Daniel Wallace is a comic book expert, sci-fi sage, and lifelong geek. Author or co-author of more than a dozen books including The Art of Superman Returns, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, The Marvel Comics Encyclopedia, and the New York Times bestselling Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Characters, he has alternately found himself trading tense questions with Kevin Spacey about head-shaving and banging out three thousand trivia questions for Star Wars Trivial Pursuit.
FTN: Daniel, firstly thanks for taking the time to answer these, I know you must be very busy. Book of Sith is your second ‘in universe’ Star Wars book, the first being The Jedi Path. These books are pretty unique in Star Wars (and most other) mythologies. Where did the idea come from?
DW: There’s a lot of promise in the concept of a “real book” from the Star Wars universe, and I think The Jedi Path came about as a result of people getting inspired about what a Jedi textbook would look like and what kind of info it would contain. These kinds of things have been done before, as when J.K. Rowling wrote the faux Hogwarts textbooks Quiddich Through the Ages and Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them, and there was an Indiana Jones book in this same vein that appeared a few years back. So the idea wasn’t entirely unheard of, but it hadn’t been done in the Star Wars universe. At least not on this level.
On the ‘real world’ books: ‘The idea wasn’t entirely unheard of, but it hadn’t been done in the Star Wars universe. At least not on this level.’
FTN: After the success of the first book it seemed only natural to do a Sith version. Both books are very dense – I consider myself a hardcore EU fan and some of it had me reaching for my SW encyclopedia and Wookiepedia – was there much research or are you ‘steeped’ in the mythology given your back catalogue of SW books? Did you know which areas you were going to explore/draw from or did you have a guide to stick to?
DW: I’ve been soaking in Star Wars information for so long that a lot of it just comes naturally. I’d be a tough opponent in a Star Wars trivia contest. But on projects like The Jedi Path and Book of Sith there’s an opportunity to reference existing facts but also to come up with new facts. I think it’s important that every book of this nature fits into the existing fictional universe that’s been created, but also that it creatively comes up with ways to expand that universe.
FTN: Did you wake up and think to yourself ‘Ok, I’m a Sith lord who lived a thousand years before the battle of Yavin… game face!’ or does it just flow naturally?
DW: Kind of the former. Writing Book of Sith was a lot of fun because each of its authors had a very distinct outlook on “bad guy” issues. Sorzus Syn was a wicked sorceress, Darth Malgus was more of a battlefield general, Darth Bane was concerned with preserving the dark side of the Force through the Rule of Two, Mother Talzin was a true believer in her shamanistic religion, Darth Plagueis was a scientist and skeptic, and Emperor Palpatine is pure ego. It was fun to get in their heads, and each writer had a point of view that wasn’t likely to be shared by any other writer.
It was fun to get in their heads, and each writer had a point of view that wasn’t likely to be shared by any other writer.
FTN: I once read Jedi Path described as, and I paraphrase, having fallen through space from the Star Wars universe. I have the edition with the opening case and totally agree with that description. Is it more exciting and/or interesting to write about something that’s entirely fictional as if it were real? Or would you rather write something like The New Essential Guide to Characters?
DW: I really like the concept of “book as artifact”. It’s becoming more popular as I mentioned earlier, and in the age of e-books it’s a way to combine the function of books as storytellers with their role as physical talismans. A lot of the charm of Jedi Path and Book of Sith lies in their design, and a lot of credit should go to designer Rosanna Brockley at becker&mayer who developed the typefaces, sourced the unique styles of paper, and other little details that make them feel real.
FTN: What makes Star Wars so special as a writer?
DW: It’s just such a fun universe to play around in. It really combines some of the greatest genres ever created. Sci-fi, obviously, but the Jedi and Sith are fantasy/magic in nature, and then you have Old West gunslinger and outlaw types, and soldiers who could be in a World War II movie. There’s really something that appeals to everybody.
FTN: If you were to delve into the ‘reality’ of the universe again, have you any ideas in your head where you’d like to take it?
DW: Yes! Stay tuned.
FTN: With the announcement of the new trilogy and spin-offs, have you anything in particular you’d like to see in these movies? Not necessarily with Luke, Leia and Han, even with the spin-offs. Is there a corner of the universe you want to see realised?
DW: I’m just really excited to see a new take on a Star Wars movie. I love what we’ve gotten so far, but I think opening it up to a new director and a largely new cast will be a treat. Mostly I want to be surprised!
FTN:On a scale of one to ten, one being a Star Trek only fan, ten being total Star Wars fanboy, how excited are you for the new movies and why do you think Star Wars endures.
DW: Oh I think I’m definitely one of the bigger Star Wars fans on the planet. But there are so many other fans, and everybody has different things that bring them to the universe. I’m not sure what the secret ingredient is — maybe it’s that mix of genres like I mentioned earlier — but Star Wars is really one of those fictional creations that’s in no danger of ever going away. I like to compare it to Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, which have endured for generations by always attracting new fans.
‘I’m just really excited to see a new take on a Star Wars movie… Mostly I want to be surprised!’
FTN: And finally, have you anything coming up, Star Wars or otherwise, that you’d like to tell us about?
DW: I have a Star Wars project coming up but don’t think I can talk about it yet! But in the realm of superheroes, I have the new book Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel out now, and Man of Steel: Inside the Legendary World of Superman will be released in conjunction with the new movie.
FTN: Dan, on behalf of us all at FTN, thanks for taking the time to chat with us and may the Force be with you… always