The sixth book in the Fate of the Jedi series, Vortex, will be released this week. I’ve read the book and plan on giving my own review once it hits the shelves.
Before that, though, I thought I’d comment on something most of you won’t ever see, because it’s not contained in the hardcover print edition sold in stores. What’s that? The marketing material included as the first printed page of every official, Del Rey-issued softcover Advanced Review Copy, which is mostly a reprise of content previously published in Del Rey marketing catalogs. I think this promotional material gives some interesting insights into where the Powers That Be are setting their sights for the series as a whole.
Here’s one interesting quote from the marketing page –
FAN FAVORITES: This series follows the characters Star Wars fans want and love: Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando, and continues to develop Ben Skywalker, Luke’s son, and Allana, Han and Leia’s granddaughter.
Is it just me or did they skip an entire generation of characters? Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin Solo, along with Tenel Ka, Jag, Tahiri, Zekk, Lowie, Raynar, and others, were supposed to be the next generation of Star Wars heroes. The young Jedi Knights drew many fans to the Expanded Universe, and the New Jedi Order series was supposedly (ironically, if you believed the marketing at the time) about their rise to join the heroic stage with the movie characters. Despite the fact that I’ve always had the impression they were fan favorites, the Powers That Be still appear to be afraid to let them even share center stage with the Big Three, much less take over it. Admittedly Anakin and Jacen are dead now, but surely there’s plenty of room to feature Jaina, Jag, Tenel Ka, Tahiri, and others in the stories – heroes in their thirties, not their sixties and seventies.
It’s also disheartening as an adult woman to see that the marketing people think the developing heroes worth mentioning are a 16-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl. Ben, certainly, has captured the imagination of many Star Wars fans, but Allana? Children are too far removed from moral and personal dilemmas that allow adult readers to relate to the stories. If you peruse fanfiction, there aren’t tons of fans spinning out fantastical possibilities for Allana’s character. In fact, Allana stories are outpaced about ten-to-one by Jaina stories.
So why aren’t they promoting a developing heroine that female readers can relate to? I have a lot of theories as to why and how, and I’ll discuss them in later posts. To give a glimpse. One reason, I think, is that female readers spend a lot of time expressing their hopes and desires for their favorite characters through fanfiction, the forbidden land for authors and other book handlers. A lot of fan feedback is lost in this disconnect, with the pros misunderstanding the expectations of some of their most loyal purchasers. The second reason is that adult women tend to express their disappointment in much more passive modes – for instance, they simply won’t buy books that lose their interest, rather than venturing into the message boards and fansites where VIPs frequent but that are also perceived as unfriendly by some female fans.
Another marketing quote –
BIG TIME: The first two books of the series, Outcast and Omen, already have more than 170,000 copies in print.
I wonder how many copies in print there are for the next four novels? Perhaps the book-buying public expressed their opinion silently? Over the past couple of years, I personally know many women who have been walking away from the Expanded Universe. Most quietly, others not so quietly, and a few loud kerclunks could be heard around the country as Allies met many an untimely demise in the rightful fit of reader outrage. Most of those departed fans had been drawn in during the NJO and have strong affinities to all the YJK. We’ve watched them struggle through the ramifications of Star by Star and Dark Nest, but I think it’s about time to release them from that grim cloud hovering over them and allow the characters to shine once more.
For one character in particular, I ask, why isn’t Jaina Solo getting top billing on these marketing pushes or in the books themselves? She is the last living child of the union of two of Big Three. Without a doubt, some of the ridiculous turns in the story design of this latest series have proven that it’s not just the female fans who find her current predicament untenable. It’s worth noting, though, that she’s the most relatable in age and life responsibilities to the female fans who have expendable income to spend on Star Wars books. It’s also worth noting that industry-wide, women are responsible for far and away more novel purchases than men or boys.
All that said, I look forward to seeing where Fate of the Jedi goes. If the marketing material actually does reflect the truth of the story design, however, I fear those big time numbers Del Rey seems to want to brag about will not continue. This is certainly not what I want for the books. Right now the central characters are geriatrics and children. The one positive female character in her thirties has had her relationship with her soon-to-be husband sabotaged. Women aren’t going to be drawn to that, not even just for the gleaming Star Wars imprinted across the top of the book. What I hope for is better storylines that appeal to a broader cross-section, especially that lucrative adult women audience. That is what will maintain big-time sales. Hopefully, Del Rey will look for new and different ways to reach out to a cross-section of fans in an effort to understand where the fans feel they lost their Star Wars.
How does the marketing material strike you as a fan?
Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.
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