SWCVI: Del Rey’s Star Wars Expanded Universe

| August 24, 2012

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This morning’s Del Rey panel was my very first Star Wars Celebration panel ever, but I wasn’t too nervous since I was up on stage with people much more talented and expressive than me: authors Aaron Allston, Troy Denning, James Luceno, Drew Karpyshyn, and Timothy Zahn; Del Rey Editor-at-Large Shelly Shapiro; and our esteemed moderator, Pablo Hidalgo. So let’s get to what was discussed!

The panel kicked off with a couple of announcements from Random House marketing guru Joe Scalora. The first was to remind everyone about Star Wars Reads Day on October 6. Currently over 1600 events are planned across the country, so visit starwars.com/reads to find out where you can celebrate Star Wars books at a bookstore or library near you! Also, Random House is happy to announce a special initiative with Fancorps that will give fans opportunities to earn points as they complete fun tasks related to Star Wars books. The program launches in October around Star Wars Reads Day, so stay tuned.

After a brief run-through of our new and soon-to-come releases (Aaron Allston’s X-Wing: Mercy Kill, The Essential Reader’s Companion by Pablo Hidalgo, The Old Republic: Annihilation by Drew Karpyshyn, and Timothy Zahn’s Scoundrels), Tim Zahn announced that he’s writing a piece of short fiction featuring Lando, as well as some other characters from Scoundrels, to be released in December, in e-book formats only. The up-till-then untitled piece was given the title “Winner Lose All” after Shelly wrote it down on a piece of paper for me right there during the panel and I said OK. As you can see sometimes the Lucasfilm approval process is extensive and exhausting. Ha ha. The plan is for this to be just the beginning of more regular e-only publications, giving authors and readers new opportunities to play in the Star Wars universe we might not have otherwise.

Next we turned to some 2013 releases that you may have heard about following San Diego Comic Con: The Last Jedi by Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bonhoff, continuing the adventures of Jax Pavan and the unforgettable droid I-5; Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void by Tim Lebbon, set in the same time period as the Dark Horse comic book series (but standing on its own as an independent adventure); and
Crucible by Troy Denning, which will portray a major event in the lives of Luke, Han, and Leia.

Speaking of the original Big Three…we’re happy to announce that we’ll be doing new, “classic” novels, taking place during the time of the Original Trilogy. We have two books in the works so far: a Leia-focused novel, to be written by Martha Wells; and a Luke-focused novel, to be written by Kevin Hearne. Our tentative title for the series is Rebels. This is still in the early stages, so there will be more to come as things unfold. Martha and Kevin are both talented authors who are also huge Star Wars fans, and I know they’re going to be fantastic additions to the EU.

Finally we announced what many of you have been waiting for: the next big series continuing the “flagship” EU storyline. It’s a trilogy! The series name is Sword of the Jedi, by Fate of the Jedi author Christie Golden. The focus will be on Jaina Solo (or perhaps we should say Jaina Solo Fel?) and of course her husband Jagged Fel. Jaina is a character with huge amounts of potential and we look forward to pushing her to her limits. John VanFleet put together an amazing piece of teaser art for the series that you can see for yourself on the Star Wars Books Facebook page. This announcement garnered a great outburst of applause from the crowd, so we’re glad you’re as excited about this as we are!

Then it was time for Q&A, and first let me just say how amazing it was to see how passionate our readers are about the Star Wars EU and its characters. I’m sure I speak for everyone on the panel when I say it means a huge, huge amount to all of us. So for every “Thank you” any of us received, so much more thanks goes back to you.

Some highlights from the Q&A:

Aaron Allston talked about his challenge to fill in the “interim history” of the returning Wraith Squadron characters in Mercy Kill, figuring out what everyone had been up to since we’d seen them last, and how the recent events in the Star Wars galaxy might have affected them.

Drew Karpyshyn enjoyed the chance to step away from the Sith when writing Annihilation, which features Theron Shan, a spy protagonist with no Force sensitivity. He noted that what’s great about the Star Wars universe is there are so many different kinds of characters to play with.

Tim Zahn explained that Grand Admiral Thrawn’s species, the Chiss, wasn’t mentioned or explained until later books since there wasn’t a need to delve into the Chiss in The Thrawn Trilogy — especially since at the time the trilogy was written, no one knew if anyone would even buy the books!

James Luceno talked about the challenges of getting into the points of view of Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious, and how their belief that they’re doing what’s needed for the galaxy was a way into their mindset.

Will we be killing off Luke, Han or Leia any time soon? Nope. And if we decide we want to, that’s probably something George Lucas himself would need to approve. (They are his characters, after all!)

We are mindful of diversity of characters and will be doing our best to keep expanding the variety of characters, without shoehorning anything in just to make a point,. Aaron Allston mentioned that sometimes a character’s sexuality, for example, is something an author doesn’t even consider until the subject comes up. Having it be organic is important.

A new Republic Commando novel? We can’t say anything for certain, but you should definitely stay tuned. :)

And we gave a shout-out to Leland Chee, Keeper of the Holocron, as well as to Pablo Hidalgo, for helping us book types keep the vast Star Wars continuity straight. They are a huge asset to our publishing program.

I had such a great time at my first Star Wars Celebration panel — thanks to everyone who came out to see us!

Jennifer Heddle is senior editor for Lucas Books.

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