Timothy Zahn on Thrawn, Mara Jade, the New Star Wars Canon and More!

Timothy Zahn

The author of the Thrawn Trilogy was doing a Reddit AMA yesterday. Hit the jump for some really cool bits on his Star Wars books, Mara Jade, the new Star Wars canon and many more…


Here are some of the most interesting replies. For the whole piece go to reddit


Q: Where did the idea of the character Thrawn come from?


A: I wanted a villain who could lead by loyalty instead of coercion, manipulation, or fear. I worked out what sort of character that would be, and Thrawn was the result.
Q: Mara is one of my favorite characters and I, along with a lot of other fans, were pretty upset about her death and how things went down.As she was a creation of yours, how much input did you have in her fate? How did you feel about her death?


A: Not only was I given no input to Mara’s fate, I wasn’t even told about it until a couple of months before publication.
If I had been offered a say, though, I’d have argued against it. My vision of Star Wars is good vs evil, with the heroes struggling to win, and the major characters making it through. (Otherwise, either Lando or Wedge would have died inside the second Death Star.)
For the record, this isn’t just because Mara was my creation. I’d have argued against killing Chewbacca for the same reason.


starwars legends

Q: How do you feel about Lucasfilm declaring most expanded universe works (i.e. your works) as “non-canon”?


A: I wasn’t going to address this topic. But since so many of you have asked:
What the “non-canon” announcement by LFL means is that they aren’t going to be bound by the Expanded Universe books, comics, and games as they plan their new movies. Realistically, that’s something they had to do — the EU is just too big, complicated, and occasionally contradictory for them to have to deal with.
However, I’m guessing that EU stories that aren’t referenced (or contradicted) by the sequel movies will still be considered sort-of alive, in the same way that most Clone Wars-era stories (like Outbound Flight) were mostly unaffected, with the exception being all of the previous material on Boba Fett’s backstory.
Alternatively, if the new movies do contradict my books in some way, I can probably come up with some hand-waving story that will explain the apparent discrepancy. If there’s one thing we authors are good at, it’s hand-waving.


Q: How would Grand Admiral Thrawn have defeated the Yuuzhan Vong (because, let’s face it, he totally would have)?


A: He’d have found their weaknesses, exploited them, and hit them where and when they weren’t expecting it. He would probably have had an ace or two up his sleeve, as well.


talon karrde

Q: Hi Mr Zahn, this may be a silly question; but when you imagine him, what does Talon Karrde’s voice/accent sound like?


A: Usually, I don’t “see” my characters’ physical or vocal characteristics — I see them in terms of personality and attitude.
However, with Karrde I actually have an answer. When I wrote him, I always envisioned the face and voice of Avon from “Blake’s Seven.”


Q: Hi Timothy, I remember reading that you still had a couple of Star Wars stories you’d written that hadn’t been published, quoting from the Wookiepedia article “He has stated that he’s written a story detailing how Baron Soontir Fel leaves Imperial service and joins the Chiss Ascendancy, but it has yet to be published.” So given the current state of things, do you think any unpublished Star Wars stuff you have will ever get published under the new Legends banner?


A: Historically, LFL has contracted only a limited number of books at a time from a given publisher. If that system stays in place, I doubt Del Rey (or whoever gets the license) would want to use one of those slots for a book not directly related to the sequels. Still, you never know, and they might go with a different policy in the future.


Mara Jade

Q: Any chance that we can see more novels about Mara Jade in her Empire days? I really enjoyed Allegiance and Choices of One, and would love to see more of her in action.


A: I’d love to see more of her, too. Unfortunately, I suspect the next books that LFL will want will be connected to the sequels. We’ll just have to wait and see what they decide.


Q: I love Star Wars, and I’d like to get started on your works. Which one would you recommend starting with?


A: You could start with Heir to the Empire (which is where I started, of course), Outbound Flight (if you particularly like the Prequel Era and young Obi-wan), Allegiance (if you particularly like the Classic Movie Era), or Scoundrels (if you like heist movies like Ocean’s 11).


