“What do you suicide fliers do, drink your way from port to port? Did you wander off from your keeper?” — Rae Sloane, to Kanan Jarrus
Star Wars: A New Dawn
The first book done in conjunction with the Lucasfilm Story Group, A New Dawn launches a new era in Star Wars fiction!
Star Wars: A New Dawn, my first Star Wars book since Kenobi, is set several years after Star Wars: Episode III — and several years before the Disney XD network’s animated television series Star Wars: Rebels. As you can see from the cover, two of the main characters of that series, Kanan and Hera, have major roles in the book.
This is the first novel integrating input from the Lucasfilm Story Group, which manages story concepts across all media, and so in addition to working with Random House’s team I both got inspiration and feedback from the series’ executive producers, Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, and Greg Weisman, as well as Pablo Hidalgo, Rayne Roberts, Jennifer Heddle, and Leland Chee.
A New Dawn is a rollicking adventure set in the darkest days of the galaxy, when even the thought of organized resistance to the Empire seems an impossible fantasy. But as our characters find, one doesn’t always get to decide when the best time is to act. And set as it is during the Imperial period, A New Dawn gave me the opportunity to explore a variety of topics, including how the Empire manages to grow so quickly, injecting itself into all spheres of individual life.
“You can’t always guess what role someone will play.” — Hera Syndulla
FIRST STEPS INTO A LARGER WORLD
The first rays of A New Dawn (pun intended) started to appear in the fall of 2013. My Star Wars: Kenobi novel had been released in late summer, becoming a bestseller; promoting the book had commanded a lot of my attention in the fall. New York Comic-Con, where I was to sign for Random House/Del Rey, was near the end of that promotional phase; afterward, I would be getting back to writing — once I figured out what I wanted to write next.
At Comic-Con, one of my editors then at Random House, Frank Parisi, suggested to me that Del Rey was considering a number of Star Wars projects that focused on the villains; these are the books, I believe, that later became James Luceno‘s Tarkin and Paul Kemp‘s Lords of the Sith. That left an opening for a possible book in a more heroic vein.
At the same time, Del Rey was looking for ways to possibly tie into the Rebels TV series, slated to launch in the fall of 2014. Lucasfilm was just beginning to promote the series — at that very convention, I attended Pablo Hidalgo’s panel showing the first glimpses of Lothal and some of the other elements from the show. It looked very interesting to me — especially all the nods to the past, like the use of the Kenner Troop Transport and smaller-winged TIE Fighters — and so I was glad when editor Shelly Shapiro asked me to propose something for it.
Since there was a television series in production that the work would tie into, I expected that this would be a somewhat different process than I had been accustomed to. A new body, the Lucasfilm Story Group, had been created to coordinate and guide the development of the storyline for the Star Wars universe across all media — including films, television, novels, and comics; and while I would still work with my editors at Random House and with Jennifer Heddle, senior fiction editor at the studio, the Story Group would also provide input and suggestions. Further, I’d get feedback from the executive producers of the TV series: Dave Filoni, Greg Weisman, and Simon Kinberg. The goal would be to make sure that important things happened in my novel. It would substantially advance the story of the Rebels characters; it wouldn’t be a side-trip, but rather would show a key moment.
So I received information about what Rebels was about and what was in the works from the Story Group, and was given some suggestions for what those key moments might be. After brief consideration of doing something contemporaneous with the series, it was decided that the best time to set any story would be several years before the TV show. I was really happy with that, as it would give me room to maneuver and would minimize the odds that I might depict something that collided with something happening on screen. I had made the same decision with Knights of the Old Republic, setting the comics series several years before the computer game, and that had worked well.
And so the story-crafting began…
“She’s no good for you, of course, but I am a man of means. When do I meet this angel?” — Okadiah Garson
THE BEE THAT STINGS IN THE NIGHT
Others’ mileage may vary, but I often find plotting to be the least enjoyable part of writing. Much of the alchemy that makes a story work is found in the dialogue, in the actual telling of events — such that a synopsis doesn’t always capture where you’re headed.
For example, I knew what I wanted Annileen Calwell’s conversations with Obi-Wan Kenobi to sound like, well before I had all the beats figured out for the Kenobi novel. It usually takes a few rounds of plotting before you zero in on a summary that completely conveys what you’re trying to do. (In the case of Kenobi, it took five plot versions across six years!) While taking much less time, the same wound up being true of A New Dawn — and in another common dynamic, I find I barely remember some of the earliest versions, even when I go back and look at my notes. Once you’ve settled on a story path and lived with it for a year or more, you tend to blank on what you didn’t use.
But what I do know, looking back, is that one of the earliest concepts was what I called the “Not Ready For Rebellion” approach: a story which dropped Kanan, one of the the central figures of Rebels, in the middle of a group of loose cannons, striking the Empire without any plan or real hope of success. From one of my earliest messages:
“I really like the notion of a group of characters — a real mixed bag, folks with wildly different backgrounds and skills, who’ve all lost their jobs in different ways due to Imperial shenanigans — who’ve all searched futilely for small ways to strike back on their own, and who collide with each other and eventually join forces for real action.
And in the middle of it all is Kanan who’s both trying to discourage these people from doing anything stupid — and also having to play guardian angel when they do try something stupid.”
And while the plot went through several different iterations from there, including some versions where Kanan and Hera served more as peripheral figures acting as catalysts to the action, that basic formulation is what reached the page. Learning that we could show Kanan and Hera’s first meeting opened up many more possibilities, and Hera was logically able to take on a lot of the work discouraging our rogue elements from going too far. And having to watch out for the mad acts of their associates would put Kanan and Hera on the same side — if for different reasons. Hera knows it’s too soon for open rebellion; Kanan simply wants to avoid the Empire and anything related to his former life.
My book took place too early in the timeline for it to depict any kind of major victory against the Empire, but that didn’t pose a storytelling problem. Instead, I realized that the heroes could strike a blow against the Empire — so long as the Empire never knew it was struck! The bee could sting, so long as the pain was attributed to something else. It was just a matter of finding the proper mechanism.
“Who wants to download Vidian’s brain?” — Kanan Jarrus
GORSE AND CYNDA, NIGHT AND DAY
Gorse and Cynda — the dreary, dark factory world and its valuable moon — provided the mechanism, along with the freakishly efficient Imperial operator who had been appointed to exploit them. Because of when the book was set, there likely wouldn’t be any gargantuan death device that the renegades could thwart. But there could be destruction on a planetary scale that came from Imperial production methods.
I liked the idea of focusing on a narrow sliver of the Empire, and showing what the lives of its subjects were like in this time period; it recalled my grad school studies in Russian history. At the cost of millions of lives, the Soviet Union had transformed Russia from an agrarian economy to an industrial one with a massive military in about the same amount of time that Palpatine ruled the Empire. I expected that there would be winners and losers in these early days of the change, as well as a number of ordinary people who hadn’t yet tripped to what the Empire was all about. Gorse and Cynda would produce nothing special — just one more substance used by the war machine — but that would underline that there were thousands of other worlds under the same increasing pressure. Its fate would stand for all the others.
