Interview with Patricia A. Jackson
Back in the 1990s, there was a resurgence in Star Wars literature in the wake of Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy. In writing his books, Timothy Zahn utilized a lot of information from West End Games Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. Eight months after the release of The Last Command, West End Games launched their first Star Wars Adventure Journal, a trade paperback sized book full of information for the Star Wars RPG as well as numerous short stories. Patricia A Jackson was one of the writers chosen to supply some of those short stories. She ended up writing no less than nine short stories for the Star Wars Adventure Journal, two of which were reprinted in the Tales from the New Republic and Tales from the Empire anthologies. In addition to those stories, Patricia also wrote the West End Games sourcebook The Black Sands of Socorro.
I had a lot of fun interviewing Patricia on her work for the Star Wars Adventure Journal and West End Games. It’s a time in Star Wars when things were very different from how they are now, but no less enjoyable. Without further ado, here is our interview with Patricia A. Jackson.
How did you get started writing short stories for the Star Wars Adventure Journal?
Patricia A. Jackson: I went to a gaming convention with some friends. We were very involved in the RPGA at that time, top-notch players. I sat down to play a game with Peter Schweighofer, then editor of the Star Wars Adventure Journal. I had such a good time that I decided to write a story to remember that night of fun. I sent the story off to Pete, and within three days he was on the phone telling me that while he loved the story, there were elements that had already been published. He asked if I could change it and resubmit. I had the story done in two days and in the envelope. Two days later, Pete was calling me to accept it. That was the first short story, “Out of the Cradle” with the very young Drake Paulsen.
What inspired you to explore such dark and troubled characters as Adalric and Jaalib Brandl?
PAJ: The birth of Adalric Brand, was an act of moral rebellion. West End Games was under serious constraints with the content they could and could not publish, accept, or even review. People were writing tales with the main characters, about important events on the timeline, and taking poetic license. LucasFilm brought the hammer down and decided that ‘the little people,’ aka those who had not hit the best sellers’ list, were forbidden from ever writing about these matters, including Jedi.
Well, I didn’t care. My realm was the world of the Black Bha’lir, Socorran pirates and Corellian smugglers. Little did I know that my inner eight-year old, my creative child, had other plans. I was working on a story about by senior-ranking Bha’lir smugglers when a dark presence came to mind. He was a Dark Jedi, a tragic actor (Shakespearean style), and he would not be denied his due. He didn’t have a name, so I wasn’t worried. I tried to continue with the smuggler story, but I just was struggling. I do believe that writers, in many ways, are schizophrenic. Our voices are characters trying to rise to the surface and emerge in our craft if words. Some refuse to be ignored.
During this time, I did a ride along with a York City Police officer, Todd Ross. Todd was the Officer Friendly at the elementary school where I worked. Well, during the ride along I saw a different side of him. A darker side. A new character revealed himself, Thaddeus Ross. My police friend’s badge number was 194; so that’s why Kierra refers to him by that designation. Soon after, this persistent dark specter who initiated all this named himself, Adalric Brandl. The stage was set when the story named itself, “The Final Exit.” I couldn’t finish the other story.
So against LucasFilm’s rules, I wrote “The Final Exit” and shipped it off to West End Games with mischief in my heart. Schweighofer called me a few days later infected by that mischief, gleeful. Ignoring the edict, he sent the story off to be approved for publication. It wasn’t long before the story got the green light. Pete called to tell me this good news, and that I was on the list to write about Jedi or anything else I wanted, within reason. To this date, it remains my favorite story.
There are some common themes in your stories including Corellians, dark Jedi actors, and dialects. What drew you to these elements?
PAJ: As an African-American, I live in a divided world where the rules always seem to change depending upon where you are and who you are with at the time. That somehow translated to my writing. The Corellians originally found Socorro, becoming indigenous to the planet. This transformed them into a different people, who lived in sync with their world. Socorrans pirate to subsist, not for plunder. They believe in traditions that now bring them into conflict with their profit-driven Corellian brethren. It’s the case of the city cousins, the Corellian smugglers, looking down their noses at their country cousins, the Socorran pirates.
