Some Star Wars Geekery

Book cover

On a particularly lazy Saturday, I was flipping through my old copy of Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, by Sean Stewart. I’ve been a Star Wars nerd ever since I watched the original movies years and years ago.

Yoda: Dark Rendezvous still remains one of my favorite Star Wars books. It’s extremely well-written. It was funny and sad and full of so much meaning (we can choose to be individual candles lighting the dark so that other people can find their way home kind of awesomeness) and affected me so much that I must have written a review somewhere on my old Xanga, which I can’t find because I deleted a bunch of posts before I switched to WordPress.

Finding a good Star Wars book seems to be hard, if one doesn’t know where to look. When I was younger, I greatly enjoyed Jude Watson’s Jedi Apprentice series, about Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, prior to the events of the Phantom Menace. Then I enjoyed her Jedi Quest series, about Obi-Wan and Anakin, prior to Attack of the Clones. Less so, because I already knew what was going to happen to Anakin and he was a pretty whiny kid, anyway.

Mara Jade Skywalker

When I outgrew chapter books, I tried to find something else. I came upon Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy, placed after the events of Return of the Jedi. I absolutely loved it. Funnily enough, I never read the first book. I started with the second, read the third, and that was enough for me. I moved on from those to the Hand of Thrawn books, which were two books supposedly following the Heir to the Empire trilogy. These two were much more interesting to me, as they detailed Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker’s romance. Finally. (Love Mara Jade.) I always thought it was interesting that they met each other and worked together in the Heir to the Empire trilogy, but only fell in love or owned up to their mutual attraction, whichever it was, by the end of the duology. And when it finally came, it was. So. Awesome.

Bad Star Wars books, on the other hand…

I once picked up a copy of The Crystal Star from the library. So. Bad. Han Solo became a lecherous guy who enjoyed staring at ladies’ boobs (I had supposed that he had settled down after his marriage!) and Luke Skywalker became creepily all-powerful. He had no personality whatsoever. He was so insufferably, creepily bland, with the power to reach out with the Force across galaxies and strangle a whole army of clone wars. Look, there’s a reason why the Clone Wars wasn’t won that easily. I was disturbed, both by the impossibly high level of power and the lack of character. He might as well have been Luke Skywalker zombie.

Brainzzzz…

Mara Jade again

Meanwhile, Leia was this weird crazy lady who liked to wear make-up. Especially particularly intense shades of eye shadow.

I like to think that in Timothy Zahn’s Hand of Thrawn duology, he was mocking this concept of an all-powerful Luke Skywalker by having Mara Jade rebuke him for throwing too much power around.

But there’s nothing like a good Star Wars book to make me descend into geekiness. Reading about these characters in the books, even minor ones, makes me curious to know more about them. What is their backstory? How did they become the way they are?

In the case of Mara Jade, she was a former Emperor’s Hand, a sort of strong Force-sensitive assassin working for Darth Sidious. She lived her life (and indeed she started working for the Emperor since thinking that she was the only Emperor’s Hand, a woman selected out of many to work exclusively for Darth Sidious. It made her feel special. Indispensable. It gave her life some meaning.

She was shattered when she realized that she had actually been one in a large group of Emperor’s Hands. That Sidious had regarded her as no more than an experiment, and thus dispensable. He had already passed away by this time, and she devoted her time to his last command: killing Luke Skywalker.

Of course by now we know how that played out.

And then to delve a bit into the writer who gave the character such life…

The character of Mara Jade was created by aforementioned writer Timothy Zahn. “Mara” is the Hebrew for “bitterness,” while “Jade” means “discarded woman,” according to one of Zahn’s dictionaries. She became such a popular character that she appeared in countless other comics, novels, short stories, video games, etc. Quite unusual for what is called an Expanded Universe character, being that she had never formally appeared in any of the movies.

Maybe it was because Zahn had created a character so vividly real in her struggles and despairs and hopes and loves that readers couldn’t get enough of her. Plus she seemed to be an excellent match for Skywalker–his Jedi serenity against her feistiness and sarcasm. (In the Star Wars Insider magazine, it was later revealed by Kevin J. Anderson, another writer of Star Wars novels featuring this very character, that there was an outpouring of fan encouragement for Lucasfilm to make her the love interest, even though Zahn hadn’t originally planned for things to be that way in the original Heir to the Empire trilogy. Even Anderson felt that it should be obvious.)

From the Star Wars wiki:

Timothy Zahn, the original creator of Mara Jade, has said that Mara “has a certain kind of attitude, an alertness, an awareness of what’s going on.” Zahn went on to say that the only physical characteristics he had in mind for Mara were a dancer’s figure, red hair, and green eyes … He described Mara as a well-rounded character with both an emotional and intellectual component to her personality.

