The Genesis and Goals of Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves

Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves cover

There’s this story about being a writer that it’s a lonesome, solitary job where one labors in a garret or something. The reality is pretty different, and not just for us. Any writer going through traditional publishing models is at the very least working with an editor, a copyeditor, and the layout and design team. Often there are also first readers who give some distance and perspective on a new book, friends, and spouses who we bounce ideas off, other writers who we sit at bars with and talk about business and craft. So just from the outset, let’s be clear: Writing is only a solitary business when you compare it to something like tech support or consulting.

Writing for something like Star Wars? That’s a whole different level of collaboration. When we stepped into the project, there were already somewhere between 80 and 90 writers just on the novels in the Expanded Universe. Recent estimates have it that with the books, comic books, video games, and television shows, the Star Wars universe has more stories in it than there are atoms in the universe, though that may be a slight overstatement.

In any body of work that big, one of the things that you need to think about is where the entrances are. Both halves of James S.A. Corey have worked on large, multi-volume/multiple-author projects like George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series, and so we were both clear on the need — every now and then — to have a piece that invites people unfamiliar with the greater, overarching project in for the first time. That makes them comfortable and gives them a taste and encourages them, once they’re done to think “That was cool. Are there more like that?”

And so, Honor Among Thieves.

In fairness, the assignment we were offered was pretty much literally the coolest one we could have asked for. Set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and focusing on Han Solo? Both of us grew up with Star Wars, and the Han Solo of A New Hope was the one we’d bonded with first, when we were young and our minds malleable and weak. The chance to go back there, write that character at that part of his life? There wasn’t a bigger treat anyone could have offered.

And, because of what those original moves meant to us, we decided to take the chance we’d been given and make it into a door. Here’s the thing about Honor Among Thieves: it’s a Star Wars book you can give to someone who doesn’t read Star Wars books. Yes, it’s set in the Expanded Universe, and refers out to a bunch of other work that has filled the shelves and imaginations of fans like us for the last couple decades.  It adds to the story and puts our characters and situations into the stew for other folks who come along after us to use. It also invites the casual and unsuspecting reader in, and with any luck, traps them.

And then, right about the time that we’d gotten our outline approved and we were starting to work up the chapter drafts, the news about Disney came through.

We’re not going to lie about this. It’s a weird time to have an EU novel come out. The news and the forums are filled with questions about canonicity and the direction of Star Wars moving forward. The place of massive body of work and love and imagination of the Expanded Universe has been called into question just as we became part of it. We wanted to write an invitation into this series for people who hadn’t seen it, and now there are going to be new movies, maybe TV shows, probably books, that may leave some or all of it behind.

So here’s the thing. If we had it all to do again, we wouldn’t change it. Star Wars — whether you mean just the work of Lucas or the television shows’ continuity or the Expanded Universe or non-canonical LEGO games — is one of the central idioms of science fiction in the last half century, and its new reinvention can change a lot of things without changing that fact. Honor Among Thieves was meant to be a book you could enjoy as part of the Expanded Universe or use to hook your boyfriend who never reads that stuff into it. And it still is.

The two of us don’t know what the final fate of the EU is going to be. We don’t know what the new movies are going to bring. We can say that the future of Star Wars — like its past — is going to be made by dedicated, creative, passionate fans, and that any addition or new direction is only going to make the soil richer and the mythology wider. And if we can get more people to come play here and understand what about this particular setting and universe makes it what it is, we’ll have won.