Heir to the Empire is 30 years old

Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novel Heir to the Empire was first released in hardcover on May 1, 1991. It was the first Star Wars novel to be released since L. Neil Smith’s Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka dropped in November 1983, and the first Star Wars novel to actually take place after Return of the Jedi. It was a lot of firsts, actually.

Anyway, this is still a dead blog and likely to remain so for the most part, but I thought this anniversary probably required some acknowledgement. Heir to the Empire is, after all, the work that jump-started this whole fandom thing for me personally, and Club Jade as whole (obviously) wouldn’t exist without it.

For anyone who wasn’t aware of the history: Star Wars was, in 1991, pretty much dead as a franchise. Andrew Liptak wrote up how the book came to be a few years back. Zahn himself spoke about it with the Insider recently.

Still no Mara.

We’re in a very different era now, but post-Heir, novels (and soon after, comics) were the only venues for new Star Wars stories for most of the 90s. (Which might explain why so many of us remain attached to, or at least nostalgic for them, Legends or not Legends!) That remained the case until The Phantom Menace in 1999.

Anyway… 30 years. Damn. While we’re here, I might as well point out that a new trade paperback edition of the book – with a new cover – is due out in June.

So that said, comments on this post are open. Did you read the Thrawn trilogy then? More recently? Or never at all? Are you reading Tim Zahn’s current Star Wars novels, the Thrawn Ascendancy prequels (Book I, Chaos Rising, came out in September, and Book II, Greater Good, on Tuesday). I hear they’re fairly backwards compatible with Legends.

If that’s not a factor for you: What’s your place with Star Wars right now?

3 Replies to “Heir to the Empire is 30 years old”

  1. The Thrawn Trilogy were my first Star Wars novels, and I read them sometime around 2008, when I was in middle school. I had seen some Star Wars books before, but I had no idea the Expanded Universe was even a thing. I bought hardbacks of “Heir” and “Command” as soon as I saw them. The library had “Dark Force Rising”, so I read that from there, and I later bought it…in paperback. So there’s just going to be a mismatch on my shelf forever. It’s not like I’ll ever replace My First Ones. Silly kid mistake, haha. I loved them then and I still think the story’s good in the abstract, even if its parts don’t necessarily work for me anymore and Thrawn has been milked to death and beyond.

    Anyway, my other silly kid mistake was tying my enjoyment of Star Wars too closely to writing Wookieepedia articles. So when I stopped being able to stomach contributing there “for good” some time around the Disney buy-out, I stopped following Star Wars. Now there’s just a tear in me. There’s my lingering desire to engage with Star Wars like I used to, as a database animal over-invested in the EU, which isn’t possible after a recent Wook permaban for supporting trans people too angrily. Then there’s my faint but distinct desire to read any of the new stories because there’s the chance they might not be mostly about white space guys, which would require a level of context-free detachment I doubt I’m capable of. Either way, it couldn’t be like the Good Old Days, I guess, haha. I’ll just play Star Wars by ear, as ever.

    Happy to see this post, Dunc! Marking this occasion was a great idea!

  2. I love this book!

    I read it in hardback (can’t find it anywhere though, but I do still have a replacement paperback + the second and third volumes in hardback) when it was first published (I recall the copies we had here in the UK were ‘Bantam’ so presumably imported USA editions). I think I bought it with my pocket money from a bookshop while on a school holiday and read the whole thing very quickly.

    For me, at that point Star Wars had never really gone away… This was just the next part of the adventure and launched me into reading the EU books as they were released.

    PS
    Great to see a notification of a blog update here, and an excellent excuse for a post

  3. I was just finishing 8th grade when the book came out, and my dad was graduating Seminary. We were getting ready to move to Nebraska – and my mom had no interest in buying me (or letting me buy) the book… probably because we were getting ready to move. But when we got out to Nebraska I got on a waiting list at the Hasting Library – and finally got to read it. All in one seating before I went to bed. And I read it again before returning it.

    By the time Dark Force Rising came out, I had prevailed upon my mom to buy these Star Wars books in hardcover even… and so has been my custom basically to this day (In the past five years I haven’t been first day, but I pretty much have first edition.) I’ve picked up the new Thrawn and I enjoy it.

    As for the new stuff… I have mixed emotions. I know the Legends stuff, especially the non-Zahn of the Bataam Era wasn’t always the most brilliant (and the cavalcade of Luke’s non-Mara love interests were just by in large dumb)… but it was fun. It was meant to be entertaining fun adventures.

    Star Wars publishing has gotten darker. Both grimmer and grimier. Heroes are scarce, and most are anti-heroes, it seems. They have flaws not to grow beyond them but to just show that they are flawed. And often they come across as (if the member of the clergy may use this in a derogatory fashion) preachy.

    As I love Club Jade (and miss reading the articles) I’m sure you can guess where I put the crux for that twist and decline as starting. Yet, even now there are books I love. Claudia Grey is up there with Zahn and Stackpole and Allston – my big three is now a big 4. And I’ve enjoyed the High Republic stuff I’ve read – the Jedi are actually heroes again – open, unabashed heroes.

    But I still end up rereading the Original Thrawn Trilogy around once a year.

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