In January Star Wars will be taking us to an even longer time ago in our favorite galaxy far, far away with Star Wars: The High Republic. Kicking off this ambitious publishing program and bold new era of Star Wars storytelling will be Charles Soule’s novel Light of the Jedi, and yesterday the author spoke with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the creation of the series and tease what fans can expect when it arrives next year.
“I’d been working on Star Wars comics for Marvel for several years when I was approached by Michael Siglain [creative director at Lucasfilm Publishing] to be part of what was known at the time as “Project Luminous.”” Soule recalled as he discussed how he came to be a part of the team tasked with creating an all new era of Star Wars. “Mike was building a group of five writers to help put together what became The High Republic, and I was just lucky to get the call. The writers are all pretty different – I’m not Justina Ireland, and Daniel Jose Older isn’t Cavan Scott or Claudia Gray – but Mike was really smart in bringing together a group that could use our individual points of view on Star Wars to build out a really fleshed-out new era in The High Republic.”
The mandate, according to Soule, was to create a “massive new chapter in Star Wars history … something authentically Star Wars but also brand new and fresh.” This new chapter needed to have something for everyone, from casual fans who might have only seen a few of the movies to those Mark Hamill has affectionately labelled as UPFs (ultra passionate fans). It also needed to be able to span multiple publishers and mediums. Star Wars has seen a few long running story arcs in both novels and comics, but for that level of cooperation and coordination the most similar project I can think of in recent memory is when Del Rey, Dark Horse, and others worked together in 2002-2005 to tell the story of the Clone Wars in real time between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. As a fan I loved that approach and it created an incredible build up to the final prequel movie. Here, there’s no restrictions and the creative team are free to explore the infinite possibilities of the Star Wars galaxy.
“The project kicked off with the very basic question “what would you like to see in Star Wars?” As I said, nothing was off the table — and with so many creatives and stakeholders involved, there were many, many points of view, and every voice was heard.
One of the things I remember clearly was a moment early in the first day of the first in-person meeting when the curtain was pulled back on more or less everything Star Wars had in serious development at that point across their portfolio. That stuff was and remains top secret, and learning about all of it felt very much like “okay we’ve made it.” The fact that this was happening at Skywalker Ranch didn’t hurt, either. We needed all of that information so we could understand the guardrails around what was already in development, but it was still pretty incredible.”
The era of The High Republic was chosen “because it allowed us our own corner of the galaxy,” Soule told The Hollywood Reporter, whilst also allowing the use of established continuity “if we needed or wanted to.” Indeed, we’ve already seen an example of this with the recent news that Yoda will be part of Daniel Jose Older’s The High Republic Adventures series from IDW.
A lot of thought has also been given to the history of the era as Soule revealed that “we built the history of the era ahead of time, and then wove our stories within it … There’s very much a plan, and every story big or small has a place within it.” Right now, Soule’s place in that plan is to launch everything with Light of the Jedi. The responsibility of launching a new Star Wars era isn’t lost on Soule, who told The Hollywood Reporter “I’m thrilled that I got the opportunity, and I took it very seriously. The scope of Light of the Jedi, and the fact that so much is sort of keyed to it… I’m obviously aware of all of that, and knew it when I took the job. Is it a little intimidating? Sure. But I really think it inspired me to work at my highest level.”
As discussion moved from the creation of The High Republic to his own novel, Soule teased that what’s been revealed so far is only scratching the surface of what they have planned:
“Light of the Jedi will finally open the doors to the Star Wars: The High Republic for Star Wars fans – it’s the first huge piece of the actual story my High Republic collaborators and I have been building for years. A lot of the teases and such that have been released so far are focused on the character designs or the state of the galaxy… but I can tell you that we’ve all spent most of our time on the story itself. Light of the Jedi, Into the Dark, Test of Courage, the Marvel and IDW comic series… they’re really what The High Republic is. It’s an amazing new time period for Star Wars, but it’s the story that will get fans hooked.”
Whilst Light of the Jedi has a lot to achieve in terms of establishing the characters and setting of this bold new era, Soule has his own goals for the novel, saying that his personal mandate for the book was “to explore genre in a way we hadn’t directly seen in the franchise” and “to bring the concepts of Star Wars to places that would feel fresh and cool.” Describing the book he called it a disaster movie, a movie, and a race against time for a team on a mission.
“The structure of the novel is unusual, in some ways, but I got that from the Star Wars films, really. If you break down Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, the timeline doesn’t make a lot of sense — but it still works. Light of the Jedi has some of that going on. It’s elastic — the story can stretch and pull as needed, and then at the end, it all snaps together for what I hope is one hell of a punch.”
Discussing the “Great Disaster” that begins this new Star Wars adventure, Soule revealed that there will be certain key events throughout The High Republic that will happen at the same time across multiple publishers and stories. “It’s a lot like the way the destruction of the first Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope has been seen from endless angles since it was first depicted in the first film,” Soule said. The “Great Disaster” is the first of these events, which Soule teased are all mapped out in a document that’s presumably being guarded like The Child.
“The “Great Disaster” that opens Light of the Jedi is one of those [events] … the idea of having a lot of people involved in one event that operates on a galactic scale seemed very appealing. I could introduce a large cast in a very organic way, in various locations from the highest levels of galactic government to the “Jedi on the street” as they respond to the disaster.
Plus, it’s a chance to show heroism in many different ways. Light of the Jedi has plenty of lightsaber action, but that’s not the only way to solve problems, and you don’t need the Force to be a good person. There’s a sort of slogan that pops up in the book: “We are all the Republic,” and the Great Disaster seemed like a perfect way to reflect that idea.”
And what of the villains? We’ll have to wait a bit longer to learn more about the mysterious Nihil. All Soule would say is that he wanted to paint this group of marauders as “truly frightening”, with unique abilities that “make them very powerful and very dangerous in this era.” The Nihil have no ideology of code, but they do have a “deep and detailed history” that Soule promises will be explored throughout The High Republic initiative, teasing that “the Nihil and what they get up to is one of the coolest parts of the whole thing.”
Honestly, I think this is the most excited I’ve been for Star Wars‘ expanded universe in a long time! Every interview and excerpt just makes me more eager to dive right in and explore this new era. The scale and potential of this project is just beyond anything we’ve seen in recent years from Star Wars literature and I am thrilled that the books and comics are getting their own era to explore as this led to some of the best stories in the original Legends universe.
Star Wars: The High Republic – Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule is due to be released January 5, 2021. You can check out the first chapter now, and make sure you head over to The Hollywood Reporter to read their full interview with Charles Soule.