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.”
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.