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+
The man pictured above is in charge of writing the new books in the
beloved X-Wing series. But don't worry. He's not crazy, he just looks that way. :) For the
full explanation on the pic, see his homepage linked above! Be sure to visit his web site
where you guys and gals can e-mail him yourselves!
Special Thanks to Steve Almond and Rich Handley who put us in touch
with Aaron! It also happens he's a fellow Texan who lives just down the road from us!
We'll be meeting him soon in person. After seeing the picture of him, we're kind of
worried. :) On with the interrogation!
Name: Aaron Allston
Species: Homo Sapiens Sapiens (probably)
Homeworld: Texas (Old Republic)
Weapon of Choice: Bowie knife
Vehicle of Choice: Anything that will take me far away from any place where I might be
forced to use my Weapon of Choice.
Political Affiliation: I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.
A&M: How did you meet Michael Stackpole and how did you get the
job of writing the new X-Wing series?
ALLSTON: That's the sort of simple question that tends to result in
a lengthy, complicated answer...
I don't really recall when I met Mike Stackpole. I was aware of him
a year or two before I met him; we both worked in the adventure gaming industry (he was at
Flying Buffalo, Inc. while I was at Steve Jackson Games). I probably met him at an Origins
gaming convention in '82 or '83. We learned at that time that we had similar interests in
the 1930s hero-pulps (Doc Savage, The Shadow, et al), and in 1983 we began collaborating
(with Steve Peterson of Hero Games) to write Justice, Inc. JI was a role-playing game
using the game mechanics of the Hero System (the same game system used in the Champions
superhero RPG) and set in the era of the hero-pulps.
Over the next several years, we both drifted more or less out of
adventure gaming, through the field of computer gaming, and into fiction. (I suspect that
novels were his intended destination all along, just as they were mine.)
In mid-1996, Bantam asked Mike to do a new set of four X-Wing
novels. Owing to time commitments, he couldn't. He was familiar with my fiction and
thought that my style was compatible with his, so he recommended me for the first three
novels of the set; he would do the last one, which will be #8 in the series. I'd met the
man who was then the Star Wars line editor, Tom Dupree, at CoastCon 96; he arranged to
acquire some of my novels and decided to go with Mike's recommendation. (Tom is now at
AvoNova; Pat LoBrutto is now the Star Wars line editor at Bantam.)
The short form of my answer: I got lucky.
A&M: Writing in someone else's universe can sometimes be
challenging. You had the double task of writing in George Lucas' world with Michael
Stackpole's characters. Was this difficult for you? How did you approach it?
ALLSTON: I've written in other peoples' universes several times now
-- one novel in the Top Secret/S.I. universe, one in the Car Wars universe, and two,
co-authored with Holly Lisle, in the Bard's Tale universe -- and I suppose it could be
unbearable if I didn't always find some corner of these universes make my own. (I don't
mean that in a legal sense, of course.) That means finding something I can define,
something to which I can grant my own style and sensibilities, whether it be a character,
a setting, or a series of events.
With my Star Wars: X-Wing novels, I'm handling coordination with
Mike's characters very carefully. My first novel, WRAITH SQUADRON, involves Wedge Antilles
creating a new X-wing unit and temporarily acting as its commander instead of as Rogue
Squadron's. (Wedge fans, please note that I said TEMPORARILY.) In the second novel, Wraith
Squadron and Rogue Squadron will interact to a considerable degree, and in the third novel
they will be assigned to the same specific mission, sharing approximately equal time.
Continuing a character created by someone else can be tricky, but I
like a challenge. I always look to find angles on the characters that are consistent with
their known histories and personalities, but that have not yet been fully explored.
A&M: What are the new books about? When will they be released?
ALLSTON: The first one, WRAITH SQUADRON, involves the creation of a
new type of X-wing unit. (New in what sense? Well, that would be telling. Let's just say
that they're very good at improvisational destruction.) The Wraiths find a weakness in the
organization supporting the Warlord Zsinj (who appears in THE COURTSHIP OF PRINCESS LEIA)
and exploit it.
The second novel, tentatively titled IRON FIST, will involve the
Wraiths' further pursuit of Zsinj. The third novel will detail the Alliance's fleet action
WRAITH SQUADRON is scheduled for release in February '98, with IRON
FIRST to follow in July '98. I don't believe the third novel has yet been scheduled.
