Later this month Luke
Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor will be published.
Written by Matthew Stover, who has already contributed three
novels and one short story to the Star Wars Expanded Universe,
it will tell the tale of the Alliance's efforts to stop Lord
Shadowspawn and his legions of shadow stormtroopers from
resurrecting the Empire only one year after the deaths of the
Emperor and Darth Vader. Matthew's first Star Wars novel, Traitor
(2002), formed part of The
New Jedi Order story arc, while his second, Shatterpoint
(2003), was set during The
Clone Wars with a story that featured Mace Windu. His last
book, the novelisation of Episode
III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), was an international
|Star Wars Books are pleased that
Matthew has taken the time to participate in this interview.
Matthew, welcome to
Star Wars Books.
you like, could we begin with a short resume of yourself and your
work to date?
I started writing books when I was 17. I
started selling books to publishers when I was 33. Now, at 46, I’ve
written five originals and five media tie-ins. By this time next
year, gods willing, I will have written seven tie-ins and be almost
done with my sixth original.
Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor will be your first Star Wars
novel in three years since you penned the novelisation of Episode
III: Revenge of the Sith, how does it feel to return to that
galaxy far, far away?
I never left. I signed the contract for the book that is now LUKE
SKYWALKER & THE SHADOWS OF MINDOR in 2006, not long after the
mass market edition of REVENGE OF THE SITH came out. It’s just
taken a long time to write, due to some unfortunate issues with my
made you return to the Star Wars universe?
A bathtub full of money. Samuel Johnson said: “No one but a
blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” I am trying very, very
hard to maintain my non-blockhead status.
The fact that writing for Star Wars is also a lot of fun is just a
Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor will be set in a period
rarely visited in recent times, namely the early years of The New
Republic, was there any particular reason for choosing this
For exactly that reason. There’s a period of four or five
years that hasn’t been nailed down into second-by-second
continuity . . . and even so, continuity issues were probably the
single biggest stumbling block in this novel’s production. When
you’re dealing with Luke, Han and Leia, you’re taking on
characters whose entire lives, more or less, have been already
recounted in considerable detail. Part of my job in this book was to
take the Luke Skywalker of RETURN OF THE JEDI and show how and why
he would grow into the Luke Skywalker of DARK EMPIRE. This turned
out to be considerably trickier than I had anticipated.
two previous original Star Wars novels, Traitor and Shatterpoint,
caused a certain amount of controversy amongst the Star Wars fan
fraternity for their perceived morally ambiguous themes. But you
have previously stated quite strongly that there is no moral
ambiguity in your work; does this perception by fans and even
reviewers still irk you in any way?
Nah. They have their opinions. I have mine. We can agree to
in a recent fan survey of the Top
100 Expanded Universe Works
conducted by TheForce.net, all three of your Star Wars novels
are in the top 10, Shatterpoint #9, Traitor #3 and
your novelisation of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was
number 1. Clearly fans enjoy your work and their expressed themes,
does this make you more hopeful that at least some fans understand
the themes expressed in your work?
Oh, I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of fans understand my
work very well. It’s just that not all of them like it. Which is
their privilege, after all.
you wrote that Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor is
your "attempt to get the EU back to its pre-Zahn roots...
specifically to evoke memories of my all-time favorite SW books,
Brian Daley's Han Solo novels", do you therefore feel that
the Star Wars Expanded Universe mythos has somehow lost its
way over the past 20 years?
Not at all. I hope it wasn’t taken that way. I was merely trying
to hearken back to the zippy pulp energy of Daley’s Han Solo
Trilogy and Foster’s SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE (not to mention
his legendary ghost-written novelization of ANH). This is not to say
that there’s anything inherently wrong with how the EU has been
progressing; I just wanted to write a book that leaned more toward
the action-packed Thrilling Tales side. After all, I’ve done
brutal and depressing three books in a row. It was time for a
previous Star Wars novels featured individual characters and
their suffering, not just physical but also emotional, is this a
theme we can expect to continue in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows
Jeez, I hope not.
I mean, sure, there is suffering in the book—if nobody’s
suffering, there’s no need for a hero to swoop in and save the
day, right? And sometimes, the hero himself might need saving . . .
but really, getting that deep into somebody’s tortured soul takes
up a whole lot of page-time, and I was working with an enormous cast
in this book: Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C-3P0, R2-D2, Lando, Fenn
Shysa, the pilots of Rogue Squadron, some old friends from other
sources . . . and that’s only the good guys. Add in the various
enemies, secondary characters and an exotic alien or two, and all of
a sudden you’ve got a very crowded book. It’s one thing when the
book is mostly a one-man show, like Traitor and Shatterpoint, but to
put that kind of deep focus on people in a book this crowded would
require a War and Peace-sized story.
After all, the aim of this one is to unroll an old-fashioned
whiz-bang space-opera thriller. I hope I’ve hit that mark.
your previous Star Wars novels contained more scenes of
explicit violence than is normally associated with Star Wars
and acknowledging that the films do themselves portray implied
violence: amputations, decapitations, burned corpses, etc as a means
of storytelling; is this a theme you continue in Luke Skywalker
and the Shadows of Mindor?
Dunno. I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.
