Category Archives: NJO

Talking Tahiri Veila

Being raised by Tuskan Raiders and being shaped by the Yuuzhan Vong should make for a compelling character. Unfortunately, for Tahiri Veila, she’s cast into role of the pining lover, moldable apprentice and slave to her desires. As likeable as Tahiri is, the unfitting uses of her character threaten her position on the list of female heroes in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Tahiri began her role in the EU as friend to a reluctant Anakin Solo. Orphaned and raised by Tusken Raiders, she has a vastly different background than her best friend. Tahiri and Anakin during the Junior Jedi Knights books act as children their ages often do as they go through their many adventures. She’s bright, bubbly and intelligent.

Tahiri pops up again during the New Jedi Order first in James Luceno’s Agents of Chaos II: Eclipse in a minor role. When the Yuuzhan Vong attack Yavin IV during Edge of Victory: Conquest by Greg Keyes, Tahiri doesn’t accompany most of the other students. Naïve about how the Vong truly are and feeling stifled by her age, Tahiri stays behind to fight alongside Anakin. Instead of the glorious adventure she envisions, she ends up captured by Shapers.

The shaping of Tahiri is one of the most horrifying and interesting events in the EU. The Vong Shapers have no qualms with eradicating Tahiri by replacing her with memories of another. They treat her as a science experiment, a game. The extent of the damage Master Shaper Mezhan Kwaad and Nen Yim inflict on Tahiri when they inserted the Riina Kwaad identity into the young Jedi trainee’s mind comes forth the strongest during the Force Heretic trilogy. While readers saw some of the effects before those, it’s only then does she have to fight the conflicting parts of her mind.

Tahiri and Anakin’s relationship turns from friendship to love during this time. It was short-lived, however, when Anakin died on Myrkr. Tahiri refused to kiss Anakin, telling him that he needed to return to receive it. It’s a common request seen in movies and books that the hero often fulfils, yet in this case, it adds another layer to the tragedy of Anakin’s death for Tahiri.

Tahiri appears to be recovering somewhat during her mission to Coruscant with Luke, Mara and several others including former Wraith Kell Tainer. Though subdued, Tahiri successfully contributed to the mission, especially when dealing with Lord Nyax. In addition, “Aunt Tahiri” and Kell’s interactions provide much-needed comic relief.

When Riina’s personality attempts to take control of Tahiri, she is forced to retreat into her mind to battle to deal with her two parts. She eventually merges the two and becomes a new mix of Riina and Tahiri. She’s harder, rougher, yet still maintains some of Tahiri’s brightness. It’s somewhat off-putting at first, but it makes sense with what has happened to her. During The Final Prophecy, Tahiri’s characterization continues to strengthen.

When the Killik crisis occurred, Tahiri became a Joiner. Despite that she suffered from depression from the loss of Anakin and that the Yuuzhan Vong part of her was known for blind devotion, Tahiri as a Joiner didn’t make much sense. Here was a woman who’d undergone a transformation into a more mentally sound person. She’d had her mind invaded once. It’d be logical for her to create some type of metal barriers against that happening again and be alert to it. This change would take time to become comfortable with, but it wasn’t as if Tahiri spent those five years on Zonoma Sekot in constant combat. She’d have time to recover. A world so rich in life and the Force seems like ideal healing grounds.

Moving past the Joiner kerfuffle, Tahiri’s characterization takes a major hit when she joins Jacen. Jacen manipulates Tahiri’s remaining feelings for Anakin to draw her into his trap. When it comes to dabbling in the Dark Side, Tahiri lacks the finesse of other Sith. While her fall to the dark side can be understood given the history, it’s the revelation during her trial for the murder of Gilad Pellaeon in Fate of the Jedi Allies by Christie Golden that Tahiri and Jacen were physically “involved” that does more damage to her—and her Sith Master. Tahiri pining after Anakin and then sleeping with his older brother is simply uncomfortable. It takes Star Wars to a place that it doesn’t turn to. In addition, it adds nothing to the story but sputtering by fans. The final verdict in her trial would have been the same without that particular development.

