The stories behind the stories

Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith Part 7: Pantheon

“We don’t need any more omens, Jaye.” — Varner Hilts

Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith Part 7: Pantheon

 My seventh Star Wars short story for Del Rey finds the Sith culture on Kesh teetering on the edge…
Published by Random House/Del Rey • July 18, 2011
Written by John Jackson Miller

Cover by Dave Stevenson

Edited by Shelly Shapiro

I’ll admit something here: Varner Hilts is an absolute hoot to write. Well, that’s actually two admissions, as I have just copped to using the word “hoot” to describe something. But the senior citizen Hilts and his timid mathemetician underling were still marvelous fun to have as protagonists, and it’s partly the short-story format that led me to choose them. It’s a little easier to conceive of a bumbling, bookish pair as your action heroes for a couple of short stories; a whole novel would be a lot more challenging. (But it’s an interesting idea!) He’s my favorite character from the whole Lost Tribe series, which is part of why I later brought him into the comics with Spiral.

Pantheon brings the series fully into the “dark ages” I knew had to be in the Lost Tribe’s history somewhere. The Ori/Jelph moment, so personally serious for them, turned out to be the tipping point for a thousand years of chaos. Again, the desert-island dynamic of the Tribe made it possible to leap a lot of time in a short span, without worrying about impacting other storytellers working in between: as the only author working Kesh before Fate of the Jedi, I felt much more freedom to define large areas of time. There’s nothing that says future stories can’t be set in the “Time of the Rot” on Kesh — but out grand tour of Kesh’s history required us to move on.

I envisioned that the Sith of Kesh would be pretty tied up in traditions, anniversaries, and rituals, at least in the early years; only the last vestiges live on in 3000 B.B.Y., and Hilts really is one of the few left who cares about all of it. Everyone else is obsessed with whatever particular fragment of history his or her faction has decided to draw upon for political support. I imagined that the difficulty in getting a bunch of selfish Sith to go along together for any purpose had to have gotten so extreme, that no one could just declare their own cult of personality any more. They’d choose something else as their rallying point: in this case, figures from their collective legends.

The result was a replay of some of the issues of the first four stories, through a flawed prism: people either didn’t know or chose not to know a lot of the facts. Of course, the big unknown was shared by all: as we learn in this story, no one remembered anything about Naga Sadow being nonhuman, or the Omen crew being anything less than masters of the universe. It struck me that the truth, once known, would have a shattering effect on what remained of Sith culture: narcissistic to the extreme, the Tribe would have a hard time handling the true facts of their origin.

The resulting story was one of the most fun in the series for me, and one of only two cliffhanger episodes in the e-book line.

“It means we’re not just the Tribe. We’re a Lost Tribe.” — Varner Hilts

This episode released as I was heading to Comic-Con International: San Diego in 2011, there to promote that year’s release from me, the Knight Errant novel.

There are a lot of reasons to pick a name; Hilts’ surname seemingly refers to the handle of a lightsaber, which would be a commonplace item for the Tribe. But I admit I selected Hilts’s name in part because of the “Wilts” joke Iliana makes. She clearly thinks he’s far past whatever usefulness he ever had. (A very cool Hilts character, of course, is to be found in The Great Escape.)

The Fifty-seven had been introduced earlier in Paragon. Just asHeinz has 57 varieties, Force 57 has a lot of different types of folks who don’t fit into the beautiful-people culture of the Tribe.

For Korsin Bentado, I imagined the surly voice of Keanu Reaves as Don John back in Much Ado About Nothing. I imagine a long conversation with the Korsinites would have anyone wanting to flee into the Matrix.

The Sandpipes were a fun story device, as they gave Hilts the chance to change the game by using his wits. (Or, rather, Jaye’s wits.) The calculations do seem to work out, though I wound up returning to my big calculator again and again.

Likewise, the 25-year and 79-year fete cycles worked out perfectly, as well. It’s a sign!

And speaking of signs, we finally see where one of our other devices — the P-S-P-S alteration in story title initials — was leading. There’s a postscript coming. And maybe more than that…

The original eBook included a preview of Christie Golden‘s novel, Fate of the Jedi: Ascension.

Latest edition

Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith – The Collected Stories

Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith – The Collected Stories

Five thousand years ago. After a Jedi ambush, the Sith mining ship Omen lies wrecked on a remote, unknown planet. Its commander, Yaru Korsin, battles the bloodshed of a mutinous faction led by his own brother. Marooned and facing death, the Sith crew have no choice but to venture into their desolate surroundings. They face any number of brutal challenges—vicious predators, lethal plagues, tribal people who worship vengeful gods—and like true Sith warriors, counter them with the dark side of the Force.

The struggles are just beginning for the proud, uncompromising Sith, driven as they are to rule at all costs. They will vanquish the primitive natives, and they will find their way back to their true destiny as rulers of the galaxy. But as their legacy grows over thousands of years, the Sith ultimately find themselves tested by the most dangerous threat of all: the enemy within.

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