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.