I probably spent more time thinking through the orbital dynamics of the Gorse-Cynda system than anything else. I had read a lot about what would happen to the Earth if the Moon got too close, and I needed what happened with Cynda to be even worse, transpiring over a short enough period of time that people wouldn’t be able to evacuate the planet below. Consulting Ken Barnes, my partner in fanzine-publishing crime from high school and my go-to person on astrophysical what-ifs, I settled on tidally locking Gorse to its sun, giving us the permanent nightside. The masses of the two bodies would be similar, as gravity is about the same on each — but Cynda would be smaller and densely compacted (and geologically prone to breaking apart, should pressure be exerted in the right places). And Cynda’s orbit would be highly elliptical, making what happens when it shatters more likely to impact Gorse.
I was pretty sure that the science would ultimately hit a wall at some point — but, then again, this is a realm where there’s sound in space and where starships exhibit no effects from inertia. It’s really just a matter of getting close enough without ruining the suspension of disbelief.
Cynda’s physical setting was similar to one I had imagined years earlier, back when I was developing the Knight Errant: Aflame series for Dark Horse. Inspired by the Cueva de los Cristales in Mexico, I had imagined a giant cavern of crystal stalagmites and stalactites as the location of the death of Kerra Holt’s master. That story eventually went a different direction — the baradium mines of Chelloa were underground in the Aflame storyline, and we never saw inside them. But now I imagined an entire moon with one cavern after another: a beautiful retreat, damaged by the mining of the Empire. That would set off our first dissident, Skelly.
“Forget the old way!” — Count Vidian
Skelly existed, in one form or another, in every version of the plot, and in all versions he was a veteran of the Clone Wars. Skelly was a Klatooinian in some drafts, but later on became a pugnacious human. My thinking is that he still looked Klatooinian nevertheless — rough-skinned and with a permanently harsh expression. I have to say that by the midsection of the book — after he’s been shown as correct, and he’s medicating to stay mobile — he became one of my favorite characters.
While Zaluna‘s story never changed — she was always someone working on the inside of Imperial surveillance — the character herself evolved as the drafts progressed. Initially she was a twenty-year veteran, but an operator rather than a supervisor; she was seatmates with Hetto. The surveillance team was always Myder’s Mynocks, as Myder was at that time the name of the older, female supervisor — but the early Zaluna was quite timid and nervous. But Zaluna needed to be a lot braver for the story to work, so she became the older supervisor, gaining the surname of the original.
There were several characters who are clearly, from description, nonhuman — but we didn’t name their species on the page. There are many situations where it’s better to be matter-of-fact about how cosmopolitan the galaxy is; Skelly’s supervisor is a Muun and young Caleb Dume’s sparring partner is a Zeltron, but those were both cases where the facts of the characters’ species were not really on the point-of-view character’s mind. You don’t really want to mention something if you’re not prepared to break action and get into detail. (A separate case was Zaluna’s friend, Hetto, who began in my mind as a Rodian. Realizing that the character Tseebo was coming in the television series, I decided I didn’t want to imply any connection.)
Okadiah Garson was, at all times, a hoot to write. I hated to do him in, but these things happen.
Speaking of, one of the biggest changes from the first draft involved the character of Lal Grallik’s security chief husband, a simple-minded sort who was devoted to his wife and job. It was always the idea that he would make a charging attack against Vidian at the Imperial Base, seeking justice for Lal; in so doing, he would provide Kanan and Hera their chance to escape with Skelly. But he initially had a much larger role beyond that, appearing as a point-of-view character and surviving to join Kanan and Hera on their adventures. There would have been five attacking the Forager, not four.
It felt like that made for one too many point-of-view characters, however — and while Lal’s widower was an example of those who rebelled after having been dealt a personal injustice by the Empire, it was decided that his premature death would better illustrate Hera’s point: that acting without forethought was foolish. The fight against the Empire couldn’t be won as a personal vendetta. And so Gord Grallik died without getting justice — while still helping Kanan and Hera escape.
On the Imperial side, Rae Sloane and Count Vidian arrived in my mind at about the same time. In Sloane I wanted someone who would represent the new generation of naval officer whose education had taken place almost entirely in the Imperial era; we would show how a rational person could embrace the goals of the Empire while not being a drooling villain. I also wanted to show a bit of what was going on inside the Empire by dropping her in the middle of a power game between Vidian and Baron Danthe. They have all the cards to play; any chance she was going to have, she would have to create for herself.
Vidian, meanwhile, was always going to be a creature transitioning between worlds. From being a financial power broker in the Republic to a political animal in the Empire; and more visibly, from fully human to fully machine. I wanted someone who was valued for his intellectual contributions to the Empire, and who yet at the same time could pose a physical threat to Kanan and company. I didn’t want him to have a cartoonish devotion to punctuality and efficiency, but those things would be very important to him after his years of immobility. He would want to make the most of every minute, and he would make sure everyone around him did exactly as he wanted.
Vidian’s hidden motivations evolved from draft to draft. At one point, his origin story involved a Joker-like dunking into the same acid bath where Lal later meets her end. But the Moonglow personnel definitely would have remembered that incident — and so instead, he was felled by the poisons he was constantly exposed to as a safety inspector.
Finally, Kanan and Hera. A number of readers have questioned why I didn’t provide the same level of insight into Hera’s past and thoughts as I did with Kanan. Simply, Hera’s history wasn’t really mine to reveal. She was a mystery woman to Kanan, and we would learn things about her just as he did. That said, Hera’s portion of the story increased considerably in the later drafts, expanding from what had been diary entries (much like Kenobi’s meditations) into the many point-of-view sequences we saw.
Kanan, meanwhile, is introduced as standoffish and a bit of a Lothario — a double-sided coin, where he’s vacillating between keeping people away and searching for closeness. The book’s pages show little doubt that Hera grabbed his attention like no one before — and yet they also show that he was still trying to protect himself, most of the time, avoiding anything that might return him to his past life.
A New Dawn is definitely Kanan’s story, then — and in a sense, it’s a different take on the situation we saw in Kenobi. Obi-Wan was an exile, but he had a mission. Kanan was likewise cut loose, but he didn’t know what his mission was. Kanan starting to find it is really the story of the novel.
“He stole my idea!” — Skelly
I was well into the writing when I learned that the past works in the Expanded Universe were being rebranded as “Legends.” They weren’t being discarded, but rather would provide ideas and inspiration for the films, television shows, and new fiction to come.
With the studio preparing to usher in a massive wave of new stories, I understood the rationale: the filmmakers would benefit from having room to maneuver. And it didn’t particularly impact the work in progress, because I didn’t have a lot of continuity ties anyway. My book was set in a time period that wasn’t much explored.
