Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Karen Traviss quits Star Wars

I’ve got some disappointing news, folks. Karen Traviss has decided to stop working in the Star Wars franchise. The forthcoming second season of The Clone Wars Animated Series is apparently going to force changes to her depictions of Mandalore and Mandalorians and would necessitate wholescale changes to her future SW novels. Rather than make the changes (and invalidate a whole lot of work she has put into those books + spend a whole lot of time on the changes), Traviss decided to leave the franchise. She will have two novels left (Imperial Commando: 501st and Imperial Commando 2) and then nothing.

This leaves readers without future Imperial Commando novels or the promised Boba Fett book. Plus whatever else would come through the pipeline. Del Rey and LucasArts is clearly happy with the work (and sales) of Karen Traviss since they keep giving her money to write more. There would probably be more.

As a reader of the Star Wars novels I believe that the franchise will be weakened by not having more from Karen Traviss. In my view, she is one of the strongest writers working on Star Wars (along with Matthew Stover, Michael Stackpole, and Aaron Allston – all for very different reasons) and the loss will be felt. It will also be felt because Traviss writes from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground and gives a view not from the Big Name Jedi. The view from the clone commandos (and from some of the Jedi leading them) is very different from, say, Obi Wan or Anakin. It’s the story of the characters without the big picture but who have to live with the decisions on the ground.

It’s realistic and dirty in a way that Star Wars frequently is not.

Now, if you read the message boards on theforce.net, you’ll see a lot of Traviss-Hate…which seems to stem from a fundamental disagreement with A) her focus on Mandalorian culture, B) perceived changes to canon and continuity, and C) her perceived Jedi hate.

I can’t speak to B, because I just assume everything fits together somehow without dealing with the nuts and bolts. I think A is a mark in her favor because it brings to life another culture from Star Wars and she’s the only writer who really works from that perspective…so maybe 9 novels out of more than 100. C, in my mind, stems entirely from the fact that Karen Traviss writes from a very tight third person perspective. So tight that readers get the view from a very limited selection of characters – frequently the Clone Soldiers or Mandalorians: Characters who have NO REASON to like the Jedi and who have their own opinions. So, while these may be the views of Traviss towards the Jedi, it should be read specifically as the views of those characters. Meaning – and this is what irks me about that forum – not everyone loves the Jedi and some have legitimate gripes based on their perception and life experiences. And yes, there are Jedi who become disillusioned with the war and the order because of their experiences with soldiers on the ground. They say Traviss glorifies the soldiers and the Mandalorians – and yes – from the perspective of those who live it. I doubt that Yoda would have the same experience. And yes, Jaina was somewhat seduced by the lifestyle – but bear in mind she’s soldier trained as much as she is Jedi trained. There probably is a certain seductiveness to that culture for some people.

This is all to say that I will read with great joy the remaining Star Wars novels Traviss has left, and that I will look forward to the hinted at original (read: creator owned) series she has planned. Her six volume Wess’har Wars (start with City of Pearl and thank me later) is outstanding and as much as I like her SW work, I really want more from her own universes. With any luck things will work out between Traviss and LucasArts and she’ll eventually get back to Star Wars. But, if not…

Good luck Karen. Thank you for the stories.


Neil Richard said...

I read a little about this elsewhere and was surprised by the decision to leave. Until I began to get a glimmer of the details and it made much more sense. Kind of like being allowed to play in a sandbox then somebody decides they want you to use Matchbox instead of Hot Wheels.

Anyway, I think she has a lot to offer the SW Universe and it will be weaker with her gone. Either way, it'll end up like Salvatore killing Chewie. Some fans just won't get over it and will bicker about it for years to come.

Joe said...

Yeah - ultimately it is George Lucas's sandbox and tv / movies will almost always trump the books in terms of importance (as perceived by The Man, not necessarily the readers), but it's not like Karen Traviss was working in a vacuum here. Far as I know her decisions had to be cleared by the LucasBooks folks, so I'm a little confused by how such drastic changes are being made that she feels she can't continue writing for Star Wars.

I'll miss her.

Kendall said...

I know nothing about this situation and haven't read any SW books, ever (heresy!), but one thing you mentioned caught my eye: her perceived Jedi hate. It always amazes me when people (the fans you mention) make assumptions about what an author thinks or feels, based on what they write. ;-)

Anyway, I've only heard good things about her writing; I have City of Pearl but haven't read it yet. Thanks for plugging it--I'd forgotten I had it.

Joe said...

Kendall: It's possible that Traviss has also made public comments about the Jedi, I have no clue, but yeah - to me it is the difference between viewpoint character and assumed authorial intent.

Now, if she wrote a story that has Yoda and Obi-Wan sitting around in the Jedi Council saying how much the Jedi suck, can't do anything right, and that they hope all the clones die...that would be another story.

Saibot said...

Much of the dislike stems from when Traviss wrote that there was only 3 000 000 or so clone troopers a few years ago. A lot of the fanbase thought that was a gross underestimation of their numbers, something they were quite vokal about and Traviss responded to, and which in turn led to something of a flamewar between her and the fans.

