September 30 Bonus Update

Next update October 5

Bonus update! I’ve got more details about my NYCC schedule, plus another rant… this time about Star Wars fans taking things out of context and blowing things out of proportion.

Okay, let’s start with the New York Comic Con schedule:
Friday, October 14—New York, NY
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
SIGNING: Del Rey Star Wars booth
Lucasfilm Pavilion

Saturday, October 15 
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
SIGNING: Del Rey Star Wars booth
Lucasfilm Pavilion

Sunday, October 16—New York, NY
2:45 PM – 3:45 PM
PANEL: Del Rey Star Wars Books
Room #: 1A24

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
SIGNING: Del Rey Star Wars booth
Lucasfilm Pavilion

We may still be adding some other signings or appearances, but for now this is what we’ve got. Hope to see you there!

Now on to the rant. (Feel free to skip this part if you want.)

Let me start by saying that Star Wars fans (of which I am one) are very, very passionate. This is one of the reasons Star Wars is so popular, and most of the time it’s a good thing. But there are times when passion overrides reason, and things get out of control.

I’m not the only author/creative contributor who has experienced this, and the phenomenon is not limited to Star Wars, of course. Hell, I’m a Star Wars fan and I’m guilty of it myself. (Get your hands of my original trilogy! Han shot first! Etcetera, etcetera, blah, blah, blah.) It’s part of fandom, and I understand and accept that. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to respond, because recently I’ve experienced a mini-barrage of e-mails from fans voicing concerns over both Star Wars: The Old Republic and my upcoming Revan novel.

Let’s start with the MMO. There have been leaked videos showing content from the game that involves a beloved Star Wars character from BioWare’s past. Nevermind that this violates all the agreements testers swear to follow when they are given early access; that’s a matter for courts and lawyers, not authors and game developers. But this clip shows BETA content, not a finished work. And, it shows the clip out of context of the entire story/experience. There are reasons we don’t release our BETA material to the general public. It’s not finished. It may (or may not) be subject to change. And seeing it out of context gives you a completely distorted impression of the experience that colors (and potentially ruins) the actual experience you will get from the game.

So, don’t ask me about the video. Or the beta content. If you are a beta tester, go through proper channels to express your feedback: that’s why they exist. If you’re not a beta tester, don’t jump to conclusions based on an out of context snippet of in-progress content. Seriously, people… relax. At least until the game actually gets released. (Which will be on December 20, as we’ve officially announced.)

Now, on to the novel. Don’t worry, the release date of the game hasn’t impacted the novel’s release. Revan is still coming out on November 15 in hardcover, digital and audiobook format. However, some people have gotten a sneak peek at the manuscript (don’t ask me how, because I dont’ know… it just happens.) One of these people felt that the novel attempted to retcon elements of KOTOR 2: The Sith Lords, so this individual posted a list of complaints on a message board and urged other members of the forum to e-mail me to complain.

That’s right. They started e-mailing me to complain about a book they hadn’t read based on out of context snippets and misleading statements posted by somebody else on a message board. Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But without actually reading the book, you can’t have a very informed opinion of it. Even if you read a summary or trust the person posting snippets, you still get an incredibly distorted view.

Let me illustrate with an example using spoilers from the original KOTOR. Skip ahead to the next paragraph f you still haven’t played this game, but since we’re over 5 years from its release I think the spoiler limit has expired. Here is an accurate description of the KOTOR “twist” out of context: you have amnesia, and it turns out you’re the bad guy all along. Taken in that fasion, it sounds really, really dumb. In fact, when we first started pitching KOTOR’s plot to people, they talked about how dumb, predictable and cliche it was. Most people thought the twist was lame. Why? Because they heard it out of context. There was no build up. No nuance. No subtlety. The twist was only a small part of the entire experience, and it worked with many other facets to evoke a powerful reaction. Most people who played the game feel that KOTOR’s story and the twist represent a watershed moment in video game writing and story telling… but if you heard that twist before and decided it was stupid, you would have ruined much of the KOTOR experience for yourself. So, please, before you decide the book sucks, at least have the decency to read it for yourself. Try to keep an open mind and you might be surprised.

Of course, this doesn’t address the concerns of the original poster, who did (or at least claimed to) read the novel. He (or she, but we’ll assume “he” for ease of writing) felt that I had retconned characters and events from KOTOR 2, and that I had committed some horrific crime by “ruining” another author’s work.

