakin's lightsaber to Luke and tells him of the Jedi Knights of old... well, y'know, I'm aware of what Sir Alec thought of the Star Wars films, and I don't hold it against him. He was perfect. Obi-Wan Kenobi will always be my image of what a Jedi Knight is supposed to be.

At LucasBooks -- a small department within Lucas Licensing -- J.W. Rinzler edits various fiction titles such as Scholastic's Jedi Quest and Boba Fett series, as well as the Making of and Art of Star Wars books for Random House. He also edits the Dorling Kindersley Visual Dictionaries and Cross-Section books, as well as Star Wars Tales published by Dark Horse.

As Episode III began production, Rinzler became the chronicler of the process for two books that will be coming out from Del Rey this April: The Making of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and The Art of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

As the Star Wars saga draws to a close, how did you feel while working on these two books?

For me, working on these books actually goes beyond Star Wars. I remember seeing American Graffiti and being completely blown away in 1973. I must have been ten or eleven, and I remember thinking I'd never seen a film that had that kind of kid's humor! And of course the music changed my life -- it was the first soundtrack I ever bought.

Star Wars came about four years later -- and was another life-changing experience. So to be able to observe and interact with George Lucas over a period of years has been unforgettable. That it was Episode III -- the last Star Wars film ever -- was icing on the cake.

You're a senior editor at LucasBooks. Is your life all Star Wars, all the time? Or do you work on other projects as well?

I have to admit it's mostly Star Wars. We did do a book called The Cinema of George Lucas, which covered many of his other films, both directed and executive produced -- THX 1138, Mishima, Kagemusha, Labyrinth, and so on -- so that was a change. But I also have the luxury of going back and forth between the fiction of Star Wars and the nonfiction of Star Wars. And in the nonfiction world, there are many interesting fields that our books cover: animatics, concept art, visual effects, model making, computer animation, sound design, etc. -- so it stays pretty varied. And of course there's Indiana Jones, from time to time.

You were present almost from the beginning of the film, from pre-production at Skywalker Ranch, to shooting in Sydney, Australia, to post-production in London and California. That must have been an extraordinary experience! Had you ever watched a movie being made before? How was it different from what you might have expected?

When I was a kid, my dad had an office at Universal Studios, in the mid-1970s, so I happened to see the shark from Jaws on a soundstage, as it was being prepped for the attraction. And I saw them shooting part of Car Wash and Baa Baa Black Sheep. But I'd never ever seen the filmmaking process from start to finish as I have the last three years. It's been an amazing apprenticeship, so, yes, an incredible experience meeting the actors, master craftspeople, talented artists, producers, George and Rick McCallum, and many, many others.

As for surprises, I think when you experience the physical side it's an eye-opener. Unless you've lived it, it's hard to imagine how grueling it is making a movie (not that I was making it, but even as a witness). Particularly on the set, it is just nonstop from before daybreak till well into the night, day after day after day. The making of documentaries can't or don't get into that physicality and the effect it has on people's psyches. Hopefully that comes through in the books.

It's also incredibly interdependent. There is almost none of the "star" attitude; from the actors to George, everyone is very low-key. At certain periods you're practically living together, so it becomes more of a family feeling because of the long hours and interdependence. It's a somewhat stressed family, admittedly, whose members change depending on whether it's preproduction, production, or at ILM. The constants are of course George and Rick and a few key collaborators, such as Rob Coleman, John Knoll, and Ben Burtt.

What kind of access did you have to George Lucas and other members of the creative team in preparing these books?

Probably more than any other writer of a making of book, barring Carl Gottlieb on the Jaws Log and a few others. I went to nearly every concept art meeting, and got to know the artists, as I was also working at Skywalker Ranch. I was on the set and had long conversations with many of the actors and technicians, and heads of department. And at ILM I attended dailies, animation dailies, and got to know many of the lead animators, model makers, the crew, etc. I even recently interviewed John Williams after attending a couple of recording sessions at Abbey Road Studios. Plus, I'm working on books with some of these people now!

George has made himself available, too, as has Rick, with formal interviews and many off-the-cuff talks, particularly on the set in Sydney and at Shepperton Studios. It's the kind of access that only someone who works here could have. A freelance writer who had to fly up here for every meeting -- it just wouldn't have been possible.

Did you get a walk-on part in the film?

If you look closely, I'm in the background in a couple of shots on Naboo -- unless they wind up on the digital cutting-room floor!

Considering the number of people who contributed creatively to the film, both onscreen and off -- scene design, costumes, sketches and paintings of planets and aliens; it's easy to liken it to a Renaissance painting studio, where a master painter employed a number of journeymen to assist him in the execution of his conceptions.

