Here’s Part 14 of endnotes for The Essential Guide to Warfare.
CHAPTER 18: END OF AN EMPIRE
Thrawn’s Strategy: Much of the geography of the Thrawn trilogy was worked out in the Essential Atlas, which also began the discussion of the Grand Admiral’s “stateless” strategy. Among the new things here are the relationship between Thrawn and the rump Empire (which is really tricky continuity) and the details of the combatants’ fleet strengths at Bilbingi.
War Portrait: Grand Admiral Thrawn: What I hope is an entertaining revisionist take on Thrawn. I liked being able to incorporate the material from Outbound Flight and the New Jedi Order, and the use of “Mothmatist” as a slur.
The Dark Empire: I love the Dark Empire series, which I’ve long defended as a big-hearted continuation of the Skywalker clan’s struggles with family and the Force. But Dark Empire has always been a pain in the butt continuity-wise, hard to integrate with the story other sources tell about the Empire’s fragmentation and decline. I did my best here to cement it more believably in the chronology, letting the reader witness Imperial task forces disappearing into the Deep Core before Thrawn’s campaign gives New Republic Intelligence more clear and present dangers to worry about.
I saw one discussion of Warfare in which folks wondered about the derivation of the name of the Super Star Destroyer Whelm, the linchpin of Azure Hammer Command. Someone proposed that it was a corruption of “Wilhelm,” which is a very smart guess … but that’s not it. The Whelm dates back to Coruscant and the Core Worlds, and was another tip of the cap to Jack Vance. In Vance’s loosely connected Alastor novels, the Whelm is the military force that answers to the ruler known as the Connatic. You don’t mess with the Connatic, and you don’t mess with the Whelm.
After I created her, the Whelm became an object of some curiosity among Star Wars fans, who understandably wanted to know what had happened to her and why she had never been mentioned again, let alone played a significant role in the defense of the Imperial Core. (Memo to self: Be less cavalier about creating new SSDs.) Nobody else had cleaned up my mess and come up with an answer by the time Warfare came along, so I decided it was my job to finally supply one.
Note that I say “her” when I refer to ships – this is a real-world tradition I’ve always liked, and have carried on in my Star Wars work whenever possible.
I like to think I’m not a diva about most things, but I am passionate about word choices and style. In the Atlas, Dan Wallace and I borrowed water imagery for hyperspace lanes, which seemed to us like rivers. So, for instance, we have ships decanting from hyperspace and routes emptying into regions. We came around to this terminology relatively late in the book, so it’s done in a bit of a scattershot way – which I once regretted but now think was lucky, as a little goes a long way with such things.
The water imagery did give me an excuse for declaring authorial war on my least-favorite Star Wars figure of speech: the subbing of “backrocket” for “backwater.”
I groan when things are made “spacey” for no good reason – whether it’s space fantasy or some other genre, imaginary worlds work best when they depart from our own world in as few fundamental ways as possible. This makes it easy for us to imagine stepping into the protagonist’s shoes, which causes us to invest in the character and care what happens to him or her. When it comes to characters’ hopes and dreams and daily lives, you want to keep things familiar.
For this reason, I won’t willingly entertain retcons that speed up or slow down local calendars – when Luke looks at Uncle Owen and objects that “it’s a whole ‘nother year,” we understand his despair because we know or can imagine or can remember what a year feels like when you’re a teenager. If a year on Tatooine is only 100 days, the scene doesn’t work — and if you’ve made a key scene in A New Hope not work, you’ve accomplished the opposite of what a Star Wars author ought to be doing. (The EU says a Tatooine year is 304 days, which I dislike but is at least in the right ballpark.)
And I do mean days – don’t talk to me about “planetary rotations.” STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE SPACEY?
Updating this rant a bit: Spacey for an interesting locale/situation/society etc. encountered by characters can be fun, no question. And spacey around the edges is fine. But spacey for the fundamental surroundings/narrative of a protagonist we’re meant to identify with and care about is a gamble I’d be very wary of taking.
Take the iconic shot of Luke and the sunset. The scene works because we’ve all been there, or know we will be, and we have an instant empathy for Luke that carries into the scenes that follow. The twin suns are a spacey touch, but not enough of one that we’re thrown off. Now imagine one sun’s blue and shooting up in the sky like a ping-pong ball while the other one is setting slowly. Now we’re distracted and the scene stops working. Same if Luke’s bounding around in near-weightlessness, or wearing a spacesuit, or if we know a year only lasts 100 days….
Cloaking Devices: Paul Urquhart writes: “Another of those pieces that plays with words to create a cohesive narrative and avoid puzzling the reader with the more-complicated details. The major retcon that continuity-minded fans might notice is the statement
that Thrawn didn’t use the hibridium design he was developing in Charlene Newcomb’s stories in the Adventure Journal. There are several reasons for this, but chiefly, the ‘truly practicable’ design that Thrawn eventually used was only found on Wayland at the start of Heir to the Empire. Authorial intent here is that hibridium cloaks are not double-blind.
“The Xi Char are notable designers of elegant military equipment, though the association of them with cloaking devices is new, as is the enigmatic reference to ‘aesthete corsairs.’ The banning of cloaking devices in 19 ABY is designed to explain their absence in most subsequent stories.”
World Devastators: Paul writes: “Another ‘statblock and context’ precis, based directly on the Dark Empire comics, the endnotes in the graphic-novel version, and numerical information given in the New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels. The only strictly new continuity is Commander Klev’s rank of general, though I’m not sure if there’s been such a straightforward statement of the concept of the Devastators as the centerpiece of a fully self-sufficient and predatory regime, or the logic behind the control codes. I was absolutely wowed when I saw Stephan Martinere’s darkly awesome illustration to go with this piece.”
The Defender and New Class Programs: I thought of calling this section Continuity Hell, but figured Erich Schoeneweiss wouldn’t like that. Lots of retcons in here, along with some cool new art from Ansel Hsiao that I think honors the spirit of the old West End Games takes on these ships while being, ahem, more pleasing to the eye. I was happy for the chance to tie this narrative in with Dark Empire and other events, creating what I hope is an interesting tale about the New Republic and how it changed its mind about creating giant capital ships as the Empire had.
The Battle of Orinda and the Imperial Remnant: First of all, Modi’s maps here are fantastic. I tried to make sense of a confusing, perhaps overly crowded period of Star Wars history by seeing it as the story of Pellaeon slowly realizing that his search for an effective leader of the Empire will only end when he looks into the mirror and stops kidding himself. I also saw a chance to elevate Orinda as a setting and tell a story in
which the New Republic is nearly undone by its own internal conflicts – the kind of problems a ragtag rebellion never had to face. Plus a few capital-ship odds and ends get accounted for, hopefully in a satisfying way.
Update: Last week’s endnotes about Admiral Nantz sparked a lively conversation, one in which it was noted that a distinctive-looking, unnamed officer from “Lando’s Commandos” might make a good Nantz. I ran the idea by Lucasfilm’s Leland Chee, who blessed it. So Nantz now has a face.
(On to Pt. 15)