“We’re about to take another trip—all of us!” — Edell Vrai
Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith – The Collected Stories
My second Del Rey book, complete with a new novella, never before seen!
In early 2009 — just before plans to wrap up the fifty-issue run of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic firmed up — I had already been asked to participate in a new kind of project. The Fate of the Jedi novel series by Aaron Allston, Troy Denning, and Christie Golden would span nine books and tell of Luke Skywalker’s conflict with a lost tribe of Sith warriors, stranded for generations on the primitive planet Kesh. I was asked to develop how those characters founded their civilization with a series of stories for e-book release in advance of each of the novels.
Those eight releases came out over the course of three years, from 2009 to 2012 — and while they skipped years and sometimes centuries at a time in true Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation style, they formed a single narrative. You can read my notes on the individual stories here:
As the individual stories released, the number one question that we continued to field was, “When will the stories be collected for print?” While the original stories were free online during the promotion, there was still an interest in many in having them all together. So in January 2011, right after the release of my Knight Errant novel, Del Rey announced a collected edition for 2012. I agreed to write a new novella to follow the end of the eighth story, Pandemonium — which would add more than 100 pages of new material. So the notes that follow are mostly about that, the previous episodes having already been covered in the links above.
Pandemonium is about the Sith invasion — and then, deception — of an entirely new continent of Keshiri natives. Only these natives would be of a different kind: completely awake to and aware of the Sith menace that lie over the oceans. They would have prepared. And while the Sith would have had 25 years simply to try to find the new world, those on the new continent would have had 2,000 years — thanks to a warning received there from a character in one of the earlier stories.
Now, all along, I had been thinking about colonial powers’ interactions with native cultures; we saw some of that in the Sith’s seduction of the Keshiri on Keshtah. This time, the thought experiment was different. What if the natives of the New World on Earth had received plenty of warning about the conquistadors? And what if, instead of being fractious tribal societies, they had been organized as the Keshiri were? The result might well be what we saw on Alanciar.
The name Alanciar — and its mythic great bird — I had gotten from Christie Golden‘s final Fate of the Jedi book. Alanciar I saw as living in a permanent kind of London Blitz — always under blackout, always fearing an existential threat. It’s a tough place to live. And that allowed me to bring in a different kind of story: that of a frustrated bureaucrat, seeking a forbidden love as escape from the drudgery of life.
Which brings us to the semaphore system that Alanciar has. A confession: several years ago, before my time on Star Wars comics began, I successfully pitched a concept to the Star Trek e-book series, S.C.E. (Starfleet Corps of Engineers). That story included a primitive planet with an analog internet in the form of semaphore systems, not too unlike what we see here. As it happened, before that project went to contract, the entire line was canceled, and my first prose ebook would need to wait several years. But it’s ironic that I was able to use the same idea to top off a Star Wars ebook collection!
Quarra and Jogan were introduced as would-be lovers, and anyone reading the story wondering if they’d wandered into a potboiler romance could be forgiven. Of course, as we see, it was all about timing — the worst possible timing. When else should the one thing Quarra’s been preparing for all her life happen, but right at the one moment when she didn’t want anyone to know where she was?
Edell had been seen briefly in Secrets, and we knew that while he had been aligned with those wanting to destroy the Temple, we also knew that he was industrious and had Hilts’s favor. Edell, in fact, is the first to nominate Hilts as Grand Lord. So he would have the mission of finding a way to Alanciar — and the airships seemed to me to be a technology that would be within the reach of the Lost Tribe. Of course, it also has to come with enough drawbacks that the tech won’t be around by the time of the Fate of the Jedi novels. We see those drawbacks here.
I tried to play the first encounter honestly, given what these characters knew about each other. The Alanciari obviously knew much more, including the language of the Sith; it had, in fact, become their own, in preparation for a day like this. While it’s not entirely obvious why they’d do that, we’d already gone through the language difficulty issue back in Skyborn, and I wanted to short-circuit that. Itmight well be that what the Sith were speaking seemed more natural and useful as a language to the Alanciari, as well.
From the first meeting, we get a journey. Here, you may not see the rigid timing behind the scenes, but it’s there. I had to make sure that Edell and Quarra’s journey to Sus’mintri on foot and by cart took enough time for (a) Bentado to receive the initial thought-signal, travel to Alanciar, get his clock cleaned, and then take over the nerve center; and for (b) Edell’s lieutenant to sail around the world and warn Hilts, who would arrange the deception for Jogan and then leave with him for Alanciar. Timeline watchers may be frustrated that I built in some fuzzy segments in there — but it’s necessary to make the whole thing work.
