A FOTF exclusive Interview with Star Wars Author Dan Wallace
If you are an avid Star Wars fan, especially a fan of any and all literature regarding a certain galaxy far, far away, you are probably more familiar with author Dan Wallace than you realize. Wallace officially joined the Star Wars family in the mid-1990s with his book The Essential Guide to Planets and Moons (Del Rey) and how he landed that gig may surprise you. (Keep reading and that answer is sure to come.)
Since that time, he has authored a number of works that are “essential” to any reader who yearns to understand the Star Wars galaxy on a deeper level including The New Essential Chronology, The Ultimate Visual Guide, and iconic fan favorites like The Jedi Path, Book of Sith, Imperial Handbook and his recently released The Rebel Files – all of the latter being instantly recognizable by their authentic look and feel. A complete list of his work both inside and out of the SWU can be found on his goodreads page. He is also a contributor to the magazine Star Wars Insider.
Dan was kind enough to answer some questions by one of his top fans and FOTF staff writer Brad Tracy.
Interview With Dan Wallace:
Brad Tracy: Dan, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. What were your first memories of Star Wars and what was it about the film that made it so appealing to you?
Dan Wallace: I remember seeing the original Star Wars movies in theaters, so the saga has been part of my life for as nearly as long as I can remember. There’s a certain brilliance in how the original film combined something as simple as laser guns and sword fighting, in the process popularizing the genre of “space fantasy.” We take it for granted today, but at the time it was a real breath of fresh air.
BT: Who would you say was your favorite character?
DW: I’ve never been the type to personally identify with characters. Even as a kid watching the Super Friends, I remember thinking to myself, “I’m the third guy on the motorcycle in the background of this parade scene” rather than “I’m Batman.” In a way this might have been another reason why I liked Star Wars, because even in scenes like Luke’s entering the the Mos Eisley cantina, every background alien seems like it has a story worth telling. This principle also extends to the props and set dressing, for example, how did Luke get a big dent in the front grille of his landspeeder? What I took to heart is that everything in Star Wars should seem like it’s hinting at something bigger, and that at any given time we’re only seeing a fraction of the setting’s true scope.
With all that being said, the Star Wars character who’s the most like me in real life is definitely C-3PO.
BT: You know, most people say Luke, Han or Leia, but I can certainly respect Threepio. I for one wish I knew a few more languages! Tell us about the tractor beam that pulled you into the SWU. Was it overwhelming at first?
DW: Not overwhelmed at the time. In truth I felt right at home, though humbled and grateful for the opportunity. My break with Lucasfilm Publishing came in the mid-1990s on Del Rey’s The Essential Guide to Planets and Moons, after coming to Lucasfilm’s attention through, believe it or not, the Star Wars fan message boards on America Online. That kind of career track could only have happened during one narrow window of internet history, so I’m under no illusions about how lucky I was and continue to be. And therefore I’m constantly haunted by a fear of not screwing up.
BT: And here I just used the AOL chatrooms to troll Trekkies. Whoops. Anyway, your books such as The Jedi Path and The Rebel Files have an extraordinarily unique look and feel to them – can you talk at all about the development process for those works?
DW: Each of these books–with The Rebel Files there have now been five released to date–is treated like if it’s an actual artifact from the Star Wars universe. Selling that illusion begins with the packaging, and the Deluxe Editions of these books come in electronic storage cases that contain removable souvenirs and are modeled to resemble movie props. That principle affects the writing too, because in essence I’m not the author. Instead, each book is “written” by in-universe experts like Jedi Masters, Sith Lords, and Rebel Alliance generals, while familiar characters like Anakin Skywalker and Leia Organa scribble their comments in the margins. The Rebel Files, for example, is a scrapbook compilation of top-secret Alliance communiques and snippets from Mon Mothma’s private journals, set during the timeframe from Star Wars Rebels up to Return of the Jedi.
BT: That is truly amazing. I think my favorite part is the often snarky comments in the margins. The Rebel Files I believe is the first one of that series to be considered canon. What are your thoughts on the debate between Legends versus Canon? Do you think matters in the end?
