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Interviews -
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+

Dan Wallace

We first had contact with Dan Wallace when we had some crazy man commenting about Steve and my "THE MANDALORIAN ARMOR" review via e-mail. :) We had complained that the story didn't fit into current Star Wars continuity well. However, the guy pointed out that that wasn't the case and he showed us the error of our ways. He was obviously very well informed which was our first clue that we might know him. The guy's name rang a bell. "Dan Wallace! Isn't he that crazy old man that lives out by the Dune Sea?" Actually, he's a fan turned writer who has his fingers in tons of cool projects. We asked him a few questions and he was cool enough to answer them. On with the interrogation!!!

TF.N - What Star Wars projects to you have lined up right now?

DW - Two new entries in the Essential Guide series: Planets and Moons (August '98 release) and Droids (early '99 release). Steve Sansweet, Josh Ling, and I worked on a book together that will be packaged with an exclusive 12" action figure; look for that in the fall. Parker Brothers' Star Wars Trivial Pursuit should be in stores right now and I worked on that. There's also an Episode One project I just got involved with but I don't think I'm cleared to discuss the details yet. And on the side I've written some short fiction for the Star Wars Adventure Journal.

TF.N - How did you first get involved working on Official Star Wars projects? What would you recommend other fans do to break into the business?

DW - I'm going to mangle that old Chinese proverb about luck occurring when preparation meets opportunity. The preparation part came about years ago when I put together a database of all the planets mentioned in the Star Wars movies, novels, and comics and dumped it on the Internet; just one of those mildly-obsessive things that fans like to make for other fans.

The opportunity came about because Lucasfilm needed an author to write The Essential Guide to Planets and Moons, and they knew I had a writing background and could see I had at least a passing familiarity with the subject at hand. I was asked to participate in a writers' audition and submitted a 4000-word spec piece on the planet Hoth. Lucasfilm liked the piece and picked me up, and since then things have just snowballed.

Hmmm. In retrospect I guess it's still drop-dead stone-cold luck, no matter what the Chinese say.

Given that my freelance career path is hardly typical, my advice on how to break into the biz is admittedly of limited value. But I don't think you can overemphasize the basics -- read everything from Ben Bova to bus signs, and practice writing whenever a paper, a pen, and a spare twenty minutes happen to coincide. Above all, put a very high priority on getting work published, even if it's in your cousin's poetry zine or the Adopt-A-Pet column in the Ottumwa Observer. It's published! Who cares what the venue is? It'll help you get better jobs, and those jobs will lead to even better ones.

TF.N - You wrote the questions for the Star Wars Trivial Pursuit game. How did you come up with the questions? How did you come up with the prequel questions? Are they generic or do they discuss specific details of Episode 1?

DW - The prequel questions? I didn't even know they existed until I saw an ad. A special "prequel pack" of cards is included with each game of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, and I'm guessing they were put together by someone at Lucasfilm. Someone with a higher security clearance than me!

The regular questions come in two boxes. Each box holds about 200 cards. And each card features six questions categorized into Characters, Weapons/Vehicles, Geography, History, Droids/Creatures, and Wild Card. That's almost 2,400 questions and answers in all, and the first thing Parker Brothers told me was that none of the questions could be drawn from the spinoff books, scripts, or novelizations. No Tantive IV, no Bail Organa, no Sy Snootles. If it wasn't somewhere in the films themselves, it was off limits.

This is actually a very wise decision. Many fans aren't familiar with the spinoff material, and in some cases it actually contradicts what's seen on screen. But as the game's researcher, I had really been counting on terms like "Rodian," "Bith," and "Tusken Raider." When the cantina scene passed me by with only a handful of useable questions, I realized I had to get creative. Ponda Baba became "enraged walrus-faced alien in the Mos Eisley cantina" or some such, a catchall description that most everyone could recognize.

One of the nice things about this game is that one-quarter of the cards are photo cards taken from the Lucasfilm image archive. And Parker Brothers had some great designers work up a special Trivial Pursuit board and game pieces. I also believe that this is far and away the largest number of questions assembled for a Star Wars trivia project, ever.

I knocked myself out to make sure the questions were unquestionably accurate...at one point I covered my TV screen with little dots of toothpaste so I could count something during a freeze-framed image of a space scene. And Lucasfilm double-checked everything I submitted for accuracy. But if you should happen to run across a question you think is incorrect, feel free to call me up and bite my head off.

TF.N - You've got the Guide to Planets coming out soon. Out of all the planets mentioned in the Star Wars Universe, how did you decide which ones to cover?

