Del Rey’s Shelly Shapiro chats with Expanded Universe fans

Del Rey editor Shelly Shapiro chatted with fans this afternoon on the Star Wars Books Facebook page. With more than 108 comments, you can’t say it wasn’t popular! Read on for a few high points, including Fate of the Jedi, book formats, typos, continuity, smugglers and more!

On the new edition of Heir to the Empire. We’ve been wondering if the 20th anniversary edition of Heir to the Empire would lead to Dark Force Rising and The Last Command getting a similar treatment. Shapiro said she’d like to do them, but Del Rey will “let the market guide us on that decision.” So if you want annotations for the rest of the Thrawn trilogy, buy Heir in September!

On the upcoming Wraith Squadron novel. Perhaps the biggest tidbit Shapiro dropped us was the time period of Aaron Allston’s 2012 novel. It “takes place around the end” of Fate of the Jedi! Future Rogue or Wraith novels are “Absolutely possible.”

Fate of the Jedi and beyond. “There are definitely plans for post-FotJ stories,” and a lot of ideas in play across the line. They’re scheduling things through at least 2014, so there are still plenty of balls in the air.

As you might expect, she doesn’t go into a whole lot of specifics, but does say a bit about Ben and Allana: “I hope to address Ben’s future in the Jedi Order at some time–I like Ben, and I think he has amazing potential as a really cool adult characters. And then, of course, there’s his cousin Allana, whom I can’t wait to help develop further.”

No major characters will die in Fate of the Jedi, she says. “Believe it or not, we don’t kill major characters lightly, and we don’t enjoy inflicting grief on our surviving characters.”

There are “no current plans to even touch” the death of Luke Skywalker. And of course George Lucas has “the final say as to when and how.” She goes on the explain their thoughts on aging, and how GFFA characters don’t live that much longer than we do. “What has changed is that they age better, and remain vital much longer than most of us do on 21st-century.”

Retirement seems a more likely option. “When, and if, we eventually put an end to Luke, Han, and Leia’s active careers, that’d probably feel like a major ending point, at least to one part of the saga.”

On future projects… A smuggler novel is something many of us got excited about (I wonder why) and Shapiro’s answer did not disappoint: “I like them, so yes, I think we’ll consider smuggler-type adventures in the future.” Cross your fingers!

As for books that are actually on the schedule, the novels by Alex Irvine and Jeff Grubb will both be standalones. “We are talking about sticking to standalones, duologies, and trilogies for a bit in the near future.”

On typos and other errors. “I can tell you that these books go through a lot of iterations, and are read and reread by numerous people, but that sometimes, even with all that, errors slip through the cracks. Rest assured that every error we do catch gets corrected, but if we catch it too late… We’re also on a very tight production schedule, which can introduce errors, as well. We do our best to not let these things happen, and I, for one, hate when I find out that a major error has made it through into a finished book.”

As someone who deals with a lot of text and a lot of deadlines, I really have to sympathize with Shapiro here. No one wants errors, but these things do happen, no matter how many folks have looked through it.

On continuity. The dreaded c-word is “one of the biggest challenges for us.” She goes on to say, “Some things, though, just have to remain as they are. I prefer that to going back and revising already published novels to reflect recent changes.” Her example is the completely unrevised Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. “it just lives as an entity of its own, and that’s how it should be. IMHO.” I completely agree!

On collaborating with Dark Horse. Shapiro is excited about working with Dark Horse further, the way they did for Knight Errant. She says of that experience, “…Each of us develops part of a greater whole and we work together to make that greater whole something really rich and exciting.”

On formats. Del Rey will stick to hardcovers, paperbacks, and ebooks, Shapiro said. Their “one foray into trade paperback for novels [the 5-book Clone Wars series from Traviss and Miller] wasn’t terribly successful.” Though I have to wonder if that had less to do with the format, and more to do with the content: Perhaps there’s just not a whole lot of crossover between Clone Wars fans and novel readers? Whatever the case, we won’t be seeing Star Wars novels in the trade paperback size “unless we see a major change in the marketplace.”

On choosing authors. “I get approached by a lot of authors who want to write Star Wars. I read samples of their published work, and when I find someone I feel will be able to live up to our SW expectations, I pass those samples on to Lucasfilm for approval. ”

On being an editor. “My role as editor is much more complicated in the Star Wars universe. When I work with an author on a non-tie-in novel, the entire job is between the author and me, and the author has a lot more leeway in terms of what happens on the pages. Those novels don’t have to have approved outlines, for example: I’ll just make suggestions to the author as to how I feel he or she can improve the story and/or characters. With Star Wars, every aspect has to be approved by the licensor — LFL. So part of my job is to help the author make the work the best novel they can write, and part is as liaison between the author and LFL. Sue and I do very similar work, though it’s more her job to make sure the story and characters conform to SW continuity and LFL expectations, while it’s more mine to make sure the writing flows well, the story evolves smoothly, etc.”

The meaning and message of Star Wars. “I think it’s that events–no matter how small or large in scale–revolve ultimately around human beings (including sapient aliens, of course!) and their feelings and their relationships with one anther. Also, that no matter how strong the lure of evil, which we are all susceptible to, there is always the possibility of redemption. Which probably makes me a Jedi. Though my colleagues at RH probably would say I’m naturally more of a Sith!”

