John Jackson Miller Live Chat RecapAugust 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Posted in Events, Interview, Star Wars Books, Star Wars News | 2 Comments
Tags: john jackson miller, knight errant, knights of the old republic, lost tribe of the sith the collected stories
In case you missed out on the live Facebook chat with John Jackson Miller today, we’ve compiled an edited transcript below. You can also check out the full, unedited chat on Star Wars Books Facebook page.
John Jackson Miller: Hi, folks — glad to be here. Big month and a big day… LOST TRIBE OF THE SITH – THE COLLECTED STORIES is out, and today has the first issue of LOST TRIBE OF THE SITH – SPIRAL from Dark Horse Comics, as well as KNIGHT ERRANT – ESCAPE #3.
(All this — and it’s also the 40th birthday of Kwai Chang Caine — KUNG FU debuted 40 years ago tonight! Happy birthday, grasshopper!)
I’ll try to take these in order, but it’ll take a bit to catch up.
How do you like writing for the Star Wars Expanded Universe? Is it difficult to keep in canon?
JJM: It’s easy to keep in canon when you’re working with a team like we’ve got at Dark Horse, Del Rey, and Lucasfilm — they help keep everything straight.
With Knight Errant ending as a comic series, any chance of it continuing in novel format?
JJM: Yes, it’s true that I didn’t formally propose a fourth Kerra Holt comics series for 2013. Dark Horse is changing its lineup some for the year — and I’ve had some other things percolating, about which more here.
Who is your favorite character to write for? Anyone you haven’t yet written for?
JJM: In KOTOR, Gryph is really my favorite character to write for — he’s a blast. In Knight Errant, the insane Sith Lords are always fun, especially Daiman, who is comically twisted. And in Lost Tribe of the Sith, I’ve really enjoyed writing Varner Hilts — who we see again in the comics. Actually, today’s comic book includes his Secret Testament, referred to in the prose book.
But let me say — without giving anything away — that I’m thrilled with how Knight Errant – Escape ends — it’s our best story ever, and I like how it leaves things. And as for the future, well, KOTOR #50 wasn’t the last we saw of Zayne Carrick, nor Return of the Jedi the last of Luke, Leia, and Han. Always in motion is the future — and full of possibilities, too.
What is your favorite thing about the Sith, and do you think they’re misunderstood?
JJM: I think the thing we often miss is that they have a believe system that is still evolving, and so there’s the same kind of disagreement you see with the Jedi Council… times a thousand. That’s a fun thing about both Lost Tribe and Knight Errant — it highlights those disagreements.
And in fact the Lost Tribe of the Sith – Spiral comics…previewed here…take us into a serious conflict over what it means to be Sith. Someone thinks the Tribe isn’t truly Sith, and is willing to do something about it!
How do you draw your inspiration when writing in the star wars universe?
JJM: I draw inspiration from a lot of things. My office is full of Star Wars books and references, yes, but also history books of all kinds. I enjoy bringing some new twists to things.
If you could choose one time period in the Star Wars timeline to write in (and you can’t choose any periods you’ve already written in) which would it be?
JJM: If I could choose one time period in the Star Wars timeline to write in…? I’ve really had fun with whatever’s been put in front of me — there are story opportunities everywhere. Certainly, though, the original characters would be fun — my only original trilogy story was my very first one.
I just want to say to JJM what an excellent book series you wrote with the Lost Tribe of the Sith series. I haven’t read all the books still got to finish book one but from what I saw I loved it. I also want to read Knights of the Old Republic as that looks very good. My question to you is this. What was your reaction when you got permission to dabble in the Star Wars Universe?
JJM: Absolutely, it was a lot of fun getting invited to play in the sandbox — my first grown-up comic book was Star Wars #1, years ago. Actually, that EMPIRE link a bit above talks about my getting the job — and then other notes pages talk about the development of KOTOR, etc.
Any plans to branch out KOTOR for something that focuses on Jarael or Gryph or some of the others?
JJM: Those sound like great ideas that I’d love to do. I’m always talking with the licensees, so like I always say, “always in motion is the future.” I think the new angle is simply that, as the above link says, I’m also splitting time with my own projects a lot more this year. (But if you dig my Star Wars work, I think you’ll like those, too.)
Do you know when Lost Tribe of the Sith paperback is going to come out? I was hooked after book one.
JJM: The Lost Tribe of the Sith book is already out now in the US and UK. There was some confusion over the listings on a couple of sites, because it was changed from a paperback to a bigger trade paperback — but this, for example, should be the correct listing at Amazon. There is no mass market paperback version in the U.S. and UK as far as I know.
Just wanted to say that the Lost Tribe Collection was a lot of fun to read. Really enjoyed Grand Lord Hilts.
JJM: Thanks, I really dug writing him!
Was the Lost Tribe of the Sith your personal original idea that was integrated into the Fate of the Jedi series? Or- was it someone else’s idea that you were assigned to create?
JJM: Good question. The Lost Tribe of the Sith was created by Aaron Allston, Christie Golden, and Troy Denning for the Fate of the Jedi novels. They created a working document on what the Tribe was like and how they got there. I was asked to use that as a basis and fill in the 5000+ years in between. There are more details on how that got started here — and more notes on later chapters, too.