And the callbacks that did exist in the book — things like thorilide, which had been established in Knights of the Old Republic #43 — fit the notion of using the past for ideas. The thing about legends is that parts of them can be true. It happened that the compound thorilide worked in the novel exactly the way it did in the comics, so there was really no reason to invent something else. I wouldn’t have been bound to have it function the exact same way, of course; some legends in real life are quite different from what really transpired historically. But if the chemical substance were completely different, I probably would have come up with a different name for it on my own.
Which brings us to the name of the book. Until “A New Dawn” was chosen, the book never had an official working title: it was simply “the Rebels prequel.” Mentally during plotting I sometimes called it the “loose cannons story” because it was going to involve Skelly and Zaluna and the Besalisk widower character, people that Hera and Kanan could not control. But with the book supposedly coming out before the TV show, I worried some readers would think I was trying to suggest that “cannon” was the correct pronunciation for “Kanan.” (I hadn’t known the difference myself, until I spoke to the Story Group and heard the word pronounced.) As things eventually worked out, it wouldn’t have done to have a homonym for “canon” in the title, anyway — but I did retain a nod to the unhinged characters in the sequence describing what thorilide is actually used for on Star Destroyers. It fixes loose cannons!
Instead, I had suggested a title fusing both rebellion and the chemical aspects of the plot: “Rogue Elements.” But once we knew for sure about the new path forward, it was clear that a title that suggested a new beginning for the people of the Republic would be more in order. Thus, “A New Dawn,” which was chosen for its echo to “A New Hope” — and also for its somewhat ironic connection to the events of the book. It is the dawn of rebellion, true — but there can literally be no dawn for the people Gorse; and there really is no freedom for them after the book is done. We do go off-world to get a dawn at the end — that was a setting change made once I knew the title — but the one character who has never seen a sunrise isn’t able to see it. And in place of a sun on the book’s cover, there’s the all-important moon. Under the Empire, up is down and wrong is right.
Around this time I also was invited to Lucasfilm to participate, along with Timothy Zahn, in the Expanded Universe tribute video that was to be released along with the “Legends” announcement. I did not know then when the announcement would be made, or whether New Dawn would definitely be the first book out of the gate; I still had some distance to go in writing it, after all. But the book was completed and in when the news of the book’s existence — and its introductory role — broke in late April.
The video, as it appeared:
I had already written and turned in my acknowledgments page, which concluded with the thought that “the stories we love may not always fit neatly into a single timeline, but they will always matter.” I had occasion to repeat that sentiment over the days and weeks that followed, when readers expressed their concerns individually to me — and then I addressed the topic at great length in a blog post on StarWars.com the day the book released. I remain touched by the commitment that many readers showed for the existing works (including several of my own), and I did my best to give them a book that felt like it could have been published in 1984, 1994, or 2004.
A further moment at that March 2014 Lucasfilm meeting would have later consequences: I said — as I had already told my editor — that Rae Sloane was the original character in the novel that was best suited to make continuining apperances in other stories. I knew by then that she lived through the book, of course — a prerequisite! — but I also had a clear sense that she was someone people would want to see more of. That very much turned out to be the case!
“It’s almost worth doing, just to see what would happen!” — Lieutenant Kanna Deltic
Random House/Del Rey supported the release with the printing of thousands of advance reader copies. Unlike the typical ARCs that reviewers receive, however, these were in mass market paperback format — and had a gray-colored version of the cover. I signed thousands along with cover artist Doug Wheatley at Comic-Con International – San Diego, where I also spoke about the book in a panel along with Dave Filoni and Vanessa Marshall, voice of Hera on the Rebels series. You can check out the liveblog of that panel here. Later, at New York Comic-Con, I signed more copies along with Vanessa — and we did another panel, seen below.
Vanessa’s support of the book was wonderful. She spoke about reading the book online, moderated panels for us at San Diego and sat on one at New York, signed for us in New York, and recorded a section of the book for Entertainment Weekly. I’m extremely thankful for her help. (Thanks to The Wookie Gunner for the shot of Vanessa, Kanan, and Hera from our booth in New York.)
Speaking of audio, we got another great audiobook from Del Rey Audio: this time, narrated by Marc Thompson, whose animation voice work I had long admired. I love that there’s a hint of the crazed Mr. DeMartinez from Daria in Skelly’s voice!
As I did with Kenobi, I ran a month-long #newdawncountdown preceding the book’s release on Twitter.
The book launch was at the Barnes & Noble in Appleton, Wis., supported by the local 501st. Members also came out to support later tour events in Lexington, Kentucky, and my college town of Knoxville, Tennessee.
The novel took the top spot on the Locus media-novel bestseller list, replacing my own book, the Kenobi paperback — and it debuted in 22nd place on Publishers’ Weekly‘s hardcover bestseller list. (The New York Times picked that very week to cut its hardcover list from 25 to 20 titles; clearly, the Emperor’s doing!) The warm reception of the book by readers was gratifying, and I was humbled when the folks at TheForce.net awarded the book their Aluminum Falcon award for their favorite written Star Wars work of the year. (RoqooDepot rounds up some reviews here.) The efforts of a lot of people make these books possible, and reader appreciation is what makes all the work worthwhile.
The mass-market paperback was released March 31, 2015 and was the first of the Star Wars line to be in the larger, 7.5″ tall size (around 19 cm); it’s a taller book (“Wookiee-sized,” I call it), a format that’s part of a trend in publishing of late.
The paperback version also included an excerpt from Paul S. Kemp‘s new Star Wars: Lords of the Sith novel, which released in April 2015. It’s an apt combination, because my Star Wars work immediately following A New Dawn is “Orientation,” a short story tie-in to Lords of the Sith, appearing in Star Wars Insider #157. It was my first story including both Darth Vader and the Emperor, and it was reprinted in the Lords of the Sith paperback.
There was further news in late 2015: the hardcover, which went to at least two printings, was allowed to go out of print to make room for the paperback and Star Wars: Rise of the Empire, a “bind-up” combining it with James Luceno’s Star Wars: Tarkin and a new short story by me, “Bottleneck,” teaming up Count Vidian with Grand Moff Tarkin. Consequently — and because of its role starting off the literary canon — the hardcover became quite expensive to find.
THE SLOANE LEGACY
A young Rae Sloane guest-starred in both of those stories — the illustration from “Orientation” is above — and true to my thoughts about her in 2014, the character would go on to appear in other Star Wars material as well. And not just in prose!
She appeared the twelfth issue of Rebels co-producer Weisman’s Kanan: The Last Padawan comics series from Marvel. Lucasfilm asked me what scene from New Dawn should be shown in flashback, and they used the one I suggested. Chuck Wendig would make more extensive use of the character in the Aftermath trilogy of novels, beginning in 2015.
Then in June 2020, the world learned that she would appear along with a post-Rebels Hera in the EA game Star Wars: Squadrons. We’d gotten the first picture of the character in a Star Wars: Insider magazine excerpt; now, she’d get a voice!
That game released the same week it was announced that I’d be returning to the character in “Lord Vader Will See You Now,” my short story in November 2020’s The Empire Strikes Back: From a Certain Point of View anthology.