(Which is a baseball metaphor roughly translating as: “Don’t ask
me, I just work here.”) I don’t think of my Star Wars novels as
especially violent, or especially graphic. Let me put it this way:
anybody who thinks my Star Wars books contain graphic violence
should read HEROES DIE, BLADE OF TYSHALLE and CAINE BLACK KNIFE to
see what real graphic violence looks like.
acknowledged character writer, and I believe that your own acting
experience lends you "the ability to inhabit a character",
how do you see yourself in the role of say Luke Skywalker, or
Princess Leia following the events in Return of the Jedi?
Will we see this in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor?
This is a seemingly simple question that could require a
staggeringly complex answer. Let’s just say that Luke and I don’t
have a lot in common, and leave it at that.
back in March 2001 with Gabriel Chouinard, you commented that "every
fantasy writer living today should get down on their hands and knees
and kiss J. K. Rowling’s feet" because she introduced a
new generation of young and old readers to SFF. Now, nearly eight
years, five movies, a plethora of merchandise and another three Harry
Potter books later, do you still believe "may the gods’
rain blessings upon Harry Potter"?
Did I say kiss her feet? That seems uncharacteristically restrained;
I was almost certainly thinking of a different body part. Look: I do
occasionally change my opinion. I’ve even—once or twice—been
known to admit I was wrong. This is not one of those times. Just
wait for all those Potter Kids to graduate from college, get real
jobs, and start looking around for something to read. Sure, maybe
half of them will never buy another fantasy novel. Maybe even three
quarters. Which would still leave a fantasy-hungry pool of readers
totaling roughly seven and three-eights bazillion. In round numbers.
that same interview with Gabriel Chouinard, you stated that "all
fiction is a subset of fantasy", "I'm a fantasy
writer" and "SFF should be more than junk food",
do you believe that attitudes towards SFF by the general public have
changed in the last 8 years, or is SFF still encumbered, as you may
call it, as being "junk food"?
Still is. Always will be. For every show like Firefly, there will be
a dozen like Charmed. Simple fact: give a monkey the choice between
broccoli and chocolate, the monkey will choose chocolate. The trick
is not to convince people that they should watch or read stuff that’s
“good for them,”—to convince them to eat broccoli even when
they want chocolate—the trick is to make the broccoli taste like
chocolate. You get it? For a couple of seasons (Four and Five, if my
memory serves), Buffy the Vampire Slayer was not only the most
flat-out fun to be had on television, it also—eloquently and
elegantly—tackled some profound existential issues with admirable
seriousness . . . and without ever abandoning the Action-Girl-vs-Monster
Broccoli that tastes like chocolate—an idea that could change the
world . . . or at least support the career of a middle-aged SF
is no doubt that the increasing popularity of SFF in the unwritten
mediums of television, with shows such as Battlestar Galactica,
Smallville and Lost; and the movies, with The
Golden Compass, Stardust, I, Robot and Minority
Report; has given SFF a new golden age. Do you see a division in
audience, or do you feel that the audiences of the unwritten mediums
are discovering more of the written medium?
Beyond slightly expanding the audience for the kind of media
tie-ins that make up the bulk of my income as a writer, well . . .
no. Virtually all fans of SFF lit also watch at least some of the
SFF TV programs and films, but the reverse is not even remotely
true. The act of reading contrasts sharply with the non-act of
watching television; reading narrative prose requires an active
engagement of imagination, to internally create many of the features
that are spoon-fed to the audience of narrative film and television.
It was once a truism (which I’m not sure was ever experimentally
verified) that the human body burns more calories while sleeping
than while watching television. The SFF prose audience is a small
subset of the SFF all-media audience, and always will be.
do you believe that there is a worry that this new golden age of SFF
television could be nothing more than the fickle fancy of a
television audience who could popularise another genre at the
expense of SFF's success?
I doubt it. With the advances in digital effects, fantasies from
Harry Potter to X-Files are becoming ever-cheaper to produce. What
you will see will be bleed-overs of other genres into the fantasy
realm. We’ve already had plenty of vampire detectives; we’ve
already had a lawyer show where the main character has psychic
powers. It won’t be long before somebody does a night-time soap
featuring clans of obscenely powerful demons vying for prestige in
within the movie industry appears to be only latching onto popular
children's or classic SFF, the works of Philip Pullman, Eoin Colfer,
Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick amongst others, do you feel this to
be detrimental in any way towards modern adult SFF?
No. See my answer about film-vs-prose above.
next for Matthew Stover?
The usual: a couple more hired-gun projects, then the Big Wrap-Up of
the Acts of Caine. I always seem to have more work in hand than I
can possibly accomplish, though it somehow still seems to get done.
your blog, StoverBlog (http://mattstover.blogspot.com),
you claim that Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor will
be a best-seller (of course, there's no doubt that it will be
anything less!). Premonition, or do you have Force vision abilities?
Finally, if you could meet face-to-face with any fictional person
and could only ask them one question, who would that person be and
what would you ask them?
YHVH. I’d like to ask Him if the Old Testament of the Christian
Bible portrays Him unfairly, or if He really does stand behind every
you Matthew for your time, it has been a pleasure and wish you every
success in the future.
© 2008 swbooks.co.uk