That's exactly right. I agree that moviemaking is very close to that sort of Renaissance studio collaboration -- and George has made the analogy many times that digital filmmaking is closer to painting now than photography. You really do have a director-writer who is supervising a select team, who then delegates to a slightly larger group --but then it all comes back to the director for further input and adjustments. This kind of digital moviemaking is perhaps the most crafts-intensive and ambitious undertaking of the 21st Century arts. It calls on artistry from a staggering array of disciplines, some of which I didn't even know existed prior to these books.
More than half of the final footage of Revenge will be computer effects and animatics. First of all, what is the difference between the two? And second, is this reliance on technology making actors superfluous?

Animatics are not present in the final film. The are really digital storyboards that are key in the making of the film, as they're created by Lucas and the animatics team -- but then ILM actually makes the final version of the shots. The same is true for concept art. Both the art and the animatics come first, but the computer effects, or the visual effects, are actually what's on the screen.

Actors will never be superfluous. EDITOR'S NOTE: OH, I CAN THINK OF A FEW WHERE SUPERFLUOUS WOULD BE A PERFECT WORD FOR THEM. SNICKER.... Without them no performance would be complete. Even the voice-over actors are key. Lucas has in fact always been disappointed by the fact that Frank Oz has never been nominated for an Oscar, as he feels, and rightly so, that Oz's performance is as important to the film as any actor who is actually on the set. And of course there are things that actors do that can never be replaced by technology.

How would you characterize George Lucas's approach to filmmaking? Is he the kind of director who has every shot storyboarded before each day's filming, or does he rely more on instinct and inspiration?

I think that readers of the book will come away with an image of Lucas as someone who is constantly improvising on the set and elsewhere. In fact, I don't remember him ever consulting a storyboard while shooting. Some storyboarding was done for the film, but I think George considers them as vague guidelines. When he's on the set, or directing animatics, he goes from a gut instinct. In fact, he's said he's very much getting footage on the set -- and much of the making or the directing of the film takes place in editorial.

Steven Spielberg was involved in some of the animatic sequences in the film. Can you tell us about that?

As George explains in the book, he gave Spielberg a few scenes to play with at the animatics stage: a bit of the Mustafar duel, and Yoda's duel with the Emperor, along with a couple of others. How much of Spielberg's contribution made it to the final film, only Lucas or Spielberg could say, particularly as George revised and reinvented every scene in the film so extensively in editorial. EDITOR'S NOTE: WONDER IF WE'LL BE ABLE TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE?

Are there particular moments during the shoot that stick in your mind?

Well, I certainly remember the day the Darth Vader scenes were shot! When Hayden came out dressed as Vader, the crowd that had assembled just went silent and then applauded. It was a great moment. Also, the last scene with Anakin and Obi-Wan was very emotional -- both Hayden and Ewan gave great performances, over and over. Hearing Frank Oz do Yoda was another great experience -- it really felt like Yoda was in the room! And just in general watching Lucas direct was an incredible treat, being there able to interact with the sets (playing with the knobs and buttons) and being able to talk to the crew...

What projects lie ahead for George Lucas now that the Star Wars saga is wrapped up? Will he direct again? And if so, do you think he'll stick with fantasy and science fiction, or will he go back to the realism of American Graffiti?

Only George can answer these questions... Personally, I hope he'll do more directing, whatever the subject.

Do you have a favorite Star Wars movie?

The 1977 Star Wars was a moment in time. But of course Episode III is another candidate for favorite -- impossible to say.

What about a favorite character?

Again, hard to say. I am partial to Qui-Gon Jinn and Luke Skywalker, but Yoda's pretty amazing. I also love the villains: Vader, the Emperor, and Maul.

Once Revenge of the Sith is out, people are going to be able to watch the entire sequence in chronological order for the first time, from Episode I, The Phantom Menace, right on through to Episode VI, Return of the Jedi.EDITOR'S NOTE: MY HOUSE. BIG SCREEN AND SURROUND SOUND. 9AM START OK FOR EVERYONE?!!!!! Is that going to change the way people think about Star Wars and its cast of characters?

As George says in the book, depending on what order you watch the movies -- saga order or the order they were released -- you get a different story. EDITOR'S NOTE: FIRST TIME, WE DO IT IN SWUNIVERSE-CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. MAYBE...MAYBE...SECOND TIME WE DO IT ANDREW'S WEIRD, RELEASE-ORDER WAY. MAYBE. Most will watch I through VI, and so Anakin Skywalker becomes the central character. And he's no longer as bad as we thought he was in 1977. And people will certainly think of Obi-Wan differently. Until I actually sit down and watch them all, it's hard to say what else will change. Whatever the case, it's going to be an amazing experience. EDITOR'S NOTE: YES OH YES OH YESSSSS!!!!


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