May 3

Next update May 15

Update a few days early. WTF, right?

Nobody panic – I just realized it made more sense to address a couple of things sooner rather than later. Plus, if the Spurs lose game 7 to the Mavs on Sunday this will be me for the next week. Not the best state to update your blog.

First up – Children of Fire is out in paperback on Tuesday! Thanks to all those who bought it in hardcover – I really appreciate you hardcore fans! But I also know many folks out there just prefer paperback books: they cost less and they’re easier to carry around. Don’t worry, I get it. Hell, I hardly ever buy hardcovers myself anymore.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m very excited for the paperback release, because it’s going to bring a whole bunch of new readers into the world of my Chaos Born trilogy. (Just in time, too, since book 2 – The Scorched Earth – is coming out in August!) If you’re a fan of my Star Wars novels, or my Mass Effect books – or even the games I’ve worked on – then I really hope you’ll check out Children of Fire. It takes a bit longer to get going than some of my other work (that’s why I need 3 books to tell this epic fantasy story), but trust me: the story is worth the investment, because it all pays off in the end.

The second thing I want to talk about is Star Wars. Specifically the Extended Universe, or EU as it’s more commonly known. In case you haven’t heard, Disney made a major announcement that will affect all the books, games, comics and other non-film/non-TV Star Wars products out there.

The short version of all this is that all the past products will no longer be considered official canon. In other words, the new movies might have characters or stories that conflict or don’t match up with stuff fans remember from the books, comics, games or other products.

As you might imagine, some fans are outraged. I understand where they are coming from: they feel that the characters and stories they know as part of the Star Wars universe are being wiped away. Disavowed. Obliterated. They feel betrayed by a franchise they’ve poured their heart and soul into.

Over the last week I’ve received numerous e-mails and tweets asking me how I personally feel about all this. I’ve written 5 Star Wars novels, and now potentially everything I’ve done falls under the “Legends” banner of the Star Wars universe: the “unofficial” history that may or may not be rewritten.

You might expect me to be angry over this, or disappointed. But actually I’m okay with it. To be fair, my work is set in the Old Republic era and there isn’t likely to be a lot of stuff in the new movies that will directly change or contradict my stuff (at least, not yet). So that might make it easier for me to accept the new creative direction. But even if they do eventually change/rewrite/ignore/implode stuff I’ve written I won’t get too worked up.

First off, let’s be clear – the old EU is not being disavowed or obliterated. It will still exist, and my books will still be printed. The only difference is they will have the word LEGENDS in a banner across the top and they won’t be considered official canon. The characters and stories will still be there for fans to enjoy, and for me that’s the most important thing.

I also understand why the powers-that-be are going in this direction. There have been many, many, many books following the lives of Luke, Leia, Han and the rest after the events of Return of the Jedi. The story has actually been traced almost 50 years down the road from the films, with the children of the Big 3 moving to center stage. That presents major logistic and creative issues for the folks working on the new films.

The story that has evolved is one that was well suited for the novels, but probably wouldn’t translate that well to film. Even if they did try to take everything from the EU books and honor it, it wouldn’t work. Books and films are very different, and adapting a story from one to the other is much more difficult than people think. They’d have to leave things out, or tweak things, which would just piss off the book fans anyway. And in the end they’d just end up with a weaker film; something no real fan wants to see.

But that’s nothing compared to the creative issues. Imagine you’re JJ Abrams: you’re smart, successful and creative. You can do pretty much any project you want. And now you’ve been given the responsibility of moving the most popular franchise of all time forward into a new era. You’re going to spend years of your life working your ass off to make this work. Would you want to be forced to just retell a story that’s already been told in the novels? Why would you do that, when you have your own ideas and vision? If you can pick your projects, why would you want to devote all this time and energy to someone else’s vision? Why put all that work in just to tell a story that’s already been told?

Creative people want to be creative. If we’re not doing it for the money or exposure, then we want to do our own thing; we want to work on something we are passionate about. And, usually, that means focusing on something we were instrumental in creating. So I’m not surprised at all that Disney wants the people involved to create their own story lines, instead of being forced to conform to something they didn’t create simply to satisfy a very small percentage of the audience.

Sorry if that hurts to hear, but we have to face facts. Based on sales, the EU fan base is – at most – around 1 million dedicated followers. But the films are targeting 100+ million fans. And, let’s be honest, they know that 90% of the EU fans are going to watch the films anyway, so it just makes sense to focus on the folks who aren’t familiar with the EU.

Sorry to bring the ugly world of business into the discussion, but that’s how entertainment works. It’s foolish to believe otherwise. Disney is – rightly – focused on making the best possible film they can, regardless of whether it matches the books that have already been written. That doesn’t mean the movie is guaranteed to be awesome – a lot can go wrong – but at least they’re starting off on the right foot.

Besides, it’s not like we haven’t seen this thing many, many times before. Every franchise goes through these kind of reboots. Obviously, Abrams did it with Star Trek. Some folks hate what he did, but it’s been popular and successful, so he has a proven track record. In the world of comics, it’s almost impossible to find a successful franchise that hasn’t gone through a canon-crushing reboot: Batman, Superman, Spiderman, X-Men, Avengers. 

Even some of my work on Mass Effect ended up being retconed and rewritten, and that franchise isn’t even a decade old! When you have something that is popular enough to attract numerous creative minds into the franchise, eventually the story lines start to get messy and you have to wipe the slate clean. It’s inevitable.

I’ve heard the argument that Star Wars was special because they were the one franchise that didn’t do this, but I don’t buy it. I was actually accused of violating canon with the first Darth Bane novels because of the way I incorporated elements of the story from the Jedi vs Sith comics, and some readers interpreted some of the Revan novel to be a retcon of the events of KOTOR 2. A handful of fans were very, very angry with me, but I worked very hard to make sure I stayed as true to the previous material as possible. I even had the help of the famous Star Wars continuity team – folks whose only job is to make sure everything fits together. But when something becomes as vast as Star Wars, there is so much stuff out there – much of it open to interpretation – that it’s almost impossible not to produce something that evokes cries of “Retcon” from some corner of the fandom.

That’s the price we pay for working in a shared universe. The payoff is we get more: more books, more games, more comics, more stories. You have all these brilliant minds contributing to the volume of work, bringing in fresh new perspectives and ideas and fleshing it out. But the more pieces you get, the harder it is to make them all fit together. So either we have stories that don’t fit together perfectly and we have the occasional reboot and stuff gets relegated to non-canonical status, or we just decide not to have anything at all. I know which I prefer.

And don’t forget, not everything in the EU is worth saving. Personally, I wouldn’t mind cutting the Luke-Leia incest stuff. (Even Lucas himself retconned his own work; he didn’t plan for them to be brother and sister until Return of the Jedi.) And Jaxxon is a bit much for me to take.

And the newly rebooted Extended Universe is still moving forward, with multiple novels coming out over the next couple years. Currently, I’m not contracted to do anymore Star Wars novels, but if they come to me I’d be happy to contribute. I still love Star Wars, and I’m excited to see what direction they take this in.

Okay, I guess that’s it. Whew – long rant, right? TL;DR version: Children of Fire paperback out Tuesday, Star Wars EU reboot isn’t the end of the world.