By the way, I’ll be using some of the questions here to flesh out the final production notes page for the book, which I will compile soon.
Whats you opinion on how Lucas in the past twenty years has managed the series, and do you think he actually cares about the creditability of a series that allows authors to create cannon fiction but can easily claim any Lucas Arts material no matter how ridiculous to the series to be cannon and override the material presented by said authors?
JJM: George Lucas created Star Wars, and it is absolutely in every way his to do whatever he wants with. I’m pleased to be able to work in his playground. Yes, there are a lot of moving parts to the universe, but when you compare it to some of the franchises out there, I think it works really well. Remember, for most of the history of publishing, novels and comics based on TV shows and movies had no status whatsoever in the larger scheme of things. They were just one more licensed product, interchangeable with T-shirts. Here, we’re getting to add on, and I thank Mr. Lucas and his team for that.
Varnor Hilts really is a different type of grand lord – who did you channel into his character?
JJM: Varner Hilts really is the third Grumpy Old Man, beside Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. I really wanted to show a character in the Tribe’s system who was seemingly past any hope of taking control of the place; someone marginalized. And it is partially because he was out of the scheming for so long that he actually learned something useful.
Is there any plans to continue KOTOR series? It would be great to see a novel since it’s your only Star Wars comic that has no book tie-in.
JJM: Again, sure, KOTOR prose would be spectacularly fun. As I saw, I’m talking with folks all the time. And actually, there was a KOTOR short story once upon a time, back in the Hyperspace days — http://www.farawaypress.com/fiction/shortstories/sw-laborpains.html — hoping we can get that out again one day.
Do you feel that the different periods of star wars are starting to mimic each other too much? Ie the visual and thematic similarities in TOR?
JJM: I’ve written about the similar looks to the universe across time before. My explanation was always that technology had more or less reached a functional level millennia before, and there wasn’t really anywhere to go beyond cosmetic changes and ever-crazier superweapons. If you think about it, cars look about like they did 100 years ago, more or less. You’d think that maybe starships would be the same way.
Will you be working on the era between Episode 3 and 4?
JJM: I did have one “Dark Times” story in a hard-to-find place — I wrote the Dawn of Defiance RPG module, “Sword of the Empire” –another one of those online things that is no longer available. It would be fun to work in that intermovie period again, to be sure.
Can we expect to you work on anything in the era between Current EU 44aby. And the Legacy Era 127aby+ ??
JJM: Yeah, it’s funny, almost everything I have done has been in the past — no Legacy era material at all. Nothing against it, just the opportunity never came up. I’d be open to it, though. As I’ve said before, it’s all Star Wars, whenever it’s set.
When you wrote Pandemonium, did you know the Lost Tribe stories would be continuing with the Dark Horse Comic mini-series Spiral?
JJM: No, in fact, the Lost Tribe of the Sith – Spiral series came together after I had already turned Pandemonium in. So while Knight Errant – Aflame and the Knight Errant novel were written at the same time, this time, the comics came afterward. That said, when I re-edited the stories for the collected edition, I did make references to some things in the comics, because I had written some of them by then. So I look psychic!
I’m a big fan of your work! Can you say anything about any future project that you’re working on? And what are some non star wars comics that you’ve worked on?
JJM: Well, as that link at top describes, I’m working on my own novel — as well as a few other personal projects — but there are a number of things on the licensed side, as well. I can’t announce a lot yet — though, for example, I have several Simpsons comics stories coming up — first one is in BART SIMPSON #76, which is in orderbooks now.
And as to the other comics I’ve worked on — well, there’s quite a list at this point, including Iron Man, Crimson Dynamo, Indiana Jones, and Mass Effect. Here’s my page for the series. (I have a handful of some of the early stuff that hasn’t been reprinted on hand, but otherwise you’re in eBay land!).
Are there any stories with Cade Skywalker or Zayne Carrick which you wanted to tell but never got the chance? Would you ever consider doing a major crossover event like 2008′s Vector?
JJM: Definitely, Vector was really something — it took a long time to engineer, well over a year I think. (Details here: http://www.farawaypress.com/comics/swknights/swkotor25.html). It’s tough to pull off crossovers like that when you really can’t have time travel. I’d be up to the challenge, but with something that big, it really is something that has to start at the publishers.
also my husband and I would love to write a star wars book, how would one go about getting Mr. Lucas’s permission?
JJM: Like a lot of licensed fiction, Star Wars is pretty much by invitation. Most people get in by writing elsewhere first, thus showing that they know the tools of the trade. I had just done Iron Man when I approached Dark Horse about Star Wars.
John, when does the narwhal bacon?
JJM: the narwhal bacons at midnight. And I wonder if Redditors know that joke began in 1945, with Jack Benny’s THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT, which he joked for years was the worst movie ever made. (You learn a lot about old TV and movies on my Facebook page — most of it useless!)
