The Jedi Path: An Exclusive Celebration V Interview with Star Wars Author Extraordinaire, Dan Wallace

22 09 2010
Star Wars Celebration V was in its fourth and final day, yet the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida showed no signs of winding down. Tattoo needles buzzed, inking fantastic galactic designs; collectors haggled with sellers over rare and vintage finds; elaborately costumed fans roamed the show floor, pausing for pictures. The hum of activity had become familiar over the past four days, its own form of electricity connecting disparate individuals from across the globe, bringing them all to this one building, at this one time, for this one purpose.

But this feeling of cross-boundary camaraderie had become almost commonplace, and at the time, I still had a list of must-sees and –dos to check off before the end of the day.

Ralph McQuarrie exhibit in room W314, tattoo appointment at 1:30, last stop to the gift shop, ‘The Clone Wars’ Season 3 panel…

But first, there was someone I had to meet. From the first day of Celebration V I had been meaning to meet up with Dan Wallace, celebrated Star Wars author best known for his wildly popular and oft-referenced Essential Guides. Alas, flight delays, busy schedules, and heck, maybe even the Force itself, had intervened, postponing our meeting until the last day.

My first encounter with Dan was after he’d seen my Ignite Phoenix video, You’ll Never Watch Star Wars the Same Way Again. Already a fan of his Star Wars work, I was over the Endor moon that a big-time Star Wars author even knew who I was! When I found out he was also attending Celebration V, I knew it would be a great opportunity to meet him in person. And with Dan’s new book, The Jedi Path, stirring up considerable buzz, I knew it would make great interview fodder.

After proving my mastery of the Force with the Force Trainer at the Uncle Milton booth, I received a text from Dan, asking if I’d be available to finally meet. Making my way to the DK Publishing booth, I spotted Dan’s dark-rimmed glasses and unassuming smile.

‘The Jedi Path’ in its vault at Celebration V

After making the obligatory introductions, we headed towards the becker&mayer! booth where Dan proceeded to show off a display copy of The Jedi Path.

Written as an in-universe Jedi guide book, The Jedi Path is more of a relic than a typical Star Wars reference guide. Worn edges, scrawled notes from various Jedi (and Sith) and removable trinkets make The Jedi Path a Star Wars book like no other.

And then there’s the packaging, or “vault.” I could almost hear Princess Leia’s “You came in that thing?” Except this ain’t no piece of junk (no offense to the Falcon). A streamlined “metal” box forms a shell around the small, green-bound paperback. At the touch of a button, the box splits open, revealing the guide book inside, rising on a “repulsorlift” cushion, complete with lights and sounds. Kick-ass. In fact, it was so cool, Dan immediately closed it and opened it again. This is one Star Wars book that might be just as fun to open as it is to read.

Grabbing a copy of the book, Dan and I headed to an empty table along the back of the show room.

“So what was your first Star Wars project?”

“Hmm,” Dan pulled out his iPhone, digging for that bit of information. “I did some stuff for West End Games; there was a short story called ‘The Great Herdship Heist.’ That was my first fiction story. I haven’t done a lot of fiction, just ’cause I’ve been busy writing the Essential Guides, but that was a real fun one. Then The Essential Guide to Planets and Moons came out in 1998.”

‘The Essential Guide to Planets and Moons,’ Dan’s first published ‘Star Wars’ book

Dan’s involvement with the Star Wars universe began rather unconventionally. In the lull between the two trilogies, with no new movies to fuel Star Wars fever, fans of the saga contented themselves with the numerous books, comics and video game releases. Being a fan, Dan was a member of the Star Wars message boards on AOL. “All really early, early web stuff, not like the internet today,” he said. “I did a fan guide about planets; I went through all the books and I wrote out all the planets, described them and put them in a file.” It was this impressive compilation that attracted the attention of Star Wars fiction author Kevin J. Anderson and Steve Sansweet. Dan’s fan work eventually led to a call from Lucasfilm. “I was asked, ‘Hey, would you like to write a book?’ And I was like, ‘Of course!’”