Q: I watched ROTJ again this afternoon and thought there might have been an interesting result had Thrawn been in command of the fleet at Endor. What do you think he might have done differently in the battle?


A: For starters, he wouldn’t have let the Rebels anywhere near the shield generator. (His recommendations to the Emperor are in a scene in Choices of One.) He probably also wouldn’t have let the Rebel ships group, but would have cut them into manageable pieces.
Still, remember that the Emperor was who had ordered the fleet not to engage, so it’s very possible he would have refused to let Thrawn win the battle, too. I guess we’ll never know. (Maybe in the Special Special Special Edition…)


thrawn trilogy

Q: Would you ever consider self publishing something similar to the 20th edition of Heir to the Empire for the rest of the Thrawn books so we can read those types of facts and stories for the rest of the books? Or just posting those factoids online separate from the books?


A: I really couldn’t publish anything Star Wars without LFL’s permission and blessing. However, once the book line is restarted (I assume it will be restarted sometime soon), I’ll certainly pitch anniversary editions of the other two Thrawn Trilogy books.
Of course, with the new Legends brand on all of them, LFL and Del Rey might not be interested. We’ll just have to see.


Q: Are you currently working on anything? Also, do you plan on working on anything involving Star Wars again?


A: I’m working on the second Manticore Ascendant collaboration with David Weber. After that will be the last Cobra Rebellion novel, with a couple of other projects in the wings. So far, nothing new with Star Wars, but they know where to find me if they want me.


Q: My questions are, if you were called up by the powers that be and said that you are able to write a book/series of any length in the new canon, what would you like to write? Would it be an updated Thrawn trilogy? Something new that tackles a yet unseen aspect? Something familiar, but from a new angle?


A: I would certainly be interested in writing more Star Wars. I presume LFL wouldn’t simply give me carte blanche, but would want something specific (a spin-off from Ep 7, maybe, or some backstory filler).
If they really let me do whatever I wanted, I have a couple of ideas (all right: 20-30) in mind. But all of that depends on them.


Star Wars Episode VII

Q: When VII was announced, did you think they would use your books as the source?


A: I didn’t really think they would do the Thrawn Trilogy — the actors are far beyond the ages the characters were in the books.
Still, just because the movies won’t be based on the EU doesn’t mean they won’t borrow an element or two. Case in point: Coruscant was my name for the Imperial Center planet that George Lucas had invented; and the idea of catching Force lightning on a lightsaber blade was one of mine.
So maybe there’ll be bits and pieces showing up in the sequels. Keep your fingers crossed.


Q: What part of the EU are you going to miss most since it’s all non-canon?
Also, are you responsible in part for crushing Chewbacca under a moon? Cuz I owe you a beer for that one if you did have anything to do with is.


A: Nope, I had nothing to do with dropping that moon on Chewbacca. (Peter Mayhew’s a friend — I’d never do that to him!)
Still, given that Peter’s in the new movie (presumably as Chewie) it would appear that the folks who dropped that moon missed.


Q: One thing that always impressed me was the EU authors’ abilities to maintain consistency across different authors and different book series – everything from major themes, such as Luke’s journey of maturation, to minor details, such as technical specifications of spacecraft. My question is how was that able to be achieved? Did the EU authors all read each others’ works? Do you communicate with each other and collaborate on these details?
Also, how do you feel about Disney’s reorganization of the Expanded Universe, given that it was something you and so many others took so much time and creative energy to build?


A: In the early days it was pretty hit-or-miss. In the past 10-15 years, LFL started keeping track of everything and providing authors with a comprehensive listing called the Holocron.


Well that’s it. I can say only one thing: Please Disney bring Timothy Zahn back to the Star Wars family! Actually I’m sure it’s just a question of time. 🙂


Website | + posts

Founder of SWNN, MNN and The Cantina forums.

Born on April 24, 1980.

Val Trichkov (Viral Hide)

Founder of SWNN, MNN and The Cantina forums.Born on April 24, 1980.

11 thoughts on “Timothy Zahn on Thrawn, Mara Jade, the New Star Wars Canon and More!

  • July 10, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    I’m actually fine with darker tones or character deaths. Including heroes. I can see how that may clash with others take on the Star Wars saga.

