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Face To Face With The Masters

Any citizen of the galaxy may be summoned to answer to the Jedi Council. Here you may read the transcripts of such sessions.

Cellblock 1138 - 1997-1999 - 2000 - 2002 - 2003+


Continuing from Part 3....

I’d put it to you that the problem with Jacen is more of a clash of narrative concepts, not anything that was inherent in the character after Traitor... except, perhaps the very fact that he’s been liberated from the sort of character arc that can be summarized straightforwardly on an A4 sheet...?

Well, I don’t think we’re actually in disagreement. I think the storytelling potentials for Jacen as well as post-Revenge Obi-Wan and post-Jedi Luke are indeed myriad. But what I said was that these characters can no longer be interesting in a traditional sense from these points on. I think we lovers of Star Wars can be a very particular audience, and while there may be a myriad of storytelling possibilities for these characters, few of those possibilities will have a myriad of fans. As soon as Jacen cannot be summarized on an A4 sheet, he enters the niche market, like Vergere.

As to who is truly more manipulative, Vergere or Yoda, I would say that manipulative is the wrong description to apply to either of these characters, except in the context of comparing one to the other. I believe both of them are good. We might say that Yoda is more manipulative than Vergere, as you suggest. But because, as I’ve said, this adjective is a superficial description used merely for contrast between the two characters’ personalities, I don’t think it’s right to call Yoda manipulative at all, for in order to trump the transparent “manipulativeness” of Vergere, we must then postulate a hidden agenda for Yoda that no longer has goodness as its core. And I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories.

I rather meant that Yoda was cajoling people into serving the Force. The way he treats Dooku in Dark Rendezvous or Luke in Empire and Jedi – I’d call that manipulative.

But that may be just a difference of semantics? I don’t see a dualistic contrast between ‘manipulative’ and ‘good’.

Exactly. The word “manipulative” has a negative connotation, but when used in reference to actions taken within a framework of “the good side” (and we apply this label by some form of intuitive equation that judges the balance of intentions and consequences), then the description of “manipulative” becomes playful rather than a serious ethical indictment.

And that’s what we call “irony”—which can have a powerful influence on the weak-minded, I hear.

Okay, one final question. If there was one thing in Star Wars that you’d like to change, retcon, or simply do a behind-the-scenes exploration of – what would it be, and why?

The impossible question. Perhaps I already answered this. I suppose if I had the power, I never would’ve let Jacen fall to the dark side. The Jacen that emerged from Traitor was my hero. But I think Star Wars is too vast and pure to get worked up about small things like this. In a radio interview, Stover was once asked if he would change anything about the Star Wars prequels if he could. He answered that now that he’d seen how it all turned out, after Revenge of the Sith, he couldn’t conscionably say yes to that.

My feelings are similar. Except, I feel, it’s quite impossible for the outcome to ever be negative, even though we haven’t seen how “it will all turn out,” even though we never will. And in that sense, I say, your question is impossible to answer, having only the grammatical appearance of being valid. Without hopefully sounding dramatic, it is a case of ethical betrayal for me to desire such a change, and I feel that quite fundamentally. This kind of unconscionable desire—to warp this or that element of Star Wars lore—was easier for me to premeditate just a few years ago, when I didn’t have a proper conception of what evil was. I did it to Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s Boba Fett, after all, in service to Moran’s somehow dishonest yet irrepressibly colossal portrayal of the bounty hunter.

But I’ve rid myself of most of these demons in my Star Wars work over the past seven years, perhaps culminating in “Evil Never Dies,” which was my summa retconica. Now, I think, such betrayals are only possible for me when I lose myself in the frenzy of the moment of creation, when I can still rip apart my psyche with glee while I selfishly aspire through my writing to the lusty, impossible dream of finishing the tower of Babel.

Of course, perhaps I have only learned to lie to myself about what constitutes genuine betrayal (which should go without saying).

This brings me to my own question. What is your least favorite contribution of mine to the Star Wars universe and why?

