Denning, “chick” books, and looking past Fate of the Jedi

Over at Galactic Drift, Racheal recaps Troy Denning’s book tour stop in Carmel, Indiana, complete with the above video. Denning talking about the “Jacen Solo era” that Apocalypse is closing out, the push for war stories, tying into the Legacy comics and more.

As for news, Denning said he’s not involved – and isn’t sure if he will be – with whatever is happening next in the EU.

One thing that rubs me (and others) the wrong way is his reference to Tatooine Ghost as a “chick book.” It’s not one of my favorites – I don’t even own a copy – but it is exactly the kind of story I think the Expanded Universe needs more of now that the glut of long series are over: Character-focused adventures that don’t have the fate of the entire galaxy in the balance. (Another example: Zahn’s Survivor’s Quest.) I can take or leave any romance aspects; I just want stories that give some consideration to the characters, not just their lightsabers and blasters.

I’m not saying we need to totally get rid of the galaxy-in-peril plots – as Denning points out, there’s a demand, and they are part of the formula. It’s not Star Peace, after all. But the one thing that the EU has been missing lately – at least if you’re not in it for brand-new characters – has been the balance of ‘galaxy’ books and ‘character’ books. Successful Star Wars stories that manage to do both – Matt Stover’s Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, for instance – have been few and far between lately. And while I can’t speak for everyone, I’d rather have one Mindor a year than any of these drawn-out cast-of-thousands deals we’ve been getting. Or at least in addition to whatever cast-of-thousands thing is going on.

And really, does focusing on character over endless battle scenes really make something ‘for chicks?’ Really? Yes, this is Star Wars, and by the very nature of the franchise there’s always going to be a lot of pandering to the lowest common denominator… But throw the rest of us a bone every once and a while. Please.

20 Replies to “Denning, “chick” books, and looking past Fate of the Jedi

  1. Perhaps its the integral chauvinism still existing in modern society, which explains why an audience consisting mainly (at least believed to be so) of men would prefer reading about male characters, unless, of course, the female protagonist isn’t wearing much. But for that books are no good, are they?

    And it really is what this website is all about – a call for an alternative.

  2. Sad to read this and that something that is slightly different gets labeled a chick book because it spends more time on a female character and some romance than everyone running around blasting the force and using their lightsabers. seriously..
    and then people wonder why my interest in SW EU books is at an all time low. Most of them are badly written, bland and a rehash of the same old same old.

  3. If there’s a chick book, it’s Dark Rendezvous. Just look at the title. ;-)
    Seriously, I loved TG. One of the few novels that linked the PT and the post Endor EU in a way that made sense. Plus: Who wouldn’t love a book that has squibs AND the best Jar Jar cameo outside Robot Chicken? Mui mui… :-)

  4. Mmm… I agree in all you say about what book we need now. Still, I think (we) girls should just keep out hear up proud and work for relieving the term “chick book ” of the negative. I don’t know how Denning used it – but it is ALSO one of the few terms that covers a certain focus in the content – and a focus I maintain we need in Star Wars as well and in other literature.

  5. “Character-focused adventures that don’t have the fate of the entire galaxy in the balance. (Another example: Zahn’s Survivor’s Quest.) I can take or leave any romance aspects; I just want stories that give some consideratiso many on to the characters, not just their lightsabers and blasters.”

    To me, what defines “chick lit” and therefore a chick book is that what little plot there is, is a character in one way or another whinging about relationships, the inherent sexism/unfairness of life, and spending more time talking than actually doing anything USEFUL. Fluffy and okay train books (Nanny Diaries, I Don’t Know How She Does It, that book about the shopping chick, etc), but ultimately inconsequential people doing inconsequential things. It’s character-driven only in the sense that the book’s basically this character doing stuff because the author thinks the writing’s clever, which it can be (or more scarily, that people would actually care about or identify with the character, rather than reading it for the schadenfreude.)

    I wouldn’t put Tattooine Ghost into that category-what little I remember of reading it is it was about tying TPM into the post-Jedi books and trying to clear up a bit what Leia knows about her biological family. Which is of massive freakin’ galactic importance, it just doesn’t involve blowing stuff up. IIRC it also deals a bit with, you know, Leia’s planet having been blown up, something that tends to have been glossed by virtue of the movies doing a time jump.

    Really, if “character-driven” versus Giant Space Battles and Jedi makes the former chick books, then the entire X-wing series is for chicks. “Starfighters of Adumar” is practically “Bridget Jones’s Diary” by those standards.

  6. A bit of an oops to call it a chick book. I think you can look at any of the beloved EU characters and see that they’re loved equally by both men and women.

    Do the female fans prefer character over battles? I suspect that would be the case if you surveyed fans. But that’s also stereotyping. Because while there might be a preference, I think that both sexes like a good character book.

    So if getting them to throw us a bone with a “chick book” gets us the characters we’ve been missing in the galaxy in peril series, give me more chick books, please. I really enjoyed Tatooine Ghost and want to see more.

