Sunday, October 31, 2010

EU Writing Rules #2

Here is the EU Writing Rule #2

Remember That You are Writing for Star Wars

This is a simple concept. Star Wars is a genre of story unto itself. It is action-serial pulp set in Space. It is adventure with a bit of romance and humor tossed in. There is a certain feel that a good Star Wars story should have.

What happens is sometimes people tend to view Star Wars more as a "Universe" where a bunch of stories can take place - and you can set stories in the Star Wars Universe that don't feel like Star Wars. Some of the early Bantam novels fell into this trap - you had some very witty and engaging Science Fiction novels that explore some great themes -- but stopped feeling like Star Wars.

Now, of course, there are places where other ideas merge into Star Wars. The very first scene of Star Wars plays off of classic Sci-Fi (that Star Destroyer is jaw dropping). The Cave Scene of Empire is right out of a psychological thriller. However, these are flavors - not the main focus.

Keep your Star Wars feeling like Star Wars -- not like some other sort of Novel with a bit of Star Wars sprinkled on it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

EU Writing Rules #1

I am going to randomly work up a list of rules for people who are going to be writing for the Expanded Universe.


I'm sure all the muckity-mucks are paying close attention and I'll be getting an excellent check from Sue Rostini soon.


(Sigh - if I did, it would probably just be in Imperial Credits.)

At any rate, here it is, Rule Number 1 of Writing Star Wars.

Bigger is NOT Better - or in other words, Don't try to pull trump on George Lucas.

One of the major flaws of many Star Wars books is that instead of just providing new situations for characters to have exciting adventures in, they will try to bring out something bigger and badder. These fail. Horribly.

For example, consider the " Sun Crusher" - the worst superweapon plot device ever. So, George Lucas gives us the big, giant Death Star with the power to destroy a planet (shame it has a design flaw). In the Jedi Academy Triology, Kevin Anderson gives us the Sun Crusher, which is:

A. More powerful than the Death Star (it can make Stars go Nova)
B. Easier to use than the Death Star (only needs a single pilot)
C. Is impossible to destroy with no flaws (Quantum armor? Really? Really really?)

What this does is sort of just make the whole thing seem ridiculous. The concept of Star Wars already requires some suspension of disbelief -- when you violate the given rules of the universe beyond the established ideas, it just make things seem so much more ridiculous - sort of like an unintentional, mood shattering argument to absurdity.

Of course, this doesn't just happen with weapons - it can happen with the Villains, where you have villains that are just superized versions of their predecessors - so we'll have Lord Nyax who is supposed to be a super Vader... This just doesn't work. Really, it doesn't. Make a new villain. They are wicked and evil - go have wicked and evil fun with them.

And the worst place this happens is with the heroics of the heroes. See, this is the big problem - we see our heroes do neat things, and sadly, some authors seem to think, "Ah, they can do neat stuff, therefore they are heroes. I will make them better heroes by having them do even more teh aewsoemest stuff." Heroes in Star Wars aren't heroes because they have power, they are heroes because they use whatever talents or skills they have in helping and defending others. If you want to make them seem heroic, don't whip out a new power or feat, have them find creative ways to use their powers to help.

This is one of the reasons why I like the Timothy Zahn novels. He tries to fix the overpowering of Luke in his Hand of Thrawn Duology by forcing Luke to power down... of course, then we have just a few years later Troy Denning's Dark Nest Trilogy basically being a giant "I'm Luke Skywalker, and I can do ANYTHING" fest. And masses of bugs, to boot.

Sometimes we are slow to learn the rules -- I knew I should have written and posted these 9 years ago, but I figured we would all just learn from Zahn, the dean of Star Wars authors. Oh well.

So there it is - don't just try to build up something bigger, or meaner, or more cool and powerful. That's not the essence of Star Wars.

Oh, and as an addendum, since I'm re-reading Bantam books. Listen, Mara Jade IS the ideal romantic interest for Luke. What in the world were all these authors trying to do to make better ones? I mean, I read about them, and they are just. . . why, why would Luke settle for gals like... them when Mara is waiting for him. Thank you, thank Mr. Zahn for just putting the two together and being done with it.