The quick, instinctive answer is Who’s Who: The Imperial Grand Admirals. I know this is unfair, because you co-wrote it with Dan Wallace, but that was the one that popped into my head, so I hope you (and he) will indulge me.

Thinking about it for a moment, I think it’s fairer to say that I was disappointed than that I dislike it. There seems to be a pervasive stench of blood about it all – vanity and brutality, thwarted ambition and mental illness, black comedy. I got very little sense that any of these creatures possess the qualities which, for good or ill, define great military leaders.

I suppose what I’m thinking of is an ability to master a situation, whether by methodical planning or intuitive action, or simple moral strength. We know there were people in the Galaxy who were never bowed by Palpatine and Vader – Leia and Mon Mothma are two excellent examples; it seems to me both challenging and rewarding to acknowledge that some of these people would also have served on the wrong side of the conflict.

Those are interesting points. Interestingly, Dan and I actually wrote an extended version of that article, the second half of which should be published in one of the upcoming Insiders as “Who’s Who in the Imperial Military.”

The criticism you bring is actually one I hear often about the portrayal of the Grand Admirals in that piece, and I’ve often noted that, in writing it, I took for granted the fact that these were military geniuses and didn’t give a second thought to having to prove that within their biographies. This may or may not have been a consequence of that unrefined approach to writing Star Wars at the start of my career I spoke about earlier, what I’ll call “fan-baroque.” The naďve thought here might’ve been, “Of course, everyone knows a Grand Admiral is, like, a totally unbeatable naval genius. So since everyone knows that, let’s focus on what these guys are like as individuals. Furthermore, given that it would be improbable, but interesting, for an Imperial military genius to be a zealot, a drug addict, a softy, a Force-user, or (ha ha) an idiot, let’s do some of that too.”

Touché, Grand Admiral Peña.

Well, that was the quick, instinctive answer. On a more considered analysis, I’m not sure I can think of anything better. The Emperor’s Pawns made some decisions (notably with Irek’s parentage) that I wouldn’t have made myself. And in hindsight, I fear that making Boba Fett the Mandalorian premier in The History of the Mandalorians has made it hard to use his character effectively. The heroes can’t knock him into a sarlacc these days without inviting a minor interstellar crisis, and random revenge-killings from highly-skilled, hero-worshiping psychopaths scattered across the Galaxy.

However, both of those are personal reactions that really represent the way things have played out in the wider storyline based on the seeds you planted.

Overall, I guess, I suspect my own worldview isn’t quite the same as yours, but that’s not something I can factor objectively into my evaluation of anyone’s writing... or at least, it may tell you something about my own outlook that I don’t like trying to.

Wise. And yet, wisdom gets boring, no? Better never to have spoken, ever, as the man said. Writers, of course, damn themselves by chronicling their error of verbosity with such tender-loving care.

Entertaining others is a double-edged sword, and with the acclaim, if we are lucky to get it, we must crave the disapproval. We might even have to request it. Both praise and disdain by the audience are egocentric expressions, just as the writing that produced them is. And, as you said, the purpose of the writing might very well be merely to amuse, let’s say distract, rather than to be accurate. In fact, I’m certain of it. For we know accuracy is impossible … with a lower case “im.”

“Are you certain you’re speaking my language?” It’s really a rhetorical question. The answer, of course, should be total certainty that you are not. Only, if you know why that’s the answer, then there’s that nagging little word “certain,” and again, the warning about the language of absolutes and that promise of inevitability.

And, at the risk of a little bathos, that’s perhaps an appropriate point to draw the discussion to a close...?

Well, unless you have any closing remarks to add, I guess that’s it. Thanks so much for doing this: it’s been a blast!!

I have the nagging feeling this interview will come back to haunt me one day. I’ll remember I have you to thank.


For now, though, Abel definately gets the last word. And, if you’re hungry for more, you can visit his website and his StarWars.com VIP blog.
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