Imperial sexuality, murder droids, and fan rage: 'Star Wars Aftermath' with Chuck Wendig
There are three decades between the events of “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” With a gap that wide, it makes sense Disney and Lucasfilm are filling it in with brand-new lore. All of it within the same continuity, all of it sanctioned, and all of it interconnecting seamlessly.
One of those new pieces of the puzzle is “Aftermath” by Chuck Wendig. The novel is set immediately after the second Death Star explodes like a deadly piñata. Taking out the head of a hydra like the Empire doesn’t kill the beast, but merely drives it underground.
Recently I sat down with Wendig to discuss what it’s like to be part of this brave new world of “Star Wars” and how his novel fits into the greater narrative.
HITFIX HARPY: At what point did LucasBooks approach you to write for them?
CHUCK WENDIG: Well I asked about writing on it on Twitter about a year ago. They approached me at NYCC last year after seeing my tweet and reading one of my books,“Under the Empyrean Sky” which is very Star Wars-y. I'm glad they read that one and not say, “Blackbirds.”
CHUCK: They'd have been like, ‘We're good. We don't really required your voice in the Star Wars fandom right now.’
So what you're saying is that if you really want a job, you should just tweet about it?
CHUCK: You should just tweet about it. One magical tweet with the Force behind you. I had the Force for like, one minute, and it worked.
That's a really fast turn around time!
CHUCK: The actual book itself I wrote in December or January. Publishing is tight these days.
I know they have the Holocron Keeper Leland Chee, and there's a whole story group to keep the lore from spiraling out of control. Did they come to you with certain ideas or characters they wanted you to tackle?
CHUCK: The mandate was less ‘Here's what we want you to do’ and more like ‘Here's what you can't do.’ It was kind of a list of prohibitions on characters I couldn't use or situations I couldn't do because there were being dealt with across other properties or obviously in the big mamba-jamba: “The Force Awakens.”
Some people are maybe a little disappointed the book doesn't give more away. They wanted a list of details, just a timeline, a menu of items that occur.
[monotone inflection] In the then the year of our Force, A.D. 23, this happens.
CHUCK: Exactly! A Silmarillion-type timeline of the 30 year gap. I want people to understand that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is the garden and I am planting the seeds.
Can you give an example of a character they forbid?
CHUCK: Some of it was just prohibitions with the Big Three or how I could use them.
But obviously you were allowed to kill Luke on page..
CHUCK: 84...with Wedge. Wedge murdered him. But he'll be back in book two!
[Editor’s Note: That was a joke. Luke is fine…probably.]
I see Sloane from a “Star Wars: A New Dawn” shows up again in your book, and with a promotion! Between the books and the comics, did you know upcoming plots when you were writing “Aftermath” or is the story group just that good at keeping all the plates spinning?
CHUCK: It's a little of both. I didn't know what was happening necessarily in the comics but I do know certain other things from certain other properties. Like Star Wars Uprising. There are connections to that game in this book. I know ‘things’ that tie together but we're all kind of working in the dark. No one gets the whole picture. Understandably so. But it's very cool. They have this great sense of building this organic narrative.
The fans have been a little...adamant...would be the nicest word about their reactions to you personally coming into homes and burning their copies of the EU.
CHUCK: I have. Have you looked at Amazon?
No. Should I not?
CHUCK: It'll soon have a one-star review on Amazon. There's 50+ reviews and well over half of them are one-star. The reviews are all very similar. Half these people I'm not even sure they bought the book. But their complaints boil down to these. Number One: It's not the EU. Number Two: It's now Disney canon. Number Three: They hate my writing style. Number Four: I don't tell them enough details. Which to me is an interesting complaint because I'm not an information delivery system. I'm trying to tell you a story, not spin facts.
Well, it's not a history book.
CHUCK: Right, it's not just a rote sense of detail. I want cool characters. Some people are upset because it's new characters. And I'm like ‘You may not like the new movie. I don't know if you noticed, a lot of new characters in that movie and they seem to be front and center in the storytelling.’
What's fascinating to me about this pushback is I've read a lot of the EU. “The Courtship of Princess Leia” was very important to my formative years. But “The Truce of Bakura” — the book that happens immediately after “Return of the Jedi” — is not that good. Have other fans read that book recently? Or is it just a haze of nostalgia? Because the premise is kind of ridiculous. We immediately go from 'The Empire is dead! Huzzah!' to 'Here's a brand-new threat. No need to delve into the realities of an intergalactic war or mop up after the Imperials!’
CHUCK: There's a hashtag! #ZahnPlotFirst and people are tweeting it at me with images of EU book covers with fake tape over the mouths of the characters with ‘This is the true aftermath.’
You should've just put the bracelet from the cover of “The Truce at Bakura” in your book and had Leia just throw it in the trash at some point.
CHUCK: [laughs] Just a long, slow pan. But seriously, I'm not sure what those fans were hoping for. The reality is with the new film colonizing literally new territory, and territory that had already been taken over by that span of books, there was really no way to keep those things together and make a singular canon work. But those books are still great and they still live on people's shelves and they can still love them.
Do you think it's more difficult for Star Wars fans who are not also comics fans? Because we're used to this.
CHUCK: Yeah. Comic fans used to it Rebooting again! It's been 5 years. Oh and here's the films and they're a little different, and the books are a little different, and the video games are a little different. It's just how we roll.
ENTERING THE SPOILER PORTION OF THIS INTERVIEW