December 1999, by Helen Keier
This is Part 2 of our multi-part interview with R. A. Salvatore. Click Here for Part 1 of this interview!
Our own Helen Keier recently had the pleasure of meeting R. A. Salvatore at a book signing in New York. After the meeting, she was fortunate to be able to chat on the phone for quite a while with Salvatore. This is the first in a multiple part interview with the author of Vector Prime. The interview below is transcribed directly from the tape of the conversation. This is probably one of the most in depth and honest interviews we've posted on the site, and we very much appreciate Helen and Salvatore for taking the time on it.
Salvatore has visited the TF.N forums and even addresses particular concerns, praises, questions, and criticisms. Also, when you're done here, be sure to visit RASalvatore.com. On with the interview!
Be warned that spoilers from the Vector Prime novel are discussed openly in this interview. If you haven't read the book, go read it, then come back here!
TF.N: Let's get to the big one.
RAS: The big one?
TF.N: The big one.
RAS: You're not going for the science first? Damn, I was all ready for that one.
TF.N: Ok. We'll talk about the science. How would you address some of the criticisms that the science of Vector Prime wasn't accurate?
RAS: Ok. Which particular parts? I've heard everything from how can a staff block a lightsaber to how can you inject energy and cool something down? ...I don't know if you're familiar with them... but I've been questioned on this on emails. Pick one and I'll answer it.
TF.N: How does Kyp manage to keep his ship together in hyperspace when it's just falling apart whereas physics should have dictated that this ship should have disintegrated?
RAS: Everything that happened with Kyp, on that journey back from the wipe- out of his Dozen and Two, came straight from documentation of the Star Wars Encyclopedia, the Essential Guides, and previous material. I don't remember the exact specifics, but every thing that happened in that journey, when he lost the canopy and the way he flew after he lost the canopy, every bit of it, came right out of those manuals. I was very careful to follow along with the reasoning, the logic, and the precedents of those books. Again, I don't know the specifics on that flight, when he was in hyperspace, when he wasn't. But everything that happened there came right out of the material I was given...about the things a Jedi can do while flying, the trance if you will, and what you can or can not do without canopy. Every bit of it. That's my only defense on that one because honestly I don't know if you can fly in hyperspace without a canopy or not. I don't remember that he did, but if he did, I don't know if you can or not. In fact, I don't think he did. He came out of hyperspace.
TF.N: He made tiny, short jumps because he didn't think it could last the whole way.
RAS: Right... and that was right out of the manual if you will, on what you can and can't do.
TF.N: I'll admit I read VECTOR PRIME a couple times already. I didn't personally find as much difficulty with the science because...Star Wars and Science Fiction in general...[is] a very different kind of world...
RAS: Of course it's a very different kind of world.
TF.N: ...and some of the laws of science that apply here on Earth aren't necessarily going to apply there.
RAS: Right. Right. One of my other ones was how can a staff block a lightsaber, if a lightsaber is pure energy? I guess my answer to that is how can a lightsaber block a lightsaber? How could Luke in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK use his lightsaber to parry the items that Darth Vader was telekenesing at him on the railway? Remember that?
RAS: Luke was parrying those. How could he, if it's just energy? Why didn't he shear right through and get hit by two pieces? How could Darth Vader parry Luke's blade and bring the both over to the side and they crash down on the railing? Why didn't they shear right through, keep going, and cut right through the walkway as well? They didn't.
TF.N: That's an interesting point, because if someone's going to go to a very deep level of detail, in the ESB novelization, Yoda makes a point of Luke being able to cut multiple pieces through rods that he throws at him. So...
RAS: So maybe it's in the control of the wielder. I know there's an explanation of why it doesn't work on the Vong living creatures and it's got to do with molecular transfer, but I don't know that explanation. ...One of the editors told me about [that]...That's a very ambiguous thing through the movies. When Darth Vader gets rid of Ben Kenobi, he does not shear that cloak into two pieces. The cloak folds down to the floor. Do you remember that?
