Some writers do more than create stories, they create worlds. It doesn’t necessarily have to be separate from our reality, after all the world of Harry Potter exists here in secret. It’s always fascinating to see what writers do when they create something like this.
Which brings us to Star Wars.
More than a few writers gave a go at the Star Wars universe. Besides the screenwriters for the six films there was the unofficial/official trilogy from Timothy Zahn that launched more and more fiction. George Lucas had just one requirement: that all books take others into account when constructing storylines.
You can see how the stories would become more and more constricted if you wanted to work with the principal characters from the movies. I read several of these books, including Zahn’s trilogy. There were some fascinating stories. Some of them simply continued the historical timeline and the struggle between the good guys and bad guys. Other stories, particularly those centered around Jedi themes, expanded some of the mythology of the pre-prequel Star Wars universe.
Yet another storytelling format went back even further. Knights of the Old Republic, a computer game, introduced us to a new character who seems to have affected even some aspects of the upcoming film The Force Awakens. That character was Revan, the most notable Grey Jedi (neither light, nor dark) and one of the most powerful, at least in the timeline of the stories generally referred to as The Old Republic.
Which Way to Luke?
I bring all this up because there was a lot of internet chatter on the nature of Luke Skywalker’s place in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I haven’t read much of the speculation, but thought about it purely in terms of character development and also in context of what is revealed about Jedi in the six movies.
Recall that the battle between Luke and Anakin was really two battles, each against temptation. One had to avoid succumbing to it, the other had to fight his way back from it. Both succeed, but at the cost of Anakin’s life. We see Luke twice after his father dies. First he creates a funeral pyre for Anakin. (It strikes me that this name could be “Any King” and the temptation of power as a theme is well-placed, if that was Lucas’ inspiration for the name. On that note, “Ana-kin” could be translated as “against family,” just a literary side note, I suppose.) Second, he celebrates with the other members of the Rebel Alliance. Here we already see his separation. He sees what others don’t, has a link to a continuity they don’t feel.
Luke Skywalker off on his own, maybe a bit more Obi-Wan than Yoda in terms of isolation (he apparently takes R2-D2 with him), makes a lot of sense. Add to this that, thus far, Luke interacted with visions of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and his father. What are these three likely to advise Luke to do in terms of his power and the continuation of the Jedi? Luke has emotional entanglements. He is not a warrior monk as the prequel Jedi were. How were the Jedi wiped out? Because Anakin had an emotional connection. It’s sensible to suppose they advised Luke to get out of town.
This discussion could go on for some time. There are other story-driven reasons I can think of for this part of the plot, but this is where we circle back to my original point: this movie, as the dozens of books it replaces, creates a new reality. It’s so much more than characters and settings with plot. There is an enormous backdrop to consider, political (suppose the reconstituted Senate of a new Republic exiled Skywalker) and sociological (people might blame the Jedi for the atrocities of the Empire, either for failing to protect them or because the “subtleties” of light/dark are lost on them) aspects come into play in stories this big.
It is a daunting task to write in such a context, particularly with much of this universe created by other writers. This is one reason why Lawrence Kasdan’s presence and contribution with the new story makes me want to see it. It is also why I was so fascinated by the Old Republic storylines, mostly set forth in video games. I played these because I wanted to see what the writers (and here Drew Karpyshyn must be mentioned for his excellent work) did with existing mythology and how they added to it.
There is a childhood factor at work here as well. Star Wars was one of the first movies I recall, and I saw it three times in the theater. In terms of hero mythology, the influence of Star Wars weighs heavily on my point of view. I likely will wait until after the weekend to see it, but I am anxious to see the creative choices.
Read Up…Soon to Be Obsolete
There were a few books in the Star Wars “continuum” that I enjoyed, others added some fascinating bits to the puzzle. Among these, I recommend a few:
The Truce at Bakura, by Kathy Tyers: This picks up just hours after Return of the Jedi ends. There are interesting politics in this one in terms of Empire vs. a self-declared New Republic. A rather worn and weak Luke Skywalker encounters a spiritualism that holds Jedi accountable for the existence of evil. R2-D2 has a particularly direct effect in the resolution of this story.
Heir to the Empire and The Thrawn Trilogy in general, by Timothy Zahn: Introduces one of the best characters in any part of the Star Wars universe, Mara Jade. Formerly known as “The Emperor’s Hand,” Mara’s destiny was to oversee the death of Luke Skywalker. I read this trilogy more than 20 years ago and can’t remember much, but there are some interesting connections to the Clone Wars here and the introduction of one of the most enduring and subtly-likable characters ever to head an Imperial fleet, Gilad Pellaeon.
Children of the Jedi, by Barbara Hambly: Not sure I can explain this one. Basically, a ship with artificial intelligence captures a volatile crew (including Tusken Raiders) to aid its efforts at destroying a planet called Belsavis, where Han and Leia happen to be. Luke and a couple of his trainees are also captured, but become more and more cognizant of what is really happening. They must stop the ship before it reaches Belsavis with the help of a long dead Jedi.
The Courtship of Princess Leia, by Dave Wolverton: this one was probably my favorite. A powerful matriarchal society offers the New Republic an alliance with the stipulation that Leia marries the heir to the throne (the current ruler had only a son). Leia’s love for Han is clouded by her duty to the Republic and Han goes a little nuts about it, winning a planet for her through some skillful gambling. Mild Spoilers: The planet, Dathomir, has a history, however, and when Han kidnaps Leia and takes her there, they find the Empire still mostly in charge. Luke arrives and is nearly killed by a group of force users that once defeated Yoda and a band of Jedi. Through this defeat, Luke comes to understand much more about the force and when he heals…well, that’s for the book to reveal. Most of this is on the back cover.
Thanks for reading!