At San Diego Comic Con, the Star Wars Expanded Universe editors and authors announced several new projects, including Crucible, the first post-Fate of the Jedi novel to feature Luke, Han, and Leia. It should not have come to a surprise that Troy Denning received the contract for this novel. Denning has been involved in the SWEU for a very long time, and has become a staple among post-Return of the Jedi authors. This is not to say that all of his contributions have been welcomed with open arms; many fans credit Denning for the increasingly dark and gritty tone of Dark Nest, Legacy of the Force, and FotJ.
Reaction to Crucible has been, in a word, audible. Fans on message boards, the Star Wars Books Facebook page, and on Twitter expressed dismay that Crucible would focus on the Big Three and be written by Troy Denning. I understand those concerns, of course. Del Rey and LucasBooks have assured fans that the megaseries format is going away, and that they’ve heard fans complaints about the direction of the post-RotJ novels. The announcement of Crucible, which many fans see as “more of the same,” doesn’t demonstrate any sort of major changes in that storyline. For so long, fans have endured galaxy-spanning wars, character derailment and death, and not enough focus on developing new characters. Trust me, I understand all of this. If you listen to the podcast, you’ll know that I often make the same complaints.
And yet, strangely, I find myself cautiously optmistic, dare I say excited, about Crucible. Yes, I’m looking forward to a Troy Denning book; I know, I can hardly believe it myself. While I also want future novels to focus on the next generation as well as characters who’ve been shoved to the side in the megaseries, I still want to read about the Big Three. I love them all, especially Luke, and I want to see them interact in their own storyline. They’re a family, and after all that’s happened in their lives they deserve to be together. I can’t remember the last time they were involved in an A plot together – maybe for a few pages in Backlash? The chemistry of the Big Three is what drew me into Star Wars, and I’m excited to see them go off on an adventure again. Do I expect this to be a “last hurrah” of the Big Three? It would be nice, but probably not. And that’s fine if it’s not.
Because now that the megaseries format is going away, Del Rey can publish lots of different novels taking place in the post-RotJ time period. We can have novels featuring the Big Three; we can have novels featuring Jaina, Jag, and the rest of that generation; we can have novels featuring Ben and other Jedi his age; we can have an Allana and Chance team-up series (you know that would be fun); we can have novels about side characters in the vein of the X-Wing series. We can have all of these at the same time, just like it was in the Bantam era. The existence of a novel like Crucible does not mean we won’t also be getting all the novels we’ve been asking for. This was just one round of announcements; Pablo Hidalgo clarified that there will be more at Celebration VI.
To address the other concerns, this about Troy Denning personally: his sole standalone contribution to the SWEU is Tatooine Ghost, a novel I greatly enjoy and that was not merely another “apocalypse of the week.” As for the characters, there’s no doubt that Denning can write a good Han and Leia (especially when Allana isn’t around for them to be the worst parents in the galaxy). And while I’ve read concerns about the way Denning writes Luke (and have shared in those concerns many times), I think the tendency to write Luke as dark is steadily fading away – at least I hope it is.
Judging from the Comic Con announcements, are there reasons to expect that the status quo will change? Probably not. But, like Luke, I’m willing to be optimistic in this case, and wait for the Celebration VI announcements to really pass judgment. Expecting the worst never does any good, and there’s been enough doom and gloom in the EU of late that right now I just want to look for the positive in whatever we’re given. (Case in point: I loved that the Horn family was given such a prominent role in Apocalypse, even if I didn’t like the book as a whole.) Now, that’s not to say that I won’t be disappointed if we keep getting more of the same types of novels, and all the wonderful characters who’ve been shoved to the side and marginalized for so many years don’t get their time to shine. But I can’t deny that the idea of a Big Three novel gets me excited, no matter what the time frame. (My only complaint about Crucible, well, besides wishing it was being written by Matthew Stover? I wish Mara was still alive to join them. Cue one lone tear.)
I never thought I would ever write a blog post encouraging people to be optimistic in regards to yet another Troy Denning book, but here I am. I’m not saying you have to like the book, or even that you have to read it. You’ll definitely be hearing my complaints if the novel is typical of Denning’s recent works. But outside the megaseries format, and focusing on just a few characters who I love – well, I’m willing to give him – and Crucible – a chance.