I thought this was a pretty good chat – though there were several fans could certainly learn a lesson or two in courtesy (and grammar,) it didn’t go off all that badly. Your thoughts?

8 Replies to “Del Rey’s Shelly Shapiro chats with Expanded Universe fans”

  1. The handful of rude fans aside, I thought that was a great interview. Shelly was a whole lot more forthcoming with details than I expected.

  2. Good interview. I think I can understand where they’re coming from in putting new Wraith/Rogue Squadron books after FoTJ–you’ve got to keep that chronology rolling after all. I’ll admit some disappointment though, especially with seeing what the Wraiths were up to back in their NJO appearance, and I flat out dread what the time jump means for roster switches. Those books won’t be nearly the same without Wedge.

  3. I wish ClubJade had noted Shapiro’s response to a request to make a commitment for more diversity including more women characters are more characters of color. She basically said she felt the books were plenty diverse because there is Saba Sebantyne. (“Sure, all of the important human Jedi in post-“Return of the Jedi” books have been white, and the ones that are female have been handled rather poorly, but we have lots and lots of imaginary aliens.” The representation of aliens in Star Wars has vastly improved from the Mos Eisley cantina. The representation of women and minorities in Star Wars has remained stagnant.)

    Racial minorities are not aliens. When the Star Trek franchise talks about diversity they don’t have to say, “We’re so proud to be diverse because we have Klingons. If DelRey can create, develop, and popularize non-human characters like Saba I don’t understand why DelRey can’t popularize more human characters of color, too. (Unless they don’t care to, or don’t think to do so.)

    Even a name drop of Knight Errant (the protag is supposedly modeled after Salma Hayek) would have been better. How hard could it have been to say, “We get it, and we’re working on it.”

  4. “Even a name drop of Knight Errant (the protag is supposedly modeled after Salma Hayek) would have been better.”

    Wow. I would not have, in a million years, looked at Kerra Holt and said, “She looks a lot like Salma Hayek.” So, uh, mission accomplished there artists, I guess.

    I’ll admit that I’ve never really understood the complaint about the lack of minority groups in Star Wars though. It’s a fictional setting operating on fictional conventions…and one where planet of origin seems to have supplanted the idea of race (at least as far as humans go). I mean, unless we lay down that certain conventional racial groups come exclusively from certain planets and assign conventional descriptors for those races to people from those worlds then there’s not a really good way to assign race to characters in books because the author is, by default, stripped of his ability to describe someone as Japanese, Arabic, or anything else that we would usually find, as readers, to be helpful, time-saving descriptors. I won’t say that I agree with the way that Shelly answered the question, but it also seems like kind of a strange thing to get aggravated about from a setting perspective. That’s just me though.

    I’ll totally agree with you about the franchise needing more diverse and better developed female characters though. I also wouldn’t mind if they hammered out the way that they want to portray the characters (Jaina) that they have better.

  5. Even if Star Wars is operating in a fictional setting, it’s established that several species (just look at twi’leks) come in several different colors. Even if you can’t use ethnic descriptors (“that dude is Japanese”) there should still be room for humans of color in the story, whether described succinctly in the prose (“brown skin” or “light skin”) or depicted in materials (Star Wars Insider profiles, Essential Guides, covers and comics.) Saying that there’s a “black person planet” or an “Asian planet” isn’t necessary. A skilled artist should be able to describe diverse humans as easily as he or she is able to describe aliens.

    Right now it seems that if you are a human character that is not white, you’re unlikely to have an important role in the EU (even if you are Lando.) This may be due to a lack of institutional awareness or creative vision. The most high profile characters from the EU, like Mara Jade, Kyle Katarn, Corran Horn, Tenel Ka, Vestara Khai…at least one of them could have been a character of color, but this didnt’ happen.

    Star Trek has always been better than Star Wars at diversity and given RaceFail 09 it seems that in order to stay relevant in science fiction literature perhaps Star Wars needs to move in that direction, too.

    Edward James Olmos (the lead actor from Battlestar Galactica) was once interviewed about the importance of having people of color in science fiction. After all, in BSG planetary origin has also supplanted race as a discriminatory factor. He explained that it was important to him because it showed that people of color made it to the future and existed, doing important things, in the future, too. The same could be said for a galaxy far, far, away.

    Perhaps that’s part of the frustration with Kerra Holt. The author has said she was supposed to look like Salma Hayek, with dark hair, light brown skin, and hazel eyes. Yet, on the book cover, her skin is bright white, and her eyes are green. On the cover of Crosscurrent Jaden Korr is depicted in a way where he could be a number of different ethnicities; on the cover of Rip Tide he is unnecessarily established as white. Just look at the cover of Vector–nearly every single Star Wars era (sub-franchise) has been defined by a white male lead character, with the exception of Kerra.

  6. “Perhaps that’s part of the frustration with Kerra Holt. The author has said she was supposed to look like Salma Hayek, with dark hair, light brown skin, and hazel eyes. Yet, on the book cover, her skin is bright white, and her eyes are green.”
    To be fair, she is described as ‘dark-haired and dark-complexioned’ in the book, so I figured the cover just had awful lighting (and actually imagined her a good deal darker than Salma Hayek until I read JJM’s quote – Indian, say). I agree with you on everything else, though. :(

Comments are closed.