    I for one really want a mature take on it. Not this weird preservation of it so thematically. Or in other words… a Game of Thrones version of Star Wars is appealing to me. A realistic take on a massive galaxy filled with characters of evil and schemes.

    That said I in no way expect that of the new movies. I’m just saying I’m totally open to it. I mean I don’t want folks to take their kids to the theater and scar them lol.

    If they want to keep the mythic theme of heroes overcoming evil unscathed that’s fine too.

    • July 10, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      Yep, I really like how in GoT you never really think a character is safe(other than maybe Tyrion:P). Killing off the big 3 will prob help to give us that feeling.

      • July 10, 2014 at 10:49 pm

        Honestly, I think that the GOT style of killing major characters off frequently is very limiting to a story teller, and disengaging to a viewer.

        1.) Utilizing such a method makes it so that viewers cannot “grow” with the characters, and twenty years from now beg for them to return like with other franchises based on continuity (Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Mad Max, etc.) Not being able to look forward to a future for a character then leads to:

        2.) Viewers can not get invested into a characters’ arc, or much less so, if they know that anyone they like will likely be killed at any point. That approach usually leaves fans emotionally detached, and devoid of feelings, therein limiting any true engagement within the premise of the story.

        Something like, “Wow, that person is so cool, and I would like to see more of them. Oh, they just died… oh, well.” is the type of response usually garnered by such storytelling. Leaving it less so a bold move by a writer, and more so a self-effacing one by someone that has not thought ahead unto when such characters may be useful for profit and/or consideration in the future.

        As for killing off the big 3, they survived in an age of war, during which society was turned off by such fantastical notions, and more reality oriented. Fast-forward to now, and again society’s woes are brought forth into how many people want to approach storytelling… realistically, death, the macabre. Luke, Han and Leia have already survived such archetypes in the past; it would be a shame if today’s despondency, and seeming displeasure with life were to cause their downfall.

        • July 11, 2014 at 3:29 pm

          Perhaps thrones was a poor example. I didn’t mean I wanted it to be all about characters dying. I meant I wanted to see the seedy side of Star Wars. Or simply the more brutal/adult. This is a galaxy of slaves, genocide and oppression. Yet we always tend to see the heroic/cleaner side of it.

          Again I don’t ever expect the movies to travel down that road. Comics and books are likely the best bet for a more realistic/brutal take on the saga.

          Now I don’t mean I need tons of sex or violence but a realistic take on it would nice. Like Saving Private Ryan… only with Clone/Storm/Rebel Troopers 😛

          A dark gritty tale of a Mandalorian would be sweet.

          As for character deaths themselves I again don’t want it as a gimmick but an important shift in the narrative and tone. One well placed death can truly shape a story.

  • July 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    People bash the Expanded Universe for killing off Chewbacca… I wonder what they’ll say “if” Han Solo dies in Episode VII. At least the EU kept Solo alive.

    • July 10, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Solo is a more logical candidate to be killed off than Chewbacca, if you ask me.

    • July 10, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      I have no problem with Han Solo dying. I just hope he blows up in a ship and there’s not some sort of sappy scene where he dies in Leia’s arms. I can see Harrison doing a terrible job with something like that.

      • July 11, 2014 at 6:48 am

        If it’s anywhere in the ballpark of how emotional George Kirk’s death was in Abrams’ first Trek, it’ll be a classic tragic moment.

  • July 10, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    “The EU is just too big, complicated, and occasionally contradictory for them to have to deal with.”

    • July 11, 2014 at 6:54 am

      Hell yeah. I love some EU stories, sure, but if I had to sacrifice them to let Abrams make a new, unique and special new Episode with no restrictions? I’d burn every EU book on the planet. In the end…the movies matter. Everything else is merely licensed fan-fiction, subject to being retconned out of existence anytime. Just how it goes. Unless if Lucas himself was intimately involved in it, I won’t consider it part of the proper saga of his vision. And even HE is allowed to change things every now and then… *cough*TheCloneWars*cough*

  • July 10, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Why was my commented deleted? 🙁

Comments are closed.