A Padawan’s Journal, Entry #3: Hitting the (Star Wars) Books

swguide_jedi

The Star Wars Universe is really, really big. It contains thousands of alien species, a myriad technologies and philosophies, a chaos of critters, and a cast of characters whose stories have interwoven over many years and through dozens of books. Woven through it all like the background color of an immense tapestry is the Force, intangible, but with its own mysterious workings.

Faced with all of that, my first question was: how the heck do I navigate?

While picking my partner’s brains about the characters he created seemed reasonable, raising my hand every five minutes with basic questions like: “Uh … how fat can a Hutt get?” “Which alien species wears the gas mask?” and “What powers up a light saber?” … that just seemed like a good way to spoil a working partnership.

I considered my options: I could haunt the Star Wars forums under an alias and ask the fans leading questions. Hm. What if I got two different answers and started a flame war? Scratch that.

I could cull through Wookieepedia entries online. Wait. No way to know if that’s really canonical information or fannish extrapolation.

I consulted my partner, Michael. What did he use? Alas, Michael has been writing Star Wars novels for so long that most of the basics are written in the convolutions of his brain and viewable only from the inside.

I bleated at our editor for help and Del Rey sent me a box full of Guides to the Star Wars Galaxy. There were guides that pertained to alien species and the planets they hailed from. There were technology guides, a chronology, and even a historical guide to the interactions between Jedi and Sith replete with philosophical discussions of the nature of the Force. Beyond this, I had recourse to the official Star Wars site, including official blogs from folks at Lucasfilm, Ltd., and I had access to experts within the Del Rey / Lucasfilm team if I got really, really stuck. And of course, there are all the other Star Wars books, the contents of which have become a part of this multi-textured Universe.

All of this is invaluable, as is the most recent surprise addition to my personal Star Wars arsenal—a CD-ROM containing an official Star Wars encyclopedia that arrived in my mail box a while back. I quickly converted it to HTML and attached it to a simple menu so I can browse it and search it at will.

swguide_speciesHow do I use these resources? Well, let’s say I need to choose an alien character to play the part of a space pirate. I can check The Essential Guide to Alien Species to choose a being that has the right combination of characteristics to make it believable in such a role. I love Togrutans—they’re the cool looking red-skinned race with head tentacles sort of like the lekku of a Twi’lek, but as much as I’d love to write about Togrutan characters, the guide contains enough information for me to know that beings who prize unity and compassion and that like to go barefoot so they can stay literally “grounded,” are not good candidates for membership in a pirate crew.

Do I ever visit Wookieepedia or read the Star Wars forums? Sure. I like to stay in touch with the fans, for one thing—see what they’re talking about, and how they react to different plot elements, how they respond emotionally to the characters. (And I love hearing nice things about a book I’ve worked on J.) I’ve also found that Wookieepedia can be a good place to start research on some things—say I’ve got an idea for a weapon that has certain characteristics, but I’m not sure if it might not already exist. If I find it in Wookieepedia (with a name I can look up) and have seen that it’s part of fannish lore, I can direct my research to the proper guide or “expert” for more information.

And of course, I hope that as I go, I’ll become expert as well. That way, if they ever do a Star Wars version of Jeopardy, I’ll be ready to roll.

Visit my Bookshelf at the Book View Cafe.

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A Padawan’s Journal, Entry #3: Hitting the (Star Wars) Books — 4 Comments

  1. Wow, fascinating stuff, Maya! I believe that sometimes, we “experts” :p take all of the information that we love for granted, not realizing that it was given to us to cherish and enjoy by…people like you!

  2. A pirate Togruta would’ve been awesome!! It’s important to remember that those guides are mostly generalizations about the races, etc. Just because most Togrutas like to stay on the ground does not mean they all do. Example: Ahsoka Tano from the Clone Wars TV show. She seems to love flying, or at least has no problem with it.

    I’m almost kind of getting a bit sick of the stereotypes of same races always being chosen as “criminals”, etc. Like every Hutt is made a gangster or crimelord. Why?

    Stuff such as Ahsoka liking to fly makes her unique among her race, and isn’t that what we want to read about? The unique characters?

  3. To Qui-Gon Reborn: Thanks so much for the kind words! A writer’s work is pretty solitary at times and it’s nice to receive props from readers. I hope you continue to enjoy.

    To Mattr0polis: Like I said, I love Togrutans, but while the Guidelines aren’t exactly rules (as a pirate of note ironically said), the folks at Lucasfilm like us to stick as close to them as possible. (As do some of the fans.) But y’know what, since George obviously approved Ahsoka (as well as Mace Windu’s purple lightsaber) I gotta think some things are at least negotiable 🙂

    Thanks to both of you for taking the time to comment.

  4. Wookieepedia is fairly trustworthy; we strictly prohibit any fan-made information, i.e. “fanon.” The job of the wiki is to report on the Star Wars universe as it canonically is, not to make original contributions or even logical extrapolations.

    Every article has a list of the official works where the thing appeared, so that people can check it out for themselves. We also try to have internal citations on multi-source articles. Verification is still a good idea, but our information is quite reliable overall.

    Anyways, thanks for the behind the scenes perspective! Canon-minded folks like us always appreciate it when authors do the research well, and a big box of essential guides is a great way to go on that.