Family plays a vital role in the Star Wars Universe… Without these bonds, it’s harder for viewers or readers to grasp what the characters are going through. While we can appreciate the need to save a planet, saving one’s family seems more tangible.
“Family Trumps Distance”
FANgirlblog, May 1, 2012
Millions of families inhabit the Star Wars galaxy. Even with a thousand writers working through the next century, only a small percentage of their stories could be told. Our favorite characters have discovered, chosen, or stumbled into families in the fictional universe, and audiences likewise embraced and identified with them. The challenge for architects of the Expanded Universe is deciding which of these characters – and their allies, friends, acquaintances, and enemies – are important enough to recur in active roles as the stories move forward.
Baron Soontir Fel and his family are among that crowd of secondary characters waiting in the wings for opportunities to reappear in the spotlight. Once the nemesis of Han Solo at the Imperial Academy, during the Rebellion and early years of the New Republic, Soontir became a respected and admired Rogue Squadron ace, and perhaps most importantly, fired up legions of imaginations as the honored leader of the famed Imperial 181st squadron. Despite his character’s popularity, the Fel family virtually disappeared into the Unknown Regions as the EU progressed. For many fans, this decision was a source of confusion and disappointment.
FANgirl assembled a Roundtable panel to discuss this Star Wars family, their treatment in the Expanded Universe, and the Fels’ potential in the future of the franchise.
Why is the Fel Family important to the EU?
Tricia: For me, the Fels represent the values of duty, honor, and family – traits I would like to emulate as a person. They are passionate and fierce. Soontir and Jag, who we have seen the most in the comics and books, display a morality that is less white knights and more Westley from The Princess Bride or Mal from Firefly. They represent a mentality of unhesitatingly doing what is necessary to survive to fight another day.
Mary: I agree, Tricia. There is also another word that comes to mind when I think of the Fels: intrigue. Since his Imperial Academy graduation Soontir has been involved in political and military intrigue at the highest level. His son, Jagged, has followed in those boots, as did his brother, Chak, at least to some extent. Matriarch Syal Antilles Fel was the holostar who became an unlikely participant in conspiracies and deceptions in order to protect her own. The Fels are a group of individuals with strong family bonds, yet each has his or her own fascinating story. In my mind, they are the only family who could match the Solo-Skywalkers for rich history. Yet there is still so much we don’t know about the Fels’ lives.
Kay: I agree with all of the above. We have so many individual characters in the Star Wars universe and for a majority of them we never get to know their families or hear much about them. So it’s neat to have a set of characters who are part of a fairly large family and then on top of that, they’re also related to characters who were part of the movies. The Fels give this connection to other parts of the galaxy that those characters from the movie might not have had as deeply or at all otherwise.
Soontir Fel is a long-time fan favorite. Why does he attract so many fans, both male and female?
Tricia: From the first time I read about Soontir in X-Wing: Rogue Squadron: In the Empire’s Service, he was shown as an Imperial who executed his duty but proved an honorable man. He was a badass pilot who loved his wife and respected his marriage. He was one of the first examples I remember of an Imperial being shown as something other than a caricature of the faceless bad guys of the Star Wars universe.
Mary: You’re right that Soontir was given a more layered personality from the start. I, too, believe he attracted fans because he was the “best of the best” as a pilot, officer, and leader. He appealed to both sexes for those same reasons – girls dream of being fighter pilots, too!
In addition, I think Soontir was the first major Star Wars character to have a romantic liaison and marriage play out in print. To this day, there are just a handful of such romances but each forged a strong, significant family. Regardless of whether the audience is male or female, family is relatable.
Kay: Beyond the badass pilot, Imperial dimensionality, and his relationship with Syal, I also have to admit I’m intrigued by Soontir thanks to his relationship to Han Solo. It’s no secret Han Solo is one of my favorite Star Wars characters and I love the whole rival relationship the two men developed in the Imperial Academy that has lived on way past either man’s involvement with the Empire. In a way, Soontir gives a glimpse of a possible life Han could have had if he had been more disciplined, never met Chewie, & stayed with building his career in the Empire.
What is your favorite Star Wars moment (any era) involving the Fel family or its members?
Tricia: Do I have to choose?
If I picked one moment, it would be the scene in Stackpole’s Dark Tide: Ruin where Jaina first sees Jag. He’s all Imperial pomp and Chiss sensibilities, refusing to acknowledge the politicians at a formal gathering. At that moment, I realized the Fels were back in the Galaxy Far Far Away. Impressive, most impressive actually, for making a characterization statement.