Tahiri returns to her role as a hero in Troy Denning’s Fate of the Jedi Apocalypse. She fought one of Abeloth’s forms with the help of Boba Fett. The alliance, if it can be called such, between such vastly different characters worked well. Tahiri also fights alongside the Jedi in the Temple towards the end of the book. In both cases, she shows the Tahiri unseen for years. She’s an assertive, decisive woman capable of holding her own in most situations.

Tahiri is yet another female character in the Expanded Universe whose potential is repeatedly misused. She’s stuffed into the box of the lost love and self-pity. While she received closure during Allies, I’m not convinced that the Anakin card won’t play again in her future. No one wants to see a depressed, wallowing Tahiri.

Tahiri’s destiny links with Anakin long after his death. Rather than force her to stay tied down to a ghost, let her move forward. She can still have fond memories of him without them dragging down her spirit. The relationship is a part of her, but shouldn’t define her entire life. Aaron Allston sent her in the right direction during Conviction and Troy Denning pushed it farther along with the events of Apocalypse. It’d be a terrible loss if Tahiri faded into the background.

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Filed under Allston, Anakin Solo, Expanded Universe, Fate of the Jedi, female characters, FotJ, Jacen Solo, NJO, Star Wars, SWEU, Tahiri, Troy Denning

Star Wars Dream Team (Allston, Stackpole, Zahn) talks Star Wars novels

Aaron Allston, Michael Stackpole and Timothy Zahn provided an hour of side-splitting hilarity at Origins this afternoon. Not only did we learn that Bantam didn’t know if the X-Wing series would sell—especially given that the main characters of the film weren’t leading the stories, but also that the release of The Phantom Menace had a major impact on the beginning of the New Jedi Order. Below are some of the highlights and discussions.

Fun facts and funny quotes:

Krytos Trap knocked a Stephen King book off the best seller list for one week.

Zahn wanted to call Scoundrels “Solo’s 11” instead, but Lucasfilm said there might be issues.

Stackpole: “Boba Fett is in my car!”

Stackpole on giving Booster the Errant Venture: “It’s like giving an air craft carrier to a Somali pirate.” “I’m doing this because Tim is going to use it in his next book. And so they said ‘okay’.”

Stackpole’s second Errant Venture footnote: “By the way, I realize the best name would have been Enterprise.” (as it’s a business)

Specter of the Past, I, Jedi and Visions of the Future were sort of a trilogy. Zahn had introduced Elegos and pitched Stackpole the pages. Zahn saw what Stackpole did with him in I, Jedi and continued on with character. Zahn needed a “hotshot Imperial pilot” for Visions. He talked to Stackpole, who said Baron Soontir Fel. The two created Fel’s entire back story in one phone conversation.

Zahn explained that he tried to establish in VotF: “That you can either get maximum guidance from the Force or use maximum power of the Force, but you can’t do both. The more power you do, the less wisdom you have.”

Allston on the ignored Wraiths: “I was kind of looking forward to someone screwing up my characters.”

Highlights

Stackpole and Allston compared on their experiences working large projects:

Stackpole and James Luceno studied what made the Original Trilogy so popular while creating the perimeters for the New Jedi Order. Some of the events were moved around later on, which negatively affected the series.

Stackpole sent in an outline that used the Horns, which was rejected and he was instructed to lose Corran and the secondary characters. He knew that those were the characters we readers liked. After the release of The Phantom Menace, he was told to bring Corran back into the story. Stackpole went through two edits of Onslaught. He was told to add R2 into the scene with Luke and Jacen on a Vong-formed planet. The idea was R2 could scan the plant. Stackpole argued that if they found evidence that R2 could and had scanned plant life before, then he would add it in. In addition, Onslaught was thought to be the intro for many to NJO because some fans wouldn’t want to pay for Vector Prime in hardback.

The beginning of NJO was affected by the buzz about The Phantom Menace. Not only was the movie receiving criticism, but Vector Prime and R.A. Salvatore faced serious backlash for killing off Chewbacca. Stackpole was a huge defender of Salvatore.

Stackpole explained why Chewie had to die: “We looked at all the major characters and said if we ranked them top to bottom, whose death hurt the most. We realized with all the major characters, any death would hurt a lot. We knew equal impact there. So we had to ask ourselves a second question: From which character’s viewpoint can we best tell the story of that hurt and Chewie is the only character that you can’t tell a story from his viewpoint. Therefore, Chewie had to die. That is what we had to do to set the New Jedi Order apart.”

