Celebration Anaheim: Interview with Jason Fry

jace-hed2During the first day of Celebration Anaheim, Brian and I were fortunate enough to run into author Jason Fry and he graciously allowed us to shove a microphone in his face. Unfortunately the recording quality was too poor to upload as its own podcast, but you can read a transcription of the interview under the cut. We chatted about Servants of the Empire and writing in the Star Wars universe, his original Jupiter Pirates series, and, of course, the new The Force Awakens teaser.

Note: This interview contains spoilers for the Servants of the Empire series. 

Nanci: We’re here at the Anaheim Convention Center, and we’ve got Jason Fry with us. Hey Jason, how are you doing?

Jason: Good, very tired, but good. It’s always great to be here and see old faces and new faces and see everybody so excited.

Nanci: We were just in the John Jackson Miller writing seminar. It was really awesome, he talked about writing in a shared universe.

Jason: Yeah, it was fantastic. It was everything that I wish somebody had told me when I started. It would have saved me an enormous number of mistakes. As well as a great view, I thought, into the new canon and how it is and isn’t different. I thought the answer was it’s not that different. You’re telling great stories and telling it for as big an audience as possible, which is kind of a commandment of writers. So yeah, really fun and great job by JJM.

Nanci: Yeah, I liked the statement that the stories are still on your bookshelf no matter what timeline they’re in, that they’re still there, they’re still the stories that you like.

EG to Warfare coverJason: Yeah, and also somebody asked a great question, is there something from the Legends status that he wants to work in? I was interested in that and my ears perked up because it’s a question I get a lot, too. There’s a certain segment of fans out there, the way they would like some new book to start is somebody quotes the entire Essential Guide to Warfare or something like that. That’s a way we can kind of shoehorn all this stuff back in.

But what I loved about what John Jackson Miller was talking about, was that’s not good storytelling, that’s connective tissue, and these stories have to stand alone and have to be entertaining as stories. When I’ve been writing stuff in the so-called new canon, I certainly have referenced Legends planets, people, etc, but it’s not consciously doing it just to reference something. The couple times I’ve caught myself doing it I’ve taken it out, because it’s not really helping the story. It’s just showing off or going down a wormhole that’s really helping a very small group and being off-putting frankly to a much larger group who we should be welcoming into Star Wars as well.

Nanci: Yeah, I know when I was reading the Servants of the Empire books that I was counting every time that there was an old canon mention, but it was just kind of like an easter egg sort of thing. You know, I was just like, oh, there’s hot chocolate or whatever, and it just made me happy. But it didn’t take you out of the story, it was just a fun little tidbit.

Jason: I’m really glad to hear that, and I think that’s the exact key. It doesn’t take you out of the story. Like if you’ve never encountered that planet name or whatever before, do you just roll over it or does it stop you? Also, in Servants of the Empire 3, there is a certain Star Wars word — if it survives some late copy-editing but I think we’re through– there is a certain Star Wars word that I’m sure people will notice, so that’ll be fun.

Servants_of_the_Empire-Rebel_in_the_RanksNanci: Sweet. So Rebel in the Ranks just came out, and that’s the second book in the series, and that takes place during the “Breaking Ranks” episode. I’ve read that you were able to see the episode beforehand, so how did that work as far as telling a story that was part of the episode but expanding on it?

Jason: Well it was a great advantage to me as an author to be able to see the episode. When I was doing Darth Maul: Shadow Conspiracy and adapting the Darth Maul arc, everyone at Lucasfilm was as helpful as they could be, but it was different. I was working off scripts, and one thing that was so interesting in The Clone Wars, and I assume it’s the same in Rebels though I don’t actually know, is that a lot of the action scenes, etc., are really improvisational. They’ll come out of the production of the show and that’s great, you wind up with something much more creative and cool that way, but when you’re just working from the scripts there’s not, you’re missing all of that. It’s very hard to capture that, as well as atmospherics. Do you remember the Clone Wars episode “Bounty”, the one underground with the train and Asajj and all that?

Nanci: Yes.

Jason: That may actually be my favorite Clone Wars episode, it’s just beautiful and atmospheric and wonderful, but I read the script for that and it didn’t leave much of an impression. It’s still a very good story, but a lot of the stuff that really riveted you came from the production. Sound, etc.

So, it’s a long way of addressing your question. That was very helpful for Rebel in the Ranks. To give you an example, the scene in the office and the Inquisitor I believe has his back to them, he’s looking out. That scene is just beautifully done in the TV show, from the moonlight to his posture to everybody kind of looking at each other nervously, and that’s the kind of thing you can’t get with scripts. So I was really glad to have that, and I think it made Rebel in the Ranks a much better book. It’s an example of — there’s a lot of mystery around the Story Group, and that was an example of a level of cohesion and integration that was really helpful to me as a writer, and hopefully makes it a better experience for readers, too.

