The stories behind the stories

Star Wars: “Bottleneck”

“This is a military operation, in conjunction with the ISB. It is definitely not — what was your term? — your department.” — Tarkin, to Vidian

Star Wars: Bottleneck
Published in Star Wars: The Rise of the Empire

Count Vidian faces off against Grand Moff Tarkin in this short story merging the worlds of Star Wars: Tarkin and Star Wars: A New Dawn!
Published by Random House/Del Rey • October 6, 2015
Written by John Jackson Miller

First appeared with stories by James Luceno, Melissa Scott, and Jason Fry

Edited by Shelly Shapiro, Tom Hoeler, and Erich Shoeneweiss

In early 2015, I was approached to provide a short story for Star Wars: Rise of the Empire, a “bind-up” combining the first two canon novels of 2014, my own New Dawn and James Luceno’s Tarkin. The idea was to provide a convenient catch-up for new readers in advance of Star Wars: A Force Awakens — and by adding three short stories (including ones by Jason Fry and Melissa Scott) there would be some new material as well.

I was offered the slot between the two novels, and thought it a great place to provide a prologue to A New Dawn. We see in that novel many of the reasons that the Emperor trusts Count Vidian to do his bidding; this story gives us both another chance to see that, and suggests more about how Vidian is seen by others in the Empire. It struck me that the Emperor would constantly promote rivalries between his underlings, knowing that the more they were fighting with each other, the less likely they would be to challenge his own power base in any way. Tarkin and Vidian seemed situated as natural enemies in that situation: Tarkin favoring the militarization of any industry he cared about, while Vidian would want to keep some operations independent, so long as they were effective.

The resulting story dealt with armor production, surely an industry both men would care about — and an easy concept for readers to consider. I was also able to work Rae Sloane into the story, which was another one of the goals of the book: to show a couple more of the steps in her career between her earliest moments in “Orientation” and her role in Star Wars: Aftermath.

The book released in the fall of 2015, when I was already hip-deep in writing the Star Trek: Prey trilogy; it was nice to have a Star Wars title out in that timeframe with some new material.

“I sense a bargain here, gentlemen.” — Emperor Palpatine

We learned about Vidian’s motivational holograms in the novel; it made sense that Tarkin would use them to find out more about the guy he was dealing with.

Everi Chalis was planted a name that would come up in the Star Wars: Battlefront – Twilight Company novel. The character had to be sent away in this story so as to remain blameless after Vidian’s duplicity is revealed there.

The Pell Baylo mention is a callback to “Orientation.”

Thetis Quelton makes a dramatic entrance, but more importantly it shows she’s interested in preserving the history of her world. She cares about something besides serving the Empire.

We see that Hera isn’t the only one nosing about into Count Vidian’s background. It seemed natural that someone line Tarkin would be thorough enough to do it. It also seemed certain that Tarkin would find Baron Danthe loathsome.

Would Tarkin have really allowed his troops to kill Vidian? Yes, likely so — that’s how sure he was of the Emperor’s support.

I had to study stormtrooper helmet construction to find where a pathogen could be introduced without setting off the sensors.

We see Vidian maneuvering here to get contol of Gorse, which he now sees he needs to do to fully erase his past. So in a sense, Tarkin sets off the chain of events that leads to A New Dawn.