By the time Allston joined in, he said everything had calmed down quite a bit. He cited that it’s hectic and overwhelming at times, with all the emails constantly being passed around and details to keep up. In addition, if the authors don’t click, some subplots seem difficult to write in his books.

“When I was working on my two books there were rumors all over the ‘net saying they brought Allston in to kill Wedge. So I wrote a scene that made it look like I was going to kill Wedge,” Allston said.

In the midst of the discussions, various ideas started flowing. Allston, Stackpole and Zahn joked about each writing a book that took place in a different era, but where one trilogy. In addition, Zahn wants the Vong war stories never told, including the Baron Fel clones “ripping up the rear” in Chiss space during the Vong war. Allston also joked about pitching one book with three stories in the Vong war, one from each of them, among other fun ideas.

On Mara’s death:

“Mara should have never died that way, for many reasons,” Zahn said.

Allston admitted to bringing up the idea of a sacrifice in Legacy of the Force. “During the meeting, I floated the notion that there would be a category of Sith who believed that they were maintaining integrity…by devoting themselves to a pattern of self-sacrifice. If they are always sacrificing.”

The discussion eventually went to Mara. Zahn then asked if the decision was made then to tell Zahn, which led to a hilarious confession by Allston.

“No one was happy with the notion. It became the decision,” he said. Zahn learned two months before publication. Zahn cites the Mara situation as the reason for the four year gap between his Star Wars books.

Allston said that they decided Jacen would fall, but his death wasn’t known at the beginning.

A huge thank you to Aaron Allston, Michael Stackpole and Timothy Zahn for a great panel.

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Filed under Allston, chewbacca, Fate of the Jedi, Michael Stackpole, NJO, Origins2012, Star Wars, SWEU, Timothy Zahn, Uncategorized

It’s time to say goodbye to "teams"

Team Edward. Team Peeta. Team Draco. Team Zekk. Team Jacob. Team Kyp. Team Harry. Team Gale. Team Jag. When did romance become a sporting event?

Years ago, while reading the Twilight series, my friend asked me who I liked better: Edward or Jacob. (Neither one was a good partner, but then again, Bella requires others to define her.) She told me about the “teams” discussion on a forum we both visited. I said Edward because not only did Jacob drive me nuts, but also it felt like Jacob saw Bella more as a prize to win rather than a human being.

That idea right there is what bothers me the most about the team concept: the woman becomes a prize.

The perpetuation of the team concept comes mainly from marketing around the Twilight movies. While it found its way onto message boards, icons and social media, various companies pushed the “Whose team are you on?” question. A Burger King commercial ran a few years ago (think around the time of Eclipse) that completely ignored Bella, the main character of the movie, in favor of the two sides. Despite the type of flimsy character Bella is, it seemed rather wrong that she was made into some medal or trophy.

With The Hunger Games movie, scads of merchandise with the statements “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale” flood the internet. The idea of team-themed merchandise could work for the movie, if it wasn’t based on romance. Show your support for Katniss, Peeta or District 12 to win the games. However, if I walk around with a shirt that says Team Peeta because I want him to win the games, the idea wrongly projected is that I’m a part of some feud.

The teams idea creates conflict. These conflicts would exist without the term, but thanks to the popularity of the word, these conflicts become larger than the story itself. Back during the New Jedi Order days, plenty of debates ran about whom Jaina Solo should be with: Jag, Zekk or Kyp. While these discussions still exist today, they don’t seem as frequent or volatile. I remember reading several arguments that largely ignored Jaina’s characterization and the actual events in the books. The same problem exists in The Hunger Games. Team discussions often ignore the main ideas of the plot.

These types of conflicts do serve a positive purpose: continuous discussion, new perspectives and character analysis. If everyone agreed on each aspect of a story, conversations would die out quickly. Taking the romance angle is just one of the many ways to look at a character.

The idea of rooting for a particular suitor isn’t wrong or disrespectful to the female character. The problem arises when it takes the woman out of the equation except for her mere presence. From Jacob’s comments and the part of Breaking Dawn that was written from his point of view, I had the impression that he was more interested in winning. He seemed to lose sight of Bella’s happiness.

