The Essential Reader’s Companion Interview with Pablo Hidalgo
So The Essential Reader’s Companion is almost here and the burning question everyone wants answered is…did you actually have to read the Jedi Prince stories?
Pablo Hidalgo: Ha! Yes indeed, even though they fell out of the scope of the book’s criteria for inclusion. For space reasons, we had to narrow down the vast library of Star Wars literature to exclude material written for really younger kids, those under 12 years of age. But, those books occupied such a peculiar niche in the Expanded Universe by virtue of their tone as well as when they came out – during the early 1990s expansion – that we had to include them. The fact that they have a bit of a cult following also made the decision easier. They are presented as a page-long sidebar in the text, as opposed to the more formal entry format that other works get.
Where did the idea for a Reader’s Companion originate?
PH: It predated my involvement, so I can’t say for certain. I’m sure it was seen as a necessity to help readers new and old get a handle on this very big universe. It existed on an internal publishing roadmap here at Lucasfilm for a while as The Essential Guide to Fiction, and just as a title, that intrigued me.
How long has this project taken in total?
PH: I’d say well over 30 years – only because I don’t think anyone who hasn’t spent a lifetime reading Star Was books could easily write it. I’ve been reading Star Wars books since I was old enough to read, and I’ve had a “chronicler” mentality when it comes to consuming this material, so in a sense, I was doing the groundwork reading these books as they came out. In some cases, I even revisited notes I took back in the ‘90s as I was reading the Bantam publications, so there are some passages in the Companion that were first typed over 15 years ago.
But this specific project didn’t actually begin until January of 2010, when Erich Schoeneweiss from Del Rey called me up and offered it to me.
How did you get assigned to the project?
PH: As I said, the project existed as a concept before my involvement, and I may have said to Carol Roeder, Director of Publishing at Lucasfilm, that I was interested in such a book. I had recently wrapped up work on The Complete Encyclopedia with Erich, so he knew my capacity to take on large projects in tight time frames. I guess they figured I’d be crazy enough to do it.
Going in, did you realize how much work was going to be involved?
PH: Not really. I admit, the Encyclopedia might have made me cocky. Erich and I joked that after that project, anything would seem like a breeze. But the key difference there is that I was one of seven authors on that book. This one I’d be going solo. It was definitely a challenge. Add to that, the work landed during a very, very busy period of time as I was switching career paths at Lucasfilm, and as if it wasn’t insane enough, I decided to take on and complete a second major work (The Transformers Vault) in the middle of writing the Reader’s Companion. I wouldn’t recommend doing all that at the same time.
Would you say this is the biggest undertaking you’ve done so far for Star Wars?
PH: As far as something that could fit under a single banner, yes, I think so. But, I see it as an extension of everything I do day-to-day at Lucasfilm, which is absorbing and processing all Star Wars content so that I have the knowledge at-hand should anyone in the company require it.
Can you share some of the interesting things you discovered while working on the project?
PH: While digging through old correspondence, I found a letter from Brian Daley written to Lucasfilm in the early 1990s that made mention of a failed attempt by Del Rey Books to acquire the license to publish Star Wars novels, the license that would eventually land at Bantam Books. The letter made mention of a story proposal that Brian worked up, but I couldn’t find any record of said proposal. In researching why the Del Rey bid never went anywhere, I suspect those proposals never made it to Lucasfilm – the deal dissolved on the business end, not on the content end.
Since there was very little solid information, none of this ended up in the Companion, but it is intriguing to imagine what might have been had Bantam and Timothy Zahn not been the ones to kick-start the EU. I’ve since talked with Jim Luceno, and he had some insight into Brian’s proposal. Those who attended my Brian Daley tribute panel at Celebration VI heard it. I’m certain I’ll write about it in the coming weeks at the StarWars.com blogs.
Which illustration is your favorite (or has the most meaning for you)?
PH: That’s tough, because all the artists did an amazing job here. But if I had to pick one piece that I keep looking at, it’s Darren Tan’s illustration of Admiral Daala wiping out the Imperial warlords in Darksaber (page 323). The shock and anguish on their faces is fantastic. I think Darren did some absolutely fantastic pieces, and I hope he does more Star Wars Expanded Universe work in the future.
With this accomplishment knocked out, what would you like to see tackled next?
PH: I’d like to see Ryder Windham and Dan Wallace return to do an updated Comics Companion, so that these two books can work in tandem to keep readers up-to-date on the whole Expanded Universe picture.
Now for some lighter questions. Who’s your favorite minor EU character?
PH: I think it’s criminal that Jessa from Han Solo at Stars’ End (1979)has only appeared in one book. I also really love what Sean Stewart did with Scout in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous (2004).
What’s your favorite Star Wars era?
PH: For publishing, I’d say the classic era, but right before the events of Episode IV, where the Han Solo and Lando Calrissian books are set. For cinematic content, I’m a huge fan of The Clone Wars and what that show has done for the prequel era.
Last but not least, what’s the strangest Star Wars story you’ve ever heard?
PH: Aside from the Jedi Prince series? The one book that read the strangest to me was Clones (1998), part of the Galaxy of Fear series. Don’t get me wrong, I find this series a lot of fun, and I like what John Whitman managed to do with it, but that one book is crazy. There’s hitherto unseen cloning technology that pretty much makes instant duplicates of people, but the idea of a Darth Vader clone takes the cake. Think about it. Why would a clone of Darth Vader possibly look and sound like Darth Vader? Fun stuff.
We’d like to thank Pablo Hidalgo for taking the time to answer our questions, and we hope everyone gets a chance to check out Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion.