Despite a bumpy start, the Darth Plagueis chat on Facebook with James Luceno today seemed to go quite well. Apologies for doing a straight-up transcript of this, but there were some really good questions… This is the first time I haven’t come out of one of these chats despairing for the typing skills of fandom at large, though I did fix some punctuation and trim a little fat from some of the questions.
The transcript is divided by non-spoiler and spoiler questions. Head below the cut to read, but you want to stay unspoiled, turn back when you see the red text.
Josh Allen: When you were writing the novel and you were writing the novels story right into the time of the events of Episode 1…what was going through your mind as you were writing it?
James Luceno: Josh, while writing I may as well have been living inside the film.
Jordan Dickerson: Any book signings in the near future, James?
Luceno: Jordan, No signings scheduled, but there’s a good chance I’ll be at Celeb.
Evan John Bouchard: Mr. Luceno, I was curious as to the amount of previous research you put into writing this book, I noticed you included a reference to just about every little tidbit concerning Palpatine every published, I was very impressed.
Luceno: Evan, normally I wouldn’t have had as much time to devote to research. The novel’s cancellation turned out to be a good thing.
Jake Reilly: What Star Wars book was the most fun to write? Was it a difficult task writing books set between the movies? (Like Dark Lord?)
Luceno: Jake, I think I had the most fun with Cloak of Deception. I liked dealing with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, and I enjoyed portraying Palpatine and Sidious as two separate characters.
Chris Banaszek: I know [George Lucas] doesn’t have much – if anything – to do with the EU works….but he does get involved with some of the major stuff, like his approval for Chewie’s death etc. Curious how high up the chain you had to go in regards to the in universe timing of the end of the Plagueis?
Luceno: Chris, as I’ve said in other forums, GL was the one who said that Plagueis should be a Muun, and that Plagueis should have an “accident” that forces him to wear a mask. GL also weighed in on other matters, though mostly through Howard Roffman — then president of LucasArts — with whom I worked most closely.
Clint Lormand: How did you get your start writing for Star Wars? Did you meet George Lucas personally?
Luceno: Clint, I was brought into the SW franchise as a kind of consultant when the New Jedi Order was in the planning stages. What I thought would be a year’s work has since turned into a career … As for GL, I’ve had very few face-to-face dealings with him.
William Barr: If the time was right in your schedule, would you write a novel about the beginnings of the sith if you were asked to do it?
Luceno: William, I feel that Drew and others have a better handle on the early Sith. I’m also looking foward to seeing what Dark Horse does with the early Jedi.
Keith Voss: On a seperate note, I see Ryder Windham is on this thread and just wanted to mention how much I enjoyed the “Wrath of Darth Maul”.
Luceno: Keith, the Wrath of Maul is a terrific read. I enjoyed getting to know Ryder and working with him.
Mateusz Skalski: Which period of Star Wars history would you like to explore in your future books? Are you interested in writing the story about Darth Krayt and his One Sith Order?
Luceno: Mateusz, the ancient Sith are in good hands.
Roqoo Depot: When you wrote Darth Plagueis, did you write it in order, or did you sometimes skip ahead and come back? Also, was the prologue the first thing you wrote?
Luceno: Roqoo, I spent months thinking about the story before I wrote a word. That’s just my approach. Once I had the story firmly in mind — even bits of dialogue — I wrote a very detailed outline, and worked from that while writing, from start to finish. Along the way, though, I made discoveries that compelled me to go backward and forward, altering things as need be.
Ronnie Chin: In the Phantom Menace Yoda said to Mace Windu: “Always two, there are. No more, no less. A master… and an apprentice.” How does Yoda know about the Rule of Two?
Luceno: Ronnie, if I’m not mistaken, Drew — in one of the Bane novels — offers an explanation of sorts for how it is that the Jedi Order know about the Rule of Two.
Spoilers for Darth Plagueis
Spoilers for Darth Plagueis
Spoilers for Darth Plagueis
Sidney Lau: Mr. Luceno, I was wondering about Yoda’s line in ROTJ on not dying–”Strong am I with the force, but not that strong.” Was Plagueis’ ability to restore life in the novel based on his strength in the force, or his willingness to explore the “unnatural” (or a bit of both)?
Luceno: Sidney, I believe that Plagueis’s strength was based on his willingness to go as far as he needed to …
Jessiah Eberlin: I read in your interview with TFN that George was adamant about Plagueis’s death ending in a specific way. But I’m curious, do you feel that had it come to a contest of lightsabers or Force powers that Sidious would have prevailed anyway?
Luceno: Jessiah, if it had come to a duel, I think Plagueis may have found a way to undermine his apprentice.
The original question is lost with the first comment thread, but when asked about young Palpatine:
Luceno: Steven, writing about young Palpatine was a challenge. I probably gave those scenes more thought than I did any others in the novel.
EUCantina.net: What sparked the idea to begin the book with the scene of the death of Plagueis? Were you trying to connect fans at once to the only part of his story that we’ve heard?
Luceno: EUCantina, I felt that I had to deal with that proverbial elephant in the room. The surprise, if we can call it that, had to be the when rather than the how.
Justin Alicea: Who hired Subtext Mining to sabotage Tenebrous’ mining droid?
Luceno: Justin, as Plagueis thinks to himself: Rugess Nome had many enemies. I’d take a hard look at Santhe …
David Schmitt: Doesn’t it demean Sidious to have him as an apprentice at 50? If he was really manuvering Plagueis the whole time then why not just kill him anyway?
