THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 383, September 3, 2006
"It's the end of the 8000-year Age of Authority."
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
A while back, the famous science fiction journalist Ian Hunter asked me to answer some questions about my literary involvement in Star Wars, for a book he's writing on the subject. He very kindly gave me permission to share the answers I gave him with my TLE and my blog readers.
I became involved in writing my three Star Wars spinoff novels, because my own publisher at the time, Del Rey Books, was the company producing "exploitation" volumes for LucasFilm, Ltd. I was in the process of writing my own fourth or fifth novel at the time, I guess around 1982, but when asked by my editor, Owen Lock, whether I'd like to do the Lando Calrissian books, I accepted, primarily because I was going through a pretty hard period in my life, and badly needed the money.
On the other hand, there can be no doubt whatever that I was an avid Star Wars fan, from the earliest opening moments of the very first movie. When that gigantic, gleaming Imperial cruiser slowly hove into view, I was just done for. I knew I'd seen something important, something people would still be watching and wondering over, long after I was dead and gone. And I still remember how wonderful that felt.
I can't really remember the sequence, but I was aware of Alan Dean Foster's initial Star Wars novel, and even more so of Brian Daley's three Han Solo books. Brian and I had both begun our writing careers working for Owen Lock, and I saw everything Brian didincluding his own wonderful books. I considered Brian a friend, and think about him often.
I'm told that Brianwho was a total gentleman and a complete innocent in such sordid mattersaccidentally got aligned with the "wrong" faction inside what appears to have been the very political environment of LucasFilm, and that, when it came time to do some more exploitation books, the faction he didn't even know he was associated with had fallen out of power. The "ins" insisted on somebody else"anybody but Brian Daly" is what I was toldwhich turned out to be me.
The amusing part is that, once they saw my books, especially _The Probability Broach_ (still in print after 25 years, not only as a text, but as a huge "graphic novel", as well, winning two Prometheus Awards), they went into hysterical panic. "Too political!" was their reactionI'm the most prolific and widely-published libertarian fiction writer in the world, and I've always been hardcorewhen what they meant (I'm unsure the phrase existed then) was "politically incorrect!"
At some point, California even suggested a collaboration between Brian and me, but our editor insisted that we were not Hollywood writers, and weren't accustomed to writing by committee. I was asked to minimize the politics (they couldn't be eliminated, since all the Star Wars stories revolve on them) and, with reservations, I said I would.
I would outline three short novelsit was my decision to make them sequentialLucasFilm and Del Rey would approve them. I would have sixteen weeks to write them, a daunting task, but one I felt up to. LucasFilm, however, dawdled while the clock ticked, so that, in the end, I had nine weeks of eating, sleeping, writing, and nothing else. For this I was eventually paid a grand total of fifteen thousand dollars.
My source material, such as it was, was already-published coffee table books and other such Star Wars memorabilia, which I still have. I was never given any scripts or any other kind of "inside" material.
I don't recall any important changes that LucasFilm called for. The funniest was that all the animals I made up had to be written in lower case, while those that had been George Lucas' creationslike Mynocks, Banthas, etc.; I was strongly discouraged from using any existing characters or placenames, only Lando and, on my insistence, the Millenium Falconwould be capitalized. At no time did I ever have any kind of contact with The George Himself. I only dealt with underlings.
To an extent, I understood that LucasFilm, Ltd. didn't want me inventing anything new or killing anybody off that would clash with their own plans for the future. I originally made my villain, Rokur Gepta, another Sith lord (I made some good deductions about those guys), but was compelled instead to make up an entirely new order of villains, which I did easily enough by rotating all of the offical Lucasian words (like "Sith") through a simple letter substitution cypher.
One of the characters I invented, Vuffi Raa, legally belongs to LucasFilm, and I can't use him again. I wish I could. He was fun to write. Among the pleasures of having written these three books is that everyone seems to know them and like them and they've sold well. The worst frustration is that I didn't see a royalty payment for fifteen years or so afterward, and had to threaten to sue to get even a small fraction of what I'm owed, based on the sales records and edition numbers.
I reused my StarCave of ThonBoka hard vacuum biology in my own Bretta Martynimagine a beautiful girl in cutoff Levis riding a space dolphinand, of course, the whole exercise made me a better writer. I have no idea if I've made any "significant contribution" to the Star Wars mythos. I doubt it. I confess I haven't kept up with the more recent books, although I've seen the movies. I've been busy with the twenty-odd non-Star Wars books I've written since then. My country is a mess politically, just as yours is, and the only way I can help is to write the most urgently polemic novels I know how to write.
If it isn't enough, at least I tried, hard.
I've also run for office a couple of times, and whenever I get impatient with the time it takes for political fiction to have an effect on the culture, I write columns for a number of publications, including my own, The Libertarian Enterprise. At the moment, I'm also scripting webcomics for BigHeadPress.com and looking for a movie agent.
Perhaps regrettably, my Lando books don't relate at all to my other works, although I'm frequently tempted to steal Vuffi Raa (he's a bright, shiny, polished wisecracking mechanical sapient being based on the deep undersea "brittle star"and a larval spaceship) and bring him "home", probably to the Galactic Confederacy of BrightSuit MacBear and Taflak Lysandra. Of course I did not say this; I wasn't here.
As to politics within the Lando books, as I said, I had beenI guess "exhorted" is a pretty good wordto lay off the politics and had agreed to do so in principle. But when they used up seven of my sixteen weeks nitpicking my outlines in meaningless ways that had no effect on the end product, I reinterpreted our agreement to make it "as much politics as I can cram in before they squeak". Lando is an armed and open anarchist, a forthright libertarian, and they never "squoke".
Unfortunately, although like most adventure fiction it has to use protagonists who are embarrassingly individualistic to their socialist creators, Star Wars is no more libertarian than Star Trek was, or Babylon 5, and it's even more militaristic. But then, I'm hard to please.
Although I confess that I loved Gerry Anderson's Space Precinct.
People often ask me if I would ever do exploitation novels again, and I suppose I would, but I'd want a full year for three like the Lando Calrissian books, and at least ten times the money. I'd also want some guaranteed help getting my own books into the Hollywood pipeline. Judge for yourself how likely you think any of that is to happen.
Hope this was useful,