The New Jedi
Order, an epic tale of an alien invasion into the Star Wars
galaxy, is now a year old. What began with an explosive hardcover novel in October of 1999, Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore
, has recently been expanded by a duology of paperbacks, Agents of Chaos. Author James Luceno answers some questions about his addition to the ever-growing saga.
Your two novels, Hero's Trial and Jedi Eclipse, comprising Agents of Chaos, are the first books in Del Rey's New Jedi Order series to focus on Han Solo. After all the controversy surrounding the death of Han's partner, Chewbacca, did you have mixed feelings about accepting the assignment?
None at all. I jumped at the chance, because Chewbacca's death allowed me to take Han through something more than a rousing adventure. The Star Wars films concern themselves with heroic journeys, and I tried to bring some of that sensibility to Hero's Trial. Ultimately Han returns to the land of the living, but he is forever changed.
How is the Han Solo of your books different from the Han we know and love from the original movies?
Obviously he is grief stricken during Hero's Trial. But he also has a wife, three kids, and a lot more miles under his belt. He's living a somewhat cush life -- though Leia has clearly been the principal bread winner -- and he has become a legend in his own time. Fortunately, life in the Expanded Universe hasn't allowed anyone to rest on his or her laurels, so Han has at least been able to keep his blaster hand strong. Even so, I figure that he has days when he misses having to embark on a risky spice run just to square with the Hutt. And he probably daydreams about past exploits while he's fine-tuning the Falcon's drives. You know things have changed when you can suddenly purchase whatever hardware you need, instead of having to rely on suspect after-market parts.
One thing in particular that struck me in your books is the relationship between Han and Leia. That quick-witted, back-and-forth banter is there again, but it's taken on a darker, more adult coloring . . . even as Han seems to be sheltering in the habits of his younger, less responsible days.
Grief can test the limits of even the strongest relationships, and grief can affect people in very unexpected ways. Grief can sometimes immobilize the toughest, or afford surprising spiritual strength to people who might have appeared overly dependent. In terms of Han and Leia, I didn't want to treat their estrangement as anything less than real. But Han's recidivism is a sham, as well as a conceit. Deep down he knows there is no escape along that route. But even Han is not above deceiving himself.
Chewbacca's death has sent shock waves through Han's life. He blames Anakin, for one thing. His loss has distanced him from his other children, and even from Leia. What was it about the friendship of this human and Wookiee that made it so central to both their lives?
Deep, enduring relationships often spring from shared experiences, and Han and Chewbacca certainly had more than their fill. During their long years of adventuring they came to appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses; they watched each other grow -- even though Chewbacca was, what, 200 years old when he met Han? Their loyalty to each other was boundless, and they certainly loved each other. But that love wasn't complicated by passion. They could disagree, argue, hurl insults at each other, without having to worry about long-term repercussions. They knew each other as well as each of them knew the Falcon, which, in a sense, was their scion. Though he never said this, Han might have blamed the Falcon for Chewie's death, as much as he blamed Anakin.
You co-authored the Robotech series with your sometime writing partner, the late Brian Daley. Did those books help prepare you for working in the Star Wars universe?
Robotech disciplined me for tackling epic stories. It trained me to absorb details about hundreds of characters, countless ships, a score of alien lifeforms. And like Star Wars, Robotech was a franchise that spilled over into comic books and role-playing games; so I quickly came to appreciate the importance of continuity -- which I believe is essential for sustaining that "willing suspension of disbelief." The universe has to be made real; and it's the writer's job to keep everything consistent and internally logical. You have to adhere to the guidelines.
Robotech also gave me insight into fandom. There are legions of readers who know more than I will ever know about Robotech or Star Wars, and it's a sometimes daunting task to write for them, as well as for the casual reader. I'm being paid to contribute to the vision, but let's face facts: Unless the creator of the franchise is doing the writing, it's all a kind of fanfiction, isn't it? But I have to add that The New Jedi Order is a whole other species. Considering that each book is only going to tell a piece of the story, we're asking for a good deal of trust from the fans. Instead of inviting everyone to sit down to a huge repast, we're asking that they content themselves with single bites -- differently spiced and hopefully savory. If all goes according to plan, four years from now everyone will be able to sit back, blissfully sated. But until that time, readers have to accept that what may seem a dangling plotpoint is setup for a recurring theme. To some extent, the series mirrors what George Lucas is doing with the prequel films -- save for the fact that we know how that one concludes.
Brian, of course, wrote some wonderful Star Wars books himself. Did you feel him looking over your shoulder at any time as you worked on Agents of Chaos?
More like berating me for failing to pump up the battle scenes or come up with funnier lines of dialogue. And there are places in both novels where I wish he'd yelled a bit louder. Aside from being sometime collaborators, we were best friends for 25 years. Without putting too fine a point on it, we shared a kind of Han/Chewie friendship that took us on adventures all over the world -- Nepal, Thailand, Central and South America .... Brian was the first author to write a Star Wars tie-in, and considering that his trilogy dealt with the early adventures of Han Solo, it was a sweet-and-sour irony to be commissioned to write about Han, in the wake of his partner's death.