Luceno: David, the thing is that Palpatine probably never thought of himself as an apprentice, and Plagueis never really treated him as an underling. Palpatine was merely biding his time, waiting for Plagueis to reveal the full depth of his knowledge of the dark side.
Darin Smith: Can you let us know if OneDeeFour was actually wiped and had his name changed to a droid we might know in the star wars universe or was that comment just off the wall and had no real bearing. I caught the comment and thought it might be something of a spoiler.
Luceno: Darin, there’s a scene at the end of Labyrinth of Evil where a couple of droids get the drop on the good guys who are closing in on Sidious’s secret lair. I like to think the 11-4D might have been in that room, and he was surely present when Anakin was fitted with the suit
Nico DiPerna: Dear Mr. Luceno, when you wrote the book, how much of the story was told to you? For example, for a while, a lot of people thought Anakin was created by Darth Plagueis, but in the book, it was said that it was the Force that created him in response to the shift towards the dark side that the galaxy took, which Sidious and Plagueis caused. Did you choose to make it like that?
Luceno: Nico, very little of the story was told to me. I was given certain parameters, but I was largely on my own. However, some things I proposed were shot down or reconfigured to satisfy the demands of others.
Peter Morrison: What are your feelings on Midi-chlorians after spending so much time writing and thinking about the for this book?
Luceno: Peter, I’m still not a big fan of midi-chlorians, but I have to say that I enjoyed the challenge of trying to make sense of them — if sense is the right word.
Order of the Sith: Is it safe to say that Sidious did not follow the Rule of Two?
Luceno: Order of the Sith: Sidious doesn’t follow rules of any sort.
Felix Victor Miranda: How did Palpatine eventually end up learning essence transfer post-endor if Darth Gravid sabotaged all the holocrons? Did he teach himself?
Luceno: Felix, Gravid’s attempts to destroy everything were cut short by his/her apprentice.
Yoshi House: Can you talk about the rend in the force?
Luceno: Yoshi, that “rend” is something that should be explored. I can’t say more than that just now.
Damon Blalack: The biggest speculation I’ve followed in thought the past seven years has been concerning Anakin’s Immaculate Conception. Until I read Darth Plagueis recently, I’d always assumed Palpatine stole the secret of life from his master, and then used it to create a “son” based out of pure Force-energy, so he could groom him to be his ultimate apprentice. Obviously the way it actually played out was different, in that Anakin became an accidental byproduct of Plagueis and Sidious’ Dark Side energy-raising, with Palpatine not learning of his creation until the events of The Phantom Menace.
But since he’s responsible as a metaphorical co-parent to Anakin, would you say that made the ending battle of Return of the Jedi an ultimate showdown for the fate of the galaxy between three generations: A grandfather, father, and son? I know Lucas originally wanted to do three distinct trilogies of films, each representative of a different generation of Skywalker, but mentioned to the press for Revenge of the Sith that during the writing of the opera scene he found a way to provide linkage that made the need for a third trilogy unnecessary. Can you speak as to how clear it really should be that Anakin is perhaps a sort of illegitimate son to Palpatine? Thank you!!
Luceno: Damon, I think you’ve worded it perfectly: an illegitimate son. There is indeed a generational aspect to the entire saga.
Eric Harzer: Was Darth Gravid your own idea or was it one of the things you were told to include in the novel? Either way, it’s a very interesting concept.
Luceno: Eric, Gravid was an invention of mine. I needed some way to distance Plagueis from the ancient teachings and powers. The more I thought about Gravid, the more interesting his/her story became. In my mind, at any rate.
Damon Blalack: Did you ever get any indication as to whether Palpatine was responsible for staging the Tusken attack on Shmi Skywalker in order to cause Anakin to begin faltering, and thus being more susceptible to Palpatine’s influence? I realise you can’t say for sure about anything definite, but can you at least speak as to whether there is a definite answer to this that came up at any time during the course of your involvement with Howard Roffman while researching Palpatine? Thanks!
Luceno: Damon, my son and I were just talking about the Tuskens … I can’t offer anything definitive, but I believe that Sidious’s fingerprints are all over Shmi’s abduction.
Matthew Martin: Early drafts of the script for RotS actually had Dooku taking credit for Shmi’s abduction (well, Palpatine blamed Dooku, and Dooku admitted it), so it’s far from implausible that a Sith Lord was involved.
Luceno: Matthew, Sidious is fond of boasting, and is often full of bluster. He assures the Neimoidians that everything is going according to plan. He lies to Anakin. He boasts to Luke … I was referencing the Mortis trilogy at several points. More is likely to emerge regarding those characters …
Andrew Jaden: How did you create Plagueis’s character? I’ve seen quite a few Sith, and none of them focused solely on cunning and plans upon plans like Plagueis did.
Luceno: Andrew, Plagueis is a kind of composite: part Godfather, part magician, part mad scientist, part vampire, if you will. Still, he was years in the making.
Nico DiPerna: So it was your idea to make Anakin not a direct product of Plagueis?
Luceno: Nico, a while back there was talk among scientists about the ability of certain subatomic particles to interfer with attempts to fully understand the complexity of atomic structure. Almost as if the particles had a kind of will of their own … A theory since disregarded, of course.
Veronique Mittmann: In the end, Sidious tells Plagueis that all the plans set in motion (Yinchorr, Dorvalla, Eriadu…) were actually Sidious’ ideas… I can’t notice it anywhere in the novel, I may have missed something, are there any hints I didn’t see?
Luceno: Veronique, Sidious takes credit for everything, but can we believe him? I deliberately avoided going too deeply into Palpatine’s thoughts during the middle of the novel, but there are hints here and there regarding his motives and his manipulations.