TF.N: Yes. Yet Darth Maul is cleaved in half.
RAS: Did he get cleaved in half?
TF.N: [In] the very, very last scene [of the fight between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul in TPM], as he's falling down the pit, Darth Maul is cut in half, with a lightsaber.
RAS: Darth Maul is cut in half, but when Darth Vader took out Ben Kenobi, the cloak just kind of falls down to the floor. Why didn't it just shear right through? That's a cloak.
TF.N: So would you say then...more than being ambiguous, it's just not possible to explain some of these things? Some of the science [in VP]?
RAS: Yeah, I would say that exactly, particularly when you're talking about a lightsaber. I know that there was a scene - I think it was in one of Mike Stackpole's books - where...[it's] described how a lightsaber works, but...a lightsaber can't work, by any mechanics or physics that I know of. To contain that amount of energy into a form like that, even through movement and impact...makes no physical or logical sense to me, but it happens. Again, it is ambiguous. I saw them cutting through the door in PHANTOM MENACE, right? They cut right through the hatch with the lightsabers. Why did it take them as long as it did? Why wasn't it one clean swipe and the hatch falls away?
TF.N: The Stackpole book you're referring to is I, JEDI...
RAS: I read that.
TF.N: ...when the character Corran Horn builds his own.
RAS: That's right. That's where I read that. One other thing on the lightsabers is I was instructed to stay away from them...
RAS: ...in terms of creation and description, because...the creation of a lightsaber had become such a ritual, and it had been done too many times. ...[I was instructed] don't show the creation of any lightsabers and don't get too much into the description of lightsabers, only because there's all sort of things going on now, with...[why] Darth Maul's was red, why should Leia's be red, and things like that...That was a decision I don't think anyone was prepared to make...In the movies, lightsabers weren't that important, in terms of color and things like that. Now apparently, things have taken on an importance, and I don't know if that's sorted out at any level at this point. I haven't heard any sorting of it. So I was instructed to stay away from...specifics concerning lightsabers.
TF.N: That's an interesting point. Would you say the importance placed on lightsabers something from Lucasfilm, or is it something that's come out of the fan community?
RAS: I think it's come out of the fan community more than Lucasfilm...I could be 100% wrong about that. Probably [am].... I know when I wrote my first book one of the best scenes was the creation of Wulgar's magical hammer, Aegis-fang...I suspect that authors like doing things...[such as the creation of lightsabers], so maybe some of the authors have...[included them]. I know Mike Stackpole did in I, JEDI...[showing] ritualistic, important events [as part of] the creation of the lightsaber. It's like the samurai sword, [and] the wrapping of the metal. With the samurai sword...[there is a] whole ritual involved in creating a sword for a Samurai. It is an exciting thing, so I suspect it's a little of both. ...[The color of a character's] lightsaber...never struck me as important until I was told don't really get into those kind of details...
TF.N: It is portrayed in several of the novels as a right of passage for a new Jedi to build his lightsaber...
TF.N: ...and to some extent, it would have been out of place in VP. You don't have the companion event of someone achieving Jedi status or Jedi Knight status that building a lightsaber would have fit in the story...[However, the creation of a lightsaber] is given a [certain] level of detail and description [in the EU]. In Barbara Hambly's CHILDREN OF THE JEDI, she goes into detail about the shells of crustaceans that are built into the handle of Callista's lightsaber, and that it's yellow.
TF.N: So I tend to believe it is both ways, it is from the fan community, and from some of the authors. It's a neat little thing to talk about.
RAS: Sure it is...I'm just not sure that everyone's sorted that out, what the implications of all of that are yet, in terms of :"Oh my God... Leia had a red blade, so did Darth Maul! It must be an evil sword!" I don't think anyone's sorted out all those implications yet.
TF.N: I guess I just know too many of the details too. The reason Leia has a red lightsaber is because it was actually built for her by Luke and Luke gave it to her.