It was heartening to hear Dan’s account of a fan-turned-StarWars-author. Maybe there’s hope for all us fanboy (and girl) bloggers! I thought. Dan seemed to read my mind and offered a caveat:

“I don’t think something like that would happen now. They were just starting to crank up the publishing program again; they had fiction writers, but they needed someone to do this kind of stuff.”

Being a fan of some of the more obscure Star Wars stories, I asked Dan about his sequel to ‘The Great Herdship Heist,’ ‘Fair Prey.’ Both had been published in the now defunct Adventure Journals – but was there any chance we’d see any more Dan Wallace fiction in the future?

“You’ve read those?” Dan laughed, “Wow, yay! Yeah, I did do those two stories and they were a lot of fun. I did them for the Adventure Journals, which was an outlet for short fiction; unfortunately, there really isn’t a home for those types of stories anymore. Plus, I have enough business with my other projects. I always want to go back and do that, but I always say, ‘I’ll do that as soon as I finish this other assignment.’ Then something else comes up.”

I remembered a great question Pablo Hidalgo had asked during the Essential Guides panel earlier in the week. He’d asked the panel members about Easter Eggs they may have included in their work, little inside jokes or secret meanings. I asked Dan if he had included any Easter Eggs in any of his Essential Guides.

Me and Dan Wallace at ‘Star Wars’ Celebration V

“I used to do it more often than I do now. But I did a couple in The Essential Guide to Droids.”

Dan revealed that the tree feeder droid’s model number, RO/5T.N1, was actually a leet speak version of editor Sue Rostoni’s last name; her love of gardening inspired the nomenclature. And the construction droid’s model number, EVS-6962, was actually a text-to-listen phone number for They Might Be Giants song recordings, a number Dan dialed daily while working on the book. “Nobody would ever, ever catch that, but for me, it was definitely an Easter Egg.”

Turning our attention to The Jedi Path, Dan explained his view on this unique addition to the Star Wars Expanded Universe: “It’s kind of a book and kind of a collectable. I didn’t want it to be about one tiny little esoteric concept, I wanted it to kind of cover everything.”

The book includes a series of never before explored material, in particular, the Jedi Trials, something only hinted at in the films and subsequent Expanded Universe stories.

The text is written from an “in-universe” perspective, and readers should feel as if they are reading a genuine Star Wars artifact, as if “it dropped out of space and time from some wormhole.” In fact, the book is free of any ISBN number, barcode, Star Wars logo, even Dan’s name. To further play into this concept, Dan created seven Jedi Masters who act as “authors” of the guide, each with their own area of emphasis, tone of voice and personality. And for fans wondering why the text isn’t in the Star Wars type-face of Aurebesh? Dan made sure to point out that English letters have been successfully retconned into the Star Wars universe; plus, who wants to translate a 160-page book from Aurebesh to English?

“And then there’s the second narrative.” Dan pointed out the numerous notes scrawled in the margins of the book, notes from the guide’s various owners, including Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Darth Sidious and Luke Skywalker. These added asides shine more light on the material of the book and explore how these individuals perceived and interpreted the various teachings, giving readers an inside look at the philosophies of some of the saga’s most prominent characters.

Flipping through the book, Dan commented on the wonderful artwork included on almost every page. With numerous illustrators contributing, The Jedi Path features gorgeous images in a variety of styles, from watercolor to woodcut.

‘The Jedi Path’ features removable mementos and trinkets

One of the most unique features of The Jedi Path are the “removables.” Tucked away in the pages are removable trinkets and various items of interest, including a fold-out map of the Jedi Temple, a Jedi credit coin, Qui-Gon Jinn’s Padawan braid, even a lightsaber design sketch by Obi-Wan Kenobi on a paper napkin from Dex’s Diner.