As for dialects, I have always enjoyed language. Creating Old Corellian was a way to give even more character to the Socorran people, as well as create a connection between the Corellians and their Socorran kin that could not be denied or broken.
Dark Jedi. I dislike when the media portrays evil as something ugly, frightening, something to run away from before it consumes you. I rather enjoy stories where evil is quite beautiful, alluring, worthy of our attention and even our pity. I cite Lucifier in Milton’s Paradise Lost. In graduate school, I had a rather stern professor, Dr. Knight, who taught me about the three sins of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s protagonists. When Adalric Brandl first came to mind, I hung all three of those sins on his neck. From another Hawthorne story, I gave Brandl his quest: to find the unpardonable sin. He does and it damns him like it damned the protagonist in the Hawthorne story. As for his acting vocation, I’m not certain where that came from, no doubt Brandl, himself. I know nothing about the acting world. Nada! He was insistent that he be able to say cool things. No one says things cooler than an actor. : )
What was it like writing in that time period of the Star Wars franchise, a time before the prequel films but in the wake of Timothy Zahn’s successful Thrawn Trilogy? Do you recall how Jedi were treated at that time by the writers? (for instance, the term Jedi was used pretty loosely)
PAJ: I’ll be honest. I never paid attention to timelines really. Everyone seems so hung up on when this happened or when that person sneezed. I’ve dismissed it as that odd Human need to classify everything and put the ineffable in a box for safe keeping. I just wanted to tell stories about people and their trials and tribulations. When Skywalker was blowing up the Death Star, somewhere in the galaxy a bride was being given away by her proud father, a first child was being born, a young smuggler was coming of age…the hard way.
Jedi, Dark Jedi, Sith…I tried to stay as far away from the defined conventions as possible. For one, that was naughty territory; two, George Lucas had the right to bury anything you had created; and three…I just didn’t want to argue with the purists. There have been so many filibusters on how many Sith can exist at one time. Forgive me, but…I don’t care. I just want to tell stories, plain and simple. I’ve found that when I avoid those conventions, I’m happier and my characters tell a better story.
By the way, I got to play a Star Wars game with Tim Zahn, whose Thrawn character was initially masquerading as Boba Fett. He was wearing Wookiee pelts on his armor. I was playing my character, the Wookiee Nikaede Celso. We had a blast. For years after, Tim would tease me about the confrontation between our characters.
Have you written any stories not set in Star Wars?
PAJ: I am currently working on a novel based on a popular video game. I’d rather not say which one at this juncture. I can only hope that the novel meets with the same success as my short stories and creates memorable characters as those stories did. It’s very difficult being an unknown and trying to make your place among those already on the inside track. That’s just how it is. I’m praying that I have a contender. If not, I still have a great story with splendid characters that I adore.
Have you ever wanted to write a full length novel?
PAJ: Wrote my first novel when I was 8, right after seeing Star Wars for the first time. Since then, I’ve written several, but never followed through in trying to get them published. Had a wonderful story of Drake Paulsen and Nikaede that got lost in the shuffle when Bantam’s license to market the Star Wars franchise ended. I wrote Brave Misdeeds to bid farewell to the Sony MMO Star Wars Galaxies. That novel is precious to me because 75% of it is fact, based on events that happened in the game.
I played for the Imperial side, of course, and became a base buster, quite a prolific one. My character was the darling of the Sith on the server. It was very cool. Of the top 100 characters on the server, I was voted 47, which was quite an honor. As much as I was loved by the Imperials, I was hated by the Rebel faction, leading to some interesting hate mail. There were even bounties on my head and for knowledge of my comings and goings. The novel is a special tribute to all the people on both sides of the war, the various player guilds, the player cities, my friends and foes, and the great fun that we had in that wonderful game.
Touching on some more specific topics tied to your stories, in “Uhl Eharl Khoehng”, the character Fable Astin encounters a dark Jedi named Vialco whose Force illusions haunt her into seeking out the dark Jedi Adalric Brandl for help. Why did she go to Brandl instead of someone like Luke Skywalker?
