Every once in a while, even in the world of media tie-ins, I get to field questions that go beyond the expected “Do you like writing Star Wars novels?” “Which character is the most fun to write?”
I did several interviews lately in which the interviewers asked the unexpected in trying to dig down into the story within or behind the story. What this sort of question tells me is that I did something right. I got enough depth into the characters that the reader knew there was something going on underneath the story. Something that made the characters behave as they did.
When that happens, the question is not “Why did you write character X that way?” Or “why did you make character X do Y?” but, “What beliefs motivated character X to do Y?”
In a couple of recent interviews, the correspondents asked me about spiritual motivations. In this case…
To what extent did your personal beliefs shape the viewpoints of the characters?
I responded by speaking about the relationship of two of the protagonist’s companions and noted that we had intentionally cast one of them as what I would call his spiritual anchor. I believe, I said, that that people generally need that sort of anchor if they’re going to make it through hardship intact.
I’d go further. I think my writing partner Michael and I share a core belief that beings are interdependent—we are made to co-exist, to feed each others’ strengths and bolster each others’ weaknesses. That’s a realization that our protagonist, Jax Pavan, has to come to—the Force binds everything and everyone together … for a purpose. Chaos happens when that purpose is contravened.
Michael and I both are fascinated by the deep philosophical and, yes, spiritual issues that are inherent in the way the Force works in the Star Wars universe. We’re not alone in that. There’s been discussion, for example, around whether the Force actually possesses a dark side and a light side (as it’s commonly expressed) or whether the Force is benign (or neutral) and the darkness or light is in the heart of the adept. This is addressed in one of the Star Wars Essential Guides that LucasBooks and Del Rey jointly publish—the one on Jedi and Sith.
Naturally, this debate echoes similar philosophizing in the mundane world about the nature of good and evil and God and sentience and all of the complex, non-material aspects of life, such as “what does it mean to be human?”
I, personally, believe in a God and, in many ways, the Force is a good metaphor or mental model for That. Possibly that predisposes me to a belief that the Force is benign and that the darkness is within the individual Force-adept. I think Michael leans that way as well. BUT where the Galaxy Far, Far Away (GFFA) is concerned, this is a belief I have arrived at through the process of writing the books and being in Jax Pavan’s head … a lot.
In practice, this means that the nature of the Force is something we at least wanted Jax to contemplate. Even if he didn’t arrive at a conclusion, I think he had to consider it. He’s confronted over and over in THE LAST JEDI with the different ways that Force adepts conceptualize the Force—Jedi and Sith (as exemplified in their respective mantras), Gray Paladins and Dathomiri witches, Cephalons and Inquisitors. Even individual Force users relate to the Force differently—Jax visualizes ribbons light, Tesla sees it as a flow of water, etc.
Is the Force really a ribbon of light or water? No. So what is it?
I’m not sure even George Lucas knows.