“So paper napkins are now canon,” I teased.

“Paper napkins are now canon!” Dan confirmed. “We thought it would be okay for Dex’s Diner, because it’s so clearly like a 1950’s diner. If paper napkins are going to be anywhere in Star Wars, they’re gonna be there.”

When asked about the difference between The Jedi Path and the previously published Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force, Dan felt that The Jedi Path gives readers a text written by Jedi, for Jedi. And because of the various author contributions, The Jedi Path highlights the different views and interpretations individual Jedi hold. “The Jedi say that they’re unified, but I think underneath the surface, there’s probably a lot of dissension.”

Regarding the recently announced third edition of The Essential Guide to Characters, due out 2012, Dan revealed a slightly new approach to the latest edition, chiefly, the inclusion of more point-of-view pieces. “Like a description of Mon Mothma written by Admiral Ackbar, or an article about Lando Calrissian from a Star Wars equivalent of ‘US Weekly’. This will help shed new light on some of the personalities, and also help us combine multiple characters into one entry.”

Some new characters fans can look forward to seeing in the new edition include Starkiller, and other The Force Unleashed characters, as well as characters from The Clone Wars animated television show – which means we’ll get a chance to some “real-world” depictions of some of our favorite Clone Wars cast members, outside of their familiar animated style. And if all goes according to plan, expect updated character info up through the end of The Fate of the Jedi series.

When asked about future Star Wars projects he would like to be involved with, Dan pointed to the book in his hands. “I actually really liked this book a lot, it was really, really fun to do and I want to do another one of these. A lot have fans have asked, ‘So when are you going to do The Sith Path?’ And while that would be awesome, I think Lucasfilm is a little uncomfortable making a ‘yay, we’re evil’ book. But maybe there are other ways to do something like this, like a Smuggler’s Flight Manual, or a Bounty Hunter’s Tracking Guide.”

‘The Essential Atlas’ was one of Dan’s most daunting and anticipated projects

Wrapping up the interview, I had to ask Dan – author of not only The Essential Guide to Planet and Moons, but also the much anticipated and recently released Essential Atlas – about the most exciting planet/moon news to come out of Celebration V: the revelation of Obi-Wan’s home planet. During the Main Event with John Stewart, George Lucas named Obi-Wan’s homeworld “Stewjon,” a clear nod to John Stewart. When asked if this would be included in future works and be considered canon, Dan laughed and said, “Well, I think so, right? What the hell! If we get Lucasfilm approval, we’ll probably add it to that gigantic appendix.”

“So how would you spell it?” I asked.

“The way I saw it was ‘Stewjon,’ but we could come up with something else,” Dan said.

I threw my two cents in, offering up my own version of the spelling.

“I actually like that! I’ll talk to Jason [Fry] about that and see if we’ll use it.”

Awesome! It might’ve been small, but I may have contributed to the Star Wars universe! Only time will tell; I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for official, in print, “Stewjon” references.

Unending thanks to Dan Wallace for taking time out of his busy Celebration V schedule to sit down with a nobody blogger and share his passion for Star Wars. The Jedi Path is going to be an amazing addition to any Star Wars collection, not only for its unique packaging and presentation, but also for its insightful content. The Jedi Path is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com for a special discounted price of $62.99. It will ship September 28, so make sure to order your copy soon! Also, be sure to check out Dan’s other work, in particular his collaborative piece, Star Wars: Year by Year.

Sounds like Dan has a lot of great stuff in the works, so be looking forward to The Jedi Path, a third edition of The Essential Guide to Characters and beyond.

Excited about The Jedi Path? What are your favorite Dan Wallace books? Share your thoughts in the comments!

For more about my Celebration V adventures, including picture galleries, click the links below.

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8 06 2013
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS SEASON 3 REVIEW- “CLONE CADETS” | Ourbs.com

[…] The Jedi Path: An Exclusive Celebration V Interview with Star Wars … […]

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