Who Is She?

The darkness was eternal, all-powerful, unchangeable.

She stared into it, unblinking and unafraid. She was determined that it would not claim her.  She had resisted it these many years.  She would resist it forever, never despairing.

It was unchangeable, but change would take place. The Force said so.

 ~ opening epigraph of Fate of the Jedi: Outcast

When the next book in a series is about to be released, I like to look back at what’s come before in the tale so it’s fresh in my memory. Fate of the Jedi: Outcast might have become one of my all-time favorites; it’s got a lot of great things going for it.  For one, it opened with Jaina and Jag in a conference room (I don’t need to explain the significance of that one to J/J fans) after one of the coolest Star Destroyer stunts ever that didn’t involve blowing something up. Top that off with one of the most impressive double entendres ever spoken in Star Wars, followed by some intriguing developments within the Galactic Alliance and the Jedi Order and I started out hooked. Imperials are running the show (and Luke Skywalker just figuring that out), barvy Jedi, and an unofficial all-star covert ops team called Darkmeld combined to spark classic Star Wars mayhem, perilous but fun.

“You’re not fooling anyone, Fel. You’re planning for an Imperial invasion of Alliance space.”

~Jedi Knight Jaina Solo to Imperial Head of State Jagged Fel, Outcast

As I reread parts of the various Fate of the Jedi books, though, I couldn’t help sighing a bit in dismay. Somewhere it went so wrong and I stopped buying books with my favorite characters in them.  Outcast became the equivalent of a restaurant display that makes your mouth water, but when the real deal arrives it proves to be not so appetizing. For one, the books stopped being space-opera romps, instead dragging characters kicking and screaming into the shadows where many fans can’t quite recognize them. For another, no one seems to be able to put a finger on where the series intends on going with its storylines.

Nothing highlights this more than the opening salvo of the series. One might think it would have been included to hint at the overarching journey and themes, but after six books there has been little or no movement in exploring who “she” is.  Considering we had nearly thirty books focused on the rise and fall of Jacen Solo, the hint that this series might highlight one or more female characters gave some fans, particularly the women, a new hope. Unfortunately, the flames of anticipation have been woefully underfueled since the first book, and strong currents of unrest have blown much of the passionate fire out of the post-RotJ era fans who once looked forward to the next book in a series.

Like any good story, the flagship series should raise many questions, provide us with clues toward more than one option, and help us formulate answers for ourselves as readers.  Most fans like reading book series for this reason – whether it’s Star Wars or Harry Potter or The Hunger Games – because they give us a thread to follow on a broader journey.  Looking back, the New Jedi Order series, despite some of its flaws, had that kind of overarching vision to carry the readers through the journey with its characters.

With Fate of the Jedi, I’ve wondered if I’m just missing the point altogether. But there hasn’t been a lot in the way of discussion on this topic on any of the major fansites, so I don’t think it’s just me.  When spoilers were revealed for Allies, a few people wondered if the “she” might be Callista, but her relevance within the storyline proved to be nothing more than a fanboyish hook to twist up poor Luke’s emotions. So the epigraph clearly wasn’t meant to be Callista. But who then? Jaina? Tahiri? Leia? Saba? Have they really given us enough in the story to even justify it being any of those characters?

Honestly, my impression is that the promise of the opening got lost along the way in all the other things – multiple Force sects, teenage melodrama, an unending supply of Luke’s ex-girlfriends – the writing team wanted to insert into Fate of the Jedi.  With the oppressive malaise surrounding the female characters’ arcs, I sometimes wonder if the writers even remember what they offered us as readers at the start. And that’s been the problem with the flagship series since the NJO: no one person appears to be steering the ship and making sure the books follow the course.  It’s more than just editorial control but lack of a unified storytelling vision.

Still, the Star Wars fan in me, who has spent many a night curled up with an EU book, many of them Allston classics, is crossing her fingers and hoping we get some nuggets that help fans form an opinion – more importantly to care enough – about who “she” is.


Fate of the Jedi: Conviction drops in bookstores on Tuesday, May 24th. I expect spoilers to hit within the week, though, after ARCs were offered up by the Star Wars Books Facebook page in a Monday giveaway and Random House rewarded a few fans with quick Twitter fingers on Wednesday with audiobooks.  These early releases are a great step toward generating interest among potential book buyers, and I’m glad to see the Powers That Be using these types of promotions to pump up their product before it hits the shelves. 