Oh, what - they did WHAT to Mara? And they brought back how many old girlfriends? Really? Where did they dig up these old fossils, I mean. . . ugh.

Please, please authors - stop trying to violate Rule Number one. Don't try to top Lucas (and don't try to top Zahn either).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Have a New Trilogy

So there are the rumors going around that Lucas is working on a new trilogy, and of note, it would involve original characters. Rumors of Luke, Han, and Leia running around all grey haired and wondrous. So, is it a good idea? Sure! And here they are, the top ten reasons why we should be eager to have a New Star Wars Trilogy.

10. We'll get to see if Luke successfully moves from young and whiney to old and crotchey. That's character development.

9. More Poodoo jokes! Um, er something like that.

8. As Lucas has no problem ignoring EU canon, we might actually have Mara Jade returned to us, and everything from "Legacy of the Force" onwards can just be a bad, bad cave visit for Jacen Solo.

7. It might keep Lucas from helping Spielberg do any more damage to the Indiana Jones series.

6. We could pretend that Han simply doesn't "remember" shooting first because of the onset of dementia.

5. Maybe the plot will involve the total destruction of Mandalorian culture... oh, wait, that's already happened.

4. As Carrie Fisher has Hollywood Street-cred as a writer, she would be able to smack Lucas around when he writes just horrid lines - and he might listen.

3. It will bankroll the TV series. . . sure it will.

2. Maybe a really good looking Jaina will find her mom's old outfits? New generations of single males could be made life long fans.

1. Dude, it's Star Wars on the big screen. There would be lightsabers and Han - we'd go.

Review - The Force Unleashed II

"The Force Unleashed II" - by Sean Williams - October 2010

The most recent Star Wars Novel, The Force Unleashed II is a tie in for the new Star Wars action game for console and PC. Now, as such, some of this means there are things that are outside of the author's hands. However, we are still going to review the book as his - perhaps much to his chagrin.

1. The EU - The Writing. This book is actually well written. William's verbal pacing, his grammar, his structure, these are all very well done, some of the most adept in the Expanded Universe. The individual pages were easy to read. (Please note: this is intended to be high praise, because it is going to get ugly, through no fault of William's own).

2. The Bad - This is a setting issue - but the idea of having Kota be this main general in the Rebellion is... well, dumb. Leia et al have no business having any Jedi Generals - and especially rogue Jedi Generals. This is just bad form. It would be acceptable except. . .

3. The Ugly - What's the Plot for an entire Novel, again? Seriously, the plot is. . . lacking. There is only one stream (which is understandable for a video game adaptation), but there are no... twists. And it's a shame - there could have been stages - Who am I, why am I here, ah, let me go rescue the girl. It's nothing but "I should rescue the girl" with no surprises, no jumps, no questions answered. In fact, the best question is one that is unanswered. . .

4. The Ugly - The ending fits cannon how? Seriously. The "happy ending" for the game gives something that would have rocked the entirety of the Universe. Okay - so how does this get fixed. . . how do we get from this ending point to where we know things are in just a year or so of story time? Now, that could be an interesting story (in fact, it almost might be something fun to write for that National Write a Novel Month thing in November - if you are so inclined or have good ideas how to apply an "I, Jedi" fix to this, I highly encourage you to do so).

I feel bad for these complaints because they are completely out of William's hands. It's almost as though we should just lambaste Lucas Arts for following up a game with such a wondrous story with such a... pre-Christmas money grab?

Grade - C-. It should be split - Wililams gets a B+ and Lucas Arts gets a D-. But I can't. Thus, I don't. Oh well.

Review - The Courtship of Princess Leia

"The Courtship of Princess Leia" - Dave Wolverton - May 1994

So I decided to reread for the first time in at least 4 years "The Courtship of Princess Leia" by Dave Wolverton (note: a great way to keep track of the last time you read your Star Wars novels - go to the coffee shop and use the receipt as the bookmark).

