Rebecca Roanhorse, Jason Fry, and more talk tales of Jedi, clones, and clankers in their upcoming anthology.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Stories of Light and Dark, coming August 25, promises to be a beautiful tribute to the just-completed animated series. The anthology will collect 11 stories by 11 authors -- Lou Anders, Preeti Chhibber, Zoraida Córdova, Jason Fry, Rebecca Roanhorse, Greg Van Eekhout, Tom Angleberger, E. Anne Convery, Sarah Beth Durst, Yoon Ha Lee, and Anne Ursu -- including 10 retellings of memorable episodes and arcs and one original Nightsisters-based story. So if you loved the tales of Ahsoka, Maul, and clanker-busting clones, Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Stories of Light and Dark will give you the chance to experience them again in a whole new way. Like Captain Rex on a recon mission, StarWars.com reached out to each author to learn why they love The Clone Wars, and which stories they’re telling.
Lou Anders (“Dooku Captured” and “The Gungan General,” based on the episodes of the same name): I love The Clone Wars for expanding the story of Anakin's fall from grace. Skywalker really shines in the series, and we see what he truly was, and what he could have been, and by giving him so many opportunities to excel in the early season, his ultimate fate is that much more tragic. I also love the series for gifting us my all-time favorite Star Wars character, and one of my favorite characters from any universe -- Hondo Ohnaka!
My chapter is a retelling of the first season story arc that plays out across the episodes "Dooku Captured" and "The Gungan General." I wanted to explore this storyline because I find Count Dooku a fascinating character. Sometimes pure, mustache-twirling, mwa-ha-ha evil can actually be boring to write, but a villain who feels they are justified, either because of perceived slights or intellectual superiority or the failure of their rivals or birthright are much more interesting, and Dooku is a bit of all of this. For research, I obviously watched tons of Clone Wars. But I also read up on everything about Dooku I could find, and I listened to Christopher Lee and Corey Burton's interpretation of the character over and over, trying to internalize their speech patterns. Dooku is so gorgeously supercilious. It was just a blast to get in his head and see the world from his perspective. (And the fact that the storyline gave me another chance to write for my beloved Hondo Ohnaka was an added bonus!)
Tom Angleberger (“Bane’s Story,” based on the episodes “Deception,” “Friends and Enemies,” “The Box,” and “Crisis on Naboo”): There's a lot to love in The Clone Wars, but I think it's Ahsoka's arc that really stands out the most. Ventress's arc does, too, and the way that these arcs cross at the just the right moment is really great Star Wars!
My chapter is based on the “Crisis on Naboo” story arc. It's basically a Space Western. The baddest bounty hunter of them all, Cad Bane, is hired to kidnap the Chancellor. What he doesn't know is that almost everyone is lying to him, especially a fellow bounty hunter who is really Obi-Wan in disguise. In the TV version, we see it all from Obi-Wan's point of view, so we know that Bane is getting played. In this retelling, we see it all from Bane's point of view and, boy, is he going to be mad! To prepare I watched both The Clone Wars AND old spaghetti Westerns starring Bane's inspiration: Lee Van Cleef.
Preeti Chhibber (“Hostage Crisis,” based on the episode of the same name): I love the story that the prequels tell, but because of the nature of what they were trying to do -- tell a decade and a half worth of story in three films -- we're missing major moments in what the war really means to the galaxy at large, and in the Skywalker saga itself. The Clone Wars tells us that part of the narrative, it gives us the shape of what entire populations of people had to go through because of this war manufactured by the ultimate evil. And within that scope gives us the hope and love and beautiful tragedy we associate with Star Wars on a larger scale. (Also, Ahsoka Tano -- The Clone Wars gave us Ahsoka Tano and for that I will be ever grateful.)
I'm writing Anakin's story during "Hostage Crisis" -- an episode in the first season of The Clone Wars. I decided to write the story entirely from Anakin's perspective, which meant being inside his head before the fall, but where we are starting to see more of the warning signs. And then there's also the romance of this episode! Anakin’s love for Padmé is real and all-consuming and, as we eventually find out, unhealthy. So, this is a romantic episode, but one that shows us Anakin is ruled by his heart. And that that’s a dangerous thing for a Jedi. In order to best wrap my own head around what was going on, I watched the episode itself several times, and read the script, and then I watched the chronological episodes of Anakin's run-ins with Cad Bane, so I could get a real feel for where he was with his understanding of Bane's character.
E. Anne Convery (“Bug,” based on the episode “Massacre”): I love it because I think it's a story that manages, while still being a satisfying adventure, to not glorify war. It does this mainly by following through on the arcs of wonderful, terrifying, funny, fallible, and diverse characters. From the personal to the political, The Clone Warsredefines the ways, big and small, that we can be heroes.
My chapter is the "original" tale, though it still touches on The Clone Wars Season Four episode “Massacre,” with brief appearances by Mother Talzin and Old Daka. If I had to boil it down, I'd say that it's a story about mothers and daughters. Honestly, it felt a little like cheating, because writing new characters meant I got to be creative in the Star Wars universe somewhat unencumbered by what's come before. I did, however, have several long text chats with Sam Witwer because I was interested in Talzin's motivations. We talked about stuff like her capacity (or lack thereof) for love. I think I came away thinking she was more a creature driven by issues of power, control, and the desire for revenge, whereas Sam was a little kinder to her. I mean, he is her "son," so you can't really blame him for wanting to think better of her! I always love a story within a story, and I was interested in the space where the high mythology of Star Wars and the home-spun mythology of fairy tales could intersect. I drew on my own background in mythology, psychology, and the language of fairy tales, plus I did my Star Wars research. Re-watching the Nightsisters episodes was just plain fun.
