The spectrum of Star Wars fan types is as broad as an exogorth’s jowels. Many fans watch only the movies, some also watch the animated series, and others read the variety of Star Wars literature, from visual dictionaries and comics to children’s stories and adult novels. Up until two and a half years ago, I fell into the former-most category as a “movies only” Star Wars fan. While devoted to the films, I considered the “cartoons” and books (with which I had no experience) as fluff and probably mediocre at best. Man, was I wrong. After The Last Jedi, I listened to the audiobook, written by Jason Fry and narrated by the incomparable Marc Thompson. Needless to say, I was hooked on reading Star Wars.
Flash forward to the present, and I am steadily reading Star Wars, yet I have only read canon novels with many still in my lineup. Add to that the announcement of a whole new lineup of comics, books, and novels taking place in The High Republic Era coming out in January of 2021, I find myself presented with quite the daunting task. Should I read only canon material? Should I also read books from the non-canonical Legends (or is it the Expanded Universe?), and if so, which ones? If I dive into the comics, where in the galaxy do I start? At this point, my brain is Alderaan with the gargantuan spread of Star Wars literature choices being a fully functioning space station of death. If you are anything like I am currently or a few years ago, you may find yourself in a similar predicament.
There are many great lists of book suggestions, reviews, and podcasts to help make your decisions on what to read or what not to read. I highly recommend doing your own research to discover what fits your specific taste. As a complement to this article, the Red 5 Network is focusing a their weekly #SquadronUp spotlight on literature-specific podcast episodes from their fast-growing family of podcasters. Head over to Red5Network.com and find them on Twitter as @Red5Network.
I recently interviewed one of the authors of the upcoming High Republic series, Cavan Scott, and got his much-welcomed thoughts on reading Star Wars. I hope you find it as exciting and informative as I did!
Cam Ray: I just finished listening to Dooku: Jedi Lost, and this was my first Cavan Scott experience. Thank you for the wonderful story, giving Count Dooku such depth, and for sparking my interest in diving into your (and others’) comics and junior novels! For someone completely new to Star Wars comics, what are your suggestions for a launching off point to grab and maintain interest as well as provide great supplemental or even crucial Star Wars details?
Cavan Scott: You can’t go wrong with the beginning of Marvel’s re-launch of the main Star Wars line back in 2015, which fits in neatly between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. Jason Aaron really nailed it from the get-go, and from there pick up first Keiron Gillen’s Darth Vader series, and then Charles Soule’s second series which literally picks up Vader’s story at the end of Episode III. Those three series are some of the best Star Wars out there (and Keiron’s series introduces you to one of the best characters to be introduced into the modern canon, Doctor Aphra.
For younger fans (and the young at hearts) you’ll have to forgive me if I plug a book I’m involved with, IDW’s Star Wars Adventures, which tells stories appropriate for all ages with a revolving roster of characters, eras, and creative teams.
Cam: If someone wants to get younger readers interested in Star Wars literature, are there specific books, comics, or junior novels that would provide for a great launching off point for them?
Cavan: For comics, I’ve already mentioned Star Wars Adventures, so encourage everyone to go there (including, if you’ll allow it, my own Tales From and Return to Vader’s Castle series which are packed with Halloween-inspired spooky stories).
As for junior novels, as well as the Adventures in Wild Space novel series I wrote with Tom Huddleston (this is one big plug-fest, isn’t it?), I also recommend seeking out Justina Ireland’s amazing middle grade novels, Lando’s Luck and Spark of the Resistance. The Mighty Chewbacca in the Forest of Fear! by Tom Angleberger is a firm favorite in this house, and also comes as an amazing audiobook performed by a host of fantastic voice actors, too!
Cam: One thing I have felt and have heard others express is the overwhelming amount of Legends material on top of all of the canon material and not knowing what to read and what not to read. Obviously, the opinions here can vary greatly, but are there specific Legends books/comics you place under the “must read” category and for what reason(s)?
Cavan: Absolutely. I think everyone should check out Marvel’s original comic book run from the seventies (which made me a Star Wars fan) and then Dark Empire, which reignited my Star Wars love in the nineties. I always, always recommend the Star Wars Republic series from Dark Horse’s EU days, which I absolutely love and regularly re-read.
Book-wise, the X-Wing series is all kinds of awesome, and I’ve recently read Drew Karpyshyn’s Darth Bane trilogy, which are hands down some of the best Star Wars novels ever written in my eyes.
Cam: As a Star Wars author, do you categorize things as Legends or Canon—is it that black and white? Or do you view it as a melting pot of material just waiting to be used, with certain Legends elements making their way back into canon? Or do you view it differently?
Cavan: Well, I have two hats – my fan one and my professional one (both with Ewok ears, naturally). As a fan, I don’t care if something is canon or Legends. To me it’s all Star Wars and can be enjoyed equally. As a pro, I obviously have to keep track of what’s officially canon or not so my stories fit into the larger story. I’ve certainly dipped into Legends regularly to re-introduce elements I love or, more importantly, when they benefit the story. That’s always the rule for any story, no matter what the continuity: Does it improve the story I’m trying to tell, or am I just being self-indulgent?