  7. Agreed with the entire blog and especially Paula’s comment. Some of my favorite scenes in the films are the lightsaber battles, but I also love scenes with two characters talking (Obi-Wan and Dooku in AotC, Vader&Luke&Palpy in the Throne Room, etc.). I fell in love with Star Wars because of the characters, and letting them dictate the plot (rather than the other way around) is what gets me excited about a book. A lot of things happen in Mindor, but ultimate it’s about Luke, and that’s why I love it.

    And I’m saying these things as someone whose two favorite genres to read are sci-fi and chick lit. I love the series about the shopping chick, lol. But I also love Star Wars.

  8. “Character-focused adventures that don’t have the fate of the entire galaxy in the balance. ”

    Yes and amen! That’s part of why I enjoy the Jedi Apprentice books so much. Jedi and heroes doing Jedi and heroic things without the entire galaxy in peril all the time.

    I haven’t read TG in a long time but I remember enjoying it and thinking it was a fun adventure.

  9. And this is part of why I haven’t bought a Star Wars book since Vector Prime (excluding Zahn’s contributions since then). A franchise that employs people who have this kind of attitude is a franchise that shares it, and is not one I want to support.

  10. I gave up on Star Wars, because after NJO, there was too much emphasis on the “war” part. What fascinated me about the films was this exciting, diverse, wonderous galaxy full of interesting characters, philosophical magic, and the promise of more to explore.

    Yes, I think there’s an adventure aspect that’s integral to Star Wars…but these aren’t really WAR films. The wars are a backdrop for the adventures of the characters.

    Seriously, how many times at these panels do you hear fans, male or female, say: Hey when are we gonna get another Death Star? My favorites parts are when they blow up planets! Genocide rocks!

    Or, I can’t wait til you kill another major character! Can it be one I like? That makes the death more meaningful.

    I haven’t. I’ve heard character death defended, but only time I hear them clamored for is when fans want somone to “go away”. I think that’s because male or female, the reality of war is horribly unpleasant.

    Star Wars is the “fantasy” of war. War being waged against a clear “bad guy” where despite all odds the good guys overcome. Red shirts drop all around while the protagonist flies through safely. The good guys don’t engage in unethical tactics…etc.

    Two major galatic wars should really be enough for a few decades, particularly in a galaxy that lends itself to such a wide variety of characters….but we’re on what 4 galatic wars now? Why not a variety of stories as well?

    A near miss is exciting, a killing blow is just tragic.

  11. Great piece. Star Wars is character driven. You’re more invested in the action because you’re interested in the characters, whether fanboy types know that or not. Harrison Ford has always understood that and articulates it well in his interviews, past & present. Anyway, very much in agreement!

  12. Remember when the authors used to be able to do characters and battles in the same book? I think many of us would agree that the Heir to the Empire series did that pretty well. I miss that. I’ve read and re-read the early novels, like Truce at Bakura and the Heir series several times while I’ve gotten to the point with the more recent novels where I won’t even buy them because I know I won’t read them again. I usually wait for a local library to get them in.

    This is a little off-topic, but I also miss the days when Jedi were rare and special. It seems like everyone in the galaxy now has some kind of Force power. When I read a novel full of battles between hundreds of Supermen (who often develop new abilities out of nowhere that just happen to be the exact abilities they need to win the battle), I get bored. Lightsabers are awesome, but if everyone has one, they’re a little less awesome.

  13. For the record, I was there the other night and Mr. Denning said it in a joking manor when he called it a “chick book.” I think he was referring to the fact that it was a book that his wife helped him with, and not only that, it was a book that delved into Leia’s feeling’s for her father and grandmother. Also, as some of you have said, it wasn’t about a galaxy-spanning war and was more of an individual adventure, so maybe he felt that it would have been something that would have appealed more to the female readers than the male ones.

  14. I’m not surprised he was joking, but it still puts quite a highlight on what is a very real issue with the EU right now… Obviously.

  15. I’m a guy — and I guess I wish there were more books like Tatooine Ghost. I’m tired of everything being massive doom life/death stuff. TG was Denning’s best, simply because it was just a book… not THE STAR WARS BOOK THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING that every other book he wrote tried to be.

  16. In my opinion, the best books follow the movie formula by having plot lines that include varying levels of action that come about due to the choices the characters make. I agree with what Yup said, that Star Wars is character driven, and would take it even further by saying that ESB has a lot of character growth in its storyline, and that’s the movie most often held up as “the best” of the Star Wars movies. The movie storyline shares common themes with mythology, and popular stories from around the world. I think is a huge part of why it is so popular. There is always someone to identify with and be invested in as an audience. There’s someone worth rooting for.

  17. It wasn’t a chick book, it was a bad book. Seriously, Troy Denning…not the greatest writer. Doesn’t seem to have much insight on his audience, either.

Comments are closed.