Mobilizing teams the way it happened throws out the choice of the female characters. Fans don’t have to agree with it. I still don’t like Harry and Ginny together. It’s far too easy to ignore actions and essence of a character, be it the female in question or one of the suitors. One of the major differences between Edward and Jacob is that Edward was willing to stand aside if Jacob was whom Bella wanted. Jacob made no such concession. This argument rarely comes into play in Edward v. Jacob debates. In The Hunger Games, this isn’t really an issue. Katniss doesn’t want a relationship nor is it much of a possibility, what with Snow’s threats.

The whole team concept has gotten out of hand. It’s impossible to enjoy a book that has more than one romance interest without someone bringing up a team, regardless of genre. The Hunger Games isn’t the story of a love triangle. There isn’t a strong sense of “who is Katniss going to choose” throughout the series and yet, it’s rapidly falling into that trap. It’s one matter to discuss who you think is the better choice. It’s another to ignore the importance of a story and belittle the female character by turning it into a dating show.

I hate the insinuation that I’m a member of a team. It implies that I only care about who the character is going to choose. Before Explosive Eighteen, the newest book in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, hit shelves in November, I read several reviews on Amazon stating that “Team Ranger” fans weren’t going to like it. Basing the entire opinion of a book on Stephanie Plum’s love life and ignoring the rest of the plot seems rather close-minded. I don’t read the Stephanie Plum books because for Ranger or Morelli. I read them because I enjoy Stephanie’s characterization and the rich cast of characters (who doesn’t love Lulu?)

Thanks to the label coupled with Twilight, some are hesitant to dive into The Hunger Games or other works of literature that “team” crept into. If the whole “Team Edward/Team Jacob” debate annoyed you, would you go into a movie that appears to use the same idea? Probably not. While I’ve yet to see Lionsgate use the Team Gale/Team Peeta monikers, there’s enough outside merchandise to make the average consumer aware of the idea. A simple online search pulls up the Team Gale and Team Peeta concepts.

This whole team epidemic kills romance. When I viewed New Moon in theaters, I felt as if the theater was broken up into groups: Edward lovers and Jacob lovers. There was a sense of hostility in the room. It was awkward. It was even more awkward when the middle-aged women in front of our little group writhed in joy when Taylor Lautner removed his shirt (who was 17 at the time with a baby face). Take out that I thought New Moon was a horrible book and mediocre movie and it was still hostile environment.

I suppose for me romance isn’t a contest. It’s not a race to the finish line. Some love stories fizzle out. That doesn’t mean they weren’t good. Take the movie The Notebook, for instance. Just because Allie and Lon don’t end up together doesn’t mean their love story was unimportant or uninteresting. I didn’t feel as if we Jaina/Jag fans “won” in Omen after the proposal. Just because Jaina and Zekk didn’t end up together as adults doesn’t mean that their young love in the Young Jedi Knights series was pointless or a waste of time.

Romance is more of a continuous journey with no end rather than an objective based race.

Pushing the idea of “teams” onto a movie or book only causes harm. While it may be true that a group of fans band together in support of a pairing, referring to it as a team diminishes characterization, story and romance in general.

It’s time to retire the term for good.

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Filed under Harry Potter, Jaina Solo, NJO, romance, teams, The Hunger Games, Twilight

In Defense of the New Jedi Order

The New Jedi Order is my favorite set of Star Wars books. Is it perfect? No. Is each book in the series great? No, but as an overall series, it delivers.

Many fans do not like the series, which is fine. You have the right to dislike whatever you want. In no way am I bashing those who don’t like the series.

I’ve asked many people why they don’t like the series out of curiosity. Unfortunately, due to the internet’s high troll population, most conversations fall flat. Some people answered though, and their answers weren’t that surprising.