Not sure if this is allowed but here’s another question if you get around to it…was it daunting writing for an entire civilization that spanned several thousand years? Did you at all think about how the culture had progressed technologically and socially as you jumped forward further and further in the timeline?
JJM: no problem with repeat questions. No, my model really was the FOUNDATION TRILOGY by Asimov, who had stories that leapt ahead many years at a time. In my case, I needed to get the characters from what the Sith looked like during Tales of the Jedi to what they looked like in Fate of the Jedi — and there was a big difference there, so we got some story fodder from it.
I managed to save that to my notepad, John… Could we see your work in the form of short stories in issues of Star Wars Insider? We want more, Mr. Miller! LOL…
JJM: just let Del Rey and Insider know you’d like to see short fiction. I’d be happy to write some. In actuality, that first KOTOR short story was something I’d intended for Insider, many years ago, but Hyperspace ended up being the place it appeared.
John I’d love to see you write in the Legacy era! So many other stories to be told in that setting
JJM: Yeah, like I say, if the right story and opportunity came along, I’m up for anything. I find things of interest in all the eras. Again, I’m increasingly developing some of my own things, but I’m thrilled to play in some other sandboxes as long as people let me.
Have you ever thought about telling story’s from the clone wars era , prequel era or original trilogy era or all of them? And what is your favorite of all 6 films?
JJM: I’ve had some notions for the Clone Wars era… I think there are some interesting angles to explore. But I grew up with the original movies, and those are probably my favorite. And EMPIRE is the favorite of those.
Just a quick note before I forget: I will be at Star Wars Celebration all four days. Thursday we have a Star Wars Upcoming Comics panel; Friday at 7 we have a Writer’s Roundtable, with me, Randy Stradley, David Marshall, Jan Duursema, and Brian Wood (from the new series). And I will be doing signings both for Dark Horse and Del Rey. Hope to see you there — you can get my updates on Twitter by going to http://www.twitter.com/jjmfaraway
What in the galaxy are Ralltiiri glowmites and why are they less suicidal than the members of Odion’s death cult?
JJM: Haha! Yes, Raaltiri glowmites. I needed the Star Wars equivalent of lemmings. I figured the glowmites would throw themselves against power supplies and kill themselves.
On re-editing the stories of Lost Tribe for print, to include references to Spiral – are there any major changes that people who read the ebook versions should go back and re-read to see what’s new.. or are these all mostly subtle bits that it needs having the Lost Tribe book and the final version of Spiral to catch? and how much work did you put into these edits?
JJM: I think it’s mostly subtle changes to make the chapters interact better, as they were written many months apart. And then I had some changes to make it clear that the continent (which had not been named in the first seven chapters) was mentioned earlier, and that everything fit my maps. Also, I tampered a little with the geography, since it turns out that Keshtah is not really an enormous Pangaea, but is in fact one of many big clumps of land like you’d find in your Civilization game. We haven’t seen the northern hemisphere at all!
Speaking of Vector, any comment on Celeste Morne’s implication that the Skywalker family are direct descendants of Zayne?
JJM: yeahhhh, I don’t think the connections between Zayne (who’s childless so far as we know ) and the Skywalkers are something worth speculating on. I mean, figure we’re talking more than a hundred generations here, and it’s a big galaxy, to boot. The better question is this — does Threepio include any circuits used in Elbee?
If you were stuck on a desert island with only 3 issues of TV Guide, which three issues would you bring?
JJM: Haha! Yeah, for a guy with so many comics they require a second building, collecting TV memorabilia too was kind of a crazy move. But it is kind of fun in a geeky way — I recently got all the TV Guides from 1972, so you can see things coming together like the first mentions of M*A*S*H — and like an interview with Margot Kidder when she’s just 22 (she’d been on a James Garner Western series that tanked). There’s a lot of stuff you won’t see on the Wikis — like the Kung Fu reference. Everyone knows when the series started, but the pilot movie came earlier — August 8, 1972.
When you’re not thrilling us with Star Wars. What do YOU like to read that takes your mind in a different direction?
JJM: Good question. Certainly I read comics and other science fiction and fantasy; I’ve been delving back into Robert E. Howard lately. I also like reading history and historical fiction — I just finished THE CAINE MUTINY novel the other day. (So look forward to stories with space-faring captains who obsess over missing strawberries!)
I know you can’t announce anything, but can you confirm that you will continue working with Dark Horse? I was wondering, as Knight Errant is ending and Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral is a one-time comic series.
JJM: Remember, there was nearly a year between KOTOR ending and being able to talk about KNIGHT ERRANT, much less anything coming out. Yes, I have some new irons in the fire competing for my time, too, which this post addresses, but I haven’t strayed from the GFFA. I’ll be at Celebration, after all!
And I think that has it. Feel free to friend-request, folks — and follow me on Twitter (@jjmfaraway) and at my website: http://www.farawaypress.com/. Thanks again to everyone — it’s been a blast!
If you haven’t already picked up a copy of John Jackson Miller’s Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories, you can find a list of retailers here on Random House’s product page (click Buy From) or head right to Amazon. You can also find links for Knight Errant: Escape #3 and Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral #1 which just came out today.