Cam: People always say there is a certain “thing” that makes a Star Wars film/series feel like authentic Star Wars. That thing, or things, can vary from person to person. What is that “thing” (or things) to you, and why?
Cavan: Found family, each and every time. A group of people from all walks of life realizing that they are better together rather than apart – and teasing each other mercilessly along the way.
Cam: Are there certain scenes from Star Wars films or series that inspire your writing of Star Wars? How do you capture that Star Wars essence in writing?
Cavan: I listen to A LOT of Star Wars music, from the film scores to albums such as Shadows of the Empire. Not so much when I’m writing, but definitely when I’m plotting and before I get into a writing session to set the mood.
As for scenes, I always try to remember the excitement I felt in the opening scenes of Return of the Jedi; that sense of not knowing what’s going to happen next or what bizarre alien we’re going to see. I’m also a true believer that Rebels is some of the best Star Wars committed to canon and try to remember the depth of feeling between those characters.
Cam: I have always loved watching Star Wars, but since I started reading Star Wars I can’t get enough. The attraction and wonder of the galaxy far, far away is on a whole different level. What encouragements or motivations would you give someone who has only seen the movies and doesn’t yet see the life-changing benefit of the written stories of Star Wars?
Cavan: It’s like coming home. I’ll give you an example. When lockdown started recently, I really struggled to read. I couldn’t concentrate on any novel or short story and it was really getting to me. Then I remembered that I had the third part of the Darth Bane trilogy I mentioned earlier on my shelf. I pulled up a chair and dived in, and the floodgates were open. I was reading again and it felt fantastic. I honestly believe it only worked because it plunged me back into a universe I loved. Turning the pages was easy after that.
Cam: I read Lost Stars by Claudia Gray several months ago, which started a chain reaction of reading Bloodline followed by Master and Apprentice. I then listened to Dooku: Jedi Lost, finding out after the fact that you worked closely with Claudia in connecting certain characters. The tie-ins between books really make the worlds come to life and ultimately give the movies a new layer of depth. What is your process for making these tie-ins? Is this led by the story group, or are you given freedoms to collaborate? Also, do you prefer collaboration, and why or why not?
Cavan: We were definitely given freedom to collaborate, which was helped by the fact that we were already working on what was then known as Project Luminous (internally at least. No one in the real world knew it was happening at that point!). We came up with the idea of having Rael Aveross across both stories and then batted certain parts of Dooku and Qui-Gon’s lives back and forth to make sure they worked in both the novel and the audio.
I love collaborating. I come from collaborative media, first of all audio drama and more recently comic books. The best ideas always, always, always come from collaboration.
Cam: This collaborative writing is one of the reasons I am so excited for The High Republic—I love the cohesive nature in which it seems you, your fellow authors, and the story group have worked on writing these new stories! Did this come about because of the positive results of previous collaborations, and do you see THR as bumping things up a notch in regards to this broader world-view of writing?
Cavan: It came about because of Michael Siglain who first put the team together. We all knew each other, but had never collaborated together.
However, I think the thing that really cemented the current family of Star Wars writers (and by that I mean beyond The High Republic crew) was From a Certain Point of View. It was such a wonderful project that created community among creators scattered across the world. I’ll never forget the launch panel at NYCC; fifteen excited authors being interviewed by Pablo Hidalgo, plus the vocal talents of the incredible Marc Thompson. It was the glue that knitted us together and created a camaraderie, which remains to this day, and has only grown with new writers coming into the fold.
Cam: As of now, The High Republic seems to be focused on literature and not feature films or TV series. This seems to be opposite of what we’ve experienced for the most part with Star Wars up until now, with the books/comics expanding upon the movies. What are the pros and cons for you with writing additional stories to accompany existing material versus writing from a nearly blank slate as with THR?
Cavan: I enjoy both, but the exciting thing about The High Republic is that we don’t need to tailor the stories to what we’ll see on screen. Plus, when it comes to these characters all bets are off. Their story isn’t set in stone so we can surprise people along the way.
Cam: I am so excited for the High Republic media to hit the shelves, but as we eagerly wait until January, what Star Wars reading do you suggest that may help boost and aid in our excitement when we finally get to dive in to the new era?
Cavan: I would go back and read a lot of the material that has been put out by the five High Republic authors these last couple of years. We’ve had fun seeding in little references and clues across the board. Also, you might want to pick up Myths and Fables by my pal, George Mann, and its soon-to-be-published follow-up, Dark Legends.
Cam: In closing, is there anything you can share about The High Republic as a final enticement to jump all in when the books start releasing?
Cavan: It’s only the beginning…
With every tidbit we receive in regards to The High Republic, I find myself growing more excited for its release. With the extra time we now have before the first books drop, there is an opportunity to dive into an area of Star Wars you haven’t yet explored. For me, the comics and some of the above-mentioned Legends stories are calling my name!
If you enjoyed this interview, Ro and Brad from the Scarif Scuttlebutt Podcast are interviewing Cavan Scott live on YouTube, June 2. Head over to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdWu5f-J4m30M2Mr2wGffLA and check it out. Happy reading!