We Are Legend

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Force Visions, where we look ahead to the EU material we are currently planning to cover and explore the reasoning underlying our choices.

I am not sure that I want to list the upcoming items, actually (for one thing, the list is Long).

will: And for another we’re not 100% sure what the full Long List consists of yet.

z: For a shortcut, I’ll mention that in January 2017, we will start back in with The Truce of Bakura, which if memory serves picks up three days or so after Return of the Jedi, and move forward chronologically…most of the time.  Sort of.  One thing we are certain of is that we will be skipping some stuff.  So feel free to read the reasoning behind our choices below as Stuff What the Ones We Skip Lack.

will: Truce is our next pick for a few reasons, most notably, the fact that it does pick up right after the movies end. It is reminiscent of how one would read the books if one were new to them; starting with “oh, this is a jumpstart to the franchise,” that being the Thrawn Trilogy, and then asking the inevitable next question, “so wait, how did we get from where we were to here?”

The follow-on matters, such as “so what sort of backstory is being invented for characters” and the inevitable “what does this reference mean and have we seen it before, what do you mean there was this other book, and whose dumb idea was this character/arc/MacGuffin,” inform the existence of pre-movie novels (which, like the post-movies ones, range in quality), references back to the ‘80s tie-in works, and occasionally just some really dumb stuff.

z: That is going to be a bit more dire for me, since I think I’ve missed more than Will has for all manner of reasons, and I know that I have a worse memory.

But on the other hand, in the manner of Mark Reads (listed in the blogroll), maybe that’s going to make things more fun.

will: And for the purposes of this post, we will be limited to the Legends banner. In light of certain developments, I think we’re eventually going to have to reevaluate our position on the post-Disney Star Wars universe, or at least figure out what we want to do, but suffice it to say that we have a long time before that becomes a going concern.

Anyway. We know that Truce is coming next. Beyond that, we start looking at a variety of factors on a book by book, and in a broader sense author by author, basis.

Of course, everything Timothy Zahn wrote is in play. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll bother with everything–some of the shorter stories might get minor mentions in conjunction with a given longer book. But when you take this post as the broader “what do we consider valid in our personal canons,” yes, Zahn gets a lifetime pass.

z: Not just because he was first or he established plotlines or what have you, either.  You’ve been following along, so I don’t have to recap it all, but I know that I at least have lost count of the number of times we shone a spotlight on careful character arc shaping (for both original and movie characters), careful thought and consideration on implications and consequences of [The Force/Being a Jedi/Space is Big/Characteristics of a Successful Manager], and in general, careful carefulness.  Zahn is a writer who knows his craft and works hard to give it its due, which shows.

will: Next up, in our hearts and minds if not necessarily criticality or even review order, are some of the smaller works. One of the (many) reasons that Z and I enjoy Star Wars is that, properly done, it truly is a universe–and capable of supporting many types of stories. Yes, they’re all set in the fantastical, mythic backdrop of the Galaxy Far Far Away, but if you wanted to do, say, more down-to-earth smaller scale stories of the more “average,” not Chosen by Destiny, denizens of the universe, you can. West End Games, for example, put out fifteen issues of the Star Wars Adventure Journal, which had short stories. The best of those were distilled into five “Tales” anthologies. We’ll peek into those for sure.

z: Expect a lot of “I want to visit there”s.  Though maybe not with Jabba’s Palace and Mos Eisley Cantina.

will: Another place you could find smaller-scale stories was work that tied into tie-ins. For example, when LucasArts produced its line of starfighter simulator games, starting with the venerable (and available for purchase on Good Old Games) X-Wing flight sim, the Lucas empire supported them with both comics and novels, specifically about Rogue Squadron. I’ve mentioned these before, since Z and I brought a serious love of Wedge Antilles and the Rogues to this blog. Clearly the Dark Horse Rogue comics and the novels by both Mike Stackpole and Aaron Allston are rather firmly on the list.

z: Yup.  And we’ll find a common thread between those two authors too: Putting thought into consequences and implications; working out what kind of character arcs would result from what kind of backgrounds before throwing people headfirst into the fray.  They would have been favorites even if it hadn’t been for Wedge and the Rogues and the “ordinary people doing their best” angle.

(but…Wedge Wedge Wedge *bounce*…and others.)

will: What will be of particular interest is the far more recent tenth X-Wing novel, Mercy Kill; it’s probably the chronologically latest book we’re going to cover, and I’m pretty sure Z hasn’t read it. In fact there are one or two others–including some of Zahn’s, much later in the project–where Z might be reading fresh.

Heh, heh, heh.

z: No, I haven’t read Mercy Kill, and it’s going to be so, so bittersweet.

The rest of what you wrote there just plain worries me.

will: We’ll also examine some of the setup/interquel novels. Shadows of the Empire, for example, was another case of a tie-in to a tie-in, being a novel connected to a video game set between Empire and Jedi. Ann Crispin’s trilogy of Han Solo prequel novels filled in his backstory as well as connecting two older (as in, written in the mid-80s, and boy do they show it) trilogies featuring young Han and Lando.

