When you write a Star Wars novel, people take note. Lots of people. In lots of different places both real and virtual.
The bookstores take note ‘cause that’s their business. Star Wars novels have a built-in readership and a shelf waiting for them in the major bookstores, the genre specialty stores, and convention vendors’ stalls.
The Star Wars fan sites also take note because they’re there to serve the fen (that’s the plural of “fan” in the SF community) and the fen want Star Wars novels.
The aforementioned fen, of course, also take note. I mentioned in a previous blog that the moment a new title is announced, they hit the Star Wars forums and bulletin boards and begin speculating about what’s going to happen and to whom and what plot threads may or may not be included in the new book.
When Star Wars: Shadow Games was announced (with the working title Holostar), the folks who’d been following Michael Reaves’s work in the Coruscant Nights series immediately wondered if it would use the same characters. Several of them expressed confidence that this would be the case, others sent prayers to the gods of sci-fi that this would be the case, others simply speculated that because Jax Pavan didn’t die at the end of Patterns of Force, the authors must have “plans” for him (indeed, we do, but more on that later). A great many readers expressed opinions about what they would or would not like to see in the new novel whether or not it featured any characters from Coruscant Nights.
In a way, this speculation is as much a review of past work as it is a wish for work to come. Loving the characters that Michael created in Coruscant Nights, readers wanted more. (“Please, sir,” says the fan-waif, “may we have more Jax Pavan?”) Or dissatisfied with a particular plot development, they hope they get less of it in the next work. (“Does Darth Vader have to turn up in every climactic scene?”)
As a writer I find this intensely interesting. I want to know what you, the reader, liked or didn’t like and to what degree. I want to know what you hope and fear (beyond that we won’t screw up the timeline.) and what your heart desires. This virtual chatter by readers helps me as a writer. It helps me reverse-engineer the success of a character or a group of characters, to see how their personalities are perceived and how their chemistry works (or doesn’t). And you know what? Ninety-nine percent of the time the reader will respond to a character pretty much as I did while I was writing about him or her. In fact, that is ever my wish for my readers—that you engage as much emotionally with the characters as I do. Some of you will, of course (and I truly love you) … and some won’t.
Well, those fen write reviews too. Oddly enough, those are the most verbose and detailed reviews. They tick off every perceived blunder, weakness, or departure from canon—real and imagined. What is truly fascinating to a writer—once we get past the weeping and gnashing of teeth—is when one reviewer gives us strokes for doing exquisitely what the next reviewer says we utterly failed to do. Which just goes to show ya . . . something.
Beyond growing a very thick hide (a Banta would be tickled to have this leather) I’ve learned some fascinating things from the fan forums. I’ve learned that some people prefer Jedi-free novels. Some want to see more of a particular character (more Han Solo!) or characters from a certain era or media type (more game spin-offs!). Others want to see books that contain none of the major characters (no Jar-Jar, please) and others that want to see none of those newfangled, made-up characters that we silly writers insist on putting into our books.
How seriously do we take these fen effusions? I will not tell you that they shape universes and destroy (virtual) lives, but they are an indicator of what elements readers are responding to and how strongly. Writers are human (though there are rumors about why you never see us in daylight), and we will probably always give more weight to positive reviews than to negative ones, though we take inspiration from both.
What I am most inspired by, though, is the mere fact that books and the characters in them can get so many people talking.
Keep up the chatter, dear fen!
Next time: Where’d He Come From? A Character is Born … Plus, a revelation about Holostar…
Read my fiction online at Book View Café—on Maya’s Bookshelf.