Saturday, December 12, 2009

The last Karen Traviss Star Wars novel...

I hold in my hands the last Star Wars novel from Karen Traviss. Back in August I wrote about Karen's announcement that she was leaving the franchise and that she had two novels remaining in the pipeline. The first was Imperial Commando: 501st. This would be followed by the second Imperial Commando novel.

At the time this information was accurate and it came directly from Traviss.

Things have changed.

In a recent blog entry, Karen Traviss announced that she will no longer be writing the Imperial Commando sequel.

But today I'm reacting, because somebody blurted out something on a forum, and the rumours started. Yes, for once a rumour is actually true; I've withdrawn from the sequel to Imperial Commando 501st, which was going to be my final Star Wars novel. I had issues over contractual matters and working practices that still showed no signs of being resolvable after a couple of years, so I told the publisher that I would not be doing the book.
Color me bummed.

Traviss explains some more of the background to the situation, without going into details that should not be for public discourse, but what readers of her books may find most interesting is her description of the continuity / canon issues that are coming into play.

I was told that the Mandalorians were being revamped as long-standing pacifists who'd given up fighting centuries ago and that Mandalore was now a post-apocalyptic wasteland devastated by war. I was told not to refer to (recent) Mandalorian history because of that, as it was obviously at odds with the old continuity in my novels. That's fairly common procedure for any franchise - but unfortunately it wasn't that simple in practice. The two Commando series - and quite a few older books and comics, come to that -were based entirely on that original history, and basic logic meant that the fundamental plot of the series could never have existed if this had been a pacifist society. Neither could any of the characters or their motives have existed, because they were wholly based on a global warrior culture living on a non-nuked Mandalore.
That's that. Given the freedom that Traviss was granted to define Mandalorian culture, it's interesting that the television program is redefining who Mandalorians are after only a couple of years and while Traviss was still writing novels featuring the Mandalorian culture.

Now, it is certainly possible (if not probable) that the real story is a bit more complicated and that there was a way to bridge the gap and allow what Traviss was doing fit into the changing landscape of Star Wars.

The trouble with all of this is that one of the greatest aspects of the Star Wars universe is that continuity has been important. The writers (and the good folk at LFL) have been making continuity work, but this could be something different here. We don't need to know everything, but as Traviss was my favorite Star Wars writer and I felt she wrote the strongest stuff in the franchise, this is sad (for me).

Traviss has one last post on the subject.
It's clear from the mail I'm getting after yesterday's entry that many of you think this is some noble act of creative martyrdom. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but it just isn't. I tried to walk you through a complicated industry stage by stage, but I've failed with many of you, I think. If you read yesterday's blog slowly and carefully, I do spell it out. It's nothing to do with what I think of actual storylines - it's part technical, part business. It's nothing to do with liking or not liking changes. It's about whether I can make something work or not.

Business side - you don't need to know the details. But I'm a business, just like your local baker, plumber, supermarket, or car dealership. It's a job like any other. I make the same kinds of decisions for the same kinds of reasons. (By the way, I don't work for LFL - novelists almost always work for publishers, not directly for franchises. I know it's complicated, but then reality generally is. )
In the end, all I can do is enjoy Imperial Commando: 501st (and I expect to) and wish Karen Traviss best of luck in her future endeavors. I don't know if I will read work for other franchises or not. It's not loyalty to Star Wars, but more disinterest in other franchises. That said, if Traviss publishes more of her creator-owned non-tie-in fiction, I will be all over that.


TD-0013 said...

Agreed with all of the above. I'm really, really bummed that Karen isn't going to write the final book. She is, without a doubt, my favorite author around. I've read all six books of the Wess'har series, as well as the first Gears of War novelization she did, along with all of the RC/IC books. Her leaving the series hanging like this really bothers me, and I hope that the people/groups out there that call themselves "Mandalorians" will have the fortitude to stand up and tell LFL to not bother having another author continue the series, because it'll be absolute garbage and not worth the ink it's printed with.

Joe said...

Err, I'm with you up until the last sentence.

While I don't necessarily want to see another author pick up and continue Imperial Commando without Karen's involvement, there is nothing to say that Random House / Del Rey won't hire another outstanding writer to finish off the series and that the novel won't be good. It won't be Traviss, but that's a different answer.

Problem is that with the suggested Mandlorian history changes and the fact that what Karen wrote was based on a particular history, I'm skeptical that the story can be told the right way.