Huh. Think we should do those older (and shorter) stories as well, Z? They might be fun from an “it was the ‘80s” angle. Dave Chappelle as Rick James will have some words to share. Or maybe those get put into another category below.

z: Sure.  It’s all going to be new stuff for me, and since I effectively haven’t lived the 80s–

–yes, I was alive during, but look, you’re reading from someone who listened to almost exclusively classical music until she was 12 and then discovered…the Beatles–

–my takes on that angle might be entertaining, as well.

will: So with a lot of that wheat dealt with, let’s discuss the chaff.

The fact is, some of the Star Wars Legends-bannered tie-in novels are awful. I’m not going to name names here (which isn’t the same thing as never naming names), but sometimes the stories made no sense, sometimes the authors tried to do the “telling a different story in this big universe” shtick and it just didn’t work, and sometimes I have to assume there was solvent-based polymer adhesive inhalation involved. Some of those failures will become posts in their own right, not so much readthroughs as disaster analyses (I’m probably going to start a side series called The Fuck Were You Thinking?). Some will be quietly ignored.

z: And I am going to be viciously entertained, because incompetence and I, we don’t get along, but one doesn’t get to point and laugh in real life.

Yes, this blog is in fact where my evil side comes to play.  When I’m not writing arrangements of songs about demons for people to perform in churches, that is.  Which I would never have done, of course, perish the thought.

(…I did exactly that last season.)

And besides, there’ll be a certain Revenge! Element involved, possibly, because there was a time when we felt we had to read that all to keep up with the canon storyline.  So I’ve lost time and neural connections to that…stuff.  But we’re going to be adult and mature about it.

Mostly.

will: Mostly.

z: And from the actually serious angle, post-mortems and failure analyses are important tools in the engineer’s toolkit, and there’s no reason why that approach shouldn’t be applied to literature, narrative construction, and storytelling as well.

will: The other category was “eventually they decided to make the universe Darker and Edgier.” These series I will name, since they constitute massive institutional failures: The New Jedi Order, Legacy of the Force, Fate of the Jedi. They will get discussed in Very Special Episodes of TFWYT, I promise.

(Admittedly, even those had good moments. I expect we’ll get an entire week’s post out of the Nostril of Palpatine monologue alone.)

z: The…what…Ow my aching head?

Anyway, that’s going to be when Will really will have to hold my hand and guide me.  I stumbled, got lost, and fell on my nose somewhere around…uh…I don’t think it was even two-thirds into the NJO.  And I never caught up again.  Anyway; just like the above, an examination of why Intentional-Darker-and-Edgier can end up breaking things can be interesting and useful.

will: And then you get the…not-wheat-but-not-chaff. Or what you might call structural chaff. Books that we know we can’t just ignore, even if we want to. Maybe these will get shorter readthroughs. Not chapter per week, but something.

Number one name on that list, with a smoking crater: The Jedi Academy Trilogy.

z: So funny story, one of those three was the first book that I did physically throw across the room.  And I can’t even remember what made me do it, now.  Or even which book it was.  I guess I’ll get to remember.

will: We can’t ignore it–it has too much significance to other things that better authors did later–but I am not looking forward to it either. Ditto the Callista Ming cycle of books, plus a few others I won’t go through and name one by one. They’re sort of like the roughage of the Star Wars Expanded Universe–you need to digest it, it’s not a lot of fun, it’s important for holding stuff together, and a lot of it ends up crap.

Why yes, I am proud of that analogy.

z: I’ll give you that one.

But I really hope we’ll find a short format that works, because I am borrowing those from libraries around here that still have them.  Assuming any do.  Paying $0.01 (+$3.99 shipping) over Amazon is always an option but then I’d need to get rid of them again.

will: Along the way, we’ll take some side trips to discuss some of the better Star Wars video games, talk about of the authors behind the books (the parts that don’t get swept into TFWYT posts–there will be some of those too), touch on a few other comic series that we particularly like, maybe even poke our heads into the novelizations of the actual movies–if nothing else, there’s one line from the original novelization of Star Wars that always stuck with me:

They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes.

z: That is a good one.  And I’ve got emotional ties to the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back.  But that’s a story to be told in its time.

will: We’ll take some stopovers at other aspects of the universe, such as more analysis of the ingredients that George Lucas put into a pot and came up with his version of (Joseph) Campbell’s Soup (I get to blather about ‘30s pulp sci-fi and more sengoku-jidai history!), and I know we have thematic resonance posts kicking around the backs of our minds concerning stuff like Bioware’s Mass Effect games (Bioware having gotten its start on Star Wars games anyway).

z: That reminds me–this month’s Game Informer has an oral history of Bioware, a multi-page story, that’s fairly nice to read.  I don’t know if it’s available online, but if you come across it, it’s worth looking through.  (Will–I’ll try to remember to bring my copy to the New Years’ festivities.)

will: And, of course, eventually we’re going to need to decide whether to examine the New Canon. (Though I kind of doubt we’ll reach that point before the next Presidential election. At least.)

But that’s a topic for another week.

And we’ve been talking long enough for this one.

If you have any suggestions of anything I’ve discussed, or comments on the quality or lack thereof in these works, shout out in the comments! We’d love to get a lively discussion going.

z: And may the Force be with you.

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