I’ve been delighted with the response to Sloane, but not surprised. People like reading about smart people — and seeing into her thought processes adds a dimension to the Imperial side. Not everyone serving the Empire is evil or mad; it could never have succeeded to the extent it did without people like Sloane being a part of it. By the end of New Dawn, she’s gotten a sense that the promised Imperial paradise isn’t what it’s cracked up to be — but she soldiers on, figuring it’s better than the alternatives. I suspect there would’ve been lot of that going on in the Empire’s services.
In retrospect, however, I sometimes wish I had given her a different first name. Little did I suspect that there’d soon be another Rey in Star Wars!
TRIVIA AND THOUGHTS
Just as Kenobi began with a quote from Yoda about the new situation, I had wanted to start A New Dawn with a quote from the Emperor: “The war is over. The Separatists have been defeated. We stand at the threshold of a new beginning.”
But with the “long time ago” page, two forewords, the opening crawl, a prologue, Obi-Wan’s message, and a title page before we got to Chapter One, I suggested that it move to the back cover.
The quote from the Emperor is from the script of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith — but as I realized on studying the film, the line was cut from the final version. It wasn’t in the novelization of the movie, either. But it did appear in Dark Horse’s adaptation, and was quoted in an issue of Star Wars Insider.
The novel included a foreword by Dave Filoni and acknowledgments by me. It was the first new hardcover novel in some time not to include a timeline, but one was included in the paperback version, released March 31, 2015. It was the first timeline to appear in the Story Group era of novels.
The prologue was set at some point before Order 66; I did not select a specific moment in time for it. While Depa Billaba’s connection to Kanan was already established by the time I entered the picture, I took care not to get too much into their history together so as to leave the path clear for later elaboration.
It struck me that we needed a moment where we saw Kanan feeling the security and safety of his previous life, to stand in contrast to what followed. I already knew there was going to be a message from Obi-Wan in the Rebels pilot, but I did not yet know the exact wording of that message, and it struck me that it needed to be established that the warning message probably went out in many different formats and different ways. So I decided it would be entertaining and logical to go back to that familiar setting from Episode III — Obi-Wan in the communications center of the Jedi Temple — only with Obi-Wan showing Kanan how the beacon was supposed to function normally. Kanan would inadvertently suggest using the beacon as a warning device. What we see at the end of the prologue is basically the text message version of the warning that Obi-Wan sent, explaining why it differs from the TV version.
I’m often asked whether the line that Obi-Wan says — “there are truths, and there are legends touched with truth, and all can teach you something” — was a knowing reference to the “Legends” branding that was created for the earlier works. The fact is, while I don’t remember what the phrasing was in the beginning, the sentiment Obi-Wan was expressing was definitely already written by the time I learned about the branding. I don’t remember and there’s no way to know from the initial manuscript whether I changed the wording or not. Either way, the sentiment works both in-universe and for the real world.
The phrasing of Obi-Wan’s message — “Republic forces have been turned against the Jedi” — reflects the fog of war at the moment Obi-Wan sent it, as he was still learning everything that happened at the time.
The section titles for the novel are, of course, steps in the demolition process that Skelly describes.
Writing HoloNews headlines took me back to Knights of the Old Republic #0, where I first wrote some. They’re always fun.
I was astonished that there was never a Star Wars ship named Ultimatum — or, at least, I wasn’t able to find one. Ultimatum sounds like it would have come from the Napoleonic Era (where I source I lot of ship names from), but as near as I can find, the only HMS Ultimatum was a World War II submarine.
I chose Gorse mostly for its rhyme with “coarse,” and Cynda because it sounded like “cinder,” which would later be relevant.
We get to see the Ghost right here in Chapter 1, although we don’t identify it by that name until the end of the book.
Baradium had existed in several previous stories — and I had wrecked a planet with it in Knight Errant – Aflame. Tagging it with “bisulfate” differentiated it from the deadlier variety we later described — and it also made the “baby” monicker possible.
When multiplied by the lucky 7.77777, Kanan’s call symbol, Moonglow-72, yields 560, the number of the LST my grandfather served on in World War II. The ship delivered tanks to the Battle of Leyte Gulf, among other destinations.
Kanan is basically a trucker, and “suicide flyer” is one of several gags in the novel connected to the 1975 novelty song “Convoy,” by C.W. McCall. “Suicide jockey,” which I learned from that song, was C.B. radio jargon for drivers who hauled high explosives.
It struck me that the best possible companion for Kanan would be the equivalent of a Jedi master for partying: Okadiah fits that bill admirably. Even so, he’s got some wisdom here and there.
Speaking of numbers, I don’t think Zone 42 was an intentional Hitchhiker’s Guide reference, but who knows any more? The number belongs to Douglas Adams — we just borrow it.
I was delighted that no one had ever used “The Asteroid Belt” for the name of a cantina in Star Wars. If I ever open a bar (not particularly likely), that’s the one I’m going with.
And there’s a 560 for real, there, referring to the elevator camera number.
Crispus Commons, the veterans home, was inspired by Crispin’s Day, on which the Battle of Agincourt took place. I would presume Crispus was the name of some battleground or war hero from the Clone Wars.
An interest in plants had originally been the hobby of Lal’s husband; when I redrafted to omit his background, that pursuit went to Zaluna. It worked better, really, especially with the way the story ends.
While the term “refresher” went temporarily out the window with this book, we did keep “caf,” as we see here. We can imagine people in outer space might enjoy a steaming caffeinated beverage now and again, but not that they would get it from Coffea arabica.
We’re into Vidian’s head for the first time here, so we get to see that he’s living his own corporate efficiency theories.
Vanessa Marshall recorded Hera’s section of this chapter for Entertainment Weekly.
Skelly’s actually right about the Clone Wars being a sham, but he’s wrong about so much more that it doesn’t matter.
Baradium-357 is an isotope of baradium, and I selected that mass number as it would be well beyond anything discovered to date: at this writing, the heaviest artificially created isotope is ununoctium-294, suggesting baradium would probably be around an element with an atomic number in the 130s or 140s, presuming such a thing is possible. I chose the specific isotope number because it sounded explosive: like a .357 magnum.
The isotope number got me in trouble elsewhere, however. While I have no trouble keeping the franchises I’m writing for straight, I was inserting the 357s into the revised New Dawn manuscript at the same time I was writing Star Trek: The Next Generation – Takedown — where I accidentally referred to the Battle of Wolf 359 as having taken place at “Wolf 357”! The occupational hazards of a mind that gets stuck…
The Battle of Slag’s Pit, we might imagine, is the Clone Wars equivalent to the Civil War’s Battle of the Crater.
Poor Director Palfa. Bad enough that he has to get killed — but even worse that his last day was spent dealing with a boss able to send him interoffice memos by just thinking about it.
It was important to me that the Empire not identify Kanan as being anyone of interest — hence Vidian only knows him as “the gunslinger,” and Sloane knows him only as “the mouth” for a long time.
