An Interview With “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” Author Alan Dean Foster
Lafosadelrancor.com has a great exclusive interview out this week with bestselling science fiction author Alan Dean Foster. It’s an interview that touches on Foster’s time writing his novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and on how he was able to develop characters of his own for his ‘ Star Wars” The Approaching Storm’ expanded universe story. Read on for more!
When Splinter of the Mind’s Eye hit shelves in March of 1978, it was the first Star Wars novel that was published just after the release of the 1977′ blockbuster smash hit Star Wars film. Written by noted science-fiction author Alan Dean Foster, it follows the story of the marooned Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia on an alien planet as they search for a priceless artifact that is said to be filled with the power of the Force. Long since removed out of official Star Wars continuity, Foster’s cult classic book remains in print and is still widely available in paperback and in digital form.
The guys over at Lafosadelrancor.com recently caught up with the 70-year-old Foster, who has also written novelizations of several films, including Transformers, the first three Alien films, Alien Nation and the more recent The Chronicles of Riddick. In this interview, he recounts the history of writing his ‘Splinter of the Mind’s Eye’ novel, the development of his original Star Wars: The Approaching Storm book and how he adapted last years ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ without even seeing the film.
Note: The interview contains spoilers about the plot of the novel “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye”
LFDR: When you wrote the Star Wars novel, did it give you the feeling of the revolution that the (original 1977 Star Wars) movie was supposed to be?
ADF: No. Everyone who saw it in the early days knew it was a great film, but no one predicted the overwhelming, and continuing, success it would have.
LFDR: How was the process to writing Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (SOFTME) as a sequel to a such successful movie as Star Wars?
ADF: It was remarkably easy…and fun! Since everyone else was busy trying to get the movie finished, I was left alone to write essentially whatever I wished, so long as nothing I wrote conflicted with what was in the movie.
LFDR: IN SOFTME you established that Luke and Leia relationship was an unrequited love kind. Was this imposed by Lucasfilm?
ADF: There was nothing in the first film or screenplay to indicate that they were brother and sister, and several moments (the kiss before swinging over the crevasse [on the Death Star], for example) that suggested otherwise. Everyone now realizes that the decision to make them siblings came later.
LFDR: When Leia uses Luke’s lightsaber in SOFTME did you already know that she could be related somehow to a Jedi?
ADF: No, definitely not. I did Leia to use it because I have always been a strong supporter of the strengthening of women. From the beginning, Leia was never the typical Princess in distress need to be rescued. She always has been able to take care of herself. So when Luke injured it in the eye of the mind, was that she used the only weapon which had at hand for trying to defend both of them.
LFDR: About Halla, did you have any further idea for this character in other stories?
ADF: No, because no other stories were on offing. But she would have been fun to employ later. I think there might be a touch of her in Maz Kanata, but I’m the wrong person to ask about that.
LFDR: While Luke fights Vader he says “I’m Ben Kenobi”. For many years fans believed that Luke was controlled by Obi-Wan’s Force Spirit in that moment. Was that the case?
ADF: That would require some deft “reckoning” (going back to try and make something new fit something old and original).
LFDR: About Kaybur Crystal… what do you think about its origin?
ADF: I don’t remember whether I came up with that or if it was mentioned somewhere in the notes and original script. But the spelling in Splinter was deliberate because I did not want readers confusing it with the Kyber Pass in Afghanistan.
LFDR: Why did not you enter Han and Chewbacca in the Splinter of the Mind’s Eye?
ADF: At the time I was writing the book, Harrison Ford had not yet signed on for any additional SW projects, so I was required to not use him. And in those days, without Han Solo around, there was no reason to include Chewbacca.
LFDR: Did you have any idea for a possible sequel to Splinter of the Mind’s Eye?
ADF: Nothing specific beyond further use of the Kaiburr crystals.
LFDR: What did you think about Darth Vader’s revelation in Empire Strikes Back?
ADF: Surprising audiences is hard. Doing so in sequels is even more difficult.
LFDR: When you wrote SOFTME in 1978 you had very few Star Wars material and concepts to deal with (only just one movie and maybe a bunch of comics from Marvel). But in 2002 with The Approaching Storm, the Expanded Universe was already really big and rich, aside from Episode I and the Original Trilogy. Many authors from that time (the 90’s) consulted the Holocron and other fonts from Lucasfilm. Did you worked with these fonts for your novel or did you start almost from zero?
ADF: I was asked to utilize the undeveloped characters of Luminar Unduli and Barriss Offee and to mention the return of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi from a world called Anison in a novel that would take place between Episodes 1 and 2. Beyond that I had complete freedom with the story. It was a pleasure to be able to expand on all four characters. The manuscript of the book was very carefully vetted by Lucasfilm.
LFDR: What did you feel having written Darth Vader as an evil character, and years later telling an adventure of him being Anakin Skywalker in The Approaching Storm?
ADF: It was not as difficult as I anticipated. Many evil people start out good, only to be changed by time and circumstances.
LFDR: While you were writing The Approaching Storm did you receive any recommendation from LFL about Luminara Unduli and Barris Offe ?
LFDR: No, nothing. I was left to develop the characters on my own. One thing that was especially interesting was to show how a female Jedi and male Jedi would interact, since marriage and close relationships between Jedi are frowned upon. I was able to touch on that a little in the book.
LFDR: About the Journal of the Whills… you used this concept forty years ago, and again in 2015 with The Force Awakens novelization. Did George Lucas tell you something about what or who they were back in time?
ADF: Nothing. I assumed that the Journal had been compiled by some species, human or alien, that stood outside and above the actions that take place in the SW universe. Not quite the gods looking down from Olympus, but a similar idea.
LFDR: What were your sources when you wrote TFA? It likes you have access to a script very close to the final script.
ADF: I was provided with a copy of the screenplay that was very close to what appears on screen. Remember that scenes and dialogue in a film are often changed right on the set, in the course of filming. I was also given access to some still shots of characters, backgrounds, etc. I saw no film footage.
LFDR: In the novelization of The Force Awakens there are some elements that in the film are not appreciated, but that seem to be able to suppose a clue for the future of the saga. We do not ask you to tell us the one but, did they give you indications about what’s coming in The Last Jedi and Episode IX?
ADF: No. Not a clue. Safer that way.
LFDR: What did you the like most? Writing a young Han Solo in Star Wars, or an old Han Solo in the Force Awakens?
ADF: I enjoyed both. Writing the old Han Solo allowed me to show that even heroes can grow tired being heroes.
LFDR: Why wasn’t any Yuzzem cameo in The Force Awakens novel? It would’ve made them Canon.
ADF: It would’ve been a nice touch, but that was not for me to say. Perhaps they might show up in a cantina-type scene somewhere in the future.
LFDR: A compelling question, what do you think of The Force Awakens?
ADF: I thought it captured the spirit of the original SW beautifully. Making something like TFA is like seeing an old girlfriend from your youth after forty years have passed. You know she won’t look the same, but you want the meeting to feel the same.
Read the complete interview is over at Lafosadelrancor.com
May the force be with you…