Nanci: So, the one part of the story, well I liked the whole book, but the end of it — and this will be spoilers for people who haven’t read it — so the end scene with Zare and the Inquisitor literally sent shivers down my spine. And I wanted to hug him and go oh no, Zare, what are you doing? You’re being really dumb, don’t do this!

Jason: I’m really glad to hear you say that. I wrote that scene, it’s not a very long scene, probably took me about six or seven hours. I just kept going over it and over it, and kind of sculpting it and yeah, that’s what I wanted. I wanted this kind of turnabout where Zare, you’re worried that he’s in danger, and then he realizes that he’s escaped. He’s not going to attract the Inquisitor’s attention, and then he realizes that that’s bad.

Nanci: That’s what he wants.

Jason: Yeah, I was really — this is mean to say, but part of being fun as an author is to kind of yo-yo the reader’s emotions and see what you can instill in them, so I’m really glad to hear that works. And there is much more to come for Zare and Merei.

Servants_of_the_Empire_Imperial_JusticeNanci: Speaking of Merei, they just released the cover for Imperial Justice, and I was so glad to see her on the cover. I love that there’s another young girl, because I’ve seen so many little girls dressed as Sabine around here and it’s just great. I like that there’s another character for them to look up to, because she’s smart and she’s a coder, or slicer.

Jason: And women are 50 percent of the population, they ought to have more than 2 percent of the costumes as well, you know, let’s go for 50 percent of heroines. It was interesting, when the story came out just the other day I got a really nice tweet from someone who, I was really really touched by this, she said thank you for this more than you know, because she had grown up as a coder being told that girls couldn’t code.

Nanci: I saw that.

Jason: You know, I was like, that’s exactly why we’re telling these stories, to make the tent bigger and invite everyone in. When we do that we get a better world, better stories, better everything, so I was so happy about that. And so happy just to see Merei on the cover, it was a “pinch me” moment.

Nanci: So can you give any hints about what’s to come in the next — there’s two more books, right?

Jason: Yeah, Servants 3 and then 4. Hmm, let’s see here. I will say here, it’s not a secret if you’ve seen the show, that Zare goes off to Arkanis?

Nanci: Yeah.

Jason: I think that’s right, I always pronounce that wrong. Zare goes off to Arkanis. So it was a really interesting storytelling possibility to, if they’re going to be separated in the narrative, how do you tell that story. Do you alternate, do you tell it in chunks kind of Tolkien style? What do you do? And then, as a writer, I was looking for, you know, how can we use that to drive the narrative in some interesting ways. So hopefully that’s not meta. And also, I hope folks will like Arkanis. It was a fun planet to play with and I hope it’s something we haven’t seen a lot in Star Wars so that people will like it.

JupiterPirates-IrisCoverNanci: And one more question. The other series that you’re writing is the Jupiter Pirates, and that’s in your own universe. So you’ve got Book 3 coming out in December, or earlier?

Jason: It’ll either be December or it might slip into next spring. We’ll see.

Nanci: Okay.

Jason: But soon. And I’m looking to do a Jupiter Pirates short story this summer that’ll be on jupiterpirates.com. Because I don’t know about you, but as a kid it drove me crazy waiting a year between books.

Nanci: Uh-huh!

Jason: I thought about that with Jupiter Pirates, and I was like, well you can actually do that!

Nanci: Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, a year between each. It’s not fun!

Jason: Exactly! So we’ll see if we can get some short stories up there. But yeah, Jupiter Pirate: The Rise of Earth coming soon, with then two more to follow.

Nanci: We have to ask one more question before we stop. What did you think of the trailer?

Jason: It was so funny because I was actually on a plane this morning, and so I landed and I was so frustrated because everything was happening while I was in the air and I’m too cheap to get the GoGo internet, or whatever, so I was just completely out of touch. But yes, I played the trailer and when Han said “Chewie, we’re home,” I was wrecked by it. I was like, How can this be? But that’s the great thing about Star Wars. When it’s done right and it kind of hits that nerve and grabs you, we’re all 7 or 21 or however old we were when we first got introduced to this galaxy far, far away. So I’m thrilled! I wish December would hurry up and get here.

Nanci: I know. Alright well thanks so much for chatting with us, and we hope to see you around Celebration!

Jason: Thank you so much.

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