Here are the thoughts.

1. EU - It's fun. Generally. You have a bit of action and adventure, some romance (actually, the development of the relationship between Isolder and Teneniel Djo is one of the better ones in the entire EU - probably because it wasn't an author trying to create the "perfect" companion for a known character. That happens once and only once - all hail Mara Jade!), some action. I enjoyed reading it. It moved well.

2. EU - It has a good impact upon the EU. The Hapans are an interesting and beneficial culture. In fact, I don't think there has been another culture created in the EU that has has as much impact - and it works. The basis for why the culture is the way it is is presented here in a simple, understandable way. A bit of change is introduced to the culture as well - so future authors can easily grasp what should have been, but also have a ready reason to present changes, nuances, or details that they uniquely can bring in.

3. Bad - Now, as you may note, I am a Lutheran Pastor. I love theology. I have no problem with people bringing in some theological overtones into the Star Wars Universe. The Jedi are warrior monks, mystics - there will be some. The light and dark side and redemption are major themes - in fact when there is no religious/spiritual aspect something is lacking. However, while I appreciate the fact that Wolverton treats Luke like a literary Christ-figure, it does get laid on a touch thick, especially with an almost death and resurrection scene (I half expected Luke to tell Isolder to pick up his cross and follow him when they start out across Dathomir). However, what makes this egregious is the utter hippie bend that Luke goes on - we have to save the worms.... the worms. Maybe it's more Buddhist than hippie, but it seemed out of place (or maybe it just sits worse now that I've had the misfortune of seeing "Seven Years in a Movie Theater" - I mean "Seven Years in Tibet" and that part gave me flash backs) and not quite appropriate. Besides - the basic teaching of Yoda is that the force is all around...even in the inanimate. Hence, the "striking" realization that all life is part of the force... shouldn't be all that striking to Luke.

4. Bad The scale of wealth. I'm not a fan of bling. We know the Main Characters of Star Wars are awesome and cool - let Leia get a few rainbow jewels, not buckets and buckets of them. Sheesh. Too over the Top.

5. Ugly Nothing. Really - nothing ugly here. That's a good thing.

I give this book a B. I was tempted to give is a B- (which isn't bad - it's good, I'm going to be a tough grader), but the positive impact of Hapan culture upon the EU brings it up higher. Our first introduction to them brings with it some nostalgia. If you haven't read this one in a while, I recommend it. It's worth pulling off the shelf again.

Oh Great, another one

Yes, yes, yes, this is another Star Wars Blog. However, what this blog will exist for will be primarily for the continuing review the Exapnded Universe of Star Wars, random Star Wars Humor, and perhaps the occassional snarky comment.

So, what should the potential reader know about me and my approach?

1. The Top Authors are Zahn, Stackpole, and Aliston. Why are these the top authors -- because their books are structurally sound, contain interesting characters that can lead scenes (yet the book doesn't become a "hey, look at my new awesome character") yet also blend with original characters (or ones crafted by the other authors), and most importantly - their books feel like Star Wars. They are pulp action in Space with humor and adventure. These are the best authors.

2. Troy Denning is not generally thought of positively. Why? He has little concept of a heroic death, yet people seem to die around him all the time. For exampe, his entry into the EU gets the dramatic death of a character... and he turns it into a depression/despair induced suicide attempt that doesn't in fact rescue anyone because the rest of the group ends up fighting over his body. Worst heroic death ever.

3. Kevin Anderson the author is mocked mercilessly, although Keven Anderson the editor is highly praised.

4. While the Bataam era books tend to have some very stupid events/characters in them, they are at least well written, even if not always up to the way the Universe should feel. But then, the odd things don't tend to have lasting impact or are fixed (think "I, Jedi" fixing the Jedi Academy Trilogy). The Del Rey era books tend to feel more consistently like Star Wars, but when they do something stupid, it lasts for books, and books, and books (Daala running the galaxy... as a good thing? Really? Oh, and this becomes the basis for the next 9 book series? Really?)

5. Above all things, Star Wars should be fun.