Origins Day One Recap: Writing Advice, Mara’s Death, and a Whole Bunch of EU Goodness

The second half of the day brought all sorts of star Wars Expanded Universe goodness. Authors Timothy Zahn, Mike Stackpole, and Aaron Allston were on hand to discuss everything from the writing process to Star Wars. Highlights below the jump!

Before heading to catch some of the seminars and panels, I hopped on down to the dealer room to take a look at the many games and goodies for sale. I couldn’t help but purchase this:

Yes. Poo: The Card Game. Don’t blame me, this came highly recommended to me by several friends.

A friend and I showed up in what seems to be the designated Star Wars room for a pair of writing seminars by Aaron Allston. If you ever have the chance to take a writing crash course with him, you owe it to yourself to do so. Even if you have no interest in writing a book, the classes are great glimpses into his creative process and are jam-packed with all sorts of amusing anecdotes from his long and successful career. If you are looking to establish yourself as a writer? He’s got a great deal of insight to share to keep your writing fresh and to help you avoid the pitfalls that will completely destroy your career.

But as much fun as that was, it was nothing compared to the next event featuring these guys:

The Star Wars In Novels panel might have been one of the most insightful Expanded Universe panels I’ve ever seen. A lot of credit has to go to the audience, who brought a load of insightful questions with them. The Club Jaders that were there really helped keep things interesting. Some highlights:

  • In the span of seven minutes, the authors put together an off-the-cuff story proposal that made the Vong War ten times cooler. Each writer would tackle a story from different eras that would combine for an epic tale. Will this story ever happen? Probably not. But Del Rey, if you’re looking for material …
  • It’s criminal how funny these three are when they’re in the same room. You could probably just set them up with three chairs, a couple microphones, and tell them “go” and first-class entertainment will ensue.
  • Aaron Allston related a tale of how he trolled fans and trolled them hard during New Jedi Order. When word got out that he was writing a book, the popular internet rumor was that he was here to kill off Wedge since the series had been packed with so many charged character deaths. Allston’s response? Write a scene in the Enemy Lines duology which it looks like that he did, in fact, kill him off. Well played, Mr. Allston. Well played.
  • As to why Chewie was killed off, Mike Stackpole took the lead on this one. He, Jim Luceno, and the Del Rey staff spent a lot of time mulling over this and they determined that Chewie was the only major character that worked. He was the only character incapable of relating the pain of loss to the reader.
  • New Jedi Order as a whole proved to be a case study in dysfunction at the beginning of the process. The harsh blowback on The Phantom Menace from fans and critics caused Lucasfilm to meddle perhaps a bit too much in the process, resulting ultimately in a story that may have been drastically different from what was originally proposed. Mike Stackpole, James Luceno, and the Del Rey editors were responsible for the bulk of the macro storyarc building, but what they created didn’t seem to be the final result of the series. I knew that there was a lot of craziness behind NJO, but this panel really illustrated how rocky the development was at times.
  • Aaron Allston, the professional he is, took a chunk of the blame for Mara Jade’s death. He had spitballed the idea of a system of sacrifice for the Sith as part of their culture, but things escalated out of control after that and ultimately resulted in Mara being picked as a sacrificial lamb for the series. The impression I got was that he wasn’t happy about the direction that idea went and tried to prevent it from happening. Mara’s death really seemed like it was NOT what Allston had in mind. He genuinely seemed to feel awful that it played out the way it did.
  • And speaking of Mara Jade’s death, this was particularly telling. According to Allston, no one was happy about it, but it happened anyways. Maybe even more telling was that Allston was surprised to find out (today, May 31st 2012) that Zahn had not been contacted in regards to Mara’s death and that he found out only two months before Sacrifice hit bookshelves.
  • But to a significantly happier and less depressing tidbit! Zahn and Stackpole talked about the collaboration that went into creating I, Jedi and the Hand of Thrawn duology. You can thank both of them for Baron Fel.
  • Originally, Zahn wanted “Scoundrels” to be called “Solo’s Eleven.” Sadly, lawyers killed that.

For more, head on over to Galactic Drift and read Rachael’s recap.

After the panel wrapped up, Zahn stuck around and gave fans a treat: a reading of the first three chapters of his upcoming novel Scoundrels.

You only should head on over to Galactic Drift and read Racheal’s spoiler-free thoughts on it, but suffice to say, it took that small excerpt to convince me this is going to be one of the most fun and tonally correct Star Wars novels in years. Between this and Mercy Kill, it’s going to be a brilliant year in the Expanded Universe. Be excited, folks.

Be very excited.


5 thoughts on “Origins Day One Recap: Writing Advice, Mara’s Death, and a Whole Bunch of EU Goodness

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  3. Thanks for awesome summary - I wish I'd been able to cross the ocean and be there! I'm sorta glad to hear the tale of how things have rolled since the PT - all the sad stuff nonewithstanding, it's actually been my impresion that Del Rey wasn't doing what they were because of ignorance - AND that they're slowly learning. And this leaves me more sure than ever that the present line of single book-to maximum trilogies is the right one. Maybe there can even come some damage control out of it?
    Oh, and that off-the-cuff story sonds awesome - exactly what I'd be hoping for!!!

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