That said, as a fan of the Republic Commando books I'm sad to hear this.

Joe said...

Good point, I forgot about the 3,000,000. Though...that's another thing...Traviss had to push that number through LucasBooks, right? She doesn't write in a vacuum.

Saibot said...

Fans always finds something to complain about, so I guess her strong opinions makes her an easy target.

Wesley Vos said...

As far as the number goes, the Kaminoans managed to turn out 1.2 million clones by the start of the wars. It's reasonable that, at the 10-year growth rate, there would only be 3 million or so by the end of the war - unless you use other cloning sources, such as Spaarti cloning cells, which she discusses in Order 66.

Actually, her work (for me) does the best job of tying together a number of what seem to be inconsistencies between the original novels and the prequels.

As to her Jedi hate, unless your head is up your butt you cannot deny that, at least from a "certain point of view," the Jedi are pretty amoral and even evil. Certainly the Sith thought so. I can see how the clones would think so, and the Mandalorians who trained them. In almost every real-life war, soldiers complain about their incompetent generals. Why should the Clone Wars be any different?

Shane said...

I agree with everyone's comments especially the opening paragraphs. I just finished the "501st" and can say to everyone, that all the fans that were harking on Karen's supposed, hate for the Jedi, can give it a rest. Because she makes a strong point in this book, that not every jedi is the same and they have different perspectives. She does this a little bit in her third commando book too but definitely expands on it in her 501st book.
Secondly, I have seen the clone wars tv series on Mandalore and compared to Traviss' world, it's at most, 2 dimensional. It's true what some of you said. She had to clear everything with Lucas Arts before it was published anyway. And her books came way before the TV episode did. If anything they could've worked with Karen's model of Mandalore.
I think she has done a wonderful job with mandalorian culture and the view of clone troopers. It fits and works with all the star wars history and, like someone said above, ties all the loose pieces together from the gaps in the movies.

I really wish "The Man" would leave what isn't broke alone and use what has already become an awesome world and culture in the SW universe...

Bravo Karen Traviss, bravo.

Unknown said...


Never come back.

Also, lol "supposed Jedi hate".

She outright called them "tea-spoon bending dogmatic fascists".

Also, sickening amounts of Mandalorian wank.

"As far as the number goes, the Kaminoans managed to turn out 1.2 million clones by the start of the wars. It's reasonable that, at the 10-year growth rate, there would only be 3 million or so by the end of the war'

To take on the Quadrillion+ Droids?

Unknown said...


"Supposed Jedi hate" indeed.

Joe said...

Hi Abigail, thanks for stopping by the blog. Conversation is a little old (two years), but no prob.

I don't think Traviss's Jedi post was up at the time I wrote this. Probably would have linked it at the time.

You seem a bit put out at the Traviss support.

Two years later I do still think that her SW books were some of the strongest and best written. One of the things I appreciate the most about them is that they provide an alternative perspective, that from the clone soldiers.

It's a perspective entirely lacking in the rest of the hundred odd novels. What would they think when they are on their own. If they are being developed to be able to be thinking warriors (besides just cannon fodder), they'll think about other stuff too - like the unfairness of their stituation and not getting a choice.

So, from their perspective (and from Traviss's, it seems), there are moral issues with the Jedi behavior.

They have a point. As does Traviss.

Do I completely buy into it? Absolutely not. But remember, in the portrayals of the Jedi through Traviss's novels - from a fiction perspective, Traviss CAN'T say that the Jedi are evil and do all bad things. But she can present a perspective where certain characters believe that as an Order, the Jedi are problematic.

There's a distinct difference between the truth on the ground and the tightly narrowed perspective of characters who have good reason to dislike many Jedi.

It also gives a sense of context to some of the actions of Order 66 (not the novel, the event).

I still wish that Traviss would / could continue to write in SW universe. She brings a great voice and difference of perspective from the Jedi-centric of the others. AND, she's really, really good.

Which you don't believe, and that's fine.

Jon McNamara said...

Agreed. Karen brought a new dimension to the clones. prior to Karen's novels they would often be portrayed simply as mass produced fodder or exist only so that the Jedi had something to rescue. I really enjoy the new perspective into their lives and the gritty realism of their point of view. Karen's work has that stamp of authenticity about it, I don't know if it was the attention to detail or the vivid insight into the clones mindset, but it really worked for me.

Unknown said...

Well that makes me rather put out. Picked up the books I could find a while ago after finding one at a book shop. Was one of the few star wars series I enjoyed, and finding out the author left the scene years ago isn't making me love it much. Time to move onto her other series I suppose, also on the jedi thing, I never liked the amount of plot armor some got. Suspension of disbelief gets too much when practically one person uses flamethrowers (perfect thing to make toasty jedi) in the movies despite being fairly easy to make/improvise. Some people like it I guess but the whole demigod aspect puts me off at times.