RAS: Right. I knew that... Now, with the Darth Maul character, the connotation of the red lightsaber, I think, has changed a little bit.
TF.N: ...Vader's was also red. I can see where that goes.
RAS: Of course, the big science question is the destruction of the planet.
TF.N: So how did the gravity well work?
RAS: Oh, you're talking about Sernpidal, the dovin basal? That's from a science fiction movie of the 1950s, where scientists stumble upon...an alien spaceship. I don't remember if it was under the North Pole. Probably was [because] that's where they usually find them. They found out that the propulsion system of this ship was actually the ability to lock on to gravitational fields from as far away as they wanted to. They could pick a star and isolate that gravitational field. I don't remember the name of the movie. Excellent movie...[The use of gravity fields] was how the ship propelled itself.
TF.N: Was including this in VECTOR PRIME your idea, or something from Lucasfilm?
RAS: No, that was my idea. I thought the dovin basals as a means of propulsion, along with solar sails, was needed. Remember, I couldn't [and] wasn't going to use technology with the Vong. I can't have jellyfish puffing and huffing and puffing because they're pushing into a vacuum, so they're not really pushing themselves anywhere. I don't know how else that these ships could get around. I don't have a clue as to how else these ships could have gotten around without using some kind of gravity well, unless I had creatures that ate other creatures for fuel, or ate fuel and lit fires out their butts...So when the...dovin basal is down the hole and pulling down the moon, it's locking onto the gravity of the planet and focusing a segment of that gravity more directly upon the moon. Can it be done? I don't know. I suppose the answer to that lies in the...gravity well mechanics of a lightsaber. If you can figure out exactly how to shape that energy blade using force fields, gravity wells, [or] whatever you're using, then I suppose you'll have the answer to how the dovin basal did it. But of course you can't, because it's Star Wars.
TF.N: So what is the big science question of VP?
RAS: The big science question is how did they freeze the planet.
TF.N: So, how did they do it?
RAS: ...I saw this on [The Discovery Channel] right around the same time I was plotting VP. I was thinking how can I have a Death Star-like ending, because we really wanted a Death Star-like ending...Scientists had actually approached absolute zero in a laboratory, to the point of molecular breakdown. It's called the Einstein-Bose Wave effect...The way they super-cooled...to that level of molecular breakdown was through evaporation, which is the highest form of energy stealing that we have. Could you then reflect yammosk energy at the vapor field around an ice planet to create evaporation and freeze the planet? Probably not, but at least in theory, it's been done. To some thermal dynamics people that makes no sense, unless you go look at Einstein- Bose...Again, it's Star Wars, it's not 2001, A Space Odyssey. How does one actually make the jump to lightspeed, and if ships as small as an X-Wing have the power to make that jump, why was the Death Star such a big deal? Do you realize how much energy you have to be talking about? If you can harness that kind of energy in something as small as an X-Wing the Death Star should have just been a bigger target.
TF.N: I think you're going to send people rushing to find out what the Einstein-Bose Wave effect is.
RAS: It's on the Net. They can look it up. I looked it up several times before I wrote the book...Again, could you use the Einstein-Bose wave effect and freeze Jupiter's moon? I doubt it very much, any more than you could fire flame out the back of your engine and jump to lightspeed.
TF.N: The big controversy. Chewie's death.
TF.N: Part I think of the reaction to this is, as I said to Michael Stackpole in the interview with him, is that people don't understand large events are determined by Lucasfilm. You can't put anything in a novel, a comic book, anything about Star Wars, without it being approved by their licensing division. I think some of the criticisms of Chewie's death...
RAS: Chewie's death was approved of at a higher level than the licensing division.
TF.N: How high?
RAS: How high? How high can you go in Star Wars?
TF.N: Would you say the idea originated that high?
TF.N: Where do you think the idea of Chewie's death originated?