I heard the same arguments about my Darth Bane novel. A small but very vocal segment of fans felt I had somehow disrespected the Jedi vs Sith comics by “needlessly” changing certain things when I wrote the book. Obviously they are entitled to their opinion, and I doubt anything I can say will change their minds. But I do think they are blowing things way out of proportion. I can’t really present a specific point-by-point argument using examples from Revan, because it’s not officially released. Once it’s out, I may address some of these concerns and explain why I feel they have been misrepresented. But I can give some examples from the Bane novel to illustrate my point.

Let’s look at the Farfalla character from the Bane novels. In the comic he is a Satyr-like character with goat legs. In the novel, I never mention goat legs. I don’t specifically say he has human legs, but most readers would probably make that assumption. So why did I do that? Simple – for the story I was telling, Farfalla represented the “normal” Jedi; his goat legs made it harder to see him in that role. So I intentionally omitted that aspect of his character so as not to undermine the experience of the novel. That doesn’t mean I was trying to retcon what had come before; just because I don’t draw attention to it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that it never happened. It just means it isn’t integral to understanding the story I am telling. If you already know about the goat legs, then I don’t need to tell you. If you don’t know, there’s no reason to mention it now and muddle things up. Same thing with the Revan novel. There are past events or elements/aspects of certain characters that I do not specifically call attention to or dwell on because they are not part of this story… they belong in the Sith Lords’ story. But just because I don’t go out of my way to mention something specifically doesn’t mean I’m retconning it. If you’re familiar with a character or event, you already know that information and I don’t need to bring it up unless it’s relevant to the current story.

Other times very minor details might be altered or changed. Sometimes this is a mistake (I do make them), but other times it’s to make things flow better, or to bring different works (video games, novels, comics, films) into one cohesive whole. Some people are horribly offended by this. Fair enough. But maintaining a cohesive continuity in Star Wars is a messy, complicated business. There are times when various story lines and time lines have to be brought together, and sometimes they just don’t mesh quite right without a little tweaking. As an author I try to make the changes that are as minimally invasive and as respectful to the original work as possible, but I also have to balance the needs of whatever project I have been hired to work on so that the product I’m making can be the best it can be. Obviously people won’t always agree on what is “minimally invasive”; fortunately I don’t make that final call. If I step over the line, there are folks at Lucas who tell me what I can or cannot do. But most of the time I’m very careful not to cross that line. 

I’ll admit, I didn’t consult with the Obsidian writers before including the Exile in the novel. They didn’t consult with me before including Canderous and HK-47 in KOTOR 2. And I didn’t expect them to – that’s not how it works, and it would be virtually impossible to get anything done in the Star Wars universe if it did. Too many projects, too many contributors.

Here’s how it does work: Obsidian doesn’t own the Exile. Neither do I. Lucas (the corporation) does – she’s a part of Star Wars. My only options were to bring her into the fold by doing as much research as possible and doing my best to give a fair and accurate representation of her in the novel, or to ignore her completely and pretend she never existed. I think option A is far more preferable (and more respectful) than option B.

In a shared fiction world it’s inevitable that some characters are going to get multiple treatments from various authors. Earlier events are going to be referenced, and sometimes the small details aren’t going to match up exactly as fans want or expect. Like it or not, that’s a fact. If you don’t like it, there’s not much I can do to change your mind. But I hope you’ll keep this in perspective and understand that most authors (including me) do their damnedest NOT to mess up other people’s stuff… and the e-mails I get accusing me of willfully changing things for no reason are ridiculous and offensive.

They’re also filled with f-bombs and profane descriptions of what I should do with my sexual organs, but unfortunately that’s just the norm for the internet. Remember the “Triple A” formula: Anonymity + Audience = Asshole. Still, it strikes me as odd that they would even bother to send me these e-mails. Do they expect me to read their profanity-laced venom and go, “Hey, they’re totally right – stop the printing and let’s redo the book that’s already in production because a handful of foul-mouthed jerks are spamming me!” Probably not. The only explanation I can figure is that they feel angry, and venting on a forum isn’t enough. They have to personally attack someone, because the only way they can feel better is by trying to make someone else feel worse. Sadly, that’s all too common in our society today.

I could respond with swears, curses and angry rebuttals, but I’ll take the high road. Actually, the high road would be not mentioning it at all, so I guess I’m taking the middle road by ranting on my personal website. But in the end it’s a small price to pay for the privilege of being able to write novels set in the Star Wars universe, and I know for every jerk who fires off an angry e-mail, there are a hundred (or a thousand, or hopefully even ten thousand) folks who appreciate what I do.

So, to the Star Wars, Mass Effect and Drew Karpyshyn fans out there who aren’t haters, thanks for listening. And to the haters: you know that thing you told me to do to myself in that nasty e-mail? Right back at you. Twice.