After passing him in space, this become’s Kanan and Hera’s second almost-meeting. They’d miss each other a couple more times.
The basic geographical terms for the galaxy are unchanged, as we see here with mention of the Core Worlds and Inner Rim.
Like Chekhov’s gun, there was no way the crystal stalactites, once introduced, weren’t going to crash down on someone. Kanan’s run here is basically what I had imagined for Kerra Holt in the first draft of Knight Errant – Aflame.
This was the key chapter for connecting Kanan’s past to his present, and it’s by design that it came some ways into the novel. By spending the day with him, we get a sense of what his life is like now — and we see those around him, and get a sense of the people whose lives are imperiled by Vidian’s arrival. It’s Kanan’s story, for sure, but Imperial oppression is about more than just killing Jedi.
Neither Kanan nor I had any idea what the Emperor might have known about all the different Jedi and their students, which made it pretty easy for us both to put on his shoes and wonder what data Palpatine had access to.
Kanan here reflects on the wording of Obi-Wan’s message, mentioned above.
Skelly’s hero worship of Count Vidian continues — which just tells us more about the value of public relations.
Hera’s contact is Hetto, we later realize — but while no one’s onto her, the Empire is on to him.
Cudgel, Truncheon, Bastinade — all three Ultimatum shuttles we learn about are named for weapons of thumping people over the head. I am glad we didn’t need more shuttles because I don’t think I could have sold Billy Club and Shillelagh.
Vidian’s nightly ocular video review has got to be the worst-rated television program around.
The name of Baron Lero Danthe came from a reference to Danthe Artifice, first mentioned in Star Wars Adventure Journal 7. As parent company Arakyd Industries was active on the Separatist side of the Clone Wars, it made sense that someone associated with Danthe might have survived the aftermath and found a position with whatever was left in the Imperial era.
Zaluna being called “creature” is a reminder of the species-ism that’s part of the Empire.
Soaring cites with canyon-like streets — Coruscant, Taris, etc. — are a common enough setting that I enjoyed being able to tweak the model with Gorse, where the ground simply won’t support much that’s above three or four stories. The city extends, instead, horizontally, a big sprawling slum that overlaps past mined areas.
Hera’s deductions are pretty good: that IS Lal’s shuttle that lands at the end of this chapter. She could be a consulting detective!
We’re at the diner on Broken Boulevard — a wink at the famous parody of the “Nighthawks” painting, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams. I wonder if a Besalisk ever applied to work there?
“Shaketown” is another reference to C.W. McCall’s “Convoy.” “Shakytown” — because of the earthquakes — was C.B. code for Los Angeles. (Who knew the C.W. really stood for Clone Wars?)
And now Kanan hears Hera without seeing her face. Nothing like teasing an introduction scene!
My original thought had been to show the Sarlaccs dropping a garbage can over Gord’s head — but then I remembered I was channeling the Yancy Street Gang’s tactic against The Thing in a classic issue of Fantastic Four.
A Besalisk with four blasters, I decided, could be quite a formidable thing to face down, regardless of what Mythbusters has to say about the ineffectiveness of two-armed shooting.
The cantina setting for the fight is Philo’s Fueling Station, the second part of which was once a candidate for the name of Okadiah’s bar.
Chamas’s review of Vidian’s activities is telling, not showing — but the more mundane activities would be less interesting to show, and the scene is as much about showing who Chamas and Sloane are. We realize that even as Vidian’s has Zaluna and her cohorts spying on people, their own eyes are on Vidian, sifting evidence and trying to figure the man out.
We note again how things are in the Empire by Sloane’s casual, off-handed dismissal of what happened to the guildmaster.
The second part of this chapter tells us about Skelly’s sad little world — underground, just like where he spends his working days. It was important to get in here, still in the first section of the book; you can only portray a character you intend to be sympathetic as unsympathetic for so long before that view freezes with readers. Likewise, Jamie Sturm is humanized about a quarter of the way into Overdraft: The Orion Offensive — and we got to see Gryph acting decently to Zayne before KOTOR went too long.
The retirement home for Clone Wars veterans wouldn’t have been for the clones, of course, but for the many planetary volunteers and draftees that would have been called up on planets affected in the conflict. See more about this below, in the FAQ section.
“Military-industrial complex” is of course an earthly term, and a loaded one politically as well — which seemed like a good enough reason to use it, since Skelly is pretty far off into conspiracy-land.
I imagine the Environmental Action Gazette was a holofeed magazine. I had created a few of those for the second year of the KOTOR comics but nothing fit the bill.
“The thorilide triangle” is again one of those terms that has developed a crackpot ring to it in recent years: a catchphrase for a group of industry relationships that may have nothing to do with one another, but which sound dire and spooky in an online debate. (Or a Holonet one.)
The “nite” spelling on Okadiah’s Asteroid Belt ad is pretty much what you’d expect from his sort of establishment. And I have to admit his bar’s catchphrase is one of my favorite things about the book: “Come in and get belted.”
Zaluna hedges against the Empire possibly using spyware by employing an obsolete holoplayer designed years earlier. I wondered why I was keeping that old Walkman around!
As we continue to see here, Zaluna constantly has to consider whether she’s being entrapped. We can imagine that she’s seen the Empire running quite a few sting operations in recent years.
When writing the more timid Zaluna of the earlier draft, we found this sequence came off too comical. It’s still a funny scene, but it requires a Zaluna that’s made of sterner stuff.
I had designed a bar in Kenobi with Dannar’s Claim, which we did a blueprint for on StarWars.com; there isn’t one for The Asteroid Belt, but I still had a fair idea of what was where. The long counter faces outward toward the front door, with an alcove to left where the quieter tables were. “Quiet” being a relative term in that place!
The bar scene with all the would-be rebels converging is a sequence that existed in every version of the plot. Like Rick’s in Casablanca, everyone comes to Okadiah’s.
Characters struggling with the Jedi view on dating is nothing new for me, the topic having been touched on in Knights of the Old Republic #23 and in Kenobi. Kanan isn’t a Jedi, of course, and at this point in his life he doesn’t seem at all conflicted on the matter.
One thing I needed to do was to keep straight the two data devices used in the story: Hetto had a data cube, while Skelly had a holodisk. Just the suggestion of different physical shapes is sometimes enough to clarify things.
Hetto gets the raw end of this novel; there’s never any prospect that he might be rescued. We’re told Hera has lost contacts on other worlds Vidian has visited, so presumably she knows there’s no hope.
Zaluna is stopped before she can say where Kanan emigrated to Gorse from. There’s seldom need to fill in more blanks than a story requires.
Kanan mentions the hoverbus having an activation code that only he and Okadiah knew. I didn’t elaborate on the point when it appeared later, but the code was still entered and active when he was pretending to work on the Smoothride under the hood while parked outside Moonglow; he skulks off after Hera without locking up the hoverbus, explaining why the Imperials were able to commandeer it. The activation code was still active when the Imperials parked it at the spaceport.