RAS: My understanding...[was] that in those meetings to put together NJO, an awful lot was bantered about. How do we put tension in these novels? Who do we kidnap next? Who's got the new superweapon?...I've seen a lot of cynical remarks and posts [suggesting] that this was a marketing decision designed to sell books. That's a whole different issue. Of course you design things to sell books. This was not a gimmick. If it was a gimmick, it was a gimmick in the way to say to people this is different. Nothing is sacred anymore. Be scared. You should be very scared...The decision was made - and now I've spoken with Mike Stackpole at length on this because he was in those meetings - and Mike...assured me...after I found out what had to be in the novel...that this was done because the tension was gone. You knew characters were untouchable. If you know characters are untouchable, it's much harder to put people on the edge of their seats.
I'm going to go back to a show that premiered in the early 80s. It was called TOUR OF DUTY. It was about Vietnam, and the appeal of that show was that week to week, characters that you thought were stars on the show, would be killed, or would be shipped home, and they'd be out of the show. It was an amazing departure from what you expect on shows where you have 10 stars, who each make $500,000 an episode and you know they're not going anywhere [because] they're the star power that drives the show. TOUR OF DUTY didn't do that until the end. In the next to last season, two of the characters became untouchable...That show lasted one more season and then didn't have the ratings to continue. It didn't have the ratings to continue because the tension was gone. You knew when LT and Sarge were put in the most desperate situation at the end of an episode that they would get out of it the following episode.
I think...[the] decision [to kill Chewie] was a painful one for everybody in that room, [who are] people who love this Star Wars galaxy as much as, or more than anybody out there reading the books. But they decided that we had to make the point clear that when [the main characters are] in a fight, you really should be on the edge of your seat. In any book, at any time, someone could go. My understanding is they then presented George with this, and he okayed it.
[When] I signed to do the book, I had no idea this was going to be in the book. If I had known at the beginning, it would have been much harder for them to get me to sign... Not because I love Chewie, but...because I don't want to be known as the author who killed Chewbacca. I've got a lot of other credits to my name that I'd rather be known for. However, when I was presented with it, my initial reaction was "Here's your money back." Several phone calls later, I came to understand, and agree with, the decision that it was time to shake things up. It's time to put people on the edge of their seats.
At the end of Star Wars, the first one, I really thought Han was going away. I really did. When [Han] was protecting Luke and Luke went down there and the Death Star blew up, I thought Han was going away, but he didn't. He could've and I knew he could've, because it was a movie, and it made it that much more enjoyable for me. Now, was [the decision to kill Chewbacca] a smart move or not a smart move? We're going to find out, and the way we're going to find out, [is the way] every reader is going to find out for themselves when they're reading the future books and they think someone might be going. Or indeed someone might be. I don't know. I'm not writing them. If they're sitting on the edge of their seats instead of sitting back comfortably, then that was the right decision to make. I guess the thing that bothers me about it is this illusion that it's some kind of gimmick and serves no plot point, or no plot purpose. Of course it does, as much as any death in any book does. Here's why. It is always the choice of the author, or the director, or in this case the creator of a work whether or not to kill a character. That is always the choice. It is always a choice and you sit down and make that decision. Sometimes you make it before you write it and sometimes you make it as the story [is] going along, but it is a conscious decision. It doesn't happen by accident.
Here's a PRIVATE RYAN spoiler warning. Why did Tom Hanks die in that movie? What plot point did it serve in that movie for him to not get off that bridge? The plot points that it served were the emotional impact of the end of that movie when Private Ryan was standing by that grave...The plot point that Chewbacca dying served, in addition to a tension between Han and Anakin that's going to be there, I believe, [is] guilt on Anakin's shoulders. A whole new perspective of the way things can happen to Han Solo - who didn't believe anyone in that bubble could really die - was the emotional impact of the ending of that novel, when Han Solo's looking at the baseball cap and seeing the hair. You can't have that emotional impact if they're all there cheering and putting medals on each other, and it's the seventieth time in a row that's happened. That's not emotional impact. I agree with the decision. I think it was a courageous decision on the part of everyone in that meeting. I know it hurt like hell because I've killed favorite characters of my own, and yet they had the guts to go ahead and do it. I applaud them for that, and I think it makes for a tenser series as we go along.