PAJ: Fable wanted revenge. Skywalker would never have allowed that. She also felt that she had tainted herself in her first encounter with Vialco. Believing that Skywalker would only hinder, not help her, she sought out someone who would help her with her mission of revenge as well as controlling this newfound corruption within her.
“Betrayal by Knight” was co-written with Charlene Newcomb. How did that collaboration go?
PAJ: Charlene and I were actually chastised, teased, and discouraged from doing a collaboration. In fact, one of the best-selling authors made this comment, “…it’s twice the work for the half the money…” After “Betrayal By Knight” came out, that author and another best-selling author did their own collaboration. Hysterical!
I came up with the idea because Charlene is a dear friend, and I could not help myself. Alex Winger was so squeaky clean. I needed to corrupt her. Needless to say, Charlene and I did not consider our collaboration as work because it was fun, and we never spun our tales for money. As for how we wrote the tale, we planned out the structure of the story and where we were going and then we just started. She wrote the sections about Alex. I wrote the sections with Jaalib. When it was necessary to bring the two together, we had to trust each other to do right by the perspective characters. If there was any disagreement, we’d talk about it, but there never was any disagreement. Charlene Newcomb is one of the finest individuals I know, and I would write with her any time, regardless of what certain best-selling authors have to say about the amount of work and/or the paycheck.
In that story, Jaalib ends up walking in his father’s footsteps. What happened to him to make him follow that path? (Did Adalric hand him over to the Emperor?)
PAJ: Yes. Adalric’s plan was to turn over Fable to the Emperor, but Jaalib helped her escape. To get back in the good graces of his master, the Emperor, Adalric needed the next best thing. He had to make a sacrifice of extreme importance: surrendering his only son.
He’s also a very dark character who certainly does some evil things, but he also does some good things. He’s almost like an evil-lite character. How do you see him?
PAJ: As I mentioned, I dislike that evil has to be ugly or cruel. I like characters that walk outside of the box, preferring the shadows, the lone path…plying us for our pity, inspiring us, and throwing us off moral balance.
Jaalib was tortured by the Emperor. Not to bring out the best in him, but as continued punishment against Adalric. The son followed in his father’s footsteps, but never forgot who he was, though he could not change what he was after that vicious training. So, Jaalib broke ranks with the Empire and struck out on his own, causing chaos for both the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. He interferes on his whims, doling out justice or carnage depending on what may be gained or lost. His allegiance belongs to no one and as such, this makes him a very dangerous individual.
I noticed in “Idol Intentions” that Drake said his father was dead. It’s possible that I might have missed this elsewhere, but how did Kaine die?
PAJ: It was never written in a story, only implied that Kaine was killed trying to assist the Rebellion. If I had the chance to move the story forward, Kaine would have reunited with his son. Though injured in his foray with the Rebellion, Kaine knew he had to step aside and remain dead so that the little Prince of Socorro could grow into the pirate he was meant to be.
Having given birth to these memorable characters over the length of nine short stories, what do you think the fates of Drake, Fable, Jaalib and Adalric ultimately were?
PAJ: Drake will grow into the man his father always wanted him to be. He would have assumed the mantle of the Black Bha’lir, crossing swords with the Hutts and other powerful crime cartels, while still maintaining the values of family, tradition, and loyalty that are so intrinsic to the Socorran people. His Wookiee companion would have been at his side, as well as characters like Thaddeus Ross and Karl Ancher.
Fable’s destiny was linked to Jaalib with that chance encounter. She would slip farther from the light, while remaining loyal to the Alliance. Jaalib would remain with his Protectorate, creating havoc wherever he felt needed a bit of chaos. Though, he’ll be partial to not causing his lover too much grief. The two will have a daughter, who becomes a bounty hunter and an exquisite Jedi killer. They will also have a son, a renown painter, who takes up the artistic mantle of his grandfather on his father’s side.
Adalric Brandl will find love again. In my novel Brave Misdeeds, he again is serving the Emperor, but he will once more desert his post, but will leave two successors to his position before vanishing into the void with his new wife. Those successors were actually characters played by real people in the now-defunct MMO.
Once again, we want to thank Patricia for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to what the future holds.