I was asked somewhere how Kanan would have been able to tell which Stormtroopers were female, if the armor and helmet speakers work to obscure such distinctions. I think he would give the Say Anything response: “I’m Kanan Jarrus.”
I already knew there were a lot of wild adventures in store for the Rebels crew, so the line Hera claims as her motto, “no crazy stuff,” was designed to be subverted right away.
Sloane speaks of her ability to put AT-ATs on the ground if she needs to — but one has to wonder if, on Gorse, they wouldn’t sink into the mud. That would have been a fun scene, but there wasn’t any room for such a thing.
Vidian had visited Moonglow as a safety inspector twenty years earlier: it was his last stop before succumbing to the toxins. A bit fun to consider that now, on his return trip, he’s walking around undoing safety measures.
The bits about the high water table and puddles springing up randomly from the soil were a flashback to several years earlier, when my dirt floor cellar turned into a morass. You haven’t lived until you’ve dug out and replaced tons of mud with tons of gravel.
Ganthel, Sloane’s home world, also came from Star Wars Adventure Journal 7.
Sloane’s mention of janitorial closets winks at the fact that Skelly was just hiding in one a few chapters earlier.
The cometary collection method for thorilide was introduced and shown in detail in “The Reaping,” which appeared in Knights of the Old Republic #43-44.
A lot of statements can be taken more than one way, but in daily life, you never want to hear someone say to you: “Now hurry up and dissolve.”
I had considered giving Vidian some slot in his arm where he could download the contents of the small holodisk, but that seemed a bit too Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Now there’s an obscure TV reference!)
I didn’t have time to do an original short story in support of this novel for Star Wars Insider magazine, so instead the publication ran an excerpt from the book starting with the second half of this chapter and illustrated by cover artist Doug Wheatley. So we got our first look at Captain Sloane as well as an action shot of the explosion.
The motors always seem to be running on speeder bikes, or at least they don’t have activation codes, either. That’s helpful to storytelling!
The point-of-view sections in these scenes of the character that later became Gord Grallik were wrenching to write, and while we wound up dropping them, they were all worked back in so Hera saw everything that he was going through. She’s a good communicator of the pain he feels.
We took the opportunity with “bathroom” to get rid of the word “refresher” (for at least a while) in the name of making the storytelling clearer to new readers. Fancy sci-fi names for things that exist in our own world is a holdover from the era of the pulp magazines, when writers were trying to make future realms seem more unearthly. Star Wars doesn’t need any help seeming unearthly.
The scene in the transport is another one that Wheatley drew for Insider #152.
The hoverbus sequence which begins here was, again, in almost every version of the plot, although who was driving and who was aboard changed. It was always intended to be the big set piece on Gorse, throwing all our heroes together for good.
Gord Grallik raises an interesting question: how does local law enforcement — much less a private security official like him — deal with a crime committed by the member of the Empire? There is no recourse, obviously, but Imperial rule is new enough and Gord is distraught enough that that fact doesn’t register.
Vidian had an artificial nose in earlier drafts, and in one version, he lost it in the blast here. But the gag had too much of a Return of the Pink Panther feel to it, and Vidian definitely wasn’t Commissioner Dreyfus.
One thing I did not know when writing the hoverbus chase sequence was that Rebels would depict on Lothal a similar elevated highway system. So it was just a happy coincidence here, a preview of the sort of trouble that Kanan and Hera would get into later on. If there was any sequence from this book I’d love to see animated, it’s this one.
Okadiah’s hoverbus was returned to the dump where he’d found it. There’s balance in nature.
Zaluna being locked inside the bathroom — there, I used that word again — was a plot element that existed in almost every draft. Poor woman. Since I had established that no one could hear her in there, that also meant she couldn’t eavesdrop on people outside — hence the need for the bugged light fixture.
“May the spirit of death make a clerical error and forget you exist” is pretty much what Kanan has been hoping for, all this time. (Apologies to George Carlin, who has a somewhat similar line.)
One difference between novels and movies or animated series is that there’s space for the more mundane moments that we assume must be in characters’ lives: When do they eat? When do they sleep? Meals, as it turns out, are pretty good opportunities for dialogue when characters have a lot to discuss. And they also sometimes tell us something about the characters. Skelly, we see here, is a vegetarian.
It was important to have Skelly note here that Vidian wasn’t an “evil cyborg”: he was just evil.
We reach the fun moment when we realize Skelly is actually right about his craziest idea — and when he realizes he’s just given that idea to someone willing to try it. The description Zaluna heard as a child was my best effort to make the orbital dynamics I’d thought out as simple as possible; Lieutenant Deltic goes the opposite direction, heading into great detail.
As mentioned above, I had read a lot of articles on what would happen if a moon-sized body suddenly exploded; you’ll be glad to know that most hold that the Earth wouldn’t fare too badly, at least not in the short run. Our moon is small and reasonably far out there. In Cynda, however, we had a much more massive body — smaller than Gorse, but much denser — and on a highly elliptical orbit, which raises the stakes for debris. And while dissolving in place would leave the center of gravity in the two-body system where it was, a dramatic dispersal probably would impact Gorse’s rotation — though on what time scale, who knows.
The cultists are pretty clearly a takeoff on the Nikto blood cultists, who appeared ina lot of different published works in the past. These are not necessarily they, of course.
Wor Tandell, mentioned as a possible destination, was seen in Knights of the Old Republic #42.
The challenge all along was that I knew Hera had the Ghost parked on the planet, but I needed to keep it secret until the reveal at the end. It was much more fun trying to make Expedient do what was necessary. So this scene was designed to make sure that Hera was just far enough away from the Ghost that Kanan would need to pick up Expedient instead. And because he’s seen her drive the hoverbus, he knows she’s a pilot equal to what’s coming.
I wanted the shape of the blast to tell Kanan and company quite a bit about what was happening. We’ve seen a comet hit Jupiter, a volcano erupt on Io, and a ice plumes on Uranus’s moon, Miranda; I figured this would look different from any of those.
I decided that Cynda’s tunnels at this point would have looked like a Lego building that someone had stomped on: Hera’s idea to use the microfilament line, besides being a nod to Ariadne, Theseus, and the Labyrinth, would have been absolutely necessary.
“Zone Sixty-Six”, Order 66. Not a happy number.
By this time in the book, we’ve realized our gathering is the exactly right group of heroes to deal with the crisis at hand, Kanan knows Hera’s a better pilot than he’ll ever be; Zaluna knows much that is useful, and even Skelly, finally, starts to feel like an asset. But a more important question needed to be answered now: whether they all wanted to go forward or not. I couldn’t see Hera expecting Kanan and Zaluna, in particular, to remain involved. It had to be their choice.
Calcoraan is a world previously unseen, its name deliberately similar to Alderaan. Earlier when I’d considered acid immersion as the reason for Vidian’s physical condition, Calcoraan’s acid oceans had additional signifiance; it symbolized defiance on Vidian’s part to locate his base over such a world. The allusion still works, given that we’ve seen what happened to Lal.
