Saturday, July 23, 2011

SUVUDU Lunch with Timothy Zahn and Shelly Shapiro

From 1983 until 1991 Star Wars fans had to wonder, what happened next after Return of the Jedi? What was the fate of our heroes?  Did Han and Leia live happily ever after?  Did Luke have further adventures?

Into the galaxy far, far away entered an author, Timothy Zahn, who not only started to answer some of these questions about the characters we loved in the movies, but also introduced a cadre of new characters that would grow to be loved by fans just as much as some of the characters from the original trilogy.  Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Captain Pellaeon, Jacen, Jaina, Ghent, Winter, the list goes on and on.

Since that fateful book the popularity of Star Wars novels has exploded exponentially.

Mr. Zahn captured my imagination as a child, I could see our heroes new adventures, I could hear John Williams music in the background while I read and I was hooked.  Today, Mr. Zahn is joined by a host of other authors who get the privilege to play in George Lucas' shared Star Wars universe.

For fans such as myself, the opportunity I had today as a result of a contest that the website ran in conjunction with San Diego Comic-Con was a once in a lifetime chance to meet an author who has given me countless and I literally mean countless hours of enjoyment from his books.  I have lost track the number of times I have read the original Thrawn trilogy, but I can honestly say it is one set of books I enjoyed reading at 10 years old and one set I am sure I will enjoy reading when I am 80 years old. ran a contest on there website.  All you had to do was sign up and you had the chance to win a 2 hour lunch with Mr. Zaun and Shelly Shapiro, the chief Star Wars editor at Del Rey.  The Force was with me on this one and along with to very nice young ladies who also won, we had a great time at the Hilton Bay Front Hotel on Saturday.  One of my fellow winners flew all of the way to San Diego from Indiana just to attend the lunch, I bow to her fandom.

Ms. Shapiro and Mr. Zaun probably think I am crazier then a force-using clone because I couldn't stop grinning through the entire lunch.  It was incredible and I can't thank them both enough for taking the time out of their busy schedules to interact with us fans.  I would also like to thank and Del Rey for putting on the contest.

Lunch was a blast, the discussion ranged from writing to editing to publishing, topics included past books and characters, as well as stuff that we may see in the future.  Much of the discussion I have been sworn to secrecy regarding, but not only was it cool to see Mr. Zahn discuss ideas that he has been recently pitching to Ms. Shapiro for potential future books, but he also had a moment of insight and creativity and began thinking of a new story during the lunch.

Some of the stuff we talked about was also mentioned during Del Rey's Star Wars book panel at Comic-Con, which was posted on-line by James at Club Jade.  I suggest you go check out those videos if you were unable to attend Comic-Con.

Some of the stuff discussed I think I am safe to mention as they are reiterations of stuff we have heard before such as:

The NJO story about the decision to kill Anakin Solo instead of Jacen Solo.  The interesting spin that Shelly mentioned today was, that that decision precipitated the way they wrote the NJO series in order to specifically build up the character of Anakin so it would be more impactful when he died.

Mr. Zahn would love to do anniversary annotated editions of Dark Force Rising and The Last Command.

Ms. Shapiro has been previously quoted discussing the move away from the large multiple book series to smaller trilogies, duologies or stand alone novels.  During the course of the discussion some of the issues that face both the authors and the editors on such large series with multiple authors was explained and made pretty clear just how tough it is to get these to work.

Ms. Shapiro was also kind enough to touch upon the Imperial Commando II issue, which she also discussed at the Comic-Con panel, for her comments regarding that see the video linked above.  They tried to make it work but there was difficulty finding an author and getting the timing to conclude the series.  She seemed to indicate at some point it may happen in some form.  Fingers crossed Omega squad and Clan Skirata fans.

We have often heard Star Wars referred to as George Lucas' sandbox, but Mr. Zahn used an analogy another gentleman came up with both on the panel at Comic-Con and at the lunch.  Star Wars is George Lucas' driveway, and sometimes he backs up his truck and runs over the EU. 

I wish there was enough room at the table for everyone to have joined us and there is a lot more I wish I could talk about,  but it wouldn't be appropriate. However, one of the highlights for me was to learn that Mr. Zahn would be very interested in writing an episode or trilogy of episodes for The Clone Wars animated series.  I won't go into specifics about what was discussed but if Dave Filoni and crew could make this happens I think my head might explode. 

After lunch the five of us retired to a lounge area to continue the discussion, when who happened by but Leland Chee (Keeper of the Holocron and guardian of Star Wars continuity for Lucasfilm).  Mr. Chee was kind enough to join our little troop and we ended up sitting around talking for an extra 30 minutes after the lunch was suppose to be over.  Mr. Chee is very impressive, he is either a human replica droid or has one of the best memories of anyone I have met.  Lucasfilm would be glad to know he was also very careful not to give up any secrets.  One tidbit that Mr. Chee did mention came up when I was asking Ms. Shapiro about Lowbacca (the Wookiee Jedi from the Young Jedi Knight and NJO series), is that contrary to popular belief there is no moratorium on Wookiee Jedi.

I can say enough about how down to earth Mr. Zahn, Ms. Shapiro and Mr. Chee where, it was a pleasure to meet them and they were very nice.  Lucasfilm and their licensees have a reputation as being very fan friendly and if these folks were any indication of how the rest of their companies operate, then the franchise is in very good hands.

I would suggest fans not only visit for potential other contests and information, but also the Facebook pages for Star Wars Books (Del Rey's Star Wars page) , Timothy Zahn's page, and Leland Chee's page


  1. I have to say, I wouldn't mind Zahn writing an episode or two of Clone Wars. I might have ambivalent feelings towards some of his EU pet favorites, but there's no denying he is a very talented writer.

    Hopefully Filoni is paying attention somewhere, hehe.

  2. Thanks for mentioning me in the blog :) Lunch was fun for sure! Didn't know you had a SW blog, will try to keep up with it.