DW: Well it does matter, in the sense that I totally understand where some fans are coming from. No one wants to hear that their favorite story “never really happened,” not even if, at the end of the day, NONE of these stories ever really happened. I believe there’s genuine value in continuity and consistent worldbuilding. But as someone who’s naturally continuity-minded, an experience that made the whole process easier for me was the fact that I’m a DC Comics fan. If you follow the comics, you know they’ve rebooted their internal continuity at least a half-dozen times. And while you can try to work out a canon Batman timeline from all that, if you’re a Batman fan then at some point you also find yourself enjoying the Nolan films, or the Snyder films, or the Burton films, or the Arkham games, or LEGO Batman, or Batman ’66, or Batman: The Animated Series. At some point I was able to de-emphasize the importance of Batman continuity and just experience each piece of media in relation to my mental image of a Platonic “Batman story.”
That’s harder to do with Star Wars, because so far we’ve only had one Crisis on Infinite Earths. But as things go on, I think storytelling will gradually become less tied to a single canonical timeline. Look at The Wizard of Oz, for another example.
I have a rule of thumb whenever I’m writing Star Wars under the new Disney continuity, and it helps. In my view the new canon is essentially an all-new stage play, but the producers have opted to use everything that was left over from last season: all the props, costumes, and backdrops. Therefore a Rodian is still a Rodian, the galaxy map is essentially unchanged, Han Solo’s blaster is still a DL-44, and so on. But because there’s a new script, nobody needs to read for the part of Jaina Solo.
BT: There may have just been a collective sigh when everybody just read Jaina Solo. What has been your favorite project to work on so far in the SWU?
DW: Honestly it might still be The Jedi Path. Of all the books I’ve written, that one seems to have resonated more than any other, and it’s still the one I’m most likely to be asked to sign at conventions. Big thanks to my editor, Delia Greve, who brought me aboard for that book and has worked with me on all the others in the series since then.
BT: She has done a remarkable job, that’s for sure! Now to put you on the spot. What’s your favorite SW movie? Back that answer up!
DW: The original Star Wars: A New Hope. It’s just a perfect little fairy tale, and also a great historical showcase of advances in 1970s filmmaking.
BT: Can’t argue with that. Do you have any predictions (that you’re allowed to give) for Episode IX?
DW: No idea! The story seems like it could go anywhere at this point.
BT: Can you tell us anything about future projects in the SWU?
DW: A sixth book in the in-universe series will be out October 2018. It’s called Star Wars: The Smugglers Guide, and is presented as an in-universe logbook owned by some of the worst scoundrels in the galaxy. The list of authors includes Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Maz Kanata, Hondo Ohnaka, and many more.
BT: I officially cannot wait for that. I will be buying the Deluxe version, no doubt. You also have extensive work outside the SWU. Can you tell us about anything you’re working on now or in the near future?
DW: Star Wars is my first love, but I’m very proud of the work I’ve done with some of my other favorite properties. My books include Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual Guide, Warcraft: Behind the Dark Portal, The Dark Tower: The Art of the Film, and The Art & Making of Pacific Rim Uprising. Many books I write are set in the universes of DC Comics or Marvel Comics. My coffee-table art book DC Comics Variant Covers is out now, and I’m currently working on a fun Marvel project involving Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider-Man.
BT: That sounds fantastic. Folks are going to love that. Want to end with a very serious question…favorite quote from any SW movie?
DW: I’ve always liked Obi-Wan’s line when a chained-up Anakin explains how he planned to come to Obi-Wan’s rescue: “Good job!” It’s all in Ewan McGregor’s delivery.
BT: I’ll be honest, I still laugh out loud during that moment. Dan, again thank you so much for doing this. I love the insight that you’ve given us and I’m sure your readers will as well. May the Force be with you.
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JFK historian and assassination researcher. Member of Citizens Against Political Assassinations and Assassination Archives Research Center.