Considering that the Powers That Be aren’t overly fearful of spoiling the book, I find it odd they still haven’t put a face forward to project the excitement of the team involved in creating the series.  If they’re willing to allow fans to generate spoiler buzz, wouldn’t leaking a few select spoilers directly (the current model for The Clone Wars) be a way to showcase internal excitement for the product and help foster goodwill between the story creators and fans? It’s this reluctance that still has me a bit worried about where the series is going to go; I keep wondering what they’re afraid of… and if we should be afraid too.


The Fangirl Cantina will be hosting a discussion on the possibilities surrounding who exactly “she” is. Weigh in here if you have an opinion.

Fangirl

Fangirl

Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and the intersection of women within Star Wars fandom. She is co-author of Ultimate Star Wars and Star Wars Visual Encyclopedia from DK Publishing, a featured writer for Star Wars Insider magazine with numerous articles on the Hero's Journey. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Hyperspace Theories and Fangirls Going Rogue.

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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Fangirl

Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and the intersection of women within Star Wars fandom. She is co-author of Ultimate Star Wars and Star Wars Visual Encyclopedia from DK Publishing, a featured writer for Star Wars Insider magazine with numerous articles on the Hero's Journey. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Hyperspace Theories and Fangirls Going Rogue. 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.

7 thoughts on “Who Is She?

  • May 6, 2011 at 2:19 pm
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    In retrospect, that sounds an awful lot like an earlier version of what Callista’s fate was supposed to be, only to be overwritten by Allies and Vortex. It even sounds a bit like Callista’s thought patterns.

    “Looking back, the New Jedi Order series, despite some of its flaws, had that kind of overarching vision to carry the readers through the journey with its characters.”
    Heck, even LOTF did. I honestly have no idea what FOTJ is supposed to be about at this point. Jacen’s Force journey? Abeloth? Slavery? Ben Skywalker’s love life? ‘What were you thinking to make Daala CoS?’ Yes, it touches on all of them, but seems determined not to focus on them to the point where they acquire coherence as subplots.

    “I keep wondering what they’re afraid of… and if we should be afraid too.”
    To be harsh about it – At this point, I wonder if they even have a good idea what will be in the next few books until they’re written. We know slavery was shoehorned in – What else is or will be added that wasn’t in the original plan? And how many spelling errors will Golden make this time? :P

    With FOTJ’s lack of clear direction, occasional completely-unbetaed writing, poorly-developed OCs (what’s Vestara’s personality in THIS book?), dubious characterizations, dropped plot threads, and rambling nature, some readers may ask themselves ‘Why don’t I just go read an epic-length fanfiction? Why should I pay for HARDBACK books when I could get plots of this quality or better for free online?’ And that’s a very good question. (/gripegripegripe) *sigh*

    Reply
  • May 6, 2011 at 2:41 pm
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    With Fate of the Jedi, I’ve wondered if I’m just missing the point altogether.

    If you feel that you may be “missing the point” you are definitely not alone. The quote you cite from the beginning of Outcast absolutely got my adrenalin going and, likely for the same reasons as you, I was excited for this new series based on those typically great opening moments by Aaron Allston.

    It feels like the mid-section of the SSD Fate of the Jedi has imploded and those great Star Wars-ian themes have been sucked into the vacuum of space. I’m wondering whether the tail section of this ship is capable of separating to fly on its own. If it isn’t, then there is a serious design flaw.

    For the record, I have always and will continue to believe that the quote in question was written from the POV of Jaina Solo. It flows directly into more of her POV in the Chapter One, plus, well, that’s just my gut reaction. I’ve tried to ascribe it to other FOTJ ladies but failed and IMHO Aaron is way too good at canon characterizations to be so far off as to fool people who have read every EU book on the shelves.

    Reply
  • May 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm
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    Sigh. You just made me re-remember how excited I was with the first couple of pages of this series.

    For all we know at this point it’s 20-years-in-the-future Vestara.

    Reply
  • May 7, 2011 at 6:48 am
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    With FOTJ’s lack of clear direction, occasional completely-unbetaed writing, poorly-developed OCs (what’s Vestara’s personality in THIS book?), dubious characterizations, dropped plot threads, and rambling nature, some readers may ask themselves ‘Why don’t I just go read an epic-length fanfiction? Why should I pay for HARDBACK books when I could get plots of this quality or better for free online?’ And that’s a very good question. (/gripegripegripe) *sigh*

    Excellent synopsis of FOTJ to date, SW Fan. Absolutely dead-on. It seems to me that many EU fans see this clearly but TPTB may be so close to the action that they no longer smell the leaking coolant. (Sorry! Stuck in bad metaphor mode.)