TF.N: It's funny. When you were answering that, talking about emotional tension in the stories, I recalled one Star Wars rumor that Harrison Ford, at the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI, wanted Han Solo to die...
RAS: Right. I've heard that actually...
TF.N: ...for many of the reasons you've just cited. It would make the story carry that much more emotional resonance, if Han would have died...The rumor as I've always heard it, continues on that there was a first rough cut of RoTJ shown to audiences...
RAS: And they didn't like it.
TF.N: ...where at the end of RoTJ Lando and Nien Nunb are piloting the Falcon out of the Death Star, [and] it actually does explode. The Falcon never makes it out. Wedge makes it out in the X-Wing, but then the Falcon doesn't. Audiences, when seeing this cut of [RoTJ], really didn't like the ending. (Editor - For the record, all of this was considered, but never filmed. ROTJ was not screened for audiences.)
RAS: Sure, and I understand that. I also understand the context of it, but let's talk about who the Star wars novels are particularly aimed at now. They are particularly aimed at people who loved those movies. Those movies are twenty years old...If there was a mistake made at the ranch...[in] the decision that they made to go ahead and do this, the mistake was that they over-estimated the sophistication of their audience.
TF.N: Do you think they have?
RAS: I hope not...This is funny because we've spent a lot of time talking about criticisms of the book. But the truth of it is, and I wanted particularly to do that in this interview, where we're on THEFORCE.NET because that was...one of the message boards I was originally guided to when I was coming into Star Wars. One of the things Mike [Stackpole] said to me was that you should get a feel for the community. Now I think it's been my hugest mistake keeping up with that after the book came out because I don't know how representative of the general audience that the small core community really is...The only reason I'm saying that is the book is selling like crazy.
TF.N: Last time I looked, you were number 9 on the New York Times Hardcover fiction best seller list.
RAS: It is still, which is two weeks in advance of now, on the extended New York Times list...That includes all the big Christmas books that are coming out. The book is selling extremely well. My understanding was that it outpaced in its first weeks even VISION OF THE FUTURE, and if you can come close to Tim Zahn in sales, you've got to be happy with Star Wars....I don't know how representative of the general audience the core group is. I'm answering the criticisms of the core group. I think they need to be answered, only because now I'm seeing those criticisms effecting judgments of people who have already made judgments on the book, and that makes me crazy. The truth of it is...my email cache fills up nightly from people saying "Wow, thank you. What a great book." I see twenty of those for every one that's negative, and I think on Amazon.com for example, we've got I don't know how many reviews. I'm sure it's more than 50, and it's a four star rating. That includes many one star reviews from people screaming about the big event. So I'm not sure how representative that group is of the general audience that isn't...[so] involved with Star Wars that they watch the movies weekly, or read every book that comes out or every comic book that comes out. I think there's this big distinction there.
TF.N: It does seem that some of the more sophisticated fans, to use your words, don't have the same criticisms.
RAS: There are several very, very sophisticated readers out there that have incredible criticisms of the book that I've seen.
TF.N: What were some of the criticisms you didn't have a problem with, that you maybe thought were valid?