One of the biggest complaints about NJO is how much darker it is, usually linked with character death. The fact that the series is darker is one of the most appealing parts of it to me. Many of the books published previously seem a little too predictable. When a reader knows that the main cast and their closest friends will make it out of the situation alive every time, there’s no sense of suspense. Some type of suspense keeps readers turning pages. Was anyone worried that Thracken Sal Solo would actually harm Jacen, Jaina and Anakin in the Corellian Trilogy? We knew Han would escape Nil Spaar during the Black Fleet Crisis. There’s nothing wrong with having safe characters in most franchises. It doesn’t work in Star Wars, however. The universe is just too big for a large, untouchable cast. I’m not saying that the authors need to off characters left and right; that’s a mistake. Pointlessly killing a major character doesn’t do a story any good. Only when a character’s death fits the story and the character should authors do it.

Killing Chewbacca and Anakin worked for the series. Chewbacca’s let us know that characters close to the main cast were no longer untouchable and gave the series a specific tone. Anakin’s broke the idea that everyone was safe. Killing of a young, direct descendent of the main three threw the idea in the trash compactor. However, killing a character isn’t the only action that makes a series darker. Hopelessness, mass destruction and impossible odds add to this. Many characters hit rock bottom, something many are familiar with at some point in our lives. Sometimes that’s what it takes the situation to improve.

Character angst appeared more in NJO. Doubts, fears and other negative emotions ran rampant. It made the books feel more real. There’s no way to make a Star Wars book seem 100 percent realistic and I don’t want that to happen. Han Solo needs to have a ridiculous accurate for his age. Booster Terrik needs to be the old man running a Las Vegas-esque Star Destroyer. Without these types of characteristics, Star Wars loses itself. The advantage of bringing in the character angst is that readers understand the characters better. We become emotionally involved in more people. During “Traitor” by Mathew Stover, fans became locked into Jacen’s mindset through his breaking on Yuuzhan’tar. Had I not seen into his mind, felt his grief and pain, I wouldn’t have been as moved by his actions at the end of “The Unifying Force” by James Luceno.

The other major complaint I’ve seen regards the Yuuzhan Vong. I find them fascinating. They are religious fanatics. Anyone who’s tried to reason with a fanatic knows how difficult one is to deal with. The Vong weren’t defeatable like past enemies. New weapons, strategies and ideas were brought in. This type of villain added something different to Star Wars. Only so many superweapons can find their way into the books. Organic ships pose a new type of challenge to fighter pilots, for example. With such daunting odds, every successful encounter felt that much sweeter. Fighting a Sith and warlord every other book is boring and tedious. We need variety.

Is a long, dark series something that Del Rey should pump out regularly? Absolutely not. Fans need the light-hearted, movie-esque plots. Books with a large amount of “untouchables” aren’t unenjoyable. Throwing in a story arc that breaks the pattern is necessary, however, to keep the series unpredictable and interesting. The variety of fun, semi-series and dark story arcs makes the overall franchise appealing to more fans. Those who enjoy darker tales have something to read, as do those that like the fun, Big Three dynamic.

Another way NJO delivers is in the character cast. Michael Stackpole, for example, pushed Corran Horn forward in “Dark Tide II: Ruin.” Readers hadn’t seen Horn prominently for a while. Tahiri Veila, a fan favorite from the Junior Jedi Knight series, turned into a deep, well developed character. We also gained characters like Jagged Fel, who’s since his first line over comm waves at Ithor become an integral part of Jaina’s life. Many of the authors dedicated more page time Wedge, Jaina, Jacen, Han, Mara and many others to character development. “Dark Journey” by Elaine Cunningham showed us the darker side of grief and brought fans closer to Jaina. After “Conquest” by Greg Keyes, Anakin became an even larger hero for many. By focusing on so many characters, something possible in such a long series, fans grew closer to more beings. These deepened our emotional bond with the franchise.

After rereading NJO, I felt more connected to the entire Star Wars universe. I felt like I understood the characters better, which in turn made parts of Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi more logical. I find rereading a book more enjoyable the than first go-around. When you reread, you notice little details missed before. You aren’t running to the finish. You notice the strengths and the flaws.

No book is perfect. A story that seems perfect to one person is horrible to another. While we should expect a quality product, it’s okay not to like every detail of a book or series. As fans, we need to respect people’s viewpoints.

Therefore, its okay with me that you don’t like NJO, just don’t bash me (and others) for liking it.

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Filed under Expanded Universe, NJO, Star Wars