I had created a factory depot station in Knight Errant: Aflame — The Spike, operated by Lord Odion. I wanted in Calcoraan Depot something much larger and more efficient, with materials and ships themselves being shuttled around like bags at the airport. (Well, maybe not just like that. These bags usually get to their intended destinations!)
The mechanics of Forager are, again, based upon what we learned about processing thorilide back in Knights of the Old Republic #43-44. There, the Hot Prospect had used electrostatic collectors to draw in thorilide-containing material from comets; it all went to a giant centrifuge for purification. Forager is basically Hot Prospect on a much larger scale, plus facilities for packaging and shipping the material.
We always see tractor beams being used to drag in ships trying to escape, but seldom in the manner in which I expect they were designed: moving vessels and cargo into docking position. I figured Vidian would make heavy use of them.
Zaluna, having been a watcher for so many years, would have definitely had a view of Jedi that the Emperor’s propaganda wouldn’t have been able to sway. She’d seen them in action.
There’s actually four chemical substances the book deals with: baradium, thorilide, xenoboric acid, and whatever the coolant with the psychoactive effects is. It becomes a story point later on, and also explains why there are hazmat suits on the transport.
One thing we’re reminded of here is that, even as Count Vidian has his role working with the Imperial government on manufacturing policy, he is also a manufacturer himself, and owns parts of a number of firms the Empire is doing business with. The Empire’s rather loose ethical standards aren’t particularly surprising, of course; part of the inspiration for Vidian and his role was Baron Tagge and his corporate interests in Archie Goodwin‘s Marvel comics stories.
Probably the biggest challenge I faced in A New Dawn was in finding ways for Kanan and Hera to be effective without compromising their identities to the Empire long before the Rebels’ TV series started. Zaluna is, therefore, key to their mission here: if anyone understands the state of Imperial surveillance and how to defeat it, she does.
Something that’s gotten increasingly harder to do in science fiction: making up high-tech names for imaginary companies that someone hasn’t already used for a real company. Especially when real firms are snapping up make-believe names we’ve already come up with: “Medtech,” the maker of the FX-7 droids, is now the trade name for a for-profit university. (There’s even a real Initech now, years after Office Space.) I expect someone will swoop in and create a “Visitractic” now…
Vidian’s origin story, two-thirds of the way into the book, underscores how even he had to build a public image to be able to play the high-finance game in the latter years of the Republic. The aristocracy still exists in the Imperial era, and even a self-made individual like Vidian has to play the game, fashioning a biography and obtaining a title for himself.
I knew that Kanan wasn’t going to use his lightsaber in the book — that would have stolen the thunder from the moment when he uses it in Rebels. But Vidian saying that his skin graft had a cortosis mesh might have put Kanan further off thinking it was any use against Vidian.
The line “No grieving Besalisks to the rescue?” replaced an entire section where there actually had been a grieving Besalisk to the rescue, Lal’s husband. But it was a long sequence as it was, and Gord Grallik served the story better with his earlier death.
I was creeped out by the interrogator droid in Star Wars as a kid, and found it fun to put one to use in the cause of good here.
The lack of cameras in Vidian’s chambers cuts both ways: no one comes to his rescue, but also they can’t be hacked to reveal his pass codes. Of course, as Kanan realizes, Vidian has two cameras right there above his nose!
I realized in writing that Vidian’s eyes couldn’t create a true hologram any more than human eyes could: only two camera angles are being covered.
I worked hard to make sure Zaluna wasn’t “story-magic”; I didn’t want her solving every technical problem they ran into, and she fails at one later in this chapter. It also helped that Hera knew quite a bit about technology herself, so it wasn’t all on Zaluna to handle the computer work. And, of course, the job we give Zaluna to do in studying the video feeds from Vidian’s memory was perfectly suited to her abilities. They couldn’t have brought anyone better to do that.
The “enhancements” Vidian’s assistants had were mostly of the Lobot variety. If Lando Calrissian needed one enhanced assistant to handle logistics, it was easy to imagine Vidian needing twenty or more.
I tried to play it straight with Skelly’s injuries: his condition deteriorates all the time as the book progresses.
I don’t know that Expedient is literally more than a thousand years old, but it sure isn’t new.
I figure Kanan had to have stashed some food somewhere on Expedient; otherwise, the heroes would have gone a long time without anything. It’s not clear they could have foraged food from Vidian’s quarters, either. How or whether Vidian consumed food was something the novel never addressed.
This chapter reinforces that Zaluna could have changed her mind at any time, totally changing the fates of everyone involved. But Hetto started her thinking, and Hera helped her along.
There’s no time travel (generally speaking) in Star Wars, but the way hyperspace and vehicle speeds work, it’s entirely possible to find the same ship you’re fleeing waiting for you on the other side. Expedient‘s relatively slow speed made that possible in this sequence.
The Gozanti freighter hauling TIEs was one of the first images Pablo Hidalgo showed in the 2013 Rebels presentation in New York, and I was looking for any chance to use them, as we do here. They’re cool.
Xenoboric acid must be pretty fast-acting and nasty stuff to chew its way toward a moon’s core. But it made more sense than physical drilling, which would have required more time than Vidian had.
I said in a few interviews that New Dawn had more of a feel like my KOTOR comics than my other novels; bits like Kanan’s psychotic pilot bluff are part of why. It’s a Zayne Carrick trick if there ever was one. (But Kanan probably pulls off “dangerous” better.)
One thing we continue to see is that Vidian never knows (until the end) who Kanan and company are working for. That’s part of Baron Danthe’s importance: by putting rivals out there — and even paranoia about the Emperor — in Vidian’s mind, it makes it more likely that he won’t immediately leap to thinking these are rebels he’s dealing with.
I’ve written a few sequences with unplanned starship arrivals in landing bays — particularly including Knights of the Old Republic #31. You never want to be on the deck crew when something like that’s happening; it never goes well.
Only now do we get to see the lightsaber. I knew he wasn’t going to use it, but the trick throughout the book was making sure he was never far from it. He couldn’t be captured with the thing on him, for sure — so it’s usually with his traveling pack. His taking it now was as much making sure he still had it after Expedient was destroyed as it was teasing that he might use it.
Hera has to believe that Skelly couldn’t survive the fall in order to keep them pressing forward, so we have to expect that he hit pretty hard when he landed. Getting back to the ship would have been an excruciating penultimate act for him.
Shorter chapters now, as the action ramps up for the finale. This novel had the shortest chapters on average of any I had done up to that time. That trend is continuing.
Zaluna’s family blaster hadn’t been fired in years, we’d established earlier. Having a cyborg crush it didn’t help.
One of my favorite chapters. Sloane is smart, maybe smarter than Vidian — and she could be expected to protect herself from being the patsy in anyone’s political game.
I enjoyed hitting Vidian with an Order 66 moment of his own, and I figured Kanan would take particular delight in it.
Once “When Hera Met Kanan” became the plot for the novel, the moment when Hera realizes what Kanan really is always had to be the climactic moment of it. It wound up fitting into the action pretty well.