RAS: (long pause) I'm still thinking. The reason I'm saying that is because any author ...[who] writes a book gets very used to getting criticism, and any author that's been in this business for any amount of time knows...you can't please all the readers. You can't. Any author that's involved in a series knows that's even tougher...[because] now you've got people who've got their own visions, and anything of the series, of the characters, and anything that you do that deviates from their perception is going to cause them grief, and they in turn will cause you grief. Having said that, [I remember something said by] my very first editor, Mary Kirchoff, over at TSR. I ran into the same problem with my Drizzt series. It's 12 books along, and if I try to do anything different, a lot of times I'll be getting an uproar from people. Certain segments of the audience don't like the direction shift...I think it's probably the wisest thing I've heard when it comes to this new phenomenon of "series." It's a fairly new phenomenon in literature. Mary said to me "What they really want is their Drizzt virginity back, and you can't give that to them." There's truth in that. Virginity in Star Wars means seeing the movies for the first time, and then reading HEIR TO THE EMPIRE, in...[the old] series, which is why that series is going to get much, much less flack than subsequent series. That's a very good series, by the way. You can't give them back their virginity. You can't give them back that feeling they had when the Imperial Star Destroyer crossed that screen in the opening of Star Wars: ANH. You can't do that. It doesn't happen.
TF.N: Do you think NEW JEDI ORDER might just come close?
RAS: I think NEW JEDI ORDER is one of the most ambitious and gutsy things I have seen in the publishing industry in my entire time in the publishing industry. A twenty-plus book series with each one building on the events of the previous one is an enormous undertaking. I do not envy the authors of books 17, 18, [or] 21 because it is going to be a huge undertaking to keep things moving in a consistent direction from VECTOR PRIME on out. I do not in any shape or form envy the editors of this project. It is incredibly ambitious and gutsy. It goes against all the safe conditions of putting together a series of books. Safe would have said copy what's happened before. Safe would have said don't do anything bigger than a trilogy. They chose a more gutsy approach. I salute them for it. I am going to read every NEW JEDI ORDER book. I am going to make time in my schedule to honestly see...if they can pull this off. I've written a five book series. My DARK ELF books are twelve books, but they were never written as a twelve book series. I wrote what was planned as a five book series with my CLERIC QUINTET. Let me tell you something - on book 4 I was struggling. It was a lot of work to get it right through five books, and they're going to do it for four-plus times that number. And I'm going to read all those books. For those people who are going to read that in this interview, I'm going to put a disclaimer up here right now because I know I'm going to see it. For those people who are going to say "He's taking the company line," there is no company line for me to take. Okay? I do not work for Lucasfilm, I am a freelance author. I'm not trying to score any brownie points here. I have no reason to score brownie points here. I want to see if they can pull this off, and if they can, it's going to be real hard for what comes next to equal it. So I'm in awe that they're even trying.
TF.N: You've mentioned [Star Wars] virginity. I was wondering if you thought VECTOR PRIME, perhaps in newness and the departure it's taking from previous Star Wars books, almost standing the Star Wars Universe on its head, will maybe restore some of that sense of wonder?
RAS: That was the hope...I don't think it's going to do that for people who want their old EU back. I don't think it's going to do that for people who want to see Palpatine come back and fight them again, because they're not going to give it the chance to do that...VECTOR PRIME was designed to stand things up on end and spin them around real fast. Sure. Will it succeed? I think it has, for a lot of people. I think it has for a lot of people.
TF.N: What were you most proudest of with VECTOR PRIME?
RAS: That I wrote a Star Wars book, that went through 10 editors - who were incredibly scrupulous despite what some people may say to the contrary - who had certain expectations that had to be there, and that the book went flying through. That I pulled it off. As far as specifics in the book? The best part of that book is the last chapter.
TF.N: Han's epilogue?
RAS: Absolutely. In my opinion that is the best part of that book. I think it sums up NEW JEDI ORDER very well. I got a call from my editor at Del Rey, when she had first read it and she said "I'm crying." I like that. I like making people cry. I like that a lot. Why wouldn't I?
TF.N: I'll admit, I sat there numb. I felt a sense of emotional shock...that numbness when you find out something that really takes you by surprise.
RAS: When you read he ending?
TF.N: When I read Chewie's death, and then again when I read the ending.