And it is quite a deception, both on Bentado’s side, and then on Hilts’s. Bentado puts his finger on the problem that Sith have in ruling everything: getting others to go along. What Bentado does with the signal system is pretty close to what Palpatine eventually does with the Republic: he tricks others into doing his bidding. Hilts’s gambit, meanwhile, is rooted in sheer imagination — drawing on what he has learned about the Alanciari from their history book. And who else to read history but Hilts?
Across it all, we have two women’s takes on relationships and their decisions influencing Quarra: Adari and Ori. It’s important that we see that discontent and ambition isn’t just limited to the human Sith — and it’s also important that we see that even a human Sith can step beyond those things. The Sith are opportunistic by nature, and hold out opportunities as temptations for others who they mean to use; in the end, Quarra has to deny the opportunity that Adari took in order to save herself. But as Ori warned us — that doesn’t necessarily mean a happy ending. And while I was a little concerned that the story ended on a downbeat note, for a Keshiri who knew what was going on, it could end no other way.
A fun bonus came in the maps that we were able to include in this edition. As time had gone on, I had scratched out my own maps of the main continent in the early stories — and a map of Alanciar was absolutely necessary to me in plotting the advance of the attackers and the travels of Edell and Quarra. Note that we placed the second map before the opening of Pandemonium. This was necessary, in order to hide the secret of the continent, and also so as not to telegraph the existence of the land’s defenses.
The idea of the maps was warmly accepted by editor Shelly Shapiro — and it would be some time before I would realize a possible reason: Shelly was the artist responsible for drawing many maps for publications for the J.R.R. Tolkien estate!
The Collected Stories was originally slated to be released as a mass market paperback, but retailer faith in the project was strong, resulting in the mid-course change to trade paperback size. The faith appears to have been well-founded, as the book went to a second and then a third printing within the first two weeks of release.
I got the chance to make some proofreading changes to the earlier stories — which had been written years apart in some cases — and thus, the completed work flows together better. A few geographical things were altered to make the map make sense.
Also, while the book was in its proofreading stages, I got approval to write Spiral, the Lost Tribe of the Sith comics storyline, for Dark Horse. Set about a year after Pandemonium, it picks up with the lives of several of the characters. Because it was coming together while the book was being proofread, we were able to plant some hints about it. Check it out!
“You don’t understand us at all. You made us like this.” — Quarra
Note: There’s a lot more trivia in the story links, above.
The Lillia, the Candra, and the Dann Itra are, of course, a send-up of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
We learn a bit more about what happened in Ori Kitai’s time from the description of Candra. From Edell’s memory, we learn Candra did become Grand Lord — and that she got rid of the zoo she’d been forced to work in.
As I understand it from the Hindenburg disaster, simply puncturing a hydrogen envelope alone is not necessarily enough to cause an explosion. Hence, we had our fiery arrows.
The map location Eorm is seen in the comics, as is the Sessal Spire.
I do very little in the way of Tuckerisms — and that is how licensors like it — but there are a couple of small ones here. My hometown Memphis Star Wars Fan Club, Suspicious Mind Trick, inspired the name Sus’mintri — and on the map, we see Roston, for Sue Rostoni.
Pandemonium was also the name of the project run by Lord Odion in Star Wars: Knight Errant – Escape, which had begun releasing a couple of months earlier. As we see from the story, that was a red herring. (I do those!)
Note that Edell’s bad dream opens almost identically with the real-life return to see Hilts, one of my favorite characters.
Poor Squab was going to be Squib before my wife told me there was a Harry Potter character or something by that name. I’ll take her word for it. (Seriously, what are the chances for confusion?)
As many have noted, all the stories in Lost Tribe of the Sith have, thus far, had a P-S-P-S alternating title initial pattern. The reason harkens back to the Yaru Korsin’s secret postscript to his people. Or is that “postscript secret?”
The book had been reprinted 14 times by the fall of 2020, and remained regularly in the top 100 science fiction anthologies on Amazon for most of its first four years. Its eighth printing appears to have been the first Star Wars book released with the “Legends” banner. Prices on the U.S. edition changed several times across all those printings.