A&M: How much will the new books tie in with the Dark Horse
comics? What is planned for both of them?
ALLSTON: I've been using the Dark Horse comics as sources of detail,
just as I have used the novels, movies, and even the Action Fleet toys, but at the moment
there are no plans to coordinate storylines between my books and the comics.
That could change, of course. At the time of this writing (August
1997), I've only just completed the first novel.
A&M: As a new Star Wars writer, what instructions were you
given? What were you allowed to do? What were you told you couldn't do?
ALLSTON: I received very few instructions. There is a contract
clause forbidding me to reveal unreleased details provided to me by Bantam and Lucasfilm.
But no one apparently ever thought I needed to be told such things as "You can't kill
What I write does go through an approval process, and my outlines
for the first two novels have gone through that process. Had I done something tremendously
dumb or counterproductive in those outlines, I'm pretty sure someone would have told me...
A&M: If you were handed a script to Episode 1 today, would you
read it? Why or why not?
I've always been fascinated by archaeology and mythology; in
fiction, I get tremendous enjoyment out of stories in which things from the past are
uncovered in their hiding-places and burial-places and confound people in modern times.
And some of the most important historical details of the Star Wars universe to which the
filmgoers and readers haven't yet been privy are those of the Clone Wars and the rise of
Palpatine; I'd simply like to know what went on.
Reading scripts and novelizations of movies has never lessened my
enjoyment of those movies.
A&M: What non-Star Wars books by you or other authors would you
recommend to Star Wars fans?
ALLSTON: By me? DOC SIDHE (Baen Books, May 1995, ISBN
0-671-87662-7). It's an urban fantasy with both modern and 1930s hero-pulp sensibilities,
and it's the novel that is most purely "me" of all that I've written.
By others? These are some of the works I've enjoyed in the last
couple of years:
Cadigan, Pat, SYNNERS
Denton, Bradley, BLACKBURN
Lansdale, Joe. R., MUCHO MOJO
Le Carre, John, THE NIGHT MANAGER
Moon, Elizabeth, REMNANT POPULATION
Newman, Kim, ANNO DRACULA
Parker, Robert B., any "Spencer" mystery
Simmons, Dan, CARRION COMFORT
Stephenson, Neal, SNOW CRASH
Turtledove, Harry, THE GUNS OF THE SOUTH
I'm not recommending any of these because they deal with universes
or themes similar to those of Star Wars (they don't!), but because they're well-written or
otherwise very enjoyable.
A&M: Where do you surf online? Do you visit Star Wars sites or
ALLSTON: I mostly surf to sites related to research I'm doing. One
week, it'll be fifty sites that may have documents pertaining to the effects of
acceleration on test pilots; the next week, sites related to vampires; the next, sites
with hotel and casino maps.
In addition, I regularly check out the sites of authors or companies
I want to keep up with (such as the game companies I've worked with).
I do look at Star Wars sites, but I don't read the newsgroups. This
isn't because I don't think I'd like them; it's a matter of self-protection. If a fan on a
newsgroup tosses out an idea ("Wouldn't it be neat if Obi-Wan Kenobi were
actually...?") and, a year later, the same idea appears in a book of mine, and I'm
known to be a regular on the newsgroup, this will strengthen the suspicion in the fan's
mind that I've stolen his idea, even if I haven't -- even if I never saw his original
Speaking of web-surfing, my own page (did you think you could resist
the Dark Side of Authorial Self-Promotion?) is at http://www.io.com/~allston/.
A&M: Paramount has been trying to shut down the Star Trek fan
sites and Fox has been trying to shut down fan run Simpsons sites. What is your view on
this and how do you think the outcome will affect Star Wars Fan sites?
ALLSTON: My answer to this is sufficiently complicated that it would
probably take 30 or 40K to express, and would be so tedious that it would be of interest
only to people interested in the interaction of copyright and trademark issues, so I think
I'll just duck the question altogether.
A&M: If you could sneak into the Lucasfilm archives and snatch
one thing, what would it be?
ALLSTON: From a historical perspective, it would be interesting to
have a compiled file of every idea Lucas originally intended to be part of the Star Wars
universe but later discarded.
However, if I were in the process of putting such a file together
and came across a stockpile of photos of Kate Capshaw from INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF
DOOM, I'd probably forget my original mission and make off with that instead.