Zoraida Córdova (“The Lost Nightsister,” based on the episode “Bounty”): The Clone Wars deepens the characters we already love. It gives us the opportunity to explore the galaxy over a longer period of time and see the fight between the light and the dark side. Star Wars is about family, love, and hope. It's also incredibly funny and that's something that The Clone Wars does spectacularly. We also get to spend more time with characters we only see for a little bit in the movies like Boba Fett, Bossk, Darth Maul!
My chapter follows Ventress after she's experienced a brutal defeat. Spoiler alert: she's witnessed the death of her sisters. Now she's on Tatooine and in a rut. She gets mixed up with a bounty hunter crew led by Boba Fett. Ventress's story is about how she goes from being lost to remembering how badass she is. I watched several episodes with her in it, but I watched "Bounty" about 50 times.
Sarah Beth Durst (“Almost a Jedi,” based on the episode “A Necessary Bond”): I spent a large chunk of my childhood pretending I was training to become a Jedi Knight, even though I'd never seen a girl with a lightsaber before. And then The Clone Wars came along and gave me Ahsoka with not one but TWO lightsabers, as well as a role in the story that broadened and deepened the tale of Anakin's fall and the fall of the Jedi. So I jumped at the chance to write about her for this anthology.
In my story, I wrote about Ahsoka Tano from the point of view of Katooni, one of the Jedi younglings who Ahsoka escorts on a quest to assemble their first lightsabers, and it was one of the most fun writing experiences I've ever had! I watched the episode, “A Necessary Bond,” over and over, frame by frame, studying the characters and trying to imagine the world, the events, and Ahsoka herself through Katooni's eyes. The episode shows you the story; I wanted to show you what it feels like to be inside the story.
Greg van Eekhout (“Kenobi’s Shadow,” based on the episode “The Lawless”): What I most love about Clone Wars is how we really get to know the characters deeply and see them grow and change.
I enjoyed writing a couple of short scenes between Obi-Wan and Anakin that weren't in the episode. I wanted to highlight their closeness as friends and show that Anakin's not the only Jedi who struggles with the dark side. There's a crucial moment in my story when Obi-Wan is close to giving into his anger and has to make a choice: Strike out in violence or rise above it. It's always fun to push characters to extremes and see how they react.
Jason Fry (“Sharing the Same Face,” based on the episode “Ambush”): I love The Clone Wars because it made already beloved characters even richer and deepened the fascinating lore around the Jedi and the Force.
I chose Yoda and the clones because the moment where Yoda rejects the idea that they're all identical was one of the first moments in the show where I sat upright and said to myself, "Something amazing is happening here." You get the entire tragedy of the Clone Wars right in that one quick exchange -- the unwise bargain the Jedi have struck, Yoda's compassion for the soldiers and insistence that they have worth, the clones' gratitude for that, and how that gratitude is undercut by their powerlessness to avoid the fate that's been literally hard-wired into them. Plus, though I've written a lot of Star Wars tales, I'd never had the chance to get inside Yoda's head. That had been on my bucket list!
Yoon Ha Lee (“The Shadow of Umbara,” based on the episodes “Darkness on Umbara,” “The General,” “Plan of Dissent,” and “Carnage of Krell”): I remember the first time I watched the “Umbara arc” -- I was shocked that a war story this emotionally devastating was aired on a kids' show. But then, kids deserve heartfelt, emotionally devastating stories, too. It was a pleasure to revisit the episodes and figure out how to retell them from Rex's viewpoint in a compact way. I have so much respect for the original episodes' writer, Matt Michnovetz -- I felt like a butcher myself taking apart the work like this!
Rebecca Roanhorse (“Dark Vengeance,” based on the episode “Brothers”): I always love a backstory and Clone Wars was the backstory that then became a rich and exciting story all its own. The writing and character development is outstanding and really sucks you into the world.
I chose to write the two chapters that reintroduce Darth Maul to the world. We find him broken and mentally unstable, not knowing his own name but obsessed with revenge against Obi-Wan and we get to see him rebuild himself into a cruel, calculating, and brilliant villain. It was so much fun to write and I hope readers enjoy it.
Anne Ursu (“Pursuit of Peace,” based on the episode “Heroes on Both Sides”): The Clone Wars creates a space for terrific character development. The attention paid to the relationships between Anakin and Obi-Wan, and Anakin and Ahsoka make for really wonderful and resonant stories, and give so much depth to the whole universe.
I was at first a little scared to write Padmé, as her character felt pretty two dimensional to me. But the more I watched her episodes in Clone Wars, the more dimension she took on. She’s such an interesting character -- she’s both idealistic and realistic, so when corruption runs rampant in the Senate she doesn’t get disillusioned, she just fights harder. She has an ability to deal with nuance in a way that is rare in the Republic -- and it means she’s not afraid to bend a few laws to make things right. In this chapter, the Senate is about to deregulate the banks in order to fund more troops, and Padmé decides to take matters into her own hand and sneak into Separatist territory in order to start peace negotiations. Of course, neither Dooku nor the corrupt clans of the Republic are going to allow for this to happen, so the threats to the peace process, the Republic, and Padmé’s life only grow. This arc is the perfect distillation of Padmé’s character, and it made getting into her head for it fairly simple. But I did watch all the Padmé Clone Wars episodes and read E.K. Johnston’s book about her, as well as Thrawn: Alliances, in which she has a major storyline. I really loved writing her.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Stories of Light and Dark arrives August 25 and is available for pre-order now.
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of StarWars.com, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.
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