RAS: The other part of that is...[as] I said before, you can't blame me for making the decision to kill him. It wasn't my decision. I was instructed - commanded - with a contract I had signed waved in front my face, that yeah, I was really going to do this...I will take responsibility for whether or not...[Chewbacca's death] was done right...That death and the scene immediately afterward when Han is just fuming and looking for somebody to punch, I liked the way they were done. I'm proud of that. But I still think the ending of that book though, the last chapter, sums up NEW JEDI ORDER very well.
TFN: What do you think of the upcoming New Jedi Order books, the authors that have been chosen, etc.?
RAS: I can't comment about the books, because I don't know. I know the general story arc, but I know very little about what goes on after my book...That's on purpose, because I want to read them like a reader, instead of like an editor. Mike Stackpole's books are next. I respect his work tremendously. I really wasn't familiar with Mike's work until we did a book signing together down in Mississippi....He had a line and I didn't have anyone there, and then I had a line and he didn't have anyone there, so it gave us both an opportunity to listen to what people were saying...The comments I heard people making to Mike Stackpole were all the right comments that you make to a good author. They were comments about characters, not about any neat, cute plot twists. They were comments about characters, and an author who can do characters right has to be good. I've since read some of Mike's work, Star Wars and otherwise. I think his Star Wars work is very, very good. I think his non-Star Wars work, [especially] his Hero series that he just completed, I believe - I hope he's doing another one - is even stronger. The guy "gets" it. He knows what he is doing.
Jim Luceno, I don't know that well. He's been in the business a long time. I've spoken with him a few times. His credentials are impeccable. He is incredibly thoughtful when we talk, email-wise, and on the phone. Wait, have I talked to Jim? I don't think I've even talked to Jim in person, just through emails, but he's incredibly thoughtful and meticulous and he pays attention to what he's doing, takes pride in what he's doing. He knows this galaxy far, far, away. He knew it before most of us did, and I've heard nothing but good things about him.
The only other person I'm very familiar with is Troy Denning...Shelly Shapiro over at Del Rey got a submittal from Troy Denning. He sent one of his books and she read it...She called me up because she knew I knew Troy from our TSR days, and asked "What do you think of Troy Denning."...I told her she would never meet a more decent person. She said "No, no, what do you think of him as a writer?" I think he is fantastic. He is fantastic. Troy Denning, to me, is a writer who has never realized his potential. He has written some fantastic books, but I know he that one day in the not too distant future, Troy Denning is going to write a book...I'm going to read that book, and I'm going to hate him for ever after, because it's going to be the book I wish I could write. He is a super, super writer, and person.
TFN: I can't think of a higher compliment than that.
RAS: Well, I love Troy's work, and it's been a pleasure working in the FORGOTTEN REALMS with him all these years. I love his work...There are several over there in the FORGOTTEN REALMS whose work I love, but Troy I think, he just hits me on chords that few authors ever do...I think he is going to be a tremendous addition to Star Wars...Those are the only three I really know who've been signed up to do books.
TFN: How do you think they're going to impact Star Wars? What do you think they'll bring to it?
RAS: I hope they stay true to the vision of NEW JEDI ORDER. I hope that Lucasfilm, and Del Rey and the authors have the guts to finish what they started. I would hate very much for them to cop out, clone an Emperor, kidnap some kids, bring Chewie back, and start writing the Bantam Doubleday books again...I'm not criticizing the Bantam Doubleday Dell books, I'm really not. It's just that they've been done. It's time for something a little different. They've started something a little different that could be something magnificent. I hope that they get by the screaming people who've had different expectations - always keep in mind that's a minority at least in sales as a measure of a book's success - and stay true to the vision of NEW JEDI ORDER that was put together up at the ranch in those meetings. If they do that, when all is said and done, this is going to be a series that people are going to look back on and go "WOW".
TF.N: Before we move away from discussing VECTOR PRIME, is there anything you would care to comment on about NEW JEDI ORDER or VECTOR PRIME, that we haven't covered thus far?
