AOH :: TZI.TXT|
An interview with Timothy Zahn, author of "Heir to the Empire"
How did you get chosen for these books? I like your work, but you haven't
done anything media-related before.
Zahn: I frankly don't know exactly why Bantam offered me the
Star Wars books. Lou Aronica and LucasArts had negotiated
the deal in secret during 1989, and when Bantam supplied a
list of possible authors to LucasArts my name was at the
top. My best guess is that Bantam simply thought that my
style and particular writing strengths would mesh well
with this particular kind of book. I first
learned of the whole thing when my agent called
out of the blue in early November to tell me of Bantam's
offer. It sounded both challenging and fun, so I accepted.
How much plot control does Lucasfilms exercise? Do they specify certain
things that have to happen or cannot happen?
Zahn: My original instructions from LucasArts consisted of
exactly two rules: the books were to start 3-5 years after
RETURN OF THE JEDI, and I couldn't use anyone who'd been
explicitly killed off in the movies. Aside from that, I was
given essentially a blank check to do what I wanted. A couple of
other rules came in later after I'd submitted my outline, but
they required only minor changes in the story itself.
LucasArts has complete veto power over everything I do, of
course, but so far they've allowed me pretty much a free hand.
Which is not to say they're not keeping close watch on what I'm
doing. They are.
Have you ever met George Lucas?
Zahn: No. All the contact I've had with LucasArts has been
through a liaison. Lucas did read the original outline; I don't
know whether or not he's read the final novel.
Are there titles/working titles chosen for the next 2 books? Who chooses
Zahn: The titles for the next two books are (at least at
present) DARK FORCE RISING and THE LAST COMMAND. Technically,
LucasArts has already okayed these titles, but I'm always
willing to change them if someone comes up with something
better. My preference for the first book was WILD CARD, but it
was bounced on the grounds that it would have conflicted with
Bantam's "Wild Cards" series. My next favorite title was THE
EMPEROR'S HAND, which Bantam also didn't like. Lou Aronica (I
think) came up with HEIR TO THE EMPIRE, which LucasArts
accepted. So at the moment I'm two for three in the title
You make clear little details, such as the fact that light sabers can be
locked on. Did Lucasfilms provide you with background information on the
Star Wars universe? Or are you just trying to make things logical and
consistent? Or both?
Zahn: The Star Wars movies themselves are always my basic
source of "real" knowledge. Supplementing that is a tremendous
body of background material put together by West End Games over
the years for their Star Wars role playing game. The WEG source
books saved me from having to reinvent the wheel many times in
writing HEIR; the Interdictor Cruiser, for one example, is one
of their creations. What I didn't get from the movies (e.g., the
lightsaber lock) I invented, always with an eye to consistency
with the movies.
How big were the Death Stars? Han Solo says "size of a small moon", but
that is rather vague. Is there any background information on that?
Zahn: The only information I have comes from the to-be-published
Death Star Technical Journal from West End Games. The
number they've come up with is a diameter of 120 km for the
first Death Star. Please note, though, that the book has NOT yet
been approved by LucasArts, so that number should be considered
tentative at best.
Are you able to answer the question "can you fly using the Force"?
Obviously, large objects like X-wings can be moved, yet the Emperor seems
unable to save himself as he plunges down the shaft in "Return of the
Zahn: I don't believe true flight is possible via the Force.
As best I can tell from the movies, the telekinetic power seemed
to function like a long, extra-powerful arm; i.e., a Jedi could
lift something at a distance as long as he himself was planted
(reasonably) solidly on the ground or ship deck or whatever. The
Force can also be used to enhance a Jedi's own physical
abilities - recall all those world-class jumps Luke did in both
EMPIRE and JEDI but, in all those instances it's clear that he
is jumping and not flying. The final clincher for me (if you
don't mind arguing in reverse) is the one which brought up this
discussion in the first place: if the Emperor could fly out of
the reactor shaft, he should have done so. (WHY there was an
uncovered reactor shaft in the Emperor's personal quarters we
won't get into right now.)
Speaking of the Emperor, do you think that it is possible for the deceased
users of the dark side of the force to pop up as ghostly images and give
advice to the surviving bad guys?
Zahn: My personal feeling is that the Emperor won't be back.
(He won't be back in MY books, anyway.) In DARK FORCE RISING
I'll be offering the suggestion that for a Jedi to stay in this
world requires another Jedi or proto-Jedi to be near him at his
death, to whom he then somehow "anchors" himself. This would fit
with the fact that Ben Kenobi only seemed to appear near Luke,
whereas otherwise he should have flitted about offering advice
to any Rebel who needed it, or at least ranging around the
galaxy scouting out what the opposition was up to.
If movies 7,8 and 9 of the Star Wars series are made, will they have any
relation or connection to your books? Alan Dean Foster wrote "Splinter of
the Mind's Eye", but no mention of that book was made in following movies.
Zahn: Since my books will form a more or less closed episode
in the Star Wars history, there will be no particular need for
George Lucas to take them into account if/when he makes the last
three movies. I figure the best I can reasonably hope for will
be a passing reference or two to some of my characters or events
as the movie characters go about their own, unrelated, business.
When are the next 2 books expected out?
Zahn: The current plan is to have the next two books come out
in or around May 1992 and May 1993, though Bantam could always
change that schedule if they wanted to.
I heard that you sold the right to someone to have their name used in the
book somewhere at auction, much as you did in "Deadman Switch" Can you tell
us where this happens?
Zahn: Two people bought their way into HEIR TO THE EMPIRE at
a charity auction at LibertyCon in Chattanooga a couple of years
ago. The first bid for the right to have his name appear, the
second got to choose whether the first lived or died in the
book. I went ahead and put both names in; the precise scene is
probably pretty obvious.
Incidentally, lest there be any misunderstanding here,
please note that this was a CHARITY auction, as was the earlier
one where a group of people bought their way into DEADMAN
SWITCH. I'm not personally making a dime off any of these
auctions, nor would I ever want to. Frankly, the idea of an
author selling spots in a book for his or her own profit strikes
me as pretty tacky.
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