    I spent more time considering Vestara as the source of this quote than any character other than Jaina. It doesn’t work for me. I get stuck on the phrase, “She had resisted [the darkness] these many years.” To my recollection, Vestara accepts “the darkness” as normal and has lived with it all her life although she may not have been raised to think of it as “darkness” specifically. What the Jedi know as the Dark Side has been Vestara’s normal way of being. In that context, the thoughts conveyed here simply don’t work as Vestara’s thoughts, IMHO.

    Reply
    • May 8, 2011 at 12:33 am
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      Some interesting stats from Google Search on “site:fanfiction.net/s/” (stories on fanfiction.net) regarding the level of interest in certain topics, as measured by how often (chapters counted with multiplicity) certain terms appear in fanfiction:

      “Darth Caedus” (my approximate measure for Legacy of the Force): About 300 results
      Vestara: About 79 results
      Abeloth: About 48 results
      Now, I put Vestara and Abeloth down because I figured that, as the two major OCs for the Fate of the Jedi series, they would best measure interest for fanfiction of the series. In which case… OUCH. The interest in Fate of the Jedi fanfiction is about a THIRD of interest in fanfiction for the previous series. Even if you recalibrate for Fate of the Jedi only having six books to Legacy of the Force’s nine, that’s approximately 21 hits-per-book for FOTJ to 33 htb for LOTF. Those last three books had better be jaw-droppers, that’s all I can say.
      (Lumiya gets “about 370 results”, but she’s not nearly as dependent upon LOTF’s existence as Caedus is.)

      [“Knight Errant” “star wars”, meanwhile, yields about three legitimately Star Wars hits (another if we add the sole result for “Kerra” “star wars”), and I’m not sure those are even about the actual series. So, er, not too popular amongst the fanfiction community, I’d say… Which, I’m sure, will be of no surprise to the author of this blog. A pity, I quite liked the last two-thirds…]

      I think the disparity illustrates the rate of coolant-leakage pretty well.

      _________________________________________________________________________________
      P.S.

      Now, I know what question may be coming to the mind of LominAleCantina members…

      site:fanfiction.net/s jaina jag: About 1,110 results (0.15 seconds)
      site:fanfiction.net/s jaina jag romance: About 677 results (0.16 seconds)

      I let those statistics speak for themselves.

      Reply
    • May 13, 2011 at 1:30 am
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      Another way of checking the coolant-leakage:

      The above statistics give that LOTF has about 1.6 times more hits per book than FOTJ when it comes to fanfiction.net. However, that’s not a terribly reliable way of checking popularity. So let’s try another way:

      The figures Fangirl Blog pulled up for LOTF and FOTJ state that LOTF has over 1.7 million books in print, while FOTJ has over 660000. It may have changed by now, but at that point, LOTF averaged 188889 copies per book (drop it down to 180000 to be conservative and have the correct number of significant figures), while FOTJ averaged 110000 copies. This, again, gives that LOTF has about 1.6 times more books in print per book than FOTJ.

      It’s interesting that the figures are consistent.

      By the way, it’s possible to find even harsher figures.
      site:boards.theforce.net/beyond_the_saga lotf: About 2,630 results (0.23 seconds)
      site:boards.theforce.net/beyond_the_saga fotj: About 942 results (0.19 seconds)
      …In fact, THOSE are so harsh that I can only imagine that there must be some factor I don’t know about. Unfortunately, the “unknown factor” would seem to slant in FOTJ’s favor, because I keep seeing “http://fangirlblog.com/2011/03/fotj-not-so-impressive/” pop up in the FOTJ search when I click a few random page numbers, whereas the LOTF hits all seem legitimate. Even recalibration gives 292 results per LOTF book to FOTJ’s 157.

      That’s extreme, but still indicative of the direction.

      _________________________________________________________________________________
      P.S.

      As it turns out, not all Jaina/Jag stories use his nickname. A correction to the statistics:

      site:fanfiction.net/s/ fel jaina: About 2,010 results (0.22 seconds)
      site:fanfiction.net/s/ fel jaina romance: About 1,120 results (0.24 seconds)
      [Incidentally, the first hit is by a certain T’Keira Lea… :P]

      Meanwhile…

      site:fanfiction.net/s/ ben vestara romance: About 59 results (0.14 seconds)
      site:fanfiction.net/s/ ben jysella romance: About 83 results (0.09 seconds)

      Much interest in the current pairing canon is attempting to jam down our throats, detect I do not.

      Reply
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