Unfortunately for Mara Jade fans, a writer had the character killed off in one of the books. Zahn was displeased and stated that he had not been informed of this decision. Even the model for the character was upset.

From this website, by a writer who had the chance to attend a writer’s conference and approach him one-on-one to ask him about Mara Jade:

And personally, I thought that was a disappointing way to treat both me and my character, and they know I feel that way. They could have told me earlier and at least given me a chance to speak on Mara’s behalf. I think she was far too useful a character to kill off, and I disagree with killing off main characters anyway, especially in SW. I don’t think that’s what SW is all about. I still don’t like Chewie’s death.

Who can blame him? She was a character who came out, under his pen, and took a life of her own. To many, including the blog writer, she was a strong female character that many could relate to. To paraphrase, she wasn’t a man in a woman’s body, or a caricature, or something like that. She was still so believable.

No wonder I fell in love with her character so easily. To date, she is my favorite character in the whole Star Wars universe. Probably besides Obi-Wan and Chewbacca.

Which brings me to the next question.

What? They killed Chewie?

Picture from Etsy

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6 thoughts on “Some Star Wars Geekery

  1. Wow! Aside from the movie-turned-books (plus the prequel to The Phantom Menace, and the interlude between…was it Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith?), the only Star Wars books I’ve read were the Young Jedi Knights series…about Luke and Leia, Hans and Leia’s kids. Which I loved, and then somehow stopped reading.

    Mara Jade sounds absolutely AMAZING! Now I’m thinking I may have to go peruse the Expanded Universe books. 🙂 Glad you gave me some hints on the good and the bad. Knowing that there were some less-lovely books kept me off that shelf at the library.

    But no more!

    CHEWIE DIES!?!?!?!

  2. No! Not Chewie!
    I confess I haven’t read any of the books, just been a fan of the movies. But I can see why it would be so upsetting to hear that Mara is killed off. It was upsetting to read just in this post!

  3. The Star Wars Expanded Universe is pretty much the most annoyingly inconsistent universe in modern fiction. Really. It rivals ancient myths for the number of contradictions in the surrounding material, especially when the games, comics, cartoons and magazines are also included in any analysis… It freely plays with the Rule Of Cool to such a degree that anything and everything can be thrown in. There’s massive dissonance between the powers of the Jedi as seen in the films, those used in the books, and those used in the games – Luke strangling an entire army of clones from across the galaxy isn’t the dumbest thing which has been ascribed to the Force by a long way.

    At its’ best, Star Wars is a cultural touchstone which resonates no matter the creative forces behind the material (Tarkovsky, for one, knows how to entertain), yet at its’ worst it is high-camp, overblown space opera with as much intellectual weight as Doc’s Lensman novels – the absolutely awful filler stories which Marvel dropped into the UK comic run were beyond awful. At least with the films there was a consistency, but outside the constraints which FX technology imposed, others feel the need to elevate the Jedi to gods. Which is where problems crop up. Kyle Katarn, who is an equal of Luke in every way, gets his ass handed to him on a regular basis by Sith agents, bounty hunters, common thugs and – possibly – angry old ladies.

    I remember the Chewbacca death controversy, which wasn’t the spectacular moment I had expected Lucas to greenlight. There was also a story where he married, which had so little impact on canon that it might as well have been replaced by a tale of Greedo’s childhood. So, so dumb a move in every way imaginable…

  4. Great post on Mara Jade – one of my favorite SW characters. (Just saw your post at Lydia Sharp’s.)

    My favorite SW novels are Zahn’s, plus Brian Daley’s Han Solo trilogy – the very first SW spin-off novels, after A Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (which Alan Dean Foster got to write by penning the SW novelization with no credit).

    The worst I tried to read was Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Something Or Other. It was so pathetic I don’t even want to look up the name of it.

    Didn’t know about Jade’s death (gad…), but I see it like Chewie’s – these are just stories other people are spinning off. No more real to the characters than the SW battles I made with my action figures as a kid. (Which at the end of each adventure involved kissing between Luke and Leia – what did I know?)

  5. I’ve always loved Mara Jade. I didn’t know she’d been killed off, and that makes me almost as angry as the Chewie thing (which I do NOT consider canon, and I think it was a hack thing to do. I’ve never liked Salvatore anyway though). Zahn’s books are hands down my favorites from the expanded universe, and he’s a pretty darned good writer. I highly recommend his other fiction as well. My second favorites are the X-Wing books. I go back and forth between preferring the Rogue Squadron and the Wraith Squadron series. Both are very fun, exciting series to read, with lots of great characters. Plus, you get another good look at Coruscant!

    Heh, now I feel like reading Star Wars books again, something I haven’t felt like in a while!
    ~Lia

  6. Pingback: Hello Sunshine | Loved from the Start

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