RAS: We've been pretty thorough. I have gotten away from the message boards, so I don't know...the [current discussion of VP] with the exception of the post someone else directed me to, [and] ones concerning Mike's interview and the reaction to it - a very cynical reaction I might add on the part of some people and they really should take a good look at themselves when they make that kind of reaction to someone who is coming on here and being more candid than he ever had to be - but when I was directed toward that or to the post from the person who had changed "I really like the book, but I saw your criticisms and now I really can't like the book" type of thing...[it was] just ridiculous to me. I've gotten away from the message boards, and the reason I have is I came to realize those message boards aren't for me. Those message boards are for the people who want to voice their opinion and want to scream and want to be right and will go to great lengths to prove they're right. I do have a problem with the Internet in general and a problem with the proprietizing of series's...What I mean by that is that you can like or not like any book or movie that you choose to like or not like but always, always, always you should keep in mind that it's not your book, or your movie. It's someone else's. The level of assumption that I have seen on these boards, turned into fact, leading to errant conclusion, is amazing to me. There is a novel just in writing reviews of message boards. I've seen it on all kinds of message boards. People make a comment and then that comment, which is an opinion or a guess, is subsequently turned into fact.
I have been told that my Vong creatures come from everything from the Zergans in Starcraft to GI Joe, The Movie, with 10 other movies [thrown in]. [Some claim] "You took these right from this movie", and on a Bible I'll tell you, I hadn't seen any of the movies they're talking about. I heard someone else tell me that the yammosk was too much like the bug thing in Starship Troopers. The yammosk was nothing like the bug. That is one movie I did see, but it was nothing like the bug thing from Starship Troopers...I got asked this in a chat the other night, and I didn't answer it truthfully. Someone asked me if there are any inside jokes in VECTOR PRIME, like spelling someone's name backwards and making a different name out of it. There was one inside joke in VECTOR PRIME, and I don't generally like inside jokes, which is why I just said there weren't any. But there was one inside joke in VECTOR PRIME.
TF.N: What was it?
RAS: It has always struck me as very funny that the name of the water planet is Mon Calamari. As an Italian, that makes me howl, because calamari is my favorite appetizer. So the yammosk is not the bug thing from Starship Troopers. The yammosk is a giant squid.
TF.N: (Helen laughs) Because of Mon Calamari?
RAS: That's where I got the idea. I love calamari. Whenever we go to restaurants with friends, we say "Uh, are we going to get appetizers? Oh yeah, we'll get appetizers." As soon as my wife opens the menu, "Oh, they've got calamari. We've got to get that for Bob."
TF.N: Fried, with a little marinara on the side?
RAS: Absolutely... absolutely!
TF.N: I'm not Italian myself...
RAS: It's not the bug thing from Starship Troopers. As to it being the Zerg in Starcraft? In truth, if you look at the Yuuzhan Vong, they're more like the Protoss than the Zerg. Maybe they use...their own Zerg weaponry, if you will. Starcraft is a very cool game. I have to give a plug for my friends over at Blizzard and Starcraft. It is a very cool game. It is the one game that makes me late for deadlines. The Vong would be more like the Protoss, but they're not really based on that either. The Vong are based on many of the warrior cultures of our own world.
TF.N: Like which?
RAS: [Such as] the Norse [and] the American Indians, several different tribes. Battle is exalted and worshiped in many of our cultures. I saw a long dissertation on the boards months ago, when the book first came out about the Vong, and comparing them to the Romans. I'm sure to the people the Romans conquered there is that comparison to be made. They seem like this dispassionate force that just overwhelms them, without rhyme or reason. For the Vong, warfare is religious. It is sacred. Scars denote rank.
TF.N: That was one element of the novel that personally, I think I latched onto, for lack of a better word...It seemed very clear to me that a completely different culture was being portrayed...I personally thought that came through very clearly.
RAS: Well, I think the culture of the Vong is an extreme version of cultures we've seen on Earth. I mean, one of the highest things you can do is put your own eye out for the Gods of war. That's insane.