DW - Given the way the Essential Guide series is set up, an author can cover exactly 100 items. 100 planets/ships/weapons/droids/smashball players/whatever. Obviously, the first available slots went to the movie planets, including the ones named but never visited such as Taanab and Dantooine. Believe it or not, there are 15, not counting Anoat.

Then you've got all the planets that are never named on screen but which you can't in good conscience leave out. These are mostly alien homeworlds like Kashyyyk, Mon Calamari, Ryloth, and Bothawui.

After this, Lucasfilm and I went down through the novels and comics and culled several planets from each major storyline. A few worlds from Tales of the Jedi, a half-dozen from a longer series such as the Thrawn trilogy, no more than two planets from a one-shot hardcover like The Courtship of Princess Leia. That pretty much maxed out our roster of 100. There are so many planets in the Star Wars galaxy it's inevitable that some fans will find a missing one, but we gave it our best shot.

TF.N - In writing the guides to Droids or Planets, what do you do when there's a conflict in the backgrounds from two different stories? For example, a conflict in descriptions of Tatooine from the Marvel Comics and the novels.

DW - Good question. I'm not aware of any major conflicts between the Marvel and novel versions of Tatooine. But a pretty good example of what you're driving at is whether Endor is a planet or moon. The Return of the Jedi novelization says Endor's mother planet just "disappeared" at some point, which is a rather odd notion when you think about it. Where exactly does a massive orbital body large enough to have an inhabited satellite disappear to? Lucasfilm has quietly abandoned this theory in recent years in favor of the idea that Endor is a forested moon still orbiting a large gas giant.

In other cases, it's a matter of mixing different ingredients together in a big continuity blender and seeing what pours out. This was a common problem with the droids guide, since various authors had often given the same droid different capabilities, features, and job functions. Wherever possible I tried to mesh contradictory accounts by inventing specialized models, limited editions, or after-market alterations. It ended up looking a bit like the automotive market.

TF.N - Was there anything you were told by Lucasfilm that you couldn't cover in any of your projects?

DW - No one ever gave me a concrete list of do's and don'ts, but I knew there were things I had to steer clear of if I wanted to avoid editorial headaches. I didn't even try to get into the early history of Yoda and Dagobah, the rise of Emperor Palpatine, or the circumstances behind Luke's placement on Tatooine. Everyone will have the answers in about eight years.

TF.N - You mentioned that you're working on the long awaited Star Wars Chronology. What's the story on the progress of that project and when can we hope to see it?

DW - The indefatigable Star Wars Chronology has had a long and tortuous gestation period. Originally a Bantam project championed by Kevin J. Anderson, it's now over at Del Rey as a possible addition to their Essential Guide line. I became involved about two years ago and Kevin and I have since worked up a backstory. It's looking like this will be the definitive Star Wars history book and will hopefully be a '99 release, but various details are still being worked out. I'll provide you with concrete information when I have it.

TF.N - Do you have any interesting Star Wars related stories from growing up as a fan or doing your research for the books?

DW - Everyone's got at least one story! As a young kid, I clearly remember hearing about a new movie called "Star Wars" and imagining it to be a two-hour parade of helmeted WWII infantrymen lugging machine guns and charging up a smoky beach, like the endless "Sands of Iwo Jima" reruns that aired every Saturday afternoon on my local UHF station. (It had the word war in the title, didn't it?) When my best friend came back from a matinee screening as ecstatic as if he'd just seen Erik Estrada riding a motorcycle with the California Highway Patrol, I was even more confused. "It's this cool movie about space people," my friend started blathering, "and they fly around, and they get stuck in this garbage disposal and somebody turns it on." My second-grade brain chewed on this for a while and came back with a mental image of a family of whimsical six-inch tall "space people" with antennae and wings who fly around a little boy's house, land in the sink, and immediately get shredded by the disposal unit. As entertaining as this sounded, it still took a mandatory family movie outing to get my butt into the theater. Considering the die-hard love for Star Wars that followed, my parents have probably regretted that decision ever since.

TF.N - What Star Wars toy would you most like to see made that hasn't shown up yet?

DW - A evil version of R5-D4 that shoots missiles at people! No wait, somebody's already thought of that.

For a long time I was hoping to see a decent Greedo Halloween mask, but I think one just came out. I suppose the only things still left unproduced are Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru Smoky Skeleton action figures! With Ash Attack Action!

TF.N - What do you think are the biggest differences between becoming a Star Wars fan because of the prequels and being a fan who grew up on the original trilogy?

DW - Do differences even exist? I hate the snobbish theory that says today's thirty-year olds are the only ones capable of "appreciating" the trilogy because they were impressionable youngsters during the original release. Star Wars fans are Star Wars fans; it's an awfully big tent. I hope my sons grow up with the same enthusiasm for the films that I have today.

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