Mary: In the aftermath of Mara’s death, as opposition grows to his vision for the Galactic Alliance, a certain inevitability surrounds the fate of Jacen/Caedus. In Aaron Allston’s Legacy of the Force: Fury, Jag does everything he can to give Jaina what she needs to survive the terrible ordeals to come. Then sitting on the Falcon’s ramp, he opens up to Zekk in a rare moment of vulnerability, earning Zekk’s respect. Jag is unaware that Leia and Han have heard his private thoughts from inside the Falcon. Leia’s reaction speaks to me of what it means to be a Fel: “How do you teach a man not to be a noble, long-suffering, self-sacrificing idiot?” (I’ll go along with the “idiot” part since it refers to Jag’s unwavering sense of duty overriding his love for Jaina.)
Kay: Any time a Fel is showing their flare for strategy and master tactician skills is my favorite moment. I especially enjoyed Tahiri’s observations of Jag’s actions within the Empire during Troy Denning’s Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse culminating in Jag’s performance at the debate where he all out serves Daala. While I appreciate the hotshot pilot moments, showmanship of that kind is super badass.
Five members of the Fel family have appeared in EU novels: Jagged, Soontir, Syal, Wynssa, and Chak. With the exceptions of Soontir’s prominent role in Tim Zahn’s Vision of the Future, Chak’s appearance in Survivor’s Quest (also by Zahn), and Jag’s ongoing story, the family is restricted to brief mentions or short scenes. What do you think about their limited involvement in the EU?
Tricia: Fanboys and fangirls alike are fascinated by the characters. There have been hints to their backstory involving the Empire of the Hand and its relationship to the Chiss Empire. Additionally, Wedge and Syal are brother and sister, so there are dual ways to explore the family dynamic. I think fans would enjoy the continuity and characterization implications of pursuing more with these characters.
Mary: The Fels’ limited ongoing involvement is a tremendous disappointment to me as a fan, and a huge missed opportunity for those responsible for developing EU books. In talking with other fans and listening to discussions at conventions, it is obvious that the Fel Fanbase is out there…waiting.
While it is realistic for families to be pulled apart by major events, people like the Fels would take every opportunity to be in touch with one another. We’re not seeing that in the EU. If it is supposed to be going on “behind the scenes”, well, that would be a disservice to the fans.
With the release of every new novel, my first quest is to find references to my favorite characters, including Jag. In my heart of hearts, I always hold out hope that there might also be mention of any other member of his family. Should I one day find a large role playing out for Soontir, Syal, or Wynssa, my fangirl squeals of delight would burst a few eardrums! That would be one HUGE chocolate brownie sundae moment!
Kay: I know there are a lot of characters in the Star Wars Expanded Universe but with the ties the Fel family already has to a lot of the big players in the Star Wars books, I hope we can count on seeing more of them. At this point I’d probably get excited to just see a mention of Soontir, Syal, Wyn, or Cem in the upcoming books; I’d really like to know what they’ve been up to. Like Tricia said, there have been hints of what has been going on but after a while just having hints gets a little frustrating. At the same time though, that vagueness means there is tremendous opportunity to use any of the Fels we haven’t seen a lot of lately.
How would you respond if their characters were allowed to fade away entirely?
Tricia: It’s entirely possible that there are other new exciting characters that might arise, so it’s hard to say what the future holds in the event the Fels faded away. Jag’s position as a standing member of the flagship storyline is pretty much guaranteed. *says that and knocks on wood* The rest of the Fels are strong existing characters with ties to many fan favorite characters, though, so it seems counterintuitive not to use them, especially as Jag comes to play a more prominent political role in the galaxy in the decades ahead.
Mary: Agreed. New characters are inevitable, but it would be nonsensical to sever the Fels from the EU entirely given Jag’s prominent role and now his membership in the most important family of all: the Solo-Skywalker clan. If, by some twist of fateful decision-making, the Fels do disappear it will be a very sad day for the loss of a solid family that led/leads by example and the loss of vast potential storylines connected with the Fels. Strange as it may seem, I would take their disappearance personally, and grieve for those amazing characters.
Kay: Yeah, Jag definitely has the slot for Fel Least Likely to Fade Away Entirely. I would be really disappointed if the rest of the family did disappear even though I concede that great new characters can and probably will come about. In my opinion the family seems on the precipice already. We haven’t seen any non-Jag members in the books since the New Jedi Order era. But I haven’t given up hope yet. How could anyone look the gift horse in the mouth that is the potential of Han and Soontir in the same room after Jaina and Jag are married?
Up next on the Fel Family Roundtable, we discuss the Fels as extraordinary individuals.
So, we want to hear from you. Are you a Fel family fan? What is your favorite Fel moment? Do you hope to see more Fels in the Star Wars EU?
FANgirl dedicates the Fel Family Roundtable in fond memory of Racheal Ambrose-Stinson, whose infinite ideas, passion for Star Wars, concern about family in fiction, and the Fels in particular, were catalysts for this discussion. Racheal had a hand in the original outline and preparation of questions. She is the fourth fan at this roundtable.
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.