Clearly Vidian’s slog through acid is his payback for what he did to Lal — but it’s only a partial payment, as we see.
The events of the novel weren’t going to result in a rebel cell being developed; only a partnership being formed between Kanan and Hera. Could I have given Skelly and Zaluna different fates? Certainly — but Skelly deserved his heroic moment, and Zaluna, I had figured, would be at peace with sacrificing the sight with which she had unwittingly helped the Empire for so many years.
I didn’t name the Moff at the reception in the story, so I can’t tell you who it was. The hardcover did include a preview from James Luceno’s Tarkin, so he’s at least in the book somewhere!
We finally get our literal new dawn, though the one character who’s never seen one doesn’t get to see it. Readers of one of my other series may recall another character whose eyesight was sacrificed, for wholly different reasons. The situations were different enough, in fact, that I wasn’t conscious of the earlier situation when writing this one.
Kanan finally sees the Ghost. I can’t remember when this chapter was written — I often write part of the final chapters of books early on — but the image of the Ghost must have been available to me by then.
Finally, a lot of people have asked what planet Kanan and Hera left Zaluna on. Plainly, if I did not say, it was not established. Eagle-eyed readers of my past work might note, however, that one of my previous novels ended on a nameless world with a garden kept by an old woman — which is exactly the description of the home Zaluna moves into…
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is Vidian’s name influenced by the Star Trek species?
Are there any pictures of Count Vidian?
This one is asked with extreme frequency — by readers who are looking for a guide for their art, toy sculpts, or costumes — but while Count Vidian is fully described in the book, there isn’t any official art out there. I do have my own completely unofficial visual guide, which I had worked up to remind me where the artificial parts began and ended. But it’s no more official than anyone else’s art would be and I am certainly no artist, and I really would rather not have my version popping up on reference sites. Should an official depiction (by a better artist than me!) appear, I’ll be sure to link to it here.
Who’s your mental cast?
I get asked this a lot, too. Clearly, for Kanan and Hera, there are already voice models to work from, and we knew what the characters looked like. Skelly I saw as a regular guy under so much pressure he was about to explode: I imagine John C. Reilly (late of Guardians of the Galaxy) being able to pull the character off with ease.
For Okadiah I thought of an older Richard Harris — when he was the “Duck of Death” in Unforgiven. Zaluna obviously wasn’t going to look and sound like anyone in particular, given her species — but once I settled on the older, wiser persona for Zaluna, I thought of the speaking patterns of a different Harris: Rosemary, known to many as Aunt May in the Spider-Man films.
With regard to Vidian, I imagined a hybrid between a very powerful, magnetic-sounding voice — laced with high-tech reverb when he was speaking aloud in person: a jarring mismatch. I remembered when they did it for Cy, the Cylon in the only good episode of Galactica 1980: he had part of the Cylon reverb, but the voice of announcer Gary Owens, who passed away not long after the novel was released. I really liked Marc Thompson‘s choices in the audiobook: when we hear Vidian thinking, we hear the vibrant tones that were in the character’s famous audio recordings; when we hear him speaking, we get a booming voice that scared my cat off the couch.
Where did the idea of including female stormtroopers come from?
It wasn’t something I was told to do and I wasn’t seeking to make any kind of imprint on the larger canvas; I’ve just always written diverse casts and was simply continuing that practice. It was clear to me that in the post-Clone era when recruits were needed to build out the Empire’s ranks, the Emperor would need every talented human he could find. The Emperor does play on rifts between species and between the populaces of different planets, for sure — and the prejudice against droids in galactic society is well known. But the films don’t suggest significant gender or racial barriers within humanity in general, and I couldn’t see why they would spring up in the Empire. Palpatine happily exploits the talents of all members of his species to get his way. He’s an equal opportunity tyrant.
Some readers posed counterarguments after the book’s release, but I didn’t find I was moved by any of them. We never see who or what is inside the armor of the stormtroopers in the original trilogy, and even then, the only ones we see are on high-importance details and could all be clones. That pretty much leaves the Imperial officers we saw — and it’s easier to explain their appearance as a random sampling rather than to shoehorn in prejudices that exist nowhere else in the films.
Was Skelly a clone?
Absolutely not. While the clones were the Republic’s elite fighting force, the wars touched many worlds and would have at times involved local militias. They also would have required the services of a lot of people with different kinds of talents. Skelly was a combat engineer (a sapper or miner in the old sense); it’s hard to see the valuable clones being sent off to do that job.
Was Zaluna’s plotline inspired by the Edward Snowden affair?
No. I’m not a “ripped from today’s headlines” kind of writer in any event — and real-life governments have surveilled their populations for various reasons since time immemorial. It would certainly be something that the Empire would be involved in — as well as the Republic, which the book demonstrates. The Empire always seemed more Orwellian to me — and so 1984 could be said to have been the real inspiration.
If anything, it might be said that real-life events influenced the book negatively, in the sense that they determined what road I would not take. I decided pretty early on that Zaluna wouldn’t be Hera’s contact, wouldn’t be the one interested in revealing secrets. That option definitely would have felt more like Snowden’s case, and I thought it was much more interesting to make her an unwilling informer.
As to whether the book depicts my personal opinions of real-life surveillance, you may as well ask whether the book presents my personal opinions on lunar mining. In all my works, my understanding of history may advise my approach, but my characters speak only for themselves. I’ve written opinion pieces before in my writing career, but only in venues where readers were expecting to find exactly that.
Electronic surveillance in real life is almost never done manually, so what was your reasoning for having a staff of watchers?
The book does indicate that there is significant automation on the computer side, before the screeners see anything. (There’s no need to show a physical droid doing the winnowing when it’s all in the mainframe.) Zaluna’s team only evaluates the relatively very small number of strong-match incidents that are flagged for review. Her firm is a commercial outfit, not (yet) part of the Empire; we can presume the “human element” — or rather, organic — is an artifact of their past practice. And one that’s in danger, as the Empire is leaning harder on them: they’re losing their latitude to make judgment calls, which worries Zaluna. It’s one more thing the Empire is eroding.
The Clone Wars series established that some cameras in the Star Wars universe can see all sides of things, so how could Zaluna avoid their sight in the bar by moving around?
Not all cams are holocams. Whatever was in the bar was likely installed long ago, pre-Empire — and Transcept in those days would have only installed the cams to find out what kind of ales people preferred for their commercial clients.
I figure Vidian’s ocular implants would have been several degrees better — but even then, I expect there would have been limitations.
What’s your favorite line from the book?
Hard to choose. The list of choices would include two lines from the same chapter, both about the prospect of destroying the moon. There’s Skelly’s “He stole my idea!” There’s about five emotions going on in that line. And then Lieutenant Deltic: “It’s almost worth doing, just to see what would happen!” I think we all know people who would react the same way.
But in the end, I probably have to go with a bizarre line, made stranger by the fact that it’s what they do, after a fashion: “Who wants to download Vidian’s brain?”